Interesting Developments

The Walgreens pharmacy chain, in conjunction with its Take Care clinics, announced the launch of an “employer centric” pharmacy and health care service called Complete Care and Well Being. Walgreens describes the new service as “a new and unique approach to health care that brings together pharmacy, health and wellness services under a single program, with all prices transparent to the employer.”

HHS has unveiled a new version of its personal health record tool called My Family Health Portrait. The HHS press release explains that

Key features of the new version of the Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait include:

  • Convenience – Consumers can access the tool easily on the Web. Completing the family health history profile typically takes 15-20 minutes. Consumers should not have to keep filling out different health history forms for different practitioners. Information is easily updated or amended.
  • Consumer control and privacy – The family health history tool gives consumers access to software that builds a family health tree. But the personal information entered during the use of the tool is not kept by a government or other site. Consumers download their information to their own computer. From there, they have control over how the information is used.
  • Sharing – Because the information is in electronic form, it can be easily shared with relatives or with practitioners. Relatives can add to the information, and a special re-indexing feature helps relatives easily start their own history based on data in a history they received. Practitioners can help consumers understand and use their information.
  • EHR-ready, Decision support-ready – Because the new tool is based on commonly used standards, the information it generates is ready for use in electronic health records and personal health records. It can be used in developing clinical decision software, which helps the practitioner understand and make the most use of family health information.
  • Personalization of care – Family history information can help alert practitioners and patients to patient-specific susceptibilities.
  • Downloadable, customizable – The code for the new tool is openly available for others to adopt. Health organizations are invited to download and customize, using the tool under their own brand and adding features that serve their needs. Developers may also use the code to create new risk assessment software tools.

Finally, the AP reports that software glitches in the Veterans Affairs Department’s electronic medical records systems caused numerous treatment errors over the past four to five months. The VA has stated no patients were harmed. According to the AP report

“It’s very serious potentially,” said Dr. Jeffrey A. Linder, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who has studied electronic health systems. “There’s a lot of hype out there about electronic health records, that there is some unfettered good. It’s a big piece of the puzzle, but they’re not magic. There is also a potential for unintended consequences.”

Hey it’s my job as a lawyer to belabor the obvious!