Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Legislation Introduced

Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, has introduced legislation to help the nation adopt EHRs particularly among small rural providers. The “Health Information Technology Public Utility Act of 2009” will build upon open source EHRs by the VA as well as the open source exchange model recently expanded in the Federal agencies through the Nationwide Health Information Network-Connect Initiative.

Open source software is a computer program with unrestricted source code that does not limit the use or distribution by any organization or user. “Open source software is a cost-effective, proven way to advance health IT particularly among small rural providers. This legislation does not replace commercial software, instead, it complements the private industry in this field by making health information technology a realistic option for all providers,” said Senator Rockefeller.

The legislation would specifically:

  • Create a new Federal Public Utility Board within the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to direct and oversee the formation and implementation of the HIT Public Utility Model
  • Implement and administer a new 21st Century Health IT Grant Program for safety-net providers to cover the full cost of open source software implementation and maintenance for up to five years with the possibility of renewal for up to five years if required benchmarks are met
  • Facilitate ongoing communication with open source user groups to incorporate improvements and innovations into the core programs
  • Ensure interoperability between these programs, including mechanisms to integrate open source software with Medicaid and CHIP billing
  • Create a child-specific EHR to be used in Medicaid, CHIP, and other Federal children’s health programs
  • Develop and integrate quality and performance measurement into open source software modules

Another bill recently introduced in the House would increase the use of telemedicine and telehealth technologies in the U.S. The legislation would pave the way for Medicare reimbursement to be provided in additional areas and provide for more remote patient monitoring. The bill “Medicare Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R 2068) was introduced by Congressmen Mike Thompson (D-CA), Bart Stupak (D-MI), Lee Terry (R-NE), and Sam Johnson (R-TX).

The legislation would:

  • Expand telehealth to all areas and use more store and forward technology
  • Increase originating sites to include renal dialysis facilities
  • Extend telehealth services by enabling home health agencies to utilize telecommunications systems to provide care in homes especially for patients with chronic health conditions
  • Establish a Telehealth Advisory Committee to advise CMS