A year-long investigation by The Washington Post finds that healthcare is among the sectors most vulnerable to hackers because it lags other industries in fixing known security holes, quoting one expert who said, “If our financial industry regarded security the way the healthcare sector does, I would stuff my cash in a mattress under my bed.” A physician user of OpenEMR, which was called out in the article for its security vulnerabilities, left this comment:
I maintain OpenEMR under Linux at my wife’s medical clinic. Behind two firewalls, not accessible over the public internet. We considered WorldVista, but that is written in MUMPS, and requires Windows clients (not on our network). WorldVista is more suited to megapractices like the VA system it was written for. OpenEMR has many problems, but being open source, the problems are being found and fixed rapidly. Software developers are encouraged to join the effort to improve it. Other alternatives include hugely expensive systems like Epic (which infests most local hospitals) and various Web-based services moving information over the public Internet (dangerous!) That is how Epic works – and anyone with two login/passwords to a megahospital system can get access to hundreds of thousands of patient records. Scary, yes – but if more barriers are added, time is lost and PATIENTS WILL DIE.
HIStalk Announcements and Requests
I don’t need an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action, 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, but I could use some gifts that carry no danger of shooting my eye out: (a) sign up for spam-free e-mail updates, basking in the knowledge that doing to will make you eligible to vote in the upcoming HISsies awards; (b) support HIStalk’s sponsors by reviewing and possibly clicking their ads (now on your right), checking out their listings in the Resource Center, and using the couldn’t-be-easier Consulting RFI form to painlessly solicit consulting proposals; (c) connect our respective social ganglia on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn; and (d) slip us news and rumors via the methods listed under the “Report News and Rumors” box to your right, which includes a new option: call my Rumor Line at 801.HIT.NEWS and leave a message, which thanks to Google Voice will be transcribed and e-mailed to me along with the original recording.
It’s almost New Year’s, so I’m setting my priorities for 2013. I’m looking for HIStalk-related projects or activities that would be more personally satisfying and society-benefiting than just making money, which doesn’t interest me all that much (obviously, since I work for a non-profit hospital). Thoughts?
Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock
Awarepoint secures $4 million in new financing from an undisclosed investor.
McKesson says its $2.1 billion purchase of PSS World will be finalized in the first quarter.
The Oregon Community Health Information Network (OCHIN) names Scott Fields, MD (OHSU – above) CMO, Jonathan Merrell (Cherokee Nation Health Services) VP of performance improvement, Tim Burdick, MD (Fletcher Allen Health Care) CMIO, and D’Angela Merrell (US Public Health Service) clinical improvement professional.
Announcements and Implementations
HIEs Healthcare Access San Antonio and Integrated Care Collaboration begin sharing patient information.
Mercy McCune-Brooks Hospital (MO) goes live on Epic.
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance (TX), which opened as a new 50-bed hospital in September, earns HIMSS Analytics EMRAM Stage 7 recognition. I interviewed Winjie Tan Miao, the hospital’s president, two weeks ago.
The NJSHINE (NJ) HIE gets a $1 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Health to connect seven hospitals.
Consumer Reports rates the performance of 19 Wisconsin medical groups based on quality measurements for cancer screening, care of people age 60 and older, and treatment of patients with heart disease. ThedaCare Physicians and Marshfield Clinic earned the top spots.
The LSU hospital system notifies 416 patients that their information, including checking account numbers, has been stolen. A former billing department employee and six other people have been charged with identity theft after creating and passing counterfeit checks and ID cards from scanned check images stored in LSU’s computers.
Pittsburgh systems UPMC and West Penn Allegheny fight to acquire each other’s affiliated physician practices, leaving patients unaware of the change and sometimes forcing physicians to practice outside of Allegheny County beginning immediately without notifying their patients to satisfy non-compete clauses. The medical records stay with the practice, leaving the patient to figure out their options
University of Michigan Health System notifies 4,000 patients that their information may have been exposed in the theft of an unsecured PHI-containing electronic device from the car of an Omnicell employee.
Efforts by the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council to create Chicago-area HIE may fail as just 18 of 30 targeted health providers agree to join. Money is a sticking point, with some hospitals being asked to pay six-figure annual fees to participate. Health systems are also concerned with the uncertain value of the exchange, especially at a time many are investing heavily in their own IT systems.
