HMT: Don’t tweet health issues, Apple meets with FDA, patients rights to lab work, and more
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Health Management Technology News
February 4, 2014

In this issue:

How to protect yourself from medical identity fraud. A first step: Don’t tweet health issues.

Apple executives met with F.D.A. to discuss mobile medical applications

HHS strengthens patients’ right to access lab test reports

Electronic medical records transition affects TGH financials

Tech companies reveal scope of secret data requests

How to protect yourself from medical identity fraud. A first step: Don’t tweet health issues.

Most of us tightly guard our credit cards and bank account numbers, but health insurance policy numbers are also prime targets for thieves. An estimated 1.84 million people were victims of medical identity theft in 2013, according to the Poneman Institute, a research organization, which expects that number to rise.

Victims often don’t realize they’ve been targeted until they discover a drop in their credit score or until a collection agency comes after them for unpaid medical bills, says Jim Quiggle, director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a group that includes insurers, consumer activists and government officials. While most of the cost of medical identity theft is borne by the health-care industry and government, the Poneman Institute estimates that about 36 percent of victims in 2013 incurred out-of-pocket costs such as reimbursements for services provided to impostors, legal fees and identity protection services. The average cost for these victims amounted to $18,660; in a few cases, it exceeded $100,000.

Medical identity theft can happen in several ways. In one common scenario, the criminal persuades a consumer to divulge his health insurance number. Strategies for collecting these numbers can be highly sophisticated, especially when crooks operate in teams,Quiggle says. “They might invite seniors to bogus health fairs where they take their blood pressure and give them some nutritional supplements and ask to see their Medicare cards.”

Jennifer Trussell, who investigates medical identity theft for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, has seen cases where criminal rings target senior centers or homeless shelters and offer people $50 for, say, their Medicare number. “That information is sold again and again,” she says.

Even though the victims in these instances voluntarily share their numbers, they may not realize the impact, Quiggle says. “They’ll discover to their horror that their Medicare account is being rifled and even maxed out by thieves who are making false claims against their policy.”

Some cases are perpetrated by employees of medical offices or even health-case providers. Trussell worked on a case involving an Iowa chiropractor who had lifted the names and dates of birth of more than 200 patients to collect fraudulent Medicaid payments. In another case, a Baltimore pharmacy owner and two employees were indicted for allegedly submitting bogus claims for prescription refills to Medicaid and Medicare.

Sometimes medical identity theft happens with the cooperation of the victim, who allows a family member or acquaintance to use his health insurance card to obtain care. Poneman Institute founder Larry Poneman says these “Robin Hood” crimes comprised 30 percent of the medical identity thefts his group studied in 2013.

Read the full Washington Post article here

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Apple executives met with F.D.A. to discuss mobile medical applications

Apple has signaled strong interest in health-monitoring technology, which could wind up in a widely anticipated smartwatch.

A group of senior Apple executives met with directors at the United States Food and Drug Administration in December to discuss mobile medical applications, according to the F.D.A.’s public calendars that list participants of meetings.

Among the participants from Apple were Jeff Williams, senior vice president of operations; Bud Tribble, vice president of software technology at Apple; Michael O’Reilly, who joined Apple last year; and an employee from Apple’s government affairs department.

On the F.D.A. side of the table were Jeff Shuren, the director of the agency’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, and Bakul Patel, who drafted the F.D.A.’s mobile medical app guidance and is a staunch advocate for patient safety when it comes to apps and medical gadgets.

Mark A. McAndrew, a partner with the law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister, which works with health and science clients, first noticed the F.D.A. meeting while browsing the public calendars.

He said in a phone interview that given the prominence of the people in the meeting from both the government and Apple side, these were not your run-of-the-mill conversations.

“They are either trying to get the lay of the land for regulatory pathways with medical devices and apps and this was an initial meeting,” Mr. McAndrew said, “or Apple has been trying to push something through the F.D.A. for a while and they’ve had hangups.”

Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, declined to comment. Representatives from the F.D.A. did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the meetings.

Bob Mansfield, Apple’s senior vice president for technologies, who previously ran hardware engineering, has been heavily involved in exploring devices, sensors and technologies within Apple that can monitor people’s health and connect to an iPhone, according to an Apple employee who is not authorized to speak publicly for the company. Mr. Mansfield is directly involved in the Apple smartwatch hardware, this person said.

Read the full New York Times article here

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HHS strengthens patients’ right to access lab test reports

As part of an ongoing effort to empower patients to be informed partners with their health care providers, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken action to give patients or a person designated by the patient a means of direct access to the patient’s completed laboratory test reports.

“The right to access personal health information is a cornerstone of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule,” said Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Information like lab results can empower patients to track their health progress, make decisions with their health care professionals, and adhere to important treatment plans.”

The final rule announced today amends the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) regulations to allow laboratories to give a patient, or a person designated by the patient, his or her “personal representative,” access to the patient’s completed test reports on the patient’s or patient’s personal representative’s request. At the same time, the final rule eliminates the exception under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule to an individual’s right to access his or her protected health information when it is held by a CLIA-certified or CLIA-exempt laboratory. While patients can continue to get access to their laboratory test reports from their doctors, these changes give patients a new option to obtain their test reports directly from the laboratory while maintaining strong protections for patients’ privacy.

The final rule is issued jointly by three agencies within HHS: the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which is generally responsible for laboratory regulation under CLIA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which provides scientific and technical advice to CMS related to CLIA, and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is responsible for enforcing the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

Read the full news release here

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Electronic medical records transition affects TGH financials

Completing the transition to electronic medical records helped pave the wave for a good year in 2013 for Tampa General Hospital.

In a discussion about TGH’s fiscal year-end financials, hospital CFO Steve Short said expenses and lower revenue related to EMR installation affected fiscal year 2012 and made 2013 better in comparison.

TGH’s operating margin tripled last fiscal year over 2012, and its gain from operations totaled $31.4 million. The gain from operations in fiscal year 2012 was $8.9 million.

“We had a little better volume and admissions last year, along with better revenue and lower expenses,” Short said.

He expects the joint venture with Florida Hospital’s Tampa Bay Network to be a financial boon for TGH.

“It will be very good,” Short said. “Instead of going to war with each other we can work together to do things like split capital costs.”

Property TGH owns on Kennedy Boulevard near University of Tampa remains vacant as the hospital considers possible uses. Rehabilitative services was an initial focus.

“We’re looking at primary care and other things,” he said. “It is still in the works.”

Read the full Tampa Bay Business Journal here

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Tech companies reveal scope of secret data requests

Big Tech firms are shedding some light on the secret data requests they receive from the U.S. government on national security matters.

Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), Facebook (FB, Fortune 500), Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500), LinkedIn (LNKD) and Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) posted data for the first time Monday on the volume of requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which allows the government to secretly obtain data on user accounts and communications in cases related to national security.

The releases come after the companies filed lawsuits seeking the right to disclose more information about requests for user data. In response, the Department of Justice issued new disclosure guidelines last week allowing the publication of basic information about FISA requests.

President Obama ordered the change last month as part of his speech on intelligence reform.

"Today, for the first time, our report on government requests for user information encompasses all of the requests we receive," Google lawyer Richard Salgado wrote in a blog post.

In a joint statement last week, Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said they had concluded "that the public interest in disclosing this information now outweighs the national security concerns that required its classification."

National security officials make FISA requests in a secret court that has authorized nearly every request it's received. The process came under scrutiny last year following the revelation via NSA leaker Edward Snowden of a secret surveillance court order approving the collection of mass amounts of user metadata from telecom giant Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) and leading Internet companies.

Read the full CNN article here

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