In a letter to Congressional leaders, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) voiced its concern about the need to continue to fund critical health IT initiatives that were advanced last year with the passage on the 21st Century Cures Act even as President Donald Trump has proposed a budget that includes deep cuts to federal agencies.
The US House of Representatives’ and Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) are currently drafting an appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018 (FY2018). Late last year, the 21st Century Cures Act was passed by Congress with overwhelming majorities. However, funding for the legislation is tied to appropriation bills currently being drafted. Complicating matters, according to AHIMA, is the fact that President Trump has proposed a budget that includes deep cuts to federal agencies, including the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—an agency that has a different secretary than when the law was passed.
In letters to the House and Senate (Labor-HHS) appropriations subcommittees, Lynne Thomas Gordon, chief executive officer of AHIMA, wrote, “Overall, AHIMA is concerned that the President’s current proposed FY18 budget request will not provide ONC [The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT] with the sufficient funding to meet the above obligations set forth by Congress. We understand that Congress faces difficult choices in funding a variety of priorities with limited resources. However, failure to adequately fund ONC will undermine a major tenet of the Cures Act itself—“the delivery of new drugs and devices to the right patient at the right time by ensuring electronic health record systems are interoperable for seamless patient care and . . . [to] fully realize the benefits of a learning health care system.”
AHIMA’s letters outlines various provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act that are priorities for AHIMA, including health IT standards and health IT advisory committees, trusted exchange framework and improving patient access to their electronic health information.
AHIMA serves as the ANSI-appointed Secretariat to the ISO/Technical Committee 215 on Health Informatics (ISO/TC215), and as Administrator of the United States Technical Advisory Group (US TAG), the delegation representing the US to ISO/TC215. These groups work to promote interoperability in electronic health records (EHRs), personal health records, and medical devices. ONC acts as a convener for the Health IT Advisory Committee to recommend standards and implementation specifications, which is required under the Cures Act, AHIMA wrote.
Further, AHIMA’s work on information governance (IG), among other things, helps promote interoperability through a voluntary trusted exchange framework, which is part of the interoperability practices advanced by the Cures Act.AHIMA and health information management professionals work to maintain HIPAA regulations while making it easier for patients to access their own medical records. Many healthcare organizations have struggled to make a sufficient volume of patient records available, which is something AHIMA has worked on with the support of ONC.