Just back from the Health Datapalooza confab that took place last week – an event now in its 4th year hosted by the federal government. I had a few lingering thoughts to share. First, on the event name: I’m guessing it came out of my old business partner and current national CTO Todd Park’s experience in Washington, where trying to get any single distinct thought through “the interests” could knock the “palooza” out of a grown stallion.
You’d think the federal government would be the last ones to host a Datapalooza, but the fact is NO ONE ELSE has stepped up!
So they did.
And complain as I might about the G-men and G-women being industry conference conveners (makes me want to bathe with a wire brush) they pulled it off pretty darn well. The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) attracted hundreds of serious entrepreneurs… and hundreds more wannabes (who real entrepreneurs desperately need in order to feel cool).
And boy were there some great bloopers…
Kaiser came blistering onto the scene with an open API—to the location and hours of operation of its facilities! Kinda sounds like Yelp to me…I’d be surprised if developers will come a runnin’ to that one. Kaiser’s CIO (a very cool guy whom they or anyone in health care would be lucky to get) broke this news in a two-minute keynote speech. Imagine President Obama announcing, in a State of the Union address, that the green vegetables in the White House cafeteria were now much crunchier!
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius applied similarly excessive fanfare announcing the release of cost data for 30 ambulatory procedures. The whole idea that Toddy (Park) was trying to get going with this Palooza was not to release REPORTS on things but to release the SOURCE data so that anyone with proper security and privacy clearance could INVENT a million reports that no one had ever conceived before!
So here are my thoughts on all of this, some of which I shared at the conference in my way-longer-than-two-minute keynote:
1. Release the data!! Secretary Sebelius announcing the release of cost data for 30 ambulatory procedures during her keynote felt like the Secretary of Energy serving up a can of 10W30 to oil companies to drill into.
Her words were great. To wit: “The fact that this [unlocking the data] is growing by leaps and bounds is a good indication that we can leapfrog over years and decades of inaction into an exciting new future.” YES! GO GIRRRL! OK, so…where’s the data?
Continue reading “Knocking the Palooza Out of the Data”
Filed Under: Tech, THCB
Tagged: ACOs, athenahealth, Data, Health Datapalooza 2013, health information exchange, HHS, Jonathan Bush, ONC
Jun 7, 2013
An unfathomably complex entity such as a health system grows over time like a city. Right now, communications and data usage in the US healthcare system is a bit like a medieval town, with new streets and squares popping up in unpredictable places and no clear paths between them. Growth in health information has accelerated tremendously over the past few years with the popularity of big data generally, and we are still erecting structures wherever seems convenient, without building codes.
In some cities, as growth reaches the breaking point, commissioners step in. Neighborhoods are razed, conduits are laid in the ground for electricity and plumbing, and magnificent new palaces take the place of the old slums. But our health infomation system lacks its Baron Haussmann. The only force that could seize that role–the Office ofthe National Coordinator–has been slow to impose order, even as it funds the creation of open standards. Today, however, we celebrate growth and imagine a future of ordered data.
The health data forum that started today (Health Datapalooza IV) celebrated all the achievements across government and industry in creating, using, and sharing health data.
Useful data, but not always usable
I came here asking two essential questions of people I met: “What data sources do you find most useful now?” and “What data is missing that you wish you had?” The answer to first can be found at a wonderful Health Data All-Stars site maintained by the Health Data Consortium,which is running the palooza.
The choices on this site include a lot of data from the Department of Health and Human Services, also available on their ground-breaking HealthData.gov site, but also a number of data sets from other places. The advantage of the All-Stars site is that it features just a few (fifty) sites that got high marks from a survey conducted among a wide range of data users, including government agencies, research facilities, and health care advocates. Continue reading “Health Datapalooza Day One: How Will We Grow Data for Improving Health?”
Filed Under: Health 2.0, THCB
Tagged: Andy Oram, Data, developers, Farzad Mostashari, Health Datapalooza 2013, HHS, HIT, mHealth, ONC, open data
Jun 3, 2013
Following the Obama administration’s announcement about the suspension of enrollment in a high-risk health insurance program known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, a flurry of commentary began on what the move means for the Affordable Care Act.
Some observers said that the program’s underwhelming enrollment numbers and high costs foreshadow inevitable problems with the ACA’s health insurance exchanges, while others drew a clear division between a program intended to insure only those with pre-existing health conditions and state marketplaces designed to spread risk by insuring both those who are sick and those in good health.
Two months after the halted enrollment, the debate continues.
Closing the Pools
The high-risk pools were designed to help sick U.S. residents gain coverage ahead of January 2014, when the ACA’s ban on denying individuals coverage because of pre-existing conditions will take effect.
