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WHAT‚ÄôS HAPPENING TODAY: Today will be another busy day in Washington ‚ÄĒ headlined by a hearing on the VA‚Äôs EHR implementation progress:
‚ÄĒ VA hearing may probe lack of light from ‚ÄúLighthouse‚ÄĚ: The House Veterans Affairs‚Äô tech modernization subcommittee will grill the chief of the Cerner EHR implementation, John Windom, at a hearing today. The program‚Äôs acting chief medical officer, Laura Kroupa, technology officer John Short and Travis Dalton from Cerner are also on the menu.
In a letter last month, subcommittee chair Jim Banks jabbed at the VA‚Äôs apparent failure to move forward its Lighthouse EHR modernization project, which was underway before the Cerner decision and includes the creation of an open API gateway.
If you‚Äôll recall, leading health systems signed an API pledge with the VA at HIMSS in March, but some of those companies are reportedly grumbling that the VA‚Äôs work on the project appears dormant. The pledge calls for speeding the mapping of health data to industry standards using FHIR.
We asked former White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, a big proponent of the open API push, about these concerns, but Chopra wasn‚Äôt worried about the delay, given leadership changes at the VA. ‚ÄúThe whole idea of an API gateway is new to health care,‚ÄĚ he said.
The VA‚Äôs tech chops have been under close scrutiny of late: earlier this week, NBC News reported that veterans nationwide are suffering from software glitches delaying payment of their benefits.
(For what it‚Äôs worth, department secretary Robert Wilkie declared the VA crisis ‚Äúover‚ÄĚ last Friday.)
‚ÄĒ HITAC meeting postponed: Meanwhile, the Health IT Advisory Committee meeting originally scheduled for today has been postponed. Office spokesman Peter Ashkenaz tells Morning eHealth that the committee‚Äôs next hearing will be in December, though without a settled date.
The reason for the postponement? Ashkenaz says that the interoperability standards priorities task force isn‚Äôt ready to present its final recommendations.
Meanwhile, committee member Steven Lane tells us the office is gearing up for a rule drop ‚ÄĒ presumably the interoperability or info blocking rules currently parked in the Office of Management and Budget‚Äôs review process ‚ÄĒ which might be part of the agenda for a HITAC meeting. Says Ashkenaz, asked about any rules-drop-preparations: ‚ÄúWe are?‚ÄĚ
eHealth tweets of the day: Chris Hogg @cwhogg ‚Äú‚Ä¶ [on the clinical trials app Driver going out of business] No product/market, no business, 85(!) employees left hanging, paying customers left without service or refunds. yikes.‚ÄĚ
David Shaywitz @DShaywitz ‚Äú[quoting] Next time folks wonder why pharma and clinical organizations are often so reluctant to rely on startups for stuff beyond consequence-free pilots…‚ÄĚ
WEDNESDAY: Hoping readers can resolve a question for your correspondent. Your correspondent rented a car over the weekend. He‚Äôs not ordinarily a driver, and therefore isn‚Äôt covered by insurance. Other than the insurance one gets on a credit card, does he need to get additional coverage at the rental place? Answer this one at [email protected]. Or make fun of upsales on social media at @arthurallen202, @dariustahir, @ravindranize, @POLITICOPro and @Morning_eHealth.
** A message from the American Clinical Laboratory Association: Millions of seniors depend on lab tests to manage medical conditions and stay healthy. Deep cuts to Medicare lab services made in 2018, and growing in 2019, further jeopardize seniors‚Äô access to the care they need. Congress must act now to protect America‚Äôs seniors. Learn More. **
UPDATES FROM AMA INTERIM MEETING: Over at National Harbor, the AMA has been promulgating several new policies at its interim meeting. A lot of them touch on eHealth. The Association is calling on the government and payors to collect demographic data reflecting a variety of sexual and gender identities; it‚Äôs hoping to encourage physicians to educate themselves in population and public health for patients without good access to care; and it‚Äôs calling for expansion of broadband and wireless to undeserved areas to promote digital health.
We‚Äôve got a heaping helping of business news to serve up:
‚ÄĒ Q&A with Munjal Shah: Getting health-conscious people better deals on life insurance is the business model for startup Health IQ. In a conversation with our colleague Arthur Allen, CEO Munjal Shah says that a 30-question quiz can help sort out health-knowledgeable from health-na√Įve consumers, and get the former group some nice quotes on life insurance.
