House Oversight Hearing on Opportunities and Challenges in Advancing Health IT

March 25, 2016

On March 22nd, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a joint subcommittee hearing on “Opportunities and Challenges in Advancing Health Information Technology.” The purpose of the hearing was to examine health care system opportunities and challenges to leverage information technology to improve healthcare delivery and health outcomes, and specifically what impact the regulatory environment has on continued progress and innovation in this space. Given the broad subject matter, the hearing focused on a range of issues, such as interoperability, privacy and security, and telehealth.

The witness list featured representatives from the federal government and the healthcare community, including:

Dr. Karen DeSalvo, National Coordinator for Health IT, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • ONC is working to improve and encourage interoperability and information exchange, and have released their Interoperability Roadmap and Federal Health IT Strategic Plan.
  • At HIMSS16, Secretary Burwell announced a pledge made by organizations to implement three core commitments around consumer access, information blocking, and standards.
  • On Meaningful Use, Dr. DeSalvo noted that while adoption and information sharing numbers aren’t great, they have dramatically increased over the past few years.
  • On telehealth, Dr. DeSalvo agreed that telehealth is a great tool for care delivery, and can also save money both for the patient and provider. She noted that as the country moves to alternative payment models, telehealth will become increasingly useful.

Jessica Rich, Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection, U.S. Federal Trade Commission:

  • Rich discussed the explosion in new technologies and the accompanying privacy and security concerns, including who is able to access to all of this personal data. The Federal Trade Commission Act has jurisdiction over data generated outside of normal medical settings and the FTC has made it a priority to protect sensitive consumer health information.
  • Rich also noted that they are seeking legislation to give them jurisdiction over non-profits, and civil avenues to pursue penalties for unlawful conduct.

Matthew Quinn, Federal Managing Director, Healthcare and Life Science, Intel (A HIMSS Member):

  • There are three important barriers: institutions are using HIPPA as an excuse to not share data, doctors often lack easy and affordable tools to share data, and the lack of payment reforms for new care delivery models.
  • Quinn noted that discussions around interoperability must look beyond EHR to EHR, and should include interoperability of medical devices into the EHR system.

Additional information from the hearing, including the webcast and witness testimony, can be found here.

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