In early February, the administration announced several cost-saving reforms intended to prevent the $5 billion program from running out of money. However, on Feb. 15, HHS officials announced that enrollment in the high-risk pools would end because of rising costs and limited funding.
Continue reading “Is the Suspension of the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan a Preview of Obamacare’s Failure?”
Filed Under: Health Plans, THCB, The Insider's Guide To Health Care
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Health Plans, HHS, high-risk pools, Insurance Exchanges, Matthew Wayt, Obamacare, PCIP, Reform
Apr 26, 2013
Arkansas is now the first state to use Medicaid expansion dollars to buy private coverage for many of its 250,000 newly eligible residents rather than enroll them in the existing Medicaid program. This week the Arkansas House of Representatives approved the plan, followed by the Senate, to confirm that the state will be implementing this “market-based approach” to expanding Medicaid.
The idea of buying private insurance for Medicaid recipients is emerging as a “conservative compromise” for some of the 24 states (home to more than 25 million uninsured residents) leaning toward rejecting federal funding the Affordable Care Act provides for the expansion. In the original legislation, the ACA required states to expand Medicaid to adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, $15,870 for an individual or $32,499 for a family of four. The federal government would fully cover the costs of this expansion for two years, with states gradually having to contribute 10% by 2020. Last summer, the Supreme Court struck down the Medicaid expansion requirement, allowing states to refuse federal funding and opt out of the expansion.
But most of these states, including Florida, Texas and Indiana, are leaving a lot of money on the table—from hundreds of millions to $1 billion or more in federal funding. Under pressure from healthcare providers and other interested parties, some governors view premium assistance programs that move the poor, disabled and frail elderly to the state insurance exchanges to buy private insurance as a way to capture this windfall without appearing to embrace ObamaCare.
In Missouri, for example, Republican state legislator Jay Barnes calls the Obama administration’s plan for Medicaid expansion a “one-size-fits-all, far-left-wing ideological path.”
Continue reading “The Arkansas Experiment: Is the ‘Private Option’ a Realistic Plan For Medicaid?”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Arkansas, HHS, Insurance Exchanges, Medicaid Expansion, private insurance, The States
Apr 17, 2013
It’s called Blue Button+ and it works by giving physicians and patients the power to drive change.
The US deficit is driven primarily by healthcare pricing and unwarranted care. Social Security and Medicare cuts contemplated by the Obama administration will hurt the most vulnerable while doing little to address the fundamental issue of excessive institutional pricing and utilization leverage. Bending the cost curve requires both changing physicians incentives and providing them with the tools. This post is about technology that can actually bend the cost curve by letting the doctor refer, and the patient seek care, anywhere.
The bedrock of institutional pricing leverage is institutional control of information technology. Our lack of price and quality transparency and the frustrating lack of interoperability are not an accident. They are the carefully engineered result of a bargain between the highly consolidated electronic health records (EHR) industry and their powerful institutional customers that control regional pricing. Pricing leverage comes from vendor and institutional lock-in. Region by region, decades of institutional consolidation, tax-advantaged, employer-paid insurance and political sophistication have made the costliest providers the most powerful.
Continue reading “ONC Holds A Key To the Structural Deficit”
Filed Under: Tech, THCB
Tagged: Adrian Gropper, Blue Button, Clay Shirky, Costs, EHR, entitlement reform, HHS, HIT, Interoperability, Meaningful Use, ONC, open data, patient data, Stage 2 Direct EHR connectivity
Apr 7, 2013
As the Obama administration continues its top secret effort to build federal insurance exchanges in about 34 states while 16 states are doing it on their own, that continues to be the big question.
HHS is using IT consulting firm CGI for much of the work on the exchanges and the federal data hub. CGI has their plate full since they are not only working on the federal exchange but also doing work for the state exchanges in at least Colorado, Vermont, and Hawaii.
Earlier this month, the Senate Finance Committee held an oversight hearing. The Obama guy in charge of exchange development testified before them. I thought it was notable that it was the Democrats who expressed the greatest concern, and frustration, over senators not getting a clear idea for just where the administration is toward the goal of launching the new health insurance exchanges on October 1.
Continue reading “Six Months Out Health Plan Execs Say They Doubt Exchanges Will Be Ready”
Filed Under: Health Plans, THCB
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, CGI, Edifecs, Health Insurance Exchanges, Health Plans, HHS, Robert Laszewski, The States
Mar 26, 2013
It was one of the most notorious quotes that emerged from the battle over the Affordable Care Act.
We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it. – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, March 9, 2010.
