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Senate HELP Committee to Hone EHR Use, Interoperability Laws

In an upcoming meeting, the Senate HELP committee will mark-up legislation that improves EHR use and interoperability to advance the 21st Century Cures Act and Precision Medicine Initiative.

By Jacqueline LaPointe

On April 6, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) will meet in the third and final executive session to mark up five bipartisan biomedical innovation bills that advance interoperability, EHR use, and health information exchange.

Through the innovation meeting, the HELP committee is attempting to support complementary healthcare IT initiatives, such as the House’s 21st Century Cures Act and the Obama Administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative.

The series of meetings is part of the #Innovation2016 program. The initiative is designed to pass legislation related to health IT interoperability and EHR use.

The bills build off of a section of the 21st Century Cures Act that calls for secure transfer of health information, complete access to health data, and the elimination of information blocking.

Senators also hope to develop legislation that promotes precision medicine research, such as the creation of a cohort of EHR data.

 “This year, the most important opportunity that everybody wants to take advantage of is this remarkable scientific opportunity in biomedical research,” said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the HELP committee, in a recent press release. “It offers the promise of help for virtually every American. And I believe if we would succeed, it will be the most important piece of legislation signed into law this year.”

“I do not know of another way this year to get support for the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative or support for the cancer ‘moonshot’ or a surge for mandatory funding for the National Institutes of Health, unless we act on his bill.”

The HELP Committee has already passed a total of 14 bipartisan bills to complement the 21st Century Cures Act and modernize the Food and Drug Administration. Many of the bills focused on developing and managing EHR interoperability and accessing EHR information.

Other bills have concentrated on rare disease treatments, medical devices (e.g. Apple watches and Fitbits), and population health management.

Senator Alexander noted that the final meeting will dedicate time to discuss the funding for the National Institutes of Health. He suggested an agreement to increase short-term mandatory funding to foster high-priority research projects, such as the Cancer Moonshot and the Precision Medicine Initiative.

“Because of our budget deficit, we need to fund that new surge in mandatory funding by reducing existing mandatory funding,” said Senator Alexander. “I pledge to work with Senator Murray and other members of the committee to try to achieve a bipartisan consensus that will arrive on the floor at the same time as this innovation package does… And I look forward to doing it promptly so we can hand to Senator McConnell a conclusion to the Innovation bill and on the surge of funding for NIH through mandatory funding in a bipartisan way, so he can put it on the floor.”

The complete list of bills scheduled for consideration is as follows:

• FDA and NIH Workforce Authorities Modernization Act (S.2700), by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA)

• Promise for Antibiotics and Therapeutics for Health Acts (S.185), by Senators Orrin Hatch (r-UT) and Michael Bennett (D-CO)

• Advancing Precision Medicine Act of 2016 (S.2713), by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA)               

• NIH Strategic Plan and Inclusion in Clinical Research, by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Patty Murray (D-WA)

•Promoting Biomedical Research and Public Health for Patients Act, by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA)

The meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 6 at 10 AM Eastern Time. It can be streamed here.

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