House Panel Hears Stakeholder Concerns About Regulatory Barriers to Health IT

The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a roundtable event Tuesday to discuss how Congress can strike the best balance between regulatory concerns and the promotion of healthcare technology and innovation.

The panelists, representatives from influential public and private sector organizations, all agreed on the need to use technology to meet rising healthcare demands.

C. Martin Harris, MD, CIO of the Cleveland Clinic, remarked that as the country ages, traditional healthcare delivery will not be able to keep up. "If we simply try to care for them exactly the way we have been for the past 100 years, we simply will not have the capacity to do it, nor will we have the dollars to do it," he said. "So our opportunity is to use this technology to redesign how we deliver care."

However, the panelists brought up several regulatory obstacles that were preventing technology from reaching its full potential in healthcare.

Joseph Smith, MD, PhD, chief medical and science officer at West Health in La Jolla, Calif., discussed several of the current obstacles standing in the way of healthcare innovation, including a lack of interoperability and data sharing. "We desperately need that information to flow seamlessly at the point of care, but also be amalgamated in a way that fosters our discovery of these new relationships between variables we otherwise wouldn't have imagined and the development of solutions so we can readily determine what's working and what isn't," he said.

Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could improve its regulatory pathways to help get new, lifesaving medications to patients more quickly, and "[National Institutes of Health] funding could always improve," said Brian Druker, MD, direction of the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland.

Jonathan Bush, CEO of athenahealth, had harsh words for what he called "random" and "terrifying" regulations. "With the best of intentions, you guys have made things that work in every other industry illegal [in healthcare]," he said. He cited Stark Law and Anti-Kickback statutes were blocking the financial incentives that are present in other industries and that could spur collaboration and entice entrepreneurs into the healthcare space.

The panel was part of the 21st Century Cures initiative undertaken by the Committee focused on harnessing technology to improve healthcare.

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