‚ÄúPeople do a lot for savings. People do a lot of things to save money,‚ÄĚ he said. Pros can get the rest here.
‚ÄĒ Alphabet re-orgs health work: Alphabet is reshuffling the org chart for its health care companies, CNBC‚Äôs Christina Farr reports. The company is moving the health parts of its DeepMind subsidiary into its Google Health unit. (Here‚Äôs more detail in the firm‚Äôs blog.) Notably, the firm is pledging that data gathered as part of its partnership with Britain‚Äôs NHS won‚Äôt be used ‚Äúfor commercial purposes like advertising or insurance.‚ÄĚ (An early partnership had led to an uproar from British lawmakers and the public. They feared the potential damages to privacy.)
‚ÄĒ Oscar sues Florida Blue: Buzzy insurance startup Oscar Health is entering a court battle. The company filed a lawsuit against Florida Blue Cross and Blue Shield Tuesday. The suit alleges that 190 brokers backed out of agreements to sell Oscar‚Äôs insurance plans, prompted by Florida Blue‚Äôs threats.
“Florida Blue’s monopoly power in Florida makes its scheme devastating to a new entrant like Oscar, as well as deeply injurious to Florida consumers,” according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
Florida Blue said it’s reviewing the complaint but “from what we know of the New York company’s grievances, there is no merit to them at all.” Contracted agents are independent and can choose whether to work with carriers that operate on an exclusive basis, Florida Blue says. You can read the complaint here, and our colleague Paul Demko‚Äôs write-up of the legal tactics here.
‚ÄĒ Virta Health makes big bet on new biz model: Virta Health ‚ÄĒ a company that hopes to reverse type 2 diabetes through diet change ‚ÄĒ is announcing a new payment model: 100% of its fees are at risk, the startup is announcing today.
‚ÄúNow that we have both clinical trial and commercial results demonstrating diabetes reversal and cost savings at scale, we are ready to align our economic incentives with those of patients and payers by putting 100 percent of our fees at risk,‚ÄĚ said the startup‚Äôs co-founder, Sami Inkinen. ‚ÄúI am hopeful that the rest of the healthcare industry will follow and transition away from fee-for-service based health care.‚ÄĚ
The company estimates it can save payors nearly $10,000 per patient over the first two years.
‚ÄĒ Facebook answers on privacy: In answers to the Senate Intelligence Committee for a hearing on operatives‚Äô use of social media to influence debate in America, Facebook admitted that users do not have the ability to opt out of research conducted on them.
‚ÄúIn our Data Policy, we explain that we may use the information we have to conduct and support research in areas that may include general social welfare, technological advancement, public interest, health, and well-being,‚ÄĚ the letter says. ‚ÄúResearchers are subject to strict restrictions regarding data access and use as part of these collaborations.‚ÄĚ
The hearing comes amid a climate of hot controversy over tech firms‚Äô privacy practices. Legislators from both sides of the aisle have at least publicly said they‚Äôre interested in a national privacy bill that might affect health care.
TRUMP TO NOMINATE OIRA CHIEF TO FEDERAL JUDGESHIP: President Trump is nominating Neomi Rao, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, to Brett Kavanaugh‚Äôs old seat on the DC Circuit, he announced Tuesday. As head of OIRA, Rao oversees the flow of regulatory and deregulatory actions ‚ÄĒ playing a role in virtually all of the administration‚Äôs regulatory actions. Rao, if confirmed, will move to one of the most powerful courts in the country ‚ÄĒ a finishing school for the Supreme Court.
Vox deconstructs the period-tracking app space
Chilmark Research discusses how CMS‚Äôs telehealth moves with affect the market
The Journal of Medical Internet Research analyses the EHR as educational tool
** A message from the American Clinical Laboratory Association: America’s seniors depend on reliable access to clinical laboratories to ensure effective monitoring, diagnosis and management of their medical conditions. Last year, CMS made deep cuts to Medicare lab services putting this access at risk. Unfortunately in 2019 seniors will face another round of drastic cuts to lab tests including tests for some of the most commonly diagnosed conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Recently CMS has made some changes, but those changes do not stop the next two years of double-digit cuts. Millions of beneficiaries are counting on action from Congress to ensure they have access to the lab tests they need. It‚Äôs time to make sure the Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA) is implemented in the right way. Learn More. **