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Readers Write: Doctor’s Day and HIMSS

March 31, 2014 Readers Write 5 Comments

Doctor’s Day and HIMSS
By Dr. Wellbeing

On Doctor’s Day, I am reflecting on the morale of my profession. I hope to get away with being the kid who says, "The emperor has no clothes."

I looked long and hard for inspirational writings about doctors, particularly on this day, and there were none. Maybe the closest to a worthy read was Malcolm Gladwell’s article in Forbes about the state of American healthcare, followed by his interview called, "Tell People What It’s Really Like to Be a Doctor." It came as a surprise considering he is not an insider, but he is one of the most insightful thinkers out there. As such, I was happy to see a voice in defense of doctors.

Alas he is the exception that proves the rule. Because it seems doctors are blamed for everything that is wrong with the healthcare system these days.

CMS is making physician payment data public. Insurance companies are placing doctors in straightjackets and requiring pages of paperwork just to get one medication approved. Patients have unrealistic expectations of, "I can hardly wait to chat with my doctor at my leisure online."

No wonder the morale of doctors is at an all-time low. It is the equivalent of a big bully chasing the weak kid around on the playground because he is small and cannot fend for himself. Physicians historically have not been well organized, and their representatives – such as AMA — abandoned them a long time ago.

I just returned from my first HIMSS conference, where everybody was busy giving advice on how practices should get ready for ACOs, MU, ICD-10, PCMH, population health etc. I am thinking that maybe the ones who should have their data made public are the HIMSS folks themselves, since just to exhibit there for one week costs more than my salary for a year.

I am not returning anytime soon. Even though I was warned by close friends that HIMSS is physician-unfriendly, I was not prepared for the CEO and chairman to start the conference with an insult to physicians after asking them to stand up in a full room. One IT person who is equally disenchanted with HIMSS and vows to not return suggested that we should invite "60 Minutes " to one of those conferences. Or maybe some patients, for that matter.

The healthcare IT industry has become a bit like the tail that wags the dog. It has lost its sense of purpose and meaning. One of my favorite lines ever is from “Jurassic Park,” which is, “Just because we could does not mean we should.”

One vendor was shocked to find out that I am not paid for “population health.” Another one dressed in a white lab coat could not explain to me who makes the ultimate decision in telemedicine (one genie that left the bottle) when the patient with congestive heart failure whom we try to keep out of the hospital cannot breathe. Who calls 911 — the patient, his doctor, or the “doc in the box?” Nor could he answer whose liability that is. I have yet to see a tele-intubation.

If we are to have some foresight, then maybe we should have some hindsight as well and understand how we got here in the first place. The sickest patients, the elderly, the chronically ill, and nursing home residents are not technology savvy. Nursing homes have been beaten by litigation to the point that the fear of being sued is so ingrained into their psyche that they cannot even give a Tylenol or a laxative without a doctor’s approval. Hence, why every decision in healthcare goes through a doctor’s office whether we like it or not. It is why my inbox is full every day and I have endless hours of mind-numbing work.

Another EMR vendor could not articulate why a hospital should buy its care coordination solution when hospitals are not being paid for care coordination. Little do they know that very few actually participate in ACOs, nor do they plan to do so. As such, their solutions are based on assumptions that we will all be in an ACO one day, an experiment that has yet to show results, also ignoring the fact that 60 percent of doctors have expressed no desire to join one.

The whole premise of the HIMSS technology offerings relies very heavily on the Assume a Can Opener theory. It has very little understanding of how healthcare is being delivered and paid for, which I particularly found very disturbing.

The shortage of physicians and the burnout is real. On this day, let us all remember that in reality what we are paying docs to do is to make decisions. That is far more complex than any of the human endeavors or societal activities, and yet it is the most-intruded upon, most-regulated and most-distrusted of them all. In Greek mythology, Hydra grew two heads each time one was cut off, just as healthcare grows more complex by the day. Yet the ones who should be consulted first seem to be the last.

It seems the harder we try to fix the "broken American healthcare system," the farther we are from fixing it. The recent proof is the ineptitude of Congress, who is not capable  to understand the complexity of what  they are voting on, always approving short-term fixes to long-term problems. The sad part is not that the fee-for-service is broken or that the HMO / capitation / ACO is better, nor that they kicked the  can down the road regarding SGR for the umpteenth time, but that we are forced to practice in a a dual, ambivalent environment where both are equally approved.

While hospitals are paid by DRG, doctors are paid per day. In Medicare Advantage Plans, the Primary Care gets paid capitation, while the specialists get paid fee-for-service. We have created a de facto "divide and conquer" system.

Too often the term "physician alignment" is used along with "patient engagement " and "accountable care." How about if for one day a year  – March 30 — we use "patient alignment and patient accountability“ and "physicians’ engagement?” Because returning from HIMSS, my EMR inbox was full of messages like, "Can the doctor write me a note for early dinner sitting on my cruise since I am a diabetic?" or “Can the doctor write me a note for the airline to allow me to take my dog with me on the plane since I suffer from anxiety?" or "What kind of fiber should I take?"

I do believe strongly that patients should have access to their records and that healthcare records should be digitized, but  I do not subscribe to the assumption that it will resolve our healthcare woes or that it will lower healthcare costs. Just giving patients their data does not mean that they will know what to do with it, nor that they will make wiser decisions. Giving them an app does not mean that they will start eating spinach.

The same is true of physicians. Inundating them with data does not mean they will make better decisions, either. We are in essence data-rich but information-poor.

While I enjoyed networking and meeting people, it was difficult to separate the signal from the noise. I saw what billionaires look like, from Judy Faulkner to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who was gracious and took a picture with me so I can show my kids that the richest man in LA is a physician and not a movie mogul. But I cannot ignore the fact that not all hospitals can afford Epic and that so many had their credit ratings downgraded due to Epic implementations budget overruns, nor the fact that the orange-clad NantHealth staffers had no idea what their company was about. I also had the opportunity to explain to some why social media for many physicians is a legal minefield and many MDs shy away and don’t want to live in the town where they practice.

One economist said that when the barn is on fire, the farmer by instinct goes inside and saves the cat, the dog, and the livestock and leaves the rest behind. I believe it is time for healthcare IT industry to do the same. If healthcare is on the verge of a cliff, then healthcare IT can either throw us a rope or give us the final push. 

I keep hoping that someday the pendulum will swing back to doctors being respected and trusted and that they themselves rediscover the meaning and calling of their profession amid all the chaos. I should have faith because Mr. H told me so.

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March 31, 2014 Readers Write 5 Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 3/31/14

March 31, 2014 Dr. Jayne 2 Comments


I wrote earlier this month about our hospital nickel and diming staff who wanted an actual paper card to confirm their life support certification. There was an outpouring of reader correspondence about hospital policies that are designed to cut costs but that seem to have backfired.

Many of us are pinching pennies to buy larger more powerful servers because we’ve outgrown our current ones faster than anticipated or are juggling implementation budgets to ensure providers get the go-live support they need. With that focus, we tend to forget how much our organizations spend on day-to-day operational costs. We’re not the only ones who have to keep an eye on the bottom line. One reader knows acutely just how deep the budget slashing has gone.

Dr. Jayne, I enjoyed your column about penny wise and pound foolish. Our hospital replaced a fairly decent paper towel with a very cheap brown one. These towels don’t absorb much, so you end up using five times the paper towels that you did with the previous rolls. Our department runs out of paper towels frequently and I have to run down to housekeeping to pick up more rolls. As it happens, housekeeping has trouble keeping paper towels in stock (maybe because the whole hospital is using the cheaper rolls much faster – go figure).

Many times I am unable to pick up paper towels the first time I run down to the supply department. When I pointed out the inefficiency of the paper towel situation (particularly with the FTEs spent running around trying to keep them in stock) in a cost savings committee meeting, the environmental services rep said, “You wouldn’t believe how cheap they are.” Hello? Did anybody hear me? It’s been a couple of years. We still have the same blasted paper towels. And let’s not forget – it takes FOREVER to dry your hands, but they want to encourage hand washing.

We’ve had a similar situation in the office building where our ambulatory EHR office is located. To save money, instead of having housekeeping staff check the bathrooms multiple times each day, they only service ours once a day. We don’t have rolled towels but those old-school folded ones. In order to keep the towels from running out, the housekeepers cram as many towels as possible into the dispensers. They’re packed so tightly that if you try to pull a single towel, it rips, so there are constantly scraps of paper on the floor.

The only way to get towels out is to hook them on the end and pull a big stack of them out. This leads to dozens of towels being dumped in the trash. Another tactic is for the housekeepers to leave a stack of towels on top of the dispenser, which leads to either all of them falling into the trash (or on the floor) or being ruined when someone drips wet hands on the stack. Ditto with leaving a pile of spare towels on the sink.

Additionally, because after-hours housekeeping is more expensive than having it done on the day shift, our floor is now serviced during the noon hour when lots of people are trying to get in and out. Some housekeepers will work around the staff’s needs, but a few of them barricade the door. In the best-case scenario, our staff wastes a little bit of time going to another floor. In the worst-case scenario they stand around and wait for the housekeeper to finish.

I’m pretty sure the productivity cost from either scenario would cover the shift differential so our facilities could be serviced before or after office hours. Either way the staff is left with the feeling that saving money is more important than their needs, which isn’t exactly a morale builder.

Another reader recently relocated and finally landed a position with a health system after a lot of looking. It was more of an entry-level position than he had when he worked for a large vendor. He expressed concern at the waste he’s seeing from a personnel standpoint:

I’ve worked with hospitals, but never for one directly. I didn’t want to miss out on ICD-10 and Meaningful Use 2 and there aren’t many vendors out here. I was blown away by the size of the IT department. There are more manager-types than doers. Everyone is a consultant and no one gives a hoot. There is a ton of turnover and no accountability. The consultants are riding out the sunset of their careers and take it out on the energetic ones. The SMEs have skills that no one wants and the six tiers of management exist solely to waste time and overcomplicate things. People vanish for hours a day and the place is empty by 3:15. What do I do now that I’ve taken a job and am surrounded by such inefficiency and waste when I really wanted to DO something?

Unfortunately, I don’t have good advice for him other than encouraging him to stick with it long enough to either move up or find something better in his new home town. I’ve worked with a handful of analysts that think it’s OK to arrive at the office late, Facebook all day (pausing only for a long lunch), and duck out early. I suspect that with that many layers of management they may not have a handle on what’s going on right under their noses.

With all the regulatory events on the horizon, though, most organizations have more work to go around than anyone can handle. Our analysts work their tails off, and if they have a spare moment of time, they’re looking ahead trying to anticipate ways that they can make processes more efficient or help our users. They’re a self-policing team and if there was a slacker in their midst, they’d make his life miserable. Unfortunately if the entire team has those tendencies, it’s much trickier.

Have any advice for this reader? Any other great stories of cost cutting that saves dimes at the expense of dollars? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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March 31, 2014 Dr. Jayne 2 Comments

HIStalk Interviews Michael Doyle, CEO, QPID Health

March 31, 2014 Interviews 1 Comment

Mike Doyle is president and CEO of QPID Health of Boston, MA.


Tell me about yourself and the company.

This is my fifth company as president and CEO. I was attracted to this opportunity because we understand the clinical frustration that physicians, nurses, and clinicians of all types are having accessing data in the electronic health record. 

QPID can read both structured and unstructured data. We’ve built a very extensive medical vocabulary and medical ontology that enables physicians and nurses at the appropriate point of the clinical workflow to have access to both structured as well as unstructured clinical data. It solves a major pain point that exists today.


What’s wrong with EHRs and what gets better when you install QPID?

First of all, I’m not here to knock EHRs. We partner with a number of EHRs. I think EHRs are necessary, but not sufficient. 

Part of the issue is the way that most of them evolved. They are billing applications that evolved into clinical applications over time. The way the data is organized in the EHR is very, very different from the way a physician practices. As a result, there’s a disconnect with serving up appropriate information at an appropriate point in the care delivery model that exists today in the United States. 

EHRs are forms of data repositories with a transactional chassis built into them. I believe that most EHRs, if not all EHRs, would greatly benefit from applications like QPID that allow easy retrieval of the really important data that exists and resides in the EHRs.


Give me two or three examples of what an EHR user can do with QPID that they can’t do without it.

Three-quarters of the record is generally text. It’s almost impossible to report out in any sort of a systemized way textual information and deliver at a point of care that makes sense. As a result, physicians generally look at two or three notes, see a patient, and then either make a diagnosis or do a particular procedure. A lot of information is contained in the record that is never used to render an opinion. You have a tremendous amount of overutilization, duplicate testing, that sort of thing.

