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Morning Headlines 5/24/16

May 23, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Q&A: Meditech founder Pappalardo says invention was ‘my overall destiny’

Neil Pappalardo, Meditech founder and lead creator of the MUMPS programming language, discusses his early life, his recent health, and his plans for the future of the company in a Modern Healthcare interview.

Making the Comprehensive Shared Care Plan a Reality

Leaders from HHS co-author a New England Journal of Medicine article calling for the use of shared care plans to improve care coordination.

MGH to build Down syndrome portal

Massachusetts General Hospital will launch a “virtual clinic” to improve care for people with Down syndrome that do not have access to local specialists.

San Juan County warns of data breach

San Juan County (NM) warns patients being treated in its drug and alcohol treatment program that 12,000 records were compromised when hackers accessed a computer at the treatment center.

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May 23, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 5/23/16

May 23, 2016 Dr. Jayne 6 Comments

I’m working with a client who hired my partner and me to do a complete review of their practice operations and both financial and clinical workflows. Initially, they had requested us for a system selection engagement since they were ready to jettison their vendor and look for greener pastures.

Since I’ve worked with this particular vendor multiple times, I strongly suspected that the problem wasn’t with the system at all, but with how it had been implemented and was being used. The client has been on the system for a long time and I suspected they hadn’t been keeping up with newer releases, or if they had, that they hadn’t been adopting new features and incorporating them in their workflows.

They understood that paying us for a thorough review and potentially executing a remediation plan would definitely be more economical than completely throwing out the system. My partner started digging through their financial workflows a couple of weeks ago and we didn’t find anything too surprising there.

The practice is a group of procedure-driven subspecialists. In our experience, those groups tend to be fairly strong at maximizing their financial returns. We found some opportunities as far as them not using some of the automation available in their system. Although it may save them a couple of staffing FTEs, in a group their size, it wasn’t truly earth-shaking. If we had to give them a grade on how well they’re using the system and keeping up with the times, we’d give them a solid B+.

The clinical team’s use of the system was something else entirely. As we worked through their clinical workflows, it was apparent that they hadn’t taken advantage of many of the system upgrades that had occurred since their initial go-live more than five years ago. Once we review the user workflows, we typically meet with the physician champion or super users to determine whether they are aware of new workflows and made a conscious decision not to use them or whether they were not aware of the best practices. We try to avoid having these conversations with end users because they become frustrated when they learn that there were enhancements that could have helped them and their practice didn’t implement them for one reason or another.

The group has had a fair amount of turnover with regard to EHR super users, although the same EHR lead has been present since system selection. With every feature we discussed, her answer was, “Nobody told me about this” despite the vendor offering free Web-based training every time a system upgrade was available.

The physician champion just wanted to argue about how poor the system was and how they were going to replace it anyway rather than wanting to learn about the features that would eliminate their pain points. He clearly was not on board with the practice’s executive committee decision to bring us in to try to fix the current system rather than chuck it.

We also found that essentially they had been doing what needed to be done to get their Meaningful Use incentive payments, but hadn’t at all embraced the clinical realities of the metrics they met. For example, they made sure that every patient had an entry on his or her problem list, but the lists were not up to date; nor was there any policy or procedure in place to cover how often they should be updated or by whom. As far as they were concerned, since their vendor provided documentation that the problem list was “in use,” that’s all they needed.

One of the providers I interviewed told me that he didn’t put any problems on the patient’s list that he didn’t personally treat. This is the classic view of the problem list as “the physician’s problem list” rather than “the patient’s problem list.” I tried to have a conversation with him about the goals of Meaningful Use in providing more comprehensive records for patients, making it easier for practices to integrate data, the evolution of patient-driven medicine, etc. but he was having none of it.

He mentioned that his job was to take care of patients and made statements that sounded an awful lot like he felt he was above making sure he was aware of all the different problems impacting the patient. I tried to use logic with him, noting that although he doesn’t manage a patient’s hypertension or diabetes, they’re certainly important factors to consider prior to putting the patient on an operating table.

I also demonstrated his system’s functionality to filter the problem list by sorting the problems that are attributed to him to the top of the list, but he continued to push back. Although he seemed to agree in principle, he wouldn’t arrive at the point where he admitted that he (or his staff) should be keeping an updated problem list.

Having tried the “it’s good clinical care” angle and failed, I decided to press a little more on the MU aspect. I asked how he felt about the fact that he accepted federal incentive payments for doing something that he clearly wasn’t doing.

Mind you, I had no problems pressing this guy because he’s taking home more than half a million dollars a year. He’s also pontificating about being there to care for the patient, but refusing to do the basics. I tend to get a little aggravated with people like this, having come from the primary care trenches where many of my peers were working long hours updating charts to provide complete and accurate data for their patients (simply because it is the right thing to do) while making 70 percent less money than this guy.

He rationalized his actions (or lack thereof) by saying that the EHR vendor provided documentation that he met the performance threshold. I explained that the reports deal with the fact that the problem list contains data, not that anyone is actually working with it or keeping it current. Ultimately the physician is responsible when someone attests on his behalf that he has done something that he clearly hasn’t.

Although this guy may be a technically brilliant surgeon, I’m not impressed with his professional ethics. When I told this story to a friend, he assumed the surgeon in question was older and had been trained in a more paternalistic model. This physician finished his training within the last decade, so I’m not buying that excuse.

Medical schools are doing a lot of work trying to shift physician culture and educate in the benefits of patient-centric care. Regardless of whether you use an EHR to document your work or not, we need to be doing things differently and this guy clearly doesn’t get it.

Still, as one of the highest-compensated physicians in his region, he’s being rewarded because we still value procedures over cognitive skills. Ultimately the drive towards value-based care should help with some of this, but I don’t think I’m going to see the change in my career lifetime.

Is it just me, or are there still a lot of physicians like this out there? Do you have to deal with them? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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May 23, 2016 Dr. Jayne 6 Comments

HIStalk Interviews Peter Butler, CEO, Hayes Management Consulting

May 23, 2016 Interviews 2 Comments

Peter Butler is president and CEO of Hayes Management Consulting of Newton Center, MA.


Tell me about yourself and the company.

I’ve been with Hayes for 22 years. I’ve been running the company since 2007. From a company milestone standpoint, at the end of 2015, we did a management-led buyout and bought Paul Hayes, our founder, out of the company so he could go off into retirement and enjoy the fruits of his work. We’re excited to continue carrying on the legacy.

Hayes started as a consulting company. We started in revenue cycle management and optimization. We grew from there into clinical optimization, always with an IT component, but also the business of delivering care and operating a business. That’s where we got our grounding.

We got into the software business in 2006. We have a software solution that we call MDaudit to help billing compliance managers run their business more efficiently and identify risk areas for their organization.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a given company does true consulting versus providing staffing services. Is that ratio changing in the industry in general?

We’ve seen over the last several years firms that started as consulting firms have become staff augmentation firms, mostly around Epic implementation services. There’s just been so much demand in the industry. Those services have been commoditized over the years.

There’s still a need for consulting firms. Where I see the differentiation is where people can come in and do interim leadership, management, business process change on those levels, coupled with the IT implementations as well.

How does a company grow from just letting their individual warm bodies wing it versus developing mature, repeatable processes?

From repeat types of projects or very similar projects, you develop a methodology that’s  packageable. You can replay that and bring in along with it best practices. What the client is getting is for that targeted effort — whatever that might be, a revenue cycle improvement project — here are the top six steps that we follow and it’s a methodology. Sometimes it’s not a software solution or something that’s easily demoable, but it is a methodology that could be followed.

For example, bringing in key leadership stakeholders, interviewing at that level, understanding what they have a need for, and then dropping down a level into the management level and saying, "What are you really executing in the delivery of your business?" Then looking further, you get into the IT side of things and have a certain methodology there as well that you’re looking for these top 25 items. You put that together in one methodology and you can make some improvement.

Is it easier or harder to recruit people into consulting compared to two or three years ago?

It hasn’t been harder. We tend to see a lot of people who are later in their careers who want to get into consulting if they haven’t been there previously. For them, it’s the thrill of a new project and not being tethered to the politics of any one organization. They also have to have a pretty strong willingness and interest in travel.

For us, it’s been fairly easy to recruit people that are interested in making a difference one project at a time. We haven’t see many people pulling back from the consulting ranks from the types of projects that we’re hiring into.

How important is developing relationships with prospects or current customers?

It’s absolutely critical. I was under the misunderstanding when I solicited Paul Hayes and said, "Can I go out to the West Coast? I’d really like to live out there first of all, but I think there’s some business opportunity.” I thought it would be a matter of setting up a shingle and publishing a phone number on a website.

What I found was a lot of hard work over the next couple of years being a face of an organization, meeting a lot of people, and seeing them on a regular basis at industry conferences or speaking at industry conferences to the point where they knew you and knew what you were capable of and could trust you enough to ask questions. It took awhile to get to that point because, typically, people are very defensive of a new face or new player. Being able to build up that trust  opened up a lot of doors through many many conversations.

What makes someone decide to hire a new firm instead of continuing working with their current one?

You’re really only as good as your last project. Typically, firms will get replaced if they if they stub their toe. The client will cut you some slack if you put a resource if it’s not quite a good cultural fit. They’ll give you an opportunity to replace that person. If you have a couple of events like that, they start to lose confidence in you. Or if you’re asked to present before their board and you’re not prepared enough, or you don’t understand the politics in the room when you walk in, you can really stub your toe there.

Those provide opportunities for firms like us to get an opportunity to, “Give me a shot — I think we can make this right.” Then, you just got to put on your A game.

Can you usually tell ahead of time when a consultant or engagement is having problems?

We try as hard as we can. One of the best ways to do that is a regular touch point with the client. We’re checking in and you’ll hear, "Hey, everything’s going great. Everything’s going great." On a regular tempo, as you’re checking in, you might start to hear, "This meeting didn’t go as well as we thought it would." You make some changes and identify potentially what the reasons were and address it early and often. That’s key to managing client expectation and the way the consultant is presenting themselves.

What are the biggest changes that have occurred in consulting in the last few years?

