News Corner: New Senate Health Group Focuses on Improving Information Exchange Through EHRs

In response to the numerous complaints from physicians and patients around difficult or impractical information exchange using electronic health records, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee this week announced the creation of a bipartisan group to identify ways the federal government can help improve EHRs.

The founders of the group, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), have since invited all members of the Senate Health Committee to participate, with an end goal of making EHRs a tool that excites and enables physicians to offer better patient care.

According to a piece in Health Data Management, the five main objectives of the group include:

  • Helping doctors and hospitals improve quality of care and patient safety
  • Facilitating information exchange between different EHR vendors and different health professionals
  • Empowering patients to engage in their own healthcare through convenient, user-friendly access to their personal health information
  • Leveraging health information technology capabilities to improve patient safety
  • Protecting patient privacy and security of health information

EHR vendors are also trying to improve information exchange through their own channels. Epic was the latest vendor to waive standard fees for information exchange, making the ability to share critical information more of a commodity for physicians and a standard expectation of patients. Despite increased efforts towards interoperability, medical errors that can be attributed to EHR systems are still very present in health systems.

According to a West Health Institute survey, 50% of nurses have noticed a medical error because a device or EHR system was not adequately integrated into the hospital system. These continued issues reaffirm the need for a committee such as the one formed by the Senate to take responsibility for promoting safer and more efficient information exchange in healthcare.

Do you think that Senate should be responsible for promoting safer health information exchange? Along with health professionals and health IT developers, who else should join the Senate Health Committee in achieving the goals outlined above? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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