The Department of Veterans Affairs finalized its $10 billion, 10-year contract with EHR vendor Cerner on Thursday, making it one of the federal government's largest IT deals. The agreement requires Cerner to provide an EHR system that enables seamless, secure patient data sharing among the VA, community providers and the Defense Department and allows the VA to add system capabilities to help meet veterans' and providers' needs.
The Department of Homeland Security is on track to add all 23 major federal agencies to the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center dashboard by early June. Fifteen of 23 agencies have been added to the dashboard, which is seen as critical to providing cyberthreat protection to federal networks.
Recent data breaches in the health care sector include a third party gaining unauthorized access in December to a medical transcription platform at Nuance, a speech recognition software provider in Burlington, Mass., which compromised the information of 45,000 patients. In addition, 15,552 individuals could have had their information exposed after a possible email account breach at Ohio-based USACS Management Group on March 9, and 3,453 patients at Arkansas Health Group may be affected after their information was exposed on a cloud-based file-sharing website.
1upHealth was named the Stage 2 winner of the ONC's "Secure API Server Showdown" challenge, which the agency said "sought to engage the health IT industry to identify Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) servers that reinforce the value of following technical security best practices on an industry-wide scale." The ONC said 1upHealth devised ways to make the open source FHIR server stronger, which helped support sensitive patient data and improve the server's overall security.
Hacking group AnonPlus has attacked three websites run by the Workers' Compensation Administration of New Mexico, so the state has pulled down the sites. The group in recent days has also claimed to have struck websites run by other states.
The CMS is allotting up to $25 billion to create a pool of Medicare quality improvement contractors that can get results quickly on a national, regional and local scale. Organizations can apply through June 26 to join the newly established Network of Quality Improvement and Innovation Contractors, with award recipients receiving five-year renewable contracts.
Automatic enrollment in health insurance could reduce the nation's uninsured rate, improve risk pools in individual plan markets, reduce premiums and reduce per capita federal subsidies, according to two recent Health Affairs blog posts. The authors proposed auto-enrollment in catastrophic coverage, but doing so may not improve risk pools unless catastrophic plans are integrated into the Affordable Care Act's tiered risk pools, writes David Anderson of Duke University's Margolis Center for Health Policy.
A letter sent to Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman from a group of 11 House and Senate Democrats criticized the department for "reports of political interference hindering EHR implementation" and its failure to appoint a qualified leader. The group also objected to Camilo Sandoval, who is now serving as acting VA CIO, and cited the growing number of vacancies within the agency as a factor hampering the EHR modernization project.
The Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission and several organizations, including the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange, developed the new Trusted Exchange Accreditation Program to help secure the identity of stakeholders involved in health information exchange and to support cloud hosting and blockchain services. The program will offer third-party accreditation to health care entities such as EHR and practice management vendors, health information networks, medical billers, accountable care organizations and providers.
Being charged high fees for requesting medical records and being unaware of the right to dispute when health providers deny record access are among the challenges patients face in accessing their health care information, according to an audit by the Government Accountability Office. Meanwhile, providers are challenged by the costs of answering patient requests and having to sort through incorrectly merged records and records spread across multiple EHRs and legacy EHRs, the GAO found.
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