There’s an incredible amount of anxiety in the industry and attention to detail around expense management and revenue. As we know, there’s a razor-thin line on the healthcare bottom line. That’s only getting tighter. We’re seeing an increased level of need or concern around, “Are we getting every dollar we possibly can? Are we leaving anything on the table? What tools can we employ to help us run our business more efficiently? What reporting functions can I get, dashboards or analytics, that will help us identify risk areas before they become problems?”

What does MDAudit do?

When it first launched, it was really a work flow improvement tool. Clients were using spreadsheets and so forth, a very manual process for conducting physician audits and identifying physicians on a manual basis with no audit. Where are they improperly coding? Where are we as an organization at risk for fraudulent billing?

What it’s morphed into in the last couple of years is, as organizations are buying up practices and adding physicians at a very rapid clip, they’re going out and auditing those physicians — usually after they’re bought — and identifying risk areas and then providing educational opportunities to those physicians to fine tune their coding practices.

What we’re seeing now as a trend is more risk-based audits. Rather than looking at every individual physician, it’s looking at what the RAC auditors are looking for in the current coming year.

There’s a whole list of other auditors who are coming knocking and looking for improper billing practices. Where is my organization most at risk? Seeing that on the dashboard, and being able to drill in and say, the greatest risk is coming from this particular department or these physicians. Let’s go target a training effort there to get them coding properly so we can mitigate that risk and move on. We also see that as an important area with the new billing regulations that are coming out and the diminished need for fee-for-service type billing and being able to run a proactive effort as you’re managing physician billing and facility billing.

How will MACRA impact the industry?

It’s going to be a huge burden to the industry. I feel for the physicians, as Dr. John Halamka mentioned in his blog. It’s going to be difficult to manage. It’s very onerous. But it’s a necessary direction that we need to go as an industry. The larger organizations should be able to deploy the resources around helping position the organization and physician billing appropriately to manage against those metrics. It’s the smaller practices that are going to struggle in meeting the requirements.

Do you have any final thoughts?

It’s an exciting time in the industry. I know it’s painful for many clinicians and physicians. There’s so much work that needs to be done and so much modernization. I look forward to the next 10 years working in this industry and helping our clients to migrate and manage through the process of transitioning from fee-for-service into more of a value-based delivery system. As a patient, I’m really looking forward to that.

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May 23, 2016 Interviews 2 Comments

Morning Headlines 5/23/16

May 22, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Hackers demand ransom payment from Kansas Heart Hospital for files

Kansas Heart Hospital (KS) pays hackers an undisclosed sum to restore access to its system after being hit with a ransomeware attack only to have hackers refuse to restore access and demand even more money.

Hospital Uses Fake Phishing Emails in Security Training; Will Move to Gamification

Administrators at  Lawrence General Hospital (MA) are testing network security by sending phony phishing scam emails to employees to see how often the embedded links are clicked.

athenahealth Appoints New CFO

Athenahealth promotes Karl Stubelis to CFO, replacing outgoing Kristi Matus, who has decided to leave the company effective May 31.

St. Luke’s Epic Electronic Medical Record Implementation is a Success

St. Lukes University Health Network (PA) goes live on Epic across its six hospitals without incident.

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May 22, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Monday Morning Update 5/23/16

May 22, 2016 News 4 Comments

Top News


Kansas Heart Hospital (KS) is hit with ransomware,  pays the ransom that it calls a “small amount,” and is still denied access to unspecified systems when the hackers demand further payments. The hospital says it won’t pay again.

The hospital didn’t announce which systems were affected or whether they have been restored, only saying that patient information wasn’t placed at risk.

Reader Comments

From Danbury Whaler: “Re: Western Connecticut Health Network. Laying off significant management, including the president. They blame it on state funding declines. IMO, they are way over budget in the construction of a new building and way over budget in IT.” EVP Dan DeBarba just resigned from the three-hospital network, which confirms that it has laid off several managers because of the $1 million it had to pay in a newly implemented state tax on non-profit hospitals. The system chose Cerner in September 2015.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


The vast majority of poll respondents would recommend their most recently experienced hospital or practice. New poll to your right or here: what part of your medical record would you be most upset to have exposed in a breach?

I was looking back through my old polls to see what topics were hot long ago. These caught my eye:

  • NAHIT paid consultants to define five common acronyms such as EMR and RHIO, saying consensus will increase HIT adoption. Do you agree? (May 2008 — 86 percent said no.)
  • The HIMSS “Taking HIT to the Streets” program will pay attendees to attend EHR vendor demos. Is that an acceptable practice? (November 2009 – 80 percent said no).
  • What impact will the iPad have on healthcare? (April 2010 — 42 percent said little or none, 29 percent said some, 29 percent said a good bit).
  • What’s the best way to encourage better usability? (May 2010 — it was an even division among just letting the market decide, adding usability criteria to EHR certification, having an independent organization rank and announce usability test results, and educating providers better).
  • What credential earns the title of “informaticist?” (November 2010 — 35 percent said a clinical degree plus work experience, 22 percent said clinical degree plus certification, 23 percent said non-clinical experience, and 20 percent said a graduate degree in informatics).
  • Will state HIEs be viable once they’ve spent their stimulus money? (July 2010 — 81 percent said no).
  • Do KLAS ratings accurately represent product performance? (September 2010 — 61 percent said no).
  • What will HITECH’s legacy be? (July 2011 — 42 percent said increased EHR adoption, while 31 percent said waste of taxpayer money).
  • Are Regional Extension Centers worth the $650 million taxpayers are paying for them? (November 2011 — 84 percent said no).
  • Do you agree with Neal Patterson that Cerner and Epic will be the only surviving hospital information system vendors? (May 2012 — 75 percent said no).

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Ms. Hayes in North Carolina says students in her STEM-focused high school are using the six 3D puzzles we provided in funding her DonorsChoose grant request to work as teams and have fun learning about engineering and history.

Last Week’s Most Interesting News

  • Theranos admits that the results of all of the lab tests it ran on its proprietary Edison analyzer in 2014-2015 are unreliable.
  • The VA says its new Web front end for VistA will be rolled out by the end of summer.
  • Two Missouri HIEs continue their bickering and political maneuvering.
  • John Halamka clarifies his MACRA thinking in suggesting that HHS pare the program down to focusing on just three specialty-specific outcomes at a time, also recommending that EHR certification be stripped down to include only the interoperability required for basic care coordination.


None scheduled soon. Contact Lorre for webinar services. Past webinars are on our HIStalk webinars YouTube channel.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


My Coverage Plan Inc., a Madison, WI-based for-profit subsidiary of a non-profit public interest law firm, is awarded a five-year, $1.6 million NIH grant to develop software to train hospitals to determine patient eligibility for public health programs. The company also sells a patented decision support software that helps hospital financial counselors qualify patients for Medicaid and other programs.


Cambia Health Solutions-owned diagnostic software vendor Enigma Health apparently shuts down. Another Cambia investment, point-of-service patient technology vendor Wellero, closed in January.

The year-old health Internet subsidiary of China-based insurer Ping An Group raises $500 million in Series A funding, valuing the company at $3 billion.The  Ping An Good Doctor app offers video visits, appointment scheduling, disease management, sale of over-the counter medications and medical devices, and insurance coordination. It claims 77 million registered users and up to 250,000 daily consultations.



UConn Health (CT) hires Dirk Stanley, MD, MPH (Cooley Dickinson Hospital) to the newly created position of CMIO, where he will help lead its Epic implementation. 

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Athenahealth promotes Karl Stubelis to SVP/CFO following the resignation of Chief Financial and Administrative Kristi Matus, who had held the position for less than two years. The company says she’s leaving because her job will be split into the CFO position and an SVP of talent and culture, for which a search has been initiated. Jonathan Bush seemed nervously defensive and uncharacteristically inarticulate on the call announcing the change, sounding like he’s imitating other companies in trying to aggressively manage company culture, hiring consultants and placing great value on what he heard at Microsoft’s CEO conference as Athenahealth nears its goal of $1 billion in annual revenue. He mentioned several times that things change at that $1 billion mark and he seemed worried about employee comments left on GlassDoor.

Announcements and Implementations


Six-hospital St. Luke’s University Health Network (PA) says its January 2016 Epic go-live was a success, giving a nod to VP/CIO Chad Brisendine. The health system will go live on Epic ambulatory by January 2018.

Government and Politics


The ACLU files an OCR HIPAA complaint against genetic testing company Myriad Genetics, claiming the company denied  four consumers access to their full genetic test results. Myriad released the information to the consumers as soon as the ACLU announced a press conference about their complaints. HHS regulations give individuals a right to receive the full genetic test results, not just those genetic characteristics known to be associated with disease. Myriad says it didn’t know about the regulation since it was announced only in an HHS blog post that clarified provider responsibilities for information release under HIPAA. One of the consumers wants to donate her genetic information to the NIH-run ClinVar research database, but Myriad won’t submit its breast cancer genetic information to ClinVar even though other testing companies do so.

Privacy and Security

Lawrence General Hospital (MA) tests employees by sending faux phishing emails with subject lines like “Prince’s last words on video” and “Banking statement: your transaction failed” to see how many employees click the link. The hospital publishes the number of links clicks and disciplines employees who open three or more attachments.

Innovation and Research

An Israel-based startup is working on eyeglasses that work like smartphone cameras in focusing on whatever the wearer is looking at, potentially eliminating the need for vision testing and having new glasses made to deal with age-related nearsightedness.



Microsoft releases Skype for Business App SDK Preview, which allows iOS and Android developers to add instant messaging, audio, and video to their apps. Virtual visit company MDLive is using it.



A local TV station reports that Effingham Health System (GA) has fired CIO Mary Pizzino as the 25-bed critical access hospital converts to non-profit.

The CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (NC) steps down to become executive director of the hospital’s venture arm, where he will focus on commercializing healthcare technologies that include analytics and digital health.

Vince and Elise post their Physician Practice Vendor Review, which he notes with amusement is often called “ambulatory.” Technically, that would mean that those patients arriving at an ambulatory care center in a wheelchair should not be allowed in since they are not in fact ambulant. The word “ambulance” is a variant, although it refers to the ambulating horses that pulled medical wagons in 1800s France. One might also quibble with the word “clinic,” which originally defined doctors who visited patients at their location rather than the modern-day opposite where the sick person is expected to make their way to where the doctor is sitting.

