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Morning Headlines 12/10/14

December 9, 2014 Headlines 2 Comments

Saying Epic is a ‘closed’ health records system is an oversimplification

VentureBeat profiles Legacy Health (OR), an Epic customer, as they work through their interoperability options while trying to share data between a network of community hospitals and the primary care offices that refer patients to them. Epic CEO Judy Faulkner weighs in, “There are multiple standards, and we do most … if not all of the ones that are most frequently used.”

Jonathan Gruber is very, very sorry about Obamacare ‘gaffes’

MIT economist and former healthcare.gov advisor Jonathan Gruber testifies before Congress, apologizing for his disparaging remarks about the Affordable Care Act.

Computer says no: NHS IT was not designed to operate at this level

In England, a physician laments about life as an EHR user as the NHS transitions its hospitals away from paper charts.  

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December 9, 2014 Headlines 2 Comments

News 12/10/14

December 9, 2014 News 3 Comments

Top News

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ONC issues its Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020, which will serve to set the stage for the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap that will be released early next year. The 28-page plan, open for comments through February 6, is the result of input from 35 government agencies. It describes the government’s strategies to achieve five goals, which include improving interoperability, patient engagement, and the expansion of IT to parts of healthcare that have been without it, such as long-term care and treatment of the mentally ill.


Webinars

December 17 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. There Is A 90% Probability That Your Son Is Pregnant: Predicting the Future of Predictive Analytics in Healthcare. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP of strategy, Health Catalyst. Predictive analytics is more than simple risk stratification. Once you identify an individual’s risk, what are the odds that you can change their behavior and what will it cost to do so? This presentation, geared towards managers and executives, addresses scenarios in which predictive models may or not be effective given that 80 percent of outcomes are driven by socioeconomic factors rather than healthcare delivery.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock 

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MetaMD acquires Patient Education Programs, including its Digital Diabetes Educator tool and an interactive educational game for kids with sickle cell disease.

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Texas Medical Center and Village Capital select a dozen startups to participate in their inaugural VilCap USA: Health IT 2014 assessment program. The two highest-ranking startups will walk away with $50,000 each at the end of the three-month program.

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National Research Corp. acquires Digital Assent and launches the DA-developed Reputation tool, enabling healthcare organizations to collect, display, and syndicate authentic patient ratings and reviews across owned and affiliated websites.

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Avizia merges with Emerge.MD to offer hospitals a complete telemedicine platform consisting of Avizia’s telehealth devices and video conferencing tool and Emerge.MD’s telemedicine software. The combined company will continue under the Avizia name.


Sales

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Greenville Health System (SC) selects Healthier Populations Solutions from Orion Health to support its population health and ACO initiatives. GHS is in the midst of a five-year, $97.2 million, system-wide Epic implementation.

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Major Hospital (IN) implements the Diagnotes secure texting system across its facility, which includes 89 beds and 300 clinical staff.

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Torrance Memorial Medical Center (CA) rolls out the Allen Technologies Interactive Patient System at its new Melanie and Richard Lundquist Patient Tower. The hospital hopes to implement the system across its 446 beds once all of its TV systems have been updated.

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Paladina Health (CO) selects the eClinicalWorks Care Coordination Medical Record for population health management. The primary care provider, a subsidiary of DaVita Healthcare Partners, already uses eCW’s EHR.

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E+CancerCare (TN) installs Equicare CS oncology patient management software at 13 of its outpatient cancer care centers. Implementation took just three months.


Announcements and Implementations

CareFusion and Kit Check, both players in the medication administration space, partner to connect their hardware, software, and RFID solutions for improved medication handling from pharmacy dispensing to OR point of use.

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BlackBerry partners with NantHealth to develop the NantOmics Cancer Genome Browser, its first app. Slated for availability early next year, the app will connect a physician’s Blackberry Passport with a NantHealth system that analyzes tumors and recommends treatment options.

Vector Oncology integrates its Patient Care Monitor with Flatiron Health’s OncoEMR to give oncology care providers an easier way to gather and view patient-reported symptoms at the point of care. Lee Schwartzberg, MD, president and CMO of Vector Oncology, will serve as a medical advisor to Flatiron Health during the partnership.

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Vital Care announces that its HealthPatch MD wearable biosensor is now available for use in clinical trials in partnership with Medidata. The sensor can be used with Medidata’s Clinical Cloud platform and mobile app for patient-reported outcomes.

Walgreens offers consumers in California and Michigan access to MDLive physicians through its Walgreens mobile app. The new tool, which will be rolled out to additional states in the coming months, builds on the app’s Pharmacy Chat feature launched last year. (Check out Lt. Dan’s thorough recap of the news at HIStalk Connect.)


Research and Innovation

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Five researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Biomedical Informatics receive $7.3 million in grants to improve healthcare and biomedical discovery through the use of healthcare IT. Projects underway include patient safety research, enhancing the use of EHRs in research, developing software to make EHRs more user-friendly, and using analytics to improve heart-disease care.


Government and Politics

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MIT professor and former Healthcare.gov consultant Jonathan Gruber apologizes profusely for his recent “foot-in-mouth comments” on healthcare reform during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the ACA. CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner also took advantage of the hearing to apologize for overstating the number of Healthcare.gov enrollees. Both, likely with tails between their legs, reiterated the party line that the ACA has been a success thus far. 


People

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Naomi Fried (Boston Children’s) joins Biogen Idec as vice president of medical information, innovation, and external partnerships.

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Joel Shu, MD (Jersey City Medical Center) joins Catholic Health Services (NY) as vice president of clinical transformation and population health.

Non-profit Healtheway announces its 2015 Board of Directors.


Other

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The Brookings Institution offers a roadmap for effective unique device identifier implementation. The 94-page document offers recommendations on integrating UDIs into provider systems such as EHRs, administrative transactions, and patient-directed tools.

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The local paper profiles Mayo Clinic’s (MN) big data research partnership with UnitedHealth Group. Two-year-old Optum Labs is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive healthcare database, and includes de-identified claims data from 150 million UnitedHealth customers spanning the last 20 years. It will eventually be linked to 44 million medical records, including 5 million from Mayo.

This article puts Epic’s interoperability efforts (or lack thereof) in the spotlight, focusing on the journey of customer Legacy Health (OR). CIO John Kenagy puts things in perspective: “No vendor solves this problem completely. There’s a natural inclination to blame Epic because they’re just a big target.” Judy also weighs in: “One hundred percent of our customers that are live with our EHR are also live with our Care Everywhere software built in. We have even gone back and retrofitted it into old versions so that every one of our customers can send and receive to others, to anyone who uses industry standards, whether they use Epic software or if they use other vendors’ software who also follow the standards.”

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UVM Medical Center (VT) deploys two Xenex Germ-Zapping Robots in its ORs to the tune of $100,000 each in an effort to reduce HAIs. The hospital, which won the 2014 Partnership in Prevention Award for its HAI elimination efforts, plans to deploy them next in isolation rooms.

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A clinician bemoans the state of NHS IT (and its interference with her gambling habits), eloquently fuming that, “It’s not just the doctors who struggle; the ageing bones of the crumbling hardware system creak ever louder as it cranks up to process another new data load.”

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President Obama makes a guest appearance on The Colbert Report, poking fun at himself and Healthcare.gov.


Contacts

Mr. H, Lorre, Jennifer, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg, Lt. Dan, Dr. Travis.

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.

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December 9, 2014 News 3 Comments

Morning Headlines 12/9/14

December 8, 2014 Headlines No Comments

The Federal Strategy For Collecting, Sharing, And Using Electronic Health Information

ONC has updated its Federal Health IT Strategic Plan: 2015-2020, establishing a set of goals that focuses on advancing interoperability, improving care delivery, engaging patients through digital health tools, and supporting medical research efforts through data mining and retrospective studies.

Why So Many New Tech Companies Are Getting into Health Care

Bob Kocher, MD, a former healthcare economics advisor to the Obama administration, publishes a piece in the Harvard Business Review analyzing the digital health innovation boom in the US, and the cost-saving opportunities that the new startups should be targeting.

Walgreens app makes virtual doctor visits a reality

Walgreens partners with telehealth vendor MDLive to provide virtual visits through its mobile app. The new service now available for residents of California and Michigan, with additional states coming online in 2015.

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December 8, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Readers Write: Summary of RSNA and My Takeaways

December 8, 2014 Readers Write 2 Comments

Summary of RSNA and My Takeaways
by Mike Silverstein

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I just returned from the 100th Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) conference at McCormick Place in Chicago. It was my fifth time attending this show. It is always well attended given the core importance of diagnostic medical imaging within the healthcare provider community.

I was particularly paying attention to the messaging of the vendors in the room and the value propositions they put forward given the budget constraints within healthcare IT.

  • RSNA is international. As opposed to HIMSS, AHIMA, MGMA, etc., RSNA is populated by vendors from all over the world. As such, the attendees include large contingents of representatives specifically from hospitals in Europe and Asia in addition to North America.
  • If you have never attended the show, more than half of the exhibits (if not more) are focused on large pieces of capital diagnostic equipment: MRI, CT scan, monitoring etc. As a result, some of the booths (Siemens, GE, Agfa, Fujifilm etc.) are huge. I’m talking multiple city blocks.
  • Unlike HIMSS, where there is an annual influx of new companies with net new technologies, RSNA is similar from an exhibitor perspective year over year. There is still a tremendous number of companies talking about PACs, RIS, and CVIS, although when I spoke with a number of the executives at those booths, the market for standalone imaging systems is stagnant.
  • The buzz in the room was primarily centered around image sharing technologies like vendor-neutral archiving, enterprise imaging, cloud-based image storage, multi-site reading interoperability, and other technologies focused on breaking down silos and disparate systems. The focus of these firms is helping hospitals, imaging centers and the like to leverage and get more usability and flexibility out of their existing PACs, RIS, and CVIS systems. Vendors such as Mach7 Technologies, SCImage, Merge, Agfa, Acuo Technologies (now a part of Perceptive Software), Accelerad (aka seemyradiology.com, now a part of Nuance), and others highlighted the groups focused on flexible image interoperability systems.
  • There was a good deal of activity as well at the TeraRecon and Vital Images (now part of Toshiba) booths. Both of these vendors have historically been known for their capabilities in 3D and 4D imaging, but both are trying to educate the market on some of their new enterprise imaging capabilities.
  • There were other workflow vendors focused on speech recognition and other complimentary diagnostic tools such as MModal with its Fluency product, Nuance with its Powerscribe 360 product set, and Dolbey with its Fusion product, which was Best in KLAS the last couple of years. These booths had good activity too.
  • Another well-represented area that should continue to grow is the teleradiology segment. Reading of remote images has been going on for years, but as we focus on providing better quality of care to remote areas and the fact the telemedicine as a whole is on the rise, these companies in my opinion are still a good bet.
  • Lastly, there was a new vendor that I thought was very interesting called MedCPU, which recently deployed at the Cleveland Clinic. They have solution that operates behind the scenes of an EMR, RIS, or any other clinical documentation system that can read and comprehend unstructured notes, text, test results, speech (from a Nuance or MModal), and any other clinical information. The solution analyzes this information and cross checks it against compliances guidelines and clinical best practices and identifies variances in real time to alert the clinician of medical errors. They incorporate a combination of natural language processing and other homegrown technologies. After viewing their demo, I think they are a company to watch out for.

