Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday's Tidbits

Following up on last Sunday's post, the House Judiciary Committee's website does show that a hearing on "The Proposed Merger between Medco and Express Scripts" is scheduled for September 20th at 3:30 pm before the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet." The Wall Street Journal accurately observes that "Members of Congress have no role in deciding whether the proposed merger is granted antitrust approval, but they can shape the public debate about the deal."

HHS Secretary Sebelius announced that she has appointed Leon Rodriguez to be the new director of HHS's Office for Civil Rights. This Office is responsible for enforcing the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. Mr. Rodriguez "most recently served as chief of staff and deputy assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division."

Government Health IT reports that the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has launched a campaign to encourage patients to use available technology to get more involved with their own health care. For example, HHS issued a proposed rule that would modify the federal laboratory regulations and the HIPAA Privacy Rule to permit laboratories to release test results to patients -- not just doctors -- upon request.  The National Coordinator and the Federal Trade Commission has released a template for a model privacy notice for electronic personal health records. The article also explains that
Many healthcare organizations that hold patient data like hospitals and payers are pledging to make the information more easily available.
“Many are using Blue Button and others are using secure health email through the Direct protocols to deposit individuals’ information into their secure accounts,” Mostashari said.
Blue Button is a method for individuals to download their health information in simple ASCII text format into their personal health records. It has been available to military, veteran and Medicare beneficiaries. The Direct Project uses standards and services for secure email.
"Among those prepared to make Blue Button available are payers Aetna and UnitedHealthcare. Other healthcare organizations said they would continue to improve the sharing of health information through their patient portals and PHRs, including Kaiser Permanente, Children’s Hospital of Boston, Cleveland Clinic, and Palo Alto Medical Foundation Clinic."
HHS, "with several key initial partners, today launched Million Hearts, an initiative that aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years." AHIP stated that the "Initiative builds on findings that a concerted focus on four interventions called the ABCS – Aspirin Use, Blood Pressure Control, Cholesterol Control and Smoking Cessation - could save hundreds of thousands of lives per year." The FEHBP has been active in promoting these interventions.

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