Sponsor Updates

  • T-System will exhibit at the 2016 PHIMA Annual Meeting May 23-25 in Lancaster, PA.
  • Validic will present at the Digital Health Summer Summit June 7 in San Francisco.
  • Vital Images will exhibit at the HIMSS Minnesota Spring Conference May 24 in Plymouth.
  • Hamad Medical will showcase Zynx Health at the Cerner Middle East Regional User Group May 31 in Dubai.
  • Experian Health, PatientMatters, and The SSI Group will exhibit at the NAHAM Annual Conference May 24-27 in New Orleans.
  • PeriGen offers an update on its go live at Oschner Baptist (LA).
  • Streamline Health will exhibit at the 2016 HFMA Western Michigan Spring Institute May 23-25 in Mt. Pleasant.
  • Sunquest Information Systems will exhibit at the Pathology Informatics Summit 2016 May 23-26 in Pittsburgh.

Blog Posts


Mr. H, Lorre, Jennifer, Dr. Jayne, Lt. Dan.
More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.
Get HIStalk updates.
Send news or rumors.
Contact us.


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May 22, 2016 News 4 Comments

Morning Headlines 5/20/16

May 19, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Theranos throws out all Edison blood test results from 2014 and 2015

Theranos issues tens of thousands of corrected lab test results from samples processed on its proprietary Edison analyzer between 2014 and 2015.

#FHIR and the Gartner Hype Cycle

Grahame Grieve, architect of HL7’s FHIR protocol, says that FHIR is being overhyped and denounces the idea that FHIR will solve interoperability.

ITelagen Acquires Planet Logic to Provide World-Class Cloud Hosting Solutions

ITelagen, an EHR hosting and support vendor, acquires competitor Planet Logic.

Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust appoint Cerner as preferred supplier for major Electronic Patient Record programme

In England, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust chooses Cerner Millennium.

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May 19, 2016 Headlines No Comments

News 5/20/16

May 19, 2016 News 1 Comment

Top News


Theranos cancels or corrects the results of tens of thousands of lab tests it ran in 2014-2015 on its proprietary Edison analyzer. Basically, the company says none of those results can be trusted even though the medical decisions made from them have long since happened.

One doctor who sent a patient to the ED in 2014 because of abnormal lab results recently received a revised report in which the corrected results were actually normal. In addition, an insider says Theranos regularly reported inaccurate coagulation results because it incorrectly programmed its Siemens analyzer.

This admission by Theranos is ample cause for the company’s doors to close even before CMS metes out its likely punishment. The privately held (and therefore minimally transparent) company hyped its technology without medical evidence; claimed as its niche a questionably advantageous (except in pretending to be a high-multiple technology company) finger-stick sampling method that turned out not to work; loaded its board and management team with people who know nothing about healthcare; expended extraordinary effort to avoid participating in the mainstream medical community; advocated that consumers order their own lab tests even though the clinical and financial impact of that practice has not been studied; and now admits to a remarkable level of incompetence in not even being able to correctly program another company’s analyzer. Selling cheaper lab tests isn’t much of a draw (no pun intended) if the results are untrustworthy. Theranos needs to give back the tiny bit of volume it took from Quest and LabCorp and find something less critical for its college dropout founder to pursue while waiting for the inevitable patient class action lawsuits to gather steam.

Reader Comments

From Damascus Sword: “Re: MD Anderson. Encore did the selection, Santa Rosa did the go-live, but whoever ran the implementation (Deloitte, I think) would have been paid fees far exceeding the other two.” Unverified.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

I’ve figured out how to filter out the 99 percent of political “news” (especially of the emotional Facebook and Twitter variety) that is really just zealots spewing intolerant invective: skip anything that uses a carefully chosen unflattering photo of a political figure or that refers to that person by last name only. I apply similar criteria for scientific or technical articles in which the author pretends to be informative while actually editorializing – I move on immediately if I see the words “fortunately” or “unfortunately.”

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Mrs. Boyd says students in her North Carolina class have “taken ownership of their learning and celebrate each other’s success” by using the two Osmo gaming systems we provided in funding her DonorsChoose grant request. Most interesting to me is that she reports — as have other teachers for whom we have provided group learning technology – that it has brought some shy students out of their comfort zone as they participate more actively, which will probably benefit them long after they’ve forgotten the specific lessons.

This week on HIStalk Practice: Keizer Solutions acquires Colonial Valley Software. PatientPop raises a $20 million Series A. The Midwest Independent Physicians Practice Association gets into telemedicine. The Center for Rheumatology’s expansion strategy highlights the tough choices physicians must make to remain independent. Medical Association of Georgia plans to launch private HIE. Consortium of Independent Physician Associations opens for business in Ohio. CityMD CMO David Shih, MD shares the challenges urgent care facilities face when it comes to adopting healthcare IT.


None scheduled soon. Contact Lorre for webinar services. Past webinars are on our HIStalk webinars YouTube channel.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


EHR hosting and support vendor ITelagen acquires competitor Planet Logic.

Onex Corp. again places medical imaging vendor Carestream Health on the market, considering separating its medical imaging and dental imaging business in raising up to $3 billion. The buyout firm acquired Eastman Kodak’s healthcare business for $2.35 billion in 2007 and failed to attract a buyer in 2013 at the $3.5 billion price it sought. The company made $360 million EBIDTA on revenue of $2.1 billion in 2015.

Quality Systems (NextGen) reports Q4 results: revenue flat, adjusted EPS $0.19 vs. $0.21, meeting revenue expectations and beating on earnings. 



England’s Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust chooses Cerner pending financial approval.


Lake Health (OH) chooses Cerner Millennium and HealthIntent, replacing Soarian.


Houston Methodist (TX) selects Phynd to manage and share the data of its 21,000 providers.

Decatur Morgan Hospital (AL) chooses InfoPartners for its Meditech 6.0 to 6.1 upgrade.



Stratus Video hires Brad Blakey (CareCloud) as VP of sales and marketing.

Announcements and Implementations

SAP announces its Connected Health ecosystem and its most recently announced partners CancerLinQ, Castlight Health, and Dharma Platform.


Health IT startup Vericred announces availability of API-driven drug formulary datasets for health plans in all 50 states. The API returns information on drug formulary tiers, prior authorization, step therapies, and quantity limits.

InterSystems releases its TrakCare Enterprise laboratory business management system, with initial implementation in two NHS trusts.

Government and Politics

CHIME and the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Security send comments to a Senate hearing on ransomware, suggesting that Congress remove the HHS restriction on pursuing a national patient identifier (which it says will make health records less attractive to hackers since they won’t have otherwise identifiable information such as SSN) and to “encourage investment through positive incentives for those who demonstrate a minimum level of cyberattack readiness and mature information risk management programs.” I can’t imagine any industry other than healthcare that could keep a straight face while asking Congress to pay its members for keeping their own business information secure.

Privacy and Security


A hacker claiming to be part of the Anonymous group leaks a database from two hospitals in Turkey in retaliation for a previously rumored Turkish hacker’s attack on two US hospitals. Anonymous denies any involvement.


The hackers behind the TeslaCrypt ransomware sunset their product and post the master decryption key on their support site.


UC Irvine’s medical school posts a video showing the use of smartphone-powered digital health technologies. 


FHIR architect Grahame Grieve says FHIR is being hyped as the solution for interoperability, adding that groups like HL7 can’t impose prescriptive information models or force vendors and providers to standardize processes – it can only provide a common way for them to do it if they’re so inclined. He adds that conforming to FHIR doesn’t accomplish anything unless it’s supported by cultural changes. 


A prenatal imaging clinic in Canada blames a computer virus after it gives a dozen parents-to-be identical ultrasound images that also match the sample image featured on the company’s website.


Australian Computer Society profiles the year-old, non-profit CancerLinQ, an American Society of Clinical Oncology project that is analyzing the information of 1 million US cancer patients to identify treatment patterns and to allow doctors to search symptoms and treatments. Its CEO says that only three percent of cancer patients qualify for clinical trials, but the automated collection of EHR information for the other 97 percent creates a rapid learning system in which any doctor who contributes de-identified information can use the entire database.


Weird News Andy sings happily along to his just-created TV jingle, “Cleaner, Fresher, Softer Arteries!” Scientists find that a sugar that’s the active ingredient in the Febreze air freshener can remove plaque from hardened arteries. WNA cynically notes that the article’s last line should really be its first – the sugar can’t be patented, so drug companies aren’t interested in sponsoring the clinical trials that would allow it to reach the human market.

Sponsor Updates

  • Valence Health opens registration for its Further 2016 value-based care conference September 14-16 in Chicago. 
  • HDS will exhibit at the Cerner Great Lakes RUG May 31 – June 2 in Chicago.
  • Influence Health will exhibit at the Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit May 23-25 in Chicago.
  • InterSystems will exhibit at the Midas+/Xerox Annual Symposium May 23-25 in Tucson, AZ.
  • National Decision Support Company adds support for ACR’s Radiology-TEACHES and R-SCAN initiatives to its platform.
  • Frost & Sullivan recognizes Intelligent Medical Object’s medical terminology platform for enabling the clearest patient narrative.
  • LiveProcess will exhibit at the Mississippi Preparedness Summit May 24-26 in Biloxi, MS.
  • Obix Perinatal Data System will exhibit at the HIMSS Northern Ohio Trade Faire & Conference May 26 in Cleveland.

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May 19, 2016 News 1 Comment

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 5/19/16

May 19, 2016 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment

The week has been chock full of stories that unfortunately I can’t even remotely write about. Although some of my experiences are universal and could happen almost anywhere, sometimes I run into situations that I can’t imagine happen more than once. I’m pretty good about writing them down, though, in the hopes that I can change them up a little bit and use them in the future.

If nothing else, this week I have gotten a lot of practice in trying to maintain my composure when I literally wanted to laugh out loud. I’ve also made good use of my skills in talking executives off the proverbial ledge when they’re ready to jettison staffers, building hope that with hard work and thorough follow-up, we can turn things around and prevent further casualties.

