Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Seven Computer Bugs in a Hub

Preface:  Today’s Kaiser Health News carried the story below.   As I read the story , the nursery rhyme, Rub-a-dub-dub,  three bugs in a rug, came to mind.  If I had my way, I might change the story  to read,  Rub-a-dub-dub, seven computer bugs in a hub.   What government is trying to do is to tie together computer systems from seven different federal agencies into one system to decide what people signing up for exchanges get subsidies.   Each of these systems no doubt has “bugs”, as will the UnitedHealthcare  “hub” that integrates the seven.  Given the Edward Snowden example, where he used a thumb drive to reveal thousands of government surveillance secrets,   I worry about the government’s ability to carry out this ambitious computer integration

Kaiser Health News,  July 17, 2013 and how protected individual’s privacy will be.
Health Law Computer Database 'Hub' Links 7 Agencies, Spurs Privacy Concerns

“A computer system designed to determine which Americans get what subsidies to help them buy health coverage will be hugely important to the success or failure of Obamacare, Bloomberg reports. And new federal data show doctors have filed more than 190 million prescriptions electronically.”
Bloomberg:” “Obamacare Privacy Fears Loom As Computer Links Agencies"

“The biggest overhaul of the U.S. health-care system in 50 years has spawned one of the most complex computer projects in the government's history. Dubbed the Hub, the $267 million computer system built by a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc. is one of the most important determiners of whether the Affordable Care Act succeeds. The hub ties together the databases of seven U.S. agencies, ranging from the Internal Revenue Service to the Peace Corps, to determine which Americans can buy medical coverage and get U.S. subsidies through the new government-run insurance exchanges (Wayne, 7/17).”
USA Today: “Most Health Records Now Are Electronic”
“An ever-expanding amount of the nation's medical records -- millions of prescriptions, medical reports and appointment reminders -- are now computerized and part of an ambitious electronic medical records program, the Obama administration reports. Since the start of a 2011 program in which the government helps finance new health records systems, doctors or their assistants have filled more than 190 million prescriptions electronically, according to data provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Jackson, 7/16).”
“In the meantime, Kaiser Health News looks at a Health IT "bunker" where patient data is closely guarded “
Kaiser Health News: Cerner Builds Recession-Proof 'Bunker' For Health Data”
“This is a story about data. Lots and lots of data. And not just any data. Extremely sensitive data. The U.S. health system is undergoing a major technological shift right now. Some equate it to finally catching up to where the banking and airline industries have been for years: Doctors and hospitals are moving to electronic health records systems, and it’s not easy. Cerner, based in Kansas City, Mo., has grown into one of the nation's biggest players in the field of health information technology
(Gordon, 7/16).”
Tweet:  To decide who gets federal subsidies in exchanges, CMS is relying on a computer hub that integrates 7 federal computer systems. Lots of luck.


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