Health IT, Policy

Senate panel unanimously clears post-Meaningful Use HIT bill

With the future of the federal electronic health records incentive program now up in the air, a bill that addresses major complaints about Meaningful Use seems to be on the fast track to passage.

Sen. Lamar Alexander

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee)

With the future of the federal electronic health records incentive program now up in the air, a bill that addresses major complaints about Meaningful Use seems to be on the fast track to passage.

Tuesday, The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed the Improving Health Information Technology Act (S. 2511) by a unanimous, 22-0 vote, just one day after six senators officially introduced the legislation.

This legislation seeks to reduce the reporting burden that has plagued Meaningful Use — particularly the current Stage 2 of the program. It also would give the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to cancel the certification of EHRs from vendors that hinder interoperability by engaging in “information blocking.”

Additionally, the bipartisan bill instructs HHS to set up a health IT rating system that scores vendors on, among other things, interoperability, usability and security.

“Our goal is to make our country’s electronic health record system something that helps patients rather than something that doctors and hospitals dread so much that patients are not helped,” committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) said in a statement.

“If we want to continue building a healthcare system that works for patients and families and puts their needs first, strengthening our nation’s health IT infrastructure must be a top priority,” said ranking member Patty Murray (D-Washington).

This bill is the result of a rare bipartisan collaboration that included cooperation with HHS. In April 2015, Alexander and Murray formed a working group on the HELP Committee to, in Alexander’s words, “identity five or six problems in the electronic health records system that we can address administratively … or legislatively if we have to.”

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell pledged to assist.

“We have worked for months – with input from those who actually use the system – to help improve health information technology and I’m glad to see this legislation move forward as part of a successful first meeting on our committee’s bipartisan biomedical innovation agenda,” Alexander added.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images