Federal Health IT Investments Get Cautious Reception
The federal government is investing tens of billions of dollars in health information technology, but the medical groups that stand to benefit from the money are less enthusiastic than their government benefactors, arguing that the push is "too much, too soon," Politico reports. "Health information technology in the United States remains highly fragmented, so any large overhauls, experts warn, must work on a timeline that stretches years into the future. The industry resistance could be a cautionary tale for the Obama administration, which has eagerly rolled out new health care provisions well ahead of deadline" (Kliff, 5/18).
Modern Healthcare: The investment, an estimated at $27.3 billion appropriated as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last year, is on a tight timetable to roll out. One complicated requirement for using the money -- which will be distributed through the Medicare and Medicaid programs -- is that health providers should be able to share health data, but the solution remains elusive. "With the clock running down on the start of the stimulus law funding program-the first 'payment year' for the Medicare portion of the plan begins Oct. 1-and with only a limited number of the exchanges up and running, the government came up with an alternative method of peer-to-peer connection called NHIN Direct so that providers without access to an exchange or the techno-savvy to use it" and still meet the deadlines and criteria for the program" (Conn, 5/17).
Computerworld: Peer-to-peer networking has also apparently caused privacy issues when it comes to exchanging health data. "Nearly eight months after new rules were enacted requiring stronger protection of health care information, organizations are still leaking such data on file-sharing networks, a study by Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business has found." The study identified 3,000 files containing protected information inadvertently "shared" through peer-to-peer networds like Limewire, which is primarily used to exchange music and videos. The stimulus bill also increased security requirements for health data. But, one of the leaked documents included 28,000 names matched to diagnoses (Vijayan, 5/17).
The Dallas Morning News: Another privacy issue arises from the potential for health systems and software companies to share patient data with other firms. "The vendor that Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. uses has been criticized for sharing patient data with drug companies. The vendor that Fort Worth's Cook Children's Health Care System uses is considering offering physician customers discounts for sharing patient data. Texas Health Resources Inc., an Arlington-based hospital system, and Children's Medical Center Dallas announced April 27 that patients seen at one hospital will have their records available electronically at the other if they need to be admitted" (Roberson, 5/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.