Sen. Alexander: EHR rule implementation needs to slow down

May 9, 2019

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is warning the Trump administration to not move “too far, too fast on implementing new rules on electronic health information.”

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is warning the Trump administration to not move “too far, too fast on implementing new rules on electronic health information.”

His comments came at the Senate health committee’s second hearing May 7 on the implementation of the electronic health information provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act, which outlines steps to improve the exchange of electronic health information.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released two proposed rules to define information blocking between healthcare companies and to give patients more control over their records and compel healthcare organizations to share patient data. Healthcare companies are often reluctant to share data for competitive reasons, which limits physicians’  access to their patients’ data.

Under the rules, health vendors face a Jan. 1, 2020, deadline to give 125 million patients access to their health records at no charge.
At the first committee hearing, Mary Grealy, president of the Healthcare Leadership Council, an industry trade group representing healthcare companies, said: “Interoperability is not simply desirable, it is absolutely necessary. These rules represent an important and perhaps groundbreaking first step for true national interoperability.”

Alexander said he favors the rules, but is concerned HHS is moving too fast to implement them, noting that supporters voiced the same concern in the earlier hearing, and that recent history supports a slower approach. “In 2015, I urged the Obama Administration to slow down implementation of Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program, which incentivized doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic health records,” Alexander said in a statement. “They did not slow down, and looking back, the results would have been better if they had. I want to make sure we learn lessons from implementing Stage 3, which was in the words of one major hospital, ‘terrifying.’”

More input is needed from doctors, hospitals, vendors, and insurers to minimize confusion and eliminate unrealistic timelines, he added. HHS officials recently increased the comment period on the proposed rules by 30 days to gather more information from those affected by them after receiving pushback from industry groups.

“While recognizing that we have a long way to go to make health IT truly interoperable, the enactment of the 21st Century Cures Act has provided CMS with another opportunity to pursue flexibility and reduce burden on providers and patients, while helping to spur the adoption of promising technologies,” said Kate Goodrich, MD, chief medical officer at CMS.