On the same day on which senior federal health officials announced the release of two final rules around interoperability and information-blocking, the national association representing health insurers expressed “grave” concerns over patient privacy-related issues with the rules.
On Monday morning, senior healthcare officials from the Trump administration announced the release of two rules around interoperability, coming from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) of the Department of Health and Human Services, and from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). In a telephonic press briefing, Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services; Seema Verma, CMS Administrator; and Donald Rucker, M.D., National Coordinator for Health IT, announced the release of the final rules. They were introduced by Joe Grogan, Assistant to the President, and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, who initiated the telephonic press briefing by stating that the release of these two rules is connected to President Trump’s broader attempt to make the healthcare system more accountable and transparent to consumers. The two new rules clarify issues around information-blocking, as defined by the administration, and promote the development of a nationally consistent Patient Access API concept, designed to make access to their electronic health records available to all patients through their smartphones. The rules apply to all hospitals, physicians, and health plans that receive any reimbursement through either the Medicare or Medicaid programs.
In an official statement on behalf of the Washington, D.C.-based America’s Health Insurance Plans, the nationwide association of health insurers, AHIP president and CEO Matt Eyles commented on Monday evening that “Americans should be able to get their health care information when they need it, in a format that is convenient for them, to help them make better, more informed health care choices. That’s why health insurance providers continue to make personalized tools available to deliver actionable health information, from patient portals to mobile apps and telehealth services.
“Health insurance providers share HHS’s vision for expanded consumer data access and are committed to building a truly interoperable health care system that integrates and shares data seamlessly to enhance care coordination and improve outcomes. However, when it comes to transparency in health care, patients overwhelmingly want two things – for the information to be clear, concise, and customized, and for their privacy to be protected. Any new rules must ensure we protect patient privacy, reduce health care costs, and get personalized information into the hands of patients. Sixty two percent of consumers say that stronger protection of their personal privacy should outweigh any efforts to make it easier to access consumer health care data, and 90 percent believe that private technology companies should be held to the same privacy standards as health insurance providers.”
Speaking for the nation’s health insurers, Eyles said in the statement, “We remain gravely concerned that patient privacy will still be at risk when health care information is transferred outside the protections of federal patient privacy laws. Individually identifiable health care information can readily be bought and sold on the open market and combined with other personal health data by unknown and potentially bad actors. Consumers will ultimately have no control over what data the app developers sell, to whom or for how long.”
And, he added, “We look forward to working closely with the Administration, Administrator Verma, and Dr. Rucker to facilitate health care data interoperability and ensure that implementation enhances care coordination, safety, efficiency and value in a way that protects patient privacy.”