HIMSS asks Congress to act on security, telehealth

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New laws to improve cybersecurity in the healthcare industry and to remove barriers that impede the expanded use of telehealth technology are among the legislative acts being sought by the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society, which publicized its “wish list” during National Health IT Week.

In the face of massive amounts of patient information being stolen by hackers, and with providers facing financial, reputational and patient safety ramifications, HIMSS is offering a series of cybersecurity policy recommendations to members of Congress.

The nation’s leading healthcare IT professional association is asking the Department of Health and Human Services to appoint a security champion. The agency does have Christopher Wlaschin as its chief information security officer, but HIMSS believe a champion more power is needed.

HIMSS recommends that Congress enact legislation to raise the HHS CISO position to be a peer of the agency’s CIO, with the CISO having responsibilities to establish goals and priorities for cybersecurity.

These goals could include plans for effective response to threats, educating providers, vendors, insurers and other stakeholders on holistic security measures; working with organizations in other industries; and increasing the number of cybersecurity personnel in the healthcare industry.

The organization also calls on lawmakers to enact the CONNECT for Health Act of 2017 to remove Medicare restrictions that prevent reimbursing most providers for telehealth services and remote monitoring of patients using telehealth technology.

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The HIMSS wish list continues with a plea for investments in infrastructure to support 21st Century healthcare, particularly in rural areas that lack advanced telecommunications services. In particular, the annual funding cap of $400 million for the Federal Communication Commission’s Rural Health Care program needs a boost to better support technology advancements and expansion of eligible services.

The nation’s public health infrastructure also remains antiquated and needs modern electronic health record, surveillance, analytical and data exchange technologies, according to HIMSS.

“An improved technical infrastructure, supported by a qualified public health workforce, will enable clinical and business intelligence that will in turn support public health surveillance by means of improved reporting and analysis capabilities,” the organization tells legislators.

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