In Washington, Healthcare Information Technology policy planning is accelerating at a pace that is faster than at any time in history (at least my 30 years in healthcare IT).
Over the past few days, the House Ways and Means Committee completed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), as part of the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.
At the same time, the House Appropriations Committee has completed a bill that is not meant to stand alone. It outlines $2 billion in funding for the programs authorized by section 4301 of the Ways and Means Committee bill.
Here are the high points of the Ways and Means Committee bill.
* It codifies the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC), ensuring its continued funding and authority. To date it has existed only because of executive order.
*It creates a Chief Privacy Officer within ONC.
*It establishes and funds an HIT Policy Committee (Federal Advisory Committee)
*It establishes and funds an HIT Standards Committee (Federal Advisory Committee)
*It specifically mentions that the AHIC Successor, now known as the National eHealth Collaborative (NeHC), can be modified to become either the HIT Policy or HIT Standards Committee.
*Interestingly, it notes that the National Coordinator shall support the development and implementation of a qualified EHR platform (imagine an open source software as a service system for the country), unless the Secretary of HHS determines that the needs concerning EHRs are met in the private market.
*NIST is to coordinate with the HIT Standards Committee to test standards and establish a conformance testing infrastructure (NIST can contract with independent non-federal labs to conduct performance testing).
* NIST and NSF are to establish a program of assistance to Institutes of Higher Education to establish multidisciplinary centers for Healthcare Information Enterprise Integration (centers to conduct research on applications for HIT)
*It authorizes and appropriates $300 million in Grants and Loans for state based demonstration programs. Grants can focus on such areas as health IT and the underserved, HIEs, technical assistance, and medical informatics education.
*It establishes HIT Regional Extension Centers, non-profit, public/private partner organizations that can have up to 50% of operations funded for up to 4 years.
*It specifies $20 billion in incentives to support health IT through Medicare and Medicaid, beginning in 2011. It outlines Medicare reimbursement incentives to eligible professionals, eligible Medicare Advantage Organizations, and eligible hospitals that exhibit a meaningful use of certified EHR. It outlines Medicaid reimbursement incentives to eligible Medicaid providers that exhibit a meaningful use of certified EHR
*It addresses the Privacy and Security of protected healthcare information to include breach notifications, relationship of business associates, and accounting for disclosures.
The bill is very well written and includes significant input from all the stakeholders - payers, providers, patients, CCHIT, HITSP, vendors, and government. (Continues...)