April 8, 2021
Only What Matters in Health Information Policy
Welcome to the new era of health information. This week marks the first time that blocking health information from anyone who has the right to get it is against federal law. Remember when Oprah gave away new cars to everyone in her studio audience? If she were still taping the show today, she would be standing up and yelling “Everybody gets an electronic health care record! And you get a health care record! And you!” Maybe it doesn’t have the same ring to it, but you get the idea...it is a big deal. And with any big deal, prepare yourself for the news about who refuses to go along with the program. The news media will be poised to name and shame -- just like the Wall Street Journal pounced on hospitals hiding their price data after the transparency rule went into effect.
Speaking of more health information:
Forbes just published an article about the billionaire leader of an electronic record company who is arguably the reason why the information blocking rule exists -- because her company, with its dominant market share, refused to share the medical records in its system for years (see NYT exposé about it in 2014).
What happens if you are found non-compliant with the information blocking rule? Even ONC admits that the HHS OIG final rule on enforcement isn’t out yet -- read the proposed rule here -- and this is an article about how the industry is worried about complaints.
It will be interesting to see whether regular people appreciate all this extra information. This article in Harvard Business Review explains that whether patients are happy or unhappy is going to be a lot easier to figure out soon, using artificial intelligence to extrapolate patient satisfaction from typical survey questions. It seems likely that hospitals and health plans will be judged not only on bedside manner and prior authorization processes, but whether a medical record or CT scan was transferred in a timely manner to whomever needed to see it next.
One Thoughtful Paragraph
It is not every day that you get to witness an industry-changing moment. Once upon a time, you went to your own bank to get cash during bank hours. Now you go to an ATM -- any ATM, at any time. Once upon a time, you had to plan your trips with a travel agent, in-person, during regular business hours. Now, you use any number of simple travel tools on the internet whenever you want. Once upon a time, you had to ask for a paper copy of your medical records so you could hand-carry it to another health care provider, or just so you could track how much you paid for your own health care. But this year, and a few more after this one, game-changing federal rules will make medical records easy to get and health care prices readily available. Really? Yes, really. There may be slow uptake of new tools and failures to comply and some unhappy realities that come with transparency. And there will be work for lawyers as businesses try to understand whether relinquishing sensitive health information is a good idea or falls into one of eight complicated exceptions to the definition of information blocking or is encouraged or discouraged by an evolving HIPAA privacy rule or is preempted or not preempted by state law. But this is happening, and is such a game-changer, that the Wall Street Journal said two days ago in an article about “synthetic data technology” that “[t]he rapid digitization of health records has created troves of patient information that can be analyzed by algorithms and harnessed to improve disease-treatment models and develop new products and services.” The first U.S. ATM was available in 1969. Online travel tools were created in the 1990s. You can tell your kids or grandkids that electronic health information was made widely available beginning in 2021.