This week’s digital health news…
HHS Reveals New Information Blocking Rule
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a long-awaited information blocking rule intended to advance “interoperability and support the access, exchange, and use of electronic health information.” The rule requires that electronic health data be made available at no cost to patients, outlines exceptions to data blocking, and details associated penalties. Those that violate the rule may be subject to fines up to $1 million per occurrence of information blocking. In a public statement, Dan Rucker, National Coordinator for Health IT noted: “By supporting secure access of electronic health information and strongly discouraging information blocking, the proposed rule supports the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act.”
CMS Hints at Data Exchange Updates
In a public news briefing at HIMSS, Adam Boehler — Deputy Administrator at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Director of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation– suggested that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) would begin utilizing its innovation center to “push early adoption of newly proposed transparency and data blocking rules.” In his binary role in both CMS and HHS, Boehler has a unique perspective of the departments’ independent initiatives. Boehler’s comments imply that the CMS will increase patient and payer incentives to improve interoperability standards, noting that: “Until you’re able to introduce incentives to empower patients, to let patients share in some of the value of their decisions, I don’t know that you’ll see a dramatic impact from transparency in its own right. I want to be conscious of that, and we are thinking a lot about how to address that.”
VA Partners with Apple to Provide Veterans with Health Records
On Monday morning, Apple announced that its Health Records feature would soon be made available to veterans. The partnership between Apple and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will allow veterans to access their medical information across all participating organizations, providing patients with “a more comprehensive view of their medical history and health data.” The contract between the two institutions has been noted by industry experts as one of “Apple’s most significant deals to date.”
HHS Unveils Updated Payment Model for Medical Transportation Services
In a continuation of an eventful week for the agency, The Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday morning a new payment standard for medical transportation services provided to Medicare beneficiaries. The updated model will now cover pre-scheduled, non-emergency transport services–potentially providing a path through which new tech services such as Uber Health, Ride Health, and others can bolster their platforms. In a released statement, HHS secretary Alex Azar noted: “This model will create a new set of incentives for emergency transport and care, ensuring patients get convenient, appropriate treatment in whatever setting makes sense for them.”
First Federal Chief Information Security Officer Offers Cybersecurity Strategies for Health Organizations
At HIMSS, Greg Touhill, the inaugural Chief Information Security Officer for the U.S. under President Barack Obama outlined strategies through which hospitals, health systems, and other medical entities can proactively keep data secure. Some of his recommendations included leveraging automation to detect and thwart fraud, regularly clearing out firewall congestion, and comparatively analyzing standards before implementing AI into health systems.
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