One thing I can talk about is my work with customers who want to work on population health projects. The first thing I do is a run a working session called “What is Population Health” that forces the organization’s leaders to come to terms with the fact that it’s often ill-defined, and even more so given the fact that everyone around their table has a different idea of what they think they need.

Plenty of people still think they’re going to be able to buy a single technology solution that’s going to deploy itself with minimal input. These are the folks that also think that these are IT projects rather than clinical and operational ones, and who are generally surprised when I explain that it’s going to take a village to get them done and that no one is going to be allowed to abdicate their responsibilities.

My clients often complain about their software vendors, demanding more bells and whistles than what exists in current general release versions. In my experience, many customers are using only a fraction of the tools they’ve already got, and sometimes the continued banter about future content is just an excuse to avoid dealing with current-state problems.

One of my clients had been fighting with a vendor about their ability to create complex reports to identify certain sub-populations of patients. In reality, the client wasn’t ready to handle even the simplest of population health work flows and refused to admit it. They need to spend a lot more time looking at their staffing and deciding who they want to be as a practice before they start outreach and disease management programs. For starters, they have to deal with their six-month appointment backlog and their insane phone volumes. Until they address those issues, they can’t handle more patient visit volume or consider offering non-face-to-face visits.

I love a good challenge, and the groups I’m working with right now are unlikely to disappoint. Although they require the kind of long-term consulting that’s going to need not only my partner and me but some contractors to execute, some of the help they need is of a more routine nature. I’m never surprised by how many organizations lack the basics, such as communication plans, service level expectation agreements, and other types of policy and procedure documentation.

There are different ways to approach dysfunctional organizations. Sometimes it needs to be done from the top down, sometimes from the bottom up, and sometimes you just want to implode the whole thing and start from scratch. Figuring out the best way to approach it given an organization’s culture and leadership is sometimes more of an art than a science and sometimes it’s frankly voodoo.


The week has also been full of non-work laughs, with the best occurring at my home airport, recently made infamous by a viral video about their TSA lines. Fortunately, I had TSA PreCheck, so I was in a shorter (yet still long) line when my companion and I observed a woman with a hula hoop trying to cut the line. She started all the way at the back of the regular line and just kept working her way past passengers until she got to the first airport employee who was sorting the PreCheck passengers from those with regular clearance. She was slurring her speech, explaining that she was going to miss her flight and that she needed to get to the front of the line with her friends. Although the agent stalled her for a bit, eventually she was let through.

By now plenty of people were watching the spectacle from all four or five lines that were snaking their way towards the actual TSA agents. She was just shoving past people by this point, with no one stopping her. Whether they were worried about getting into a confrontation with someone who was possibly impaired or disturbed or something else, most of them stepped aside as she pushed past, thumping passenger after passenger with her hula hoop slung over her shoulder. Most of us in the PreCheck line were waiting for TSA to send her packing, but were surprised that they let her through.

This circus was a stark contrast to my experience at another airport recently, where my friend was forced to check her bag because it was slightly non-rectangular, having been crushed on an earlier flight to the point where it exceeded the bag-sizer’s dimensions by half an inch due to its skewed shape. At that airport, they were examining bags before people were allowed in the security line, vs. my recent experience where the hula hoop was allowed through. I’m pretty sure a hula hoop fits neither in the overhead compartment nor under the seat in front of you, so I wonder what they did with it on the flight.

Regardless, it was good to have some diversion before I boarded a flight where I knew I’d be immersed in the exciting world of QRUR reports, which require a 20-page document to explain their contents. I envy the travelers that board with a stack of magazines or their headphones and eye mask. Those magical minutes during takeoff, taxi, and landing before I can fire up my laptop and get to work are always good times to reflect on the week ahead or behind, depending on which way I’m heading.

I chuckled to myself as I thought of one client leader who still can’t figure out how to pronounce my name despite multiple onsite visits. One of his colleagues told me they play a behind-the-scenes game to see how he’ll mangle it next. Someday I’m going to write a book, and it’s going to center around the fact that you can’t make this stuff up.

What are the craziest things you encounter during your work day? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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May 19, 2016 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment

Morning Headlines 5/19/16

May 18, 2016 Headlines 2 Comments

Statement from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Security

In a letter to the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, CHIME addresses the threat cyberattacks pose to healthcare organizations, saying “. Even the largest healthcare delivery organizations, with the greatest investment in security programs, may still fall victim to bad actors as we have seen with some of the largest retail organizations, financial institutions and even the federal government suffering large-scale breaches.”

Rating hospitals by the stars: The feds’ latest plan to measure quality is the most controversial

The Washington Post outlines the industry concerns that led to CMS delaying the implementation of its new star rating system for hospitals.

Obamacare Rates Rise in New York, and So Does Political Risk

Insurers in New York are requesting premium increases averaging 17 percent in New York. Alan Murray, CEO of New York insurer CareConnect, says, “If these requests aren’t approved, you are going to see more carriers leaving the market.”

ER docs sue HHS over out-of-network payments

The American College of Emergency Physicians is suing HHS over a provision of ACA that allows insurers to underpay for out-of-network emergency medical services.

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May 18, 2016 Headlines 2 Comments

GE Healthcare Announces Project Northstar

May 18, 2016 Interviews 9 Comments


GE Healthcare announced this morning at its Centricity Live 2016 user conference in Phoenix, AZ its next-generation IT solution for ambulatory care delivery. I spoke with GE Healthcare IT VP/GM Jon Zimmerman of the company’s value-based care solutions team ahead of the announcement.

Describe Project Northstar that is being announced.

Project Northstar is GE Healthcare’s next-generation IT solution for ambulatory care delivery to fundamentally help practices thrive in the world of value-based care. We strongly believe that the move to value-based care is on. It’s not going to be a light switch. It will be a transition over time.

We also see that the tools and services that have been built around population health have not been integrated with care delivery from a community perspective. It’s certainly not completely integrated with revenue cycle management with both value and volume in mind. Payers are changing, too, so there’s new payer connectivity required.

We’re taking a point of view from a physician’s workflow and driving population health integrated with care delivery, integrated with revenue-cycle management both value and volume, with new forms of payer connectivity to take waste out of the system. Our drive is to increase quality, efficiency, and financial performance for customers.

Is this a standalone product or is it just for Centricity users? Who is the target customer?

The audience starts with GE Centricity Practice Solutions / GE Centricity EMR first, but we built it with open principles. We believe that some of the advanced ACOs may want to take some of the capabilities that we’re offering and also make them useful and integrated on top of other EMRs.

Is it an upgrade or a separate product that Centricity customers will buy?

Look at it as an extension from what people have today with a migration path to roll it over Centricity over the next few years. We believe that a big-bang replacement would be a very bad and disruptive idea. Many of our customers have given us great clues on how to do a safe, smart migration transition. It’s not a big bang, turn that off, turn that on.

What providers and partners did you work with?

We worked with Westmed Practice Partners in Westchester, NY starting almost two years ago. One of the things that was highly attractive about working with Westmed is that they were scoring very high in their quality measures. Their efficiency measures and their ability to collect revenue from their fee- and value-based contracts were also very good. Their leadership knew what they were doing. They knew how they did it.

They were pushing our products up to and beyond their capabilities in order to make that happen. When I thought about how we were going to get to that next generation and who we could work with, I thought it would be good to start with somebody who was so very skilled and who knew us so well. That was Westmed Practice Partners, specifically Dr. Simeon Schwartz, the chairman and CEO.

Was the product built from scratch?

It is not being built from scratch, nor is it being acquired. This was a big discussion that Simeon and I had in the beginning. We are building certain components. We’re also assembling capabilities from different technology providers across the industry.

I don’t think anybody is going to be able to have the time to just go build from scratch, but taking a modern, 21st-century approach is going to be key. We have the luxury of leveraging is a lot of the investments that GE is making with Health Cloud, so this is an extension of what GE is doing as well.

It seems that you’re picturing an ecosystem with components provided by partners. How will that look?

First and foremost, we took a tabula rasa approach, meaning a blank slate. Once we got comfortable with one another in Westmed – and other practices have also helped us design this — one of the keys was, how do you guys work? What do you do all day? We went even to the depths of, with appropriate permissions,observing their delivery of care.

We broke it down with a number of usability experts. GE Corporate, GE Digital has been investing in usability expertise and usability engineers. We leveraged those to break down the work processes of a pretty complex multi-specialty practice. We also focused strongly on, as you would imagine, that primary care is the quarterback, and that user experience is a big deal.

On the business side, we said, how does that work? How can we make a system provide more value for the providers? We broke the providers’ work into basically four areas.

Number one is that I need to understand. When I’m going to see a patient, I need to know a lot about them. How should a system gather that information for me?

Once it gathers that information, I need to know what I’m supposed to do. I need to know how to work. Underneath that is a rules engine that we’ve selected. The rules will be based on what the clinicians want to do. We’ll get rules from specialty societies or individual practices and combinations thereof. They will create a rules-driven system that’s based on a modern user experience with workflow guidance to then get the providers to do what the providers know that they need to do. Our approach here will remove clicks, but also provide consistency through the guidance of the decision-makers for that practice.

The next piece of work is that I need to review and sign. Rules comes in and say, did I do all the things that I’m supposed to do that will be impactful for my volume-driven revenue cycle? Did I document what’s required for my quality reporting?

Last but certainly not least, there’s follow-up care coordination and care management that creates a continuous loop in the system versus a set of independent acts.

For the user experience, we’re using the same technology that Google uses. That’s called AngularJS. For the rules engine, we’ve purchased a commercial rules engine and we’ve put that into our stack. To fill the rules engine, we’re working with a number of practices, with Dr. Schwartz being the first. We have another one signed up specifically for cardiology. We have a workflow engine. Our cloud provider is technologies from GE Health Cloud and supplemented by some things we’ve been doing with Microsoft and Azure over the last few years.

You mentioned reduced clicks and the user experience. You’re not replacing the UI of Centricity, correct?

We had a lot of robust dialogue with our customers on this. The first and greatest impact that we can have is the process of creating intelligent orders — orders that take the context of the patient, the context of the payer, and the context of evidence-based practice and build them into one.