Think of QPID as Google plus CliffsNotes, delivered at an appropriate point in the clinical workflow. It allows the physician or the nurse to have relevant and complete information about the patient to render a better medical decision. 

As an example — and this happens all across the country — you go in for a colonoscopy. You go through the awful bowel prep for that. As much as 20 percent of the time, you show up to the GI doc for your procedure and you realize that you have either sleep apnea or you’re on blood thinners or five or six other risk factors that are in your record, but no one chose to look at that information in your record prior to showing up for that particular procedure. As a result, the procedure gets cancelled because the patient would be in undue or unnecessary risk at that particular day.

QPID, two weeks before the procedure, goes into the record and looks for risk factors associated with a colonoscopy. They could be either in structured fields or they could be in free text. To the extent it finds that information, it alerts the nurse administrator or the physician’s office that Mike Doyle is on blood thinners, and then the nurse can call Mike Doyle and say, “Hey, please discontinue your blood thinner, because to the extent we find a polyp, we’re going to want to remove it. We don’t want to have excess bleeding.” 

That’s one small example. Every patient, for example, at Mass General, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital … if they come through the ED and they’re going to have an MRI, QPID goes into the record and looks for any evidence of metal in the body anywhere. To the extent it finds it, it alerts the person doing the procedure that this MRI is likely to cause harm to the patient, so we probably shouldn’t do an MRI.


Some might say it sounds like data warehousing or analytics, but those don’t provide real-time clinician feedback. 

Yes, we can actually do it prospectively.

The other thing that is really interesting that we’re doing is we’re eliminating the need for prior authorization of procedures. If you’re a cardiologist at Mass General and you use one of the major health plans in the Boston area, if you use QPID, you do not have to call an insurance company to do a particular cardiology procedure. This is a big deal, because MGPO — the physician’s organization at Mass General – employs 300 people who do nothing but call insurance companies for prior authorization for a particular procedures. The insurance companies have an equal army of people that answer the phone and either accept or deny a particular procedure.

We’re automating that entire process by loading in the national guidelines for how to care for a particular cardiology procedure. QPID is intelligent enough to know the relative risk factors and the health status of the patient, compares it to national guidelines, and recommends or suggests data that will allow a physician to do a particular type of procedure. Ultimately, it’s the physician’s choice if he decides to follow those guidelines, those recommendations, but the insurance companies are finding this compelling enough that they’re starting to eliminate the need for them to physically or audibly speak to the patient, the physician themselves. 

We built up cardiology. We’re now building out a whole series of orthopedic procedures, abdominal procedures. The idea is that over time, Mass General will be able to redeploy those resources that were spent calling insurance companies to get prior authorization elsewhere in the organization, which obviously saves a tremendous amount of time and money and increases throughput of procedures. We think using the power of a natural language processing engine with clinical intelligence and guidelines is the future of medicine. We’ve taken this now to various other parts of the country and talking to other payers as well as providers and it’s resonating with them.


Is it used everywhere within Partners?

On an official basis, no. On an unofficial basis, yes. It’s used in eight different hospitals in Partners, including the Brigham, now officially. But Dana-Farber, the Faulkner, Newton Wellesley, North Shore, Spaulding … it’s used in all the hospitals across the spectrum. I’ve never seen a piece of software where doctors have sold it to other doctors. 

We’re doing our Series B fundraising right now. We’ve had a bunch of VCs talking to physicians from Partners hospitals and they have said that it’s the only piece of software they have seen that actually helps them do their job. The validation for that is that we’ve got close to 9,000 registered physicians and nurses using this in the Partners system, all without any sales, marketing, or support dollars associated with that adoption across the different hospitals.


Partners developed and is commercializing QPID. How much of its use is mandatory?

Zero mandatory use of it. It’s all voluntary.


If Partners developed it and it’s so useful, why don’t they mandate its use?

I don’t think they had to mandate it. It’s done it itself. What’s happening now, though, because insurance and payers are starting to take note of this and are offering essentially an incentive to use it because you don’t have to call in an insurance company, it’s going to have any greater official adoption, probably mandatory adoption among physicians, surgeons, and folks who do procedures. But it’s not mandated right now.


How many other hospitals outside of Partners use it?

We’ve sold two, which is what we said we would do last year. We sold it to two hospitals outside of Partners. One, it’s going to be deployed via the cloud, the other one’s going to be behind a firewall. I’m not at liberty at to say who they are right now, but one has a major EHR which is used predominantly in academic medical centers. The other one is an EHR which is the most widely deployed in the world.


Neither of those are live yet?

They are not. They will be soon.


Was it hard to take that custom built product and then do the translations and all the ontology and the metadata needed to turn a commercial EHR’s information into what you need in QPID?

First of all, Partners is a federation. It’s a combination of well-known EHRs as well as homegrown EHRs. I think we pull data from nine different databases, financial as well as clinical databases. We’ve had to build virtually a whole bunch of different sort of interfaces to be able to enable that to happen.

The medical ontology is very similar by specialty across the United States. We’ve got a vast library of thousands and thousands of hours of ontology that we’ve built. There are some regional differences, but if you’re an internist, you’re interested in certain things which may be different than if you’re a GI doc or an ED doc or a cardiologist or whatever you may be, but very, very similar vocabulary across the country. 

That has not been difficult at all. We’ve got interface experts from most of the major EHRs on our staff, or consultants for the company, so we know how to do that. I ran an EHR company before this, Medsphere. We did a whole bunch of integration work there with lots and lots of different systems, so we know how to do it.


Having worked both for an EHR vendor and now for a company offering an EHR add-on, will EHRs will continue to be the center of the healthcare IT universe?

I think for the foreseeable future. They serve a very useful purpose of amalgamating data. I think it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the big data warehouses as well as the HIEs. 

One of the things we’re finding is that in partnering with HIEs, we could create a business model that’s sustainable for HIEs. That’s kind of interesting. I think we could also partner with clinical data warehouses and provide functionality to them as well. 

EHRs are here to stay for at least the next 10 or 15 years. I think they’ve got to morph their business model to some extent and I think they have to partner with companies like ours that add usability and functionality to the user experience.


Despite the “big data” buzz, information that’s already available from inside the four walls isn’t always used to make decisions. Is that your selling point when you go in with QPID?

Yes, completely. First of all, if you actually look at how hospitals are built, there’s generally different systems, inpatient and outpatient systems. Those systems generally don’t talk to each other. There’s also a number of IDNs that may have the same inpatient and outpatient system, but they don’t talk from hospital to hospital together. What QPID does today is it bridge between inpatient and outpatient systems and pull data from both systems and present a unified view of the patient. We can do that across hospitals or across different systems when we do that today. 

The real issue, and the interesting thing that’s going to happen in the not so distant future, to your point, is there’s a tremendous amount of useful information in the electronic health record that is either dormant or buried and won’t see the light of day. But it’s extremely useful. You can see a scenario down the road where, this litigation, because something goes wrong with a patient, and the information was contained in the record but the physician never saw the information, didn’t bother to look for the information, or the information was buried or filed in the wrong clinical drawer, so to speak. The physician looked in that drawer, didn’t find anything, but yet the information was there, was just misfiled. 

This idea that there’s important information in the record that never sees the light of day is a big issue. Unless we come to grips with that and use applications like QPID that can read both structured and unstructured data and find that information no matter where it is buried or stored … the only way patient safety is going to improve when information is included in the record and can’t be accessed is with applications like QPID.


Is QPID a listener-type application that’s working in the background or do you have to interact with it to receive its alerts?

It’s not an alert system, but if there’s information about the patient, then there’s a little blue Q that lights up during the clinical workflow of the physician. You’re alerted to the fact that there’s information there. You just click on QPID and then the information is presented to you the way you want to see it. 

If you’re an internist, we do 300 simultaneous queries of information. If you’re an admitting physician at Mass General, before you admit the patient, look at 300 different things organized around organ systems. If there’s information in those various boxes of those 300 things we’re looking at, it’ll blacken the area. If there’s new information, it’ll gray out. You can just hover over that information and see exactly what QPID is alerting you to take a look at.


Do you log the information the software presented and then track how many times it was acted upon or judged useful?

Yes. It’s all logged, every interaction and every patient encounter. We had 2.96 million clinical encounters last year that the Partners system has logged.


The log itself should be useful, either from a product standpoint in knowing how often it provides value or to check the near-misses that QPID caught for root cause analysis.

We’ve looked at it, but Partners also looks at it all the time. One of the things they want to do is look for those near-misses and then change process to prevent them going forward. A number of hospital systems out there are talking to us because of that issue where there’s a bunch of near-misses that are unreported or they’re reported in the EHR but no one sees them. They’re really concerned from a risk compliance standpoint that that information is there but no one’s doing anything with it. QPID can sit out on top of all of this information and it knows what a near-miss is. On a nightly basis, it can report and show them to compliance and they can look at the log files and figure out what happened.


What capability has Partners found most useful?

If you ask the CFO, he’ll tell you that we’ve brought in millions of dollars in the area of coding, because the clinical documentation doesn’t support a rejected code. We’ve automated the process by which to the extent that a claim is rejected, QPID automatically knows what that code is and then knows what clinical documentation supports that code and goes into the record to see if there is supporting clinical documentation around that code and attaches it if it finds it. Then the claim gets resubmitted. We’ve brought in millions and millions of dollars for Mass General in particular doing that, as one example.

We’ve taken out tremendous labor through the idea of eliminating prior authorization. Through our Q-Guides application, we’ve increased patient safety by discovering metal in a patient before they go into an MRI machine. We’ve reduced cancellations of procedures because we find risk factors before the patient shows up. We’ve decreased malpractice rates and malpractice claims because we’ve increased patient safety. We’ve proven all that.

We’ve increased clinical throughput and workflow, because it takes about 10 minutes on average for physicians to look at a patient’s record and often it’s incomplete, look at it before a patient shows up for a visit. The time to discover what’s going on with a patient is less than two minutes at Mass General and it’s complete information because we serve it up the way they want to see it, the type of information they want to see. We’ve validated that. We’ve decreased the time it takes to inboard a radiology patient by tenfold. It used to take about 20 minutes, it’s like two to three minutes now because QPID does all the work behind the scenes, it gets all the information they need.

We’ve automated the pre-population of anesthesia forms, which is a laborious process. We’ve got a registry product — it costs about $80 to $200 to populate a registry and it’s all manual labor, nursing and doctor time. Out of the box, QPID can pre-populate about 85 percent of it, so we can reduce the cost of compliance and registry, make it much less expensive and much quicker. It’s a whole bunch of different things that we do today.


What are the goals for the next three or four years?

The goal is in the next three or four years to have 20 integrated delivery networks and academic medical centers. We want to complete our Series B, which we’re in the process of doing right now. We’ve got one term sheet and we’re about to get another one today. We’ll have probably at the end of the day three term sheets. We’ll have a West Coast office as well as an East Coast. We’re headquartered in Boston; we’ll also have a San Diego office. We’ll have a sales organization, a marketing organization, which we’re building right now.

All this has been done with Mike Zalis, the founder; myself; and Rick Toren, who is the founder of CodeRyte and Active Health. We met with 30 IDNs and academic medical centers to understand what their needs were. We’ll really change and improve patient safety and healthcare across the country. We’ll actually generate a return on investment on hospitals’ EHRs, which I would argue they’re not getting today. At the end of the day, we’ll be pleased because we’ll have made a difference in a lot of people’s lives for the better.

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March 31, 2014 Interviews 1 Comment

Morning Headlines 3/31/14

March 30, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Maryland set to replace troubled health exchange with Connecticut’s system

Maryland’s $125 million health insurance exchange website is being called “broken beyond repair” and will be shut down and replaced by the Deloitte-built system that Connecticut is successfully using.

Morgan Stanley Reveals Stocks on Takeover Target

Cerner is included in a Morgan Stanley report which looks at financial and market sector data to predict which companies are acquisition or takeover candidates this year.

Big data: are we making a big mistake?

A Financial Times article explores the state of ‘big data,’ warning that building larger datasets does not guarantee that statisticians will unlock exciting new answers from them. To illustrate that ‘big data’ comes second to good data, the article cites two presidential polling surveys from the Landon vs. Roosevelt 1936 election. One poll surveyed 3,000 voters and correctly predicted that Roosevelt would win, while the other surveyed 2.4 million voters and incorrectly predicted that Landon would win. The 3,000 sample-size survey called the election correctly because the researchers focused their efforts on building a clean and unbiased sample set, rather than building a massive sample set and assuming its size would correct for any statistical bias.

