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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 6/2/16

June 2, 2016 News No Comments

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I was talking to one of my colleagues today, who reminded me that June 1 was the registration deadline for the Clinical Informatics Board Exam. The so-called “practice pathway” for clinical informaticists who haven’t completed fellowship training closes in 2017. I would encourage anyone who thinks they might want to be Board Certified and who falls under the grandfather provisions to give it a shot. Although we’re past the cutoff, you can still register (although the late fees climb from $400 to $1,600 over the next several months). AMIA is offering their Clinical Informatics Board Review Course live in August and September.

CMS held a webinar on Wednesday to talk about the Quality Performance category, which will account for 50 percent of the MIPS score in the first year of the new program. This will replace the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) for Medicare physicians. The blurb advertising the session talked about the goals for the category of simplifying administrative and reporting burdens for physicians. Frankly, whenever I see anything from CMS talking about so-called “administrative simplification” I have to laugh. The complexity of getting paid in our current environment has just become absurd. I’d like to see those in power truly consider what it would take to create a simple program that actually helps physicians deliver better care rather than creating more hoops to jump through. Whatever it might be, it’s certainly not 800+ pages long.

The ONC Annual Meeting also took place this week. Sessions were to focus on “three core commitments” of improving consumer access to health information, combating information blocking, and implementing national standards. They did live stream the sessions but I decided to instead spend my free time working on a project that actually made me feel fulfilled rather than just generally frustrated. I’ve taken up a new craft and it was great to engage my brain in something completely different from what I do most of the time. In addition to a finished project, I also walked away with some great new ideas for work – powerful evidence that getting away is a good thing.

Most of my Memorial Day weekend was spent seeing patients. I never know what my travel schedule will bring, so I often schedule myself for the holiday weekends so that my clinical work doesn’t interfere with consulting engagements. My partners don’t mind me working the holidays, that’s for sure. I was pleasantly surprised on Monday when our executive responsible for physician satisfaction showed up with barbecue. Although my team definitely appreciated it since we were extremely busy, the real tone of the day was set by the fact that most of my support team members were veterans with fallen comrades on their minds.

For the fifth or sixth time in the last several months, I had a patient ask me what I thought about concierge medicine. This particular patient was in her 80s and said she was tired of “getting the run around” from her doctor’s office and never being able to get in. She has been seeing us fairly often for various acute illnesses, so her care is already a bit fragmented. I know her physician and know that their practice certainly has struggles with staffing and capacity. For patients of means, concierge or other direct care models are definitely attractive. As much as people talk about not wanting to move to a two-tier health system like Canada and the UK, every time I have one of these conversations I feel like we’re moving in that direction.

It was in that frame of mind that I came across this NPR piece in which a young physician longs for the time “when physicians were ‘artisans.’” The interviewer mentions that the physician “must have known at the outset that wasn’t the way medicine worked anymore.” I’m not that much older than the physician in the story, and I can say without a doubt that when I went to medical school, I had no idea that clinical practice looked more like a hamster wheel than anything else. Fast forward and students have tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in student loans, which makes some students drawn to higher-paying specialties for fear they won’t be able to get by in primary care.

The interviewer likens the pull of concierge or direct practices to the slow food movement. I do enjoy an heirloom tomato, but I think the analogy is a difficult one. The costs and complexity of healthcare have gotten so out of control, it’s nearly impossible for the average patient to be able to choose rationally between providers, facilities, and procedures. I know my practice leans heavily towards patient satisfaction scores for determining provider compensation, and the idea that giving patients what they need (rather than what they want) can impact me negatively is always a consideration. Sometimes we have to send people away unhappy, and I did have one of those situations this weekend. Fortunately, our physician leadership handles patient dissatisfaction with compassion and tries to help the patient understand why we advised a course of care different than what they wanted, but it’s never easy.

What’s your favorite artisanal or heirloom food? Email me.

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June 2, 2016 News No Comments

Morning Headlines 6/2/16

June 1, 2016 News 2 Comments

Judge Finds Michael Dell, Silver Lake Underpaid for Dell in 2013

A Delaware judge rules that Michael Dell underpaid shareholders more than $6 billion when he took the company private in 2013.

Transparency Requirements for Health IT Developers Will Help Providers Know More About Their Products

ONC launches a new website focused on improving health IT vendor transparency that gives providers an opportunity to review mandatory cost and system limitation disclosure statements on products in the marketplace.

National Solution For Accurate Patient Identification Appears Within Reach

CHIME concludes the Concept Blitz Round of its Healthcare Innovation Trust National Patient ID Challenge, and names two winning teams that will each receive $30,000. The contest will now move on to the final round which will award a $1 million prize to the winning team.

It’s Time to Unbreak Healthcare

Athenahealth launches its Unbreak Healthcare marketing campaign, designed to “jolt the industry into experiencing what is broken in healthcare,” through a series of short films, social media conversations, and a new web publication called athenaInsight.

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June 1, 2016 News 2 Comments

Readers Write: A Healthcare Merger, Acquisition, or Consolidation Doesn’t Have to Spell Disaster

June 1, 2016 Readers Write No Comments

A Healthcare Merger, Acquisition, or Consolidation Doesn’t Have to Spell Disaster
By Sandra Lillie

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Healthcare organizations are undergoing significant change to survive (and thrive) under new reimbursement models. Mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations of healthcare organizations are rampant. It is not surprising that health IT is under tremendous pressure to advance information strategies in support of their organizations in its ever-changing portfolio of IT systems.

Much has been discussed about the changes in adoption of EHR technology during M&A activities and the amount of due diligence involved. But what about the 80 percent of healthcare data that is unstructured and resides mostly outside the EHR? Nowhere is this scenario more complicated than the unique space known as medical imaging, which makes up the lion’s share of unstructured data and is the most complex to manage.

Today, health IT often oversees multiple PACS solutions in support of radiology and cardiology for their institutions. The variety of systems grows exponentially with organizations that are involved in M&A transactions, leaving very complex support environments for IT departments when there are multiple differing proprietary PACS systems that require unique IT infrastructures.

Evolving this diverse portfolio into an enterprise strategy that can flexibly adapt to change is paramount for both acquiring and divesting organizations. Including a vendor neutral archive (VNA) as part of this strategy can:

Liberate. Healthcare organizations have the opportunity to take back ownership of valuable clinical imaging content from PACS and make that information available in a patient-centered, aggregate manner to providers of care, where and when they need it, to deliver positive outcomes for patients.

Consolidate. In addition to the ability to consolidate and economize for storage, new hospitals and partners can more easily integrate into existing networks and gain access to systems. Fewer systems alleviate IT departmental stress. Additionally, when new hospitals are acquired, core VNA services are simply extended to the newly-acquired locations. New imaging studies from these locations are efficiently redirected to the VNA to aggregate all of the enterprise’s images centrally.

Aggregate. A VNA is intrinsic to the lifecycle management of the breadth of images associated with a patient. This can include radiology, cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, wound care, endoscopy, and many more in a patient-centered association. VNAs support the ability to integrate studies directly into the patient’s record in the EHR. This benefits everyone – the radiologist, the referring physician, clinicians, and the patient – because it brings vital and comprehensive patient information to the care team.

Divest. Ownership of these images also provides improved capability to segment images to accompany the divestiture of a facility from the hospital organization.

