Coronavirus testing exposes gaps in reporting

With help from Darius Tahir (@dariustahir), Tim Starks (@timstarks) and Alexandra S. Levine (@ali_lev)

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Driving the Day


Coronavirus testing surge spotlights gaps: A flood of tests were supposed to give public health officials a better sense of who's sick and where. Instead, those officials worry they're not getting the full picture, Darius reports.

HHS eases data sharing with public health groups: Business associates can share patient information with health authorities, per Office of Civil Rights' new guidance.

More on Zoom's privacy woes: The company will spend the next three months working out its privacy and security issues, CEO Eric Yuan said.

eHealth excerpted Tweet thread of the day: Ben Moscovitch @benmoscovitch There’s been some chatter recently about how the ONC & CMS interoperability regulations should be delayed. Our take in a letter to @SecAzar: the rules should be implemented expeditiously. 1/

Why? This pandemic has shown the system’s limitations. Patients (however imperfect an approach) can no longer manually pick up records at one facility & take them to another. Patients are also increasingly using telehealth with providers that may not have records on hand. 2/

These rules will ease data exchange, including to give patients data electronically to more easily transmit it to providers they can’t see in person. If anything, this pandemic has shown the flaws in the current system & why greater data exchange shouldn’t be delayed. 3/

It's FRIDAY at Morning eHealth. Shoot over some non-coronavirus news to [email protected]. Tweet us at @dariustahir, @ravindranize, @POLITICOPro and @Morning_eHealth.

Given the unprecedented public health challenge confronting regulatory affairs teams, the AgencyIQ leadership team has decided to pull our research and analysis content concerning the virus and its regulatory implications in front of the paywall. It is available on the AgencyIQ site.

Driving the Day

DATA GAPS MAR TESTING INCREASE — The nation’s testing infrastructure is ramping up — but officials are worried there are large data gaps inhibiting the coronavirus response. Public health authorities aren’t getting basic data, like contact information, needed to do their jobs. Doctors don’t necessarily know if their patients have tested positive. The problems in the nation’s tech infrastructure had been foreseen, but unfortunately public health “stand[s] at the back of the ticket line,” Janet Hamilton of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists said.

... Speaking of which, CDC is looking for someone to lead its public health data and IT modernization efforts, according to this USAJobs post.

OCR SAYS BIZ ASSOCIATES SHARING OK — HHS’s Office for Civil Rights is saying business associates can share data with public health authorities —even if their agreements with their covered entity partners don’t expressly allow it — under HIPAA, at least for the moment.

The announcement came, OCR said, because various federal and state officials couldn’t get access to information to combat the coronavirus in a timely fashion.

It’s unclear whether this announcement was actually legally necessary. Wilmer Hale lawyer Kirk Nahra told Morning eHealth that HIPAA might already allow for such sharing.

Still, the policy might give business associates legal cover to share; that, in turn, might help policymakers get a more accurate view of the crisis.

And, given that covered entities already have such protections, some privacy lawyers would like to see this explicit policy made permanent. “If it is successful at accelerating reporting of needed data to fight Covid-19, it might make sense to make this a more permanent part of the HIPAA Privacy Rule,” said Ciitizen Chief Regulatory Officer Deven McGraw.

ZOOM EXEC PLEDGES TO CORRECT WEB CONFERENCING PLATFORM'S 'UNFORESEEN' ISSUES — “We did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home," CEO Eric Yuan said in a blog post this week amid a raft of negative headlines, litigation and congressional scrutiny for Zoom's suddenly ubiquitous product.

"We now have a much broader set of users who are utilizing our product in a myriad of unexpected ways, presenting us with challenges we did not anticipate when the platform was conceived."

Yuan said he'll hold a weekly chat focused on privacy and security issues in response to concerns, including encryption, children's privacy and “Zoom-bombing," our POLITICO colleague Leah Nylen reports.

