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February 9, 2016

Posts in "Health IT"

February 20, 2015

Hospital Use of Electronic Health Records on the Rise, CDC Says

The number of hospital emergency departments using electronic health records rose from 46 percent in 2006 to 84 percent in 2011, according to a new analysis by the National Center on Health Statistics.

The number of hospital outpatient departments using an electronic health system rose from 29 percent in 2006 to 73 percent in 2011, according to the NCHS, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings mirror previous information about the growing use of electronic health records, in large part because providers that participate in Medicare and Medicaid have financial incentives to build electronic health systems that meet certain criteria — and they are penalized if they don’t.

Electronic health records are beneficial in meeting the goals of the Department of Health and Human Services’ move toward a more value-based system rather than one in which payments are based on volume.

February 12, 2015

Embedded Connections in the Health Insurance Exchange Website

Several House science panels assemble this afternoon to examine the security and privacy concerns about the federal health insurance exchange website, The committee is particularly interested in reports of embedded data mining connections included in the website that can collect consumer health and financial information. The hidden website connections, first reported by the Associated Press last month, let third-party companies monitor consumer behavior on the website and assemble personal details, such as age and income. The connections can also register reported health risk factors. The committee will quiz several privacy experts not only on the possible security threat but also ponder the justification for allowing data mining companies access to the data flow on the website.



By Paul Jenks Posted at 7:17 a.m.
Health IT

February 11, 2015

Mississippi Proves Surprise Leader in Telehealth Payments

Even a noted Mississippi expert on telehealth describes it as a surprise that her state emerged as a leader in securing payment for medical care delivered by phone and computers in place of face-to-face visits.

“As the very state that has the lowest number of physicians per capita, we have got to do things differently,” said Kristi Henderson, the University of Mississippi’s chief telehealth and innovation officer, at a briefing held in the Rayburn office building on Capitol Hill last week. “While we are an unlikely state to be standing here telling you how to do it, we didn’t have any other options.”

As part of a broader effort by trade groups to expand federal reimbursement for telehealth, Henderson had been invited to tell her stories of aiding people in remote parts of Mississippi in managing medical issues such as previously uncontrolled diabetes through remote care. Medicare now pays for certain telehealth services, but gears these toward people living in rural areas. The Feb. 4 event was arranged by the Telecommunications Industry Association, a trade group, and the nonprofit Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

Mississippi’s congressional delegation has been at the forefront of efforts to increase use of telehealth. The federal lawmakers are in effect looking to the Mississippi state legislature as a model. Mississippi already has in place state laws that require insurance plans and Medicaid to pay for these services. These measures led the nonprofit American Telemedicine Association to put Mississippi at the top of an elite group of seven states for which it awarded an “A” in terms of coverage for health care delivered at a distance.

Rep. Greg Harper, R-Miss., is spearheading efforts to craft telehealth legislation as part of the House Energy and Commerce’s 21st Century Cures initiative, a legislative package intended to overhaul federal regulation of medical care. Harper’s legislation would expand Medicare’s reimbursement for telehealth. Harper and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., had introduced companion telehealth bills in the last session of Congress. The senator intends to introduce legislation on this matter again in this session, a spokesman said.

“You can have the greatest technology, which is represented in this room, but if you can’t get paid for it, what’s the motivation to use it?” Harper said. “You have to be able to get reimbursed.” Policy experts caution that there are risks to expanded use of telehealth as well as likely benefits. Harvard Medical School’s Ateev Mehrotra, who appeared as a witness at an Energy and Commerce hearing on telehealth last year, said in a Monday e-mail that there is great potential to this increased use of technology to deliver care, but it also could add costs to the health care system. And the results have been somewhat mixed regarding how well people fare when they get medical care given at a distance, said Mehrotra, speaking as a Rand Corp. representative, before the committee at the 2014 hearing. Some studies have found that telehealth may be equal to or better than care provided in person in some cases. “As with all new technologies and delivery models, it is important, however, not to assume that the technology always improves care. Sometimes telehealth may even lead to harm,” he said.

A potential risk is that by increasing monitoring of people through telehealth, doctors may end up ordering more tests, which can cause unexpected complications, Mehrotra said.

Expanding federal payments for this approach to medical care likely will require further proof in medical studies of its benefits. Henderson said she sees this kind of evidence in the early results of research underway at the University of Mississippi, in which telehealth services have been provided for people with uncontrolled diabetes. So far, none of the participants has had to go to the emergency room or been admitted to the hospital, she said.

“Those are real tangible outcomes that we need to replicate,” she said. “We are going into homes and changing lifestyles and we are turning people around.”

By Kerry Young Posted at 11:30 a.m.
Health IT

February 10, 2015

FDA Proceeds With ‘Hands-Off’ Approach on Many Apps

The Food and Drug Administration has finalized its guidance clarifying the agency’s hands-off approach to regulating mobile devices and apps.

The agency has issued two documents outlining its position on medical device data systems and mobile medical applications, including those on smart phones.

The documents, published on Monday reiterate the agency’s position that it won’t oversee low-risk medical devices, or will regulate them under a lower-risk classification.  “Through smart regulation we can better facilitate innovation and at the same time protect patients,” the agency said.

The agency will, however, regulate mobile apps or devices intended to detect life-threatening conditions.  “FDA’s oversight approach to mobile apps is focused on their functionality, just as we focus on the functionality of conventional devices,” the agency said. “Our oversight is not determined by the platform.”

The documents are largely unchanged from draft versions.

— Report written by CQ Roll Call’s Georgina Gustin

FDA Guidance: Medical Device Data Systems, Medical Image Storage Devices, and Medical Image Communications Devices

FDA Guidance: Mobile Medical Applications

By Paul Jenks Posted at 11:04 a.m.
Health IT

August 12, 2014

Senator Targets a Fitness Monitoring Device

A bracelet monitoring device, FitBit, used to track individual fitness health information is the current privacy target of Senator Charles E. Schumer.  The device provides feedback on location and basic individual health statistics to assist a fitness regimen.

The New York Democrat insists the information is private health data and is seeking Federal Trade Commission action to force the manufacturer to offer an “opt-out” option on the sale of the health and fitness data to third parties. Schumer issued his call for regulatory action in a recent statement and New York television appearance.

The bracelet manufacturer’s privacy policy says that its data will not be sold to third parties.

Last year, an FTC staff report recommended privacy guidelines for mobile health application providers, which would allow for user selection of the types of information that can be shared.

July 21, 2014

Medical Record Rules: GOP Lawmakers Concered About Role of HHS Office

Today marks the deadline for comments to a Department of Health and Human Services proposed rule allowing health care providers some flexibility on implementing the use of electronic medical record requirements and extend a second stage of requirements through 2016. You can comment on the proposed rules through this link.

Full story

By Paul Jenks Posted at 9:22 a.m.
Health IT

July 15, 2014

Pathologists Find Sympathetic Lawmakers on Electronic Records Plan

Most people think of Congress when they think of lobbyists, but there are many lobbyists that focus on federal agencies, seeking to adjust regulatory matters. Congress itself gets into the act, sending agencies a stream of letters, making tweaks via legislative activity and even filing lawsuits. The nation’s pathologists received that kind of help recently.

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Innovation: Fred Upton’s Committee Pushes for Ideas; Report Looks to 2025

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, led by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., over the past few months has been busy examining a range of topics to assist in the development of new legislation to overhaul federal health programs to foster the development of new technologies and medical breakthroughs. The committee is in the process of examining the development and approval process for new drugs and devices. The effort continues later this week with a hearing on leveraging communications technologies.

Full story

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