New EHR bills would improve interoperability

On the heels of a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services pledge to ease electronic health record implementation reporting rules several weeks ago, newly introduced legislation would facilitate greater interoperability among various EHR systems and promote the transparency of federal data to fuel efficiency and cut costs.

Widespread EHR interoperability would become a reality by 2017 and the former Federal Advisory Group structure for stewarding the process would be replaced by a panel of federal lawmakers under one of the two bills introduced this week.

Introduced Friday by Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-TX), the measure would replace the Office of the National Coordinator or Health Information Technology's existing federal advisory committees with a new organization composed of congressionally appointed members, according to published reports. The new committee would set interoperability standards for federally certified EHR systems beginning in 2018.

Health and Human Services would also be required to post to post a report outlining strategies for achieving widespread interoperability on the web by July 1, 2016.

Another bill, dubbed the Quality Data, Quality Healthcare Act, drafted by U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and John Thune (R-SD) would give greater access to Medicare and Medicaid claims data by modernizing and reforming the Qualified Entity (QE) program, according to Government Health IT. The bill's sponsors said it would ease restrictions on which organizations can participate in the QE program.

Earlier this year,CMS proposed easing the reporting rules for providers implementing EHR, which could come as good news for long-term care providers increasingly pushed to move to adopt such systems in an effort to improve care transitions and become a part of bundled payment systems.