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  • Julie Barnes

May 21, 2021

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters in Health Information Policy


True leadership is not easy. And -- before you stop reading -- this is not the beginning of a commentary about political issues in Washington, DC. This is a family-friendly newsletter, so we cannot go there. Instead, we were thinking more about Kung Fu Panda, and how the “Dragon Warrior” is the only one who can conquer the evil villain, but he happens to be the size and shape of a cuddly panda bear. Sometimes you need a unique leader for unique times -- which is the moral of the story below in One Thoughtful Paragraph.

Luckily, you don’t have to know martial arts to understand this news:

  1. JP Morgan is looking for partners (that have digital tools and technologies) to improve healthcare for its 165,000 employees, according to the press release announcing the launch of Morgan Health -- a $250M new venture run by Dan Mendelson.

  2. A new coalition just launched called the RWE Alliance. It will lobby the FDA and Congress about increasing the use of real world evidence (e.g., from wearables, personal devices, electronic health records) in regulatory decision-making.

  3. Pew Charitable Trusts published an article that suggests surprise billing laws, which protect people from huge medical bills, may be driving up health care prices for everyone.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

MITRE, which happens to rhyme with brighter, provides engineering and technical guidance for the federal government. It is a non-profit that was created during World War II, when the Air Force wanted a computerized air defense system, and MIT was the only institution that had a large-scale digital computer at the time. Flash forward 70 years, and they finally got around to publishing a National Strategy for Digital Health. The 46-page document is nicely organized, explaining the mess we are in now and what we should do to make it better. The aspirational goals make a lot of sense (these are Maverick’s interpretations): 1) Make sure everyone has access to healthcare tech, 2) Train up a tech-savvy medical workforce, 3) Make sure everyone knows how to use digital health information, 4) Take interoperability efforts to the next level, 5) Public health systems should get all these bells and whistles too and -- this is our favorite part -- 6) Create a governance structure for digital health. Snoozefest, right? WRONG. This governance section is where the juice is... because without a federal entity governing all of these moving parts, everyone will operate on parallel, uncoordinated tracks. Without national policies, everyone is just picking and choosing how to address data protection, privacy, information security, patient rights, transparency, interoperability, quality measure alignment, and so on. In short, this is a big job, and someone has got to be the Dragon Warrior. MITRE suggests that a White House executive office should get things going, like the Office of Science and Technology Policy, until “a more operational entity” could be in charge. Something like this has been suggested by others too, but, so far, no one has actually named a federal agency (or suggested creating a new one) that could both leverage health data and technology and create consumer protections so we could have a truly superior healthcare system. Who will be the Dragon Warrior for Digital Health?


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