Zoom now has more than 200 million daily meeting participants, up from 10 million in December, Yuan said. The platform was designed for use by companies and government agencies, but the crisis has seen everyday consumers making use of the technology, which Yuan said has led to “unforeseen issues.”

Zoom is “enacting a feature freeze, effective immediately, and shifting all our engineering resources to focus on our biggest trust, safety, and privacy issues,” Yuan said.

...Yuan announced the steps as attorneys general ratchet up scrutiny. As POLITICO Tech's Cristiano Lima reports today, multiple state AGs are are banding together to examine Zoom's privacy and security practices.

“We are alarmed by the Zoom-bombing incidents and are seeking more information from the company about its privacy and security measures in coordination with other state attorneys general,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong told POLITICO in a statement. Tong did not share which offices he was working with.

CONGRESS' NEXT CORONAVIRUS FIGHT: BROADBAND? As lawmakers around Capitol Hill contemplate a new package of Covid-19 countermeasures following last week's $2.2 trillion effort, digital connectivity is shaping up to be a significant negotiating point. As POLITICO Tech's John Hendel reported, the most recent stimulus package set aside $200 million for a new FCC telehealth fund. This week, John Iaid out some of the telecom provisions that could be in play:

— Democrats will push for billions of dollars to close the online Homework Gap and help low-income households with connectivity. On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also led Democratic chairs in a renewed infrastructure push that would include $86 billion for broadband efforts.

— Republicans, meanwhile, have called for regulatory relief to help telecom carriers build out and upgrade networks during the pandemic.

— Silver lining: "The great American lockdown that put the economy on ice is fueling hopes of a 5G boom," John reports in a separate dispatch. "It's a bright spot for an otherwise cratering economy."

...Also on telehealth, payment processing startup Stripe is now set up to help telemedicine companies bill, co-founder John Collison tweeted, noting that it was "previously hard to get required approvals.""

And Kaiser Permanente is offering members free access to Livongo's behavioral health app myStrength, which is designed to improve users' sleep and mood, according to a Kaiser news release. The app now has new features for coronavirus and isolation.

POLAND'S QUARANTINE-ENFORCEMENT APP COULD BE A MODEL FOR OTHERS The government-backed app prompts users to upload selfies to pinpoint their locations, our POLITICO Europe colleagues Mark Scott and Zosia Wanat report. "With the death count increasing by the day, the digital tracker provides a possible playbook for other projects across the EU and the U.S. in the coming weeks," they write.

... Officials around the world are increasingly turning to online surveillance to track people's movements in real time, raising questions about privacy and when the tracking will be turned off.

“We need an independent state figure that’s not the government who can guarantee this data will eventually be deleted,” said Arnoldo Frigessi, a professor at the University of Oslo who’s helping the Norwegian government develop its own coronavirus app that is expected to be released in the coming weeks. “We need to ask the questions: When will this stop, and who will get to decide?”

ALL OF THE POINTS — The number of daily coronavirus-themed cyberattacks has climbed to as high as more than 5,000 in a day and are averaging 2,600 a day in the past two weeks, Check Point said in a report out this week. That's happening even amid an overall decline in the number of cyberattacks the company has seen since January, with Check Point tallying a 17 percent monthly drop.

Check Point also said the number of phishing attacks by websites posing as Netflix sites doubled, as business booms for the streaming service while the nation is in quarantine. On Wednesday, Proofpoint said it saw a rise in phishing attacks centered on offering financial relief during the pandemic.

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Names in the News

Jon Fleming, ONC's former deputy assistant secretary for health technology reform, will head up a new Congressional hotline set up by the White House, POLITICO's Healther Caygle and Jake Sherman report. ... Senate HELP's former deputy health policy director Brett Meeks has joined the Health Innovation Alliance as a senior policy advisor.

What We're Reading

The Washington Post's Drew Harwell has more about Zoom's security flaws.

Craig Settles describes remote patient monitoring opportunities in The Daily Yonder.

— Mount Sinai's new STOP COVID NYC app helps the health system monitor patients' symptoms, Mike Miliard writes for Healthcare IT News.