All in all, RSNA was well attended this year, but I think that the general consensus is that the large vendors need to figure out how to move the needle while helping CIOs keep costs down and get more out of their existing imaging systems. This will be a challenge for some of the big, publicly traded players, but the future looks bright for the nimble enterprise imaging interoperability companies who are gearing up for Meaningful Use Stages 3 and 4 that require the incorporation of medical images into the EMR.

Mike Silverstein is a managing partner of Direct Consulting Associates of Solon, OH.

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December 8, 2014 Readers Write 2 Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 12/8/14

December 8, 2014 Dr. Jayne 11 Comments

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My favorite fashionista sent me a link other day in advance of this week’s mHealth Summit. Since I spend most of my time worrying about MU, PQRS, VBP, and a host of other acronyms, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the fact that Forbes apparently has a style file. And here I thought they were all about business and investing!

Reading further down her text made me even more curious: “There’s tongue in cheek, and then there’s this….”

Power Wear: mHealth Summit 2014” starts out innocently enough, providing background on the conference and its attendees. From there, however, the author gets a little silly, stating, “What you wear will visually convey your professional message as well as empower you to fully engage at the conference … my mission is to free you up to concentrate on presentation and participation by making getting dressed easy.”

Seriously? Does she actually think that women who have arrived at the point in their careers where they’re presenting at a national meeting cannot coordinate their own wardrobes?

She goes on to remind us that we need to “appear flattering” and “to opt for clothing that enhances or creates an hourglass shape.” I’m pretty sure I left my corset in the 1890s, where it belonged. When she admonished readers not to be distracted by “a fussy handbag, or fidgeting with your look,” I’m sure my mouth was gaping open. I wonder how many female mHealth professionals even own a fussy handbag, let alone give much consideration to their “look?”

Certainly no one wants to look bad on stage, but most of us prefer to spend our time polishing presentations and ensuring we have time to actually make all the meetings on our schedules rather than fretting about whether our outfits are au courant. Not to mention, serious travelers are more motivated to ensure their entire conference wardrobe fits into a 22-inch roller bag rather than making sure they have multiple handbags with which to accessorize.

She offers three “inspirational style guides” that are (in her words) fashion-forward, professionally-polished, versatile, comfy, and inspirational. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a smart suit or a hot shoe. But generally I’m inspired by a person’s words, accomplishments, and how they relate to the audience far more than how they’re dressed.

The second look she pictures reminds me of something out of the Barbie aisle, complete with awkward posture, anatomically-fascinating digital alterations, and optional accessories:

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I was torn on thinking whether this piece was really supposed to be serious, so I sent it to some of the most fashion-savvy people I know, all of whom are seasoned conference presenters and attendees. Comments ranged from, “OMG, is this a joke? I’m kind of speechless. And why specifically for mHealth?” to, “After reading the beginning, I was expecting something a little more from the clothing.” One C-level took less exception to the existence of the piece than to the author’s choices: “Seriously, did you look at what she picked out… Good God! But don’t they have similar fashion articles for men?”

Other highlights:

  • I am sorry, but I am stunned by this. I would think that this conference would be less Project Runway and a little bit more Davos… the fact that this is probably representative of the wearable market (did Google Glass die yet, because it should), which is ripe with misplaced interest and based on the idea that the sexy dork is a smart one. Sure, I’d love to have years of biometric data in your EHR if I were your patient, but can’t we agree as patient and provider that it would be most valuable if you had all of my previous tests, visits, labs, and data elements in discrete and reportable (and trendable) format inside your EHR first?
  • The only trend in healthcare that we should care about is the one that comes from having a true longitudinal and holistic and normalized view of a patient from birth to present. All other trends should be left at the hatters and haberdashers.

My favorite all-around IT guy is married to a physician and summed it up:

Maybe, just maybe, when healthcare leaders start to focus on the meaningful, the trite can be ignored. Providing sartorial suggestions for presenting demonstrates to me that we continue to focus on all that is useless while ignoring the real issues at hand. I am saddened, in a time when female representation at these meetings and panels remains woefully disproportionate to the balance of society at large, let alone employment in healthcare, that there is something important in how a woman is styled that will alter the content of the message, the value of the opinion and/or data, and the attention of the audience.

I am wearing a smart plaid tie over a blue shirt with brown pants, brown belt, brown shoes, and plaid socks with grey in them. No one cares that my socks are poorly chosen and the brown belt and shoes are not the same brown. Nor do people care that I rarely get a close shave. They just don’t. I stand in front of people and present things and they just listen to me and judge me on the content.

My personal advice for presenters is to wear something you’re comfortable in and to make sure that you have somewhere to clip the power pack for your wireless microphone. That in itself effectively rules out the first look, unless you’re traveling with a backstage roadie who is ready to hook it to your bra band or duct tape it to your back under the dress. I saw both of those happening in the green room of the studio where our hospital films its public-access cable show and neither is a technique I’d want to utilize in the 15 minute handoff between speakers at a conference.

I know a good number of HIStalk readers are at the mHealth Summit this week. I’m interested in what you think as well as what you’re seeing in the halls and on the podium. Is the mHealth crowd more fashionable than the HIMSS or Health 2.0 crowds? Is a $177 Tory Burch floral top going to take my presentation from good to great?

Email Dr. Jayne.

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December 8, 2014 Dr. Jayne 11 Comments

Morning Headlines 12/8/14

December 7, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Alberta moves on integrated health records system

In Canada, the province of Alberta has formed a task force to plan the development of a centralized health information system after the College of Physicians and Surgeons complained that the current system was “woefully inadequate.”

A Response to AMA President Dr. Robert Wah

The Coalition for ICD-10 publishes a harsh reply to AMA president Robert Wah, MD’s outspoken objections to the upcoming transition to ICD-10 codes.

The Woolly Mammoths Of Digital Health Care

Forbes reports on the persistent usability issues that are hindering providers, embarrassing EHR vendors, and frustrating policymakers as the ROI on the nation’s HITECH investment continues to loom just out of reach.

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December 7, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Monday Morning Update 12/8/14

December 6, 2014 News 5 Comments

Top News

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Alberta, Canada begins its search for a new clinical information system after a auditor’s report found that the $260 million it spent on EHRs resulted in systems that don’t talk to each other, requiring the continued use of faxing to exchange information. Progressive Conservative Member of the Legislative Assembly says, “Do we realize we need to have data exchange standards before we start adding systems? We need systems to talk. It blows my mind.”


Reader Comments

From Not My First Rodeo: “Cottage Health System in Santa Barbara, CA. Going Epic. Recently hired a project director and is moving quickly to hire FTEs from other regional Epic customers.” Somewhat old news, I think, given that Cottage’s bond rating agency mentioned the planned Epic expense in its July ratings report.

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From The PACS Designer: “Re: Chartcube. It will enhance your presentations of spreadsheets. Collaborate with colleagues using your iPad to focus on the really important elements of your spreadsheets.”


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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I hereby acknowledge the will of the people in proclaiming Atlanta as the official “Healthcare IT Capital of the US.” Atlanta’s health IT network and civic pride turned out the vote with 45 percent of the 1,600 votes cast (including mine). Congratulations to the “Home of Peach Trees and HIT” (the only peach trees I know there are the 100 or so streets named that, but surely they must grow somewhere among all the concentric asphalt rings). New poll to your right or here: do you look forward to going to work Monday mornings? Vote and then click “Comments” to explain.

It’s a very slow news season and that situation will likely continue over the next few weeks. I could do as the industry rags do and simply pad out this post with endless paragraphs covering non-newsworthy topics, crank out poorly thought out editorials that say nothing new, or pretend that pointless announcements deserve extensive coverage and an easily churned out backstory containing mostly unrelated historical facts. However, I’ve decided (as I always do) that instead I’m going to avoid wasting your time and mine and give you a few minutes (and me a few hours) of your life back. I promise I haven’t omitted anything important and I will continue to be verbose when events warrants. Meanwhile, I’m going to take the rare opportunity to get off the computer and hopefully do something fun.


Last Week’s Most Interesting News

  • A new JASON report prepared for the federal government says the health IT systems market is moving in the right direction with regard to interoperability, but that initiatives are not complete because systems sometimes only export entire documents, omit patient information, or provide APIs whose use is contractually limited to customers rather than entrepreneurs.
  • HL7 launches the Argonaut Project to address the standards recommendations of the federal government’s JASON group, including HL7’s FHIR (fast healthcare interoperability resources).
  • ONC names Jon White, MD from AHRQ as acting deputy national coordinator and acting chief medical officer, taking over for the recently departed Jacob Reider, MD.
  • Madison’s alternative weekly newspaper says that Epic has backed down from its plan to extend its non-compete term from one year to two for employees who quit to join consulting firm Vonlay after its acquisition by Huron Consulting Group.

Webinars

December 17 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. There Is A 90% Probability That Your Son Is Pregnant: Predicting the Future of Predictive Analytics in Healthcare. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP of strategy, Health Catalyst. Predictive analytics is more than simple risk stratification. Once you identify an individual’s risk, what are the odds that you can change their behavior and what will it cost to do so? This presentation, geared towards managers, executives, and clinicians, addresses scenarios in which predictive models may or not be effective given that 80 percent of outcomes are driven by socioeconomic factors rather than healthcare delivery.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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The Cleveland paper profiles CoverMyMeds, whose CFO predicts it will become a billion-dollar company. The company, with annual revenue of $50 million and growing, doubled its headcount this year to 140 and expects to double it again in 2015 after an undisclosed investment by Francisco Partners. I interviewed co-founder Matt Scantland a couple of months ago.


