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House Approves Bill to Advance Health Information Technology, Prevent Errors

Legislation Cosponsored by Ryan Would Aid Efforts to Use Modern Information Technology to Improve Health Care, Reduce Costs

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July 27, 2006 | Kate Matus ((202) 226-7326) | comments

The House of Representatives today approved legislation cosponsored by First District Congressman Paul Ryan to help integrate modern information technology such as electronic medical records into our nation's health care system to prevent medical errors and help lower costs. This measure codifies the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and works to remove barriers that have prevented interoperable health information technology from being implemented. The bill - H.R. 4157, the Better Health Information System Act of 2006, also known as the Health Information Technology Promotion Act - passed the House by a vote of 270-148. 

In June of this year, Ryan introduced separate legislation (H.R. 5559) that would give everyone a chance to own his or her electronic medical record and set guidelines governing the private-sector institutions needed to maintain electronic health records. The bill the House approved today addresses government's role in promoting health information technology, developing standards, and assessing and altering laws that impact the electronic exchange of health information. 

"By moving from largely paper-based records to a secure system of electronic health records, we can lower costs, improve patient care, and reduce medical errors. At the same time, we need to safeguard patients' privacy and the confidentiality of their information," Ryan said. "Today's legislation helps pave the way for the nationwide spread of technology to enable the secure, electronic exchange of health information including e-prescribing and other advances that can save lives." 

Among its provisions, H.R. 4157 would:

  • Codify the the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in statute and delineate its ongoing roles and responsibilities to coordinate federal health information technology efforts.

  • Provide for a study of federal and state health privacy laws and standards and, depending on the findings, create a process for congressional or administration action to revise and strengthen such laws and standards.

  • Create exceptions to the fraud and abuse statutes to allow certain providers to fund health information technology equipment and services for other providers. (Current anti-kickback laws prohibit hospitals from giving anything of value to a physician in order to encourage the doctor to refer his or her patients to that hospital. H.R. 4157 would make an exception to current law, allowing hospitals to provide doctors' offices with health information technology software, computers, training and the like, without being subject to penalties.) 

  • Require a modern coding and transaction system.

  • Create a streamlined process for the adoption of transaction standards.

  • Provide for a report on the American Health Information Community (AHIC) and the development of a strategic plan for coordination of health information technology standards. AHIC is a federally chartered commission that will provide recommendations to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on how to make health records digital and interoperable, and assure that the privacy and security of those records are protected. 

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