VNA selection criteria should include not only technology, but also:  

  • Experience. Select a VNA technology with a proven track record of vendor neutrality across a wide range of imaging vendors.
  • Diversity. Be sure the VNA product provides support for all images that exist outside of radiology and cardiology.
  • Visualization. Review enterprise image viewers that enable the seamless visualization of images across care stakeholders and settings.

Adopting VNA as part of an M&A strategy can accelerate the ability to adapt to or lead change.

Sandra Lillie is industry manager of enterprise imaging for Lexmark Healthcare of Lexington, KY.

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June 1, 2016 Readers Write No Comments

Readers Write: New State Mandates for Opiates Create the Next Wave of Requirements for EHRs

June 1, 2016 Readers Write No Comments

New State Mandates for Opiates Create the Next Wave of Requirements for EHRs
By Connie Sinclair, RPh

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New York’s I-STOP mandates have dominated health information technology news for the last three years. I-STOP requires electronic prescribing  for all prescriptions, which has driven most EHR and e-prescribing vendors to come fully up to speed on e-prescribing for controlled substances (EPCS). Now many of these same vendors are moving on to the huge task of rolling out their EPCS-compliant versions to prescribers in other states.

More states are expected to follow suit with their own legislative mandates, especially now that New York’s deadline has passed without earth-shattering problems. Indeed, Massachusetts and Maine have recently passed sweeping changes to address the opiate crisis, but in true federalist style, each state is addressing the problem in unique ways and are calling upon the EHRs and e-prescribing systems to fall into line in new and different ways.

Very recently, Massachusetts and Maine passed new laws that will limit the quantities of opiate prescriptions prescribed; require the prescribers to view the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) under specific circumstances; and require the pharmacy to notify the prescriber via the EHR if lesser amounts of opiates are dispensed than what was prescribed. Most pharmacies do not have the ability to send messages of this type to the prescriber’s EHR, and EHRs are not equipped to receive them.

This notification requirement is similar to the biosimilar substitution notice required by several states and will require a different type of interoperability between pharmacy and EHR than what exists in practice today. Maine’s new law will also require EPCS for opiates and also impacts prescriptions for benzodiazepines. Massachusetts patients will have the ability to complete a non-opiate directive form which indicates that the patient does not want to be prescribed opiates. The prescriber must retain this form and rules have not yet been promulgated to describe how this information can be recorded in the “interoperable electronic health record.”

With all of these legislative mandates, it is clear that states and the federal government are reacting to the national epidemic of drug overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses from 2010 to 2014, the vast majority of which were from prescription pain medications and heroin. Put another way, 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Officials fear the death toll will continue to escalate, which is creating urgency for new laws and programs to address the situation.

One method that seems to be successful in addressing the opiate problem is the popular mandate to require PDMP viewing by prescribers. PDMPs are databases maintained by each state (except Missouri) of prescriptions for controlled substances. This information can help prescribers be more savvy about their patients who may be inappropriately seeking pain medications. This one feature alone goes a long way toward inhibiting the doctor shopping (patients who go from one practitioner to the next requesting new prescriptions).

Some states have the technology and laws to support PDMP data sharing with neighboring states to better address this problem. A few states have enacted laws to require or encourage the integration of state PDMPs into EHR systems and workflows. The federal government also is working to make PDMPs more interoperable with EHRs and each other.

Addressing opioid abuse is one of our nation’s top priorities. States will continue to introduce bills for new mandates to address the opiate crisis. The challenge for EHRs and practitioners is that each state seems to put its own twist on their laws, so that they impact a different subset of drugs or require different quantity limits or PDMP viewing time frames. Vendors will be challenged to keep up with this developing patchwork of regulation and determine how to facilitate workflows that will help their prescriber clients with compliance.

Connie Sinclair, RPh is director of the Regulatory Resource Center of  Point-of-Care Partners of Coral Springs, FL.

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June 1, 2016 Readers Write No Comments

HIStalk Interviews Lisa Maki, CEO, PokitDok

June 1, 2016 Interviews 2 Comments

Lisa Maki is co-founder and CEO of PokitDok of San Mateo, CA.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

I’m the co-founder and CEO of PokitDok. We’re a digital health company providing an open platform of APIs streamlining the business of health.

Explain how APIs work and the types commonly found in healthcare.

I started in software back in 1989, working on pre-Windows DOS versions of consumer and enterprise-facing software. I did that at Microsoft. Over the years, as software evolved into many industries, health included, it became clear that you needed services that would connect different siloed sources of data, different siloed sources of functionality, so that the enterprise IT professional software developers could create seamless business, user, and consumer experiences across all those silos.

How that shows up in healthcare increasingly is a set of APIs that can give access to interoperability, exchanging data between the EHRs and others in the form of standards that FHIR supports. APIs like ours that connect you to insurance X12 EDI or eligibility, claims, benefit enrollment, pre-authorizations.

The beauty of an API is it can be integrated anywhere into new digital or existing products. It doesn’t need to dictate your user experience. It can integrate into it and provide that service as you think best fits your business model or your user experience.

Non-technologists might think that APIs are pain-free and foolproof, providing instant interoperability. What are the challenges involved, both technical and non-technical?

APIs are intended to do the underlying infrastructure or operating system heavy lifting for software developers and IT professionals. It doesn’t remove work. It still assumes that you’re doing some work on your side to build the product or integrate it into the product.

In the case of our APIs that connect to insurance companies for access to X12 EDI services, eligibility and claims, those insurance companies — that’s over 400 now — still change their endpoints, those things we’re connecting to, often on a daily basis. 

Part of the value that we provide software developers is we keep track of that. We detect it. We adapt to it. We manage that so software developers don’t have to. They have one endpoint they can go to and they can get access to all those insurance companies, all those services. The value we provide is managing that complexity on the back end.

But that software developer still has to integrate that into their own software, perhaps into a very complex system on their side. Maybe they service multiple EHRs, multiple practice management systems, in one single healthcare system, especially with consolidation. That can be very challenging and a lot of work.

It’s not an instant solution. It does a lot of the heavy lifting to get to that solution.

We also provide an identity management API that is not open like our others. We want to talk to you first because it is complex. Sometimes we assist our customers to put in an identity management solution across their health system because they have several instances of the same person in many different repositories. That identity management solution gets them to one instance of it.

But yes, there’s work involved. It’s not a switch. It’s not an on and off.

How do companies or systems that offer APIs coordinate software changes so that the end-to-end functionality won’t be broken?

It starts at the heart of how you architect your APIs. If you are architecting your APIs such that it requires a change in configuration every time — say in our case, an insurance company changes their endpoint or their gateway — then you haven’t done a good job architecting. That’s the bottom line. We have architected our APIs so that we can handle those changes and not put that burden on the users of our APIs. There can be exceptions to that, but a large part of our value is removing that burden.

There are things that we can’t control, like downtime of the insurance companies or changes for our identity management solutions. For example, I can’t control whether or not Cerner, Epic, or Allscripts is changing something about your installation, but I can certainly architect it to remove the majority of the heavy lifting. That onus is on all of us who are API providers. We have to architect that correctly.

We also have to provide open and transparent dashboards for our customers. For developers, one of the things we provide — and encourage any other API provider to also give their customers — is transparency all the way through the development process. You’re making an API call. You should know exactly where that API call is in the process. If something is being held up, you should know where in the system and where in the call, for what reasons, and get all of that feedback in real time.

That’s something we provide our development customers. If it’s downtime of a major insurance trading partner, they should be able to communicate that to their customers in real time with transparent information. For things we can’t control like that, it’s the goal to be as transparent as possible so that our customers can as well.

