The HHS Office of National Coordinator (ONC) hosted a well-attended Annual Meeting this week. It’s a critical time for HHS because regulations authorized under the almost unanimous bi-partisan 21stC Cures Act, three and a half years in the making, are now facing intense political pressure for further delay or outright nullification. HHS pulled out all of the stops to promote their as yet unseen work product.
Myself and other patient advocates benefited from the all-out push by ONC. We were given prominent spots on the plenary panels, for which we are grateful to ONC. This post summarizes my impressions on three topics discussed both on-stage and off:
Patient Matching and Unique Patient Identifiers (UPI)
Reaction to Judy Faulkner’s Threats
Consumer App Access and Safety
Each of these represents a different aspect of the strategic interests at work to sideline patient-centered practices that might threaten the current $Trillion of waste.
The patient ID plenary panel opened the meeting. It was a well designed opportunity for experts to present their perspectives on a seemingly endless debate. Here’s a brief report. My comments were a privacy perspective on patient matching, UPI, and the potential role of self-sovereign identity (SSI) as a new UPI technology. The questions and Twitter about my comments after the panel showed specific interest in:
The similarity of “enhanced” surveillance for patient matching to the Chinese social credit scoring system.
The suggestion that we already have very useful UPIs in the form of email address and mobile phone numbers that could have been adopted in the marketplace, but are not, for what I euphemistically called “strategic interests”.
The promise of SSI as better and more privacy preserving UPIs that might still be ignored by the same strategic interests.
The observation that a consent-based health information exchange does not need either patient matching or UPIs.
There’s a mantra in healthcare right now to “drive patient engagement.” The idea is that informed and engaged patients play a crucial role in improving the quality of care our health system delivers. With the right information, these healthcare consumers will be more active participants in their care, select providers based on quality and value metrics, demand appropriate, high-quality, high-value services and choose treatment options wisely after a thorough process of shared decision-making.
This drive for patient engagement often fails to recognize one important truth: Our healthcare system inadvertently, yet potently, discourages engagement. It ignores the fact that the patient is already the most engaged person in healthcare. The patient bears the disease, the pain, the scar – and, ultimately, the bill. In our search for greater engagement, we must realize what the comic strip Pogo said years ago – “we have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Today, I’m launching a new company, called Aledade.
Aledade partners with independent primary care physicians to make it easy and inexpensive for them to form and join Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) in which doctors are paid to deliver the best care, not the most care.
This is good for patients who will find that their trusted primary care doctors are more available and better informed than ever before. It’s good for doctors who want to practice the best medicine possible, the way they always wanted to. It’s good for businesses and health plans looking for healthcare partners that deliver the highest possible value and outcomes. And it’s good for the country as higher quality, lower cost care will help lessen the strain on our budget and our economy.
The world of start-ups may not be the usual path for those leaving a senior federal post, but it’s the right decision.
For me, Health IT was never the “ends,” but a “means” to better health and better care, and I continue to believe that better data and technology is the key to a successful transformation of health care. And it is why the attempts to do so now can succeed, where they have failed before.
Empowering doctors on the frontlines of medicine with cutting edge technology that helps them understand and improve the health of all their patients- that is the mission of our new company, and one that has animated my entire career. Continue reading…