By Jessie Hellmann – 06/27/18 02:16 PM EDT
The Trump administration on Wednesday rejected a request from Massachusetts that state officials argued would have given them more flexibility over its Medicaid program and greater negotiating power over drug companies.
The state’s Health and Human Services department asked the administration to approve a plan that would have allowed the state to limit what drugs would be covered in its Medicaid program.
TELEHEALTH PROVIDERS TRYING TO STAND OUT: If you’re looking to wow health care providers with your telehealth tech pitch, you need to have a more sophisticated offering, our colleague Mohana Ravindranath says in a story.
It’s no longer enough to provide a high-quality video chat platform, vendors say. Buyers are now looking for more, like the ability to triage patients who would most benefit from virtual follow ups, how easily their software can integrate with a providers’ clinical workflow, and whether they bring their own network of remote specialists.
Vendors are noticing that a high-quality video chat isn’t all that impressive, since most telemedicine companies already provide some version of it. Zipnosis sells software that asynchronously interviews patients about their symptoms, sends the results to providers, and flags those who might benefit from synchronous video consultations. Instead of touting the quality of its video communication, the company has been more aggressively marketing its role in simplifying the provider and patient experience, Kevin Smith, chief clinical officer at Zipnosis, told Morning eHealth.
VA LEADERSHIP QUESTIONS STILL BURBLING: Who’s going to lead the VA? Nearly a month after Trump’s nomination of Department of Defense official Robert Wilkie, the question still doesn’t have a certain answer. Here’s a tour of the uncertainty:
— Wilkie nomination: Typically, Senate committees get a Cabinet secretary’s official nomination within days of the White House announcing its intent to nominate. But for Wilkie, the executive branch has sent neither the official nomination nor vetting paperwork, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee says.
Hogan Gidley, the White House’s deputy press secretary, said in a statement that 1600 Pennsylvania “is diligently working with Mr. Wilkie and the relevant federal agencies to submit the appropriate paperwork as soon as possible. President Trump’s nominee is eminently-qualified to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs – and we look forward to a swift confirmation by the Senate.”
— Lawsuit against VA acting CIO expands: In an expanded lawsuit against the Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a former staffer says the acting Veterans Administration chief information officer bullied women on his staff and hired them “as props” rather than for their specific abilities.
The former staffer, Jessica Denson, also claims the official, Camilo Sandoval, lay down in a suggestive manner on a Trump Tower couch while asking why she wanted to leave his department.
Denson filed a $25 million lawsuit against Sandoval and the Trump campaign in Manhattan earlier this year, saying they launched a smear campaign against her after she angered Sandoval by trying to get herself moved from his data department into Hispanic outreach.
The expanded claim, filed May 18, came in response to the campaign’s motion to dismiss the suit and move to arbitration on the grounds that Denson had violated a non-disclosure agreement. Denson also claims the campaign’s motion is unjustified and “unconscionable.”
Sandoval, who has little experience in health care, was appointed to acting chief of the information site after Scott Blackburn resigned in May. The VA, which is starting a massive transition of its digital health system, has not had a permanent CIO since early 2017.
With help from Darius Tahir
GET THOSE CARDS AND LETTERS IN: One of HHS’s most important health IT decisions this year is whether to make data sharing a condition of participation in Medicare programs. That question was posed in an RFI that CMS sent out in April; the agency asked for answers by next Tuesday, June 26.
… In the notice, CMS said it was considering requiring hospitals that participate in Medicare to share medically necessary information electronically with other providers when a patient is transferred or discharged. CMS wants to know whether members of the health care industry think such a rule would reduce information blocking as defined in the 21st Century Cures Act (ONC is supposed to come up with a more specific definition later this year), what kind of barriers well-meaning providers would face in complying with this rule, and what kind of time frame would be reasonable for compliance if CMS decides to go ahead with the requirement.
… “This is huge,” said former ONC chief Farzad Mostashari, now CEO of ACO consulting firm Aledade. There are still plenty of hospitals and health systems that don’t want to share data about patients, Mostashari said, and the government needs to get heavy with them. We haven’t seen any comments on this issue but “you’re going to see a very big group pushing for this requirement,” he told us.
EXPERTS SAY QUICK ACTION NEEDED FOR VA’S CERNER CONTRACT: As the House Veterans Affairs Committee today takes its first crack at oversight of the $10 billion contract to transform the VA’s digital health records, critics say the agency needs stronger leadership to assure the project succeeds, Morning eHealth’s Arthur Allen reports.
The VA made an apparent move in that direction late Monday, saying in an internal memo that it was reorganizing the office responsible for the implementation. The formally established Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization will be led by a chief health information officer and a deputy chief, it said. (More on that for Pros here.)
Two sources — one inside the VA and one out — said Genevieve Morris, HHS’s principal deputy coordinator for health IT, would henceforth lead the effort. At ONC, Morris has led work on a trusted exchange framework for the exchange of health information. She was detailed to the VA earlier this year. However, a VA spokesman said John Windom, who also led the Pentagon’s Cerner acquisition, was still on the job.
Officials within the VA say that the various parts of the 330,000-employee agency — including the Office of Information and Technology, the Veterans Health and Benefits administrations, and the EHR project team — will need to coordinate better than they have to date.
“Right now there’s complete chaos,” said a mid-level official, speaking on condition of anonymity. He said many of his colleagues were unclear about the intentions of former Trump campaign officials who occupy senior leadership positions in the VA’s EHR Modernization office.
The Senate is expected to confirm Robert Wilkie, a senior defense official, as the new VA secretary after his hearing Wednesday. But the agency has no permanent leader of its health administration or information and technology branch. Pros can read the rest of Arthur’s story here.
On Friday, June 22, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, by a sweeping vote of 396-14. This final legislative package combines 58 bills, passed earlier this month, and includes a wide variety of provisions to expand access to opioid use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery services, including streamlined Medicaid coverage, increasing the number of providers that are eligible to prescribe buprenorphine as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and Medicare incentives for health centers to expand the use of MAT. Stay tuned for a NACHC blog post outlining key provisions for health centers, and in the meantime you can read more about this legislative opioid package, here.
- A report from health insurance giant Aetna found that patients want communicative doctors who offer convenient appointments and that they put a high value on privacy and data security.
- The study of 1,000 people also found that women are less likely to take their doctors’ recommendations or tell them about their lifestyle habits.
- A physician survey of 400 doctors divided evenly between primary care and specialties also featured in the report. That poll found 54% of physicians said mental health counselors are very important, but only 7% said they have excellent access to that community resource.
- Insurers are moving away from fee-for-service toward value-based care more quickly than previously predicted, Change Healthcare reported in a new survey of 120 payers.
- The report posits that for the first time private payers, rather than government programs, have taken the lead in implementing value-based care models and strategies.
- However, payers are finding they need a long time to implement programs. Only 21% say they can roll out a new episode of care program in three to six months. More than one-third said they need a year, 21% need 18 months and 13% require up to two years or more. Taking longer than a year to implement a payment program could cause problems in a fast-moving healthcare market.