Much of the interoperability barrier is cultural rather than technical. What elements of trust or permissions have to be built into APIs so that data can move freely?

You hit the nail on the head. There are no technical reasons why we can’t have interoperability in healthcare. There are absolutely no technical reasons. Most of these technical obstacles have been solved back in the 1990s in other industries that are equally complex. Financial — heavily regulated, very complex — has addressed these issues.

You have to have a will to achieve a business model and create a business model that rewards interoperability and openness instead of closed systems. Most of the time, we’re overcoming habit. We’re overcoming misinformation around security and compliance. There’s confusion over what the P for HIPAA stands for. It stands for portability. There’s a lot of behavioral issues that have to be overcome to achieve the interoperability that we all want.

A lot of progress is being made. The progress is being made because the market has shifted. Any time you see someone like us and a company like PokitDok going into a market like healthcare … we’re not healthcare experts. We’re technology experts who want to make the tools available so that people who are experts in healthcare can create the patient onboarding experiences and the business models they need to support their business in this changing market.

We come in because there has been a market shift, like you see with consumers moving to  high-deductible plans. All of a sudden consumers are starting to change their behavior. They have to pay for it out of pocket. They’re demanding more transparency and service at the point of scheduling or checking in before they have the procedure. That’s a huge market shift.

In order for health systems to respond to that, to compete, to protect their revenue cycle stability instead of seeing their former reimbursement revenue now go to collections, they need new tools. They need the ability to schedule, check eligibility, and take a payment in real time, both mobile and Web-based. That’s what we respond to. 

The market shift is overcoming any behavioral or former business model resistance, both from EHR and API providers.

What healthcare APIs are most commonly used and most needed?

There are not a lot of APIs available in healthcare that would fit my definition of a developer-ready open API. We are one set. FHIR is certainly another, early but evolving and getting a lot of interest. There are certainly your standard developer APIs, when you’re creating that new product from software technology providers.

Early efforts from CommonWell and other alliances are attempting to provide API access. EHR vendors like Cerner and others are looking to release access to APIs. Even sandboxes represented by Athena, Epic, Allscripts, or Greenway are heavily business model controlled API sets. They require a lot of heavy lifting, a lot of time and interaction in a sandbox before you can take something to market quickly.

Today’s software developers who are building truly innovative solutions for either their own or for their customers in healthcare expect modern API experiences, not sandboxes. Not long, lengthy vetting processes to get something to market. We’re seeing some interesting things from companies like Redox who are doing intra-EHR interoperability. There’s some interesting things from companies like PatientPing. I’m excited by this because they’re following more of the modern developer standard and expectation for open APIs. I think the market will follow.

Most of the handful of surviving hospital EHRs use a 1990s style client-server architecture at best. Are those companies up to the task of creating scalable, secure APIs that use more modern technologies than their own products?

It’s a huge cultural shift for those companies. My co-founder and I both come from companies like Microsoft and Apple and various startups. We’ve released product into many industries and now healthcare for the past 10 years. It’s going to take an immense amount of leadership in those companies to prepare them for this shift.

It must and will happen. New technologies are showing up every day that will make the shift for them whether or not they’re ready. If I were in those leadership positions of those companies, I would be starting parallel projects with people who are used to those sorts of open and technologically advanced environments, cloud-based Web services. I would start that now if you haven’t already and I would start it really fast, because it is coming and it’s likely that with your current systems, all you will be doing is migrating them over.

You will need a different set of people familiar with with building and supporting those systems. If you haven’t already started it, then starting it today would be your next best bet.

I would also partner. You’ve got companies like Microsoft who are trying to build API-driven architectures that do much of the heavy lifting, even compliance and security, into the fabric of Azure, their cloud offering for healthcare enterprise development. You’re going to see a lot more of that.

EHRs also have to get clear on what part of this they are going to own moving forward as the business shifts to the cloud. Which part will be owned by companies like Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and IBM that will be built into the cloud fabric. You want to get clear on that quickly because it affects your strategy.

Where do you see the company going in the next five years?

We want to be the house for all healthcare enterprise business transactions. We hope to achieve that in five years. That’s our big goal. There are a lot of unnecessary ones that add friction and operational cost to healthcare enterprise today that we hope to remove and then there are new ones that we hope to add.

There’s no reason why our healthcare customers — and this is what we provide them today — shouldn’t be getting up-to-date and real-time business outlooks and intelligence off of all their business transactions today. There’s no technical reason why they can’t have it. That’s what we deliver and that’s what we want the entire healthcare industry to be enjoying from its business and ultimately clinical transactions on a daily basis.

Do you have any final thoughts?

I love what you’re doing. These sorts of conversations, as the industry is going through such a massive market and technical shift, are super-important. More of us talking about what is technically possible and identifying, as you’ve astutely said, the behavioral and business impediments to healthcare enterprise moving forward to deliver the kinds of patient, provider, and business experiences it needs to. Those are the right topics.

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June 1, 2016 Interviews 2 Comments

Morning Headlines 6/1/16

May 31, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Adoption of Electronic Health Record Systems among US Non-Federal Acute Care Hospitals: 2008-2015

ONC reports that 84 percent of US hospitals had adopted a basic EHR by 2015, up from just 9.4 percent in 2008, though pediatric and psychiatric specialty hospitals still trail with 55 percent and 15 percent adoption, respectively.

Pontiac General Hospital Selects OpenVista Healthcare IT Platform

Pontiac General Hospital (MI) will implement Medsphere’s OpenVista EHR, a commercialized version of the VA’s open source Vista EHR.

Local health departments brace for funding loss amid Zika standoff

In July, the CDC will cut $45 million in emergency public health funding from health districts in all 50 states after Congress fails to pass a bill to fund Zika-related work .

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center completes recruitment for pediatric migraine study using Curelator Headache

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (OH) will use an app designed by digital health startup Curelator to research migraine triggers in adolescents.

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May 31, 2016 Headlines No Comments

News 6/1/16

May 31, 2016 News 7 Comments

Top News

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An ONC survey finds that 84 percent of US hospitals were using at least a Basic EHR at the end of 2015, a nine-fold increase since HITECH was adopted in 2009, although adoption by psychiatric and children’s hospitals lags. A Basic EHR must have the capability (even if the physician doesn’t actually use it) of accepting physician orders, recording meds and allergies, documenting encounters, recording problem lists, and viewing lab and imaging results.

Someone tweeted out what an inarguably great thing this is, but for the $31 billion in taxpayer bribes that were required to make providers use the same EHRs they were otherwise avoiding like the plague, maybe we should expect a bit more than just market penetration and instead look at outcomes, access, and data portability. I’m not so sure that I as a patient feel any safer, better cared for, or more appreciated as a customer just because I’ve seen some spotty,  half-hearted technology use amidst the still-mountainous piles of provider paper.


Reader Comments

From Burnt Steak: “Re: Epic’s mandatory employee arbitration clause. Whose side would you take?” I really dislike the idea of mandatory arbitration, especially when it’s buried (as it is with most retail contracts, like for credit cards and cell phone service) in small print. However, a lack of willingness to walk away means those employees or customers accept the terms offered. I have limited respect for employees who complain about their jobs, go on strike, or file employer lawsuits – they should prove their point by finding a better job elsewhere. The market will quickly tell them if they are underappreciated, and if it turns out nobody else is willing to give them more money or benefits, that should be a clue that they are sitting precisely at the intersection of supply and demand for their services and shouldn’t embarrass themselves further by complaining. You’re not going to make yourself look better by griping about the employer (or your spouse or the city that you live in, for that matter) that you freely chose.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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Mrs. McCullough says her Georgia kindergartners are using the six Kindle Fires we provided in funding her DonorsChoose grant request to engage with reading and math apps and to participate in a weekly learning center, where they listen to stories and play phonics games.