The line was taken out-of-context, as Pelosi’s office has continued to protest. But more than three years after her quote — and nearly three years after the ACA passed Congress — Pelosi’s accidental gaffe seems pretty apropos.
The law continues to delight supporters with what they see as positive surprises; for example, some backers say Obamacare deserves credit for the unexpected slowdown in national health spending. But critics warn that the law’s perverse effects on premiums are just beginning to be felt.
And there still are “vast parts of the bill you never hear about,” notes Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington & Lee. “I wonder if they’re [even] being implemented.”
Jost and a half-dozen other health policy experts spoke with me, ahead of Obamacare’s third birthday on Saturday, to discuss how the law’s been implemented and what lawmakers could have done better.
Continue reading “Five Things Obamacare Got Right-and What Experts Would Fix”
Filed Under: THCB, The Business of Health Care
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Costs, Dan Diamond, Health Reform, HHS, Obamacare, PPACA, Preventive care, Universal coverage
Mar 20, 2013
The EHR vendor lock-in business model is under attack by frustrated physicians and patients and the reality that health care cost and quality are more opaque than ever. Doug Fridsma of ONC politely talks of the need to move from vertical integration of health care services to horizontal integration where patients can choose with their feet. Farzad Mostashari calls for moral behavior and price transparency. The Society for Participatory Medicine says “Gimme My DAM Data” and Patient Privacy Rights asks HHS to allow physicians to prescribe health IT without interference from the institution or the vendor.
The vendors’ response is a charm offensive called CommonWell Health Alliance with a pastel .org website. The website is presumably the official source of information about CommonWell and it lays out the members’ strategy to preserve the vendor lock-in business model for a few $Billion more. Ok, maybe more than a few.
The core of the CommonWell strategy is to avoid giving patients their data in a timely and convenient way.
Continue reading “The #CommonWell Open Discussion Forum”
Filed Under: OP-ED, Tech, THCB
Tagged: Adrian Gropper, BlueButton, CommonWell, CommonWell Health Alliance, Direct Project, Doug Fridsma, EHR, EHR vendors, Farzad Mostashari, HHS, patient data, Society for Participatory Medicine, Transparency
Mar 18, 2013
Last week I was in DC and I caught up with Bryan Sivak, a geek’s geek who has migrated from Silicon Valley (via London) to government service first in Maryland and now at HHS. He has a big job there to keep pounding out the open health data drumbeat Todd Park started. And he’ll have at least two big opportunities to do it this spring, first at Health 2.0′s developer conference Health:Refactored in Silicon Valley in May and then at the now 4th annual Health DataPalooza in DC in June.
Filed Under: Health 2.0, THCB
Tagged: Big Data, Bryan Sivak, HDI, Health Datapalooza, Helath:Refactored, HHS, Matthew Holt, Open Health Data
Mar 1, 2013
New Hampshire: We’re in.
North Carolina: We’re not.
The two states on Tuesday were the latest to announce their intentions on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. States have until Feb. 15 to tell HHS whether they’ll retain even some control over the exchanges, or let the Obama administration run the exchanges for them.
And while New Hampshire made clear that it wants to partner with the federal government to launch an insurance exchange, North Carolina backed out of a previous plan to do exactly that.
By Friday, we’ll know where half a dozen other states stand, too.
Background on Partnership Model
The Affordable Care Act didn’t originally spell out the partnership model; under the law, states faced a binary choice of running their own insurance exchanges or punting the responsibility to the government.
But HHS officials realized they needed to tweak the ACA’s approach, as more than 30 states — increasingly led by Republicans, who took over 11 statehouses in the 2010 election — announced they planned to opt out of the exchanges altogether. This would leave HHS officials with “an awesome task in establishing and operating exchanges in [so many] different states and coordinating those operations with state Medicaid programs and insurance departments,” before open enrollment begins in October 2013, Paul Starr writes in The American Prospect.
As a result, the agency in 2011 introduced the partnership model in hopes of shifting some of the responsibility for running exchanges back to the states.
Under the hybrid approach, the federal government takes on setting up the exchange’s website and other back-end responsibilities, while states keep functions such as approving health plans and setting up consumer assistance programs. HHS also hopes that the partnership model will be a path for states that weren’t ready to run their own exchanges to take them over eventually.
Continue reading “Why HHS Created Partnership Exchanges and Why More States Are Choosing Them”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Arkansas, Avalere, Costs, Dan Diamond, Dan Mendelson, Delaware, Dylan Scott, GOP, HHS, Hybrid Health Insurance Exchanges, Medicaid Expansion, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Partnership Model, Tennessee, The States, Virginia, West Virginia
Feb 13, 2013