Here Is What CHIME’s Press Panelists Have to Say about Key Policy Topics
Candace Stuart – Director, Communications & Public Relations
The CHIME Advocacy Summit will include a press panel on Oct. 4 that features four well known journalists who have covered healthcare IT and related policies. They are:
- Arthur Allen, founder and editor of POLITICO’s eHealth section. He is a former Associated Press foreign correspondent, a magazine writer and author of three non-fiction books, including Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, New Republic, Smithsonian, Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, LinguaFranca, Landscape Architecture, com and Science.
- Rachel Arndt, a reporter at Modern Healthcare, where she covers technology. Before joining Modern Healthcare, she earned MFAs in poetry and nonfiction writing at the University of Iowa. Earlier, she was a technology editor at Popular Mechanics. Her first book, Beyond Measure, came out in 2018.
- Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, executive editor at Information Security Media Group, where she leads content development of the HealthcareInfoSecurity.com media site and events. That includes overseeing coverage of such issues as HIPAA and other regulatory compliance, information risk management, health data privacy and cybersecurity, including challenges facing medical devices. She has been chronicling IT, as well as health IT issues, for more than 20 years. Prior to joining ISMG, she oversaw health IT and related coverage at United Business Media’s InformationWeek magazine and online news site.
- Alex Ruoff, who covers Congress for Bloomberg Law’s health desk, unpacking health-related legislation for healthcare providers, lawyers and compliance professionals. Before being sent to Capitol Hill, he covered health IT issues for Bloomberg Law. He has covered most topics in health, from Medicare payment polices to HITECH to data breach response.
Below they respond to questions posed to them by CHIME:
Question: The opioid crisis is getting a lot of attention in Washington right now. Are the programs being discussed coordinated? Are we at risk of funding programs that overlap or that contradict one another?
Arthur Allen: I’m sure there will be duplication and a lack of coordination. There always is, and this administration isn’t particularly coordinated. But it is interesting how the opioids issue has provided a vehicle to bring forward certain health IT issues that have lagged despite general enthusiasm for them—I’m thinking of telemedicine, more efficient PDMPs (prescription drug monitoring programs) and possible reforms of 45 CFR part 2.
Question: What do you see as the biggest barrier to interoperability? What role should public policy play in removing those barriers?
Rachel Arndt: Slow adoption of standards is what’s getting in the most way of interoperability. Though there’s a great standard available—FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources)—healthcare systems and vendors have been slow on the uptake, and until data are in standardized formats, it’ll be hard to get them from one place to another. Even when data do travel easily between EHRs, they often do so in clunky documents that prevent recipients from incorporating the information in any useful way.
When it comes to policy, I’ll mostly cede my vote to those who are actually exchanging healthcare data daily. But I will say I’m wary of an approach that relies too heavily on neoliberal notions of competition and free markets.
Question: What role if any should the federal government and federal agencies play in shoring up cybersecurity in the nation’s hospitals and health systems?
Marianne Kolbasuk McGee: The federal government can potentially help the nation’s hospitals and health systems improve cybersecurity in several areas. One of those is around medical devices. There appears to be a great deal of frustration and confusion among many healthcare organizations when it comes to dealing with legacy medical devices and security problems that get identified—but sometimes not sufficiently disclosed or addressed by the vendors.
Although FDA has issued guidance advising manufacturers to “build” cybersecurity into their new devices pre-market—as well as guidance addressing cybersecurity issues in older devices post market— hospitals still complain about a lack of transparency from device makers about security problems in these interconnected products. Can the FDA put “more pressure” on medical device makers under the agency’s current authority, or should Congress step in to expand the FDA’s regulatory authority on these matters, especially as it pertains to security issues that pose patient safety concerns? Medical device cybersecurity might indeed be a candidate for additional federal government intervention or assistance.
Question: What among today’s health federal policies is your favorite to cover and why? What is your least?
Arthur Allen: Cybersecurity might be my least favorite, because it is obviously incredibly important, yet hard to measure success on.
I find the ongoing issue of physician burden in regard to data sharing and EHR usability to be compelling and always important. We constantly hear of great new inventions yet the backward state of many medical practices and hospital systems is still evident. There is lots of room for improvement—both successes and failures can make for good copy.
Rachel Arndt: I eagerly await the information-blocking rule from the ONC this fall because I’m curious to see what it does for interoperability, my favorite topic to cover. It embodies so much of what’s important in healthcare technology: moving data, making those data useful and getting people to cooperate without mandating explicitly that they do so.
But there is one part of interoperability in particular that’s frustrating to cover: meaningful use—or, I should say, “promoting interoperability.” I find it frustrating because, with it, policy makers rely heavily on language to signal progress but they use that language so vaguely that the words scarcely hold meaning at all.
Editor’s note: The CHIME Advocacy Summit will be Oct. 3-5 in Washington, D.C. The full program, speakers list and registration information are available here.
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