Sales

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Everyday Health chooses Validic to integrate consumer data into its digital health and wellness platform. Validic announces several more new customers, including WebMD and UPMC, that increase its client population from 80 million to 100 million. The company is presenting and exhibiting at the mHealth Summit this week.


Other

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A brilliant example of for-profit, non-peer reviewed “journals” that publish articles for a fee: two “predatory” scientific journals accept for publication an article containing indecipherable, randomly generated text as submitted by three authors, all of them characters from “The Simpsons.”

The Coalition for ICD-10 responds to the ICD-10-sarcastic comments of a generally IT-whiny AMA President Robert Wah, MD (who has an informatics background and served as deputy national coordinator of ONC, yet somehow now hates everything about healthcare IT) in saying that seemingly wacky ICD-10 codes have good reasons for their use. Example: “Sucked into a jet engine” might seem eye-rollingly hilarious unless you spend 18-hour days on a Navy ship flight deck trying to avoid doing just that. I have to say that I’ve been hoping someone would give Wah (and the AMA) a good spanking for his ridiculous, self-serving rhetoric  and the group did exactly that:

Dr. Wah complains about the number of codes and the detail in ICD-10 but fails to mention that much of the additional specificity in ICD-10 was at the request of medical specialty societies. Nor does he mention that there are no ICD-9 codes for many critical healthcare issues. There is no code to report and track Ebola. There are inadequate codes for tracking service-related health problems for our veterans. There are no codes to help us research sports-related concussions among young athletes. It’s hard to understand why the AMA is not demanding that this kind of information be available in our national data.


Contacts

Mr. H, Lorre, Jennifer, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg, Lt. Dan, Dr. Travis.

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.

 

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December 6, 2014 News 5 Comments

Morning Headlines 12/5/14

December 4, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

HL7 Launches Joint Argonaut Project to Advance FHIR

HL7 will work with a large consortium of vendors and health systems to develop a standardized data sharing API and a set of common vocabularies that all EHR vendors could adopt to exchange discrete data and improve interoperability.

Computer-Generated Vs. Physician-Documented History of Present Illness (HPI): Results of a Blinded Comparison

Researchers created a computerized questionnaire that collects clinical data from both patients and providers and then produces a narrative history of present illness. A panel of 48 physicians then blindly evaluated them against physician-documented HPIs, concluding that the computer-generated HPIs were more complete, more useful, more succinct, and better organized.

State says it has repaid $1.3M in overpayments

Massachusetts pays back $1.3 million in Meaningful Use incentive payments after a federal audit found that local hospitals received $2.1 million in overpayments. Representatives from the state Medicaid agency report that the remaining balance will be subtracted from future payments to the overpaid hospitals.

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December 4, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

News 12/5/14

December 4, 2014 News 10 Comments

Top News

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HL7 launches the Argonaut Project to address the standards recommendations of the federal government’s JASON group, including HL7’s FHIR (fast healthcare interoperability resources). Working with HL7 will be athenahealth, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Cerner, Epic, Intermountain, Mayo, Meditech, McKesson, Partners HealthCare, SMART from Boston Children’s, and The Advisory Board Company. HL7 says the group will create FHIR-based EHR data sharing API specification by the spring of 2015. The big news here: (a) the second JASON report called for a big vendor to propose an open API standard instead of waiting around for the government to do it; (b) FHIR and APIs are a heck of a lot better than today’s document-based interoperability standards and probably better than the customized jungle that the HL7 standard has become; and (c) getting Epic, Cerner, Meditech, and McKesson together at the same table covers nearly all of the hospital EHR market and Epic, particularly, is a key member given its non-participation in CommonWell (and Epic and Cerner already have customers using APIs).

I asked an expert who shall remain unnamed to summarize Project Argonaut:

Project Argonaut is beginning the hard work of not only formalizing the API calling sequence (the easy part and something most vendors already do), but to formalize a set of vocabulary objects – Problems, Allergies, Notes, etc. with controlled vocabularies and predictability. To make FHIR really work, both must be done well. If FHIR succeeds, it will allow third parties to create an “app” and be able to run it in any FHIR-compatible system without the meet and map exercise with each implementation. What we’ll need to do with FHIR is to ensure people don’t get ahead of themselves and customize the “resources,” otherwise we’ll be back in the same boat as HL7 v2. FHIR is at the peak of inflated expectations. It will be great as a minor plug-in where there’s a UI or visualization, but not so great for machine-to-machine communication where one of the endpoints might not always be reliable for high-volume transfers at scale – some of the simpler web service configurations can be horribly inefficient, like making separate grocery store trips for each item on your list. There may be audit and security issues as well.

I asked another expert how the Argonaut Project might relate to CommonWell:

There is no immediate connection, but over time, CommonWell could add services that are based on the FHIR standard that the Argonauts are trying to speed up. For example, CommonWell today uses XCA to move CDA documents around, but that can be cumbersome if all the doctor wants is to get a list of known allergies from some other site. FHIR makes the later query much easier than using XCA to move a "fake" document that contains only allergies. So, CommonWell will benefit from the success of the Argonaut work (assuming it’s successful!) But otherwise, there is no direct connection, though some of the same people are involved with both.


Reader Comments

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From Ken L. Ration: “Re: HIMSS. Our designer got a good laugh from this HIMSS15 promotional graphic. One thought it was an attempt to be edgy, but the general consensus is that it’s a marketing fail.” I think it’s an insightful graphic: those benzene ring-shaped items are probably snowflakes burying HIMSS attendees who would much rather be almost anywhere else — Chicago came in seventh of 11 desired HIMSS cities last time I surveyed, with the clear winners being San Diego, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

From Roy G. Biv: “Re: physician billing services. Do health systems keep using them after implementing Epic? Could you ask your readers if, for instance, the keep using athenahealth’s PM and billing service post-Epic?” Readers have been duly notified – responses are welcome.

From HIT5982: “Re: Medhost. Let 71 people go Wednesday all at once. HR cleaned out their desks while they were being told. I was one of them – I worked in the department division (EDIS, Patient Flow, perioperative) and was told the emphasis will shift to Enterprise (clinicals, financials, patient access, revenue cycle). Departmental sales were down this year.” Reported by two readers. I reached out to the company for a response but didn’t receive one. Nothing says Christmas like being laid off.

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I shall digress and pontificate on the topic of layoffs. I’ve seen both sides over the years: (a) I was literally on my way out the door before getting a last-minute reprieve in my one and only vendor job many years ago, where layoffs every quarter were a given as executive bonuses became threatened by poor financial numbers mostly due to their own poor decisions; and (b) I have personally marched at least 20 people out of the hospital IT department through a gauntlet of their peers as I served as judge, jury, and executioner for high-level decisions that I neither made nor agreed with. Both situations were largely created by clueless, spreadsheet-circulating executives who were shockingly indifferent to the havoc they were wreaking on the lives of people and their families. While some of the folks who get axed deserved it and should have been canned a lot sooner, many of them had been given perfectly fine performance evaluations but were singled out for factors beyond their control: changing organizational strategy, their own demographics, higher salaries that they had been voluntarily offered to them, and doing their jobs every day instead of kissing executive butt and backstabbing their co-workers. Readers regularly send me personal stories about being cut loose and I always provide the same response: you’ll be better off in the long term because who wants to work for a company that lays people off? To people all over the industry who have to face the holidays (and their families) with uncertainty, fear, and feelings of personal inadequacy for whatever reason, I am truly sorry. It will get better.

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From Pierre Dukane: “Re: slimy companies. This site [URL omitted] charges consultants $300 per quarter to be on the ‘elite’ list for go-live job notifications, using information it gathers from other members and online job postings (duh). The ‘About’ page doesn’t say who runs it and the domain registration information is blocked. I can’t believe people pay for this garbage. Also, an HIT consulting firm’s recruiter is sending emails offering entry into a gift certification drawing if they ‘forward any email you receive from another recruiter or company regarding current opportunities or referral incentives.’ What happened to working the old-fashioned, honest way? No wonder clients and consultants feel so negatively about consulting firms.” It wasn’t hard for me to track down the operator of site you mentioned, which doesn’t seem to be offering much for $1,200 per year. But hey, it’s a free country, and he’ll either get business or he won’t depending on the value he provides. I’ve had both good and bad experiences with recruiters that I’ve either hired or been placed by, but I agree that quite a few questionably motivated people see it as nothing more than making easy money by matching Resume A to Job Posting B. Nearly everything in life can be explained by supply vs. demand.

From Elsa: “Re: BJC’s core clinicals replacement. Vendors were to have been notified Friday. I was shocked that it wasn’t Cerner – my source says it’s Epic. Not sure how they’ll justify the cost when they laid off staff, cut charity care, and froze raises.” Unverified.

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From Not Quite: “Re: JASON report. ONC is putting a lot of stock in it, but it’s a fake that is partially plagiarized from Wikipedia. The report lists many references, but fails to list Wikipedia, from which many things were copied. ONC should ask for our money back!” No report should ever reference Wikipedia since it’s not a vetted reference, but hopefully the JASON folks cited their primary references properly, at least where a source contained something that isn’t common knowledge.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

Voting for the US capital of healthcare IT has been heavy, with Madison leading the pack and Nashville and Boston pulling up as a distant second and third. Voting ends this weekend – my poll is here.

This week on HIStalk Connect: Data scientists with athenahealth are monitoring the onset of the 2014-2015 flu season and note an early uptick in flu-related visits. Google is said to be revamping the internal components of Google Glass in an effort to boost battery life. Personal genome testing startup 23andMe will begin selling genetic tests in Canada and the UK after a year of trying and failing to secure FDA approval for US sales. 

This week on HIStalk Practice: Payers in Colorado build online claims data-sharing tool for physicians. HIPAA compliance at physician practices is found to be woefully lacking. Gila River Health Care goes with NextGen, while Advocate Community Partners selects eClinicalWorks. Practice Fusion VP argues for net neutrality, while Amazon takes advantage of lightning-fast consumer Internet connections. AMA winner Nancy Adams asks, “Interoperability? How about achieving operability first?” Thanks for reading.


