Committee hearing addresses health data flow issues, info blocking

Health information still doesn't flow in all the ways it needs to, according to testimony Tuesday at a joint hearing before the U.S. House's subcommittee on Information Technology and subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules.

The hearing was to dedicated to progress in the nation's use of health IT.

National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, M.D., in prepared testimony, spoke about the agency's interoperability roadmap, alternative payment models and efforts to address information blocking.

But when asked whether there was an area where federal action could improve the flow of health information, she pointed to the array of state laws governing data privacy and the need for providers to be willing to share information.

"That's a particular challenge in the national capital region since we have three jurisdictions, three different political cultures, sets of laws … and we're not always talking," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) "What could go wrong with that?"

DeSalvo said ONC has been working with the National Governor's Association on a toolkit to help states harmonize privacy regulations, but that there "may be some areas where we need some additional support."

Patient access to their medical records was also brought up by Mark Savage of the National Partnership for Women and Families. He said that many patients face "astonishing" barriers to obtaining their digital records and said there needs to be an "urgent imperative" to break down barriers.

Currently, many apps and websites that collect patient-generated information don't fall under HIPAA, added Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission. Lawmakers at the hearing agreed that there is a need for more clarity about when HIPAA applies and when it's being used to block information.

To learn more:
- watch video of the hearing