By a vote of 344 to 77, the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved the 21st Century Cures Act including several health information technology provisions designed to improve electronic health records interoperability.

Section 3001 of the bill seeks to clarify standards regarding the development of health IT and “would refocus national efforts on making systems interoperable and holding individuals responsible for blocking or otherwise inhibiting the flow of patient information throughout our healthcare system,” according to a summary of the legislation from the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

Industry groups were quick to praise the passage of the bill.

In a written statement, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives called the 21st Century Cures Act a “landmark piece of legislation” with health IT as the “foundation to foster many of the ideologies in delivering lifesaving cures to patients more rapidly.” Specifically, CHIME commended lawmakers for tackling the complex issue of HIT interoperability.

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

“Without nationwide interoperability, we will be unable to derive the value promised by the nation’s $30 billion investment in electronic health records,” said Leslie Krigstein, CHIME’s interim vice president of public policy. “Expediting cures to patients will not be possible without a health information highway that allows providers and patients the data they need, when and where they need it.”

According to CHIME, the bill’s attempt to harmonize standards adoption will “exponentially” move interoperability forward. “We agree that clear, enforceable standards are necessary to foster nationwide interoperability,” added Krigstein. “The inclusion of increased testing requirements for certified products, including ‘real world’ testing, is a priority for CHIME members as a means to bring value to the certification program.”

Likewise, the Health IT Now Coalition applauded passage of the act. Executive Director Joel White said that the bill will “foster a new age of interoperable health IT systems” that will not only improve healthcare but could save more than $75 billion annually.

“Despite tens of billions of dollars in federal and private investments over the past few years, interoperable health systems remain more a dream than a reality,” commented White. “This legislation dramatically changes the status quo by reforming the broken government-directed standards development process and requiring the use of private sector standards, putting patients in the driver’s seat by leveraging patient directed data apps, and making it illegal to block information.”

The next stop for the bill is the U.S. Senate, which is working on their version of similar legislation. To become law, the Senate must pass their version and then conference with the House before sending an agreed upon draft to the President for his signature.  

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