July 1, 2022
Only What Matters In Information Policy
The news out of Washington, D.C. this week likely has you in an interesting headspace -- somewhere between wanting to kill someone and really needing a serious belly laugh. We have just the thing: the Hulu series Only Murders in the Building. All the funniest people in show business decided to do this mystery-comedy about amateurs investigating murders, capitalizing on our collective obsession with “true crime” podcasts. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez are the show's lead investigators and are joined in some capacity by everyone else who is extra funny, including Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, and Jane Lynch. In the One Thoughtful Paragraph below, we explain how another set of investigative helpers is assisting the official people in the health data world.
Other news that is decidedly less entertaining than anything Steve Martin ever created:
Today is Machine-Readable Files Day for health care prices, when health plans for the first time have to publicly disclose how much they pay doctors for services. Hospitals were supposed to publish what they charge for different services well over a year ago, but that has not gone well, so the feds are hoping that health plans will help consumers understand how much health care services really cost. Unfortunately, this data is much less interesting to regular people than advertised. These machine-readable files are for computer systems, not humans. If you are struggling with insomnia, read the Department of Labor’s explanation of which data elements need to go into the health plan allowed amount machine readable files. Someday, this information may be useful to mere mortals -- but not today.
ONC announced the publication of the Approved Standards for 2022 for its annual Standards Version Advancement Process (SVAP). SVAP is part of the ONC’s implementation of the Cures Act Final Rule, allowing health IT developers in the ONC Health IT Certification Program to update their systems to support newer data standards versions for interoperable health information exchange.
One Thoughtful Paragraph
As amateur investigators in the show Only Murders in the Building, Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez follow-up on suspicious deaths in their building when the police investigation falls short. This is weirdly what is happening in the health care world -- sort of -- when the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) followed-up recently on investigations by HHS on health care IT-related crimes (otherwise known as HIPAA data breaches). Basically, when electronic medical records are hacked or inappropriately shared with someone who shouldn’t get to see them, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at HHS (which is tasked with enforcement of HIPAA privacy and security rules) must investigate reports of the data breaches. This is not a small problem -- in 2021, there were 714 health data breaches, each of which affected 500+ people (one breach incident involved 3.5 million records, and back in 2015 the big one was 115 million). In its latest report, the GAO suggested that maybe the HHS OCR should improve its investigations by getting feedback on the breach reporting process. Unlike the police in the Steve Martin show, OCR agreed -- saying that it will add language and contact information to the HHS Breach Portal to invite feedback. If Steve Martin wrote the feedback, we bet it would be funny.