03.17.15

Murray: Health IT Gains are Critical to Improving Quality of Care, Effectiveness for Patients

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at a committee hearing on America’s Health IT Transformation: Translating the Promise of Electronic Health Records Into Better Care. In her opening statement, Murray highlighted health care providers' historic progress in improving health care quality through better access to electronic health records. Murray also outlined ways to improve the system, including making sure patients can easily access and correct their own records, ensuring patient information is safe, secure, and can be efficiently shared between providers, and working toward a better, modernized electronic health record for servicemembers and veterans.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“I truly appreciate the work that’s been done by so many doctors and hospitals to help bring our health care system into the 21st century, and improve the quality and value of care for families across the country. This progress means doctors can identify health problems sooner and help patients get preventive care that will keep them healthy, and it means patients can know more about their own health, and be better equipped to make decisions about the care they need.  It also means that patients are safer, since electronic health records can alert providers to errors that hurt patients.”

“I’m very proud that in my home state of Washington, patients are benefiting from better access to health information. For example, a patient at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle was able to switch her treatment and avoid serious health risks, thanks to electronic medical records that showed a dangerous interaction between two of her medications. And that’s just one story of many across the country that show how critical better health information is for patients.”

“There is, of course, a lot more that should be done to build on the progress we’ve made so far. Many physicians across the country are facing a Medicare payment reduction this year because they are struggling to meet requirements for the use of electronic health records. I know there is a lot of frustration about this—and I think we need to do more to both set high standards, and ensure providers have the support and flexibility they need to reach them.”

“Of course, a critical part of making sure our country can fully benefit from health IT is security. Patients and providers need to know that their information is safe and secure—and I’m glad to be working with Chairman Alexander to ensure this is a top priority.”

“I want to note that progress on health IT is especially needed when it comes to the care our servicemembers and veterans receive. Those who bravely serve our country deserve the absolute best care we have to offer—and this includes a state-of-the-art, interoperable electronic record system. VA and DoD missed an important opportunity to develop this infrastructure. I hope both departments will continue to work towards a better, modernized electronic health record for our servicemembers and veterans.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander—and thank you to all of our witnesses for being here today.

“When it comes to our health care system, I’m focused on making sure we are expanding coverage, making coverage more affordable, and critically, ensuring that we continue to improve the quality of care patients receive.

“Today’s hearing is a great opportunity to focus in particular on that third goal—improving quality—because we all know that having more and better information about a patient’s health can make all the difference.

“We have already come a long way in this effort. Our country has made significant gains in terms of adopting electronic health records. In 2001, for example, only 18 percent of physicians used electronic health records—and today, 78 percent do. That’s a real transformation. And I’m proud the HITECH Act we passed in 2009 was a big part of that.

“I truly appreciate the work that’s been done by so many doctors and hospitals to help bring our health care system into the 21st century, and improve the quality and value of care for families across the country.

“This progress means doctors can identify health problems sooner and help patients get preventive care that will keep them healthy, and it means patients can know more about their own health, and be better equipped to make decisions about the care they need. 

“It also means that patients are safer, since electronic health records can alert providers to errors that hurt patients.

“I look forward to hearing from Dr. Adler-Milstein and Dr. Wergin about the important role that health information plays in providing high-quality, patient-centered care.

“I’m very proud that in my home state of Washington, patients are benefiting from better access to health information.

“For example, a patient at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle was able to switch her treatment and avoid serious health risks, thanks to electronic medical records that showed a dangerous interaction between two of her medications. And that’s just one story of many across the country that show how critical better health information is for patients.

“There is, of course, a lot more that should be done to build on the progress we’ve made so far. Many physicians across the country are facing a Medicare payment reduction this year because they are struggling to meet requirements for the use of electronic health records.

“I know there is a lot of frustration about this—and I think we need to do more to both set high standards, and ensure providers have the support and flexibility they need to reach them.

“There are also important issues around interoperability that I look forward to discussing with our witnesses.

“It is critical that as electronic health records become more and more integral to our health care system, information can be securely and efficiently shared between different doctors and across systems developed by different vendors.

“This is something that Mr. DeVault is deeply involved in. I look forward to hearing his thoughts on best practices to increase interoperability.

“And, as we do more to make sure electronic health information can be shared between providers, I think there is also much more we can do to help patients stay informed about and involved in their care.

“In addition to her extensive work on health information technology, I know Dr. Kennedy can speak personally to how important it is that patients have access to their medical records. Dr. Kennedy, thank you for coming today and thank you for sharing your daughter Grace’s story.

“Of course, a critical part of making sure our country can fully benefit from health IT is security. Patients and providers need to know that their information is safe and secure—and I’m glad to be working with Chairman Alexander to ensure this is a top priority.

“Finally, I want to note that progress on health IT is especially needed when it comes to the care our servicemembers and veterans receive. 

“Those who bravely serve our country deserve the absolute best care we have to offer—and this includes a state-of-the-art, interoperable electronic record system. VA and DoD missed an important opportunity to develop this infrastructure.

“I hope both departments will continue to work towards a better, modernized electronic health record for our servicemembers and veterans.

“I want to thank our witnesses again for coming and sharing your expertise. As we continue working to strengthen our health care system for patients and families, expanding and improving our nation’s health IT infrastructure could not be more important.

“So I truly appreciate all of your efforts, and I look forward to working with you in the coming weeks and months. And now I’ll turn it back over to Chairman Alexander. “

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