Medical First: 3-D Printed Skull Successfully Implanted in Woman

A 22-year-old woman in the Netherlands is the first person to receive a 3D plastic scull implant. The woman suffered from a condition that was causing her skull to thicken, leading to severe headaches and total loss of vision. Once the replacement skull was implanted, the woman’s vision returned and her and headaches stopped.

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March 30, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Monday Morning Update 3/31/14

March 29, 2014 News 7 Comments

Top News


The Washington Post reports that Maryland has such little hope that its $126 million health insurance exchange will ever work that it will be shut down permanently and replaced by Connecticut’s system. Nobody’s willing to talk about what the new system will cost, especially the politicians who botched the first one that crashed minutes after it was turned on. The only refreshing aspect about Maryland’s folly is that it was Noridian Healthcare Solutions that it had to fire instead of CGI and it’s also the first state to admit defeat and start over. Connecticut’s system was developed by Deloitte, which seems to be the only company that consistently delivered for those states that decided they couldn’t use the federal exchange.

Reader Comments


From Bruce Kee: “Re: patient privacy case. It’s a sticky situation.” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, while a county executive running for governor in 2010, received and shared information about a patient who was sexually assaulted at a county mental health facility as he and his political consultants tried to deflect criticism of four deaths that had occurred there. The attorney hired by the county explained in the draft response why the patient’s information should not be released to the newspaper, saying, “They and I are bound by laws and regulations governing, among other things, the confidentiality of certain information. What should we do? Should we disregard the rights of patients? The legal and ethical obligations imposed upon us? Please — please consult with someone familiar with the laws and regulations governing the disclosure of the information you seek.”  

From Vas DeFerence: “Re: cloud EHR vendors. A know of a practice that wants to switch systems ASAP, but can’t get their data even though their contract gives the practice ownership of it. The SaaS-based vendor won’t provide it or give the practice access, so the practice is actually thinking about manually printing out 80,000 charts to PDF. How are other practices and vendors dealing with SaaS-based database lock-in?” The obvious answer would be to sue the vendor, but that takes time and money the practice probably doesn’t have. The second would be to call the vendor out publicly and hope the possibility of negative publicity action heightens their data export enthusiasm. I’ll offer to be the intermediary if the practice wants to give me details on the record so I can get the company’s response. My pessimistic expectation is that the vendor doesn’t really know how to deliver on its promise and has little incentive to figure it out until the seat it occupies gets a bit hotter. Mass export capability should be part of certification given ONC’s push for interoperability, the practice’s equivalent of Blue Button that allows them to move to a new system without endangering patients by losing their information.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


The huge amount of taxpayer money spent on dysfunctional health insurance exchanges is more the fault of bureaucrats rather than of contractors such as CGI, poll respondents said 51 percent to 29. New poll to your right: have you seen personal benefit from an HIE as a patient / consumer? I understand that maybe you wouldn’t necessarily know, but even then that’s the marketing challenge of HIEs.

My latest grammar peeve: specifying times as “EST,” which is wrong through November 2. Just say “Eastern” or “ET” year-round if you don’t want to be bothered with the seasonal intricacies of “EDT.” The only “standard time” in the summer is in Arizona, which confusingly but sensibly doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time and therefore remains on MST all year.

Listening: ReVamp, operatic metal from the Netherlands featuring my favorite female singer, Floor Jansen (After Forever, Nightwish).

Upcoming Webinars

April 2 (Wednesday) 1:00 p.m. ET. A Landmark 12-Point Review of Population Health Management Companies. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP, Health Catalyst. Learn the 12 criteria that a health system should use to evaluate population health vendors and to plot its internal strategy, then see the results of grading seven top PHM vendors against these criteria. No single vendor can meet all PHM needs. The most important of the 12 criteria over the next three years will be precise patient registries, patient-provider attribution, and precise numerators in patient registries.

April 16 (Wednesday) 11:00 a.m. ET. Panel Discussion: Documents, EMRs, and Healthcare Processes. Sponsored by Levi, Ray & Shoup. Presenters: Charles Harris, senior technical lead, Duke University Health System; Ron Peel, technical advisor, LRS; and John Howerter, SVP of enterprise output management, LRS. IT department in hospitals implementing EMRs often overlook the role of document-driven workflows. Prescriptions, specimen labels, and discharge orders, and other critical documents must be reliably delivered with minimal impact on IT and clinical staff. This panel discussion will discuss the evolving use of documents in the “paperless/less-paper” environment.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

Morgan Stanley places Cerner on its list of 44 companies whose stock fundamentals make them attractive for being acquired. 


TrueVault, which offers a programming API allowing software developers to store and use patient information in a HIPAA-compliant manner, raises $2.5 million in seed funding. The Mountain View, CA-based company charges $0.01 per programming call to its service. 

Government and Politics


A consultant hired to review Vermont’s insurance exchange lists problems that include changing federal expectations, inexperienced consultants provided by CGI, and putting political cronies in charge. It’s a well done and easily understood report, although I suspect that engaging a consulting firm to evaluate even a successfully executed project would result in a similar list.

A proposed California referendum that would increase the state’s $250,000 limit on non-economic malpractice awards adds two unrelated items added to make it more enticing to voters based on focus group response: requiring stringent drug testing of hospital-based doctors and mandatory use of a doctor shopping database that is already available but that nobody uses because it’s clunky. The special interests will be out in force: trial lawyers love the prospect of higher awards that will encourage them to represent injured patients instead of just turning them down as not being worth the effort, hospitals say the change will cost billions, and the guy pushing the database nobody uses was upset that he got only $250,000 when a doctor-shopping drug abuser ran over and killed his two children.


Check out C-Span video of the doc fix/ICD-10 delay being approved by voice vote, suspending the House’s own rules and skipping the recorded vote that would indicate who voted yes and no. The “no” votes sounded louder than the “yes” votes to me but the Chair gets to decide, not to mention that voice votes require legislators to be physically present, which isn’t common, and are usually used only for non-controversial issues for which support is nearly unanimous. The voice vote means the two-thirds majority wasn’t required, leading experts to say that both parties feared it wouldn’t pass otherwise by the April 1 deadline, the day after Monday’s Senate vote. Since the one-sentence ICD-10 delay got tacked on for some reason, it also passed without any kind of discussion or thoughtful process. An example of the political motivations comes from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who explained her support as, “The Republicans will say this is because of the Affordable Care Act, and I just don’t want to give them another opportunity to misrepresent what this is about.” Democrats want the SGR repealed, but Republicans say they haven’t offered a proposal on how the country will pay for it, leading in the regular “patches” that have prevented what would have been $160 billion in taxpayer savings over the past 10 years as the law requires.


HHS releases a security risk assessment tool for small to medium physician practices. It’s available for the desktop, iPad, or as Word documents.

Innovation and Research


Doctors in the Netherlands save the life of a 22-year-old woman by replacing most of her skull with a plastic one they created using 3-D printer. It’s refreshing that among all of the wildly overhyped technologies, 3-D printing has come out of nowhere and is solving big problems cost effectively.



I thought this subject line of the promotional email from Next Wave Connect described either late-breaking news or fresh emanations from their in-house psychic related to Monday’s scheduled Senate vote (who also irrationally capitalized “Delayed”). Nope, it was just “click here’ bait for people who require assistance in comprehending what a one-year delay would mean to them (is it really that hard to figure out?)


Northern Berkshire Healthcare (MA), which operates 36-bed, 129-year-old North Adams Regional Hospital and its affiliates (visiting nurse service, hospice, and three practices) files Chapter 7 bankruptcy and shuts down the hospital due to declining revenue. The state’s attorney general, who is from the same town, has announced an investigation of the hospital’s board. Protestors showed up at the empty building, seemingly more interested in the loss of union jobs than any immediate danger to public health triggered by closing a facility short on patients. A court ordered competitor Berkshire Medical Center to take over the ED on Friday, but shortages of supplies and staff led it to delay the ED re-opening until Monday. The CEO of the state hospital association summarized the situation as, “Changes are taking place both in how care is paid for, and also how care is delivered. Not all hospitals will continue to operate as they used to. Possible solutions for this could include redefining what a hospital is to maintain basic services for a community, or cross-subsidization within a larger health system.” He didn’t mention the more Darwinian solution that needs to be on the table given healthcare costs: if you’re not providing a service the market demands or someone else is doing it better, shut down.


I saw a few mysteriously belated tweets about a 2013 Accenture study (complete with the usual cartoonish infographs for people too busy to actually read words) of what patients expect of drug companies, which concluded that: (a) patients want to hear directly from drug companies, preferably as they begin taking a new drug; (b) they want free stuff, like discounts or rewards; (c) two-thirds are willing to trade their personal information to get the aforementioned free stuff. The conclusion is that pharma has not met expectations for more actively engaging with its customers. What’s wrong with the study: (a) it was an online survey that is by definition skewed toward heavy online users who don’t have anything better to do than fill out surveys; (b) Accenture didn’t include the actual survey questions, which I expect were heavily suggestive of demonstrating unmet demand since Accenture sells consulting services to drug companies panicking that their Facebook page isn’t clever enough; (c) it didn’t compare non-online communication options (telephone or mail, for example) but instead just asked respondents to choose from several online technologies;  and (d) surveyed consumers almost always express an interest in something that’s free that they end up ignoring completely when it’s actually made available in response to questionable survey results (see: personal health records). My unscientific conclusion of what consumers want from drug companies: (a) discounts; (b) notice of any new information about the drugs they take; and (c) follow-up information about use, side effects, warnings, etc. a few weeks after starting a new chronic medication. They don’t want drug companies bugging them on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, March 30 is National Doctor’s Day, which means that hospitalists and ED docs will be about the only ones who get thanked directly since their peers won’t be working.

A Financial Times article warns that the concept of “big data” has consultants, entrepreneurs, and governments drooling, but Google Flu Trends is a good example of putting too much faith in easily collected data of unknown meaning. Everybody focuses on correlation rather than causation — just because people with the flu Google the word “flu” more often doesn’t mean that everyone who Googles “flu” has it. It also points out a common misperception: bigger data sets of uncertain selection bias aren’t as predictive as smaller data sets that are free of sampling bias, with an example being the prediction that Landon would convincingly defeat Roosevelt for President in 1936, which was based on 2.4 million mailed survey responses that turned out to be wildly wrong compared to 3,000-respondent survey that was more carefully designed. The article concludes that giant databases have people clamoring for information that statistical methods can’t always deliver.


Two ED registrars at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center (NY) are arrested for selling information from electronic patient files to rehab centers and personal injury attorneys, with one patient receiving a call from an ambulance-chasing lawyer while still sitting in the ED.

The founder of sexually transmitted disease testing app Hula says he won’t change the company’s name despite protests from Hawaiians, but he now understands the cultural insensitivity of company marketing materials that refer to “getting lei’d.”


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect


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March 29, 2014 News 7 Comments

Morning Headlines 3/28/14

March 28, 2014 Headlines No Comments

House Passes ICD-10 Delay Bill, Senate Next to Vote

The House of Representatives passes a bill that will delay the mandatory use of ICD-10 until October 2015. The bill now moves to the Senate for a Monday vote.

Racial differences in cancer screening with electronic health records and electronic preventive care reminders

A study published in JAMIA looks at an estimated 2.4 billion US adult primary care visits, and finds that orders for screening for breast, cervical, or colon cancer did not differ between clinics with and without EHRs.

Survey: 95% of organizations are at or below budget on ICD-10 transition

The Advisory Board publishes results from its ICD-10 Readiness Survey, which suggests that while there are still significant challenges ahead for ICD-10 adoption, 95 percent of providers are at or under their allocated budgets.

CMS System for Sharing Information About Terminated Providers Needs Improvement

The HHS OIG publishes a report which criticizes the effectiveness of a federal program responsible for broadcasting the identity of providers who have been banned from Medicaid due to fraud to all state Medicare agencies. Specifically, it found that about one-third of the 6,439 records in MCSIS did not relate to providers terminated "for cause," and that 17 states are not submitting provider names at all.

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March 28, 2014 Headlines No Comments

News 3/28/14

March 27, 2014 News 12 Comments

Top News



The House of Representatives approves, by an unusual voice vote, a hurriedly presented bill that would delay the mandatory implementation of ICD-10 until at least October 1, 2015. The bill, presented Wednesday and approved Thursday, primarily addresses a Sustainable Growth Rate fix that would prevent the 24 percent reduction in physician Medicare payments that will otherwise occur on April 1. The ICD-10 date change was contained in a single sentence in the bill, which will become law if it’s approved by the Senate on Monday and then signed by the President. HHS has been insisting the deadline wouldn’t change after two previous delays, providers and vendors should have been ready given the generous lead time and remaining six months, and most organizations agreed that it was time to rip the Band-Aid off and just do it. Now a delay gets snuck into an unrelated bill and pushed to approval in less than 24 hours, most likely by politicians who didn’t have a clue about what they were voting for. The bill proves how ineffective Congress can be – they can’t figure out how pay for fixing SGR, so they delay its implementation, and despite HHS claims that ICD-10 is vital, it’s easier to keep delaying it than to reach an actual decision about its merit.


