Stark to introduce new health IT bill to speed EMR adoption

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Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif. Source: Political Blotter  

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Health Subcommittee, plans to introduce his own health IT bill, separate from the revised legislation approved last week by the House committee.

He said that the lack of progress toward EMR adoption “to date is precisely why I have called this hearing. And it is why I shall introduce legislation designed to promote the adoption and use of EMRs, while protecting patient privacy.

Stark said that widespread use of EMRs “holds the promise for increasing the quality of healthcare while also bringing down costs.” He added that despite the promise of EMRs, “we are years behind other countries in terms of getting doctors, hospitals and other providers to use this technology.”
He noted that only “10 to 20 percent of physicians in this country have a meaningful EMR system. The adoption rate among hospitals is hardly better at 20 to 30 percent.”

However, Stark noted that his bill “should not be seen as an effort to slow down other legislative efforts in this area.”

On the contrary, he said his legislation “will be designed to speed up the development and adoption of EMR technology,” as well as:

  • Ensure that the federal government promotes the development of a comprehensive, fully interoperable EMR system;
  • Provide financial incentives through the Medicare program that will overcome barriers to adoption; and
  • Take steps to protect the security and privacy of patient records by giving individuals the ability to sue for damages when their records are breached.

At Stark’s hearing on health IT, Douglas Reding, vice president of the Marshfield Clinic in Wis., said that the Energy and Commerce-approved bill could add 10 percent to 30 percent to the cost of implementing an EMR system, according to Government HealthIT.

In addition, a requirement in the bill for patient consent when records are used in healthcare operations would hamper quality improvement efforts, according to Reding’s testimony.

“If Congress mandates changes such as imposing restrictions on the utilization of patient information for operations as proposed in H.R. 6357, we estimate that the cost of [health IT] will increase dramatically, undermining the return on investment that should accrue to patients and payers,” according to the testimony, reported by Government HealthIT.