Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Tex.), a physician and member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, has drafted legislation that would establish a congressionally-appointed advisory committee to develop an EHR interoperability standard required for certification that would go into effect by 2018.
The draft bill calls for the termination of both the Health IT Policy and HIT Standards Committees, which are to be replaced with a 12-member advisory committee composed of providers, qualified EHR developers, insurers, group health plans, and other stakeholders. Six of the committee members would be appointed by the House Speaker and minority leader, while the other six would be appointed by the Senate majority leader and minority leader.
The new advisory committee would have until July 1, 2016, to recommend standards for measuring interoperability and then establish criteria for certifying that EHR technology is interoperable by Jan. 1, 2018. Penalties for non-compliance with the certification criteria would go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2019.
[Related News: Lawmaker Challenges ONC Authority for HIE Governance]
At this point the bill is still very much a discussion draft and has not been introduced, a spokesman for Congressman Burgess told Health Data Management.
The 25-page document is entitled Ensuring Interoperability of Qualified Electronic Health Records. For a qualified EHR to be considered interoperable, according to the draft bill, such record must satisfy the following criteria:
*Open AccessThe record allows authorized users access to the entirety of a patients data from any and all qualified EHRs without restriction;
*Complete Access to Health DataThe record allows authorized users access to the entirety of a patients data in one location, without the need for multiple interfaces (such as sign on systems);
*Does Not Block Access to Other Qualified EHRsThe record does not prevent end users from interfacing with other qualified EHRs.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the proposed legislation states that any qualified EHR that does not satisfy the certification criteria shall no longer be considered as certified under such program through a process of decertification. Further, starting in 2019 and each subsequent year, the draft bill instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to publicly post on the web a list of non-compliant vendors whose certification has been withdrawn.
Similarly, the fiscal year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill passed by Congress in December 2014 included legislative language directing the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to decertify EHR products that are effectively blocking the sharing of health information.
ONC should use its authority to certify only those products that clearly meet current meaningful use program standards and that do not block health information exchange, stated the FY15 spending bill. ONC should take steps to decertify products that proactively block the sharing of information because those practices frustrate congressional intent, devalue taxpayer investments in [Certified EHR Technology], and make CEHRT less valuable and more burdensome for eligible hospitals and eligible providers to use.
However, the EHR Association does not support Congress call for the decertification of EHR products that block the sharing of health information. The organization argues that congressionally-mandated product decertification would only have negative effects on the healthcare industry as a whole.
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