Prac­ti­tioner data­bank still un­der wraps,

Modern Healthcare - - CONTENT -

Can an ad­min­is­tra­tion claim it is pas­sion­ate about “un­leash­ing” the fed­eral govern­ment’s health­care data while si­mul­ta­ne­ously cut­ting off ac­cess to long-avail­able health­care in­for­ma­tion? Yes it can.

Mo­ments af­ter tout­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s un­prece­dented ef­forts to open up ac­cess to Medi­care data in a speech to at­ten­dees of a Washington gath­er­ing of govern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor IT pro­fes­sion­als, Todd Park, chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer at HHS, de­fended the govern­ment shut­ting from pub­lic view a national data­base that chron­i­cles physi­cians’ mal­prac­tice fines and sanc­tions.

“One of our para­mount pa­ram­e­ters is we can’t vi­o­late pri­vacy and we can’t vi­o­late the law, ob­vi­ously,” Park told Modern Health­care. “So, the rea­son we took the data­base down is be­cause it lit­er­ally vi­o­lated the law.”

Fed­eral of­fi­cials re­cently re­moved online ac­cess— af­ter 15 years—to the Health Re­sources and Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s National Prac­ti­tioner Data Bank, which chron­i­cles physi­cian sanc­tions, be­cause of con­cerns that mem­bers of the me­dia and the pub­lic could find ways to iden­tify the un­named physi­cians it con­tains.

Asked about the seem­ing con­tra­dic­tion be­tween claims of un­prece­dented open­ness and the ad­min­is­tra­tion block­ing the data­bank, Park said the ad­min­is­tra­tion had no choice.

Consumer ad­vo­cates, such as Con­sumers Union, dis­pute that point. The group wrote the HRSA on Sept. 15 to point out that since the file does not con­tain any in­for­ma­tion iden­ti­fy­ing physi­cians, it does not vi­o­late con­fi­den­tial­ity re­quire­ments. Govern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives have pointed out that no law re­quires online post­ing of the data­base, and in­di­vid­u­als may still file Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quests to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion from it.

As for Park, he said restor­ing online ac­cess to the data­base re­mains one of his depart­ment’s high­est pri­or­i­ties, even if it re­mains un­known when that will hap­pen. com­mit­ted to the law’s re­peal and re­place­ment.

Sen. Chuck Grass­ley (R-Iowa) joined Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) in writ­ing the CMS this week to de­mand … faster im­ple­men­ta­tion of the law.

Specif­i­cally, Grass­ley joined Kohl in query­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion on a pro­vi­sion that used the lan­guage of a bill the sen­a­tors had pre­vi­ously co-spon­sored called the Physi­cian Pay­ment Sun­shine Act. The mea­sure will re­quire pub­lic dis­clo­sure of the fi­nan­cial re­la­tion­ships be­tween physi­cians and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, med­i­cal de­vice and bi­o­log­ics com­pa­nies. But it won’t re­quire those things un­til the im­ple­ment­ing reg­u­la­tions are is­sued, which was sup­posed to hap­pen Oct. 1.

Of course, the miss­ing reg­u­la­tions are only the lat­est in a long line of im­ple­ment­ing rules for the ACA that CMS of­fi­cials have failed to pro­duce by their statu­tory dead­lines. And the CMS wouldn’t give Out­liers any in­di­ca­tion of when these rules might be forth­com­ing.

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