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Washington Debrief: House Committee to Hold Health IT Hearings

March 19, 2013
by Jeff Smith, Assistant Director of Advocacy at CHIME
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House Energy & Commerce Committee to look at health IT, mHealth, and regulatory issues
Jeff Smith, Assistant Director of Advocacy at CHIME

Health IT on the Docket during Hill Hearings Next Week

Lawmakers in the House Energy & Commerce Committee announced three separate hearings to be held this week on the subject of health information technology.  The Energy & Commerce subcommittees will look at a host of issues related to health IT, mHealth and the current regulatory framework at HHS.  The Communications and Technology Subcommittee will first look at how FDA regulations and taxes could impact innovation in mobile applications and devices.  On Wednesday, the Health Subcommittee will discuss how technological advancements benefit patients and discuss ways to ensure that innovation continues.  And on Thursday, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hear from FDA and other HHS officials to better understand the Obama administration’s perspective and future plans for health IT.  “Over a three day span next week, we will explore how regulation would affect growth and innovation and look to hear directly from innovators, doctors, patients, and government witnesses who are considering the new tax,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said in a statement.

ICYMI:  HHS Seeks New Policies, Ideas to Accelerate Interoperability

Just in case you missed during the melee of HIMSS13, CMS and ONC released a Request for Information (RFI) looking for ways to advance interoperability and health information exchange.  In a joint press release, Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and National Coordinator Farzad Mostashari said “HHS will increase its emphasis on ensuring electronic exchange across providers.  It will start that effort by issuing today a request for information (RFI) seeking public input about a variety of policies that will strengthen the business case for electronic exchange across providers to ensure patients’ health information will follow them seamlessly and securely wherever they access care.”  The document lists ten specific questions, asking on ways in which existing policy levers and regulations could help facilitate exchange.  A number of questions are particularly interested in payment model designs that could advance exchange, in addition to other questions around enhanced use of provider identifiers or possible changes to conditions of participation.

CHIME’s Policy Leadership Team will soon undertake a commenting process to address this RFI, click here if you are interested in helping.

Toolkit Looks to Boost HIE in Rural Areas

Rural providers grappling with technical and policy challenges associated with health information exchange have a new set of resources.  The Office of the National Coordinator this week released a new HIE toolkit for rural health care stakeholder that includes a number of complimentary resources.  Led by the National Rural Health Resource Center, the toolkit contains a number of guides including

Bill Would Expand MU Incentives to Rural Health ClinicsIn a bill re-introduced last week, two lawmakers from the Heartland want to extend EHR Incentive Payments to Rural Health Clinics.  Representatives Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Bruce Braley (D-IA) argue that Rural Health Clinic Fairness Act of 2013 (H.R. 986) would level the playing field for the federally-designated health clinics located in rural and underserved areas of the country.  “Electronic medical records help prevent medical errors, improve patient care, and reduce healthcare costs,” Rep. Braley said in a statement.  “But rural health clinics can’t qualify for existing federal incentives to implement the technology.  That just doesn’t make sense.”  According to the bill’s authors, H.R. 986 is completely budget-neutral, since it simply expands eligibility for the existing Medicare grant program and doesn’t expand the size of the program itself.

Edited by Gabriel Perna

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