Webinars

December 17 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. There Is A 90% Probability That Your Son Is Pregnant: Predicting the Future of Predictive Analytics in Healthcare. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP of strategy, Health Catalyst. Predictive analytics is more than simple risk stratification. Once you identify an individual’s risk, what are the odds that you can change their behavior and what will it cost to do so? This presentation, geared towards managers and executives, addresses scenarios in which predictive models may or not be effective given that 80 percent of outcomes are driven by socioeconomic factors rather than healthcare delivery.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Integrated payments network vendor InstaMed raises $17 million in a private placement, $2 million more than it was seeking.


Sales

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Rio Grande Valley Health Alliance (TX) and Lakewood Health System (MN) choose Lightbeam Health Solutions for population health management. I interviewed CEO Pat Cline a few months ago. 

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Western New York’s HEALTHeLINK HIE chooses Stella Technology’s clinical data access technology for analytics and reporting.

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota chooses Strata Decision’s StrataJazz for decision support and cost accounting.

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Granite Health Network (NH) selects athenahealth’s athenaCoordinator Enterprise Population Manager.

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The Medical Center at Bowling Green (KY) chooses ProVation Medical for its cardiac cath lab.


People

CompuGroup Medical US promotes Navid Asgari to VP of service and support for its ambulatory information services division.


Announcements and Implementations

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Lehigh Valley Health Network (PA) announces that its physician group will move to Epic.

Levi, Ray & Shoup announces release of a new user interface for Epic users of its VPSX output management solution.

Imprivata announces OneSign 5.0, a new version of its authentication and access management product.

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Children’s National Health System (DC) opens an Innovation and Learning Center to house Bear Institute, its partnership with Cerner. The announcement is confusing, but I think it’s just a new physical space to house the existing project, which was announced just over a year ago.

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CareSync launches its Chronic Care Management service that allows providers to earn Medicare’s monthly CCM payments.

Perceptive Software launches Perceptive Interact for Google Apps, which allows users to integrate Gmail content into Perceptive Content for review, routing, and collaboration.


Government and Politics

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ONC names Jon White, MD from AHRQ as acting deputy national coordinator and acting chief medical officer, taking over for the recently departed Jacob Reider, MD.

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Someone tweeted out this fascinating article from March called “Sinkhole of Bureacuracy,” which describes the 600 federal government employees who push paper in the abandoned limestone mine run by Iron Mountain in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania at a cost of $56 million per year. Previous federal government automation efforts of the government’s retirement program failed despite spending well over $100 million. A former employee described the manual process as, “I used to chase people for months — literally — for one signature on one piece of paper. You want to talk about an egregious waste of taxpayer money? … On a daily basis, we would get from five to 50 e-mails, asking everybody to take time out of their day to search their desks for case files.” The article says the old mine is legend in the federal government, quoting former CTO Aneesh Chopra as calling it “that crazy cave.”

Massachusetts says it has repaid most of the $2.1 million in Medicaid EHR incentives that were incorrectly given to 19 hospitals that were identified by the HHS OIG. The state blamed requirements that are hard to understand and hospitals that reported incorrect data to the federal government.


Innovation and Research

A small study finds that a computerized symptom questionnaire that was turned into a History of Present Illness narrative using computer algorithms created a better HPI than physicians doing it themselves.


Other

Hospitalists at two Oregon hospitals form a union, hoping to remain as hospital employees rather than being outsourced to a national firm.

A review of a tiny sample of the 100TB (!!) of data hackers took from Sony finds medical information, in the form of doctor letters for medical leaves of absence. The responsible hacker group, possibly from North Korea, has posted some of the information publicly, including salaries, scripts, and video files of unreleased Sony movies. The hackers also released a Word document titled “Passwords” that some idiot Sony executive had used to store all of his computer passwords and credit card information. Sony was burned by hackers in 2011 who stole credit card numbers and took down its PlayStation network for weeks. 

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New York police arrest radiologist James Kessler, MD, MPH for copying the information of 97,000 patients of his former employer onto a portable hard drive with intention of starting a competing business.

Singer and cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge, just announced as a keynote speaker for GE Healthcare’s Centricity Live user conference, creates a line of prescription-only “cannabis-infused fine wines” that provide “a delicious full body buzz.”


Sponsor Updates


  • An Imprivata video provides an overview of electronic prescribing of controlled substances.
  • HCS provided 50 tickets to the Los Angeles screening of the overwhelmingly positively reviewed Glen Campbell documentary “I’ll Be Me” in support of Alzheimer’s awareness. The company will be contributing to the Salvation Army through the holidays on behalf of its clients.
  • DataMotion earns accreditation as a Certification Authority and Registration Authority from DirectTrust.org and EHNAC, allowing it to issue and manage digital certificates in addition to its role as an accredited Health Information Service Provider.

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne

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ONC will hold its annual meeting February 2-3, 2015. The email announcement caught my eye in mentioning that “the two-day meeting will gather over 1,200 health IT fans,” but on the registration website, it had been toned down to “health IT partners.” The event includes “an exciting panel of ONC’s former National Coordinators,” according to the email. I’m not sure if that’s enough of a draw to convince me to head to Washington in February. If you’re planning to attend, keep us in mind for rumors and newsy tidbits.

GE Healthcare announces its Centricity Live 2015 meeting April 29-May 2, 2015 at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort. Keynote speakers include Atul Gawande, Melissa Etheridge, and LeVar Burton. That lineup looks pretty good compared to some I’ve seen. I stayed at the Dolphin a couple of nights before HIMSS and it’s in a minimally mousey part of the Disney compound. Given the recent weather in my neck of the woods, I’m sure by April I’ll have a complete deficiency of Vitamin D, so if anyone wants a sassy traveling companion, let me know.

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My good friend Anjali called last week asking for a favor. The annual Christmas Party at her hospital (it’s a faith-based institution, hence the name) was looming. Her husband had to travel and she didn’t want to go alone. She’s run three half marathons with me and has had my back in countless clinical situations, so how could I say no? She works at a hospital across town where I only know a handful of medical staff members, so I was looking forward to a holiday party where I could have a couple of glasses of wine without being interrogated about our EHR.

We were a little late heading out. She had picked up a dose of flu vaccine from the local retail pharmacy and was planning to vaccinate her daughter. The pediatrician’s office was already out of vaccine and the pharmacy won’t vaccinate children under 8 even with a physician’s order, so she decided to get creative. Unfortunately, she’s a surgeon with few pediatric vaccine skills, so I was persuaded to step in.

It’s a sad commentary when you have to work the system to vaccinate your child. Most parents don’t have that option, but I was happy to help. Needless to say, that vaccine won’t be making it into the state immunization registry, but I did email her the Vaccine Information Statement so I don’t run afoul of the feds.

The tables were packed when we arrived. We grabbed the first open space we found. We were next to a husband/wife physician couple – she’s a radiologist on staff and he’s an internal medicine physician elsewhere in town. The odds of a physician conversation (regardless of setting) eventually turning to EHRs and healthcare IT is nearly 100 percent if you talk long enough, and tonight didn’t disappoint.

The radiologist is pretty happy with the hospital’s system. She appreciates being able to view the entire patient chart when there are questions about what an ordering provider hopes to achieve with a diagnostic test. She also enjoys not having to help the radiology staff decipher cryptic physician handwriting.

Anjali told them she preferred handling patient messages from home after her daughter goes to bed rather than having to stay in the office. A couple of other people chimed in and I thought for a brief moment that the EHR love fest might continue in the spirit of holiday togetherness.

The bubble was burst when the internal medicine physician started complaining about his EHR. He complained of the burden of data entry with little return. He said he didn’t understand why there wasn’t any data exchange with other practices or hospitals or why he doesn’t have access to reports on his patients’ health status.

I asked a couple of questions about his practice and his system and was able to deduce that he is actually on my hospital’s platform, through our affiliate subsidy program. Anj picked up on this as well and gave me a little eyebrow raise. She knows I led deployment of our private HIE more than six years ago and that our users regularly exchange data between owned and affiliate practices as well as our multiple hospitals.

She’s also on the same ambulatory EHR although on a different platform, so was able to provide some positive counterpoints to keep him from going too far. I didn’t want to reveal myself as the owner of the platform due to the potential for turning a holiday gathering into a debate, so I excused myself for another glass of wine.

Most of our providers are satisfied with our system and are seeing the benefits of our patient registries, actionable reports, and interoperability. I’m going to need to get to the bottom of why his practice isn’t having a good experience and figure out what we need to do to get them to the same level satisfaction. I’ve reached out to our affiliate program manager so that I can review his implementation documentation and support tickets to try to identify what might have gone awry. I just wish I had heard about it through or formal processes rather than as an aside at a party.

Anj has never seen me in full Administralian mode and told me she was impressed at how I kept my cool while the physician was ripping apart the system I’ve spent the better part of a decade implementing, optimizing, and personally ensuring that practices receive value for their efforts. I must say I haven’t always been unflappable in these situations, but they have become easier over time. I’ve learned to pick my battles and not let situations get out of control.

We did enjoy some seafood and a nice string quartet, as well as good conversation with other physicians.

Have any strategies for enjoying the company holiday party? Email me.


Contacts

Mr. H, Lorre, Jennifer, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg, Lt. Dan, Dr. Travis.

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.

 

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December 4, 2014 News 10 Comments

Morning Headlines 12/4/14

December 4, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Efforts To Improve Patient Safety Result in 1.3 Million Fewer Patient Harms

US hospitals have reduce medical errors by 17 percent since 2010, with a majority of the improvements coming from reduced adverse drug events, according to an AHRQ report. The improvement is credited with saving an estimated 50,000 lives and $12 billion in healthcare spending.

Jon White, MD, Acting Deputy National Coordinator/Acting Chief Medical Officer

The ONC promotes Jon White, MD to the position of Acting Deputy National Coordinator. White has been with the ONC since 2004, and is also the ONC’s current Chief Medical Officer.

DNA-screening test 23andMe launches in UK after US ban

After being shut down by the FDA in 2013, personal genetic testing provider 23andMe will begin marketing its genetic health assessments in the UK and Canada.

Organizations achieve EMRAM Stage 7

Six hospitals are added to the HIMSS Stage 7 list, including Ontario Shores Center for Mental Health Sciences, the first  hospital from Canada, and first behavioral health hospital, to reach Stage 7.

