HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell delivered the closing speech of the three-day Datapalooza conference in Washington, calling on entrepreneurs to partner with the federal government to help transform the American healthcare system.
“As we build this future, you all are the bridge. We need your programs, your apps, your big ideas,” Burwell said. “We need your help connecting providers and empowering patients.”
Burwell's boosterism came as her department battles to eliminate the industry's entrenched habits of walling off health IT products and the patient data within them.
HHS also faces the end of the bonus phase of the incentive program for the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records, and providers are increasingly balking as the government prepares to ramp up requirements in the Stage 3 regulations.
The health data movement is standing at a “threshold moment,” Burwell said. She compared the current environment to the state of the nation when President John F. Kennedy challenged America to land first on the moon, knowing full well that technology was not ready.
“That's the thing about making history: We often don't know it's happening until we're in the middle of it,” Burwell said.
This week the CMS posted three sets of Medicare payment data and announced it would make other data available to entrepreneurs that previously was available only to researchers.
“Our commitment to you is to continue to liberate data in every way we can, while always keeping privacy protected,” Burwell said. “We want to know what information you're looking for so we can help. It's time for throwing out the way we've done things and finding the way to do it best,” she said.
Burwell made no mention of King v. Burwell, a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that could end premium subsidies in as many as 37 states and presents a grave threat to the private insurance expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The court is expected to rule on the case by the end of the month.
—Laura Green is a freelance writer based in Washington.