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  • Writer's pictureJulie Barnes

August 5, 2022

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters In Health Information Policy

Whether you know Ron Howard as Opie Taylor of the Andy Griffith Show, that guy from Happy Days, or as the famous director of the epic films Apollo 13 or A Beautiful Mind, he is an impressive guy. His film portfolio is diverse, but we would argue that his best work comes from dramatizing real life events -- telling stories that everyone should know but probably didn’t until Ron Howard made a movie about it. His latest film -- Thirteen Lives -- reminds us all of the harrowing event in 2018 when 12 boys and their Thai soccer team coach spent 18 long days trapped inside a flooded cave until an international rescue mission and the best divers in the world managed to save all of them with an elaborate set of solutions. In the One Thoughtful Paragraph below, we tell a story about an elaborate solution that will allow people to know the price of health care services for the first time ever.

Other news about elaborate solutions to a problem:

  • To improve our response to future public health emergencies and just regular public health problems, Senator Mitt Romney proposed a new HHS agency called The Center For Public Health Data that would streamline, aggregate, and publish existing data that everyone (all levels of government, hospitals, researchers, people) can access.

  • To solve the tricky problem of electronic patient consent, the HHS Office of National Coordinator of Health IT is hosting a half-day workshop to “explore technical standards and approaches” that will allow a patient’s decision to consent to be communicated electronically (and legally) to whomever needs it -- even if it is schools or courts rather than health care professionals.

  • To help clinicians more precisely treat health conditions, Health Level Seven International (HL7) announced a new data interoperability standard, GenomeX, that will allow a patient’s genomic information to be “computable” and accessible wherever it is needed.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

Part of the impossible-ness of saving those boys from the flooded cave in 2018, is that it required expert-level scuba diving in claustrophobic-inducing and sharp-edged underwater tunnels. Not only was this journey not for mere mortals, it was the ultimate challenge for world class divers -- who decided that anesthetizing the boys (who mostly couldn’t swim) was the only way to ensure that they wouldn’t panic and drown themselves during the lengthy escape. Our health data problems are not exactly like that (though we admit to pining for a little anesthesia from time to time), but it is true that the health care price data that is available is also not for “mere mortals” -- as Georgetown’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms expert Sabrina Corlette recently explained here. Our story begins with the 2020 Transparency in Coverage rule that requires health plans to publish “machine-readable files” -- loads of data listing each payer’s negotiated reimbursement rates with providers and “allowed amounts” that plans pay providers who do not have a contract with them. A solution is required to allow mere mortals to understand “machine-readable” data files. Enter stage right: Milliman (actuarial experts) and Turquoise Health (a tech start-up that created a health care price search engine) created a “strategic alliance dedicated to making sense of price transparency data for healthcare stakeholders.” While these brave experts have a flood of data to navigate, we trust their efforts will require less anesthesia. But if they figure this out, we should probably buy them a beer.

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