ELECTION STIRS UNCERTAINTY FOR HEALTH IT, HIPAA AUDITS

It’s been a week since the presidential election, and the health-care industry is facing a sea of uncertainty, largely over the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Adding to the uncertainty is the status of ongoing health-care information technology initiatives and HIPAA audits.

Harry Greenspun, chief medical officer and managing director at Korn Ferry in Washington, told me that while there’s fairly broad and bipartisan support for health-care IT, the future of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is cloudy. Greenspun said it’s too early to make predictions, but said the ONC’s role could be reduced and its staff scaled back. However, Greenspun also said he could envision additional ONC funding to help boost interoperability among providers.

Congress will continue to play a significant role in health IT next year, Greenspun said, especially the Senate's REBOOT Health IT group, which includes Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

Eric Fader, an attorney with Day Pitney LLP in New York, told me that the ongoing HIPAA audits may become victim to budgetary constraints as the Trump administration focuses on other key initiatives that are expensive to implement, such as large tax cuts and increased military spending.

“I think funding for more subtle things, that the general public probably doesn't notice or appreciate, is likely to be cut eventually, and I would include OCR audits on that list,” Fader said. The audits, conducted by the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, are intended to examine whether health-care organizations and their contractors are complying with federal HIPAA privacy and security requirements.

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