HMT: EHR marketing, health portal contractor fired, health IT executive round table, and more
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Health Management Technology News
January 13, 2014
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In this issue:

Are drug companies using your health records to sell you stuff?

Contractor for health portal replaced, but says ‘we were not fired’

Target hack is a wake-up call on privacy

House approves security bill

Are drug companies using your health records to sell you stuff?

If you went to visit your doctor and a drug company representative was sitting in the room with you, ready to hand out pamphlets and samples, you'd likely cry foul.

Depending on what electronic health record system your physician uses, the digital version of this sort of thing is already happening.

New regulations in the Affordable Care Act restrict access to doctors by pharmaceutical companies. As a result, drug companies are finding their way behind the medical industry's closed doors via digital record-keeping systems.

These systems are able to crunch a lot of health information and spit out reports, stripped of data identifying specific patients, that the pharmaceutical industry finds useful.

The process is not altogether shocking. Drug companies have been able to gather data for years from insurance company records, pharmacies and public records. Unlike the disconnected reports of yesteryear, these new data analyses come with the potential to reach back through the system via email or pop-up ads and directly target doctors and patients - both for medical and marketing purposes.

The problem is that consumers don't want health information used to sell them medical services. They also don't want their doctors' medical judgment to be compromised by the financial clout of the pharmaceutical industry

"We expect our physicians to be acting in our best interest," says Farzad Mostashari, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who was formerly the National Coordinator for Health IT at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If a patient confides in a doctor about an ailment, and then gets a mailing about a possible treatment, "that would be pretty upsetting," Mostashari adds.

Read the full Reuters article here

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Contractor for health portal replaced, but says ‘we were not fired’

The contractor hired to build the computer enrollment system for President Obama’s health care law said Friday that it would stop working on the troubled insurance exchange when its contract expires at the end of February.

CGI Federal, which was blamed by many in the administration for the glitches and missed deadlines that plagued the law’s rollout, will not pick up its option for a two-year maintenance contract for the website. “Let me be very clear, we were not fired,” said Lorne S. Gorber, the senior vice president for the CGI Group of Montreal, of which CGI Federal is an American subsidiary.

The maintenance contract, worth about $90 million, will instead go to Accenture, a consulting company, according to people involved in the website project.

The government’s relationship with CGI became so heated this fall that Michelle Snyder, the chief operating officer of the agency overseeing the website’s construction — frustrated by what she said were CGI’s excuses for the site’s failures — said, “If we could fire them, we would.” Ms. Snyder has since retired from the agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Read the full New York Times article here

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Target hack is a wake-up call on privacy

Think twice next time a store asks for your phone number, email or zip code.

If you fork it over, you're feeding the beast of consumer data collection -- and putting your own information at risk.

Target's disclosure that credit card thieves hacked a database of 70 million customers is a wake-up call.

"It's like an arms race for consumers' information at this point," said Susan Grant, an advocate for the Consumer Federation of America.

It's become standard for many retailers to ask for personal details at checkout. Then there's online shopping, in which you have to turn over certain info. Among other things, stores want the information so they can shower you with catalogs and emails.

The problem is that you are trusting the stores to safeguard it. Criminals who steal your credit or debit card information can do more damage if they have your contact information. It's easier for them to commit fraud or even trick you into revealing more via fake emails, letters and phone calls.

Your information is "toxic" if it gets in the wrong hands, said Rob Shavell, CEO of Abine, a company whose software enhances privacy while shopping. "The more of it they store, the more it becomes a danger to the consumer and the business."

The idea behind Abine shows just how far wholesale data collection has gone. The service lets you create a shopping avatar -- with its own new phone number, address and credit card -- to create more distance between you and the retailer.

Read the full CNN Money article here

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House approves security bill

House lawmakers on Friday approved a proposal to address potential security breaches on the Web site as Republicans seek to keep attention on problems associated with the rollout of the federal health-care law.

On a vote of 291 to 122, more than five dozen Democrats joined with all voting Republicans to approve a measure that would require the Department of Health and Human Services to notify affected users of any potential breach on a state or federal exchange within two business days.

Republicans’ aides openly boasted Friday about the 67 vulnerable Democrats willing to buck President Obama, who strongly opposed the measure. The White House said the proposal would create “unrealistic and costly paperwork requirements” that wouldn’t improve the safety or security of the site’s users.

The vote capped the first week of the new year for the Republican-controlled House, but comes as attention on Capitol Hill has started shifting to broader concerns with income inequality, especially regarding unemployed or low-wage workers, and away from concerns with the health-care law.

House GOP leaders this week distributed talking points to rank-and-file members advising them how to show compassion for the nation’s unemployed. Even House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) sought to remind reporters that House Republicans are “concerned with those having a difficult time trying to find a job” as he raised doubts about Democratic proposals to extend unemployment insurance.

Read the full Washington Post article here

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