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Latest Top (4) News

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan’s visit to Baltimore

Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric D. Hargan, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health Matthew Lin traveled to Baltimore on Friday to meet with city officials and community leaders to learn firsthand how the Department can better empower those on the front lines of America’s pressing public health challenges.

While in Baltimore, Acting Secretary Hargan and HHS officials were able to tour local facilities and participate in roundtables with leaders from the Baltimore City Health Department; Health Care for the Homeless, a federally qualified community health center; and Bon Secours Hospital. At these three locations, they engaged in dialogue and exchanged ideas with medical experts, local leaders and individuals receiving treatment or recovering from various conditions, including opioid addiction, on a variety of issues such as reducing health disparities, treatment of serious mental illness, and the opioid epidemic.

The visits were a part of an ongoing effort by HHS to reaffirm the Trump administration’s commitment to combating the opioid epidemic and engaging with local communities on efforts to address the nation’s healthcare challenges.

Friday, January 12, 2018 - 17:30

Draft Trusted Exchange Framework Released by HHS

The Department of Health and Human Services today released the draft Trusted Exchange Framework, a significant step towards achieving interoperability, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016.

The draft Trusted Exchange Framework, issued by HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), advances Congress’ intent that building and maintaining trust is an important core element in ensuring that health information is available where and when it is needed to manage patient health and care.

“The draft Trusted Exchange Framework we issued today reflects the successes and challenges already existing in the exchange of health information and is designed to help guide the nation on its path to interoperability for all,” said Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology. “The principles and direction we released today, combined with the support of providers, existing health information networks, health IT developers, and federal agencies, are designed to help improve patient care, care coordination, and the overall health of the nation.”

The Trusted Exchange Framework proposes policies, procedures, and technical standards necessary to advance the single on-ramp to interoperability requested by Congress. It will be facilitated through ONC in collaboration with a single Recognized Coordinating Entity (RCE) to be selected through a competitive process. The RCE will use the Trust Exchange Framework policies, procedures, technical standards, principles, and goals to develop a single Common Agreement that Qualified Health Information Networks (Qualified HINs) and their participants will voluntarily agree to adopt. Following a 45-day public comment period and refinements to the draft document, a final draft of the combined Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement will be released. The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) will be published in the Federal Register in 2018.

ONC will continue to engage with federal partners, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other stakeholders to establish interoperability that allows health information to be used effectively in care and treatment decisions.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs supports ONC’s efforts to create a common “on-ramp” to health information networks that supports widespread interoperability, said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VA executive in charge. “We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that our veterans’ health information flows and is available when and where it is needed to support seamless care.”

The proposed Trusted Exchange Framework supports ONC’s goals of achieving nationwide interoperability:

  1. Patient Access - Patients must be able to access their health information electronically without any special effort;
  2. Population-level Data Exchange - Providers and payer organizations accountable for managing benefits can receive population level health information allowing them to analyze population health trends, outcomes, and costs; identify at-risk populations; and track progress on quality improvement initiatives; and
  3. Open and Accessible APIs – The health information technology (health IT) community should have open and accessible application programming interfaces (APIs) to encourage entrepreneurial, user-focused innovation to make health information more accessible and to improve electronic health record (EHR) usability. 

The draft Trusted Exchange Framework would not prevent existing or new organizations from creating point-to-point or individual agreements between organizations that have a particular business need to exchange information – while preventing potential information blocking – that may be different from those outlined in the proposal.

Today ONC also released a User’s Guide to Understanding the Trusted Exchange Framework and the US Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) Glide Path to identify a roadmap for broadening the data that can be exchanged via the TEFCA.

“We know that many stakeholders, including healthcare providers, health systems, developers, and existing health information networks have extensive experience in trust agreements and common exchange networks and strongly encourage stakeholders to share that insight with us,” said Rucker.

The period to comment on the draft Trusted Exchange Framework closes on February 20, 2018. Comments can be submitted at exchangeframework@hhs.gov.