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It’s hard to accept rampant healthcare inefficiencies and indifference when people in many US cities can place an Amazon order by noon and receive it by bedtime that same day. Although maybe there’s hope from companies like Capsule, a just-launched New York startup that delivers prescriptions by bicycle at no extra charge and that uses technology for refill requests, medication instructions, and patient communication, although the founders wisely decline to label the company as the inevitable “Uber for drugs.”

I finally had my appointment with a new doctor (actually, her PA) last week for my annual physical, following the miscue from a few weeks back where I showed up for my appointment, filled out a mountain of paperwork, and waited for some time before being told that the doctor was out of the office for previously scheduled surgery (they said they tried to call me earlier, but had incorrectly entered my phone number). This time wasn’t perfect, either – all of the paperwork I had completed previously (medical history, insurance information, NPP, etc.) had been mysteriously lost, meaning I had to fill out the clipboard full of forms all over again. To add insult to injury, the PA either didn’t see or didn’t use the information, repeating questions about allergies, meds, smoking status, and other topics that I had already documented minutes before but that hadn’t yet been entered into their Practice Fusion free EHR. At least the EHR wasn’t intrusive during the visit (since she mostly documented on paper) and the e-prescribing worked OK.

My latest linguistic peeve: the use of “unpack” as a synonym for “explain,” which doesn’t save syllables or add nuance and is therefore pointless other than to make self-aware authors feel smugly clever.

Thanks to the following sponsors, new and renewing, that recently support HIStalk, HIStalk Practice, and HIStalk Connect. Click a logo for more information.

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Webinars

June 28 (Tuesday) 2:00 ET. “Your Call Is Very Important.” Sponsored by West Healthcare Practice. Presenters: Cyndy Orrys, contact center director, Henry Ford Health System; Brian Cooper, SVP, West Interactive. The contact center is a key hub of patient engagement and a strategic lever for driving competitive advantage. Cyndy will share how her organization’s call center is using technologies and approaches that create effortless patient experiences in connecting them to the right information or resource. Brian will describe five key characteristics of a modern call center and suggest how to get started.

Contact Lorre for webinar services. Past webinars are on our HIStalk webinars YouTube channel.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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DrFirst acquires Meditech consulting firm The IN Group, saying the acquisition will allow DrFirst to help its customers make the most of their healthcare IT investments. 


Sales

MD Anderson selects Nuance’s Dragon Medical and PowerScribe 360 for physician documentation as part of its Epic rollout. MDA will also use services from Epic consulting firm Physician Technology Partners, which the announcement says is now owned by Nuance.

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Pontiac General Hospital (MI) chooses Medsphere’s OpenVistA EHR. The financial turnaround of the hospital, which has filed bankruptcy twice as Doctors Hospital of Michigan, is being led by 25-year-old Sanyam Sharma, whose computer scientist parents started eligibility software vendor Infrahealth and put him on the payroll when he was 14. He’s now EVP of the company and heads up Sant Partners, a company his parents created to buy Pontiac  following his father’s discovery as a consultant that the hospital had extensive revenue cycle problems. 

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Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center chooses Strata Decision’s StrataJazz for decision support, cost accounting, and contract analytics.


People

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Home monitoring technology vendor Sentrian hires Bryan Ness (Wellcentive) as chief revenue officer and Molly Cogan (Wireless Life Sciences Alliance) as VP of marketing and communications.


Announcements and Implementations

Liaison Technologies will launch its Alloy Health cloud-based integration service in Europe.

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Peer60 publishes “Hottest Trends in Medical Imaging IT (UK).”

UPMC (PA) signs its third agreement with organizations in China, collaborating with for-profit First Chengmei Medical Industry Group to offer clinician training and to advise the hospitals on hospital operations, including IT.

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Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (OH) will use the Curelator Headache app to study the factors that precede migraine headaches in children and adolescents. The study’s 60 participants will use visual data entry tools to document emotional, dietary, physical, and environmental factors in 2-3minutes per day to show them their associated migraine triggers so they can make lifestyle changes. The app is commercially available in a limited-functionality free version and as a $50, six-month subscription that includes trigger tracking.


Government and Politics

A Congressional stalemate forces the CDC to cut emergency public health funding in many cities—including lab services, mosquito control, and disease surveillance — to free up money to address the Zika virus. It’s amazing given the amount of federal money that is wasted on low-quality, unneeded, and sometimes questionably billed hospital care that CDC has to choose which outbreak to fund with a fixed few million dollars.

China’s FDA reverses its push toward making non-prescription drugs available online, ordering e-commerce provider Alibaba to tell its vendors – include drug store chains — to immediately stop selling OTC drugs on its online marketplace.

In other Alibaba news, Hong Kong regulators say the company violated takeover rules in its 2014 investment in pharma data and barcode tracking company CITIC 21CN (now known as Alibaba Health Information Technology) because the deal included buying a medical technology company from a shareholder who was also the brother of the company’s vice chairman, giving the company an unfair advantage. The acquisition raised some eyebrows at the time because Citic 21CN’s small amount of revenue came from sales to the Chinese government and both companies have Communist Party and military leaders as investors. The acquisition and subsequent rise in Alibaba’s share price made Chen Xiaoying, wife of a former general, a billionaire. She bought a $68 million home two days before the deal was announced. 


Privacy and Security

The ED physician staffing service used by two Carondelet hospitals in Arizona notifies 1,000 patients that their information was disclosed when an ED logbook was stolen from the car of one of its doctors.


Technology

USA Today summarizes a report indicating that telehealth usage would increase if it was more affordable to hospitals and if medical studies prove that it works. I think it’s time to separate vendor-provided telehealth (online services that connect cash-paying patients with whatever doctor the vendor has available in the belief that patients think all doctors are equal) versus using the technology to interact with the patient’s trusted ongoing provider in a more convenient way. Some patients and conditions can be treated by a doctor in a speed-dating type of consultation where they don’t know anything about the patient except what they can learn by asking a few quick questions, but few would argue that an encounter of that type will be as successful as having a virtual visit with their regular provider who is armed with their medical records (although “successful” to most patients means, “I got the prescription I wanted.”)


Other

A man presenting to the ED with atrial fibrillation is successfully treated after the team notices his heart rate-recording Fitbit and determines that his AF was triggered by a seizure, therefore making him a candidate for electrical cardioversion. The case was described in a journal article that is mildly entertaining while not being all that medically useful since AF is treated all the time without consulting the patient’s wearable and instead asking them their history.

A London newspaper profiles a hepatitis C patient whose only hope for survival is the new drug Harvoni, which has a 95 percent cure rate at an astonishingly high price. The man finds a doctor in Australia who imports a cheaper version of the drug from India and China, where drug company Gilead Sciences was forced to license the manufacture of local versions since those governments say Harvoni is almost identical to older, cheaper drugs and therefore won’t pay for it. The doctor tests the imported drug’s purity and mails it to patients who pay his consultation fee. Some NHS doctors will work with such “buyer’s club” patients since NHS can’t afford to provide the drug to everyone who needs it and buying prescription drugs from other countries isn’t illegal in England. However, the British pharma trade group says patients who buy drugs offshore are stifling innovation and taking away treatments intended for poor countries. US insurers and governments are struggling to pay for Harvoni, which costs $1,125 per pill and $95,000 per treatment. The same pill in India costs $10.

