Bill Calls for Open-Source Electronic Health Records

The proposed Health Information Technology Public Utility Act of 2009 would create a federal agency and grant program to develop open-source electronic health records and an open-source exchange model.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia introduced legislation April 24 that would fast-track open-source electronic health records. The Health Information Technology Public Utility Act of 2009 aims to build upon the Department of Veterans Affairs' use of open-source health records as well as the open-source exchange model of the Nationwide Health Information Network-Connect initiative.
Rockefeller's bill would create a grant program for core safety-net providers to cover the full cost of open-source software implementation and maintenance for up to five years. The legislation also offers the possibility of renewal for up to five years if required benchmarks are met.

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"We need advancements in health information technology across the board to improve the quality of care Americans receive," Rockefeller said in a statement. "To make this happen, we need universal access to affordable and interoperable health information technology-from small, rural health clinics to large, urban hospitals."

The bill would create a new federal Public Utility Board within the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to direct and oversee formation of a health IT public utility model. The new office would also develop mechanisms to integrate open-source software with Medicaid.
"Open-source software is a cost-effective, proven way to advance health information technology-particularly among small, rural providers," said Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. "This legislation does not replace commercial software; instead, it complements the private industry in this field-by making health information technology a realistic option for all providers."