Group Seeks Federal Standards for HIT Interoperability

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As the U.S. Senate works on its own version of the 21st Century Cures Act, including several health IT provisions, the Bipartisan Policy Center is recommending HIT regulations that go above and beyond those approved earlier this month by the House of Representatives.

The group this week released a report with a host of policy recommendations for Congress designed to improve the interoperability of health IT, which were developed with input from co-chairs former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D. and former Congressman Bart Gordon.

“We have all these different standards out there which inhibit the exchange of useful scientific information to improve the outcomes for patients,” said Frist at the launch event for the report.

Also See: Coalition Backs Interoperability Measures in 21st Century Cures Act

While the 21st Century Cures Act requires the federal government to adopt standards for health IT, BPC argues that the legislation does not go far enough to ensure HIT interoperability. In its report, the group asserts that federal adoption of standards should encompass inclusion of standards within certified electronic health record technology required under the EHR Incentives Programs, health IT systems procured by federal agencies, various electronic health data submissions required by federal agencies, and health IT systems directly funded through federal agency contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements.

“If you’ll see the government start to lead in these areas, then that will be a market driver for other areas,” said Gordon.

To ensure that federal agencies comply with federal standards, BPC recommends requiring each federal agency to report annually on its compliance with federally-adopted standards and require the Government Accountability Office to issue a report, every two years, on federal compliance with such standards. The group would designate responsibility for identification of standards for federal adoption to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, with support from the National Coordinator for Health IT.

Speaking at the launch event for the report, Senate health committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) called the recommendations “excellent” and asked BPC to “boil down” specific suggestions for inclusion in the Senate’s bill this fall.        

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