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December 4, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Readers Write: 10 Talent Trends to Watch in 2015

December 3, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

10 Talent Trends to Watch in 2015
By Anthony Caponi

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The entirety of my career has been spent in the healthcare staffing industry. Consequently, I have been at both ends of the spectrum. There were tough times in 2008 and 2009 as the nation’s economic recession spilled into healthcare hiring. Then, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, numerous jobs were created with the promotion of EHR adoption.

The healthcare IT industry is absolutely on the rise. However, we will also see some obstacles, including a talent and skills gap. Below is a list of 10 increasing trends for 2015.

Increasing Mergers and Acquisitions

Healthcare reform is becoming a powerful catalyst for the consolidation and integration trend in the hospital industry. A study conducted by Kaufman Hall found that hospital mergers and acquisitions increased 10 percent in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the same time frame the previous year. Overall, studies indicate a continuation of several trends, including increasing numbers of acquisitions. These mergers and acquisitions that are taking place are resulting in a number of highly qualified CIOs in the job market.

Big Data Employment Boom

The data economy needs dedicated people — 4.4 million of them by 2015 in the IT field alone, according to a Gartner Research analysis. In the U.S., a McKinsey & Company report projects a shortfall of between 140,000 and 190,000 big data professionals with deep analytical skills by 2018. Additionally, the impact of big data on employment goes far deeper than the deep analytics and IT fields. Companies need professionals at all levels that are not necessarily educated in deep analytics but are nevertheless big data-savvy.

New C-Level Positions

The chief data officer (CDO) is a new position coming into play in the healthcare IT industry. Hospitals are using the role to try to "leverage data as a strategic institutional asset … It’s about how to transform data into information, how to transform information into better-informed decisions," according to Seattle Children’s Hospital CDO Eugene Kolker.

Another position that is becoming more popular in the healthcare IT space is the chief nursing information officer (CNIO). According to a Modern Healthcare report, about 30 percent of hospitals and health systems now have a CNIO and that number is expected to grow. CNIOs are helping hospitals implement their EHRs and other healthcare IT projects because of their expertise in how nurses use patient data.

Growing Job Market

The healthcare sector is poised to add 5 million jobs by 2020, according to a report by AMN Healthcare. The increased use of technology for healthcare applications is the primary factor for the growing job market. Healthcare job growth averaged 26,000 positions per month between March and September of this year, jumping significantly in the second quarter and continuing into the third quarter, according to the Altarum Institute’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending.

More Interim Executives

The number of interim executives is growing and the demand for interim talent has become apparent. This trend will become a growing part of the employment movement, especially in healthcare IT-related roles like CIOs and CMIOs. With the expected sizable number of baby boomers retiring, combined with the number of independent delivery networks and hospitals in the U.S., it’s easy to see that the demand will grow. This means that there will likely be a shortage of experienced healthcare executives in 2015, which means demand for interim healthcare executives will only grow over time.

Talent Shortage

As baby boomers retire in record numbers, the healthcare IT industry is feeling the pain of a talent shortage. In an article in InformationWeek.com, Asal Naraghi, director of talent acquisition for healthcare services company Best Doctors, says she “absolutely” sees an IT talent shortage. Tracy Cashman, senior VP and partner in the IT search practice of WinterWyman, also says she sees a genuine talent shortage. "There are more jobs than people who are skilled," she says. While she’s starting to see an uptick in engineering graduates, "we’ve been feeling this since the [dot-com] bubble burst," Cashman says, when college students were worried that all IT jobs would move to India. "And we’re still fighting that," she says.

Universities Offering Healthcare IT Degrees

Cloud computing, big data, mobile technology — three of the biggest trends in IT are changing the way the healthcare industry deals with information and creating a big need for trained healthcare IT professionals. Thus, colleges and universities have started offering healthcare IT as a major, where students learn what it takes to function as a fully capable software developer in any professional environment, but specifically tailor their skills to the rapidly expanding healthcare IT field.

Specialists in Demand

Today’s IT shops don’t just want experience, they want deep experience. “IT organizations are under intense pressure to deliver projects faster than before — and that need for speed necessarily influences IT hiring. The IT generalists, and even some topic generalists, such as infrastructure managers, have found their roles left by the side of the road, as project leaders hire for deep experience in specific niches, such as cloud security, DevOps, and data analysis and architecture.”

McGraw-Hill Education CIO David Wright says, "More and more, the hands-on coders, we’re looking for people who are just really deep in whatever discipline we’re trying to hire." And he isn’t the only one advocating for specialization; Asal Naraghi, Director of Talent Acquisition for healthcare services company Best Doctors, also says, “The trend has gone into more specialized skill sets."

Video Interviewing and Skype More Popular

The use of remote yet face-to-face interactions such as video interviewing and Skype is on the rise. Advanced technology is giving people a way to present themselves with depth and personality to hiring managers and recruiters. In addition, new hires meet the team before they even step in the office.

Interview Process Becoming Lengthier

The interview and hiring process have become more elongated in recent years, a trend that we can expect to see more of in 2015. According to Anne Kreamer, a journalist who specializes in business and work/life balance, “Data compiled for the New York Times by Glassdoor found that an average interview process in 2013 lasted 23 days versus an average of 12 days in 2009. And time-consuming assignments and auditions for candidates … are the new normal.”

Anthony Caponi is vice president of healthcare IT of Direct Consulting Associates of Solon, OH.

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December 3, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

HIStalk Interviews Lou Silverman, CEO, Advanced ICU Care

December 3, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Lou Silverman is chairman and CEO of Advanced ICU Care of St. Louis, MO.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

The company has been doing tele-ICU work for the past seven or eight years with clinical founders. We’ve been growing steadily ever since.

I’ve been at the company for just a little bit under a year. My experience spans healthcare IT, revenue cycle management services, and clinical services. I’ve also had some exposure via being a board member to pharmaceutical companies as well as home care companies and data and analytics companies.

 

What are the key issues hospitals have with delivering ICU services?

The ICU units happen to be a place where a disproportionate percentage of dollars is focused and spent. ICUs typically have the very sickest of patients for the hospitals.

The staffing in ICUs can be challenging for a number of hospitals. The ICU obviously should be staffed 24x7x365. The gold standard for staffing includes 24×7 intensivist involvement. The supply — and therefore the ability to recruit intensivists — is variable across many hospitals, many markets, and in fact many geographies.

 

How many hospitals meet that 24×7 intensivist monitoring standard, and of those, how many do it using a remote service?

It’s a relatively small percentage of hospitals that have the gold standard of 24x7x365 bedside intensivists. The number of hospitals that are using tele-ICU services to supplement that is growing fairly nicely, but we are still in the very early stages of adoption of tele-ICU services.

I think it’s fair to say that those hospitals that have elected to adopt tele-ICU services have developed a keen understanding of, and keen appreciation for, the benefits that accrue to a hospital across many different parameters for making that selection. Recruitment of intensivists is difficult. Retention, just by the very nature of the job, can be a little bit difficult. Some markets are far easier to recruit from than others. 

In addition, just getting to uniformity of care, implementation of agreed-upon best practices … there are just many, many elements that hospitals are dealing with in their ICU.

We try to organize our thinking around focusing on outcomes, patient outcomes, implementation, and sustained use of clinical best practices. Doing all of those things in a ROI-appropriate manner.

You can group virtually all issues that hospitals face in the ICU into those one or more of those three areas. A good tele-ICU partner will help address in a compelling way each and all of those key areas.

 

What is the regional span or the geographical span of the services that you provide or that you could provide? Could it be a global service like radiology nighthawking with appropriate licensure?

Our company specifically is in 20 states today, but that’s just simply a nod to the fact that we’re growing and we’re adding states in a rapid way. The answer to your question from a U.S. perspective is that this is a model that would work in any state.

We focus on having  U.S. board-certified, U.S. board-eligible clinicians working with and for us and with and for our partner hospitals. Historically at least, that has kept the focus of our recruitment on U.S.-based physicians.

It is fair to say that there are some small companies that are starting up in other geographies outside the U.S. and trying to get into the business. Some of those, in fact, also are using U.S. trained and board-certified clinicians to staff their operations. Historically, I’m not aware of any situations where U.S. companies are providing services to hospitals in other geographies. I am certainly aware that tele-ICU services are starting to start up in countries other than the U.S.

 

How much of the care that’s delivered to ICU patients is driven by formal protocols and accepted evidence? How does the technology take that and turn it into your service?

At a high level, the technology that we are using is driven toward having excellent access to the patients and the relevant patient health data. We have in the technology that we use algorithms that give us advanced alerts when certain patient trends are moving in a negative way. That gives us a way for us to be alerted and for us to also work in partnership with the bedside teams that we collaborate with to ensure a rapid attention to deteriorating patient conditions.

In terms of clinical best practices, that is very much a collaborative approach that we engage in with our partner hospitals. We have developed, over time and over the 60 hospitals that we have under contract, a very good understanding of what clinical best practices are and how they’re best deployed in an ICU. But it’s also fair to say that in some cases, there is perhaps more than one opinion on what the best practice is or the timing for implementing that best practice. 

It is at some level not a “one size fits all” approach that we take. It is much more of a collaborative approach that we take with partner hospitals to establish an agenda of best practices that we want to collaborate and implement together. Once we have agreement on what we’re going to do and in what sequence, we work collaboratively to execute on that plan.

 

If a hospital has its own local intensivists but needs coverage assistance, can you do that and how is the technology used in that case?

A significant percentage of the hospitals that we partner with do in fact have some level of intensivist staffing. All of them have some level of bedside staffing. We’re not at the bedside. That’s an obvious condition of the partnership.

In terms of collaborating when there are intensivists in place, that is a regular practice for us. We are a 24x7x365 service. We provide is a robust and always-on data capture practice, where we are able to take data across all of the patients that are coming through the ICU. We are able to convert that data into actionable and informative reports that we provide to our clients and collaborate with our clients to understand exactly what’s going on with their patient flow in the ICU. How the ICU patients are faring across a variety of metrics in terms of outcomes and utilization of best practices.

That is a value-added service, even in the context of a collaboration with a hospital that has a certain number of intensivists at the bedside. ICUs historically have been not really robust in terms of the modern data that they’re able to pull on what’s going on within the ICU itself. That’s part of the service that we provide for all of our clients.

 

The deal that you signed recently with Adventist Health System — are they seeing results yet?

