• Julie Barnes

May 7, 2021

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters in Health Information Policy

When you’ve lived long enough, you witness periodic “ends-of-an-era” -- and we are not talking about how Keeping Up With The Kardashians will not have a 21st season. We are thinking about how, after so many years of dreaming and planning, the HHS Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is moving on from its interoperability roadmap. We will miss its interoperability progress timelines dating back to 2004, the clear goals for modernizing our health care system to empower patients, and how it represents a rare bipartisan, public-private collaboration in health policy. It is not exactly a “mission-accomplished” moment, but it is an acknowledgement that the roadmap has served its purpose and we’re past that now. It is just like how the Muppets had a great show in the 1970s, but ultimately went into the movie business and got bought by Disney. It is sad, but now Kermit the Frog is available to all generations.

These news bits are almost as interesting as Kermit’s news report on Humpty Dumpty’s challenging health care problems:

  1. CMS announced the winner of its Artificial Intelligence Health Outcomes Challenge: Austin, Texas-based, who will collect a $1M prize for its algorithms designed to predict unplanned hospitalizations and adverse events.

  2. A new venture capital fund will be looking for consumer-facing digital health tools to invest in -- CVS Health Ventures is interested in early-stage technology disrupters to join its already-impressive portfolio.

  3. Ciitizen, a startup that helps patients collect and share their electronic medical records, acquired Stella Technology’s health information exchange business to improve patients’ access to their full health history.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

TEFCA IS BACK. No, this is not a Poltergeist flashback. In fact, TEFCA, the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, is not supposed to be horror-inducing at all -- it is another “can’t we just make interoperability happen already” project. ONC leader Micky Tripathi is dusting off TEFCA from its hiatus (since 2019), saying on numerous occasions that he wants to renew and accelerate TEFCA, in an effort to enable nationwide exchange of electronic health information across unaffiliated health information networks. So what does this mean? It means that TEFCA is trying to make sure that when doctors or other entities need to get health information (e.g., for treatment, payment, public health, or population health reasons) they can get access no matter what computer system they use or regardless of how they currently get that information now. TEFCA is an agreement (the Sequoia Project is helping to create it) among participants to adhere to rules and standards so they can get access to and exchange health information from various sources. ONC is trying to figure out how to integrate local, state and regional health information exchanges into a nationwide network so, according to Tripathi, “a user doesn’t have to think about what network they’re on.” Soon, we are going to be hearing more about “health information organizations” and whether they are ready to participate in TEFCA. Are you ready? Or should we see if Steven Spielberg can create a new horror film called TEFCA?

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