HIMSS Shares “Wish List” With Congress

It’s been a busy year for telehealth and health IT on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle introducing more than two dozen pieces of telehealth-related legislation, and one telehealth-friendly bill (the CHRONIC Care Act) even passing the Senate. But the 115th Congress isn’t over yet, and advocates want to keep the early momentum going. With that in mind, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) issued a health IT-centric “wish list” for lawmakers for the rest of the current legislative session. As Fierce Healthcare first reported, the organization’s policy committee has three main asks. “These key legislative policy recommendations reflect opportunities to address some of the most pressing issues facing the health IT community,” HIMSS said in a blog post outlining their priorities.

One key agenda item: creating a cybersecurity leadership position at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This comes as large-scale health care data breaches have often dominated headlines, and as experts have repeatedly warned that many health care organizations are not well prepared for cyberattacks, with some calling on the government to do more to provide support. “Congress should pass legislation that would elevate the HHS Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) as a peer of the HHS Chief Information Officer (CIO) and require the CISO’s responsibilities to include both internal and external portfolios, including responsibility for creating a sector-specific plan to establish goals and priorities for cybersecurity,” HIMSS asserts. Second, the organization wants to see Congress prioritize telehealth legislation. “Telehealth services, and the technologies that support them, have the potential to expand access to high-quality care for patients in underserved communities (both urban and rural), address provider shortages, facilitate proactive disease prevention and chronic care management, and improve patient and provider satisfaction,” HIMSS explains, pointing—as many have—to the numerous restrictions that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) place on telehealth reimbursement. The organization highlights the bipartisan Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, which would remove a number of current Medicare restrictions on telehealth and remote monitoring services, including originating site restrictions, geographic restrictions, and other limitations.

Finally, HIMSS urged lawmakers to prioritize infrastructure. “Congress should support investments in broadband and public health surveillance systems, and workforce initiatives, to optimize use of innovative technologies and support robust public health monitoring and crisis response,” the organization asserts, pointing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rural Health Program as one example of a program in need of additional investment. As we’ve previously noted, the importance of broadband coverage for the provision of telehealth services—and for health outcomes generally—has been a recent key area of focus for many rural health care advocates. Earlier this year, for example, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), and other organizations urged FCC to prioritize the expansion of broadband access as a way of addressing health care disparities.

Click here to read the Fierce Healthcare article on the HIMSS legislative asks.

Click here to read the HIMSS legislative asks. 

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