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September 16, 2011 - Advocacy Corner


Top News
Health IT Takes Nation’s Capitol by Storm This was a banner week for health information technology, as stakeholders from across the country converged in Washington D.C. to celebrate National Health IT (NHIT) Week. CHIME was well represented as a sponsoring partner for many of the week’s events.
  • Monday, Board Member and GWU Hospital CIO Gretchen Tegethoff participated in a panel discussion about patient safety. Ms. Tegethoff emphasized the need for a unique patient identity solution as more and more data gets exchanged through state and regional HIEs. Summing up the discussion, Tegethoff said, “Appropriate national-level patient identity solutions are absolutely essential to obtaining the full benefits of health information technology and to ensuring patient safety.”
  • Tuesday’s activities brought Joanne Sunquist, CIO at Hennepin County, to Washington where she spoke about her experience as a first-year attester for Stage 1 Meaningful Use. “Meaningful use has had a profound impact as a policy platform and an incentive program, reinforcing our hospital’s EHR strategy while providing us direction to make future improvements,” she said to a group of Congressional Members and reporters. Inova’s Geoff Brown also played a role in NHIT Week Tuesday, as he hosted a site visit where congressional staff and federal agency employees were ushered around the hospital for a firsthand demonstration of health IT, including an electronic ICU.
  • The HIMSS Policy Summit kicked off Wednesday night with a reception and awards ceremony. CHIME presented its 3rd Annual State Advocacy Award for CIO Leadership to Indranil “Neal” Ganguly for his efforts in New Jersey and for his leadership role within CHIME StateNet. Other winners included Farzad Mostashari (Federal Policy Leadership) Gayle Harrell (State Policy Leadership). Meanwhile, Modern Healthcare honored three CEOs for their use and promotion of health IT including, Michael Dowling (North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health), Christopher Durovich (Children’s Medical Center) and John Gribbin (CentraState Healthcare System).
  • Finally, Thursday saw over 420 attendees visit their representatives on Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of health IT funding and initiatives. For more on the “Congressional Asks,” click here.
In addition to the events of NHIT Week, President Barack Obama and the Senate formally acknowledged the role health IT has played in the nation’s economy and competitive outlook. “America is home to the world's best universities and technical schools, and the most creative scientists and entrepreneurs,” Obama said in his proclamation. “As we challenge ourselves to push forward into a new century of health technology, we will continue to foster and promote the innovative spirit that has made our country what it is today.” The Senate resolution was authored by Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and can be read here.


Administration
ONC Issues Final Draft of Federal Health IT Strategic Plan
The Office of the National Coordinator released a final version of its 2011-2015 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan this week following a comment period that yielded over 240 public reactions. Most of the public comments focused on ways to provide more health IT education and outreach; privacy implications for health information exchange; timing of Stage 2 and usability issues related to electronic health records. Responding to some of these comments, ONC says that it will plan to establish an HHS Inter-Division Task Force to develop an updated approach to certain health IT privacy and security issues. Specifically, the plan says, “One of the major areas being addressed through this process is pursing policy changes that would afford individuals more meaningful choice as to whether their information may be exchanged electronically. ONC is also assessing technical solutions that could support more granular patient choice and data segmentation that could support a patient's choice to share only certain parts of their record during information exchange." Other initiatives will support EHR usability testing and use protocols; improve data portability through EHRs; and conduct consumer outreach and education campaigns to raise awareness of health IT issues.

Proposed Rule Would Allow Patients to Receive Lab Test Results Directly
A new notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was issued this week by HHS, suggesting change be made to the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) of 1988 and the HIPAA privacy rule. Under the changes, labs would be required "to provide direct patient access to (their) completed test reports" at a patient's request. And the proposed change to the HIPAA Privacy Rule would remove the existing exception to an individual’s right of access to his or her test reports. The NPRM acknowledged that state laws vary in regard to lab test results: some states do not allow patients a right to see their test results; others allow patients to see results only with provider approval and still others have no laws on the subject at all. The NPRM said that the federal regulation would preempt the state laws by providing a universal right to receive direct lab results.

CHIME’s Policy Steering Committee is reviewing the proposed regulation and comments are due November 14.


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