It is still relatively early days. We’ve had a very robust and on-time implementation process across all of the pilot hospitals that we have been working with at Adventist. I’m not prepared to share specific results publicly, but I can tell you that even though it is relatively early days, the returns thus far, both from a quantitative and qualitative perspective, have been extremely positive and extremely well received across all aspects of the partnership.

 

Do you have any final thoughts?

The whole notion of tele-ICU is a very timely idea. It’s certainly one we’re seeing increased interest as an industry. We’re seeing increased interest in us as a company. 

When you look at trends that are impacting the overall healthcare ecosystem — with people having much more to do than they have time for, budgets are strained, outcomes are a clear increasing focal point — what we do as a tele-ICU provider is very consistent with all of the directional trends that are going on in healthcare, going on in hospitals, going on in the ICU. It is still an emerging market.

Our own company, without making this an advertisement, is the largest player in the space. It’s a very interesting company. The cliché is being in the right place at the right time, but it’s not a cliché for us. We are at that place at that time.

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December 3, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Morning Headlines 12/3/14

December 2, 2014 News No Comments

Health Data Outside the Doctor’s Office

National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD publishes a blog post touting a JASON report that HHS commissioned to explore “how to create a health information system that focuses on the health of individuals, not just the care they receive.”

Electronic patient records systems not ‘good enough’, says NHS CIO

In England, David Walliker, CIO of Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust says that he will pursue an electronic document management solution, rather than upgrading to a modern EHR, because the current systems available from CSC, Cerner, and Meditech are not yet viable options for the hospitals specialists.

Epic Systems backs down on noncompete clause

Epic backs down from an earlier decision to up its non-complete cause from one year to two for any recently departed employees that were trying to join Vonlay, a local health IT consulting firm. The employees in question had already left Epic and had only signed a one-year non-compete when they were hired.

Promoting Innovation; Protecting Patient Safety: Advancing Use of Technology in Health Care

The Bipartisan Policy Center will live stream a six-hour meeting on Wednesday called “An Oversight Framework for Assuring Patient Safety in Health Information Technology.” Speakers include National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD, and McKesson CEO John Hammergren.

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December 2, 2014 News No Comments

News 12/3/14

December 2, 2014 News 13 Comments

Top News

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An ONC blog post by Karen DeSalvo, MD called “Health Data Outside the Doctor’s Officer” references a new JASON report titled “Data for Individual Health” (JASON is a highly regarded independent science advisory group run by DoD contractor MITRE Corporation). The report addresses the steps needed to move to “a system focused on health of individuals rather than care of individuals” in creating a learning health system. Some of its recommendations:

  • HHS: take action on previously created reports and measure progress.
  • HHS: adopt interoperability standards and incentives.
  • HHS: support open API standards and pay providers more (the report suggests a 0.25 percent bonus in CMS’s Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program) for using “ecosystem-friendly EHRs” that follow those standards.
  • HHS: encourage non-profits (such as disease-specific advocacy groups) to mark consumer apps with their stamp of approval to increase their adoption.
  • Joint Commission and professional schools: add informatics training requirements.
  • FDA: loosen control of product services that could be construed as practicing medicine, for example, allowing apps to report their information to both provider and consumer as a risk mitigation strategy.

With regard to interoperability, JASON says the market is moving in the right direction and specifically notes that Epic (which the report says is regarded as “among the most closed systems”) has announced that it will develop APIs to allow external programs to interact with its systems. However, it says that initiatives are not complete because systems sometimes only export entire documents, omit patient information, or provide APIs whose use is contractually limited to customers rather than entrepreneurs. The new report suggests that the government encourage “an incumbent vendor with significant market share” to propose an open API standard to encourage the market leaders to step forward rather than being forced to follow a competitor-proposed standard. It also says FHIR is a significant improvement over CDA document-based exchange.


Reader Comments

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From Enumerator of Legumes: “Re: Laurens Albada. You mentioned that he appears to have left as CFO of Greenway Health. He’s now managing director of financial services with the consulting group of Vista Equity Partners, Greenway’s owner.” Verified, according to his LinkedIn profile. That’s a nice move up.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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Reminder: I’m collecting questions for CommonWell. If you want more information about its interoperability technology or strategy, send me yours

“Utilize” has been at the top of my “most annoying words” list for a long time since it is just a needlessly complicated way to say “use.” However, its top position has been recently threatened by “leverage,” which in a remarkable coincidence is yet another pompously pointless way to say “use.” Give marketing people their way and system users will be renamed “leveragees.”

Listening: Green River, an obscure mid-1980s hard-rocking Seattle band that arguably created what would later be known as grunge. They’re angry and armed with loud guitars that require me to provide air drums accompaniment. Two of the members later formed the similarly intense Mudhoney. I’m also enjoying the amazing Dinosaur Jr., late 1980s indie rock that remains fresh (and loud).


Webinar

December 17 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. There Is A 90% Probability That Your Son Is Pregnant: Predicting the Future of Predictive Analytics in Healthcare. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP of strategy, Health Catalyst. Predictive analytics is more than simple risk stratification. Once you identify an individual’s risk, what are the odds that you can change their behavior and what will it cost to do so? This presentation, geared towards managers and executives, addresses scenarios in which predictive models may or not be effective given that 80 percent of outcomes are driven by socioeconomic factors rather than healthcare delivery.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Microsoft acquires 18-month-old, 20-employee Accompli — which developed a slick, free, Exchange-enabled smartphone email management app — for $200 million. I’ve tried it with my Gmail accounts and it has some nice features, such as smart messaging organization, easy calendar access, Dropbox enablement, and one-swipe conversion of an incoming email to a calendar event. I don’t know how Accompli planned to make money other than by being acquired, so maybe it cleverly noticed Microsoft’s mobile email weakness and figured MSFT would eventually wave money in its direction with hopes of renaming it Outlook Mobile. Accompli had raised only $7 million of VC money in its short history, so that’s quite a score.

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Madison’s alternative weekly newspaper says that Epic has backed down from its plan to extend its non-compete term from one year to two for employees who quit to join consulting firm Vonlay after its acquisition by Huron Consulting Group. The paper says that Epic got involved with the acquisition at the last minute by insisting that Huron not hire any Epic employees within two years of their resignation from Epic, meaning Epic would be enforcing a requirement to which its employees hadn’t agreed. The article says local speculation is that Epic is beginning to fear being held liable for violating antitrust laws, especially after Silicon Valley software engineers filed a successful class action against big-name tech companies for conspiring to not poach each other’s employees. According to the paper, Epic has also warned consulting firms that they can’t put up Madison area billboards or advertise within 50 miles of its Verona no-fly zone, also extending its workforce control by giving hospital clients maintenance fee discounts for honoring Epic’s non-compete agreement. Epic’s only official response to the non-compete issue was, “This is being reverted to a one-year term. We’d rather not comment on the policy as a whole.”


Sales

Gila River Health Care (AZ) chooses NextGen’s ambulatory PM/EHR.

Advocate Community Providers (NY) chooses eClinicalWorks for population health management and interoperability to support its Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program for 437,000 patients.

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Grand View Health (PA) chooses Cornerstone Advisors Group to upgrade its Meditech Client/Server 5.6 system to 6.1 and to support its early adoption of Meditech’s web-based ambulatory product.


People

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Anthelio Healthcare Solutions names Gary Trickett (Allscripts) as SVP of IT services.

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Anthony Caponi is named VP of healthcare IT at Direct Consulting Associates.

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Allana Cummings (Northeast Georgia Health System) joins Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as CIO.

Payer software vendor Healthx names Sal Gentile (TriZetto) as CEO.


Announcements and Implementations

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MedAssets will use Procured Health’s data intelligence and workflow solution in its product value analysis services.

Jackson General Hospital (WV) goes live with CrossChx’s SafeChx biometric patient identification solution in its registration area.

NextGen connects its Share platform with Merge Healthcare’s iConnect Network to allow NextGen Share users to send orders to Merge systems and receive images back.

The American College of Radiology and Massachusetts General Hospital (MA) will use Nuance’s PowerShare Network to present clinical guidelines in radiologist workflow and to automate PQRS data collection.

Ricoh will offer Levi, Ray & Shoup’s VPSX software to its healthcare enterprise output management customers.

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Hosted infrastructure vendor SingleHop had me all impressed with their announcement that they would sign Business Associate Agreements with healthcare customers, at least until I hit the part of their press release that said HIPAA is “also known as the HITECH act.” Close enough for government work, I suppose, and it is kind of confusing.

EHR vendor CureMD chooses DrFirst’s EPCS Gold to add e-prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) to its system. DrFirst reports that EPCS volumes jumped by 200 percent in the most recent three-month period, likely boosted by New York’s I-STOP mandatory e-prescribing requirement for all drugs beginning March 27, 2015.

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Lawrence Memorial Hospital (AR) goes live with electronic forms from Access.

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PeriGen is awarded a patent for its software that assesses fetal descent in helping OB-GYNs determine when it’s appropriate to perform a C-section delivery. I really like the company’s laser-sharp focus on fetal monitoring and the innovations it has introduced there. One of my favorite interviews was with CEO Matt Sappern a couple of years ago, when he succinctly explained the company’s products as, “Our ability to apply technology to what has been a subjective part of labor and delivery is important. Probably 80 percent of medical malpractice comes back to bad interpretation of the fetal monitoring strip. We’ve figured out a way to apply technology to help interpret that strip. ” 

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Boston-area Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, announces plans for an upscale, expensive, members-only end zone suite that will be called Optum Field Lounge, named for the healthcare IT division of UnitedHealth Group that’s sponsoring it.


Government and Politics

The Bipartisan Policy Center will live stream a six-hour meeting Wednesday titled “Promoting Innovation; Protecting Patient Safety: Advancing Use of Technology in Health Care” with participants that include Karen DeSalvo from HHS and McKesson’s John Hammergren. The former is not surprising; the latter, a bit so.


Technology

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Google Glass is a consumer bust that hasn’t even made it out of beta status, but it appears that Intel will get involved in selling it to enterprises, according to a Wall Street Journal report. A new Intel-powered version of Glass will be released next year and Intel will promote it to workplaces that include health systems. The new Glass is expected to have a longer battery life because of Intel’s power-conserving chips.

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Victoria’s Secret launches a sports bra that includes hidden heart rate monitor sensors.

Dropbox will launch its business API on Wednesday, which will allow third-party developers to create enterprise applications on top of the storage service using their own rules for security, compliance, and workload integration.

