July 22, 2021
Only What Matters In Health Information Policy
This week, Amazon launched AWS for Health and launched its former CEO into space. (That second bit may be a stretch, but Jeff Bezos did give credit to Amazon employees for enabling his trip). We can’t help but notice that Jeff Bezos, in this rocketing-to-space context, bears an uncanny resemblance to S.R. Hadden, the eccentric billionaire (played by the awesome but sadly now-deceased Sir John Vincent Hurt), in the 1997 movie Contact, which happens to be about building and flying a spaceship according to the instructions of extraterrestrials. We came to this S.R. Hadden-Jeff Bezos comparison honestly, but upon a quick search, realized that we are not the first to have the thought. Yet another search revealed that the movie’s producer and director Robert Zemeckis reportedly said that S.R. Hadden was based on what would happen if a Bill Gates-type lost his mind. Can’t make this stuff up...and we wouldn’t, anyway. We just report the news here.
Other news that is more Earth-focused this week:
If you’re a human (not an extraterrestrial) and sometimes a patient, one of the great parts of the new interoperability rules is that your doctor has to let you peek inside your own medical record, including the notes they took during your last office visit. A new study published in JAMA found that clinicians sometimes use negative and stigmatizing language that may adversely impact quality and contribute to health disparities.
If you’re a hospital, particularly a big hospital, it is important to take a close look at the Medicare 2022 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System proposed rule. After citing many reports (like this one) that found hospitals are not publicly posting prices as currently required by law, CMS proposed much higher financial penalties for non-compliance.
If you’re a social media or tech company, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, wants you to read his advisory about how dangerous it is to disseminate health misinformation, particularly when it prevents people from getting vaccinated against COVID-19. YouTube already announced that it will provide context about authoritative sources on its videos, and health information "shelves" will display videos from these sources when users search for specific health topics.
One Thoughtful Paragraph
What is AWS for Health that Amazon launched this week? As a non-customer, we are not sure. But we know what Amazon and some of its customers say it is: a whole bunch of software solutions that address a range of needs in the health care system, including analytics, AI and machine-learning, patient and clinician experience, medical research, finance and operations, interoperability, and improving electronic medical record systems. What is more interesting to us is the so-called “HealthLake” that is part of AWS for Health -- which conjures up unfortunate images of bathing-suit-clad physicians and lab techs swimming in murky lake water. Thankfully, this lake has pools of data in it provided by AWS for Health customers. Healthcare organizations gather their data from various silos and disparate formats within their organization (pools of murky lake water) and dump it into the centralized Amazon HealthLake, which is then automatically restructured into the FHIR standard format (making it a lot less murky). So the idea is that AWS for Health customers can dive into the clear, cool HealthLake and easily find what they are looking for -- like what treatment most improved health outcomes in a patient population suffering from the same condition -- which should (if it works, we really don't know) improve health on Earth. We can't wait to hear about how it will improve health in space.