Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday called for the Trump administration to give providers more time to implement part of a major rule to promote interoperability in healthcare.
The CMS and Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT issued two rules in February that target information blocking, implement interoperability and require all health IT companies to use the same application programming interface two years after the policies are finalized. Hospitals also will be required to send doctors notifications when a patient is discharged.
But Alexander called for a more "phased-in" approach during a hearing Tuesday of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, focusing on using the U.S. Core Data for Interoperability standards first before moving on to another step.
The senator added that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released interoperability standards in 2015 and that "people haven't been able to comply with that."
But ONC chief Dr. Donald Rucker, one of the hearing witnesses, said the "vast majority" of hospitals and other providers have access to health IT software that meets the interoperability standards.
"All the core technical provisions and testing are really about the core data for interoperability," he said.
CMS Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kate Goodrich added that there has been "fairly good" adoption of the core data.
The proposed rules also require hospitals to no longer block information sharing with other providers and the CMS will disclose any facilities that engage in information blocking of electronic health information.
The proposals will also require Medicare-participating hospitals to send electronic notifications to doctors and other facilities whenever a patient is admitted, discharged or transferred.
The comment period for the rules closes on June 3, including a monthlong extension from the administration.
Alexander suggested Congress resume a working group on health IT that met every few months to get an update on interoperability topics.
"The physician burden is something that I hope we can keep in mind," he said. "The whole idea is that we can make this easier and less expensive, not harder and more expensive."