Reader Comments

3-27-2014 11-22-52 AM

From The Reverend: “Re: another MU question. Thanks for posting question about the exemption letter. I’m also confused by the statement at the top of the exemption form that, ‘If you successfully met Meaningful Use in 2013, you will be excluded from the payment adjustment and do not need to submit a Hardship Exception Application for Payment Year 2015.’ I betcha this is a brilliant tactic to bring costs for the program under control. Providers current with MU will see an opening to ignore this year’s reporting period since the one percent penalty is off the table and ultimately fewer providers will get that final year payment.” I’m not sure what CMS’s intentions were with its handling of the exemption process, but I bet plenty of providers will take advantage of the reprieve.From Seymour Bush:

“Re: Atlantic article series on EHRs. This gentleman’s comments are a fun counter to industry hype.” According to Nebraska-based family practice doc Creed Wait, MD:

The saying is, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.“ The saying is not, “Build a different mousetrap, pay out 19 billion dollars in incentives to use the mousetrap, mandate its use by law and punish those who fail to adopt it. Then shove the world kicking and screaming against their will through your door” … For the federal government to mandate the use of EMRs by every physician out there just because it works at the VA would be like telling the entire world, “OK, we made it to the moon. Now it is your turn. Any country that has not put a man on the moon within the next five years will be bombed. Every country that complies with this mandate will get a check for $1B. For those countries who fail to comply with this mandate, shelling will begin at 1:00 a.m, five years from today.” …The EMR had become the primary influence in the interview. The dynamic had changed. The patient and I were now both in the room to feed the hunger of the software … Physicians used to write their orders and clerks would enter these data into the computer. Under the new mandates, the physician is now a data entry clerk. What’s next? Is each hospital CEO going to be required to spend two hours a day manning the switchboard?

From Dim-Sum: “Re: DoD EHR. DoD looked at Judith’s big Kaiser win, calculated additional funds for development of a down range medicinal solution, and added a chunk for COTS vendors to certify their teams for Tier 1,2 & 3 support. That figure, for all practical purposes, is $5.5 billion USD. The SI prime wants 40 percent of the pie. COTS EHR vendors will want $1.8 billion USD . Does anyone see the math does not add up? To add to the confusion and muffled numbers is the fact that a CMMI 3 firm will come in and state that COTS can’t create or engineer a down range solution, so they will want $500M – are we seeing a trend here? COTS EHR vendors cannot fathom Agile Scrum, let alone CMMI 3 mediocre results, Everyone forgets that software vendors in the US usually charge 16-20 percent of original software list for ongoing annual support — those numbers are included, so the hopes and dreams of the average EHR vendor is shattered. They will have to come down by $0.5 billion, round down their fee so they can recoup recurring revenue of 20 percent ($200 million a year) of the leftover amount to secure a more realistic number of $800 million. Your SI buddies want COTS vendors to be realistic, stop your silly dreams – you never heard of SPAWAR (Latin meaning “Beltway ONLY.”) SIs deserve the cash because they have no idea how to develop competitive software, so they want your knowledge on the cheap, they are program managers, they are the conduit in to the psyche of the DoD. The DoD does not value software, they value stability and sustainability and salute predictability. That is why it is so hard for COTS vendors to believe that the DoD blew $10+ billion USD for the monstrosity they have today and are hoping COTS EHR vendors can save the day.”

From Bill O’Sayle: “Re: FDA recalling McKesson’s anesthesia software. Both Cerner and Epic (for example) now have products to consume medical device data straight into their EMRs (i.e. Cerner iBus). Do you think this means then that EMRs with such capability are now at risk of such a recall? I can’t see Cerner putting their PowerChart install base at risk of a recall just so they (Cerner) can claim medical device integration. But if this is the logic of the FDA, then that seems to be the case, no?” The lab software model is that the instrument interface requires FDA’s approval, but the system that uses its information doesn’t (except for blood banking systems). I’m speculating, without knowing the details, that McKesson’s anesthesia product may have medical device integration built in, which puts the whole product within FDA’s purview. But given my “without knowing the details” disclaimer, I’d be interested to hear from someone who knows more than I.


From HIMSS EHR Association: “Re: EHR Developer Code of Conduct. A correction to Mr. H’s thoughts on the McKesson/FDA matter. The EHRA  strongly recommends that all vendors developing EHR products, regardless of membership in the EHRA, adopt the Code of Conduct. However, it is not a condition of membership in the EHRA. The 17 vendors that  adopted the Code of Conduct as of February were recognized at HIMSS14. Since then, three additional vendors have adopted the Code. The EHRA is hosting a webcast on Friday, March 28 to educate more vendors on the elements included in the EHR Developer Code of Conduct and the benefits of adoption.”

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

inga_small Highlights from HIStalk Practice this week include: Dr. Gregg asks if being OK is OK and notes that the hard part isn’t achieving perfection but learning to be OK with OK. CMS warns EPs of possible system delays as providers submit MU attestation data by the March 31 deadline. The American Academy of Ophthalmology launches IRIS Registry, a centralized data repository that aggregates outpatient clinical data from EHRs. Epic, eClinicalWorks, and Allscripts claim the biggest shares of the ambulatory EHR market. Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany (FL) offers secure messaging services through RelayHealth. AHIMA warns that the use of copy and paste functionality in EHRs should be permitted only in the presence of strong technical and admin controls. While checking out these stories, why not sign up for the spam-free email updates so you won’t miss something important? Thanks for reading.

This week on HIStalk Connect: Six senators send a letter to the FDA seeking clarification over medical app regulation. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center will expand the use of Google Glass by ED clinicians after finishing a successful three-month trial. Reflexion Health raises $7.5 million to expand development of a Microsoft Kinect-based platform designed to support physical therapists and their patients.

I had some site problems over the weekend through Wednesday, which caused some downtime and the temporary disappearance of some posts and comments. Hopefully it’s all fixed now. Geek details: the webhost monitors web traffic and noticed IP traffic containing HIStalk’s server password, leading them to discover a root trojan that would have allowed its creator to take control of the server. That required building a new virtual server and migrating all the settings and large MySQL databases over to an environment containing fresh installs of PHP and Litespeed, which often brings up odd permissions and database problems. It’s been quite a pain – I watched the site and the open support ticket for 15 hours on Saturday alone and slept only a couple of hours, but problems delayed the actual migration until Tuesday evening.

Upcoming Webinars

April 2 (Wednesday) 1:00 p.m. ET. A Landmark 12-Point Review of Population Health Management Companies. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP, Health Catalyst. Learn the 12 criteria that a health system should use to evaluate population health vendors and to plot its internal strategy, then see the results of grading seven top PHM vendors against these criteria. No single vendor can meet all PHM needs. The most important of the 12 criteria over the next three years will be precise patient registries, patient-provider attribution, and precise numerators in patient registries.

April 16 (Wednesday) 11:00 a.m. ET. Panel Discussion: Documents, EMRs, and Healthcare Processes. Sponsored by Levi, Ray & Shoup. Presenters: Charles Harris, senior technical lead, Duke University Health System; Ron Peel, technical advisor, LRS; and John Howerter, SVP of enterprise output management, LRS. IT department in hospitals implementing EMRs often overlook the role of document-driven workflows. Prescriptions, specimen labels, and discharge orders, and other critical documents must be reliably delivered with minimal impact on IT and clinical staff. This panel discussion will discuss the evolving use of documents in the “paperless/less-paper” environment.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


AirStrip acquires the assets of wireless fetal/maternal monitoring provider Sense4Baby and licenses the technology from the Gary and Mary West Health Institute.


3-27-2014 10-15-05 AM

Southern Illinois Healthcare selects CPM CarePoints, ExitCare, Mosby’s Nursing Consult, and Mosby’s Skills from Elsevier.

Gracepoint Management (FL) will implement the Plexus Revenue Cycle Management service from Netsmart across its network of 48 behavioral health and drug and alcohol treatment centers.


3-27-2014 12-42-12 PM

TeleTracking Technologies hires Susan Whitehurst (Joint Commission Resources) as managing director of consulting services.


Innovative Consulting Group names David Kissinger (Leidos Health) regional VP.


Wellspring hires Matthew Joyce (Stout Risius Ross) as SVP of sales.

Announcements and Implementations

3-27-2014 8-34-30 AM

Bradley Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center (TN) begins transitioning to PointClickCare EMR.


Henry Ford Health System (MI) joins the Michigan Health Connect HIE.

Government and Politics

3-27-2014 1-49-32 PM

The HHS OIG finds that a federal database for tracking Medicaid fraud isn’t working as intended, with 17 states and the District of Columbia failing to provide information on providers banned from billing Medicaid. The database also contains missing National Provider ID numbers and  names of “terminated” providers who are actually dead.


Medicity earns a patent for its technology for connecting referral networks and another for its technology to centralize communications between providers and patients using cloud-based mobile technology.



Continua Health Alliance announces availability of its 2014 Design Guidelines.

The eHealth Initiative launches its 2020 Roadmap to guide the transformation of the nation’s healthcare system by 2020. The roadmap will focus on recommendations tied to Meaningful Use, system interoperability, care delivery transformation, and a balance of innovation and privacy.


Online second opinion service Best Doctors launches the Medting medical exchange.

Weird News Andy calls this story “dueling paramedics.” A woman being transported by ambulance for possible stroke gets out of the ambulance after the two paramedics started arguing bitterly about a personal issue. WNA also observes the skyrocketing healthcare salaries in Cuba, where huge percentage boosts will give nurses an income of $25 per month, while physician specialists will earn $67 per month, up from $26.

Sponsor Updates

  • HealthMEDX hosts its user group meeting next week in Branson, MO.
  • CommVault publishes a white paper highlighting findings of a nationwide survey of healthcare IT managers, which suggest that healthcare data from a variety of sources could overwhelm the healthcare delivery system.
  • HCS announces that all of its Interactant modules meet ICD-10 standards.
  • Craneware hosts a series of one-day user group meetings in advance of its October Revenue Integrity Summit in Las Vegas.
  • PDS provides details of its 2014 Tech Conference October 22-23 in Madison, WI.
  • Nordic Consulting CEO Mark Bakken will deliver the keynote address at Madison’s startup incubator Gener8tor’s winter premiere night on April 3.
  • Wolters Kluwer Health enhances its UpToDate App for the Android mobile platform.
  • Kareo CEO Dan Rodrigues discusses his company and the power of cloud computing for small- to medium-sized practices.


EPtalk by Dr. Jayne

Everyone at the hospital is buzzing about the possibility that ICD-10 will be delayed as part of the legislation addressing the Medicare physician payment cut. Both CHIME and AHIMA have come out against the ICD-10 provision, stating that delaying it would negatively impact innovation and health care spending.

Athenahealth’s VP of government affairs, Dan Haley, quickly blogged about it in response. His main assertion is that a delay would only reward vendors who didn’t work hard enough to meet deadlines which have been published well in advance. His secondary point is that for the legislature to delay ICD-10 after the head of CMS has said multiple times that there will be no further delays is akin to a child receiving dessert after his parent had previously told him no.

As much as I’d hate to see my colleagues and their employers suffer when their vendors are not ready, it may take something this dramatic to really thin out the vendor herd. We’ve known this deadline was coming for a very long time and for vendors to still be unable to meet it is inexcusable. We can blame it on MU and the fact that we have a perfect storm of governmental requirements massing to hit us all at once. We can blame it on all kinds of things but the bottom line is that many vendors have delivered despite all those factors.

I don’t have a crystal ball to see how this is going to morph as it works its way through Congress, but it just goes to show that there’s never a dull moment in health IT. Many of my colleagues are already using it as an excuse to stop working on ICD-10 even though the legislation hasn’t been signed. In the words of Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward: “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”

Speaking of mistakes, several readers have written about the issues mentioned in Monday’s Curbside Consult. One of the problems I encountered was an issue with having multiple aliases in a hospital’s patient portal. A reader pointed out that issues like this are not only patient safety issues, but can also play into national safety:

I’m sure you’ve seen the articles about the so-called “Boston Bomber” entering the US undetected because he spelled his name differently than what was on the official watch list (Tsarnayev v. Tsarnaev). Seriously? The CIA was confounded by the unexpected insertion of the letter “y” into a person’s name … a person on a monitored watch list?  Seems incredible. If the CIA can’t figure out how to address probable name variances, then I’m not so surprised that your large academic medical center can’t figure out how to fix an alias name in its EMPI.

