Rockefeller Introduced Legislation Calling For Universal Adoption Of Electronic Health Records

The Health Information Technology Public Utility Act of 2009 will make Health IT more accessible

April 24, 2009

Washington, D.C. —Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV has introduced legislation that will facilitate nationwide adoption of electronic health records, particularly among small, rural providers.  The Health Information Technology Public Utility Act of 2009 will build upon the successful use of “open source” electronic health records by the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the “open source exchange model,” which was recently expanded among federal agencies through the Nationwide Health Information Network-Connect initiative.

“We need advancements in health information technology across the board to improve the quality of care Americans receive,” said Senator Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “To make this happen, we need universal access to affordable and interoperable health information technology – from small, rural health clinics to large, urban hospitals.”

Open source software refers to a computer program with unrestricted source code that does not limit the use or distribution by any organization or user. 

Senator Rockefeller continued, “Open source software is a cost-effective, proven way to advance health information technology – particularly among small, rural providers.  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.”


Senator Rockefeller’s Health Information Technology Public Utility Act of 2009 would:

• Create a new federal Public Utility Board within the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to direct and oversee formation of this HIT Public Utility Model, its implementation, and its ongoing operation.

• Implement and administer a new 21st Century Health IT Grant program for safety-net providers to cover the full cost of open source software implementation and maintenance for up to five years, with the possibility of renewal for up to five years if required benchmarks are met.

• Facilitate ongoing communication with open source user groups to incorporate improvements and innovations from them into the core programs. 

• Ensure interoperability between these programs, including as innovations are incorporated, and develop mechanisms to integrate open source software with Medicaid and CHIP billing.

• Create a child-specific Electronic Health Record (EHR) to be used in Medicaid, CHIP, and other federal children’s health programs.

• Develop and integrate quality and performance measurement into open source software modules.