A third of providers say they have experienced varying levels of payment delays during the HIPAA 5010 transition, with clearinghouses causing 52 percent of those delays, according to a KLAS report.
Hospital CFOs look ahead to 2013 with concern, worried about:
- The resources required to justify admissions
- Possible payment and cash flow problems due to Medicare changes
- Funding quality initiatives to support value-based payment systems
- The high cost, questionable return, and change involved with technology implementation
- Hiring more doctors
- Trying to scale physician compensation to what the practice actually produces
- Engaging physicians who practice only an outpatient setting
- Managing growth by acquisition
- Improving clinical documentation for patient safety and quality
A maternity hospital in a Nairobi, Kenya slum admits that it holds mothers of newborns as prisoners until they pay their hospital bills. The hospital is accused by one woman of having guards beat mothers who try to leave without paying. According to the hospital’s director, “We hold you and squeeze you until we get what we can get. We must be self-sufficient. The hospital must get money to pay electricity, to pay water. We must pay our doctors and our workers. They stay there until they pay. They must pay. If you don’t pay, the hospital will collapse.” The charge for a normal birth is $35, while a C-section runs $70 and the daily room charge is $5. A first-person report (from which the above photo came) is here.
- Vonlay offers tips on how to quickly recycle an IIS application pool in a blog pos.
- PeriGen hosts a Webcast on improving financial results in obstetrics January 16 and 30.
- Shareable Ink’s President Stephen Hau discusses mHealth applications and how they can liberate physicians and data in a guest article.
- Dennis Weissman, founder of Washington G-2 Reports, will deliver the keynote at the Lifepoint Informatics user conference Orlando March 21.
- Liaison Technologies offers a white paper discussing the use of cloud-based data integration to overcome interoperability challenges in health systems.
- API Healthcare executives participate in a giving back campaign.
- Business NH Magazine names Digital Prospectors Corp a top small company to work for in New Hampshire.
- Dave Caldwell of Certify Data Systems shares insights on the barriers and issues that need to be addressed in order for the healthcare industry to achieve widespread interoperability.
- Besler Consulting will participate in next month’s HFMA MA/RI Annual Revenue Cycle Conference in Foxborough, MA and the Region 11 Annual Healthcare Symposium in Las Vegas.
- Thomson Reuters includes 3M, AT&T, and Fujifilm on its list of the World’s Top 100 Most Innovative Organizations for 2012.
- Saint Luke’s Health System (MO) shares how Philips Healthcare Consulting helped the organization build an eHealth strategy of regional outreach and physician-to-physician relationships to drive growth.
- ZirMed releases its 2013 PQRS Suggested Measures and Monitoring tool.
EPtalk by Dr. Jayne
The use of Health Information Exchanges is one of my pet topics, particularly issues around governance. I’m happy to see ONC hosting one of their Town Hall meetings on the topic. It will be held on January 17, so there’s still plenty of time to sign up.
It’s always fun to get together with family over the winter holidays. This year’s hot topic among the Medicare set was the concept of Accountable Care Organizations. They wanted to know my opinion. Unfortunately, I had to give the answer of, “It depends.” Even though there are core principles for ACOs, there seem to be many different flavors out there.
Patients need to realize that a key driver of ACOs is slowing the growth of healthcare spending. Quality and meeting patient needs are also goals. For patients involved in ACOs that have a long history of managing quality and cost initiatives, there may not be much of a difference in care because referral relationships and practice patterns are already established. However, for health systems that have not been functioning in shared care models, there may be trouble ahead. There will be a significant learning curve for participating physicians and their care teams.
The subtleties of the ACO patient assignment regulations can cause situations where providers are ensnared by a single ACO. Patients also need to find out whether they will be able to continue to see all the providers from whom they receive care or whether they will have to change to specialists within the ACO. I also think it’s funny that when seniors are talking about ACOs and their benefits, they refer to the Affordable Care Act. When they’re talking about the negatives, they refer to Obamacare. They’re one and the same, folks.
With the holiday, it was a snow news week. Hopefully as people are trickling back into their offices things will pick up. In the mean time, please give your friends at HIStalk the best gift of all – send your rumors, newsy tidbits, and other reports our way.