As written, however, the legislation would begin to fold into a physician quality-reporting initiative of “meaningful use” provisions for certified EHRs, as outlined in the previously passed economic stimulus legislation.
Other measures target the payer side of the industry. Medicare Advantage sponsors, for instance, could earn bonus payments for using health IT components, including decision-support programs and other tools that ensure that the right care is being administered at the right time.
The Baucus bill also puts a spotlight on healthcare quality. As such, it calls for the creation of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which would, in part, monitor new medical technologies, including the use of EHRs and other digitized components.
But some of its deepest health IT language is reserved for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The bill aims to accelerate the development, adoption and implementation of a set of operating rules for each HIPAA transaction. The legislation says that the rules would be consensus-based and reflect the business rules that health plans and providers already adhere to.
Rules to direct and expand electronic fund transfers are also included. Provisions require HHS to adopt rules for such payments by July 1, 2012, for implementation in 2014. Additionally, HHS would be required to adopt operating rules for the remaining HIPAA transactions, including health claims, enrollment, health plan premium payments and referrals.
Standards have been adopted for seven of the nine HIPAA transactions, even though enough variability exists to complicate matters.
“The variability in operating rules around the current standards makes it challenging, costly and inefficient for providers to conduct electronic transaction,” the Baucus outline states. “This is one of the reasons providers in the United States do not use electronic transaction for some of the most basic transactions related to healthcare.”
The bill also calls for a clear national strategy to improve quality, which would include a focus on the use of health IT and its role in coordination across a number of different federal agencies.
Baucus also calls for a national Workforce Advisory Committee that would be made up of industry stakeholders and healthcare professionals, and it would focus on ways to boost recruiting and retaining a cadre of medical workers.
The committee would focus on “high priority” topics, including efforts to integrate the healthcare workforce into a reformed delivery system and the implications for the workforce as a result of greater health IT utilization.
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