Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The ‘only’ HIT story this week: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act upheld by Supreme Court

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Last Thursday, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA, (commonly referred to as Obamacare by politicos) was upheld by the US Supreme Court. I choose to remain politically agnostic when it comes to major news stories, especially in an election year. So if you’re looking for a one-sided slant on the topic, this blog is likely not for you this week. I am more concerned about the ramifications of the data generated by 30-60 million people who will be added to EMR and EHR systems.

How will you explain privacy laws to new patients?
The high court’s decision, in my mind at least, brings about two major causes for concern regarding new patients, their data, and their familiarity with technology that need to be addressed sooner than later:

  1. There will be about 30-60 million newly insured with little knowledge of data exchange policies. Many of the newly insured will likely have been out of the healthcare system for some time. The technology employed and privacy regulations introduced by HCO’s, employers and insurers have grown exponentially over the past two to five years. How are these newly ensured going to react when asked to sign a mountain of paperwork to allow doctors and other professionals share their data? Will they sign? Will they say, ‘You’re my doctor. No one else needs to know anything about me.’?

  2. Very few providers and insurers have a plan in place to explain privacy rules and new technologies to these patients. How will HCO’s, insurers, private practices, and others prepare and deal with this influx of new patients, carrying with them a mountain of questions? As those on the healthcare side, do you have plans in place to deal with these sorts of questions? Do you have pamphlets, guides, people, etc to help you explain the ‘new era’ of healthcare coverage to those who have been out of the loop for a while? Heck, HIPAA and HITECH read like the terms and conditions on a website. How are you going to explain this to people who have not likely been exposed to this type of information?

Am I overreacting?

Are these two ideas even causes for concern?

I think it is time for HCO’s, practitioners, insurers and private providers to at least start thinking about plans to deal with these issues if they do not already have one in place. After all, January 1st, 2014 isn’t that far off.