December 26, 2019
Only What Matters in Health Information Policy
Happy Holiday Season to everyone. Maverick Health Policy is well-rested and full from holiday treats. One interesting thing we learned: The Polar Express is written and illustrated by the same imaginative guy (Chris Van Allsburg) who wrote and illustrated Jumanji.
The winner of the Data Innovation Challenge, created by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is “Thrive” the developer of “CancerSEEK” - an early cancer detection test. Thrive will now have six months of access to a subset of the Blue Health Intelligence database, comprised of more than 190 million Americans’ medical and pharmacy claims data.
You may be following the Fortune and Kaiser Health News joint investigation of the federal rollout of electronic health records (most famously known by their clever title “Death By A Thousand Clicks”). The award-winning investigative journalists are describing a cautionary tale for our rush to make health data more open and accessible via digital tools. The third and latest article reports on more than two dozen whistleblower lawsuits against E.H.R. vendors that allege fraud and safety issues. But the first article begins by explaining just how bipartisan and high-level the policy push is for better, faster access to medical records: both Democratic-presidential-candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and current CMS Administrator Seema Verma have epic stories of frustration when they tried to get medical records to the right doctors when their family members suffered life-threatening health care episodes.
One Thoughtful Paragraph
You may have heard that the federal government was funded for another year. Why you may care: the HHS departments that oversee health information did not suffer budget cuts that were previously suggested by the White House: OCR will keep $38.8M to oversee HIPAA and ONC will have $60.4M to regulate E.H.R. certification and information blocking. And the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at the Department of Commerce will get a funding increase to $1 billion to focus on cybersecurity improvements. The budget did not, however, allow federal funds to be used to explore a “unique patient identifier” to address our patient matching problems. So how are we going to make sure that patients are accurately matched to their data when we anticipate that the almost-finalized interoperability rules require health plans and providers to share their information across different health information systems? A step in the right direction: Congress asked ONC to report on current patient matching solutions, which is what CHIME and AHIMA asked the 21st Century Cures 2.0 drafters to address. But it is still remarkable that we have no national patient matching standard, particularly in the face of HHS shutting down Blue Button 2.0, the application programming interface used by CMS to share patient health data, because it may have exposed 10,000 patients' data to the wrong patients.