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  • Writer's pictureJulie Barnes

April 2, 2020

Maverick’s Update

Only What Matters on Health Information Policy

As we enter into the “stay at home even longer” phase of the coronavirus outbreak, Maverick Health Policy will continue to report on health information policy news that intersects with COVID-19 news.

  1. StartUp Health launched the COVID-19 Navigator, a free, online, searchable tool that indexes health innovation companies in eight top-level pandemic response categories. HIMSS’ Healthbox also has a new Covid-19 Digital Health Think Tank where healthcare professionals can share best practices about pandemic treatment and facility management.

  2. Telehealth, telehealth, telehealth! Telehealth is having a Marcia Brady moment (if you’re not old enough to know the reference, see here: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!). More here, here, here, here . . . we could go on, but who has time between Brady Bunch shows?

  3. Forbes offers unique insight into how Larry Ellison (of Oracle fame) is helping the federal government solve the Coronavirus with his big data brain. Not surprisingly, another big data brain agrees that analyzing big data is the way to go: Bill Gates, reminded us (in a WaPo op-ed) that his 2015 Ted Talk predicted that the United States would need establish a data-based approach to find treatments and create a vaccine.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

The federal government’s health agencies are working at an extreme pace (“warp speed” according to Politico) to address the COVID-19 outbreak. We all may vaguely grasp that the FDA is approving lab tests under an expedited review program (20 so far), the CDC is up to 72 guidance documents, and CMS is declaring a host of rules, waivers, and assorted guidance. The United States Department of Health & Human Services is a big onion (80,000 FTEs and a massive budget), and it is worth taking a second to peel a layer back to acknowledge the work of the less-famous HHS sister agency, the Office of National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (“ONC”). First, ONC is tracking hundreds of interoperability projects -- 47 of them are related to the COVID-19 -- to help address faster sharing of information during the crisis. Second, HITAC -- the public-private advisory committee that makes policy recommendations to ONC -- discussed creating a new task force dedicated to COVID-19. The task force will likely tackle challenges related to data standards, interoperability, and IT infrastructure and privacy. ONC is also leveraging its role as a coordinator of health IT across agencies -- working with the FCC on bandwidth issues as it grapples with the dramatic increase in demand for telehealth services, collaborating with the Office of Civil Rights to provide HIPAA guidance, and helping the CDC track COVID-19. ONC has an entire website page dedicated to Coronavirus-related announcements on relevant HIT information (like HIPAA and COVID-19 guidance for First Responders) and interoperability standards specific to COVID-19 (see here). Lead by emergency room doctor and informatics expert Don Rucker, MD, the ONC may not be sexy (its blog is called “HealthIT Buzz” -- oof) but it is quietly doing really important, unsung work that will help us get back to normal -- and maybe find ourselves with a more modern, efficient health care system.

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