Health IT Roundup—New bill adds oversight to VA's EHR transition; providers want more money for rural broadband

Veterans affairs sign
A new bill would require VA officials to update Congress on its progress transitioning to a new EHR platform.

New bill would require regular updates on VA’s EHR implementation

A bill introduced in the House and the Senate would place additional requirements on the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide lawmakers with updates on the agency’s transition to Cerner’s EHR platform. The bill, known as the “Veterans’ Electronic Health Record Modernization Oversight Act of 2017,” would require the VA to submit a master plan and schedule and update Congress on any changes to those plans on a quarterly basis. It would also require Secretary David Shulkin, M.D., to submit annual cost estimates for the project. (Senate announcement) (House announcement)

Hospitals and healthcare associations urge FCC to double rural health funding

Hospital systems and healthcare trade associations are among the three dozen groups that signed a letter calling for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to increase the funding cap for the Rural Health Care Program from $400 million to $800 million. Led by the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, a letter to the FCC says the increased funding would “have a huge impact” in ensuring rural providers have access to broadband services required for telemedicine and other digital offerings. (Letter) (PDF)

AMIA launches formal collaboration with OpenNotes

During its annual symposium that began on Saturday, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) announced a new partnership with OpenNotes. AMIA plans to support the initiative’s efforts to make online access to patient records the standard of care. AMIA President and CEO Douglas Fridsma, M.D., Ph.D., said it's “clear this is the direction the industry should be heading.” (Announcement)

VA launches a new digital “healthcare improvement center”

The Department of Veterans Affairs is pulling data at VA facilities across the country into a central hub to identify and resolve quality of care issues ranging from physician or nurse staffing shortages to poorly functioning medical equipment. Secretary David Shulkin, M.D., compares the new center, which has been operating for several months, to an “air-traffic-control system” that collects data from across the system to quickly identify potential problems. (USA Today)

OCR outlines risks of lost or stolen mobile devices that hold PHI

A bulletin posted by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) outlines some of the risks associated with using mobile devices to store or transmit patient information. One of those risks is the greater potential for a device to be lost or stolen, which means healthcare providers need to develop enterprise-wide security measures and training for employees, including reminders not to use mobile devices that access patient health information on unsecured Wi-Fi networks. (Bulletin) (PDF)

The fax machine is still alive and well in healthcare

Although fax machines have been largely replaced across most industries, healthcare providers routinely use the antiquated device to transmit patient data when EHR systems won’t communicate with one another. But as many providers point out, fax machines are not an ideal way to transmit patient records, often leading to blurry or incomplete pages and adding to administrative burden. (Vox)