• Julie Barnes

August 13, 2020

Maverick Health Policy Update

Only What Matters on Health Information Policy

At least one summer camp hasn’t closed -- the Sequoia Project is actively seeking “campers” for its information blocking boot camp. It may not be fun for your kids, but it does feature the ability to go to “office hours” and ask all the questions you want about implementation of the information blocking rule. A few other items on health information policy below.

  1. Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision 2020 report identified emerging digital health trends accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. See @MobiHealthNews article for highlights.

  2. After a review of how Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities and providers utilize health information exchanges to coordinate care for veterans, the VA’s Inspector General reported a number of areas that need improvement -- including training, community engagement, and technology concerns. Hopefully the awardees of ONC’s new $2.5 million funding opportunity (to strengthen health information exchanges in support of public health agencies -- STAR Health Information Exchange grants, applications due on Sept. 1, 2020) will avoid such challenges.

  3. Following last week’s House unanimous vote to overturn the unique patient identifier ban, U.S. Senators Hassan and Cassidy introduced the Patient Matching Improvement Act, which would leverage the United States Postal Service’s address-formatting tool to help providers make sure they identify the right patient. This is more important than ever given COVID-19; according to a May 2020 report from Pew Charitable Trusts, patient matching is crucial to strengthening the pandemic response.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

Normally, it does not matter much what vice presidential candidates think about policy issues. Of course, this could never be confused with a normal time -- and it is always indicative of what the presidential candidate holds dear when he or she carefully select their running mates. So, what does Senator Kamala Harris think about health information policy? As it was pointed out while she was running for President, Senator Harris wasn’t particularly clear about her health care policy positions in general -- she mostly waffled uncomfortably about Medicare for All. More interesting is her stance on big tech, where Senator Harris is much more straightforward about her interest in being tough on cybercrime and protecting consumers’ privacy rights. She also isn’t nearly as threatening as other candidates were about breaking up big tech companies, like Google and Amazon, that have major investments in health care. It seems to us that Senator Harris’ wheels would have been turning during Mark Scrimshire’s presentation at the ONC tech forum when he explained that one of biggest hurdles to a new era of healthy, interoperable health data exchange is getting consumers to trust third party apps that can help them navigate their own health care information. As a former California Attorney General, she seemed serious about protecting consumer’s privacy rights on mobile apps, and reached settlement agreements with or prosecuted health care companies for violating California’s stringent consumer data protection standards. It seems like these are issues about which Senator Harris and former Vice President Biden are in full agreement.

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