ONC unveils 10-year plan for healthcare interoperability

Dan Bowman | FierceHealthIT | June 5, 2014

By 2024, the national health IT infrastructure and data standards will evolve to support robust information sharing and aggregation, creating a “continuous learning” environment for care, according to an ONC paper published today.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT outlined a 10-year plan to develop an interoperable health IT ecosystem that can simultaneously improve population health, boost patient engagement and lower costs.

The agency shared a set of five “critical building blocks” for achieving its goals, while also revealing its expectations for three, six and 10 years down the road.

National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, at the Patient Privacy Rights Summit in the District of Columbia on June 4, talked about the importance of getting feedback from multiple stakeholders for the paper, published in the wake of ONC’s recently announced realignment, which aims to streamline processes as federal funding dries up.

“Though at ONC we have set interoperability to connect care and information on behalf of patients and consumers as a high priority … I want to make sure that it’s clear to folks that we didn’t do that in our box at Humphrey,” DeSalvo said. “We spent the first few months doing quite a bit of informal … and formal environmental scans, looking for what kinds of writings, letters, comments we were receiving from our stakeholders of all walks.”

While the current health system has the capability to capture data at rest and in silos, DeSalvo said, to really make it powerful, it needs to be able to move safely and securely for the benefit of people.

“Interoperability … is so complex,” she said. “It requires all of us to have some shared responsibility thinking through how we’re going to get there in a way that meets everyone’s needs and expectations.”

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FTC Calls for Data Broker Transparency

By Marianne Kolbasuk McGee | healthcareinfosecurity.com
May 29, 2014

The Federal Trade Commission is urging Congress to enact privacy legislation that would provide consumers with more transparency about the activities of data brokers that collect sensitive health and financial data.

Reacting to the FTC recommendation, two consumer advocates say the explosion of data broker activities in recent years, coupled with regulatory gaps, point to the need for some legislative reforms to protect consumer privacy.

A May 27 FTC report that examined nine companies describes data brokers as “companies whose primary business is collecting personal information about consumers from a variety of sources and aggregating, analyzing and sharing that information, or information derived from it, for purposes such as marketing products, verifying an individual’s identity, or detecting fraud.”

The FTC says data brokers raise privacy concerns for consumers because “significantly, data brokers typically collect, maintain, manipulate and share a wide variety of information about consumers without interacting directly with them.”

The report notes: “In light of these findings, the commission unanimously renews its call for Congress to consider enacting legislation that would enable consumers to learn of the existence and activities of data brokers and provide consumers with reasonable access to information about them held by these entities.”

Deborah Peel, M.D., founder of advocacy group Patient Privacy Rights, says federal legislators and regulators need to crack down on data brokers, especially those that deal with sensitive information, such as health data.

“This is clearly a case where the government must pass laws that require personal control over personally identifiable information to restore our rights to privacy, because we can’t possibly do it ourselves,” Peel says. “Worse, the FTC seems not to have a handle on the size of the health data broker industry. … “Personal information is the ‘oil’ of the digital age – and our personal information belongs to each of us. … If the data brokers want our data, they should just ask. If we think the benefits are worth it, we will say ‘yes’.”

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