The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee on Wednesday will continue its probe into federal health information technology efforts by exploring how patients can improve their care by accessing their own medical records.
The committee has met regularly to burrow into the 5-year-old $31.3 billion electronic health-record federal incentive payment program.
Previous hearings have focused on the issue of health information technology systems' interoperability, or lack thereof.
Among the scheduled witnesses for Wednesday's hearing is Raj Ratwani, head of the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare at MedStar Health, Washington, D.C.
Ratwani created a buzz recently when JAMA published his research, which found vendors of EHR systems often fail to meet federal compliance rules and guidelines for user-centered design.
His research, conducted as part of a team working under the group MedStar, found that a number of the most commonly used vendors don't meet the federal requirement of having their usability test results on file publicly. Many vendors also used fewer than the recommended 15 participants in their final usability tests, the researchers reported.
The feds added a testing regime to the incentive payment program's EHR testing and certification requirements to address frequent complaints from providers that the systems are slow and introduce patient-safety risks.
Other witnesses scheduled before the HELP committee Wednesday are Kathy Giusti, founder and executive chairman of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, Norwalk, Conn.; and Eric Dishman, an Intel fellow and general manager for health and life sciences at chipmaker Intel Corp., Hillsboro, Ore.
How much any of these hearings results in actual change to the EHR program is unknown.
In June, Senate committee chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) called the inability of healthcare IT systems to exchange health information “a glaring failure.” But witnesses at a June 11 hearing warned against a blunt legislative approach to achieving widespread interoperability, asking instead that Congress use its influence with HHS to adjust and improve existing programs.