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  • Julie Barnes

February 4, 2021

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters in Health Information Policy


For the health care institutions that have relied on Norman Rockwell’s version of medical care -- with in-person visits, phone calls and loads of paper -- the cultural shock of modernizing is not coming easily. But it is coming. Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services are offering cloud computing and data storage technology to hospitals and payers, including a new deal with Kaiser Permanente.

  1. Onyx Technology and AMA Innovations, a technology development subsidiary of the American Medical Association, are jointly developing “FIRE Wire” - an interoperability platform that allows physicians to share messages, referrals and patient data with community-based organizations.

  2. The Department of Justice announced that athenahealth, an electronic health record vendor, will pay $18.25M to resolve allegations that it paid kickbacks to providers from January 2014 through September 2020 to induce them to purchase its E.H.R. product.

  3. Some call it a telehealth company, some say it is a mail order wellness product provider, some say it is the “digital front door to the health care system” -- but whatever you call it, hims & hers is making news. It went public in a $1.6B SPAC deal and is a founding member of the newly formed Telehealth Equity Coalition.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

There is a lot of talk about the “patient experience” -- which is counterintuitive. Unlike experiencing a wonderful spa treatment or a truly fine glass of wine, people, in general, do not want to experience being a patient at all. And yet, CMS is increasing the weight of patient experience measures in the Medicare Advantage Stars program (just like in school, the more stars you get, the better health plan you are) so that, by 2023, “patient experience” will matter more to health plans’ Stars rating than clinical outcome measures. In response, the NCQA plans to help create digital patient experience measures - like online experience surveys that can be done on a smartphone. And the Better Medicare Alliance and University of Chicago’s NORC recommended a serious update of the survey relied on by CMS to assess patient experience, the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®), including asking patients about health IT advancements that payers and providers use to communicate test results and coordinate follow-up care. Naturally, technology companies are sweeping in to improve the patient experience -- like NexHealth’s acquisition of Enlive, to create “the best digital patient experience solution on the market” by eliminating paper-based forms. Making medical payments easier with digital solutions is another suggestion. And there are articles that say things like the patient experience should “mimic the ease of shopping on Amazon, the personalization of Netflix and the transparency of Lyft.” That would be nice, but if we want better patient experiences, health care services should come with a truly fine glass of wine and maybe a spa treatment too.

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