Other readers sent their own stories of IT systems run amok not only in healthcare, but in other industries as well. The pace of change is so great that little things like accuracy and completeness can’t seem to keep up. As long as the majority of people think technology is the solution to everything, I don’t see things slowing down.


I haven’t mentioned shoes or wine in a while, so I was excited to find this piece about a way to remove the cork from a wine bottle using only a man’s dress shoe.  The article contains an engineering explanation of the fluid dynamics responsible for it working. Unfortunately ladies’ heels don’t work well due to the angle of the sole, so Inga and I are out of luck. If you’re looking for a few good laughs, however, make sure you check out the comments section.


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect


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March 27, 2014 News 12 Comments

Health IT from the CIO’s Chair 3/26/14

March 26, 2014 Darren Dworkin 6 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this article are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers. Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear. MSRP excludes tax. Starting at price refers to the base model, a more expensive model may be shown.

Writing a Blog – HIStalk Style

I like Monday morning headlines as they keep me informed about a range of things with a relatively quick glance. I thought I would try to emulate and see if I could round up some interesting information from around the Web.


On March 21, the CMS Medicare Shared Savings Program sent out a warning email to each participating MSSP ACO that they only had two business days left to submit complete and accurate reporting or risk losing incentive payments. They included the statistics above, which leaves you to wonder how many might have missed the reporting deadline.


Despite lots of rumors from Apple around wearables, Google beats Apple to the punch with an announcement around Android Wear. While Apple got a quick start in healthcare, it looks to be Android’s game as enterprise customers struggle with their love/hate relationship with Apple.

Google CEO Larry Page says his billions should go to Elon Musk. On the one hand, this could be seen as quite odd given all the worthwhile causes out there and the many great problems to solve. But on the other hand, perhaps this should be taken as a statement that we really need to invest in innovation. This makes me think that solving our healthcare problems won’t be just about reducing costs (which we certainly need to do) but also about innovating our way out. quietly drops the online chat customer service function. You can check out the old link at this cached page that shows the now-obsolete chat window. Seems like a really odd move given all the problems, but maybe someone was trying to improve their help desk statistics.


Windows XP support is officially ending on April 8. I bet lots of hospitals will need to make alternate plans. There has been a lot of press around ATM machines struck in time on XP. The same will be true for some medical devices.


Remembering passwords is a problem in many settings and it is especially challenging in healthcare. Check out and its approach to getting us to remember a pattern instead of a complex traditional password. If you were good at Simon, this might be for you.


Stanford’s James Cybulski, James Clements, and Manu Prakash have invented a microscope that costs 50 cents that is capable of magnifying up to 2,000 times and helps medical professionals in developing countries diagnose diseases like malaria. Check it out at

The headlines read that Facebook has bought a virtual reality company. But the real news is that Facebook has now entered the hardware business with its $2 billion acquisition of Oculus. (On a related note: best fake headline related to this news … “Yahoo! Buys Viewmaster.”)

When IBM’s Watson beat Ken Jennings at Jeopardy in 2011, it was big news and propelled the journey of artificial intelligence in healthcare. The latest news is that a Lego robot has set the world record in solving Rubik’s cube. I’m not really sure what this means for healthcare, but I’ve always been impressed when someone (or something) solved the cube.

The top 100 CIOs to follow on Twitter are available here, with about half a dozen healthcare folks on the list. I’m not really sure why I’m not on the list; I’ve tweeted over 10 times in the past two years.

Many lessons from the Target data security breach, two of them for me are: first, it is unlikely we have a clear picture of what has happened by following the news reports. With the intense pressure on Target IT teams, I’m sure there is more relevant detail and nuance to be shared, but PR crisis folks are heavily involved in trying to manage the story. The second and most important is that people and process are as important as technology.


Google has announced significant drops in both cloud storage and cloud computing. This will likely move the market as others will follow. While large health systems still have a way to go before this will have an impact due to the current architecture of many HIT systems, the pressure is mounting.

1-29-2014 12-54-46 PM

Darren Dworkin is chief information officer at Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles, CA. You can reach Darren on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.

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March 26, 2014 Darren Dworkin 6 Comments

Morning Headlines 3/27/14

March 26, 2014 Headlines 2 Comments

ICD-10 Delay, SGR Temporary Fix Up for Congressional Vote

A bill that would delay the ICD-10 transition until October 2015 and extend the current Sustainable Growth Rate for 12 months will be voted on in the House this Thursday.

AAO officially launches IRIS Registry

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has launched the Intelligent Research in Sight Registry (IRIS), a comprehensive national database that will be used for research and benchmarking. The database will interface with 18 EHR systems and aggregate 20 million patient records by 2017.

Cedars-Sinai Designing ‘Operating Room of the Future’ to Streamline, Improve Trauma Care

Cedars-Sinai and the US Military will work together to build an "Operating Room of the Future" that will focus on improving coordination of care during the so-called “golden hour,” when prompt medical attention can mean the difference between life and death.

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March 26, 2014 Headlines 2 Comments

Morning Headlines 3/26/14

March 26, 2014 Headlines No Comments

HHS Strategy to Address Information Exchange Challenges Lacks Specific Prioritized Actions and Milestones

The GAO publishes a review of HIE efforts being undertaken in four states, and finds that cost, insufficient data standards, problems with patient record matching, and concerns over variance in state privacy laws are all collectively dragging down progress. 

Uncertainty clouds federal Test EHR Program

Providers are struggling with the technical aspects of trying to use ONC’s Designated Test EHR Program to validate their ability to exchange health data with other vendor systems.

A better flu tracker using Twitter, not Google

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University have developed algorithms that track the spread of flu using Twitter data with a 93 percent accuracy.

IMS Health IPO could value company at up to $6.97 billion

IMS Health, an analytics firm focused on aggregating and reselling prescription drug data, prices its IPO at $18 – $21 per share, valuing the company at $7 billion.

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March 26, 2014 Headlines No Comments

News 3/26/14

March 26, 2014 News 3 Comments

Top News


The GAO looks at HIE efforts in four states and  finds a lack of sufficient health data standards, variations in privacy rules across states, difficulties matching patient records,  and concerns over covering exchange costs. GAO recommends that CMS and the ONC develop and prioritize specific actions to advance HIE and develop milestones with time frames to gauge progress.


Reader Comments

From The Reverend: “Exemption letter. A little mentioned part of the exemption that was offered up as “Vendor Certification Issues” for Meaningful Use 2 is that it requires the vendor to provide the EP with a letter. There is no guidance on what the letter must contain, who it needs to come from (vendor CEO, sales person, tier I tech support), or how to attach it to the exemption itself, but it a required (marked with a *) part of the exemption. The exemption also requires the EP to list the exact version they are currently running…which is obviously not the 2014 certified version (*because if it was, we wouldn’t be applying for the extension.) I am quite certain I am not the only concerned/confused person about this. It sure seems like it may be hard to extract this ‘letter of shame’ from the vendor. Can you help me?” If anyone can offer The Reverend some advice, please share.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

inga3 Mr. H is taking the night off, hopefully doing something fun, meaning I’m flying solo. Thanks for reading.

Upcoming Webinars

April 2 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. A Landmark 12-Point Review of Population Health Management Companies. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP, Health Catalyst. Learn the 12 criteria that a health system should use to evaluate population health vendors and to plot its internal strategy, then see the results of grading seven top PHM vendors against these criteria. No single vendor can meet all PHM needs. The most important of the 12 criteria over the next three years will be precise patient registries, patient-provider attribution, and precise numerators in patient registries. 

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Healthcare data analytics firm IMS Health expects to set its IPO price at $18 to $21 a share, giving the company a valuation of up to $6.97 billion.


Cloud storage provider Box looks to raise $250 million in an IPO. For the year ending January 31 Box reported revenue of $124.2 million with losses of $168.6 million. 



Prime Healthcare Services’ Roxborough Memorial Hospital (PA) selects Wellsoft EDIS.

Baptist Health Care (FL) signs a multi-year agreement with MedAssets for multiple cost management and operational efficiency solutions.



Physician connectivity platform provider Updox hires Pat Bickley (Health Care DataWorks) to lead product management.


Xerox names Robert Zapfel (IBM) president of Xerox Services, replacing the retiring Lynn Blodgett.


Marc Krellenstein (Relay Technology Management) joins Decision Resources Group as SVP/CTO.


Health Revenue Assurance Holdings appoints Dennis Veasman (MModal) SVP of business development and sales.

Announcements and Implementations

Aprima Medical and Etransmedia announce an upgrade program for Etransmedia customers using the Allscripts MyWay platform. Etransmedia customers, which include providers that purchased MyWay through Costco, have the option to become an Aprima client, or, to use the Aprima system but remain a hosted client of Etransmedia. Both options provide current Etransmedia customers with one free Aprima licenses for each existing MyWay license.


ProHealth (WI) utilizes consulting services from Perficient to become the first healthcare system to produce reports and data out of Epic’s Cogito data warehouse in a production environment.


St. Francis Health System (OK) will go live across its 70 physician offices in May and at its hospitals in June.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launches Flip The Clinic, an initiative meant to transform the average doctor visit to be more satisfying. The idea is to have the Flip The Clinic website serve as a hub for patients, providers, and other stakeholders to share ideas for improving the physician visit experience so that it’s more satisfying for patients and optimizes physician expertise. After reading Dr. Jayne’s latest Curbside Consult I’m hoping she will evaluate the site and share her opinions.


The South West Alliance of Rural Health’s Portland Hospital (AU) implements TrakCare Medication Management from InterSystems.

Government and Politics

Provider uncertainty is slowing implementation of the Designated Test EHR Program according to a representative from Meditech, which is one of three companies serving as test vendors. The ONC admits receiving a “decent amount” of questions on the program and says documentation is being developed to guide providers. Meanwhile, John Valutkevich, Meditech’s manager of interoperability initiatives notes that the ONC information already exists but many physicians and staff “don’t even know where to start.” I did a quick surf of the both the CMS and websites and I wasn’t able to locate relevant details, so I’m not surprised that providers are confused. Not for the first time I’m left to conclude that CMS and the ONC have plenty of “opportunities” to improve navigation on their sites.


HHS announces it strategic plan for 2014-2018 which includes an objective to meaningfully use HIT to improve healthcare and population health. Some of the noted HHS-supported initiatives include the promotion of HIT and standards through the MU programs; support for remote patient monitoring and telemedicine technologies; and promotion for programs such as Blue Button to engage and empower patients.


Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative CEO Micky Tripathi tells participants at a Federal Trade Commission workshop that HIT and HIE are “beginning to take off” now that the market is better rewarded for their adoption. He also warns that the industry is now seeing “a lot of tension” over the appropriate role of government in Stage 2 and Stage 3. I don’t know the full context of Tripathi’s statement but it seems the “tension” is less about the government’s role and more about what objectives and measures should be included and what tweaks should be made to the timing of the program. After all, doesn’t the government’s “role” include “owner” of the MU program?

Innovation and Research


Analysis by West Health Institute finds that widespread medical device interoperability could eliminate $36 billion in waste in the health care system and increase clinician efficiencies. Direct cost savings could be driven by avoiding redundant testing and reducing adverse events.


EHR usage in small physician offices has helped spur overall EHR adoption to 61 percent, according to an SK&A report on physician office EHR use.


Disturbing: a Topeka, KS man opens a dumpster in his office complex and finds discarded medical records, complete with patient names and social security numbers. Perhaps not coincidentally a document scanning service also has an office in the same complex. The state attorney general’s office have removed the charts for further investigation.

The Federation of State Medical Boards consider a telemedicine policy that would require physicians to be licensed in the state where the patient is located and would require the same standards of care for both virtual and face-to-face encounters. Opponents of the proposal believe the licensing requirement creates an unnecessary barrier to telehealth expansion and adoption.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University (MD) and George Washington University (DC) claim their flu tracking method using Twitter was 93 percent accurate during the last flu season when compared to CDC-collected data. Google’s Flu Trend tool was recently criticized for overestimating flu prevalence by more than 50 percent.


Some features of EMRs are unintentionally contributing to patient harm according to the recently released Maryland Hospital Patient Safety Program Annual Report. The report notes that the Office of Health Care Quality “received numerous reports of adverse events in which IT system omissions or glitches contributed to adverse events.”

