Hearing asks experts how to HIT health care into the future

Lawmakers and experts evaluated innovative ways to use health information technology (HIT) to improve health care and health care delivery at a March 22, 2016, hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Technology and Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits, and Administrative Rules. The hearing addressed positive HIT capabilities, including medical devices, electronic health records (EHRs), patient monitoring, and improved outcomes, as well as the barriers that hinder adoption of effective HIT, such as a lack of coordination and interoperability.


Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the HHS National Coordinator for Health Information Technology testified that since the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) was established in 2004, great strides have been taken towards adoption of HIT. For example, by 2014, 97 percent of hospitals reportedly possessed certified EHR technology and roughly three-quarters of physicians reported the same. DeSalvo acknowledged, however, that there is still work to do to reach interoperability. She testified as to efforts the ONC is undertaking to incentivize providers to move towards interoperability, including the Interoperability Roadmap, and the Interoperability Proving Ground website, which promotes sharing and learning regarding interoperability programs across the country. DeSalvo also urged the importance of alternative payment models which use payments to push providers towards interoperability by rewarding value over volume.


Consumers are changing the HIT landscape by taking a more active role in managing health data through the growing variety of health-related apps, devices, and services according to the testimony of Jessica Rich, the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). She also noted that while the advancements are improving health outcomes, because much of the consumer related activity is happening outside of physician offices, the products and services are raising novel privacy and security concerns. Rich testified that the FTC’s efforts to protect consumer privacy include settlements, enforcement actions, consumer education, and business guidance.


Matthew Quinn the Federal Managing Director of Intel’s Healthcare and Life Sciences division testified as to how Intel works with public and private partners to advance HIT. Quinn highlighted Intel’s interoperability-focused Connected Care Program and efforts related to precision medicine, collaboration through use of cloud-computing, and employee wellness programs. He stressed that interoperability must be the foundation of individualized care. He also noted that increased reliance on consumer-generated health data will be an important component in the advancement of HIT.

A means to an end

Interoperability of electronic health information will make health care more affordable, according to Neil DeCrescenzo, the President and CEO of Change Healthcare, a software, analytics, network solutions, and technology company. However, DeCrescenzo testified that achieving interoperability necessitates a discussion that is grounded in real-world applications of technology. He warned that interoperability should not be discussed as an end in itself but rather as a means to achieving other goals for the health care system. He also stressed the importance of reducing legal barriers to interoperability by eliminating inconsistent legal requirements across state lines and by incentivizing value oriented, coordinated services.


Patient and Consumer interests were the focus of the testimony of Mark Savage, the Director of Health IT Policy and Programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families. Savage noted that patients understand the importance of reliable HIT and believe EHRs are crucial to avoid duplication of tests and to avoid medical errors. He testified that health care organizations should strive to engage patients as partners in their own care through advancements like electronic information access and online communication.