Here’s a pretty funny “EHR in the exam room” video from Athenahealth that I ran across while looking for something else. 

The Wall Street Journal profiles the use by Northwell Health (NY) of an evidence-based calculator that assesses the likelihood of strep throat, respiratory infection, and deep-vein thrombosis based on physician answers to questions popped up in the EHR and then guides appropriate ordering of medications and tests. A medical school professor overseeing testing of the software in Wisconsin primary care clinics says physician participation in the optional program  is low, however, because “there is a big backlash against clinical decision support.” 

The speaker at a Memorial Day ceremony in Anthem, AZ is Bill Krissoff, MD, a since-retired orthopedic surgeon who shuttered his practice following the 2006 death of his Marine son in Iraq. He joined a Marine Corps medical battalion at age 60, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan “to finish Nathan’s unfinished tasks” in serving on the resuscitative surgical team as primary or assisting surgeon for 225 serious casualties.

Weird News Andy finds it ironic that “smart” tampons double as a blood collection tool that allows women to track their reproductive health via an iPad (WNA snickers right about there). I can’t decide if this is a great use of technology or the moment where we collectively jumped the quantified-self shark.


Contacts

Mr. H, Lorre, Jennifer, Dr. Jayne, Lt. Dan.
More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.
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Contact us.

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May 31, 2016 News 7 Comments

Morning Headlines 5/31/16

May 30, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Jawbone has stopped producing its fitness trackers and sold the remaining inventory to a third party

Jawbone stops manufacturing its line of UP fitness trackers but makes no announcement suggesting that it will exit the market entirely.

Doctors Test Tools to Predict Your Odds of a Disease

The Wall Street Journal profiles Norwell Health’s (NY) use of a clinical decision support tool that scrubs EHR data and predicts which condition the patient being treated most likely has before lab or imaging tests are ordered.

A New Way to Report College Sexual Assault

The New York Times profiles Callisto, a startup that hopes to improve sexual assault reporting on college campuses with a website that lets college students file sexual assault reports online.

Intel backs AI-powered analytics startup Lumiata in $10M funding round

AI startup Lumiata raises a $10 million Series B fund from Intel Capital. The company is building algorithms to quantify and manage risk within population health programs.

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Morning Headlines 5/30/16

May 29, 2016 Headlines No Comments

US IPO Week Ahead: Billionaire doctor back with another IPO

Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, will bring NantHealth public this week in a $91 million offering.

Court Rules Companies Cannot Impose Illegal Arbitration Clauses

A federal appeals court ruled against Epic on Thursday, deciding that companies cannot force their employees to sign arbitration agreements that prevent them from filing lawsuits against their employer.

Nanaimo doctors say electronic health record system unsafe, should be shut down

In Canada, providers at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital are unhappy with the recent $174 million Cerner go live, returning to paper charts in both the ICU and ER “out of concern for patient safety.”

Stung by Yelp Reviews, Health Providers Spill Patient Secrets

ProPublica reports that doctors, dentists, and other clinicians are responding to negative Yelp reviews left by unhappy patients inappropriately, sometimes posting confidential patient information within their responses.

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Monday Morning Update 5/30/16

May 29, 2016 News 3 Comments

Top News

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NantHealth’s previously postponed IPO will happen this holiday-shortened week, with insiders taking the majority of the $91 million offering. The company’s IPO documents don’t specify how it will spend the money, saying only that it will be used for “general corporate purposes.” NantHealth’s filings indicate that the company lost $72 million on $58 million in revenue in 2015, with $291 million in liabilities.

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Meanwhile, shares of Patrick Soon-Shiong’s cancer therapy company NantKwest have dropped 79 percent since its July 2015 IPO, erasing $3.1 billion of the company’s $3.7 billion first-day valuation and creating a legal boom as law firms line up offering to represent shareholders in class action lawsuits. Above is the share price of NK (blue) vs. the Nasdaq (red).


Reader Comments

From Mutton Dipper: “Re: the ‘Women in Health IT’ section of that industry rag. I don’t think they’re doing women any favors by carving them out as a special interest curiosity.” We’ve talked about this previously, but perhaps it’s time to see the content they think women in health IT need that isn’t available elsewhere. Stories on the site are: (a) the Gates Foundation donates money to study gender inequality, which has zero to do with health IT; (b) HIMSS celebrates nursing informatics, apparently in the gender-biased belief that it’s a female-only profession; and (c) two women took new jobs, something us menfolk apparently wouldn’t care about. Every story was just a padded out rehash of a press release (without crediting the press release).


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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It is Memorial Day, created not as a nonchalant summer kickoff, but rather to set aside time to remember those who died while serving in the armed forces (unfortunately, people usually forget to observe the latter in celebrating the former). 

In Flanders Fields
By John McCrae

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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More than half of poll respondents say exposure of their financial and contact information would be the worst part of a medical records breach, while 22 percent say they would be most upset about having their mental health history made available. The results don’t surprise MobileMan, who says he’s always believed that people worry more about their money than their health. JaneOrJohnDoe just lies when clinicians ask about potentially embarrassing behavior, avowing that he or she never has sex, smokes, drinks, or uses drugs because co-workers and the HR department don’t need to know. Missy C22 takes the opposite approach, saying people can get any information they want, so she doesn’t worry about breaches.

New poll to your right or here: what level of unexpected medical expense would you struggle to pay?

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My insurance company told me my travel-related malaria prevention medication was covered and would cost $80. The Walgreens pharmacist said no, actually it’s not covered, so he offered me the cash price of $268. I looked online while standing at the Walgreens counter and found a coupon on GoodRX that Walmart accepts. I called Walmart from the Walgreens parking lot and asked them to call for a copy of my prescription, which they priced at $140 for cash-paying customers. It was ready when I arrived – I just showed them the coupon on my phone to make my final price $70, saving me nearly $200 for just a couple of minutes of effort since I was going to Walmart anyway. This is a great example of screwy American healthcare for several reasons:

  • The old drug is unreasonably expensive and going up all the time.
  • The insurance company would apparently prefer to treat me for malaria than to pay upfront to prevent it (the same lack of logic that leads them to decline to pay for birth control pills).
  • Prices are all over the place – how can Walmart sell the same drug for half the Walgreens price?
  • A less-persistent customer would have wasted a lot of money by not shopping the drug price and not being aware of GoodRx.
  • Sometimes a discounted cash price is cheaper than using insurance.
  • GoodRx makes money by using an unspecified PBM’s negotiated discounts, passing the savings along to their customers while taking a transaction fee for themselves and giving the PBM big volume. That’s a brilliant business model in which everybody wins.
  • The price varies wildly even when using the GoodRX coupon – Walgreens actually accepts the same coupon but charges $127, while the PillPack online pharmacy tops the price curve at $275 (the first two examples lead me to assume that the PBM’s discount on this drug is 50 percent since it cut the price in half at both Walmart and Walgreens).
  • Maintenance drugs offer even more savings. A month’s supply of generic Lipitor whose cash price ranges from $90 to over $400 depending on the pharmacy is just $19 using a GoodRX coupon.
  • Healthcare is the only example I can think of where paying cash carries a penalty rather than a discount. I remain unconvinced by arguments saying it’s not reasonable to force providers to give cash-paying patients the lowest price they’re willing to accept from any other payer.

