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The Week in Government HIT: July 9, 2010

by Joe Holtschlag, Manager, Government Affairs

- Thursday, July 1: HealthCare.gov goes online. Human decisions about health insurance are enabled through a network of information and education. The system begins to learn at a geometric rate, evidenced by the addition of hospital quality compare data three days after launch. It will probably become self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern Time, August 29th. In a panic, healthcare reform opponents might try to pull the plug. And HealthCare.gov will fight back (by adding more interesting data and tools that launch a health care coverage revolution and save lives across the country). Watch athenahealth co-founder turned HHS CTO Todd Park demonstrate the site here (video on right).

- Friday, July 2: Some $800 million across 66 new broadband initiatives is released by the White House. The grants will be administered by the Department of Commerce in an effort to use broadband access to level the playing field across many underserved areas. As a stimulus project, beneficiaries include telecom companies, libraries, universities, and city governments. More broadband means more good for computing in the cloud. The White House released the list of award recipients.

- Wednesday, July 7: President Obama announced that he will use a recess appointment to install Don Berwick, MD, as head of CMS. Without a chief since 2006, CMS will benefit from having a respected health care reformer and physician advocate. It's a little disappointing that the recess appointment was used, since we won't have an opportunity during confirmation hearings to learn his strategy for implementing health care reform, improving Medicaid, or a discussion of rationing. I would have also enjoyed hearing him engage in a little healthcare repartee with the armchair academics in Congress opining on his life's work.

- Thursday, July 8: HHS and the Office of Civil Rights release an update to HIPAA in light of the HITECH Act. This is a follow-on to the IFR published Oct. 30, 2009. The revised provisions include expanding the definition of a 'business associate' to cover new health information sources; expanding penalties for violations of the rule; and clarifying compliance requirements. This is actually a great document, providing guidance to industry and protection to patients. Please see the full notice of proposed rule-making.

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