Legislators seek ideas to improve digital healthcare landscape

A white paper released Tuesday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee seeks information on how to improve the digital healthcare landscape.

The 21st Century Cures initiative, launched last April by the committee, aims to "accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery cycle to get promising new treatments and cures to patients more quickly," according to the white paper.

Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), commenting on the paper, said that technology has great potential to help our healthcare system evolve. "As we work toward a path to cures, we must always be improving and evolving, embracing the technologies of today as we pursue the treatments for tomorrow," Upton (pictured) said.

Committee members, however, are concerned about potential overregulation.

A letter sent from the committee to National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo earlier this month questioned the role of the ONC in regulating health IT. The committee wrote that the agency appears to be "overstepping" its authority as it pertains to plans to "regulate software and other health IT products" via a Health IT Safety Center called for in the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act report, released jointly in April by ONC, FDA and the Federal Communications Commission.

The Office of the National Coordinator recently outlined a 10-year plan to develop an interoperable health IT ecosystem that can improve population health, boost patient engagement and lower costs.

Some of the questions the 21st Century Cures initiative looks to answer via the white paper include:

  • How can increased use of technology improve patient care?
  • How can Congress ensure such innovation continues while mitigating risks?
  • What needs to be done to create legal and regulatory framework that accounts for new technologies?  

The initiative also is considering how patient privacy may be affected by data analysis and how to address privacy concerns and informed consent to data collection.  

The committee said it wants to create a regulatory framework that not only keeps privacy at the forefront, but also allows development and innovation when it comes to treatments and cures for patients.

The committee will accept the public's input and feedback through July 22.

To learn more:
- read the white paper (.pdf)
- read the accompanying announcement

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