In our initial implementation, users will be in Centricity up to the point where it’s time to create an order. Then the new system takes over seamlessly. It pulls all the information that customers are used to in Centricity. Now you’re into the cloud experience, the next-generation system. Once you complete that set of tasks, we bring you back into the world that you live in.

Physicians spend an awful lot of their time, as they should, in workflows for ordering and diagnosing. That’s why we did that. The more that we talk with customers, they said, "You made absolutely the right choice."

How are you using payer information?

I was one of the lucky people who got to work as a pioneer to invent what we know today as the EDI systems of the US for healthcare starting back in the late 1980s. I have a long-term relationship with working between payers and providers. Just before I came to GE, I was lucky enough to work with a great company called Availity, a provider / payer network owned by 21 Blue Crosses and Humana. I got the opportunity to  understand a lot of the payer processes and what’s missing in the bridge between payers and providers that creates an awful lot of wasted work.

GE was an inaugural investor in the AHIP Innovation Laboratory. AHIP, the payers’ professional association, knew that they had to create more innovation because of the trends that we see. We are inaugural investors.

We are reverse engineering the exchanges of information between payers and providers that goes through phone calls, faxes, physical mail, and portals and embedding that into our current and next-generation systems. A very important point: this is not going to have to wait for a next generation. We’re doing that now.

Let me give you a couple of examples. In Medicare Advantage, being able to prove as a payer that you are closing gaps in care and that patients are getting  good care requires that if the payers see that things are not happening at differential analysis, then we can take a gap in care directly from a payers’ system. Some are pushing them out through sidecars and eligibility transactions. We put that information into the providers’ workflow so the know what’s necessary to be done. Then the providers can use their normal processes to get the work done and deliver the care.

Then payers are going to want it reported back. They’ll  take it through a claim, or some are asking for CCDAs to be sent to them. We also are building the capabilities to deliver the clinical care documents, then the summaries with details, back to the payers so they can ingest them into their various systems, not their claim systems.

Another example is the need for hierarchical condition categories for risk adjustment. We can construct the appropriate data sets that payers are constantly calling the providers for and we can deliver it to them electronically. We know this because we work directly with payers and providers in their distinct workflows to be able to build these new bridges, to do it as electronically as possible within the workflows to reduce burden, reduce waste, and deliver on the Triple Aim.

What’s the timeline for delivering the product?

The first wave is going to come out in Q1 ’17. We’re working with our user groups and providers directly. There’s that preparatory. Then the orders module will come out first, followed by more enhancements that we’re going to be delivering in the RCM, followed by more and more clinical documentation and a collaboration. We’re also simultaneously building a lot more interoperability for collaboration among providers.

Everything that we’re doing from a workflow and technology perspective is being supported by a cloud-based interoperability collaboration hub and supported by analytics that are integrated as well, because there’s going to be a lot of adjustments over time.

We see this complete picture rolling out over the next three years. Based on demand and based on the number of ecosystem partners that we see, we hope to be able to accelerate that, but we want to first and foremost do no harm and create a lot of value as people have to change their business models during this very dynamic time, like none other that we’ve seen before in this industry.

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May 18, 2016 Interviews 9 Comments

Paging Dr. Facebook

May 18, 2016 News No Comments

HIStalk looks at how healthcare use of social networks is changing in light of consumer expectations and provider comfort levels.

The rise of social media usage in healthcare settings has increased over the last several years as the entire industry has moved to a more digital-centric way of doing business. Whether it’s patient portals, online bill pay, way-finding apps, or online appoint check-in, patients — and providers, to some degree — have become used to conducting the business of healthcare via convenient, easily accessible, Web-based tools.

While patients in the US may never log in to patient portals with Facebook credentials, their providers are inching their way ever closer to incorporating social networking tools into relationship-building aspects of care.

Twitter Consults Take Off


Will social networks ever be used as bona fide care tools? With HIPAA’s tight hold on patient data and the love/hate relationship consumers have with privacy, the role of said networks as diagnostic tools remains a pipe dream at best. Not so in India, however, where Practo has added Twitter-based healthcare consults to its ecosystem of digital tools for providers and patients.

The startup, which claims to be Asia’s number one physician search engine, launched the @AskPracto Twitter account in early April, giving users in India, the Philippines, and Singapore the ability to tweet their health questions to the handle and receive responses back from Practo-affiliated physicians in near real time.


“We are excited about our partnership with Practo, as this addresses a fundamental need for users and opens up the benefit of real-time healthcare information access to millions of users,” said Ravi Bhaskaran, Twitter’s head of business development for India and South Asia, leading up to the launch.

Bhaskaran’s comment highlights the need for Web-based tools that make it easier for people to access care. With a population of over 1.25 billion, India has more Internet users than the US has people. Healthcare access, especially in rural areas, is — at the risk of understating a nationwide problem — a challenge for those looking to connect with physicians at brick-and-mortar facilities. Thus, mobile, Web-based communication tools seem like the go-to answer for issues of access and provider availability.

“We believe that healthcare issues can be addressed and awareness can be raised by social networks like Twitter,” says Practo Assistant Vice President of Marketing Varun Dubey. “With this partnership, we are making it super easy for people to get access to healthcare information right from Twitter. This collaboration will enable millions of consumers to get quick access to relevant healthcare information and make better, more informed decisions about their health.”

Response to the collaboration has been overwhelmingly positive. “We saw impressive traction on the first day of the campaign,” says Dubey, “with over 5,000 questions being tweeted by consumers with answers sent from @AskPracto. More than 8 million people have participated so far on the social media platform, and this number is growing every day. We’ve actually received questions from many more countries including the US, Australia, and even parts of Africa and Latin America.”

Such collaborations may offer citizens in less developed countries an easy, albeit extremely high-level, answer to issues of access. Their ability to succeed in the US remains doubtful, especially when it comes to the inevitable questions of privacy and physician reimbursement. Dubey is quick to note that Practo takes patient privacy “extremely seriously. Consumers can always come straight to Practo Consult and ask their questions anonymously.”

He is slightly more evasive when it comes to how Practo physicians are reimbursed for their time on Twitter, moving the conversation back to the company’s proprietary physician-patient consulting platform. “All healthcare specialists on the Practo Consult platform respond to questions in order to generate more awareness and enable consumers to make more informed decisions about their health,” he explains. “This in turn helps them build their value as a qualified, experienced, and trusted doctor. If you think about it, a patient who gets the right answer on Practo Consult from a verified doctor will trust that doctor and is likely to visit him or her in the future for any healthcare problem that needs to be assessed in person.”

While the @AskPracto handle is likely part of a larger marketing push to drive users to the company’s private consulting platform, it can’t be denied that opening up healthcare expertise by way of social media will likely offer underserved patients an easy, affordable way to have their high-level healthcare questions answered.

Messaging Apps Make Provider Wish Lists


The concept of healthcare diagnoses via social media seems to be taking a different turn here in the US, with secure messaging apps piquing the most provider interest and vendors responding accordingly. Remote consulting startup HealthTap launched its service via Facebook’s Messenger app last month, offering users the ability to submit questions and receive answers from the company’s physicians covering 141 specialties.


“HealthTap is a really cool platform,” says Piedmont Healthcare (GA) Chief Consumer Officer Matt Gove, “and them getting into Messenger makes all the sense in the world. But when you’re a healthcare provider, you have a different cost structure. We have a different way of interacting with people. We have a different goal in terms of increasing the health of our communities and building long-term relationships with individuals. It’s a bit different than the app that allows you to quickly ask a question and keep moving.”

“We’re certainly interested in how to use digital technology to provide alternative models of care,” he adds, “but I haven’t seen the use of social networks to diagnose people. Where I am most excited is not doing it inside social networks, but doing it inside messaging apps. That’s what has the most potential – inside Facebook Messenger where you can have a secure conversation with people about their medical issues.”

“We occasionally use messenger apps to engage with folks about their specific experience with us,” Gove continues. “It’s not as much about the clinical side as it is about the experience side. To be fair, in many ways, I think the customer’s perception of quality is really about the experience they have with us. The average person doesn’t understand clinical quality, but they do understand if you smile and say hello and ask them if they need something. Did you provide them with an easy to understand bill? That’s where the experience breaks down for most people. It’s not in the direct interaction with the caregiver. That’s where we’ve been focusing on — how to better use secure messaging apps to have conversations with people.”

Gove adds that a HealthTap-type messenger app would be nice to have, but it’s not likely to happen until the service is seen as more than a novelty, a sentiment based on Piedmont’s rollout of virtual visits. “We’re getting extraordinarily good reception for it,” he explains. “There’s a hurdle to get people over the novelty piece and see this as just as good as what they’re used to. I would put HealthTap getting into Messenger into that same category. I think messenger apps are an important part of the future. We are not there yet, and if Piedmont isn’t there yet, there won’t be many systems that are.”

The Future Role of Social

Gove, who has gained a well-earned reputation for pushing the boundaries of social media marketing within healthcare organizations like Piedmont and Grady Health System (GA), continues to look for innovative ways to use social media within the healthcare setting. Looking ahead, he hopes to get a better handle on using the social networks that have the most user traction and growth.

“I’ve yet to meet a health system that does Snapchat very well,” he says. “Most of my colleagues describe it as a cesspool. That may or may not be correct. It certainly made me laugh when they said it. It reinforces the fact that Facebook will always be a very powerful place for us to be. Twitter isn’t there and isn’t going to get there. Instagram is okay, but I don’t see it evolving to something that becomes a great tool for engagement. I think you’ve got to look at where people are aggregating and excited and engaged right now and figure out how to best leverage that.”

For now and the foreseeable future, provider use of social media seems to be about building relationships with patients and prospective customers. Gove believes that health systems are just getting to the point where they can use social media in an effective way to have conversations and build those relationships. Making the leap to using Twitter as a clinical tool is not in their near futures.

“I think most providers are looking at social as a way to maintain relationships, which again gets into the messenger space,” he says. “Facebook is their mobile strategy. There’s no denying that as everybody continues to get on Facebook, and as the average age of the Facebook user trends older, that something else takes its place on the young end. Don’t forget that so many of the patients that we need to maintain relationships with everyday are older. Them getting on Facebook is a wonderful thing.”

