The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the availability of $35 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to enhance and expand the telehealth infrastructure and capacity of Title X family planning providers.
November 23, 2021
Press Release

Amazon’s On-Demand Healthcare Business Lands Hilton has reached a deal to sell virtual medical services to Hilton in the US, landing a high-profile customer for its nascent healthcare business.

The company declined to disclose financial terms of its agreement with the hotel chain.

The world’s biggest online retailer has looked to sign up employers to Amazon Care, its on-demand health offering that lets users message or video-chat clinicians and receive home visits in some cities. Amazon held trials of the service for its employees around Seattle in 2019, and this summer it started marketing Care nationwide to other companies.

The deal with Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc marks Amazon Care’s first hospitality customer and only its second disclosed client after fitness equipment maker Precor. It shows how the company is seeking to disrupt the healthcare industry with a tried-and-true playbook.

Just as Amazon built data centers to satisfy its e-commerce needs and later sold access to this infrastructure in what became its cloud-computing business, so is Amazon looking to market a healthcare service it built first for its workers’ benefit.

Speaking at Reuters’ Total Health conference on Monday, Kristen Helton, director of Amazon Care, called the Hilton deal “a great step forward for the business to show we can provide care nationwide to their team members.” 

Hilton employed about 141,000 people globally as of December 31, 2020. All its US staff enrolled in a corporate health plan will have Amazon Care as a benefit next year.

That means virtual meetings with clinicians from Care Medical, a company focused on serving Amazon Care users. Amazon also offers house calls in greater Seattle and the Washington-Baltimore metro area, with plans to expand to Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia and Boston.

Helton said employers’ pandemic safety concerns and recruiting needs during a labor shortage have contributed to demand.

“Attracting and retaining talent is so critical for businesses right now,” she said.

Hilton pays for workers’ access to care and for a portion of the visit expenses. Text chats via Amazon Care will be free to the hotel chain’s employees, while provider video or home visits carry a small fee, she said.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will play a greater role in the future, too.

“We will have clinicians in the loop for a period of time until we can actually trust that AI and those technology solutions are taking care of the patient in the way that is best,” Helton said.

Amazon is looking to technology to reduce providers’ post-care work and lower costs, though the human connection remains very important, she said.

November 19, 2021

Cybersecurity, Government

DHS Launches Innovative Hiring Program to Recruit and Retain World-Class Cyber Talent

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched the Cybersecurity Talent Management System (CTMS), a new personnel system that will enable DHS to more effectively recruit, develop, and retain our Nation’s top cybersecurity professionals. CTMS will enable DHS to fill mission-critical cybersecurity positions by screening applicants based on demonstrated competencies, competitively compensating employees, and reducing the time it takes to be hired into the Department. Employees hired through this system will join the new DHS Cybersecurity Service, the Nation’s preeminent federal cybersecurity team working to protect U.S. critical infrastructure and the American people from cybersecurity threats, and increase nationwide resilience.

“The DHS Cybersecurity Talent Management System fundamentally re-imagines how the Department hires, develops, and retains top-tier and diverse cybersecurity talent,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “As our Nation continues to face an evolving threat landscape, we cannot rely only on traditional hiring tools to fill mission-critical vacancies. This new system will enable our Department to better compete for cybersecurity professionals and remain agile enough to meet the demands of our critical cybersecurity mission.”

Federal hiring practices need to meet mission and market demands in the dynamic field of cybersecurity. CTMS is one tool that will help DHS overcome challenges related to recruiting, developing, and retaining top-tier cybersecurity talent.

DHS will initially leverage CTMS to fill high-priority jobs at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer. Beginning in 2022, DHS Cybersecurity Service jobs will be available across several DHS agencies with a cybersecurity mission.

CTMS builds on the Department’s efforts to create a robust, diverse cybersecurity workforce and fill critical positions. Earlier this year, Secretary Mayorkas announced the most successful cyber hiring initiative in the Department’s history and established the Secretary’s Honors Program to recruit talented recent graduates.

November 19, 2021

Electronic Health Records

EHNAC Appoints Three New Commissioners to Governing Body

The Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC), a non-profit standards development organization and accrediting body for organizations that electronically exchange healthcare data, announced that Shaun Newton of ZeOmega, Dr. Tim Pletcher of the Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services (MiHIN), and Ricky Ponsaa of TransUnion have been appointed EHNAC commissioners through 2024. Newton, Pletcher and Ponsaa join an EHNAC Commission comprised of an executive director, a chief operating officer and 11 healthcare industry leaders including stakeholders and consumer representatives from private and public-sector organizations.

“The appointment of three prominent and well-respected thought-leaders who are continuously shaping and influencing the healthcare ecosystem, is a tremendous achievement for EHNAC and our Board of Commissioners,” said Lee Barrett, CEO and Executive Director, EHNAC. “Adding their invaluable insights and experience will be vital to helping us continue achieving our mission of ensuring the highest standards of patient data privacy, security and integrity. Their guidance, along with that of their fellow commissioners, is essential at a time when helping our industry achieve quality and trust in healthcare information exchange through the adoption and implementation of industry standards is critical.”

Serving as the Information Security and Compliance Officer at ZeOmega, the nation’s leading population health management company, Shaun Newton works closely with internal and external stakeholders to ensure the company’s products and operations meet the highest industry standards. His areas of responsibility include regulatory compliance, information security, application security, privacy, risk management, corporate quality improvement, and public sector and international engagement.

