Legislation would spur growth, interoperability of clinical data registries

Congress has delved yet again into data sharing of health IT, considering a bill that would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to make recommendations regarding the structure and scope of clinical data registries.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), was approved in a 25-18 vote Wednesday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Health Data Management reported. It calls for specific recommendations for a set of standards that would allow for the "bidirectional interoperability exchange of information" between electronic health records of reporting clinicians and registries. HHS also would be called upon to make recommendations on how registries would be developed and used to evaluate care models, how they should be structured to facilitate records and reporting data, how data may be used to prevent disease and to track utilization of preventive health benefits.

"[D]ata registries hold great promise for the future of healthcare in this country," Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement at a July 28 hearing. "However, expertise in their construction and operation varies significantly. This legislation would encourage the development and dissemination of best practices designed to support registry development that works for patients, provider groups and other stakeholders."

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who raised objections to the bill at the July 28 hearing, again spoke out against the legislation's markup on Wednesday.

"This bill wasn't even introduced until Monday night and there has not been a real opportunity to review this bill," Pallone said, according to Health Data Management. "[It] appears to duplicate current public-private efforts that are already in existence. ... I can't support a bill that adds more bureaucracy and duplicates what's already out there."

Interoperability has become a hot button item for Congress in recent weeks, with concerns raised during hearings about "fraud" being committed by paying Meaningful Use incentive monies to support EHRs that are not interoperable and a panel calling for scrutiny of EHRs that don't share data. It has been acknowledged that many registries and public health agencies are not even ready to receive electronic data from providers, a requirement of the Meaningful Use program.

To learn more:
- check out materials from the July 28 hearing
- read the Health Data Management article