For all the subtle—and not so subtle—ribbing that Datapalooza enjoys for its wonky title, the conference usually lives up to its name.
This year, which featured several newly appointed government officials, was no different. The conference’s furious two-day data dump makes it nearly impossible to catch every “jot and tittle,” as Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price would say. Here’s a recap of the four most telling quotes.
“This administration is committed to doing all we can to align incentives and promote true interoperability.” – HHS Secretary Tom Price
A late confirmation for Datapalooza, Price was a much-anticipated keynote speaker on the opening morning—if only because it was the first time the newly-minted HHS secretary has addressed the health IT community directly.
Price voiced his concerns about the burdens that health IT places on physicians during his confirmation hearing in January, but his appearance at Datapalooza offered a critical opportunity to lay out his health IT policy agenda.
And he did, without getting into too many specifics. In between some antiquated colloquialisms (he said the federal government shouldn’t be “stipulating every jot and tittle” and argued that achieving interoperability “ought to be just doggone simple”), he advocated for an approach where the government laid out the rules of the road and then let private sector innovation take hold.
Perhaps even more importantly, he seemed to validate the importance of interoperability in the digital age. Plus, he acknowledged the existence of ONC National Coordinator Donald Rucker and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Technology Reform John Fleming—two new appointees who were in attendance that never got an official announcement from HHS.
“That’s where I kind of get stuck and I think that’s where a lot of people get stuck—how to implement analytics to improve care.” – Ravi Parikh, M.D., an internal medicine resident physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
During a discussion about how hospitals are using analytics, Parikh recounted his feelings walking out of an earlier Datapalooza session about IBM’s artificial intelligence capabilities, which amounted to: Cool technology. Now what?
In that moment, he expressed a feeling that most providers have wrestled with at one time or another. With so many innovative solutions flooding the market, it’s easy to get caught up in the wow factor. But those providers that are using technology well have figured out how to make it work within their own system, rather than just shoehorning in a new tool for the sake of innovation.
“We need to get to that point now where we don’t charge people a fee at all to find out what happened to them in their own lives.” -- Ann Waldo, an attorney with Waldo Law Offices, PLLC.
During her brief presentation, Waldo seemed to overflow with privacy issues to cover, jumping from the thousands of confusing state laws to the provider community’s fear of sharing patient health information.
But her quote above came during a moment in which she made a relatively convincing case that patients shouldn’t have to pay a fee to obtain a copy of their medical records. She seemed to acknowledge that it was a slightly radical idea, but stuck to her guns, pointing out that if you get your brakes fixed by a mechanic you don’t have to pay to tell you what he fixed six months later.
“I always feel like if you’ve got something you’re worried customers will find out about and you frame it in a way they won’t know, … you’re already headed down a bad path.” – Deven McGraw, deputy director of health information privacy at HHS Office for Civil Rights.
In what turned out to be a must-attend session for digital health startups, McGraw and her counterpart, Cora Han at the FTC, played a game of privacy enforcement Mad-Libs, navigating various scenarios lobbed by several other panelists. While Han focused on the FTC’s oversight of consumer privacy protections, McGraw outlined the ways digital health companies could be implicated in HIPAA enforcement.
McGraw's final takeaway was a salient one: If it looks sketchy and it smells sketchy, it probably is sketchy.
“Health data interoperability, usability, privacy and security all run together. They go hand-in-hand.” – OCR Director Roger Severino.
The above quote didn’t make it into any FierceHealthcare Datapalooza coverage, but it's representative of Severino’s surprisingly kumbaya speech.
After recounting a personal anecdote about the time his father’s identity was stolen, Severino repeatedly said he wanted to hear from providers about HIPAA regulations and OCR’s enforcement strategy, and pitched the agency as more of a collaborator than an enforcer. The wireless device manufacturer that was just fined $2.5 million by Severino’s agency may not share that sentiment.