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An investigation by cybersecurity firm FireEye finds that an apparently US-based hacker group called FIN4 is using email phishing (without the usual obvious mistakes made by non-native speakers) to obtain insider information from 100 publicly traded companies, two-thirds of them in healthcare and pharma, that it then uses to play the stock market. Two of the identified targets are unnamed healthcare providers. The hackers embed VBA code in a copied document that mimics the Windows authentication prompt, leading the user to think they’ve lost their network connection and need to log on again. Those credentials are then used to probe the victim’s email for useful information and then to use that account to send compromised documents to colleagues at other firms. They even create Outlook rules to delete incoming emails containing words like “hacked” or “malware” that might have been sent as warnings from associates or IT departments. Recommended security actions include disabling Office VBA macros, blocking specific domains the group uses, and checking OWA logins from known Tor exit nodes since real users don’t use Tor (an anonymity network) to read email.


Other

USC cardiologist Leslie Saxon, MD provides some fascinating quotes in discussing her rather startling recommendation that patient biometric data should be placed on Facebook for doctors to review and share.

Oftentimes, you’ll see a patient and they have a vague symptom. You see them for 0.00001 percent of their life and you have to contextualize, use your experience, do some guesswork and diagnostics to understand what’s going on. Your car has over 100 sensors. They’re wireless, it’s continuously monitoring itself and telling you when it’s going to get sick, providing you with this A.I. so people’s cars don’t break down as often any more. One of the things that’s really interesting about digital health and sensors is that we haven’t seen a lot of the data that’s being captured before, so we’re not sure how to contextualize it. I’ve been doing cardio electrophysiology for over 25 years. Now that I’m monitoring some of my patients all the time, I don’t know what some of this stuff means. We’re going to have to build these data sets, track clinical events, then go back and contextualize it—say, oh, okay that was a sign of that.

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In England, the CIO of Meditech client Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust says EHRs from CSC, Cerner, and Meditech can’t handle hospital specialty areas such as neonatology and OB-GYN and he’s putting efforts instead into implementing the open source Alfresco electronic document management system. He says, “As long as you’re seeing all the information pertaining to a patient, why should I put it in a single box and sacrifice the good things on the specialist systems so it’s all in one place? I think I could do a lot more good for patients with the money it would cost.” Once Alfresco is live, Microsoft Sharepoint will get the boot because he says it’s too expensive. Alfresco is available as a free online trial or download.

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In Australia, Royal Children’s Hospital, which will go live on a $41 million Epic implementation in 2016, is looking for a medical device integration vendor.

The Russian economy continues to tank (no pun intended) beyond mass doctor layoffs and hospital closures as sagging oil prices and Western sanctions apply a double chokehold, with Apple raising prices up to 25 percent to offset the devalued ruble, which dropped 6 percent against the dollar on Monday alone and 42 percent in the past year. That puts the ruble as the world’s worst-performing currency behind only the subject of its aggression, Ukraine. Food prices are skyrocketing and banks have restricted the swap of rubles for other currencies. Up to 10,000 healthcare reform protesters took to the Moscow streets Sunday morning, carrying signs saying “Save money on war, not doctors” and demanding that the city official in charge be fired.

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Highland-Cashiers Hospital (NC) mails letters to 25,000 patients explaining that its HIM contractor TruBridge made a configuration mistake that opened up some of their information to the Internet.

A literature review finds that while HIE usage probably has reduced ED visits and cost in some cases, no studies have been conducted that prove any particular benefit even though the government has subsidized their operation with $600 million in taxpayer money.

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Several children’s hospitals will offer their patients televisits with Santa in the eighth year of the Cisco Santa Connection program that uses the company’s Telepresence system.

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Bizarre: a corporate guy buys a USB-chargeable e-cigarette from an eBay user in China. He plugs it in and the cigarette phones home and plants malware.


Sponsor Updates

  • TeraRecon offers an upgrade program for its enterprise imaging customers.
  • Perceptive Software is demonstrating new features of its Acuo Vendor Neutral Archive and the newly announced Clinical Archive this week at RSNA. 
  • University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences reports significant nurse time savings from using Capsule’s SmartLinx to send medical device data to Epic.
  • PerfectServe posts a blog entry titled “Evolving Healthcare: Six New Realities for the C-Suite.”
  • Extension Healthcare CEO Todd Plesko will present a session on alarm management at the mHealth Summit in National Harbor, MD December 7-11.

Contacts

Mr. H, Lorre, Jennifer, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg, Lt. Dan, Dr. Travis.

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.

 

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December 2, 2014 News 13 Comments

Morning Headlines 12/2/14

December 1, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Could Congress delay ICD-10 again next week?

Congress will soon vote to extend a $157 billion HHS spending bill that is scheduled to expire on December 11. Advocates working to delay the looming ICD-10 deadline, including the National Physicians’ Council for Healthcare Policy and the Texas chapter of the American Medical Association, are lobbying for a last minute edit to the “must pass” spending bill to include language that would push out the ICD-10 deadline by two years.

Penn Medicine uses predictive analytics to reduce sepsis mortality

After two years of use, Penn Medicine measures the perceived effectiveness of an early warning system it implemented to identify sepsis in undiagnosed patients. 46 percent of Penn’s nurses said the system alerted them to new information, and 34 percent of its physicians said the system was helpful.

How Do Alternative Payment Models Fit In With State And National Reform Efforts?

Health Affairs profiles the state-wide Medicaid payment reform effort being attempted in Oregon.

Hackers phish for advance word on healthcare mergers

A new report suggests that hackers targeting healthcare organizations are not just looking for PHI. Hackers have started targeting senior-level email accounts, looking for information that they can use on the stock market, specifically as merger and acquisition intelligence.

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December 1, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 12/1/14

December 1, 2014 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment

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As much as some of us complain about our jobs or life in the healthcare IT trenches, most of us have a lot to be thankful for. I experienced that first hand this week with an emergency department shift that was unlike any I’ve ever worked.

I was called to work at the last minute. That should have made me suspicious, but it was a post-holiday shift so I figured it was just poor planning on someone’s part.

To start things off, the entire hospital was on lock-down due to protests across the country and a specific threat of protests near our facility. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any mechanism to communicate that to staff members in advance.

The only entry is through the main lobby. Nurses, patient care techs, and physicians were wandering around the building swiping our badges since we didn’t know what was going on. Once people got to the other side of the building and made their way in, they were late for their shift, which is never a good way to start.

Instead of having clear communication from hospital leadership (not like we all have email addresses or anything), we had to rely on what people had heard through the rumor mill. About 30 minutes into the shift, we finally got a straight story from the charge nurse. It didn’t make any difference to the way we were caring for patients, but it allowed us to mentally prepare for what might be coming our way should we have an actual protest at the hospital or receive casualties from nearby incidents.

Mentally preparing was all we could do since there apparently isn’t a policy and procedure for how to handle civil unrest. The other doctor on shift with me joked that we were ready to handle Ebola, yet had no plan for something that was actually likely to happen given recent events.

I fired up Twitter on my phone and immediately subscribed to the local media, figuring that would be a decent way to keep tabs on the situation. All of the local TV stations had been blocked by IT, but one of the EMS guys pulled up Broadcastify at the nursing station, which let us hear police scanner traffic. Patients were another good source of information since the threat of a protest certainly didn’t keep anyone from coming in.

As a safety-net facility, the staff is used to working under stressful conditions. Most took it in stride. I work at this hospital only a handful of times each year and it always impresses me how well it holds together even though there may be a substantial amount of duct tape and some baling wire involved.

I was running the fast track side of the ED, so I didn’t expect to see any major trauma if things got rough, especially since the hospital lowered their trauma center level a couple of years ago. In the morning, most of my cases were truly primary care – people who had run out of their medications due to the clinics being closed and not having refills, sinus infections, colds and flu, and so on.

I was grateful for the defaults in my EHR that let me document the visits quickly since our volume was picking up. Towards the lunch hour, there was an announcement that protesters were at an intersection about a quarter of a mile from the hospital. We expected things to slow, but they didn’t.

I saw a couple of Thanksgiving-induced casualties (pro tip: if you cut yourself while cooking, you need to have it stitched up within 12 hours or there’s not much we can do) including a woman who had her hand smashed in a shopping center door during the Black Friday madness. What really made me think of Thanksgiving, though, was realizing just how many times I had searched for non-English versions of patient education handouts during the shift. As much as we sometimes complain about EHRs, this time ours performed like a champ.

I looked through my “complete chart” board and realized I had seen patients from Somalia, Ethiopia, Bosnia, Iraq, Guatemala, Mexico, and China. It’s powerful to know that despite its flaws, we live in a country where people are willing to leave their homes and families for a chance at something better.

Ultimately, the protesters never approached the hospital. Other than being one of the busiest shifts I’ve ever worked, it was pretty unremarkable. I feel privileged to be able to care for such a diverse population and am definitely glad the EHR was up to the test.

Have a story about the EHR actually making life easier? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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December 1, 2014 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment

HIStalk Interviews Ken Graboys, Managing Director, The Chartis Group

December 1, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Ken Graboys is managing director of The Chartis Group of Chicago, IL.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

Every firm is, to some degree, at its outset a reflection of the values of the motivations of its founder. I started in the Peace Corps, opening feeding centers and health centers in the drought areas of Africa back in the mid-1980s. When I came back to the US after several years, I knew that in my life, healthcare was where I wanted to try to elevate the human experience. In our country alone, there were enough challenges to keep me busy for a while. 

I began work with a gentleman named Ira Magaziner, who at the time had a small consulting firm. It was a public policy and industrial policy firm that did some work in healthcare. After a couple of years, he was brought into the Clinton White House to help with healthcare policy. He asked some of us if we wanted to go to Washington. 

I really loved consulting because I thought it created the opportunity to make change happen in real time in a customized, localized way. And that if you do it the right way with forward-thinking clients, it has the chance to create solutions that would be a beacon that the rest of the industry could look towards and take their direction from. While I believe that public policy and regulatory influences can do a lot to drive healthcare towards a better place, I also think there’s a place for real-time development and prototyping of solutions. It is something I enjoy immensely.

