Representative Pete Stark, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, introduced the Health-e Information Technology Act of 2008 (H.R.6898) on September 15th. If passed, the act would codify certain offices and committees which would make recommendations on standards for interoperability, privacy and security, as well as maximizing the utility for health-related information technology. In addition to recommending standards, the group would also develop an EMR system based on open source technology. Finally, the bill would provide financial incentives to practices that adopt approved EMR systems and reduce Medicare payments for those without a system, or those using an un-approved EMR.
Whether or not this bill becomes law, it shows that Congress has an interest in EMRs and healthcare technology. We can expect more legislation along these lines, and it is very likely that Congress will pass a law requiring every practice to adopt an EMR. This is yet another reason to adopt an EMR. However, don’t just rush out and buy the first EMR you like. Although we don’t know what features will constitute an “approved” system under this or any future legislation, physicians should pick an EMR that can exchange data using the XML and HL7 formats. Physicians should also pick an EMR that has a history of working with the federal government. No one wants to invest thousands in an EMR that doesn’t meet government standards.