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Health 2.0 Came to Washington—And Now it Needs to Stay

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This week’s Health 2.0 conference was held for the first time in Washington, DC, plunging Health 2.0’s community of IT geeks into the heart of the land of policy wonks. The feds’ Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra, joked about the gap between the two cultures: where the Health 2.0 crowd says “there’s an app for that,” the government says “there’s a form for that.”

Chopra and officials from the Department of Health and Human Services outlined their goals and plans related to health IT and extended an invitation for the two communities to work together more closely. The feds described a transformation of the economy and an improvement in the lives of Americans, and gave examples of initiatives that open access to health data and/or provide incentives for innovative uses of it, including:

  • The Blue Button Initiative – A CMidentifying S and VA initiative that lets consumers download data for use in a personal health record (PHR)
  • Pillbox An NLM and FDA program releasing data that helps in pills
  • VAi2 — An $80 million VA innovation competition focused on areas including telehealth and adverse drug events
  • Community Health Data Initiative — An HHS and IOM initiative that releases data sets about communities (and which provides the data for the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge).
  • Apps for Healthy Kids A White House competition to create software tools and games toimporve kids’ health

As the Department of Health’s Farzad Mostashari said to the crowd, “We’re watching. We want to learn. Show us what is possible.”

But not everyone was impressed. Jamie Heywood of the online health community PatientsLikeMe bristled at the idea that technology entrepreneurs should step up and fix problems that rightly belong to government, such as collecting and analyzing better population health data. “Don’t look to us to save you,” he said, arguing that the feds need to build better markets for innovation. He has said, for example, that government could offer to buy data generated by the private sector that furthers public health goals.

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Get Privacy Right, So We Can Move On Already

Lygeia

A national survey released today by the California HealthCare Foundation shows that 66% of Americans believe we should address privacy worries, but not let them stop us from learning how technology can improve our health care. Amen.

This is particularly heartening news given that the same survey also documents for the first time real consumer benefits from the use of personal health records (PHRs). Seven percent of American now use PHRs, more than double the number in 2008. According to the survey, significant proportions of PHR users feel they know more about their health and health care, ask their doctors questions, feel connected to their doctor, and even take action to improve their health as a result of using a PHR.Continue reading…

Healthcare’s Privacy Problem (Hint: It’s Not What You Think It Is )

Picture 27 I recently applied for life insurance. The broker, whom I’ve never met, asked about my health history. “So you’ve just had a baby,” he began. I asked him how he knew. “You’re on Twitter.”

In the last couple of years concerns about the privacy of online health information have grown, as health care finally catches up to other sectors in its use of information technology (IT). The Stimulus package will pump $19.2 billion into healthcare IT, especially electronic medical records for doctors.

While technology can make your medical records safer in some ways than they’d be in a paper chart (using encryption, fire walls, audit trails, etc.), the fact is, no system is totally fail-safe. And when screw-ups happen, technology tends to super-size them. Continue reading…

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