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  • Julie Barnes

January 13, 2023

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters in Health Information Policy

You may think that a weekly blog featuring movie vignettes would, on this particular Friday, invoke one of the twelve Friday the 13th movies produced since 1980. Alas, we are not big fans of horror movies. For those who share our sensibilities, may we suggest a good read instead: Michael J. Fox’s latest book, No Time Like The Future; An Optimist Considers Mortality. Particularly for people who grew up on Alex P. Keaton, Marty McFly, and Brantley Foster, Michael J. Fox’s smart, wry sense of humor about how he lives with his advanced Parkinson’s Disease provides a roadmap for resilience in a challenging world. We can relate to his comment that “Sometimes I view the world as a pinball game, and I am [the] steel ball...” Health information policy is a bit of a pinball machine too, as we discuss below in the One Thoughtful Paragraph.

Other news about health information policy that makes us feel like we are in a big pinball machine:

  • Ping! The HHS Office of the National Coordinator of IT, after reviewing more than 150 comments from stakeholders, released updates to its list of interoperability standards for lab results, public health reporting, e-prescribing, and more -- so health data can get where it needs to go. Why this matters is explained more here, here.

  • Ping-ping! As reported by Modern Healthcare, one of the takeaways from this year’s big (100,000+ attendees!) Consumer Electronics Show is that entrepreneurs are trying to sell to payers by proving that their products can sell to consumers. More about health tech at CES here, here.

  • Ping-ping-ping! During this week’s soggy J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, there were an astonishing number of announcements about the competitive health tech market, including news about insurtech companies like Oscar Health, Clover Health, Bright Health, and Alignment Healthcare, as well as announcements from Teladoc, GE Healthcare, and an assortment of biotech / medtech companies.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

Talk about pinball machines, there is a long history of back and forth about the wisdom of a particular 21st Century Cures Act policy that forbids “information blocking” of health care data. The general idea is that clinicians and their electronic medical record vendors should not create barriers to a patient’s own health information -- a rule that has been in place since 2021. Before and since, clinicians (and their lawyers) have questioned the prudence of making lab test results and other diagnosis moments available immediately to patients before any health care professional has a chance to explain / discuss the (maybe really terrible) information. The pinball machine game continues nearly three years later on this point, because reasonable people can disagree about a patient’s right to see their health information immediately and the real mental trauma that a misunderstood or devastating diagnosis can cause absent a doctor’s advice. While patient advocates are filing complaints about information-blocking incidents and experts are explaining why the rule is so important, so far, there are no penalties (only proposed suggestions) associated with blocking health information. So -- not a lot of incentive there to hold back a bit, if you’re, say, an oncologist with bad news. This won’t be the last time that we hear about the little steel ball that is our health care system pinging between traditional, time-honored expectations to more modern values about convenient, open access to health care information.

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