Carper, Voinovich Introduce Bill to Expand Use of Electronic Personal Health Records

Legislation Would Promote New Technology Through Federal Health Plans

WASHINGTON (Sept. 6, 2006) – Looking to dramatically jumpstart the use of new information technology to cut down on medical errors and improve overall health care, Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, today introduced legislation that would promote the use of electronic personal health records within the health care industry. The legislation, which is backed by a host of technology and healthcare groups, would require all insurance carriers that contract with the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to make an electronic health record available for every FEHBP enrollee. Enrollees could log-on to the Internet to access their electronic health records to keep track of such things as medications, blood tests, allergies and immunization records. They could then choose to share these records with their health care providers in order to ensure that every party has the most up-to-date and accurate health information when making clinical decisions. In case of an emergency, an enrollee could also grant others the ability to access their electronic records. Health information technology has been shown to increase the efficiency and safety of health care by eliminating unwarranted tests, procedures and prescriptions, improving diagnoses and overall care while cutting wasteful spending. Unfortunately, while some health care providers have moved to adopt new health information technology, most have been reluctant to invest because of the high costs and the lack of uniformity among products. This legislation, entitled the Federal Employees Electronic Personal Health Records Act, is designed to jumpstart the adoption of this new technology. As more insurance companies, health care providers and consumers become accustomed to using electronic personal health records, more people will recognize the advantages of this new technology, helping us to more quickly transform our nation’s health care system into one that’s suitable for the 21st century. “Those health care providers that have started using health information technology, such as the Veterans Administration, have seen remarkable results,” said Carper. “It’s time we do more to expand the use of the latest health information technology and bring our nation’s health care system into the twenty-first century. This bill does just that.” “Access to quality health care is one of the greatest domestic challenges facing our nation,” said Voinovich. “More transparency in the health care industry, including medical records transparency, will allow us to improve the quality of care and more wisely spend our health care dollars. This legislation will improve the health care profession and help ensure that patients get the best and most timely care possible. It is about working harder and smarter while doing more with less.” The bill also helps ensure the privacy and security of an enrollee’s electronic personal health record through the following ways: Upon accessing their electronic personal health record, enrollees will be prompted to authenticate their identities. Enrollees can share sections of their electronic personal health record with healthcare providers instead of exposing their entire health history. An audit trail will list the identity of every individual who accesses the electronic personal health record. The Act complies with all privacy and security regulations outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, as well as other relevant laws relating to privacy and security. Enrollees can opt-out of the initiative by choosing not to set-up an electronic personal health record. The bill has been endorsed by the American Health Information Association (AHIMA), American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), IBM, and MEDecision.