Sponsor Updates

  • Healthx will add InstaMed Member Payments to its member portal solution.
  • Madison Magazine names Vonlay to its list of best places to work in technology for employers with over 100 employees.
  • CareVia will integrate its remote patient monitoring capability with the Harris FusionRX healthcare integration platform.
  • Surescripts awards e-MDs its White Coat of Quality award for applying best practices to the use of e-prescribing technology.
  • PatientPoint will deliver its population health management solutions with HealthTronics IT solutions for urologists.
  • Consulting Magazine names Akhila Skiftenes of Aspen Advisors and Ryan Uteg of Impact Advisors to its list of 35 Rising Star consultants under the age of 35.
  • Vecna, a provider of patient self-service solutions, will add Fujitsu’s PalmSecure technology to Vecna’s On-Site Registration solution.
  • TriZetto recommends that organizations identify the top ICD-9 codes used in their highest dollar claims to reduce claim rejections after the ICD-10 transition.
  • Health Catalyst profiles Texas Children’s Hospital and how the organization used Health Catalyst’s late-binding Enterprise Data Warehouse and analytics apps in its Pediatric Radiology department to improve patient care and achieve $400,000 in savings.
  • Health Catalyst hosts a two-day Healthcare Analytics Summit September 24-25 in Salt Lake City.
  • Dallas Business Journal names MedAssets to its list of 2014 Healthiest Employers.
  • CareTech Solutions serves as a technology sponsor for IABC Detroit’s Renaissance Awards, which honor the best in business communication in Southeast Michigan.


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.


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March 26, 2014 News 3 Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 3/24/14

March 24, 2014 Dr. Jayne 10 Comments

Mr. H posted some comments from the annual reader survey last week and one of the areas that people wanted to read more about was the patient experience of IT. As he mentioned, it’s difficult to get patients involved since they probably don’t read HIStalk, but the good thing is that all of us on the team are patients ourselves. I’ve had several recent adventures in patient engagement involving IT over the last few weeks.

Fail #1: I had mentioned before my ongoing issues with a large academic center and their patient portal. It’s a solid product, but I don’t think it’s being implemented or managed particularly well. I had an issue right after I signed up to use it where my last name was spelled wrong. It had been correct on the patient information sheet at the office, but was wrong on the portal. When I inquired about it via secure email, I was told I had “aliases” in the system and it couldn’t be corrected. A few weeks ago I made an appointment for my annual eye exam, and when the appointment confirmation came, I noticed my name was now spelled wrong in two different ways. Additionally, there is incorrect allergy information now posted.

There’s no way for me to fix it from within the patient record at the moment. However, it’s unclear if the product will allow that and they don’t have that functionality live or whether the product is that way by design. I called about getting it corrected and was told again that there are multiple “alias” accounts for me and that they can’t correct it. I have a serious problem with there being multiple accounts, especially since I’m only seen in one practice at the health system. Did someone create a duplicate chart? What’s going on? And why can’t they be merged if it’s a simple duplicate issue?

I brought up the fact that now I have incorrect health information present and specifically used the phrase “patient safety risk” multiple times. I asked them what the process is to correct the erroneous records and the answer from the portal team was “talk to your doctor.” I called the physician office and confirmed that my records are accurate in the source system. How can the physician be expected to clean up an erroneous allergy that she can’t even see?

I called the portal team back and told them that the source chart is accurate and asked them again for a process to correct it. They confirmed they have none. I then asked if I could withdraw consent for participation in the portal because I don’t want the erroneous information (how much else is there that I might not be able to see?) associated with my records or populated to another physician I might see in the future. Of course they have no way of closing my account. At this point it’s more an exercise in frustration rather than engagement. I don’t have hours to spend pursuing it, so I guess I will just let it go and continue to make sure the charts my physicians are using are accurate.

The bottom line is that systems (both the actual software and the policy/procedure associated with it) need mechanisms to handle issues like duplicate patient accounts, demographic errors, and especially medical errors. I’m floored that a major institution would be so clueless. After all, they have wait time billboards for the emergency department and sponsor the local sports teams, so they must be good, right?

Fail #2: This one is wrong on multiple levels. I went to a new physician for a fairly uncomplicated skin condition last December. Although I could have treated it myself, I’m not comfortable with calling out my own scripts and figured it would be good to establish myself as a patient in case I ever really need to be seen. This was in December. Last week I got a bill from the reference lab for the same date of service as my visit but for a surgical pathology charge. I called the ordering physician’s office and explained the bill and had them look in the chart.

Sure enough, there were results on my chart, but no record that I had been notified. Had they bothered to inform me of the results attributed to me, I could have told them that there had been an error. The staffer informed me that “it was benign, so we don’t call” and I let her know that “no news is good news” went out decades ago. She went on to look through the chart and saw that the lab had faxed (who still faxes these days?) a name discrepancy report. Apparently the name on the barcoded sample and the name on the electronic order the lab received were different, but the office corrected it incorrectly. I requested a call back from the physician, which I’m still waiting for.

I don’t want to get sent to collections for a bill I shouldn’t have received, so I called the lab. While on hold for 40 minutes, I had plenty of time to think not only about the potential source of the error (human error NOS, multiple episodes, probably staff had two patient charts open at the same time) but also about why it took 90 days to get the claim adjudicated and a bill to the patient. If we had real-time adjudication at the point of care, I could have handled the entire problem at the check-out desk and the sample would have gone out correctly. When a person finally took my call, I told them that I didn’t have a skin biopsy and wasn’t going to pay for it. They were nice about it and said they’d place a call to the ordering physician and get it taken care of.

My hospital is self-insured, although we do have a benefit administrator who processes the claims. I’m sensitive to the fact that the physician compensation model (small-business “eat what you kill”) has providers directly paying for the insurance premiums of their office staff because I used to pay those premiums myself. I wasn’t about to let $300 in erroneous payments go by, so I called the benefit administrator. The representative I spoke to told me that the physician performed a biopsy on me during my visit and I must just not have been aware.

Seriously? I guess I not only slept through the biopsy, but also the informed consent process and the actual consent form itself. It took me a full five minutes to convince her that I did not have a biopsy. I also told her that the office was aware of the problem and had admitted it, that I was just letting the insurance team know so they could recoup the payment since we’re self-insured and with the rising cost of health care, etc. She then helpfully let me know that they actually paid over $600 because there was another claim for a second biopsy I wasn’t aware of. Since it was paid in full, I didn’t receive a bill.

She admitted there would be no way to know it wasn’t accurate since it was the same date of service as my actual visit. I told her that’s why I was calling, to make sure that the payment was disputed so that the money would go back into the insurance pool because otherwise they’d be unaware of the problem. That’s when it got even more ridiculous. She told me that basically it was my word against the physician’s claim, and that unless I wanted to pursue written documentation of the error, there wasn’t anything they could do. She couldn’t provide a form or documentation of the actual information she needed – she was basically saying that there is no way for a patient to easily dispute a claim.

I reminded her (since she works for the benefit administrator and probably isn’t aware) that we are self-insured and I was trying to do the right thing getting the money rightfully returned. I let her know that the lab had already reversed my portion of the charge and at this point the easiest thing for me to do as the patient was to walk away. After all, it’s not MY $600 that was paid out (although at some level it is) and I had already spent over an hour trying to pursue this and now she was asking me to pursue undefined documentation that they’d probably reject anyway. I asked if there was any mechanism for them to reach out to the physician (after all the insurance fund was the one that was wronged) and she said I’d have to provide the phone number and she’d try to call if she could. I was surprised by that (they should have the phone number since the provider is in network) and interpreted it as her attempt to just get the patient off the phone and move on. I doubt she’ll ever call.

What’s my point here? The patient experience still stinks and it’s not all due to technology. Although my first tale of woe has a distinct odor of an IT nature, people are unwilling to address it. Heck, they didn’t even try to play a “known issue with the vendor, blah blah blah” card — they just said there was no way to fix it. The second scenario is strictly human error. The office put the wrong name on the requisition and filled out the name discrepancy form incorrectly. But because all the technology components were met (CPT, ICD, DOB, MRN, insurance information) the failure wasn’t detected.

It could have been mitigated by IT, however, with the use of real-time claim adjudication and the immediate collection of the patient balance. On the other hand it could have also been mitigated by a direct pay method of funding healthcare, where I would have been presented with a bill to review at checkout and then either paid it or disputed it rather than sending it to insurance. That’s the way medicine used to work.

To put the onus on the patient to correct either of these errors is wrong. We should be bending over backward to make sure patient information is correct and that there are processes to handle incidents like these. We’re all patients, and someday that could be us on the other end of the phone. There are other elements here, too. What if that biopsy was melanoma? Then that information would be in my claims data and that would be another nightmare entirely to try to correct.

At the end of the day, patients want physicians and other health professionals to be accessible. They want them to listen. They want the office staff, hospital employees, and anyone else they have to interface with (insurance, lab, etc.) to take care of their needs without acting like they’re in a hurry or pushing back. They want to be treated fairly and have accurate records. All the technology and the bells and whistles are nice, but they’re secondary for the most part. Many of us would trade it all for a physician who had more than six minutes of time to address our needs and an office staff that was pushing for us rather than pushing paper or the electronic equivalent.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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March 24, 2014 Dr. Jayne 10 Comments

Morning Headlines 3/25/14

March 24, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

HHS lays out 4-part health IT strategic plan

HHS publishes a broad health IT strategic plan for 2014-2018 that focuses on expanding health IT adoption, coordinating the development of interoperability standards, and integrating clinical best practices.

Western Maryland Regional Medical Center staff adheres to ‘circle of care’ approach

In a recently released Maryland Hospital Patient Safety Program Annual Report, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene named EHR systems as a culprit in some adverse events. The report explains, “The inability to access pending tests or results has led to delays in treatment, inappropriate discharges and futile surgeries.”

Proposed patient-centered telemedicine policy raises licensing questions

The Federation of State Medical Boards will vote on a new telemedicine policy that requires physicians to be licensed in the state where the patient is located when telemedicine visits are conducted.The proposal is being called an unnecessary barrier to telehealth expansion and adoption by advocates.

ONC, West Health see mobile interoperability saving $30B annually

A white paper published by the Gary and Mary West Health Institute claims that if mobile medical devices had greater interoperability the nation could avoid $30 billion a year in wasteful healthcare spending.

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March 24, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

Morning Headlines 3/24/14

March 23, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Metro Detroit health systems Beaumont, Oakwood and Botsford sign letter of intent to merge

In Detroit, Beaumont, Botsford, and Oakwood health systems announce plans to merge, citing integrated medical records as a driving factor behind the decision. The new system will span eight hospitals and consolidate $3.8 billion in annual revenue.

McKesson Technologies Anesthesia Care: Recall – Patient Case Data May Not Match Patient Data

The FDA issues a Class-1 recall of McKesson’s Anesthesia Care product. The decision suggests that the FDA sees clinical applications, ones that provide CDS but do not control medical devices, as falling into the high-risk category that warrants a class 1-level recall. McKesson issued a voluntary recall of the system in 2013 after customers reported that anesthesia data had been erroneously saved to the wrong patient’s record..

‘Flawed’ patient record system led to crisis on jubilee weekend

In England, the troubled Meditech go-live at Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust is profiled by a local paper, which says that after a four-year install, the system go-live compromised key cancer treatment schedules, ER workflows, outpatient appointment bookings, and generated $17 million in cost overages.

Conn. health official accuses Mass. of hoarding federal grant for New England health insurance collaborative

Connecticut officials are seeking $10 million from Massachusetts over a $45 million federal grant that had been issued to Massachusetts in 2010 to build an HIE infrastructure that was supposed to then be shared with other New England states. The project never resulted in a platform that other states could use, prompting Connecticut to seek reimbursement for work it eventually had to do on its own.

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March 23, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Monday Morning Update 3/24/14

March 22, 2014 News 11 Comments

Top News


Three Detroit hospital systems – Beaumont, Oakwood, and Botsford – announce plans to merge into an eight-hospital, $3.8 billion system, citing shared electronic medical records as one of their four goals.

