Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) introduced a new bill (H.R 4613) to the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill proposes some changes to be made to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act and HIPAA Rules for healthcare clearinghouses.
The role of healthcare clearinghouses is proposed in the Ensuring Patient Access to Healthcare Records Act of 2017. It includes promoting access to and leveraging of health information, enhancing treatment, health quality improvement, research, public health and others.
Healthcare clearinghouses are tasked with the transformation of data from one format to another. They are considered HIPAA-covered entities or business associates in some cases. They gather health data from different sources and so they can keep a complete set of records for patients. Allowing patients to get health record copies from healthcare clearinghouses would be easier for patients than to get the complete records from multiple providers.
Patients sometimes need to move to a new state, change medical providers or unexpectedly go to the emergency room or consult a new doctor. Tracking down all the health records from different sources can be really burdensome. With the new bill, patients can get a snapshot of their health records with a simple request. It allows for better and more informed healthcare decisions in a timely way.
The bill could help patients with data access. However, there are certain things that hinder it from being truly beneficial. First, healthcare clearinghouses only have claims data and not clinical data. Second, patients cannot choose the healthcare clearinghouse that holds their data. It is likely that patients won’t even know which healthcare clearinghouse it is.
The bill would allow the production of reports using claims, eligibility and payment data that can be useful for Medicare, health insurance programs, research and healthcare providers. It offers more cost efficient approaches, standards and reference materials that help with medical care and better payment models.
The Ensuring Patient Access to Healthcare Records Act is not the first version of bill. Previous versions did not make it to the House floor and had been criticized. Healthcare Blog writer Adrian Gropper, MD said that this bill will give the infrastructure business the authority to use and sell patients data without consent or transparency. This is bound to become an inescapable surveillance system for the people’s most valuable personal data.