He went to Washington and I went to work for a company called APM and worked there for 10 years, ultimately leading a large part of that firm. When APM sold to CSC to go into the space of IT outsourcing, myself and another individual named Ethan Arnold decided that we would start Chartis under a dual proposition. One, that a consultancy could exist that could help advance healthcare, predicated on thought leadership and conducted in such a way that we work side by side with our clients. Kind of like a great doubles team in tennis, where we work with folks who are the best at what they do where we both love what we do and together we can elevate each other’s game and make something wonderful happen.

The second proposition was that as a mission-driven firm built around improving healthcare, we could influence the industry and enrich the experience of those who are the recipients of healthcare, those who work in healthcare, and those that support it.

Those two sets of values were the cornerstones of the firm. We had no idea what we would be working on. We just knew that on our deathbeds we wanted to say we tried. 

Thirteen years later, we’ve been very, very fortunate. We work in an industry filled with visionaries, filled with incredibly smart, thoughtful folks who are also about enrichment. There’s been a resonance between what we try to do and our clientele. This made for a wonderful experience, and I think in many cases, real advances for healthcare and the communities that have been served.

Today we’re about 130 people pre-Aspen. We have offices in Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Our principal area of focus has been strategic planning, accountable care solutions and network development, and clinical transformation.

 

Which of the projects you’re working on show the most promise in making healthcare and society better?

I’d like to believe that every one of our projects has in its way contributed to advancing the state of healthcare. Some have been from large national systems, thinking through, what does it mean to be a national system? What does it mean to provide care in respective communities across the country? How can that model bring more benefits to bear? 

In some cases, we work with large regional health systems and help them move in a material way from their being volume-based to value-based, being based around care of a population, care of a defined group, care of a community in ways where the business model, the clinical model, and the overarching health and wellness model are intimately combined. 

We do a lot of work with rural hospitals, metropolitan, urban hospitals that are challenged. Their world may be 10 blocks, or in some cases, it could be a 60-mile radius, underserved populations that are rethinking how care is delivered and with whom access is improved and outcomes are enhanced.

Everything we try to do is built upon our mission and our clients’ mission. Those are the things that endure. Those are the things that are material in their impact.

 

What led to the acquisition of Aspen Advisors and how do you see that organization fitting into your mission?

Beginning about three years ago, it became very clear to us — and it should have, if you’re a halfway decent strategist — that the role of information technology in the future of care delivery was evolving at a hyper rate. From a historic role as an enabler –  the downstream to-do list for a health system or provider — to a business tool, to the future of care delivery. Information technology as defined in its broadest terms becomes the means of taking care of a community’s health. Your capabilities around aggregating, re-imaging, and employing information and the means by which those data are relayed and transmitted and applied is going to become central to what it means to be a healthcare delivery provider and to be a patient or a consumer of those services. 

The  role has evolved very quickly. If we were to continue to be at the vanguard of the advisory services for our clients and making big things happen, we had to be able to provide our clients leading edge thinking on that front and do so in a way that’s fundamentally integrated with their strategy, their clinical models, and their financial models. 

We knew we would have to bring that to bear and began a process of saying, who would be the right organization to work with? Is there another organization out there that is similarly mission-driven whose values and culture are around enrichment and around impact, and around the collective. Is there another organization out there? This is really hard to do, bringing two organizations together like this. We also need one that’s intellectually compatible and thinks about the world the way that we do and wants to do the same things and is seen by clients the same way that we hope we are. 

We felt incredibly fortunate to have crossed paths with Aspen at a couple of different clients. Dan Herman and I spent time together. Our world views, our organizational aspirations, and our missions were aligned. After about eight or nine months, it entered our minds that we can maybe do something really special in the industry. Life’s too short not to try.

 

What technologies or what use of technologies do you see as most promising and what will you work on with the talents that Aspen brings to the table?

Aspen brings the magic of thought leadership to bear that we think marry it well to where the industry is headed. Chartis, historically and now with a combined organization, hopes to provide some relative contribution.

At the broadest strategic level, we have clients that are asking the question, as we think about our next five- to seven-year strategic plan, it’s not enough to think about traditional growth. I had one CEO of a $10 billion-plus system ask me, how do I get our care delivery platform in the palm of one-third of this city’s population? That’s where I believe healthcare’s going and I believe that’s going to be the first visit in the future. We may not be able to provide every element of care along the way, but we want to be that guide, we want to be that starting point, we want to be that to the patient.

That’s emblematic of the belief that the relationship between the patient, the consumer, and his or her health data and his or her health management and the means by which that occurs through technological tools and capabilities are going to fundamentally change. The nature of that relationship will change, the relationship between the provider and the consumer and provider and physician and the underlying business model. Helping our clients think about that has become an increasingly important question and Aspen has great strategic thinking about that.

There’s a second set of questions around how we apply the business model to our population health capabilities and what’s the underlying information technologies associated with that. But again, it’s like a missing bridge for some of our clients, and to some degree the industry itself. It’s another area where Aspen is incredibly helpful.

The third area is that for the organizations that have made major investments at this point in the EMR, how do we take it to the next step in terms of how an EMR can help us transform our care delivery platform and the alignment amongst our caregivers across the continuum and do so in a way where outcomes are much better and the underlying processes more efficient and safer? This has been an area where Aspen really shines.

For a lot of our clients, the CFO is concerned that as as the economic model shifts and the clinical model shifts for the organization, can we make sure that our revenue cycle technology manage a divided reimbursement? This is again a center of excellence for Aspen.

Finally, I think where Aspen started and the core of its strength is that for a lot of organizations, you have this huge blueprint of things that have to be done. You have an information technology platform, department, and set of capabilities internally that is left with the incredible challenge of getting it all done. The best means of doing that and how to do that, the sequencing that’s most effective at furthering that, can be a significant piece of work for an organization. It’s an area where we can be helpful as well.

 

You mentioned the health system that wanted to have their presence in palms everywhere. That made me think of the retail drug chains, which are way ahead of the average health system in putting out technology that not only captures more business for them, but also captures the engagement with their end user and provides them a lot of entry points along with their physical entry points — stores, retail clinics, that sort of thing. Are the technological capabilities of health systems up for that competitive challenge?

I don’t know that any particular segment is ideally situated to own that future component of the care delivery landscape. There’s an obvious real advantage that the retail space and those that put capital behind it, be that Walmart or CVS. 

If you spend time out in California and you see where the venture dollars and private equity dollars are going in terms of healthcare technologies and what they’re trying to do for access, they want to be everywhere. Some have prognosticated–and I’m not saying this is an informed prediction by any stretch — that they can imagine a day where a vast majority of private care business will occur through WebMD and will be paid for through insurance.

I don’t know that anyone knows where the data revolution will end and who will own what, except that the end state will be that the patient will have a different relationship with their own data and what they can do with it that where they are today. To that end, certain providers will have the opportunity to have a meaningful role in that, be that because they have enough scale or capability or because they’ve decided to participate in the commercialization of some of the required technologies outside their own house or because they’ve formed an appropriate consortium to do that. But I think we will see organizations emerge — and mixed partnerships we’ve seen in the past — where providers will do this, to play in that space in a meaningful way and not be downstream from it. 

These are these the questions that we try to help our clients answer on a strategic basis. We’re even better at it now that we have Aspen as a part of the thought leadership around the solutions.

 

You experienced during your time in Africa the perception that public health projects are exported from countries with highly developed healthcare services delivery to those with less-developed healthcare services delivery. Do we understand in the US that we can’t ignore public health?

I don’t know that anyone would suggest that public health can be ignored. I think there’s a belief that it’s essential. I think the strength of that belief is opposed by some economic realities of our superstructure that challenge the ability to place resources against the merits.

When you look at the dollars in Massachusetts, for example, that over the past decade have been spent to support interventional care delivery today for those who are underinsured or uninsured, they directly offset the dollars that have historically been spent on not only public health, but the socioeconomic programs that actually influence the health of the public, such as education, economic development and employment programs, housing programs. All the factors that contribute to the public health.

The challenge we have is that public health is well believed in, but the resources are increasingly drained from being applied against it. That burden, that unfounded mandate of shifting the economic superstructure towards health, falls upon the providers. They have to manage and capitalize and fund that cost of change. It’s a real challenge. 

Sociologists define problems as discrete problems and wicked problems. Discrete problems are those that have normal inputs and outputs. You just want to build a bridge across the Hudson. You know the inputs, the distance, the amount of traffic that will go over it, the weight requirements, etc. You can define a discrete output.

Dealing with the health disparities in this country and the underlying economics — that’s a wicked problem. The inputs are multi-variant and some of them are latent.  The best we can all do together – providers, physicians, advisors, public health officials – is just work our best to advance the ball down the field as far as we can get it and just keep making it better.

 

You are an altruistic person whose primary business is helping big health systems that are economically motivated to act in their own self interest. If you can help make them successful, is that enough to satisfy you that you’re helping humanity in general?

I have two thoughts if you’ll let me share them both with you. The first is that we feel very fortunate because the clients we work with are similarly mission-driven as we are. It’s about improving healthcare and it’s about swinging for the fences. The folks we work with want to make meaningful change happen for their communities in big ways. We feel very privileged to work with those types of clients. I feel not only very, very good about the impact our clients are having that we play some small part in, but I feel very good about what it means from a mission and social perspective.

When I was in Africa back in 1986, I opened a feeding center in the Sahara on the Malawian border. Every day we would give out several metric tons of food, mostly raw grains that would come in these big burlap sacks. On the burlap sack, there would be a shield symbol representing USAID – US Agency for International Development. Coming in with the food supply shipments would be a report showing where the source dollars came from that provided that food. Often there would be workers in various factories and plants that were taking part in this African food initiative where they checked the box on their forms and gave a dollar a week to famine relief, back during “We Are the World.” It was a very big social issue.

I’d be there handing out these sacks. On one hand, it felt great to be a part of a solution. On the other hand, I realized the only reason I was there is because someone in Dearborn or Flint, Michigan had said, “I’ll give a dollar.” You realize that we’re all just links in a chain. We’re threads of a fabric that together can do great things, but apart, not much. 

I feel really good about the link in the chain that we are and what we can do, but I feel even better about the chain. We’ve worked with great folks over the last 15 years. There are a lot of good folks doing a lot of great things. We feel very fortunate to be a part of it.

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December 1, 2014 Interviews No Comments

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Reader Comments

  • John@chilmark: We started talking about HIE 2.0 a few yrs back as even then HIEs, both noun and verb were stalling. In 2014 we have pub...
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