On Thursday, April 30th The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on their 21st Century Cures initiative. On Wednesday, April 29th the Subcommittee on Health released a revised draft of their 21st Century Cures legislation along with a section-by-section summary and a one-page summary. While this revised draft included a number of initiatives, it did not provide any specifics regarding the areas of interoperability or telehealth.
Witnesses before the committee were:
- Dr. Kathy Hudson, Deputy Director for Science, Outreach, and Policy, National Institutes of Health
- Dr. Janet Woodcock, Director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- Dr. Jeff Shuren, Director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
As part of his opening question, Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) compared the current state of electronic health records to “cell phones not being able to connect with landlines” and blamed a lack of interoperability as the cause. In response, Dr. Hudson mentioned that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of National Coordinator (ONC) is working hard to address the area of interoperability, and that electronic health records are extremely important for advancing research efforts particularly in the area of precision medicine.
During his question period, Congressman Michael Burgess (R-TX), who has a placeholder in the draft text to provide interoperability language, stated that interoperability remains a priority and that he and the leadership of the committee remain committed to providing language in a later version of the bill. Burgess also added that Congress had provided $28B to achieve interoperability, and that its failure is, “not a tech problem but a bureaucracy problem.”
In her opening remarks, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), who is a co-author of telehealth legislation along with Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS), mentioned the benefits of telehealth, and added that interoperability is critical to achieving its success. Matsui also thanked full Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) for their support of the telehealth working group and its efforts. In his opening statement, Ranking Member Frank Pallone mentioned that telehealth is still an area that needs to be addressed, leaving some to conclude that it might be considered in a later version of the bill.
Chairman Fred Upton said that he would like to have the committee mark the bill up before Memorial Day.
HIMSS provided the following response to the House Energy and Commerce Committee regarding their 21st Century Cures initiative in July, 2014.