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May 18, 2016 News No Comments

HIStalk Interviews Don Rule, Founder, Translational Software

May 18, 2016 Interviews No Comments

Don Rule is founder of Translational Software of Bellevue, WA.


Tell me about yourself and the company.

My background is in software, first at Dun & Bradstreet and then Microsoft. It occurred to me while I was at Microsoft that the ability to digitize biology through sequencing is something that’s going to be very important to healthcare. I spent a lot of time thinking about it there. When I left Microsoft in 2008, I spent a year in a genetic testing lab and realized that just about every lab is going to be interested in genetic testing, but the ability to understand the implications of those tests is not readily apparent.

You’ve heard of the $1,000 genome and the $100,000 interpretation. Getting the cost of that interpretation down is critically important. That’s what we’re focused on. Having looked at all the different shiny objects we could follow, we focused very much on pharmacogenetics because we feel pretty strongly that that’s going to be the first and most pervasive use of precision medicine.

How often do genetic test results change a physician’s mind about prescribing a given drug?

Something came out from Mayo Clinic recently that said if you look over all the potential mutations that there are, the vast majority of people have some mutation that will be actionable at some point in their life. In terms of a specific individual, it’s a little bit skewed because often they don’t get tested unless there’s a suspicion of a problem, so we know we have a sampling error here. But I would say at least 60 percent of the time there’s something that’s actionable.

That patient’s genetic predisposition could mean that a given drug might be entirely inappropriate, or it could be that the dose that would otherwise be chosen might be too high or too low, correct?

That’s correct. For example, 20 percent of the population doesn’t metabolize Plavix well. But if you put together a collection of drugs — and it’s not uncommon that people are taking anywhere from five to 15 drugs — across that collection, it’s pretty common that there is something that you would either adjust the dose or you might look for an alternative on the basis of the person’s metabolism and other factors.

Can you correlate a patient’s new genetic testing results against their old medical history to learn something new, like why treatments have failed or that doses were inappropriate?

Forensically, looking at somebody’s metabolism is not uncommon in trying to understand the cause of adverse drug effects. The most famous case was in Toronto. A woman who had just delivered was given codeine for pain. Four days later, her baby died. It turns out she had multiple copies of the gene that metabolizes codeine into its active form, which is morphine. She instantly processed that codeine into morphine, it was expressed in her breast milk and the baby died. It was only through that sort of forensic analysis that they understood what was going on there.

Are drug companies going back to look for genetic reasons their products may not always work well?

Absolutely. In fact, even some of the development pathways they’ve taken have mitigated away from the cytochromes that they know are variable in different people, or at least mitigated toward different cytochromes. From the CYP2D6 or CYP2C19 that they know are altered in many people in the population, they’ve moved to drugs that are CYP3A4 and CYP3A5 and potentially killed some drugs that would be very beneficial if you could understand who in the population would benefit from them.

Can they determine that genetic influence in the lab while developing the drug or do they have to wait until the drug is rolled out to a broad population to see what happens?

That’s one of the reasons we think pharmacogenetics is going to be so compelling. There is a lot of good data about how drugs that have been approved are metabolized. The FDA, for a very long time, has required studies that show exactly what genes are in effect at the time it’s metabolized to get an idea of what pathways clear it and, to a lesser extent, what pathways are affected by the drug.

As a company, will you stick to pharmacogenetics or expand into other areas of personalized medicine?

There certainly will be others. We look at ourselves as more a platform for genetic analysis. Pharmacogenetics, again, we think there are hundreds of millions of people that could benefit from it and the data is well understood because of the FDA and other studies. But we have begun to broaden. We have a cystic fibrosis panel that’s coming out. We have some other infectious disease that we’re looking at for later in this year, as well as some licensing around functional medicine. There are lots of areas that it’s applicable to. But again, we see pharmacogenetics as well proven, very important to the clinical process, and readily available.

Does the decreasing cost of genetic testing justify having it done just to guide drug therapy decisions?

One of the transitions that the industry will go through in the next couple of years is from reactive to proactive. Right now, it’s common to get a genetic test when you think you’re going to be prescribing Plavix. You’ll see what happens, what is the viability of Plavix, because there are other alternatives, but they’re much more expensive.

What we see happening over time is beginning at hospitals like Inova, where they get the test early in life and keep it in the medical record. From that point on, for the rest of your life, anything you get prescribed, you can at least check it to see if there are genetic determinants of the efficacy or toxicity of the drug. You can make decisions on that basis. The real key there is building that into your clinical decision support in such a way that the physician can make use of that test throughout the future.

Is only one lifetime test required for a given patient to determine not just the pharmacogenetic influences that have already been documented by research, but also those that might be discovered in the future?

There is one broadly relevant test that would be relevant to, say, 180 drugs. There are a few a little more specific. For example, specific drugs for HIV,  there might be a gene that’s fairly difficult to test that would be relevant to that, so you might do a reflex test if you’re considering Abacavir for a particular patient. Certainly there are panels now that cover the vast majority of the drugs that are known to have important genetic effects.

Other than the patient, the beneficiary would seem to be insurance companies that can avoid the cost of ineffective therapy or the treatment of genetically driven therapy complications. Are they willing to pay for the testing?

They are willing. There’s a big challenge right now, though, in reimbursement. If you’re a pharmaceutical company going in to get a new drug approved, you can afford to spend for a gold standard clinical trial for it. In the world of a diagnostic, where the drug may be off patent for 20 years, diagnostic companies don’t have the same returns as drug companies. Even once they’ve produced the evidence, they can’t necessarily patent that evidence, so it might be available to all their competitors. The evidence creation has lagged behind.

In fact, there’s a really challenging dichotomy now between NIH and FDA. They are pushing forward in precision medicine and CMS is pushing back. That’s a difficult place where the industry is in right now. We really haven’t figured out how to get beyond that.

What is especially interesting about that, though, is that we’re beginning to see some forward-thinking payers who are willing to run tests themselves, who are willing to run trials themselves, to see what they could potentially save by putting pharmacogenetics in place. They look at it as a competitive advantage to lower their costs relative to their competitors.

What information from your system do Inova’s clinicians see in Epic?

At this moment in time, what they see is a static report. The evolution that we see in the future is that we can provide, in that static report, the information that’s relevant to the physician at the time they’re ordering the test, but then make the rest of the data available in the EMR as clinical decision support for other decisions in the future. That is certainly a vision that we all share. We’re early on in the implementation of that.

First Databank is distributing your knowledge in their reference content that drives order guidance and alerts from vendor clinical systems. Will that make your information more easily used and widely available?

That’s exactly the approach we’re taking. We’re working on providing what we have, making it available available through a standards-based API so that anyone — whether it’s a pharmacy system, an EMR, an application in an EMR, First Databank, or someone who works with the payers — can plug into our system and say, "Should this person be tested on the basis of the drugs that they have? Where should I order the test from? Once I have the results of that, can I go back and re-query it on the basis of some new set of drugs or some prescription change that I’m doing in the future?"

Where do you precision medicine going in the next five years?

There are a couple fields to look at. Cancer is pretty well along now. There’s a lot of work going on and that will be pervasive in the next five years.

It  takes more parties to put pharmacogenetics into place, so I think in the next five years, we will see the majority of forward-thinking organizations incorporating pharmacogenetics into the prescribing decision factor.

For things like heritable disease, the interpretation and the understanding will be so readily available that for many of the things that are diagnostic odysseys now and many of the things that are rare diseases that are heritable, those will be much, much easier to find in the future, much easier to understand.

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May 18, 2016 Interviews No Comments

Morning Headlines 5/18/16

May 17, 2016 Headlines No Comments

VA edges closer to rollout of new health record platform

The VA reports that the Enterprise Health Management Platform, its Vista web overlay, will be up and running by the end of the summer.

New $1.2b Partners computer system brings prescription for frustration

The Boston Globe highlights employee frustrations with Partners Healthcare’s newly implemented $1.2 billion Epic system.

This health-care trend could make your hospital stay $2,000 more expensive

Edith Ramirez, chair of the FTC, argues that consolidation in the healthcare industry is eliminating needed competition and driving up the cost of care.

Hackers hold DeKalb Health computer systems hostage

A ransom ware attack at DeKalb Health (IN) has forced the hospital to implement downtime operating procedures and divert EMS to other facilities.

Cerner Faces Another Lawsuit Over Its Overtime Policy

Help desk workers at Cerner have filed a class action lawsuit against the company, alleging that they are required to work 48 hours a week but are not paid overtime.

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May 17, 2016 Headlines No Comments

News 5/18/16

May 17, 2016 News 5 Comments

Top News


The VA says it will have its Enterprise Health Management Platform (EHMP) running by the end of summer. It’s a graphical front end for VistA that I’m guessing is the Facebook- and Google-like “prototype” that was mentioned a couple of months ago.


VA Chief Information Strategy Officer David Waltman said during a demonstration that, “The interoperability between the VA and the [DOD] record system exceeds any electronic health record systems that are anywhere in the non-government environment.” EHMP builds on previous development work for the VA-DoD Joint Legacy Viewer and will replace CPRS as part of the VistA Evolution program.


The VA has released a software development kit for the open source EHMP, hoping that companies will extend or commercialize it.

Reader Comments

From Dutch Loaf: “Re: ransomware webinar. That had to be the best-attended of those you have had and it was very useful.” John Gomez’s ransomware webinar was indeed excellent, and while it did very well with 115 live attendees and 700 YouTube views afterward so far, the leader is still Vince and Frank’s November 2014 “Cerner Takeover of Siemens, Are You Ready?,” the YouTube recording of which has been viewed an astounding 7,750 times.


From Boots on the Ground: “Re: MD Anderson’s Epic project. The reader comment referring to Encore Health Resources should have noted that Santa Rosa Consulting ran the successful  go-live, providing 1,100 associates in the largest, single-sourced go-live.” Verified. Encore got a $50 million contract for selection and other services, as the reader pointed out, but Santa Rosa ran the go-live.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

I was interviewing Hayes Management Consulting President and CEO Pete Butler the other day when he mentioned how long he has been reading HIStalk, going back to his days as the company’s western region director when he recommend to founder Paul Hayes that they sponsor. I checked my old emails and can thank Hayes Management Consulting for supporting my work for 10 years – they signed up in July 2006. Which also reminds me that HIStalk itself turns 13 years old on June 3, entering that awkward, insufferable teenager phase.

