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  • Writer's pictureJulie Barnes

August 26, 2022

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters In Health Information Policy

Can’t you just feel the slower summer days coming to an end? We will miss the bad movies and silly beach reads -- the brain candy was a nice diversion. Proof is that we watched the totally dumb movie, Uncharted, which came to Netflix a bit early, with Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg and Antonio Banderas. It was like watching a slightly-more-interesting version of Fool’s Gold (a vapid film in 2008 with Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, and Donald Sutherland). Speaking of Matthew McConaughey, we explain in the One Thoughtful Paragraph below how he helps illustrate that it is a slow time for health policy.

More proof that health policy is slow right now:

  • Primary care doctors are reportedly being slow to share data with public health agencies. According to a data brief from the HHS Office of National Coordinator of Health IT, less than one in five primary care providers used a computer to share data with a public health agency in 2019. Paper and faxes, though, were favorites of anyone with a Norman Rockwell painting hanging in their waiting rooms.

  • Everyone’s pandemic policy hero, telehealth, just slowed down when Amazon Care announced that it is terminating its business as of December 31, 2022. More here, here. Amazon launched the virtual care program for its own employees in 2019 as an experiment, and quickly expanded to other employer groups -- but it is over, apparently.

  • Even American workaholics are being forced to slow down, which could slow down our economy. A new report from the Brookings Institution claims that the mysterious and diverse health condition known as “Long Covid” is preventing millions of Americans from returning to work.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

You know that health policy is slow when Andy Slavitt’s podcast In The Bubble -- where he invites health care leaders to talk with him every couple of days for 40 minutes or longer -- features Matthew McConaughey talking about, well, nothing. At least, nothing to do with health policy. Even a recent GAO podcast talked about nothing; that is, the GAO is calling out HHS for doing almost nothing to develop a public health information exchange network. Interestingly, this is exactly what Matthew McConaughey’s fellow Texan, President George W. Bush, addressed in 2005, when he (along with Congress) required HHS (in 2006) to establish a nationwide public health network to share information about the detection of and response to public health emergencies. And yet, in 2022, the GAO felt compelled to write a 73-page report explaining how HHS, for 15+ years, has failed to establish the required-by-law nationwide public health network. Instead, amid a world-wide devastating pandemic, this happened: hospitals were told to stop reporting pandemic-related information to the CDC and report directly to HHS via a contract with Pittsburgh-based TeleTracking Technologies, a contract which is now ending, right when the CDC is restructuring because it struggled to respond to the pandemic — a restructuring that was announced one month after HHS said that ASPR (HHS’ Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response) would be taking over as the agency’s lead (not the CDC) on pandemic responses. Maybe after the slow month of August, HHS will get back up to speed on the 2006-ordered public health network. Maybe Matthew McConaughey can talk about how the network finally got the “Greenlight” -- in the next book he writes during a pandemic.

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