Reader Comments


From Tom: “Re: McKesson’s FDA Class 1 recall. The description of their product Anesthesia Care could generically be applied to almost any EMR/EHR/CIS vendor’s AIMS product and yet the FDA’s decision-making clearly does not apply to vendors equally. Also I wonder how the regulation of CDS would affect a hospital who develops their own CDS?” FDA’s highest-level recall of McKesson Anesthesia Care may be sending a message that the agency considers even software-only clinical decision support to be high risk. McKesson defines its product as an anesthesia information management system, which it also calls an “anesthesia EMR.” McKesson sought and received FDA premarket clearance apparently because the system collects data from physiologic monitors. McKesson did a voluntary recall of its product in March 2013 after a customer reported that the software pulled up the wrong patient’s information, with two other customers reporting later that it had lost medical history comments and misconnected to a physiologic monitor, affecting one patient in each instance. Some thoughts:

  • McKesson Anesthesia Care is a software-only system that does not control medical devices. It collects and uses information from patient monitors. Other than that, it’s like any other high-acuity, unregulated EHR (surgery, ICU, ED, etc.)
  • FDA would not have been involved if the patient monitor connection hadn’t pushed the product into its regulatory arena. FDA regulates software that makes independent patient decisions or connects to regulated devices, with the idea being that those systems are devices working on their own rather than simply providing guidance to users.
  • Software vendors usually hide contractually behind the “professional judgment” test that says even if their software gives incorrect information or bad advice that harms patients, the clinical professional who uses the system makes the final decision and is solely responsible for the result.
  • The danger to patients is the same as for any other clinical decision support or even EHR software. Mixing up information between patients could be disastrous any time software is presented information or recommending actions. However, high-acuity systems give users less time to make important decisions, so that probably should be a consideration in determining patient risk.
  • McKesson planned to announced a Class II recall (meaning the problem wasn’t likely to cause patient harm) but FDA overrode that proposal and initiated a Class I recall indicating that patients could be harmed.
  • McKesson notified users almost immediately when the first problem was reported in March 2013, but FDA’s recall didn’t go out until a year later.
  • It’s not clear what users of the system should do as an alternative, or what action they may have taken since the original McKesson notification last year.
  • Vendors of systems that perform equally critical functions that aren’t connected to medical devices can take whatever action they want if they are faced with the same problem since their software isn’t regulated by FDA. Other than to avoid legal exposure, they could arguably not inform customers at all.
  • McKesson is a member of the HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association, a trade group that requires them to sign the EHR Developer Code of Conduct asserting, “We will notify our customers should we identify or become aware of a software issue that could materially affect patient safety, and offer solutions.” The other inpatient EHR vendor members are Allscripts, Cerner, Epic, GE, NextGen, and Siemens.
  • McKesson backed legislation introduced last month (along with athenahealth, IBM, and trade groups) that would reduce “unnecessary regulatory burdens” by limiting FDA’s oversight of “low-risk health IT, including mobile wellness apps, scheduling software, and electronic health records.” 
  • FDA is running late in producing a report that it says will explain its position on regulation of clinical decision support systems.

From LochnessMonster: “Re: McKesson. Reduction in force 3/20/14, roughly 300 under Pat Blake organization (uncertain number).” Unverified, but reported by multiple readers, one of them saying that the targeted areas were Horizon and Paragon.

From Bootay: “Re: vendor-convened panels. You should participate or report the results.” I don’t think so. I’ve seen many times where properly objective people turned into fawning, attention-starved glad-handers just because some company tries to buy their love by inviting them to be a speaker or advisor. It makes my skin crawl to see the obvious mutual sucking up as mutually expectant backs wait to be scratched.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


A slight majority of respondents don’t think patients should have a greater role in the HIMSS conference. New poll to your right: who’s most responsible for the problems with health insurance exchanges?


Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor ScImage (pronounced sye-image). The Los Altos, CA-based imaging and informatics company offers solutions that include enterprise imaging, radiology, cardiology, Echo PACS, ECG, cloud PACSEMR content management, vendor-neutral archive, and a Web-based DICOM exchange. Case studies include Missouri Baptist Medical Center’s cardiology PACS, Blessing Hospital’s enterprise PACS, and US Air Force’s cardiology consultation program. The privately held, employee-owned, debt-free company says it has never sunsetted a product or required a forklift upgrade. According to a physician at Cedars Sinai Heart Institute, the company’s products are the “ultimate value proposition” to its cardiology practice. Thanks to ScImage for supporting HIStalk.

Here’s ScImage PACS consolidation overview I found on YouTube.


Teach for America teacher Ms. A sent pictures of her students using the Chromebook that we as HIStalk readers provided to her first grade classroom in Maryland via DonorsChoose. They’re using it to access online reading and math programs.

Upcoming Webinars

April 2 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. A Landmark 12-Point Review of Population Health Management Companies. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP, Health Catalyst. Learn the 12 criteria that a health system should use to evaluate population health vendors and to plot its internal strategy, then see the results of grading seven top PHM vendors against these criteria. No single vendor can meet all PHM needs. The most important of the 12 criteria over the next three years will be precise patient registries, patient-provider attribution, and precise numerators in patient registries.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


WelVU, which offers a personalized patient education application, raises $1.25 million in an initial seed round.



Effingham Health System (GA) promotes Mary Pizzino to CIO.


CHIME promotes Keith Fraidenburg to EVP/chief strategy officer.

Announcements and Implementations


Physicians at Jupiter Medical Center (FL) are piloting the use of email alerts and status updates when their ACO patients are seen in the ED or urgent care center. The press release is poorly written and the product has a confusing name: MicroBloggingMD. I saw their booth at HIMSS and thought it was yet another doctor writing a blog.

Government and Politics


Connecticut officials say Massachusetts owes the state $10 million of the $45 million in federal money it received to build its struggling Massachusetts Health Connector. The original grant called for Massachusetts to share its technology plans with other New England states, but those other states realized they could get their own federal money for building exchanges and went their own way, with Connecticut receiving $140 million, Rhode Island $113 million, Vermont $168 million, and Massachusetts a total of $179 million. Massachusetts says the money wasn’t intended for the other states – they were added on to the grant application at the last minute after pressure from the White House and Governor Deval Patrick to make Massachusetts a model for the rest of the country. Access Health CT’s CEO says that unlike the dysfunctional, CGI-built Massachusetts exchange, their Deloitte-created one works fine, adding, “Some states were trying to build a Maserati. We built a Ford Focus. It might not be as glamorous, but it runs. It can get you to the store.”



Google is a bit touchy over Google Glass, having previously urged its users to avoid the “Glasshole” label by not being “creepy or rude.” Now it shares “The Top 10 Google Glass Myths,” the one above being notable considering that people (some of them Glassholes, no doubt) are already using it in patient care. Google published the statement on Google Plus, which means almost nobody other than its own employees will see it.



Duke University Health System (NC) will pay $1 million to settle charges that it overbilled the government by unbundling claims and billing for PA services in heart surgery. Duke says its mistake wasn’t intentional, but instead “resulted from an undetected software problem and through possible misapplication of certain technical billing requirements.” A former Duke employee had filed the whistleblower lawsuit.


In England, the local newspaper reviews the 2012 Meditech go-live at Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust that caused delays in cancer treatment, lost appointments, and cost the hospital $2 million in revenue. It mentions the project review, which found that delivery targets weren’t specific, penalties clauses were vague, and the 18-month timetable was unrealistic given that the system had never been implemented in the UK. Taxpayers got stuck with $17 million in cost overruns on top of the budgeted cost of $49 million.

A two-doctor cardiology practice in Texas will pay $3.9 million to settle Medicare fraud charges for conducting unneeded procedures. Authorities requested data from 100 nuclear tests that had been performed, but the doctors provided only 37, saying their computer had crashed and the other results were lost. The investigators found that 19 of the 37 tests had been interpreted incorrectly and 75 percent of them were performed wrong. The same foreign-born doctors were part of a group that settled for $27 million in a 2009 Medicare fraud case.


Stanford Hospital & Clinics and its former collections agency are expected to pay $4.1 million to settle charges that the information of 20,000 ED patients was posted online for nearly a year. Stanford says it encrypted the information sent to the agency, but that company forwarded it to get help creating a graph and the worksheet ended up on a student homework site.

A Motley Fool review of mobile health in China, which a Brookings Institution report says will be worth $2 billion per year by 2017,  says the three publicly traded companies that will benefit most are IBM, Microsoft, and Lenovo. It says the market won’t behave as it does here because Chinese medicine has different workflows, the language is hard, cloud-based security is a tough sell, and Apple’s mobile devices are much less popular than Android ones. It misses some facts: (a) most mHealth companies aren’t publicly traded; (b) those three companies are so large that whatever happens with mHealth in China isn’t going to move the share price; (c) it touts Microsoft as having implemented “a single, cloud-based system” that turns out to be the nearly forgotten HealthVault; (d) it predicts Lenovo’s success because it makes hybrid devices (laptop/tablet) that run Windows 8 and because it bought Motorola and found itself owning 11.8 percent of the smartphone market in China, although the article fails to mention Lenovo’s huge benefit: it’s a Chinese company.  

Sponsor Updates

  • Health Data Specialists will exhibit at the Cerner Southeast Regional Users Group March 30 – April 4 at the Sheraton Sand Key in Clearwater Beach, FL.

Exhibitor Costs at the HIMSS Conference


Readers had asked for details on what it costs a company to exhibit at the HIMSS conference. I greatly appreciate the vendor executive (let’s call him “Larry,” just to keep things anonymous) who provided complete information from last month.

Booth construction: $132,000
Booth space (20×40): $26,000
Booth power and connectivity: $20,000
Breakfast briefing: $11,000
Hospitality suite: $15,000
Printing: $6,000
Giveaways: $4,000
Booth graphics: $2,500
Buying the attendee list: $1,800

Including some other smaller costs, the company’s total expense was $222,000. That doesn’t include employee salaries or travel costs.

Larry says he’s happy with the outcome. The company had 400 people visit the booth for meetings or to see a demo. About half of those had been scheduled in advance, which is an efficient way to meet with prospects, and the other 200 were walk-ups who might become prospects. He also sees value in the employee bonding experience and being able to learn from attendees.

It’s the same as for attendees, in other words: HIMSS benefits from putting interesting people in the same place at the same time. The attendees derive their value from each other.


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.


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M*Modal Files Voluntary Chapter 11 Petitions to Facilitate Financial Restructuring

M*Modal files for chapter 11 bankruptcy two years after being acquired by private equity firm OneEquity for $1.1 billion. M*Modal markets cloud-based transcription and voice recognition solutions, and says that it will continue on with normal operations throughout the bankruptcy proceedings.

Harvard Research Reveals EarlySense Monitoring System Reduces Length of Stay in the Hospital and ICU

Harvard Researchers testing the effectiveness of the EarlySense monitoring system, a sensor that sits beneath a bed mattress and monitors heart rate, respiration rate, and movements, find that its use led to a reduction in length of stay, a reduction in ICU days, and a reduction in code blues.

REC Program Evaluation Interim Report: Round 1 Case Studies

ONC publishes findings from a review that was conducted with nine RECs, highlighting the most difficult challenges faced, and emerging best practices for helping providers achieve MU.

Key leadership in OHA, Cover Oregon to be replaced following investigation

The head of the Oregon Health Authority has resigned over the poor performance of Oregon’s health insurance exchange. The exchange, which was developed by Oracle, remains the only exchange in the US that has still not enrolled a single person in an insurance plan.

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Top News


Transcription and software vendor MModal files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection less than two years after being acquired by One Equity Partners for $1.1 billion. The company, which lists its assets and its liabilities between $500 million and $1 billion,  says it is in “constructive discussions” with its lenders and bondholders regarding the terms of a consensual financial restructuring plan and expects to continue normal business operations throughout the restructuring process.

Reader Comments

From Experienced CIO: “Re: reader survey. I had to write to admire how many ways you politely declined to go down rabbit holes and chase information that is not within your (broad) span of knowledge. You are great at delivering what you know and show a comprehensive understanding of the business. Thus, I welcome your personal opinions and commentary. I also recommend that you discontinue HIStalkapalooza, which is a wonderful gesture when you were smaller, but has become unmanageable. Just invite everyone to get together at a cash bar and it will take care of itself in a year or two. Good job, well written, and you stick to your knitting. That is why your publication is so popular.” I appreciate the comments. I like the idea of a simpler, cheaper HIStalkapalooza, having initially envisioned a big parking lot or park with kegs of beer, grill-your-own hot dogs, and a band. Dr. Travis from HIStalk Connect wanted me to put something like that together for startups at HIMSS, but the idea didn’t come up until too late. I’m considering options for next year. Party planning isn’t my core competency.


From Arcanity: “Re: your poll about professional certifications on your business card. I think this guy takes the cake.” Looks like either a big ego or a small … well, you know. Diplomate-ically speaking, his business card must be the size of a poster board.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

inga_small A few of the stories you may have missed this week on HIStalk Practice: CMS offers a free online tool to help small practices transition to ICD-10. Over 60 percent of practices don’t plan to participate in an ACO. A reader suggests that Practice Fusion, CareCloud, and ZyDoc might follow Castlight’s IPO lead within the year. The potential costs associated with information loss during the ICD-10 transition could be substantial. Four major insurance carriers tell the AAFP they’ll be ready for ICD-10 by October 1. NCQA intends to raise its PCMH recognition standards in 2014. Thanks for reading.