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Ms. Stuckeman from Texas reports that her after-school science and math club “embarked on a journey of exploration and invention” when they received the machine-building kits we provided in funding her DonorsChoose grant request. She adds, “They were so excited to have these shiny new building materials. Students came across problems and had to solve them. This made them stronger as it challenged them to think critically through trial and error. Team members rejoiced with confidence as they were proud of what they had accomplished.”

Listening: hard horror punk rock from Wednesday 13, which sounds like Alice Cooper mixed with Iron Maiden and Dixie Dead. The band is really just Joseph Poole from North Carolina’s barbeque capital of Lexington along with some backing musicians in tribute to 1980s horror films.


None scheduled soon. Contact Lorre for webinar services. Past webinars are on our HIStalk webinars YouTube channel.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Financial Times has fun with the rock concert / party rally launch of the Siemens Healthineers name, calling it “a writhing, Spandex-clad horror” and noting that at the end, “A few arms were raised bearing phones to capture what was possibly the most embarrassing corporate rebranding event ever.” The article notes that the launch violated three rules:

  • Don’t try to put your corporate values to music since that always creates mass humiliation.
  • Don’t create eye-rolling names by cutting and pasting parts of other words.
  • Claiming to be one team with one dream doesn’t make it so. It just makes you look stupid.


Healthcare-only technology and consulting firm CitiusTech will hire up to 1,200 new employees this fiscal year, increasing its headcount by nearly 50 percent. CEO Rizwan Koita says the company is hunting for acquisitions.


Decisio Health launches its FDA-cleared Decisio Clinical Intelligence Platform, which formats patient monitor information into an electronic triage system, and closes a $4.5 million second round of funding.


Pharmacy software vendor Rx30 acquires competitor Lagniappe Pharmacy Services.


Experian Health signs 276 new deals and 479 existing client contracts in Q4.



The Indiana HIE hires Valita Fredland, JD (Indiana University Health) as VP, general counsel, and privacy officer.


Jason Griffin (Encore, A Quintiles Company) joins Orchestrate Healthcare as AVP South.


Parallon Technology Solutions names Charles Bell, DO, RPh (HCA) as chief medical officer.


Mercy Health (OH) hires Jeff Carr (Cintrifuse) as its first chief innovation officer.

Announcements and Implementations


PokitDok releases its Pharmacy Benefits Solution, a set of three APIs (pharmacy plan, pharmacy formulary, and in-net work pharmacy) that allow EHR users to check a member’s prescription insurance and send prescriptions to in-network pharmacies.

American Well creates an online marketplace that will allow its customers to exchange services, such as providers who can create and market condition-specific telehealth programs to insurance companies and employers. Consumers seeking telehealth services can choose doctors from provider organizations that market their services.

DSS will incorporate First Databank’s medication reconciliation and e-prescribing solutions in its open source EHR.

Government and Politics


The Missouri Health Connection HIE supports the governor’s veto of funding that would have helped the state’s Department of Social Services connect to it. MHC says unnamed special interests (Cerner?) “are working to hinder and fragment the adoption of HIE in Missouri.” MHC claims the proposed budget would have prevented hospitals from freely choosing an HIE and would have forced MHC to share patient information with competitors without having privacy and cost structures in place. The counterpoint might be that federally funded MHC wanted to connect with DSS and then charge competing HIEs for connecting to it. The governor said he vetoed the line item funding because it would have allowed some providers to participate without paying. Missouri HIEs have been fighting for control for years. Perhaps ONC should launch its data blocking investigations in Missouri, starting with organizations that have received HHS/CMS/ONC grant funding specifically to facilitate data exchange.


FTC Chair Edith Ramirez says she’s worried about hospital mergers that are creating expensive health system monopolies, adding that competition is also vital for maintaining hospital quality. The president of the American Hospital Association disagrees, saying the creation of a modern healthcare system requires such mergers.


The state of Arizona spent millions (it isn’t sure exactly how many) to develop a tissue and organ specimen database that has been abandoned. The system was used by only three hospitals and did not have a sustainable business model, leading to its shutdown in September 2014. Hospitals are trying to resurrect the system, hoping to rebuild it using a different contractor since the original one has since left the state. That company’s founder says the real challenge is that hospitals don’t necessarily want to share their research information in a competitive environment. It’s a lot like hospitals not willing to financially support HIEs or share their information on them.


The National Cancer Institute solicits research ideas for the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, with already-submitted ideas being publicly visible on the site. 

Privacy and Security


Dekalb Health (IN) says a ransomware attack last week forced it to take its systems down, transfer patients out, and initiate ambulance diversion. The health system did not say in the announcement whether it paid the ransom demanded.

The government of Kuwait will require all citizens and visitors to undergo DNA testing to create a national database for use in criminal cases and paternity claims. Visitor samples will be taken upon arrival at Kuwait International Airport.



A Florida business paper profiles Medical Tracking Solutions, which offers medical device companies a supply chain system for tracking the devices they stock on consignment in hospitals. The COO says the system replaces “really old school” hospital methods that involve forms that are hand-filled and faxed.



Cerner help desk employees file a class action lawsuit against the company, claiming they were expected to work at least 48 hours per week without being paid overtime because their positions were misclassified as exempt. Four other overtime lawsuits are pending against Cerner.


A Navicure survey of 300 provider executives finds that the most significant patient payment challenges are patients who can’t pay, the need to educate patients about their financial responsibility, and patients who don’t pay on time. Patient payments make up a significant portion of revenue for most organizations, with one-fourth of respondents saying it’s 31 percent or greater. The majority of respondents acknowledge that they don’t store patient credit card information, send electronic statements, or offer automated payment plans.

Patients of a Virginia lab company that was acquired by a competitor following its bankruptcy filing to settle kickback charges are being sent bills for tests done as far back as 2009. Bankruptcy lawyers for former high-flyer Health Diagnostic Laboratory, which had $375 million in revenue in 2013, were ordered by the court to try to collect its $50 million in unpaid bills to pay off its remaining debt. The competitor who bought the company is receiving complaints and threats about the collection practices even though it didn’t buy the overdue accounts along with the business and thus isn’t involved with the collection efforts. 

The Boston Globe reports EHR employee complaints at Partners Healthcare (MA), whose $1.2 billion Epic project is the largest ever undertaken by Partners. A maternity nurse says she speaks for others like her in complaining that the system has come between her and her patients, calling it “tedious, labor intensive, and you feel like you can’t do what you want to do.” One doctor, annoyed at having to work at a wall-attached monitor with her back to her patients, retired early. On the other hand, the article is hardly a shining example of thorough investigative reporting, with the newspaper chatting with just 24 of 68,000 Partners employees. One might also note that the “you can’t do what you want to do” comment is exactly why hospitals implement EHRs.


Weird News Andy says a man was “saved by the pizza.” Employees of a Domino’s Pizza in Oregon become concerned when a customer who has ordered delivery almost every day for seven years fails to place an order for 11 days. They sent a delivery driver to check on him, but the man didn’t answer the door or answer his phone. The driver called 911 and deputies found him on the floor suffering from an apparent stroke. He’s in stable condition.

Sponsor Updates

  • Impact Advisors posts a white paper, “The MACRA Proposed Rule on MIPS and APMs: Summary and Key Takeaways.”
  • LogicStream posts a recording of its webinar, “Reduce CAUTI Through Clinical Process Measurement.”
  • AirStrip CEO Alan Portela will speak at the Medical World Americas conference May 19 in Houston.
  • Nordic kicks off its Community Giveback Week.
  • highlights AirWatch BYOD technology.
  • NCQA awards Aprima with PCMH Pre-Validation status.
  • Clockwise.MD will exhibit at the Pediatric Urgent Care Conference June 1-3 in New York City.
  • RN FM Radio will feature Bernoulli CNO Jeanne Venella, RN May 18 at 3pm ET.
  • The Boston Globe features BIDMC’s use of Clockwise.MD’s online appointment reservation service. 
  • Divurgent donates $5,000 to Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas during its annual retreat.
  • Bloomberg profiles GE Healthcare CEO John Flannery.
  • ClinicalWorks will exhibit at the 2016 annual meeting of the California Orthopedic Association May 19-21 in Dana Point, CA.
  • Extension Healthcare will exhibit at the AAMI Conference & Expo June 3-6 in Tampa, FL.
  • Healthwise will exhibit at the Cognizant / Trizetto User Group Meeting May 22-25 in Palm Desert, CA.

Blog Posts


Mr. H, Lorre, Jennifer, Dr. Jayne, Lt. Dan.
More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.
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May 17, 2016 News 5 Comments

Morning Headlines 5/17/16

May 16, 2016 Headlines 2 Comments

Pfizer to Buy Anacor for $4.5 Billion

Pfizer announces that it will buy Anacor Pharmaceuticals for $4.5 billion, a 55 percent premium on Friday’s closing share price.

Giving New Doctors the Tools They Need

In a New York Times op-ed, a Harvard Medical School resident describes medical education as predicated on memorization and insufficient and outdated. He argues, “In an era of big data, Google and iPhones, doctors don’t so much need to know as they need to access, synthesize, and apply.“

Federal survey finds ‘troubling’ online behavior that could impact medical record sharing

A Census Bureau survey of 41,000 households finds that the recent uptick in data breaches across industries has made consumers shy away from online services over privacy concerns.

Exploring Concordance of Patient-Reported Information on PatientsLikeMe and Medical Claims Data at the Patient Level

A study evaluating the accuracy of self-reported medical data shared on PatientsLikeMe compared self-reported multiple sclerosis diagnosis with claims data and finds that the information collected on the site was largely accurate.

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May 16, 2016 Headlines 2 Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 5/16/16

May 16, 2016 Dr. Jayne 4 Comments


I’ve been doing a fair amount of travel lately, which usually ends up in administrative tasks being pushed to the side. Although I try to handle things real-time on the road, there are always things that accumulate at home.