Friday, January 5, 2018 - 09:45

HHS highlights Office for Civil Rights' ongoing response to the opioid crisis, while implementing the 21st Century Cures Act

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today launched an array of new tools and initiatives in response to the opioid crisis, while implementing the 21st Century Cures Act (Public Law 114-255).  OCR continues its work to ensure that patients and their family members can get the information they need to prevent and address emergency situations, such as an opioid overdose or mental health crisis. At the same time, these tools and initiatives also fulfill requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act to ensure that the healthcare sector, researchers, patients, and their families understand how the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects privacy and helps improve health and healthcare nationwide.

“President Trump has mobilized the entire Administration to address America’s opioid crisis,” said Roger Severino, Director of OCR.  “HHS is using every tool at its disposal to help communities devastated by opioids including educating families and doctors on how they can share information to help save the lives of loved ones.”

Highlights of these actions include:

  • Two new HIPAA webpages focused on information related to mental and behavioral health, one for professionals and another for consumers.  These webpages reorganize existing guidance to make it more user-friendly and provide a one-stop resource for our new guidance and materials.  This guidance is an important step forward in clarifying the circumstances under which HIPAA permits a covered entity to disclose information to family members and caregivers.
  • These webpages contain new HIPAA guidance on sharing information related to mental health and substance use disorder treatment with a patient's family, friends and others involved in the patient's care or payment for care.  The new information includes: a package of fact sheets; an infographic; decision charts, including materials specifically tailored to the parents of children who have a mental health condition; and scenarios that address sharing information when an individual experiences an opioid overdose.
  • New collaboration with partner agencies within HHS to identify and develop model programs and materials for training healthcare providers, patients, and their families regarding permitted uses and disclosures of the protected health information of patients seeking or undergoing mental health or substance use disorder treatment, and to develop a plan to share the programs and materials with professionals and consumers.
  • Updated guidance on HIPAA and research, as called for in the Cures Act:  https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/research/index.html
  • Launch of a working group to study and report on the uses and disclosures under HIPAA of protected health information for research purposes. The working group will include representatives from relevant federal agencies as well as researchers, patients, healthcare providers, and experts in healthcare privacy, security, and technology.  The working group will release a report addressing whether uses and disclosures of PHI for research purposes should be modified to facilitate research while protecting individuals’ privacy rights.

For additional information on HIPAA, visit:  https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/

Monday, December 18, 2017 - 11:00

Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee Releases its First Report to Congress

People in the United States who experience serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbances need greater access to quality, affordable health care, according to a report released by the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC).

The report, The Way Forward: Federal Action for a System That Works for All People Living with SMI and SED and Their Families and Caregivers, was delivered to Congress on Wednesday, December 13. This first report from the ISMICC provides a roadmap for improving mental health services for adults living with serious mental illness and children and youth who experience serious emotional disturbances. The report contains five focus areas for the federal government and the mental health care system:

  1. Strengthen federal coordination to improve care
  2. Make it easier to get care that is an evidence-based best practice
  3. Close the gap between what works and what is offered
  4. Increase opportunities for individuals with serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbance to be diverted from the criminal and juvenile justice systems and to improve care for those involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems
  5. Develop finance strategies to increase availability and affordability of care

In 2016, more than 10 million adults in the U.S. were living with a serious mental illness. More than 7 million children and youth experienced a serious emotional disturbance. They faced a greater risk of suicide and life expectancy 10 years shorter than the general population.

The Report details other consequences of inadequate mental health care, including two million people with serious mental illness who are incarcerated each year.

“Better addressing the challenge of serious mental illness is one of the top three clinical priorities for the Department of Health and Human Services, and a priority for the Trump Administration,” said Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric D. Hargan. “We look forward to continuing to lead and work with the ISMICC to understand how we can improve our policies and practices in this area.”

“It is crucial to provide access to evidence-based mental health care before people experience negative outcomes,” said Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. “Our health care system can do better, and the federal government can marshal its resources to help make that happen.”  Dr. McCance-Katz chairs the ISMICC in addition to heading the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Acting Secretary Hargan, Dr. McCance-Katz and other members of the ISMICC will discuss the recommendations in their first report to Congress at a press conference and public meeting today in Washington. More information on the ISMICC and today’s events is available at www.samhsa.gov/ismicc.

Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 07:00