Skip to content

Alexander: Getting Electronic Health Records “Out of the Ditch” is Critical to the Future of Medical Innovation

Holds 1st in a series of oversight hearings to ensure 21st Century Cures Act, called “most important legislation” of the year, is implemented properly

WASHINGTON, October 31, 2017—Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that “electronic health records are a critical piece to the future of medical innovation and the success of the 21st Century Cures Act, and I intend to ensure these provisions are implemented properly.”

“Last December, we passed the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation we hope will help virtually every American family by taking advantage of breathtaking advances in biomedical research,” Alexander said. “As we worked on Cures, we learned that in order for most areas of the bill to succeed, it was essential that electronic health records systems work properly.”

Alexander continued: “For example, the precision medicine initiative aims to assemble one million genomes to help doctors tailor treatment to patients. But most of that information the head of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, is trying to collect, will flow through electronic health records. And the more we looked into these systems, the more we realized our nation’s system of electronic health care records was in a ditch.”

“The goal of the health IT provisions in Cures was to make it easier for patients to access their health records and for doctors and hospitals to get the information they need to treat patients. The law set clear deadlines for the administration to meet and I would like to hear how implementation of these provisions is going. For example, are doctors spending less time on administrative tasks and more time with patients?"

Alexander concluded, “There is also a role for the private sector to play in ensuring electronic health records are working. One such effort is the Center for Medical Interoperability, a group of non-profit, for-profit, and university-based hospitals, in Nashville. Their idea was, between them, they have a large enough purchasing power to tell the makers of electronic health record systems they want systems that work properly and are able to communicate with each other. And if the systems don’t perform properly, these purchasers will find products that do. I was glad to see these hospitals coming together to work out a solution in the private sector.”

Today, the committee held the first oversight hearing on the 21st Century Cures Act, which became law in December 2016 and was called “the most important legislation” of the year by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The committee will have additional implementation hearings in December on the sections dealing with the research, development, and approval of innovative treatments, cures, and medical devices, and on the reforms to mental health programs.

The committee held six hearings in 2015 looking at ways to improve electronic health records and formed a bipartisan working group that made recommendations that were included in the final 21st Century Cures Act.  

Alexander’s full remarks are available here.