Catch up on this week’s digital health news.
Scott Gottlieb Steps Down as FDA Commissioner
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced his resignation. In statement posted to his Twitter page, Gottlieb wrote: “I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to help lead this wonderful agency, for the support of my colleagues, for the public health goals we advanced together, and the strong support of @SecAzar and @realDonaldTrump – This has been a wonderful journey and parting is very hard.” In just two years as FDA Commissioner, Gottlieb introduced a wide variety of digital health policy guidance and regulation models, including the controversial Pre-Cert Program. The news comes as a surprise to many: at the beginning of January, Gottlieb tweeted that rumors of his departure were untrue: “I want to be very clear – I’m not leaving. We’ve got a lot of important policy we’ll advance this year. I look forward to sharing my 2019 strategic roadmap soon.” Gottlieb will officially leave his position in early April.
VA Extends Cerner EHR Deployment
The Department of Veteran Affairs is extending the timeline of a Cerner electronic health record project, intended to overhaul and redevelop veterans’ medical records. Despite being pressured by Cerner executives, the VA has decided to take a “slow and steady” approach to the program’s implementation. In a publicly released statement, John Wisdom—Executive Director of the VA’s Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization—noted that the department’s main concern is untimely disruption to veterans’ care due to an overly aggressive timeline, stating: “My job is to balance cost, schedule, and performance with risk. Risk is something that we must assess.” Three VA medical centers in the Pacific Northeast will be the first to test the EHR operational capabilities in early 2020.
Philips Acquires Health IT Systems from Carestream Health
Carestream Health has signed an agreement to sell its healthcare information systems (HCIS) platform to the global health technology company Royal Philips. The platform provides “imaging IT solutions to multi-site hospitals, radiology services providers, imaging centers and specialty medical clinics around the world.” In a publicly released statement, Ludovic D’Aprea—Carestream’s general manager for healthcare information solutions—stated: “By becoming part of Philips, the HCIS business will have a greater opportunity to thrive and grow. Both organizations share a commitment to meaningful innovation which is deeply embedded in each company’s culture. Customers will have access to a broader portfolio of healthcare IT solutions to simplify medical image management, enable effective collaboration and enhance patient care.” Both companies will continue to operate independently until the close of the sale, expected to take place in the fall.
Amazon, JP Morgan Chase, and Berkshire Release New Updates on Joint Health Tech Project
Over a year after first announcing a collaborative venture between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase, the three companies have officially announced the project’s name, and offered various details concerning the service’s capabilities. The project, named Haven, will “deliver simplified, high-quality, and transparent health care at a reasonable cost.” Haven’s website states that the project will pursue “common-sense” fixes to address issues including “making primary care easier to access, insurance benefits simpler to understand and easier to use, and prescription drugs more affordable.” While the project will initially be made exclusively available to Amazon, Berkshire, and JPMorgan employees, Haven officials shared that “in time, we intend to share our innovations and solutions to help others.”
CMS Appoints First Chief Healthcare Informatics Officer
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has appointed Mark Roche, MD as its first chief healthcare informatics officer (CHIO) to lead the department’s interoperability strategy. A former physician adviser to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), Roche will be responsible for developing the clinical and technical aspects of the agency’s interoperability initiative. In a blog posted in July, CMS Administrator Seema Verma stated that the appointed CHIO would “drive health IT and data sharing to enhance healthcare delivery, improve health outcomes, drive down costs, and empower patients,” and further noted that “as the largest healthcare payer in the country, CMS should have had a CHIO function long ago. Despite today’s amazing technology and decades of promises, we are not where we should be.”