From CHIME’s weekly Washington Debrief Newsletter:

Key Takeaway: A bill that would establish new criteria for interoperability cleared the first hurdle toward passage last week, as the 21st Century Cures initiative was unanimously approved by the Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee.

Why it Matters: The proposed legislation contains a number of provision relative to interoperability that could impact the existing business and clinical practices employed within care settings with the intention of increasing access to patient health data.

The provision championed by Representative Michael Burgess (R-TX-26), would set new criteria for interoperability: “Secure Transfer,” “Complete Access to Health Data” and “No Information Blocking.” Further, it would establish a new organization under the leadership of the National Committee on Vital Health Statistics (NVCHS) that would identify “methods” and metrics by which products would be certified as interoperable or not-interoperable.

In 2018, the Secretary of HHS would publish a list of vendors in compliance and those not in compliance with the “methods” relative to interoperability and by 2019, vendors can be decertified. If a provider’s product becomes decertified, they can apply for a hardship exemption for up to five years to avoid penalties under the Meaningful Use Program.

The bill seeks to combat the practices of information blocking, by enforcing civil and monetary penalties on providers, hospitals, health information system providers and vendors who have been found to partake in information blocking practices. The bill outlines the criteria for information blocking as below:

  1. Interfere with the exchange of electronic health information;
  2.  The actor knows or should know is likely to interfere with the exchange or use of electronic health information; and,
  3.  Do not serve to protect patient safety, maintain the privacy and security of individuals’ health information or promote competition and consumer welfare.

The bill largely avoids changes to the Meaningful Use Program and neglects to acknowledge the ongoing challenge to data exchange posed by the lack of a national patient identification strategy.

The legislation is still under development, as Committee staff seek to incorporate stakeholder input on the items proposed. The legislation was approved by the Health Subcommittee on May 14th and is likely to be approved by the full Energy & Commerce Committee this week.

Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-6) has indicated that the bill could pass the House this summer.

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