This week on HIStalk Connect: Castlight Health shares soar 149 percent on the day of its IPO. Physician-only social networking site Doximity reaches 40 percent market penetration with US physicians. SharePractice launches a mobile app designed to let doctors use crowdsourcing to collaborate on and rank the best approaches to treating specific conditions. Dr. Travis dissects the recent failings of Google Flu Tracker and its implications on big data at large.


Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor NYeC (New York eHealth Collaborative). NYeC is New York State’s not-for-profit public resource for healthcare IT, facilitating the EHR transition for providers and improving healthcare for all New Yorkers. Its activities include the SHIN-NY HIE; NYeC Regional Extension Center serving the upstate region and Long Island; the multi-state EHR-HIE Interoperability Workgroup; and the Patient Portal for New Yorkers that will go online this year. It runs the New York Digital Health Accelerator along with the Partnership Fund of New York City, supporting early- and late-stage digital health companies working on care coordination, patient engagement, predictive analytics, and workflow management. Chosen companies, which are required to have a New York presence, receive $100,000 in upfront funding and participate in a leadership program of healthcare leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors for the five-month term. Applications for the 2014 class are due April 11. The class of 2013 included ActualMeds, Aidin, Avado, CipherHealth, Cureatr, MedCPU, Remedy Systems, and SpectraMedix. Thanks to NYeC for supporting HIStalk.

Here’s my free “how not to look stupid” tip of the week: don’t reply to business emails on your phone. I see this constantly: the sender doesn’t notice incorrect spellcheck changes, they write barely intelligible terse text that makes little sense, and the tiny keyboard makes it too much trouble to make desirable changes to the subject or to the “Sent from my iPhone” email signature that indicates they are dashing off a reply on the fly while doing something else. You would be better composing a more thoughtful reply on a real computer later unless it’s an emergency.

Upcoming Webinars

April 2 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. A Landmark 12-Point Review of Population Health Management Companies. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP, Health Catalyst. Learn the 12 criteria that a health system should use to evaluate population health vendors and to plot its internal strategy, then see the results of grading seven top PHM vendors against these criteria. No single vendor can meet all PHM needs. The most important of the 12 criteria over the next three years will be precise patient registries, patient-provider attribution, and precise numerators in patient registries.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Augmedix, a startup building clinical applications for Google Glass, secures $3.2 million in venture funding.


CitiusTech announces an investment partnership with General Atlantic. The company, which works with 50 healthcare organizations worldwide, reported 2013 revenue growth of 51 percent.


HIMSS acquires Harrogate, England-based conference promoter Citadel Events, renaming it HIMSS UK.


Social health management vendor Welltok acquires wellness game developer Mindbloom.


Procured Health, which offers software that manages hospital purchases of medical devices, raises $4 million in a Series A round.


The New England Healthcare Exchange Network will implement the Ability Secure Exchange Platform across its member hospitals and provider sites.

Mercy Orthopedic Hospital Springfield (MO) selects Emmi Solutions for patient engagement.

Adventist Health Hospitals (CA) will deploy Aperek Ellipse for real-time anytime spend visibility and analytics.


BJC Healthcare (MO) selects Health Language to assist with its transition to ICD-10.



Clinovations promotes Kevin Coloton from COO to president.

Announcements and Implementations

Methodist Healthcare (TN) deploys MedAptus Professional Charge Capture for inpatient coding and billing.

La Clinica del Pueblo (DC) goes live on Forward Health Group’s PopulationManager and The Guideline Advantage.


The Nashville paper profiles RoundingWell, the patient engagement software company launched by the founder of bulk email software provider Emma. It uses EHR-generated information to send patients questions, education, and guidance from a proprietary content library developed with Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and The Center for Case Management. A tiny study found that patient engagement rates were at 60-70 percent over 90 days, with the average patient having eight risks identified that it says wouldn’t have been addressed otherwise.

Aprima offers Etransmedia customers running Allscripts MyWay a conversion to Aprima Patient Relationship Manager, hosted by either Aprima or Etransmedia.

HealthEast Care System (MN) goes live with an early intervention program for heart failure patients that uses patient engagement technology from Pharos Innovations.

Catholic Health System (NY) deploys Juniper Networks Meta Fabric, an open standards-based architecture for data centers. 


Sanford Health (ND) completes the installation of  RTLS technology from Sonitor Technologies and Intelligent InSites at Sanford’s soon-to-be-opened Moorhead clinic.

Government and Politics

OIG testing of the 28-hospital Indian Health Services computer network reveals inadequate security and significant network vulnerabilities. OIG hackers were able to gain unauthorized access to the IHS web server and an IHS computer, as well as obtain user account and password data and records in the IHS file system.

3-20-2014 10-47-09 AM

The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Responses and ONC launch an initiative to promote the use of HIT in emergency medical services.


ONC announces that its open source popHealth tool to process electronic clinical quality measures has been certified as a 2014 edition EHR module.


Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber fires the head of the state’s health authority and asks Cover Oregon to replace its senior management team, including the CIO and COO, following an independent investigation. Cover Oregon remains the only state whose exchange, which cost $200 million, hasn’t enrolled a single person after its planned October 1 rollout failed. The report concluded that the state’s managers had too much confidence that Oracle, which has been paid $160 million so far, could deliver what it promised.

Innovation and Research

3-20-2014 11-31-49 AM

Harvard University Medical School researchers find that use of the EarlySense monitoring system on a medical-surgical unit was associated with a significant decrease in length of stay, code blue events, and ICU stay times. EarlySense uses a sensor that is placed under a patient’s mattress to detect potential adverse events, as well as monitor heart and  respiratory rates and movement.

A study finds that facial recognition software beats humans at detecting patients who are faking pain, with accuracy of 85 percent vs. 55 percent.


3-20-2014 1-38-00 PM

An ONC-commissioned review of nine RECs finds that their most difficult challenges are poor EHR product usability and the “unsavory” business practices of some vendors. Other struggles include physician resistance to EHRs and the MU program, sustainability of RECs once federal funds are depleted, and difficulties communicating often confusing details of the MU program. The authors also note three best practices that emerged for helping providers achieve MU:

  • Maintain strong partnerships with the community
  • Hire technical employees who that have a mix of IT skills, clinical understanding, and general business understanding
  • Work with a physician champion.

The Business Journals names its “10 Markets with the Strongest Brainpower”: Washington DC, Madison, Bridgeport-Stamford, Boston, San Jose, Durham, San Francisco-Oakland, Raleigh, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Colorado Springs.


Supply chain software vendor Global Healthcare Exchange, acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo a week ago, reportedly lays off 130 of its 500 employees.

Google CEO Larry Page, speaking at a TED conference in Vancouver, touts the sharing of medical records, saying, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone’s medical records were available anonymously to research doctors? We’d save 100,000 lives this year. We’re not really thinking about the tremendous good which can come from people sharing information with the right people in the right ways.” He described losing his voice because of an undocumented condition and finding thousands of people with the same problem after posting a description online.

St. Luke’s Health System (ID), which lost an antitrust lawsuit filed when it attempted to buy a physician group and used its Epic system as one of the benefits, receives a $10 million legal bill from the the hospital, surgery, center, and attorney general that successfully sued it.

Cerner is among 23 Kansas City-area employers recognized for their commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality.


Doctors in England using Skype to check on a home dialysis patient notice her husband collapsing in the background and send an ambulance to help the 70-year-old man, who was later found to have bowel cancer.

Sponsor Updates

  • ScImage will deliver its PICOM365 PACS with Cedaron’s CardiacCare.
  • Direct Consulting Associates joins the HIMSS Innovation Center in Cleveland as a Supporting Collaborator.
  • CommVault will add 250 jobs in the next three years at its 275,000 square foot headquarters under construction in Eatontown, NJ.
  • spotlights Validic and its data pipeline solution for healthcare.
  • GetWellNetwork sponsors the 28th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic March 30-April 4 in Snowmass, CO.
  • Emdeon CEO Neil de Crescenzo tells the Nashville Business Journal that his company has hired 100 people in the last six months.
  • AdvanceNet Health Solutions will add the CoverMyMeds ePostRx automated prior authorization solution to its enterprise pharmacy management platform.
  • Summit Healthcare partners with Indigo HIT to offer complimentary services to enable clients with streamlined and scalable CCD integration.
  • Kareo adds Rignadoc to the Kareo Marketplace to help physicians with phone triage.
  • ICSA Labs certifies First Databank’s MedsTracker as a 2014 Edition Ambulatory and Inpatient Modular EHR.
  • The Ethisphere Institute names Premier a 2014 “World’s Most Ethical Company” for the seventh consecutive year.
  • Angela Hunsberger, senior consultant for Hayes Management Consulting, discusses the need to balance security and usability in patient portals.
  • Healthcare services firm Accreon partners with identity management solution provider NextGate to deliver services and technology for enterprise data awareness and exchange.
  • RelayHealth Financial releases RelayClearance Plus 5.0, a pre-service financial clearance solution that includes an eligibility benefits detail viewer.
  • Clinithink launches its suite of CLiX Online Solutions to translate unstructured clinical narrative for real-time use.
  • TeleTracking Technologies names Hill-Rom a licensed reseller of TeleTracking’s asset and temperature tracking software, while Hill-Rom extends re-sale rights to TeleTracking for its hand hygiene compliance solution.

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne

I spent all day Tuesday at yet another continuing education class to recertify a life support certification. This is the last one until summer, so I’m glad to have a break.

I understand why they require us to stay certified, but the odds of my actually having to participate in a code situation in the hospital are pretty slim based on my clinical practice patterns. I’m more likely to have to use basic CPR at the supermarket than any of the other skills, which I guess is a good thing. This year I took the “independent study” course, which included an online pre-course as well as the in-person practice and skills testing sessions using a computerized mannequin.

In some ways, the certification seems like a racket. This week confirmed my thoughts. The health system I work for has a master license to be able to train staff on adult cardiac life support because they require most of the clinical staff to maintain certification. I have no idea how much that master license costs, but I know that the individual certification fee is $220 because I had to pay it out of pocket.

In a quirk of rule-making, since I’m not employed by the hospital in a clinical service line (my Emergency Department work is through a third-party contracting firm), there isn’t a department to cost it back to. Apparently neither the administration or IT cost centers are valid for the education department to use, which makes me nervous that someone thinks administration and technology don’t need continuing ed.

At other hospitals (such as the one where I take my pediatric course) the fee for the all-day course includes the textbooks and lunch, but ours doesn’t. I’m a girl who knows how to brown bag and I don’t mind not being allowed to keep the books because I’m never going to look at them again. Neither of those are that big of a deal, but the twist at the end of this course was unbelievable. When we turned in our evaluations at the end of the day expecting to pick up our certification cards, we were asked to pay an additional $2.25 (in cash) for the actual card. Talk about unbundling!

Hospitals are infamous for nickel and diming patients. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that they’re now doing it to the medical staff and the independent contractors who fill the positions they can’t staff on their own. When I registered for the course, I had to wait until my check had cleared to actually schedule it and borrow the text books. I thought that was a little weird, especially since I’ve been on staff for more than a decade and they know where to find me if the check bounced, but I understand not everyone is that reliable. Incidentally, the pediatric hospital takes online payments for their courses, so they don’t have the check cashing issue.

My suggestion to the education department was to just raise the course cost to $222.50 (or even $225) so that they’d have the full payment up front and not ask for cash at the end of the course. I was told that the clinical departments only allowed $220 for the course and the reason they charge for the card was because the “regular employees” don’t actually need the card, they just need a statement from the education department that they had passed the course. Only “external” attendees need the card, hence the extra charge.

I guess external is a nicer way to say that I’m an irregular employee, or to possibly admit that our hospital is so cheap they won’t pay $2.25 for the 20 or so “external” attendees who take the course each year. Or that they’re ignoring the cost savings of recycling textbooks that they’re charging individuals for.

I’m afraid that as healthcare reform evolves, this is only going to get worse. Our hospital has hired a fleet of financial staffers to micromanage every facet of patient care (without admitting they’re telling physicians how to practice medicine) at the same time they’re cutting positions for nurses and patient care technicians. They were already in the business office, where I did battle over the fact that I can only order one printer cartridge at a time (despite the fact that they’re cheaper in a two-pack) due to new purchasing rules. They were already on the hospital floors, where we have to bar code scan every gauze pad and bandage we touch. Now they’re even in CPR class.

We are the embodiment of penny-wise and pound-foolish. I’m curious about the trends our readers are seeing in the hospital or clinic. Has everyone gone as mad as my employer seems to have gone? Are we headed towards the level of care seen in other parts of the world, where patients are expected to provide their own bandages and meals? Email me.


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.



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