2007 could bring new HIT legislation

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Industry experts are looking to the incoming 110th Congress to focus on healthcare and pass health information technology legislation in 2007.

The current Congress has proposed 62 different health IT bills and only passed one related to patient safety. “It was discouraging with all the interest,” says Dave Roberts, vice president of government relations for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). But, “any time you have 535 people, they’re going to bring different perspectives. People proposed different ideas, and you need to decide what the key issues are you want to address. The whole goal is to get providers, clinicians, and payers engaged in improving healthcare using technology.”

Roberts says he hopes the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology is legislated. Currently, the office and coordinator position are based solely on a federal order that could be overturned. “Having a national coordinator is very important,” says Roberts. “We need someone in the federal government that can look across the entire government and pull all the different pieces together.”

The New Democrat Coalition (NDC)—a moderate congressional focused on economic growth, national security, personal responsibility, and technology development—is expected to grow from 46 members to 63 based on recent election results. The NDC already has stated that it plans to pass HIT legislation that offers EHR adoption incentives, federal grants for HIT networks, reduced regulatory barriers and privacy and security for electronic health data. “A lot of the incoming decision-makers are going to want to see a lot of improvement,” says Roberts. With 28 of the 50 states already working on HIT solutions, “we’re seeing a lot of good momentum and a lot of excitement,” he adds.

Despite the focus on the NDC, Roberts says HIMSS tries to work collaboratively with all parties and the overall goals to make sure health IT stays a nonpartisan issue. “It’s an American issue to try to transform healthcare.”

HIMSS is working on an assessment of the various health IT bills and how they relate to the principles the organization has collaboratively worked on over the past two years. That assessment can serve as a guide for the new legislators, says Roberts. “We are trying to be a resource for the new Congress. From what we’ve been told, they want to have a focus on healthcare.”

Although 2007 may bring some changes to the HIT landscape, there “probably is not just one solution that’s going to solve all the problems,” says Roberts. “That’s why we believe it’s going to take some time. We’re hoping that the110th Congress can begin to lay some of the legislative groundwork that needs to be completed.”