Dr. Tim Pletcher is the founder and leader of the MiHIN constellation of companies. The MiHIN constellation consists of over 235 team members and 80 plus apprentices and includes MiHIN, Velatura Public Benefit Corporation, Velatura HIE Corporation, Velatura Services, the Interoperability Institute, and United States QHIN LLC. Combined these organization offer a comprehensive interoperability strategy plus a product and services portfolio that continues to transform healthcare and health information exchange regionally and across the nation. At MiHIN, Dr. Pletcher sets the vision for the public and private nonprofit collaboration dedicated to improving the healthcare experience, improving quality and decreasing cost for Michigan’s people by making valuable data available at the point of care through statewide health information sharing.

Ricky Ponsaa is the Global Director at TransUnion. A Certified Information Systems Security Professional with over 25 years’ experience in the security space, Ponsaa has responsibility for running the certification programs including HITRUST and HNAP for TransUnion Healthcare’s Revenue Protection and Insurance Clearinghouse solutions for the past 10 years. Additionally, he has primary oversite for the organization’s PCI and SOC 2 reporting efforts globally.



Transforming Mental Health Research with Analytics

November 12, 2021
Transforming Mental Health Research with Analytics: Professor Helen Christensen, Chief Scientist, of the Black Dog Institute talks about how it uses SAS technology to map social networks and mental health networks in a large organization.
Time: 3m 08s


How UC Davis Health Opened Its Digital Front Door

When my UC Davis Health colleagues and I set out to streamline provider access to genomic data reports, we hoped that the information would help clinicians provide better, more personalized care. Our genomic data didn’t have a home, and it was neither searchable nor tied to patient charts. If we could leverage SMART on FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource) connectors to build a context based, single sign-on between platforms, our care teams would get data earlier and patients would be in a better position to survive with a positive outcome in their battle with cancer.

That’s exactly what happened. Our work to bolster genomic data reporting brought 50 discrete data points to clinicians’ fingertips, meaning less time searching for reports, providing discrete data with important insights, simplified access to clinical trials information, and timely care.

But this single project wasn’t our end goal. It was an early step in a journey to build a wide digital front door, encompassing increasingly larger and more varied data sets, with help from InterSystems.

What’s a digital front door? It’s the sum of every virtual encounter that someone — typically a patient or member — has with your healthcare organization. According to the research firm IDC, 65% of patients will walk through such an entryway by 2023. But what about everyone else? At UC Davis Health, we resolved to establish a digital front door that welcomes everyone — not just genomic data vendors, but patients, payers, and partners alike.

By becoming flexible, fast, and first, we’re nurturing innovation, achieving efficiencies across the academic medical center, and optimizing care. Here’s what I’ve learned about how a digital front door can help every healthcare organization.

It’s Time to FHIR Up Your Interoperability Efforts

At UC Davis Health, we decided to expand our digital front door strategy because we did not want to get ‘wiped out’ by FHIR tidal wave barreling in. SMART-on-FHIR applications, along with rising adoption rates around tools like Apple HealthKit, suggested that vendors would soon need to access data that had been closed to third parties for years and our Digital Front Door would be just the tools and technology we needed to artfully ride that FHIR tidal wave. Plus, it was apparent that the 21st Century Cures Act would ultimately require health systems to support the next stage of interoperability for patient access to their data.

Not many healthcare organizations had a digital front door strategy for this. Although we spent years transitioning from homegrown legacy systems and in-house applications to best-of-breed technologies, interoperability described data moving internally, not externally.

We could’ve chosen to connect payers and partners directly to our EHR, but that wouldn’t have delivered access to data that lives elsewhere. It also could’ve meant a greater cost and difficulty to our partners, while being beholden to a single vendor for every application and partner connection.

Instead, we at UC Davis Health developed our own architecture, using our preferred solution stack. InterSystems IRIS for Health and HealthShare processed enormous volumes of data stored off platform, connected non-FHIR apps, and enabled us to create rules that ensure access for all our partners.

In little more than a year, we’ve deployed a development endpoint for InterSystems API manager, and we’re working with several partners on pilot projects to connect them to our API library. When the world moves quickly, healthcare must, too.

Do You Really Want to Piecemeal Your Digital Front Door?

What makes UC Davis Health’s approach to the digital front door stand out is our commitment to creating a center of excellence around interoperability.

Most health systems employ a federated model, solving for clinical data aggregation in one bucket and initiatives related to FHIR, interfaces, and research elsewhere. At UC Davis Health, we have one team and one support model that drives data exchange across the organization.

That means more flexibility. As COVID-19 upended everything, for instance, many hospitals had to wrangle three or even four teams to adapt to increased demand for virtual services. We got the job done — fast — with a single group.

As United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) standards kick in, health systems must ensure access to electronic health information, which lives in every nook and cranny of the health systems’ digital ecosystem. Sharing clinical data that lives in the EHR simply won’t be enough. A wide digital front door — accessible through one entry point — is our best bet.

Take on the Cutting Edge

I recognize that not all health systems have the same resources. But the real innovation here is a vision that anyone can adopt.

Healthcare organizations need to create solutions for patient data access, as governed by USCDI standards. If you develop that capability, why not take the extra step to empower patients, payers, and partners to use this mechanism as a resource?

In doing so, you just might find that you’re ready to innovate around genomics, remote patient monitoring, and whatever else tomorrow brings.

Jason Free

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