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We providing kits and equipment for the inaugural robotics team of Ms. Sobosan’s Nevada  high school in funding her DonorsChoose grant request. Team member Bryan concludes, “The robotics resources changed the way I looked at programming. I’m not very good, but it has inspired me to learn even more when I program apps, robots, and games. Although it won’t be easy, I will push myself to keep learning. The robot we are building is taking a while to assemble, but so far it is going very well and I expect to have fun with the projects you have sent.”

I was thinking about CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt’s comment that interoperability isn’t like sending a man to the moon. Actually, it is — if you told the 1960s-era US and Soviet Union that it would be optional but nice if they shared information for the good of their respective space travelers even while they are desperately trying to beat the other in getting there first.


Last Week’s Most Interesting News

  • A federal appeals court finds that Epic’s mandatory employee arbitration clause violates federal labor law.
  • A renowned cognitive science expert says IBM Watson Health should stop “making up nonsense” about analyzing cancer and admit that its technology doesn’t really use cognitive computing.
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook says health use of the Apple Watch is a major company priority.
  • Kansas Heart Hospital pays ransomware demand but declines to make further payments as the hackers demand to release its files.
  • The ACLU sues a genetic testing company to force it to give patients their complete results rather than just a subset.

Webinars

June 28 (Tuesday) 2:00 ET. “Your Call Is Very Important.” Sponsored by West Healthcare Practice. Presenters: Cyndy Orrys, contact center director, Henry Ford Health System; Brian Cooper, SVP, West Interactive. The contact center is a key hub of patient engagement and a strategic lever for driving competitive advantage. Cyndy will share how her organization’s call center is using technologies and approaches that create effortless patient experiences in connecting them to the right information or resource. Brian will describe five key characteristics of a modern call center and suggest how to get started.

Contact Lorre for webinar services. Past webinars are on our HIStalk webinars YouTube channel.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Cerner says in its annual shareholder meeting that:

  • More hospitals run its systems than anyone else’s.
  • The company has 22,000 employees who are paid an average annual salary of $80,000, with an average age in the mid-30s.
  • Cerner will spend $750 million on population health management R&D.

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Last Thursday’s Chicago federal appeals court ruling that Epic violated federal labor laws in requiring its employees to agree to arbitration clauses is reverberating throughout the country. The three-judge panel ruled that the National Labor Relations Act gives employees the right to band together even if they aren’t represented by a union. Conflicting previous rulings in other cases may take the issue back to the US Supreme Court. Studies have found that mandatory arbitration clauses often result in employees simply giving up their complaints, while federal and state officials worry that forced arbitration allows companies to hide employment wrongdoing. Cerner is certainly watching closely since it told employees in December 2015 that they had to choose between signing arbitration clauses or giving up future salary increases.


Announcements and Implementations

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The board of ETMC-Tyler (TX) approves the purchase of MedHost, Athenahealth, and Novarad.


Privacy and Security

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A dozen FBI agents, one of them armed with an assault weapon, raid the home of a Texas software security researcher and take him away in handcuffs after he reports to dental software vendor Eaglesoft that the information of 22,000 patients on their servers is freely visible over the Internet. The company, instead of thanking him, notifies the FBI that he illegally accessed its server and thus violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, leading the FBI to haul him away from his family in his underwear. The same researcher previously alerted the FTC that Henry Schein Dental was misleading customers by claiming it encrypts their data. He had also alerted a Pennsylvania dental practice in December 2013 that their patient information was visible online, only to receive a cease and desist letter from the practice demanding that he never mention their practice or doctors again.

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A ProPublica study finds thousands of examples where doctors, dentists, or their employees responded to negative Yelp patient reviews with information that included PHI. The HIPAA violations ranged from the simple (acknowledging that the Yelper was indeed treated, for example) to posting extensive medical, dental, and family information.


Other

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An 87-year-old senior living resident choking on a hamburger is saved by a fellow resident who springs to her side to perform the Heimlich maneuver. That fellow resident was 96-year-old Henry Heimlich, MD, the surgeon who created the technique in the 1970s, who had never actually performed it on an actual choking victim. On a less-upbeat note, Heimlich’s son has bitterly renounced his father for years as a fraud and claims he stole the idea from peers, adding that he has advocated bizarre therapies for AIDS and cancer. Back on the upbeat side of the story, Heimlich’s nephew is 66-year-old Anson “Potsie” Williams from “Happy Days,” whose affected, white-bread musical warblings on the show also caused Heimlich-like projectile vomiting.

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In Vancouver, ED and ICU doctors at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital refuse to continue using its nine-week-old Cerner EHR and instead go back to paper due to patient safety concerns. The doctors say Cerner calculates drug doses incorrectly and is causing meds and lab tests to be delayed, adding that it takes them twice as long to enter orders and that serious patient errors are happening every day. Island Health will spend $134 million on the project, which will be rolled out to hospitals in Victoria next year.

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In Australia, Cairns Hospital’s budget crisis is so significant that it’s telling doctors to stop using pens and to turn off unused lights. The medical staff says the real problem is its new Cerner EHR, described as slow and impeding accurate documentation for payment.

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Blue Shield of California, pressured to review the salaries of its executives as non-profits always do, issues a report showing that its CEO made $3.5 million in 2015, while SVP/CIO Mike Mathias was paid $1.2 million.

 

Vince and Elise recap the top physician practice systems vendors in their latest installment. Feel free to add comments if you agree or disagree with their conclusions.


Sponsor Updates

  • For the Record magazine features a story about clinical process measurement by LogicStream Health’s Dan Rubin, MD, MHI.

Blog Posts


Contacts

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

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May 29, 2016 News 3 Comments

Morning Headlines 5/27/16

May 26, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Epic Systems Takes Out Troll Patent on Abstract Idea

Epic wins a patent infringement lawsuit filed by patent troll Preservation Wellness Technologies. Epic argued, and a judge agreed, that the patent in question vaguely described “unpatentable subject matter” related to managing and sharing medical records.

CMS’s Andrew Slavitt talks with MMS about MACRA

In an interview with Massachusetts Medical Society, CMS Acting Administrator Andrew Slavitt discusses MACRA and interoperability, saying, “If you are a customer of a piece of technology that doesn’t do what you want, it’s time to raise your voice. We’re doing everything we can to make sure that the technology vendors stop focusing on meeting the regulations, so they can start focusing on their customers and their users.”

Upgrading the Certified Health IT Product List: Understanding Corrective Action Information

ONC updates its Certified Health IT Product List to include information on vendors that have at any point fallen out of compliance with certification requirements.

The Fraudulent Claims Made By IBM About Watson and AI

Cognitive science expert Roger Schank, PhD calls out IBM for marketing Watson as a cognitive computer, calling the company and its advertisements fraudulent.

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May 26, 2016 Headlines No Comments

News 5/27/16

May 26, 2016 News 6 Comments

Top News

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A federal judge grants Epic’s request to dismiss a patent infringement lawsuit brought by patent troll (or “non-practicing entity” in legal terms) Preservation Wellness Technologies, which sued Epic, Allscripts, Athenahealth, and NextGen for violating its 2009 patent covering the idea of giving patients and doctors access to electronic medical records with different levels of authorization. Apparently the US Patent and Trademark Office thought this was something new since they granted the patent.

