Senate Health Innovation Bills Approved
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held the first of three committee meetings on medical innovation and passed seven bills with bipartisan support.
“This is an important day, not just for this committee—but for all Americans who stand to benefit from this exciting time in medical innovation and research,” said Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). “The House has completed its work on the 21st Century Cures Act, the president has announced his support for a Precision Medicine Initiative and a ‘cancer moonshot’—and with this bipartisan action in committee today, we’ve shown the Senate’s potential to be the vehicle that turns these groundbreaking ideas into law this year to help improve the lives of nearly every single American.”
One of the bills the committee passed by a vote of 22-0 is a measure designed to make it easier for medical providers to use federal electronic health records (EHRs). The bill – the Improving Health Information Technology Act (S. 2511) – includes parts of the TRUST-IT Act, sponsored by Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), which would establish an unbiased rating system for health information technology (HIT) products to help providers better choose HIT products. It also allows HIT users to share feedback on the user experience of specific HIT products related to security, usability, and interoperability, among other concerns. The Improving Health Information Technology Act also includes provisions addressing information blocking, interoperability, and improving patient access to the EHRs.
“The AAOS commends the committee on incorporating in this discussion draft the Transparent Ratings on Usability and Security to Transform Information Technology (TRUST-IT) language developed by Senators Cassidy and Whitehouse,” wrote David D. Teuscher, MD, President of AAOS in an earlier letter. “The current marketplace for electronic health records (EHR) is overwhelming and providers are offered no guarantee that the product they purchase will be interoperable, efficient, effective, and secure. This language would address these issues by establishing a transparent EHR rating system and updating the EHR certification process by requiring vendors to report on established criteria.”
The other bills, approved by voice vote, included a bill (S. 2014) to support young researchers at the National Institutes of Health and another (S. 1622) that would aim to improve the Food and Drug Administration’s review process for devices.
“In order for America to out-innovate the rest of the world and create an economy built to last, we must protect and strengthen our investments in research, science, and innovation,” said Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), sponsor of S. 2014. “We can’t accomplish this without supporting and investing in the next generation of researchers. Our best and brightest minds deserve to know that our country stands with them.”
The approvals mark the start of the Senate’s consideration of legislation to mirror the 21st Century Cures bill that the House passed last summer. While some members of the committee speculated that a debate over funding would ultimately derail the whole process, Alexander remained optimistic that the committee will achieve results. The next meeting is scheduled for March 9, where the committee will debate and vote on at least five bipartisan bills.