Senate committee releases EHR overhaul draft bill

The bill proposes a star rating program for EHR systems
The bill proposes a star rating program for EHR systems

A star-rating system and Interoperability improvements for electronic health records are among the proposals in a draft bill released Wednesday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The draft bill proposes several regulatory changes to improve healthcare information technology, including the development of star ratings for electronic health record systems. EHR users will be able to freely share feedback on the usability, security and interoperability of technology products once a transparent ratings system is in place, the draft reads.

A digital provider directory also would be created under the bill to facilitate exchange of data between providers. It would also help healthcare organizations ensure they're sending data to the correct provider.

The bill also calls for the creation of a process that would give priority to EHR standards that address the “most pressing problems” faced by the healthcare community. Under the proposal, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would be required to give deference to standards developed in the private sector.

The committee also emphasized that the draft bill should “empower” patients when it comes to accessing their electronic health information. The proposal includes support for a patient-centered health records system that allows patients to access their health data through secure, user-friendly and automatically updating software.

The draft was released by Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA), who noted that the bill is a critical step forward to giving providers and patients “better tools to drive medical decision-making and treatment.”

The Senate HELP Committee is seeking provider feedback on the draft through January 29. Comments can be emailed to HealthIT@help.senate.gov.

The draft bill is slated for committee discussion on February 9, along with several other healthcare bills to serve as companion legislation to the 21st Century Cures bill.