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Healthcare IT Industry News


Where HHS 2015 IT budget is headed: Data

July 29, 2014 ~

The sprawling IT budget at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) makes it one of the most heavily funded civilian organizations in the federal government. And almost all of that money is being laser focused on data, and how to use it securely.


What kind of numbers are we dealing with? HHS’ FY15 top-level IT request is $8.63 billion dollars (about the same as last year), with approximately $7.5 billion aimed at maintaining existing systems. The balance will be used for development, modernization, and enhancement, to buy new software and systems and create new capabilities.




House leader unveils exchange security act

January 7, 2014 ~

WASHINGTON – House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) is set to introduce what he is calling “common sense legislation” to protect patients using the new health insurance exchanges.


Pitts, along with full committee chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), hit hard on the troubles has been having since its October launch, citing some as reasons for the proposed bill.


“The administration’s record of broken promises has given the American people every reason to doubt the security and readiness of the health care law,” Pitts said in a prepared statement announcing the proposed legislation. “The administration knowingly launched a website before final security testing was completed after repeatedly testifying that everything was ‘on track,’ which we now know was not the case. Americans have the right to know if their personal information is jeopardized because of this law.”




The year ahead in health IT policy

January 7, 2014 ~

In a new year with a new ONC chief, the federal health IT policy committee is taking comments from the public and its many expert workgroups, and then crafting recommendations for the third phase of the meaningful use program.


With an open public comment period ending January 14, the health IT policy committee and its subcommittees and workgroups covering meaningful use, privacy and security, standards, ACOs and more are scheduled to convene dozens of times now through the end of the year, brainstorming, discussing and then rehashing recommendations on key areas of EHR functions and information exchange.




Medicare, providers make headway on digital documentation

January 6, 2014 ~

More and more providers are using digital documentation in Medicare review programs, but there is still a long way to go in streamlining processes, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.


With standards developed by the ONC, CMS launched the esMD documentation system in 2011 as a pilot program to give providers communicating with Medicare auditors an option besides fax or mail.


“While esMD is not mandatory, many healthcare providers find that it reduces cost and increases efficiencies,” the agency said in the program’s annual report, noting that almost 500,000 records were sent through the program last year.




Enrollment surge brightens's 2014 prospects

December 30, 2013 ~

With one open enrollment period closed and another beginning, and state exchanges have sold about 20 percent of the number of health plans that federal budget officials think is enough for a sustainable risk pool. sold some 1.1 million health plans for Jan. 1 coverage from October through December 24, about 90 percent of them in the last month, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator Marilyn Tavenner wrote in a blog post.


The federal insurance exchange and many of the state exchanges are now hosting open enrollment through March 31, the deadline for obtaining coverage to meet the individual mandate for the 2014 tax year. By then, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, all of the country’s 51 exchanges should have enrolled at least 7 million Americans in private health plans and 8 million more in Medicaid and CHIP.




Editor's letter: 10 years and 6 czars into HIT, where are we now?

December 23, 2013 ~

WASHINGTON – It has been almost a decade since President George W. Bush launched the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and since that time hordes of pilots, projects, grants, initiatives, federal advisory committees and regulations have been launched or established.

In those ten years alone, adoption of health IT has gone from mostly uninterested or hesitant adopters to a thriving, nearly-unanimous vision for digitizing the U.S. healthcare system.


Both the Bush and Obama Administrations retained similar visions particular to health IT against the backdrop of partisan hostility over healthcare in general. And we are nearing the final year for Bush’s goal: to have electronic health records for every American by the end of 2014.


Bluntly, that’s a long shot today.




Congress introduces national telehealth bill

December 20, 2013 ~

WASHINGTON – Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) introduced a bill Dec. 17 that would create a federal definition for telehealth. The Telehealth Modernization Act of 2013 would provide principles that states could use for guidance when developing new telehealth policies.

“With technology rapidly changing and reaching every aspect of our daily lives we must ensure the regulatory environment keeps pace,” said Matsui in a news release. 


Matsui said the proposed bill would provide clarity regarding the scope of healthcare services that can be safely delivered via telehealth and would spur innovation and research in the delivery of healthcare. She also said the bill would improve care and increase efficiency.  




5 not-so-merry tales of healthcare fraud dark side

December 20, 2013 ~

It’s December, the time of holiday cheer, but for victims of healthcare fraud and medical identity theft, the season is not a happy one. The news is full of dishonest people making patients sicker and healthcare costlier.


A quick scan of the headlines pulls up some stories that you have to read to believe.




Healthcare breach prediction 2014: 'a perfect storm'

December 17, 2013 ~

Get ready, because data breaches are expected to rise in 2014, especially in the healthcare industry. New security threats and regulations that call for more transparency will be partly to blame.

A new report from Experian Data Breach Resolution says healthcare will face “a perfect storm” for breaches in 2014. The Affordable Care Act, with its increased activity, as well as more people signing up for health insurance will only make the target that much larger. Experian predicts the opening of a floodgate for healthcare breaches in 2014.


The time is right to beef up security precautions, warns Michael Bruemmer, vice president of Experian.


More and more organizations have learned how to identify and respond to security incidents, and this has lowered the cost per record of a data breach. This trend is expected to continue, and that’s good news, says Bruemmer. But it doesn’t mean you should let down your guard. If you’ve had one incident, don’t think you’re in the clear. Count on having another, Bruemmer says.





HHS seeks an innovator to attack patient matching

December 16, 2013 ~

The Department of Health and Human Services is looking for their next innovator-in-residence, this one tasked with probing the convoluted endeavor of patient matching.

In a call for applications, HHS chief technology officer Bryan Sivak pitched the new innovator-in-residence’s charge as laying the “groundwork for the next iteration of health information technology.”


The resident innovator, sponsored by the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society in partnership with HHS, will spend two and a half years “developing a framework for technology and policy solutions to help provide consistent matching of a patient’s healthcare records,” a challenge that has emerged for health organizations amid the rise of digital health records in the absence of the national patient identifier system. The framework should also include the creation of metrics for evaluating patient matching technologies, Sivak wrote on the blog of




In The Hospital Of The Future, Big Data Is One Of Your Doctors

December 5, 2013 ~

From our genomes to Jawbones, the amount of data about health is exploding. Bringing on top Silicon Valley talent, one NYC hospital is preparing for a future where it can analyze and predict its patients' health needs--and maybe change our understanding of disease.

The office of Jeff Hammerbacher at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine sits in the middle of one of the most stark economic divides in the nation. To Hammerbacher’s south are New York City’s posh Upper East Side townhouses. To the north, the barrios of East Harlem.

What's below is most interesting: Minerva, a humming supercomputer installed last year that's named after the Roman goddess of wisdom and medicine.

It’s rare to find a supercomputer in a hospital, even a major research center and medical school like Mount Sinai. But it’s also rare to find people like Hammerbacher, a sort of human supercomputer who is best known for launching Facebook’s data science team and, later, co-founding Cloudera, a top Silicon Valley “big data” software company where he is chief scientist today. After moving to New York this year to dive into a new role as a researcher at Sinai’s medical school, he is setting up a second powerful computing cluster based on Cloudera’s software (it’s called Demeter) and building tools to better store, process, mine, and build data models. “They generate a pretty good amount of data,” he says of the hospital’s existing electronic medical record system and its data warehouse that stored 300 million new “events” last year. “But I would say they are only scratching the surface.”