Members from the Subcommittees on Communications and Technology charged health IT vendors, like Epic Systems, of using closed systems and failing to promote interoperability at a hearing this week.
For the hearing, members of the committee were examining how healthcare embraces technology and how health IT can be used to accelerate medical breakthrough cures. The hearings are a part of the 21st Century Cures project, being overseen by the Energy and Commerce Committee, that aims to bring patients, researchers, and doctors together to improve care and development new treatments.
At one point during the hearings, talk turned to interoperability. Rep. Phil Gingrey, M.D. (R-GA) along with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) discussed the obstacles that are in standing in the way of achieving the promise of health IT in discovering breakthroughs in medicine. Specifically, they were concerned over the lack of integration between systems.
Gingrey specifically expressed concern that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the federal government have spent roughly $24 billion on products that are not interoperable and not compatible with anyone but the primary EHR vendor. According to Politico, he mentioned Epic Systems (Verona, Wisc.) by name, saying the company has collected millions in federal incentives but still operates on closed systems and doesn't allow information to flow from its systems.
"It may be time for us to look closer at the activities of vendors in the space, given the possibility that fraud is being perpetrated on the American people," Gingrey said, according to Politico.
There was talk on regulation and innovation in healthcare IT. Jonathan Niloff, M.D., CMO of McKesson (San Francisco), provided testimony and agreed with Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) saying the regulation of healthcare technology and medical devices needs to be modernized. He underscored the need for predictability in order to drive innovation
Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), who has been frequently involved in regulatory matters pertaining to health IT, said in the hearings that electronic health records (EHRs), cloud-based genomic research, and preventive health medical apps are the future of medicine. "We have the opportunity to not only enable new cures, but accelerate the pace at which they are realized. By taking full advantage of available technology, the possibilities for the future of healthcare gives us hope," Upton said.