Health IT Bill Calls for Universal Privacy Standards
House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) on Thursday introduced a bill (HR 4157) that would allow HHS to develop national medical privacy standards and ease restrictions on the donation of information technology equipment to doctors, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The bill would require HHS to study how state privacy laws and data transaction standards affect the flow of medical data. The agency would have 18 months to report on "whether state and federal privacy laws should be conformed to a single set of federal standards," a summary of the bill states.
If HHS concluded that such standards were needed, Congress would have three years to enact the standards or HHS would have the authority to create a uniform system for health information privacy and security. The bill also would require HHS to adopt data transaction standards and billing codes.
The bill would allow "hospitals, group practices and other entities to provide physicians with hardware, software or [IT] training and support services that are used primarily for the electronic exchanges of clinical health information," according to a summary. However, the legislation states that hospitals and other donors would not be able to require a doctor to limit use of the technology or prevent doctors from linking to other IT systems.
Under the bill, donated IT applications would have to comply with HHS technology standards or certification procedures. In addition, HHS would have three years to study the effect of such "safe harbors" in the adoption of IT and "any impact it has had on business relationships between providers," the bill states.
In addition, the Johnson-Deal bill would codify the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, currently held by David Brailer, and require it to maintain and update "a strategic plan to guide the nationwide implementation of interoperable health [IT] to improve health care quality, reduce medical errors, increase efficiency of care and advance the delivery of appropriate evidence-based health care services."
According to CQ HealthBeat, passage of the bill "appear[s] tentative" but "chances of its success may improve if Congress comes back in December" (CQ HealthBeat, 10/27).