Science Policy For All

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Science Policy Around the Web – December 7, 2015

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By: Fabrício Kury, MD

Photo source: pixabay.com

Patient Privacy

Would You Trust a Hospital to Scan Your Fingerprint?

Biometrics, such as fingerprints and iris scans, that are unique to each person might not be ready or even a good idea for use as personal identifiers in health care. The concept of a Universal Patient Identifier (UPI) is an idea that has gained new momentum since 2009 when billions of dollars were spent by the federal government to digitize the nation’s health records via the HITECH Act. However, being able to identify that two pieces of data from two different sources (for example, from an imaging center and an outpatient clinic) belong to the same patient can enable have serious consequences in terms of keeping patient data private and unidentifiable. In addition, health care settings are extremely vulnerable to hacking, making it more likely that patient data could be released. The Patient Privacy Rights group has detailed their case arguing that due to such vulnerabilities, fingerprints ought not to be the way forward. The FDA has started to take action to secure hospital systems and equipment from intrusion, however, once a cyberattack has happened (such as the recent one at the federal Office of Personnel Management) you cannot request to change your fingerprints because the ones you had got stolen. (Christina Farr, KQED Science)

Healthcare Industry

Cerner, Leidos and Accenture win massive Defense contract for EHR system

This year saw the one of the biggest, if not the biggest, deal in the history of all Health Information Technology. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) signed an $11-billion contract spanning 18 years with Cerner-Leidos-Accenture to deliver health information systems to the DOD’s 55 hospitals, 600 clinics, and 9.5 million covered personnel and their families. The contract had centered around developing a replacement electronic health record (EHR) system for the very large Military Health System. The Defense Department had issued draft requests for proposals back in January 2014, with the final successful bid determined in July 2015. This decision was a large blow for two other teams that were bidding on the same contract: Cerner’s principal market share rivals Epic (which had partnered with IBM) and Allscripts (which had partnered with Hewlett-Packard).  (Joseph Conn, ModernHealthcare.com)

HITECH Act

Health Information Technology in the United States, 2015: Transition to a Post-HITECH World

In 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) Act, President Obama signed into law the HITECH Act — Health Information Technology For Economic and Clinical Health Act — which sent $25.9 billion dollars from federal coffers into paying hospitals and physicians to implement and successfully report Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records (EHR). This report, published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is the latest one in the series since 2009, and reviews the impact of the still ongoing Meaningful Use program. Highlights from this report include the vertiginous increase, starting in 2009, in the percentage of both hospitals and physicians that use EHRs: currently 75% of hospitals and 82% of physicians, and the overall failure of the program in promoting health data exchange, which remains as a major challenge to the envisioned Learning Health Care System. (Mathematica Policy Research, and Harvard School of Public Health)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 7, 2015 at 9:00 am

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