Congressman, FCC head tout government efforts to improve health IT

Hospitals and health organizations are not the only key players in health IT, as government agencies such as the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Federal Communications Commission also play an important role. 

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), at Monday's Consumer Health IT Summit in the District of Columbia, spoke about Meaningful Use and interoperability and the House Energy and Commerce Committee's role in health technology.

The legislator (pictured), an obstetrician with a master's degree in medical management, questioned the emphasis of Meaningful Use implementation over interoperability. 

"I don't know if perhaps the focus being on Meaningful Use originally ... maybe that focus should have been on interoperability, and [have] the Meaningful Use stuff come later," he said.

However, he added that "we are where we are," and the government will continue to try to make sure that the impact these programs have on practicing physicians are manageable. He also said it would be important to for the commission to make sure that tax payer dollars are being well spent where these tools are concerned.

The lawmaker also spoke on the committee's work through its 21st Century Cures initiative to improve the health IT landscape.  

"It is something that's going to require a great deal of care, because if we're not careful the ability to deliver on that promise, that promise of 21st century healthcare, that will be lost" in the regulatory process, he said.

Burgess also mentioned how much personal health data is being collected and shared, such as information from 23andMe. "Perhaps there's something there the federal government can learn from that," he said.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who also spoke at the summit, said the agency is doing its part to seize the opportunities presented by technology to improve healthcare.

She spoke about the FCC's Connect2Health initiative, which aims to use the agency's expertise to better intersect broadband connectivity, advanced technology and health.

"Broadband-enabled solutions can help communities better manage chronic diseases, address language barriers and improve health literacy," she said. "It can put the consumer back into consumer health IT and enable engagement on an unprecedented scale."

Clyburn add that a central focus for the FCC is connectivity, to make sure "everyone is connected everywhere" and able to get the best services and the right information.

"It is about all consumers having real access to broadband-enabled health tools and technologies that they can use to get and stay healthy," she said.