TMA Seeks Legal Safe Harbor for HIE Users

Written Testimony of Texas Medical Association

House Bill 2641 by Rep. John Zerwas
Senate Committee on Health and Human Services

May 20, 2015

Chairman Schwertner and members of the committee, the Texas Medical Association is pleased to share comments on House Bill 2641 by Rep. John Zerwas and Senator Schwertner. Our association represents 48,000 physicians and medical student members who believe that the state must ensure safe and consistent transfer and utilization of consented health data. House Bill 2641 will enhance the value of health information exchange in Texas, which represents important data at the point of care for all Texans..

Over the past several years, both the federal and state governments have spurred physicians and providers to enhance exchange of electronic health records. Thus, as more physicians enter the arena of electronic record exchange, it is critical that Texas law ensures a secure environment for these transactions.

HB 1641 would:

  • Require the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission to ensure that all systems set for future procurement be able to exchange health information securely, in accordance with applicable data exchange standards, to promote interoperability.
  • Define a “health information exchange” (HIE) in statute. This definition will clarify which entities are health information exchanges, and which are not. This is important because the public desires trust and understanding regarding the entities that transmit sensitive and protected health information.
  • Allow health-related information to be transmitted through local health information exchanges to the appropriate state agencies. 
TMA requests consideration of additional language that provides the use of, failure to use, or existence of an HIE does not create or establish a standard of care, duty, or obligation that forms the basis for a cause of action applicable to a physician or health care provider for obtaining, using, or disclosing patient information.

This clarification will foster trust through appropriate safe harbor protections for physicians utilizing HIEs, which encourages use of HIEs to support individual and population health. This amendment places the responsibility for privacy breaches appropriately on those responsible rather than innocent participants who merely have been a connector or contributor to the data exchange.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer comment on this legislation.

Last Updated On

June 13, 2016

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