April 15, 2021
Only What Matters In Health Information Policy
Maverick is thrilled to learn about the planned re-launch of a favorite animated children’s show called Maggie and The Ferocious Beast. The enormous, yellow and red-spotted imaginary creature known as the Beast (who is friendly and adventurous) is often heard to exclaim “Great Googly Moogly!” -- which seems so appropriate these days given Google’s outsized presence in our lives. We use the search engine as a doctor and doctors will increasingly use its Care Studio to search health records. And Google just announced that it will have another try at offering a consumer-facing medical records app. Great Googly Moogly!
This is non-Google-related news, but you can Google all of it:
Two other (friendly) Ferocious Beasts, Microsoft and Amazon, made their own announcements this week: Microsoft announced that it is acquiring natural language company Nuance Communications for $19.7B. Amazon Web Services announced that it is launching the next phase of its Diagnostic Development Initiative, to distribute $12M to cloud-powered public health genomics and diagnostic projects. (And if that doesn’t rise to the level of Ferocious Beastness, then tack it on to Amazon’s last 15 health care moves.)
The biggest Ferocious Beast of all, the federal government, is a big investor in health technology too. President Biden is asking Congress, in his first budget request, to increase a host of health information technology priorities.
Doctors are getting into the health technology groove: Health2047, the American Medical Association’s innovation affiliate, announced that it created a new company -- “Emergence Healthcare Group” - to help doctors automate the administrative tasks that is associated with physician burnout. Village MD, the tech-enabled primary care provider that got a $1B investment last year from Walgreens Boots Alliance, announced its plans to go public. And Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the AMA, told Chip Kahn during his “Hospitals in Focus” podcast that her private medical practice went from in-person to fully virtual in 2 days during the pandemic.
One Thoughtful Paragraph
One great thing about Maggie and the Ferocious Beast is that the characters play in an imaginary world called Nowhere Land, which is, apparently, where the health care prices are hiding too. We are not supposed to have a hide and seek game with prices anymore, because CMS is requiring hospitals to publish a list of their charges for at least 300 common services, including rates that they negotiated with health insurance companies. (Health plans will have their own price transparency rules to contend with soon.) And hospitals are supposed to make prices easy to find and searchable so people can understand their health care costs. Instead, there are multiple reports that hospitals are not complying, or are trying to hide their compliance, with the hospital price transparency rules (See March 17th Health Affairs blog post, the original Wall Street Journal investigation or its follow-up article, the Advisory Board’s take on the situation, and the Kaiser Family Foundation-Peterson Center on Healthcare report). On April 13, 2021, a group of bipartisan congressional leaders wrote to the HHS Secretary Becerra asking him to enforce “full compliance with the final rule” and on April 14, in a statement to Modern Healthcare, CMS said it “will enforce these rules to make sure Americans know what a hospital charges for health care." See you all in Nowhere Land.