• Julie Barnes

October 29, 2021

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters In Health Information Policy

Sometimes the costumes are so good on Halloween night that you can’t recognize the neighborhood kids. You have to look past the kids to see which parents are standing at the curb to be able to say “Hey, Joe, I didn’t realize your Mom let you watch Squid Game, but you nailed it. Here, take a Kit Kat and maybe watch Toy Story on the Disney Channel tonight.” More disturbing problems with society below in the One Thoughtful Paragraph.

This week’s news highlights are not at all disturbing:

  1. A new report from Harvard economics professor David Cutler and McKinsey showed that U.S. healthcare could save $265 billion (about $1,300 per person) in administrative costs by incentivizing the public and private sectors to undergo “seismic” changes, including using interoperability frameworks to support longitudinal patient records and creating public-private partnerships to pilot a health information exchange.

  2. Becker’s Hospital Review highlighted eight of the most recent technology partnerships in healthcare, bringing together traditional healthcare players and Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

  3. Patina Medical Group just launched, with Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz funding, to provide primary care services for seniors using mobile apps and virtual visits for Medicare Advantage members. Jack Stoddard, former Haven COO, is the CEO of Patina.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

Halloween isn’t the only time people have trouble identifying others. Sometimes in the hospital, medical records get mixed up, and you can’t tell one Joe Smith from another. Obviously, this can have dangerous results for Joe Smith who is, say, suddenly misdiagnosed as a diabetic because the Other Joe Smith is a diabetic. Recognizing this dangerous situation for patients, Congress included a mandate in the 1996 HIPAA law that HHS create a unique patient identifier (“UPI”) so every Joe Smith would have their own number -- like a social security number -- but just for healthcare purposes. Before the HIPAA UPI rule went into effect, Rep. Ron Paul (then R-Texas), the father of Senator Rand Paul, (now R-Kentucky) introduced a funding ban that prohibited the agency from using funds to build the identifier. The language for banning a UPI has been inserted into every Congressional appropriations bill for the last 20 years, even after Congressman Paul left office because his son, Senator Paul, also believed that a UPI is an invasion of patient privacy. Efforts by CHIME and coalitions like Patient ID Now have lobbied for the UPI ever since and finally made some headway just now. On October 19, 2021, the Senate appropriations committee dropped the ban on using federal funding to create a UPI in the latest Labor-HHS budget. Congress must vote on these bills by December 3rd or resort to another stop-gap funding measure so the government doesn’t shut down -- but maybe by the winter holiday season, we will finally be able to stop acting like it is Halloween in hospitals.

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