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Capsule: Sharing Your Health Data Is About to Be an App Away

Feb. 18, 2020, 11:01 AM

Welcome to Capsule, where we’ll give you your weekly dose of what to watch out for in the health-care space. Each week reporters Ayanna Alexander and Jacquie Lee get you prepped for the week’s hottest health-care topics.

Ayanna: Here we are close to the end of February and the only thing we’re missing is the interoperability rule from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Not to worry, though. Many sources tell me that the long-awaited data sharing provision will be here this week.

Jacquie: That means your electronic health records could be coming to your smartphone, everyone. Who needs to scroll through Instagram when you can check out the results from your blood work?

Ayanna: Speaking of smartphones, there’s been a recent outcry over privacy concerns with the rule. Doctors, app developers, and people backing seamless data exchange aren’t sure that HHS has prepped patients for what could happen once their health data leaves their hands—especially when it’s stored in a mobile app.

However, HHS Secretary Alex Azar let it be known that protecting consumers and ensuring health tech companies guard sensitive information was the centerpiece for the rule. ONC chief Donald Rucker also said there are some “solid protections” that the industry would be pleased with. So now all we have to do is wait for the measure to fall into our laps.

Jacquie: Some other comment periods for health rules are closing this week too. One is connected to President Donald Trump’s executive order that says religious organizations that partake in certain federal programs have unfair reporting burdens that secular organizations don’t. The Obama administration put certain reporting requirements on religious organizations, including one that says a religious group must refer a person to another organization if they “object to the first provider’s religious character.” The new rule would get rid of those types of referrals and other special reporting requirements.

The other rule is an attempt to shrink the national list of people who need organ transplants. That rule expands the type of reimbursement a living organ donor can get, like lost wages or child-care costs.

What Else We’re Watching

ONC will host its monthly advisory committee meeting on Wednesday, focusing on improving patient experiences and keeping the medical community linked to make treatment seamless.

I’m hearing that the committee will touch base on the draft annual report and five-year plan, which highlight goals such as a patient’s right to control how and when they can safely and easily get their data, patient identification matching, and transparency in health care.

However, this group, along with the rest of the health technology industry, is hoping to see ONC’s data sharing provision ahead of the meeting. Hard to address potential upcoming goals and strategies if the star rule isn’t there.

We’ll definitely be looking out for potential updates.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ayanna Alexander in Washington at; Jacquie Lee in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at; Andrew Childers at