A coalition of 30 organizations including providers, patient advocates, payers and vendors has voiced its strong support for health IT interoperability provisions included in H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act.

In a letter this week to Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the organizations commended Congress for trying to change the law to “address the known defects associated with interoperability.” They also applauded the measures included in H.R. 6 as “a major positive step in fixing the problems associated with a lack of interoperability.”

Also See: House Committee Unanimously Approves 21st Century Cures Bill

According to the coalition, despite tens of billions of dollars in federal and private investment, interoperable health systems “remain more a dream than a reality.” Their letter to lawmakers notes that about 97 percent of eligible hospitals and 77 percent of eligible providers use certified electronic health records, but only 14 percent of providers share health information outside their organization.

“The sad reality is that current federal programs have not capitalized on the potential of interoperable health technologies or the application of data in advancing better treatments and cures,” said the organizations. “As a result, the tools Congress meant for improved quality, efficiency, and health outcomes have become burdens on providers and a drain on taxpayers.”

To address these issues, the coalition said it supports industry-developed standards, distinct definition around common standards, open application programming interfaces (APIs), and thorough testing. “Your bill largely addresses these issues and will help ensure no more taxpayer dollars are used to subsidize business practices that impede the free flow of information,” states the letter.

The coalition also notes that the bill “applies civil monetary penalties and decertification—program exclusion—for bad actors, including those who engage in information blocking.” The letter goes on to state that “these same penalties are used for hospitals and physicians since Medicare’s inception as a way to protect program integrity, taxpayers, and Medicare beneficiaries.”

However, the American Hospital Association has expressed its opposition to these measures. In a May 18 letter to Congressman Upton, AHA said it has concerns about the 21st Century Cures Act’s “heavy-handed and duplicative enforcement mechanisms contemplated for providers” which “could have significant unintended consequences, including undermining new models of care and setting up an environment where well-intentioned providers face significant penalties for small mistakes.”

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