The “inventor” apparently runs Carlo Coiffures, a beauty salon in New York. The lawsuit was brought by a Texas corporation with a Texas mail drop address that filed the suit in the rural Eastern District of Texas, which attracts 25 percent of the patent lawsuits filed in the entire US because that district’s troll-friendly practices make it hard for defendants to get a ridiculous lawsuit dismissed. A fascinating episode of “This American Life” describes a building in Marshall, Texas (population 24,000) whose long corridors contain locked offices representing the only physical presence of companies whose entire business is filing frivolous patent infringement lawsuits. Kudos to Epic for not just paying off the troll, although you have to wonder how much it had to spend to prove that it did nothing wrong.

Meanwhile, Epic didn’t fare as well in a federal appeals court where it had asked to have an unpaid overtime lawsuit brought by its technical writers dismissed. Epic argued that the arbitration terms that it forced all of its employees to accept to keep their jobs precludes employee class action lawsuits like the overtime one. The judge sides with the employees, ruling that  Epic’s mandatory arbitration clause violates the National Labor Relations Act because it prevents employees from acting together on employment issues, which they are allowed to do even if they aren’t union members.


Reader Comments

From Pumice Stone: “Re: vendor agnostic. Pet peeve time! Agnostic means someone who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.” I agree. “Vendor-neutral” is a better way to convey a lack of bias, although the grammatical horse has left the barn and dictionaries that strive to reflect rather than define usage will no doubt be adding “vendor-agnostic” along with other recently added non-words like “WTF,” “beer o’clock,” and “awesomesauce” as lexicographers use the “everybody gets a trophy” model in rewarding those who create cutesy new words despite their obvious lack of mastery of the perfectly fine choices already available.

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From Maple: “Re: Evariant. They just took Series C money this month but apparently laid off 30+ folks. No jobs are listed on their jobs board. A new CFO was announced this week, too.” Evariant, which has received $69 million in funding, sells a patient marketing system. I checked their executive page from a year ago and seven of the 10 people listed then aren’t on the current version of the page. 


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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Mrs. Steele says her Tennessee kindergarten class is using the headphones and wireless mice we provided in funding her DonorsChoose grant request to listen to level-tailored stories to help them read better.

This week on HIStalk Practice: Compulink debuts an EHR for gastroenterologists. Pavlovian wearable helps curb user behaviors. Direct Urgent Care sends heart and lung sounds to its EHR via connected stethoscope. Duke University physicians share advice for PCPs in need of MACRA help. Connecticut passes telemedicine-friendly Medicaid legislation. Ohio physicians will soon have real-time access to controlled substances prescriptions.


Webinars

June 28 (Tuesday) 2:00 ET. “Your Call Is Very Important.” Sponsored by West Healthcare Practice. Presenters: Cyndy Orrys, contact center director, Henry Ford Health System; Brian Cooper, SVP, West Interactive. The contact center is a key hub of patient engagement and a strategic lever for driving competitive advantage. Cyndy will share how her organization’s call center is using technologies and approaches that create effortless patient experiences in connecting them to the right information or resource. Brian will describe five key characteristics of a modern call center and suggest how to get started.

Contact Lorre for webinar services. Past webinars are on our HIStalk webinars YouTube channel.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

The software half of HP’s November 2015 split into two publicly traded businesses will spin off its enterprise services business in a tax-free merger with CSC that will create “a pure-play global IT services leader.” CEO Meg Whitman, who predicts industry consolidation, said on the earnings call related to corporate spinoffs, “We have this thing down to a science” in “unlocking the value of these two companies.”

Wellth, which rewards high-risk patients for taking their meds or testing their glucose correctly, raises $2 million in a seed round.

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IMS Health acquires Privacy Analytics, which offers data de-identification tools.

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Zebra Medical Vision, which sells a medical imaging analytics engine that supports diagnosis, raises $12 million in a round led by Intermountain Healthcare, increasing its total to $20 million.


Sales

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Shore Medical Center (NJ) chooses Phynd to manage the information of its 5,000 providers within Cerner and other systems.


People

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WEDI gives interim CEO Charles Stellar (AHIP) the permanent position.

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Paul Tang, MD (Palo Alto Medical Foundation) joins IBM Watson Health as VP/chief health transformation officer.


Government and Politics

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ONC publishes a list of health IT products and vendors that have not complied with its certification program.

The FDA will collaborate with Flatiron Health to explore how the de-identified treatment data of patients who aren’t enrolled in clinical trials could be used to investigate the safety and effectiveness of immunotherapy.

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Health insurers stung by Affordable Care Act losses follow through on warnings of premium increases as a sicker-than-expected insured pool drives up their costs. The highest increase requested so far is in Western Pennsylvania, where Highmark wants to hike premiums by 38 percent. The administration continues to downplay the high premium costs, saying that most people will get federal premium subsidies.

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A House committee wants the Justice Department and the state attorney general to investigate former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and CMS for the botched rollout of the Cover Oregon insurance exchange, which spent $305 million in federal money and never enrolled a single person before shutting it down and moving to Healthcare.gov at no cost.

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CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt — about whom I’ll editorialize is the most transparent, visionary, patient-focused executive in federal healthcare (I’m even placing him ahead of Karen DeSalvo because he gave up a huge income to work for CMS and he took a thankless job) — speaks to the Massachusetts Medical Society:

[User-driven policy] is actually not that radical a concept in the real world. In the real world it might be called “talking to your customers about what they want.” Perhaps in Washington, though, it is a bit of a new concept … Interoperability in some respects needs to just be as simple as this: how can we collaborate for the best outcomes when a patient is going to experience different parts of our fragmented healthcare system? What we want out of interoperability is simple: having a patient referred for other care and understanding what happens at that visit; or communicating with the physician when a patient is discharged from the hospital to make sure they are taken care of and are healing at home … We are not talking sending a man to the moon. We are actually expecting technology to do the things that it already does for us every day. So there must be other reasons why technology and information aren’t flowing in ways that match patient care. Partly, I believe some of the reasons are actually due to bad business practices. But, I think some of the technology will improve through the better use of standards and compliance. And I think we’ll make significant progress through the implementation of APIs in the next version of EHRs which will spur innovation by allowing for plug and play capability. But the reason that the pledge is important is because the private sector has to essentially change or evolve their business practices so that they don’t subvert this intent.


Privacy and Security

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Apple posts a job opening for a HIPAA-focused privacy lawyer.


Innovation and Research

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Cognitive science expert Roger Schank, PhD, says IBM Watson is “not doing ‘cognitive computing’ no matter how many times they say they are,” adding that “Watson can’t draw real conclusions by counting words in 800 million pages of text.” He concludes, “It would be nice if IBM would tone down the hype and let people know what Watson can actually do and stop making up nonsense about love fading and out thinking cancer. IBM is simply lying now and they need to stop. AI winter is coming soon.”


Technology

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Citrix announces the HDX Ready Pi, a Raspberry Pi-powered thin client that will cost under $90 when it reaches the market in a few weeks. The device configures itself automatically when plugged into an available display; can be simply thrown into the recycle bin if it fails since its cost is negligible and there’s nothing to re-image; and it can be given to remote workers since it doesn’t store data.


Other

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A JAMIA-published study by consultants from Wolters Kluwer Health describes how Huntsville Hospital (AL) reduced sepsis-related deaths by 53 percent following implementation of a program that included change management, electronic surveillance, and sepsis detection algorithms.

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Surveyed single ACOs spend an average of $2 million per year to participate, with $563,000 of that going toward health IT technology, population analytics, and reporting. More than half say they won’t stay in the Medicare Shared Savings Program if they don’t earn the 5 percent MACRA Advanced APM bonus.

