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  • Writer's pictureJulie Barnes

June 17, 2022

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters In Health Information Policy

It feels like 1993 in here. We’ve got Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum coming together again in the latest Jurassic Park movie: Jurassic World Dominion. We are also in the middle of another legislative debate about how to curb gun violence, and it was 1993 when the Brady Bill passed -- imposing background checks and a waiting period on gun purchases. Health care reform was the other focus of federal policy in 1993 -- when then-First Lady Hillary Clinton spearheaded but failed to overcome significant opposition from many sources -- not the least of which was the formidable Republican leader Newt Gingrich. About a decade later, Clinton and Gingrich would get along well enough to co-sponsor legislation promoting the adoption of interoperability standards for electronic health care records. In the One Thoughtful Paragraph below, we wonder if we need a new strange bedfellow set to make headway on modernizing our healthcare system.

Other news about the ongoing battle to make progress in the health data space:

  • The HHS Office of Inspector General found enough inaccuracies with Medicare demographic data that it concluded in its recent report that CMS cannot reduce health care disparities without seriously improving its collection of race and ethnicity data.

  • Both payers and providers are grappling with health data issues. According to a new Forrester study, payers are struggling to offer a seamless digital experience to their customers, and it is reportedly costing them money and members. A poll conducted on behalf of athenahealth found that 80% of physicians stated that the lack of interoperability across systems increased their stress.

  • Right after Oracle bought electronic medical record company Cerner, CEO Larry Ellison announced a plan to create a unified health records database that no one believes is possible.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

We can overlook the glaring age difference between the love-interested characters played by Sam Neill and Laura Dern in Jurassic Park, mostly because it was 1993 and that was just what happened back then. History has been known to repeat itself. Indeed, a new report by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) encourages the increased use of application programming interfaces (APIs) by saying this: “The use of APIs and apps to exchange data between systems is not new to health care.” Right. What is new is the impressive number of apps available now (like telehealth and sleep cycle apps, fitness trackers) that collect, display, and use many types of health data. Another recent change is the significant number of federal rules that mandate the use of APIs so all of these different apps and computer systems can “talk” to one another. One of ONC’s conclusions in its report is that “trust in APIs and apps will depend largely on having strong privacy and security controls.” So this is where we need a new strange bedfellow set -- because we notice that there is not a lot of agreement on what to do on federal data privacy issues. There is, however, an extreme age difference between the under-40-years-old FTC Commissioners (here and here) that are so interested in consumer data privacy and the 70-years-old Congressional leaders (here and here) that introduced new data privacy legislation. We are only suggesting, of course, that maybe it is time for everyone -- of all ages -- to get along. Maybe go watch a movie.

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