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HIMSS asks Congress to push HIE standards, cybersecurity and telemedicine

Count the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) among the groups that say federal healthcare agencies can do more to promote the use of health IT. Specifically, HIMSS is asking Congress to consider its recommendations for strengthening interoperability, healthcare cybersecurity and telemedicine reimbursement.

Interoperability testing must be introduced into the ONC Health IT Certification Program, according to HIMSS, and Congress must order HHS to make that happen so HIE standards will be met by all certified products. HIMSS also asked that the prohibition on using federal funds to create a patient identifier standard be abolished. Those two requests indicate HIMSS sees a strong tie between increased interoperability and the establishment of a national patient identifier, which echoes what was said by members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives at HIMSS 2015.

HIMSS doesn’t need to remind the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) that interoperability should be a priority for health IT regulators. Earlier this year, ONC released its interoperability roadmap, seemingly shifting the agency’s focus from the meaningful use program to HIE standards. A recent blog written by two ONC employees noted a 23% increase from 2013 to 2014 in the number of hospitals that electronically passed health information to outside providers.

HIMSS’ second directive is for HHS to cooperate with the National Institute of Standards in creating a national health IT data security framework, consisting of a group of security standards that would be regularly refreshed. HIMSS proposes the framework should be voluntary. Due to the different sizes and workflows of separate healthcare organizations, some people — such as former ONC chief scientist Doug Fridsma, M.D. — don’t think a single health IT standard can fit every organization’s unique needs.

The third request made by HIMSS was that Congress should force CMS to eliminate some of the obstacles facing providers eager to practice telemedicine. Current law restricts CMS from offering reimbursement payments for remote patient monitoring or telemedicine services. If telemedicine reimbursements are increased, it’s likely more providers will offer remote care. Variations in telemedicine licensure for physicians in different states complicate the treatment of patients across state borders. HIMSS asked that states consult with each other to address this issue.