June 3, 2022
Only What Matters In Health Information Policy
Life is complicated -- even strange. The news is full of violent, sad, and frustrating truths, and yet this month is also filled with celebratory graduation ceremonies for young people who are hopeful and excited about the future. So it is only fitting that this is when Netflix released its 4th season of Stranger Things, a sci-fi horror series about a group of likeable kids who face down monsters that escape the "Upside Down" -- an alternate universe located in a national laboratory in Indiana (which has no correlation to the good work the Argonne National Lab is doing with supercomputers on COVID and cancer research). In the One Thoughtful Paragraph below, we explore the release of a stranger thing happening in digital health.
Other news that isn’t as strange this week:
NCQA launched a Digital Quality Solutions pilot, with participants including 1UpHealth, Aetna, Change Healthcare, and Health Care Service Corporation, who will give feedback on the usefulness, feasibility and value of NCQA software and quality measure prototypes.
HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) published a blog post summarizing HITAC’s March report on e-prior authorization recommendations, and a separate post about a new legislative proposal to allow HHS the authority to issue binding advisory opinions about information blocking.
CBInsights reported that female health start-ups, or “femtech” received a record-breaking $2.7 billion in funding in 2021, but funding for the mental health tech sector plummeted 60%. The report also cited digital therapeutics as a growing industry.
One Thoughtful Paragraph
A running theme in the Netflix Stranger Things series is mental health issues in young people. Despite all the gore and creepy Dungeons & Dragons-influenced villains, the storyline focuses on children who are suffering from grief, guilt, and depression after going through the trauma of witnessing a loved one die. This is painfully close to our real life news, and it is why we are following the release of a new legislative proposal that creates a federal “bill of rights” for the availability of telehealth for mental health care. If passed, the legislation would eliminate the Medicare rule that an in-person visit is required before tele-mental health services can begin -- and like all things in American health care insurance coverage, where Medicare goes, the private sector will follow. The other key part of the proposal is that it would help get kids the behavioral health counseling they need in school (there is an additional connection here to a theme in Stranger Things about school bullying). This proposal is coinciding with the bipartisan talks about investing in mental health and gun safety after the elementary school tragedy in Uvalde. So, just like Season 4 of Stranger Things, there is a lot of terrible things happening, but there is hope that we are going to get to a better season someday. Then we can go back to watching the impressive Millie Bobby Brown in more delightful roles.