December 10, 2020
Only What Matters on Health Information Policy
**Breaking News: HHS Office of Civil Rights issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to modify the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. More on this next week.
Because 2020 was officially a tough year, Maverick Health Policy is looking forward to the future -- and we are not alone. The Milken Institute’s 2020 Future of Health Summit featured multiple health care leaders this week (highlights can be found at Politico’s Future Pulse) including ONC's Don Rucker, who opined that health information exchanges (HIEs) would be instrumental in changing public health data reporting in the future. Indeed, an article in the Journal of AHIMA explains how HIEs demonstrated their value during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A few news items to share:
Yes, digital health investment in 2020 is off the charts, but neither startups nor their investors can predict whether their product will sell at scale. But what if health insurers were required to pay for approved digital devices or apps that were prescribed by a physician? That is exactly what Germany is doing.
We know that exposure notification mobile apps can help identify who is at risk of contracting COVID-19, they are simple and free, they are available in 22 states, but almost no one is using them. Why? People are scared that their private information will be misused.
And speaking of being scared, experts discuss the risks of increased dependency on cloud computing infrastructure by hospital health record systems in a recent Health Affairs article. But that isn’t stopping progress...the free Android app “CommonHealth” — which lets users see and share health data such as lab test results, immunizations, and medications from their records — is now connected to 230 U.S. health systems.
One Thoughtful Paragraph
Five long months ago, Maverick Health Policy wondered whether it was a good thing or a bad thing when HHS told hospitals to change how they were reporting their COVID-19 statistics. The mandate was unwelcome to beleaguered hospitals who were forced to change their reporting procedures or face losing Medicare and Medicaid funding. Since July, HHS continued to collect the data but did not release it publicly, leading researchers and public health officials to warn that it would be more difficult to know where the COVID-19 hot spots were located. This week, HHS announced that the data will be uploaded to healthdata.gov for anyone to see, providing a weekly snapshot of the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to each hospital. People can look up their local hospital to see how many COVID cases there are and better understand why local and state leaders are making harsh decisions about community restrictions. Actually, the database itself is very large and unwieldy, and it may be better to look at a different site that tries to make sense the information like this one. Hopefully, this level of transparency will not only help officials plan better to contain the spread, but also help pandemic-fatigued citizens understand the connection between their favorite restaurant being closed again and their hospital having no available beds.