Where 5 areas of health IT legislation stand

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society is working with Congress to push legislation in five key areas related to health IT and technology-enabled access to care.

During a media call Nov. 9, Tom Leary, HIMSS senior vice president of government relations and David Gray, senior manager of government relations and connected health policy, discussed key areas of HIMSS focus in the next few months.

1. Congress still needs to pass government funding for 2021, which includes funding for patient-matching initiatives and public health data modernization. The House passed a resolution to continue funding the government through Dec. 11 on Sept. 22 and could continue the funding extension.

2. The federal government extended the public health emergency declaration through the beginning of January and many of the waivers for telehealth are tied to the declaration. There is bipartisan support for making many of the changes to telehealth coverage permanent, and bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to support broader telehealth access and remove geographic restrictions to providing virtual services. HIMSS has endorsed HR 7663, the Protecting Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act of 2020, introduced in the House.

3. HIMSS is pushing for a national patient identifier strategy and allowing HHS to be an active and equal partner in developing that strategy. The national patient identifier could play a role in equitable vaccine distribution and ensuring individuals receive multiple doses if required. The organization would also like to see an IT-enabled strategy for equitable personal protective equipment and testing distribution.

4. As part of the CARES Act funding, $500 million was allocated to data modernization efforts at the national and local level, which is 10 times more than what was appropriated last year. HIMSS would like the federal government to sustain the current level of funding so public health offices can modernize technology and hire a workforce capable of collecting and analyzing the necessary information.

5. HIMSS will also support interoperability efforts in the coming year and leveraging technology for the COVID-19 response. HHS extended the deadline for its information blocking final rules over the next few years. The information-blocking provisions will go into effect on April 5 with other deadlines being extended through Dec. 31, 2023.

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