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Analysis: HHS' Threat Info Sharing Plan

Analysis: HHS' Threat Info Sharing Plan | Healthcare and Technology news |

The Department of Health and Human Services is reassessing how its many internal agencies, and the entire healthcare sector, can boost cyberthreat intelligence sharing and analysis as more patient records are digitized and shared.

That assessment includes HHS evaluating whether it should create a new information sharing and analysis "structure" to harness the growing volume of cyber-intelligence coming from multiple sources. It's also evaluating another option: leveraging an existing organization to improve collection, analysis and dissemination of cyber-intelligence, HHS officials tell Information Security Media Group.

The recognition of the importance of cyberthreat intelligence sharing, combined with an evolving healthcare ecosystem, prompted HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to include plans for "the establishment of an information sharing and analysis center" in ONC's federal health IT strategic plan for 2015 to 2020, which was released this week, HHS officials explain.

That section of the strategic plan created confusion, however, because the healthcare sector already is served by the National Health-ISAC.

Ongoing Efforts

NH-ISAC already is working with several federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, a unit of HHS, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, on cybersecurity-related initiatives for the healthcare sector.

But HHS also works with other government and non-government entities on cyber-intelligence related activities. That includes sharing cyber-intelligence with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, as well as conducting healthcare sector cyberdrills with the private sector's Health Information Trust Alliance, or HITRUST.

The healthcare sector has changed dramatically since ONC's last federal health IT strategic plan was issued in 2011, HHS officials point out. For instance, electronic health records are far more common, thanks to the HITECH Act financial incentive program.

With more records being digitized and exchanged, HHS wants to make sure that information about potential cyberthreats is shared in a timely way. In addition to keeping healthcare organizations of all sizes well-informed, HHS wants to ensure that its many units, including ONC, FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and others - are kept up to date and ready to respond to emerging cyberthreats and vulnerabilities.

"Big or small ... it's important actionable information gets to all levels of stakeholders in the health ecosystem," Julie Chua, lead information security specialist in ONC's office of the chief privacy officer, tells ISMG.

No deadline has been set for a decision about the approach HHS will take to boost cyberthreat information sharing, HHS officials say. HHS will take into consideration the public comments it receives on the federal health IT strategic plan.

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Burwell: Accountable Care to Stop Costs from Outpacing Progress |

Burwell: Accountable Care to Stop Costs from Outpacing Progress | | Healthcare and Technology news |
Accountable care, value-based reimbursement, and a concerted effort to raise quality are the building blocks of healthcare reform, Burwell says.
Providing more patient-centered, value-based accountable care is the only way to stop the rampant costs of the healthcare industry from continuing to vastly outpace its progress towards better health for all Americans, said HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell during remarks at the CMS Quality Conference this week.  While the hospital quality improvement report released concurrently with the forum shows a significant advancement in the way healthcare providers focus on patient safety, the system as a whole continues to require a great deal more work before it can achieve its ultimate goals.
“For all the differences of opinion about how to move forward as a country when it comes to our health care, there is one area for which we have near unanimity – and that is in the sentiment that the health delivery system that’s been in place for the last 50 years has under-delivered on affordability, access, and quality,” Burwell said.  “You could almost sum up the past half century in a sentence: The prices we paid far outpaced the progress we made. Not only did we pay more, in some cases we also got more, too, but sometimes we got more of the wrong things: more unnecessary tests, more preventable read missions, more health care acquired infections.”
“Surely, we’d all agree that parts of our system simply did not make sense. We waited until patients got sick in order to treat them, rather than focusing on prevention,” she added. “Our payment models incentivized volume rather than value. It used to be that all too often government was over here, business was over there, nonprofits were someplace else. Today, we’re working together like never before, and we have some historic progress to show for it.”
Burwell noted that the 17% reduction in patient deaths due to preventable hospital-acquired conditions represents a significant leap forward in the way healthcare organizations have been working together to achieve quality improvements.  Along with approximately 50,000 fewer deaths since 2010, the industry has garnered around $12 billion in savings from more robust patient safety programs and data-driven accountable care.
“If you consider the progress we’ve made – and the progress we’re on the verge of making – the evidence suggests we could be at an important moment when it comes to the way we deliver health care in this country,” Burwell said. “But to get there, we need to make an even bigger push.”
HHS envisions a continued march towards value-based reimbursements that reward better patient outcomes and care coordination, and hopes that this accountable care ecosystem will supported by an infrastructure of health information exchange, analytics, and evidence-based clinical decision making.  HHS is taking the lead in policymaking and leadership, Burwell said, by fostering research, innovation, and grant opportunities.
Burwell concluded by asking healthcare stakeholders to continue driving the industry towards greater progress by thinking creatively and engaging in the development and deployment of best practices across the healthcare spectrum.  “As we move forward, I hope to continue our work together,” she said. “Together, let’s take this to the next level. Let’s improve quality. Let’s spend our dollars more wisely. Let’s save lives.”
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