• Julie Barnes

April 22, 2021

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters In Health Information Policy

Love-hate relationships are hard. That’s why funny movies about them are so great -- so we can laugh about what is so true and so terrible in real life. (Have you seen Moonstruck lately? “Do you love him Loretta?” “No.” “Good. When you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can.”). America is officially having a love-hate relationship with tech companies.

Examples in the news about our love-hate relationship with the tech industry:

  1. Axios recently reported on how state lawmakers are trying to attract tech industry business while - at the same time - they are leading lawsuits against them and proposing legislation that would undercut their business models.

  2. A new bipartisan proposal, the Endless Frontier Act, is being fast-tracked by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. It would provide $100B to fund private sector and university technology research and science -- so we can have some hope of competing with China. Meanwhile, on April 21, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee threw a welcome party (held a very friendly confirmation hearing) for Lina Kahn in support of her nomination of be a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission. (Khan is an associate professor of law at Columbia, may be best known for her essay “Amazon Antitrust’s Paradox,” and contributed to last year’s massive report by the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust called the “Investigation of Competition in Digital Markets” that was so intense that Amazon was compelled to characterize it as reflecting “fringe notions” and “regulatory spitballing” that would destroy small business and hurt consumers.)

  3. On April 19, the Federal Trade Commission warned in a blog post that companies that sell or use biased AI systems could be violating consumer protection laws, and urged companies to be transparent, unbiased, and refrain from overpromising what their algorithms can deliver. But President Biden’s first budget request asked Congress for “a historical investment in American technological and scientific competitiveness” -- specifically calling out the need to bolster artificial intelligence.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

Where does this love-hate relationship with technology companies leave the health care industry? There are definitely scary stories out there about health data being exposed, with the largest breach in 2020 caused by a third party vendor. There are multiple privacy protection proposals to address these concerns, and President Biden named former NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis to be the national cyber director, a newly created White House office that will coordinate digital security defense across federal agencies. The issue, though, is we need technical-know-how to make the health care system work better. Don’t we want streamlined administrative tasks, more convenient care, and better clinical analysis? (e.g., IBM and Cleveland Clinic launched a 10-year partnership, health plans are getting into the digital space, and UiPath -- a company that automates office tasks with software robots, including health care administrative activities -- just became the third-biggest U.S. software IPO). If NYU business professor Scott Galloway gets his way, this love-hate relationship is headed for a break-up, not a marriage. The author of The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (ironically sold on, Mr. Galloway is featured in a new article where he compares the Big Four to baby Burmese pythons who are bought as pets but go on to destroy the Florida everglade ecosystem. Apparently, now there are government-sanctioned snake hunts. Remember Elmer Fudd? “Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits.”

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