I spent most of the weekend playing clean-up, doing such exciting things as organizing documentation for my accountant and making appointments for automotive maintenance and piano tuning. Being in a world where everyone wants to do everything online, I dread having to do business with people or organizations that insist on doing business by phone, yet have limited working hours. I also spent several hours getting information together for a financial planning session, but putting the documentation together just made me wonder if I’m ever going to be able to retire.

With all the turmoil of MACRA, MIPS, and the never-ending parade of acronyms that I’m sure will continue, I don’t have to worry about having enough business as a consultant. I probably work a little more than I want to, partly because I’m still playing catch-up with retirement planning, owing to the decade that I spent with student loan payments that prevented more than minimum savings.

I do some career counseling for pre-med students and always make sure to bring up the debt aspect for those considering careers in medicine. I’m hopeful for the future when I meet with young, idealistic go-getters who are ready to save the world. However, I find that most of them haven’t thought about all the ramifications of becoming a physician.

It’s graduation time, and thousands of recent grads are going to be packing up and heading off to medical school. Although there are more so-called “non-traditional” students in the ranks, the majority of medical school students come straight out of college. Once school starts, they’re immersed in a world that demands all their time and can wreak havoc on families, relationships, and personal well-being. Although there are safeguards now with regards to work hours and student and trainee supervision, it’s still a very difficult path for anyone to choose.

A non-medical friend came across this piece on bullying in the operating room and asked whether I had ever experienced that kind of treatment. Although it was never directed at me, I definitely witnessed it, especially in high-stakes specialties such as surgery and critical care. I did personally experience bullying that was less dramatic but no less distressing. Although those kinds of behaviors are less tolerated now than they were when I was in training, they haven’t gone away.

Organizations spend a great deal of time and money working on cultural problems. For people to do their best, they need to feel like they are part of the team and that their participation matters. They need to feel like their work is meaningful and that the people around them value and appreciate their efforts. Sometimes changing culture isn’t enough. In the case of bullying, there need to be clear policies and procedures around what is and is not acceptable behavior in the workplace. Those who break the rules need to be subject to corrective action that is applied evenly regardless of job title or political status.

When an organization aims to change its culture, it needs to do more than just pay lip service to the idea. I see a lot of groups just going through the motions, saying the right words while they take the wrong actions.

One hospital I worked with hired a vendor to deploy an electronic employee engagement platform while completely missing the point about what their employees wanted and needed to feel valued. They didn’t want to receive boilerplate e-cards – what they really wanted was meaningful feedback from their supervisors during the course of their day-to-day work. They didn’t want to hear about their “total rewards” when the organization eliminated personal days and the ability to roll over sick days from year to year. They wanted to believe that the leadership understood them and their needs.

I worry that the increasing stresses to the healthcare system will further strain employee morale as organizations are going to be asked to deliver more with resources that are already strained. For those of us straddling the tech and healthcare worlds, it’s increasingly difficult to watch tech vendors offer their employees perks such as unlimited vacation and gourmet employee catering when hospitals are cutting benefits and front-line clinical staff barely get lunch breaks. I think some of these vendors have forgotten where the money comes from – ultimately it’s all funded by you and me, whether we’re funding it as patients, payers of insurance premiums, or as taxpayers.

It’s not just IT vendors that are guilty – plenty of organizations are feeding at the healthcare trough. Even though we hear about the most egregious examples of drug markups and Medicare fraud, there are countless examples of profiteering. I recently overheard a conversation in a hospital cafeteria where a medical device sales rep was talking about his new Porsche. Although I believe everyone should have a chance to be successful and should enjoy the benefits of their hard work, bragging about it at a table within earshot of patients who might be choosing between paying for medicine and purchasing groceries is just tacky.

This is the environment that our idealistic future physicians will be faced with as they start their training. I can’t even fathom what healthcare will look like in four years when they complete medical school, let alone in seven to 10 years when they finish residencies and fellowships. Will we see mass exodus of seasoned physicians? Will we see mid-level providers and ancillary professionals delivering an increasing percentage of care? Or will physicians opt out of the new world order and go back to delivering care the old fashioned way, with direct payments from their patients?

What does your crystal ball show for the future of healthcare? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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May 16, 2016 Dr. Jayne 4 Comments

HIStalk interviews Bill Van Wyck, President, Zillion

May 16, 2016 Interviews No Comments

Bill Van Wyck is president and chief innovation officer of Zillion of Norwalk, CT.


Tell me about yourself and the company.

I’m the president and chief innovation officer of Zillion. We are a technology platform that powers digital healthcare products that are redefining engagement with consumers. It’s allowing healthcare providers to standardize and deliver better care to consumers outside a facility.

What can customers do with your product?

Companies all across various types of healthcare stakeholders are using Zillion’s technology to deliver three main areas of care in the form of digital programs. Preventive care, like medically necessary weight loss to pre-diabetes type programs. Care management and disease management for more chronic conditions including diabetes, smoking cessation, and depression. The third category is procedural care – bariatric programs, including pre-conditioning and post-conditioning, post-surgery, prenatal programs, and even in orthopedics for knee replacements and shoulder replacements.

Many software companies want to be involved with patient engagement. Where does Zillion fit in?

Zillion has approached the healthcare vertical from a technology perspective. We look at the combination of services and look at the industry jargon around point solutions such as telemedicine, telehealth, population health, and so on. We look at that more from a configuration standpoint and a software technology standpoint.

The differences in the market exist where healthcare has been trying to build vertical silo products to address specific conditions. The reality is that patients don’t typically have just one condition. They are overweight and may have depression, or they may be diabetic and need other types of procedures and support. There are co-morbidities and multiple chronic conditions that exist in the real world.

Having a common backbone platform like Zillion where you can design, create, and deploy programs to patient populations and then refine and refine and modify those programs at scale is a differentiator for healthcare stakeholders. When you look at what they’ve been building, typically none of them interact with existing systems. They’re not interoperable. They don’t always reach patients on the devices and the technology that they use day to day.

Can patients customize the view they’re given? If I have both COPD and a heart condition, is the presentation seamless?

To play that back, the patients don’t configure the content or the availability of services on the platform. The clinician, caregiver, provider, or the payer are configuring and designing best-in-class programs based on evidence-based care plans. It’s keeping the doctor in the process. 

That’s where Zillion is highly differentiated. The industry has focused a long time on these member portals and wellness portals, configurable portals which are largely self-serve. In the real world, if you’re going to drive outcomes, standardize plans, and offer compelling services that impact behavior, you need to keep he caregiver in the process. You need to keep best-in-class content programs delivered and designed by professionals.

We look at it as an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is the member portal. Everything below the water includes coaching portals, program administration portals, practice-based on-boarding portals, as well as administration portals that allow the population of caregivers to work together to serve and benefit the patient. It is served up to the patient in a whole new way.

My question really was that if I’m a physician and I’ve ordered weight loss content for you and then you have a heart attack, can I just turn the heart attack content on and you start seeing it within your existing presentation?

That’s exactly correct. You can add content, augment content, and even assign and augment services in the form of types of caregivers and credentialed clinician and make those available to patients depending on their needs.

Who is your typical user user? What parts of your platform can be used out of the box without creating original content?

In terms of who is using this as a patient or a member, typically the payers are targeting self-funded employers, typically populations that have in excess of 200-300 users. They are offering products to stem the tide of chronic illness or disease within an organization.

When you look at more procedural care, you move into a different demographic. With orthopedics, you may be moving into a 60- to 75-year-old bracket, which is not in the self-funded world, but they are individuals who are being offered programs as part of a procedural care program. There it’s a different population and demographic of users.

Clients of Zillion span everything from payers to providers to specialized care practices to even device manufacturers. Depending on those types of clients, they have different levels of availability of content and plans. You look at what’s been delivered by a facility in terms of programs. You may go in for a procedural care plan for a bariatric center or comprehensive weight loss center and everything has been delivered in person with paper, quizzes, and scripts and in the form of documentation and different types of caregivers there. Zillion is going to them and taking a combination of people, content, and program cadence and bringing those together on the platform to deliver that to patients.

Some organizations have the wherewithal to create some of this type of content. By example, larger payers will sit down and build a business around a pre-diabetes program. They construct this content at a very, very high grade. Whereas if you go to an orthopedic group or a specialized group, they can use more rudimentary content. They can use more mechanical content. Move your knee this way, move your shoulder that way, do this, don’t do that. It’s less entertaining and much more practical in its delivery.

Zillion allows our clients to lay that out longitudinally, almost like an education curriculum over time. You can set up what happens chronologically across that program. What services do they have access to when? What content gets served during what week? What questionnaires and what data do we need to intake at various points along that program?

Using the combination of video conferences, content serving, IoT device integration, and so on, we can get patients to engage at very, very high rates for very long periods of time. At the end, you have better data to make better decisions in terms of modifying that program to achieve goals.

What’s the secret to not just offering a program but actually moving the needle on the health of the people who need it most, not necessarily just those who are attracted to a health tool?

There’s a shift from wellness programs to not-so-wellness programs. Wellness programs, which were typically paid for by large employers out of their benefits budget, were availability of services to help typically the 30- to 40 somethings who participate in those types of programs. The value proposition of those was largely based on absenteeism and a lot of squishy metrics that really didn’t resonate from an ROI perspective.

These organizations are now focusing on real programs that are evidence-based that include and require often real caregivers in the process. Those caregivers are in different roles these days, everything from coaches to therapists to RNs to RDs to actual doctors. Using different combinations of those and doing it in a scaled way drives better behavioral change than you could ever do with self-service apps.

Zillion is powering those next-generation digital products by combining those video communications apps with digital workforce scheduling with content management and servicing and data analytics. Bringing those four together to build compelling programs across those various areas I went through earlier.

Where do you see the company moving in the next few years?

We’re going to continue to build out the Zillion platform as a service. It is the underlying backbone for all the programs that run on Zillion. Zillion will look to add multiple programs and platform-level services and integration that make the product more and more valuable and relevant to broad-scale healthcare products. We look to build out as many programs as we can for our clients on our platform.

We are a software technology company, so we focus on driving utilization of our platform. A clarifying point is that we do not brand any product Zillion. We build products quickly for our costumers and configure them quickly for our customers which are branded under their names, using their content and their care practices.

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May 16, 2016 Interviews No Comments

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