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What Should Scare Us About Health IT

By Joseph Marks // March 21, 2014

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Electronic health records can give patients significantly more power over their own health care, but a paucity of safeguards in how those records are shared and managed can also make patients more vulnerable, according to Deborah Peel, a psychoanalyst and founder of the organization Patient Privacy Rights.

Revisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, have led to patient information being shared too broadly within hospitals and to damaging and embarrassing patient information leaking out to the public, Peel said. This perceived vulnerability can lead to patients not being honest with doctors about physical and psychological symptoms or not seeking treatment at all, she told Nextgov.

In other cases, insufficient protections used by hospitals and Health IT organizations can make patient information vulnerable to hackers, she said.

Nextgov will be speaking with Peel in a live event Wednesday morning at the Ronald Reagan Building as part of our Cybersecurity series. For more information or to register to attend the event click here

Inside the Tech Team Fixing the Obamacare Website

By Charles S. Clark // March 4, 2014

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In a feat of journalistic access, the cover story in the current Time magazine offers a glimpse inside the “hastily assembled group of tech wizards” who came to Washington to revive the near-collapsed HealthCare.gov. The behind-the-paywall feature titled “Code Red” is by longtime legal publisher Steven Brill, who has executed a series of Time probes of the politically volatile Affordable Care Act, providing rich insight into the intersection of Silicon Valley and D.C. cultures.

Among Brill’s findings:

  • On Oct. 17, President Obama was considering scrapping the balky Obamacare website to start over;
  • The team that got the site up and running in six weeks was a group  of “unknown—except in elite technology circles—coders and troubleshooters who dropped what they were doing in various enterprises across the country," some of them veterans of the Obama political campaign.
  • Brill tells the story of “an Obama administration obsessed with health care reform policy but above the nitty-gritty of implementing it;"
  • A coder named Gabriel Burt from Chicago, flew into Columbia, Md., on Oct. 18 to stay at the DoubleTree hotel for what he thought would be two or three days, but stayed until Dec. 6;
  • The key mistake ...

A New One-Stop Shop for eHealth

By Joseph Marks // February 24, 2014

Sergey Peterman/Shutterstock.com

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services today launched a one-stop website to help health care providers navigate an array of new requirements and services, a CMS official said on Monday.

The eHealth University page offers providers information on a variety of requirements including updating codes for medical diagnoses and procedures, using electronic health records and ensuring the security of patient information, said Robert Tagalicod, director of e-health standards and services.

The page also links to numerous guidance documents, webinars and help desks for various programs.

Unlike some government one stops, the site does not contain all information internally but mostly links out to verified information and services in specific CMS offices, Tagalicod said, so administrators can be sure the information they’re giving providers is up to date and channeled through offices with the proper expertise. 

(Image via Sergey Peterman/Shutterstock.com)

Op-Ed: Open Data Policy Has Far-Reaching Implications for Health Care

By Viet Nguyen, M.D. and Rob Sax // Systems Made Simple, Inc. // January 10, 2014

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In May 2013, the Office of Management and Budget released an executive order that requires federal agencies to use machine-readable and open formats -- in addition to data standards and other regulations -- for creating and collecting information. This new policy will have a significant impact on how public and private organizations access and leverage information. It will also help build a foundation for easily sharing health data in the future. 

How do open formats support interoperability? The concept isn’t all that different from what occurred in the early days of rail travel. Two centuries ago, most U.S. railroad companies used their own track gauges when building rail lines. Although this kept their railways proprietary, it also required companies to lay tracks where others might already exist, which was both inefficient and costly. Through consolidation and other partnerships, railways eventually standardized the track gauge, leading to a more collaborative, practical and efficient use of existing railways.

Just as “standard gauge” evolved to enable interconnectedness throughout the railway system, the new regulations requiring agencies to use data standards as well as machine-readable and open formats will help organizations access and leverage data more efficiently. Through the use of open data, for ...

Memo to President Obama: HealthCare.gov Is More Than Just a Website

By Katherine McIntire Peters // October 21, 2013

In explaining the administration’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama sought to put the botched website in some perspective: “We did not wage this long contentious battle just around a website,” he noted. “That’s not what this was about.”

Maybe so, but HealthCare.gov isn’t just a website. It’s the public face of this administration’s signature legislative achievement. If this is how they execute their top priorities, what's going on with lesser programs? That only 0.04 percent of visitors to the website during week one were likely able to sign up for insurance says more about the complexity of large federal technology projects (and the hubris of officials intent on rolling out the website before it was ready) than it does about the merits of the Affordable Care Act.

IT debacles are nothing new for the federal government. Agencies routinely overspend on technologies that under perform. And politicians and senior executives routinely underestimate what it takes to effectively implement big, complex, ambitious programs. What's different about HealthCare.gov is how much attention those failings have received.  

"This [website] is something that has to talk to a lot of different federal ...