A Senate committee has approved a comprehensive health information technology bill even though patient privacy groups railed against it, saying it does little to protect a patient's most personal information.
The bill, called the Wired for Health Care Quality Act, would create a public-private partnership to make technical recommendations to HHS, require all federal IT purchasers to follow national standards and provide a number of financial grants to help providers purchase, implement and keep current electronic health-record systems and other components of a fully wired practice.
Additionally, the bill, which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on a voice vote, requires patient notification if records or personal information are breached.
But privacy advocate Jim Pyles, a lawyer with the Washington law firm Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville, called the bill very weak when it comes to protecting everyday individuals. The bill is essentially a health IT bill without privacy protections, Pyles said.
Still, federal lawmakers lauded the bill's progress. "It's long past time for the nation's healthcare industry to adopt modern information technology," said HELP Committee Chairman Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who along with Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), sponsored the legislation. -- by Matthew DoBias