Health IT Roundup—Feds finalize Common Rule effective date; FCC commissioners support rural telehealth boost

HHS and 16 other federal agencies have finalized an effective date for the Common Rule. (Sarah Stierch/CC BY 4.0)

Feds finalize Common Rule effective date

After several delays, 17 federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Humans Services, have finalized January 2019 as the effective date for the revised Common Rule.

The research regulation, which includes several health IT provisions allowing researchers to access EHR data, was finalized days before President Donald Trump took office. Implementation of the rule was immediately ensnared in the administration’s regulatory freeze and repeatedly delayed in six-month increments.

Now the agencies have finalized an effective date of January 19, 2019, while allowing three burden-reducing provisions to take effect.

AMIA praised the final rule in a statement: “While the numerous delays to this rule’s implementation have been frustrating, we see this decision as an important assurance that much-needed updates to human subjects research will enable more data-driven research to the benefit of participants, patients, and the national research community.” (Rule [PDF])

FCC votes to increase rural telehealth funding

The majority of FCC commissioners have voted in favor of Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to increase the Rural Health Care Program by $171 million each year.

The program, which provides support for rural hospitals to invest in telehealth, ran out of funding in each of the last two years when the cap was $400 million. The proposal would increase the cap to $571 million and would allow unused funds to carry forward in subsequent years.

“Telemedicine is vital in many communities that may not otherwise have access to high-quality healthcare, and the Federal Communications Commission has an important role in promoting it,” Pai said in a statement. (Release [PDF])

Mayo Clinic partners with blockchain company

The Mayo Clinic has signed a joint working agreement with Medicalchain, a London-based blockchain technology company. The technology company announced the partnership on Monday, adding that it will focus on use cases paring the distributed ledger technology with EHRs.  

“We are thrilled to be working with Mayo Clinic,” Medicalchain CEO Abdullah Albeyatti said in an announcement. “Mayo Clinic will provide their world-class healthcare and health IT expertise, while Medicalchain will provide our knowledge of blockchain and crypto. Together we will work on several use cases using blockchain based electronic health records. There’s a lot of opportunity out there, and we feel this working agreement will be of benefit to all healthcare stakeholders.” (Announcement)