A Senate panel Tuesday will hold its second hearing in six days on problems with the federal initiative to expand the use of electronic health records.
Last week, poor EHR interoperability was the subject of a session held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Congress has expressed heightened interest in EHRs and interoperability in recent months, as well as growing criticism of EHR vendors over the lack of interoperability.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the panel's chairman, called the inability to exchange health information “a glaring failure.” But health information technology experts told committee members that what is needed is persuasion rather than legislation.
In the House, the 21st Century Cures legislation to overhaul the drug and device approval process includes new rules for interoperability, telehealth and other health IT areas.
“There's no such thing as an (EHR) with an 'A' grade today” for usability, said Dr. John Berneike, clinical director of St. Mark's Family Medicine, a Salt Lake City medical group, who also serves as an adviser to the federal health IT coordinator's office.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS has been “right on the mark” with most provisions of the EHR incentive-payment program, he said. But it “missed the boat a little bit in that they didn't have a requirement on end-user usability.” His ONC work group is now considering adding criteria on user experience to the agency's EHR testing and certification program.
Berneike said he's OK with Congress stepping in to address the problems with EHRs and health IT generally. “Some say let the market take care of it, but the market has not fixed it,” he said.