A Federal Reserve Board survey finds that nearly half of Americans would struggle to pay an unexpected $400 expense, which might explain why people whose exchange-issued health insurance policies carry a $6,800 annual deductible before insurance starts paying anything aren’t necessarily going to actually seek care (or renew their policies for 2017).

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In China, scalpers are tying up Beijing’s ATMs, which allow scheduling hospital appointments, to book hospital and doctor appointments that they then sell to buyers from $50 to $500.


Sponsor Updates

Blog Posts


Contacts

Mr. H, Lorre, Jennifer, Dr. Jayne, Lt. Dan.
More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.
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May 26, 2016 News 6 Comments

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 5/26/16

May 26, 2016 Dr. Jayne 2 Comments

My hospital’s “chasing the quality numbers” work is in full swing. This morning I received a five-page packet on how to appropriately document our new tobacco cessation Core Measure.

I’m not sure why it takes that many pages to explain that a) everyone needs to quit using tobacco; and b) we are required to help them do it. What’s worse, the packet didn’t even include instructions on how to do the documentation in the EHR – it was strictly around the philosophy of the core measure.

I pinged the physician who replaced me when I left my leadership position and asked whether they had built the workflow into the EHR. Unfortunately, they haven’t. They didn’t add tobacco cessation medications to the admission orders, nor did they include an easy way to document when you’re not ordering them due to a medical issue. This would seem to be an area that is ripe for order sets and clinical decision support. It wasn’t clear whether timeline or capabilities were the barrier, but either way, it’s a sad commentary on missed opportunities.

Other than that, my visit to the hospital was uneventful. I stopped by the physician lounge to grab a bagel to go. There was some conversation about the pending “star ratings” for hospitals and a recent Washington Post article was being cited. One of the health systems interviewed noted that smaller hospitals that treat less complex patients earned higher ratings than tertiary care centers. According to the article, the preliminary calculations for the stars would result in awarding five stars to only 100 hospitals nationwide. There’s no firm date on when the ratings will be released (it’s been postponed from its July date).

I understand the desire to have some kind of composite rating system for patients to use, but the lack of granularity makes it difficult to truly assess how well a hospital is performing. If I were advising my relatives, I’d recommend they look at specific data for the procedure they were having or the condition for which they were being treated, not an overall “feel good” rating. I’d rather go to a hospital with fewer stars but the top rating for my disease, if I have that choice. When this rating scheme is rolled out at the provider level, as is planned, it will get even more interesting. More to come.

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The last couple of weeks, I’ve had an increase in unwanted email volume. It’s not truly spam, but a combination of things that have to be dealt with, even if it’s just by deleting it. The folks who do the email blasts for the Annals of Internal Medicine apparently sent out a test blast of what looked like an online journal notification. It was followed up by an email saying it was a technical error on a test, and that it included “online journal content that was not valid.” Sure, they may take seconds to read, but it adds up throughout the day. I’m also seeing a deluge of LinkedIn requests. Pro tip: If you don’t have a last name, I’m deleting the email without opening it.

Furthering the email overload, this week AMIA migrated to a new online community platform and asked the Clinical Informatics Community of Practice to confirm receipt of the migration by replying to an individual. This resulted in dozens of “reply all” emails and even a request to be removed from the group. Those were pretty easy to sift out, but the last category of unwanted emails is more insidious. I receive quite a few emails each week from different vendors and organizations wanting to partner with me, often on the recommendation of someone I know. They start along the lines of, “I was talking to X the other day and they said we should consider working together” and then range from a general assessment of interest to a, “We’d like to talk to you on Thursday at 2.”

When I think I have colleagues or vendors who might be a good fit, I say something along the lines of, “I work with someone who does X. Would you be interested in seeing if there could be some collaboration?” If they’re interested, I then talk to the other party to see if THEY are interested and if both are amenable, I do an introduction. I don’t ever give out people’s direct contact information and would be horrified if I connected someone who reached out to my contacts and demanded a meeting at a certain time.

I had one of these situations this week and the vendor (which is actually a competitor) emailed me daily asking for meetings at specific times. Apparently they didn’t get the message that when someone ignores a cold-call email, they’re not interested. I’m usually pretty good at taming the email beast, but lately it’s just gotten out of control.

My HIStalk email has also been fairly full of people asking for advice, career coaching, and more. I try to incorporate as much of the advice and coaching into my posts as possible because the topics in question are usually of interest to a broad segment of readers. I’ve had several recent requests, however, where readers want me to review books or papers they’re writing or give advice about specific situations they’re encountering. I’ve had a couple of people get pretty demanding when I said I wasn’t able to accommodate their requests.

I think people forget that HIStalk isn’t my full-time job. I run a consulting company and also see patients I usually write Curbside Consult and EPtalk while I’m on a plane or sitting in an airport. If I’m at home, I’m usually writing it well after midnight. I still enjoy writing it, but some weeks its harder than others to find the time.

How do you keep your email under control? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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May 26, 2016 Dr. Jayne 2 Comments

Morning Headlines 5/26/16

May 25, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Congressional panel asks DOJ to investigate creation of Cover Oregon

The US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has asked the Justice Department and the Oregon State Attorney’s office to launch criminal investigations into the mishandled launch of Oregon’s health insurance exchange, Cover Oregon.

Evaluating the impact of a computerized surveillance algorithm and decision support system on sepsis mortality

Huntsville Hospital (AL) reduces sepsis-related mortality by 53 percent after implementing an early warning sepsis surveillance system.

To Cut Wait Times, VA Tries MinuteClinics In Northern California

In an effort to reduce appointment wait times for veterans, the VA partners with CVS to offer urgent care services to veterans in San Francisco. The VA will integrate patient records with CVS MinuteClinic and all care provided will be free for veterans.

Flatiron Health and the FDA Embark on Cancer Research Collaboration

Oncology software vendor Flatiron Health will collaborate with the FDA to research the use of immunotherapies in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

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May 25, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Readers Write: Why HIT Leaders Should Consider Mentoring

May 25, 2016 Readers Write No Comments

Why HIT Leaders Should Consider Mentoring
By Frank Myeroff

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The most successful leaders in healthcare IT tend to have something in common: they all have had a mentor or multiple mentors. A mentorship program can offer support towards an individual’s career as well as help to build knowledge among mentees which ultimately strengthens the organization.

Through four different types of mentorship programs, HIT leaders can use their experiences and knowledge to share with mentees, but also can benefit their own careers.

  • New hire mentorships. Mentors offer insight and guidance through new employees’ first couple of weeks of work. This helps mentees to become acclimated to the new work culture and environment while learning new things from an experienced HIT employee quicker.
  • Career mentoring. Mentors assist in the development of a mentee in the healthcare IT field. This could be formally organized through a mentorship program or informally take place in an organization where managers accept mentoring requests from employees. Professionals who are one or two positions above mentees can give valuable coaching and help to work through challenging work situations.
  • Networking mentoring. This allows individuals to share ideas and contacts throughout the marketplace. Networking mentoring is often informal and can take place at industry trade shows, healthcare IT conferences, or even social media platforms such as LinkedIn. Jeffrey Pelot, CIO at Denver Health, has used networking mentoring in his career. “I have sought out CIOs in various industries that have been willing to provide mentorship or act as sounding boards when I have been faced with difficult situations.”
  • Untapped potential mentoring. This type of mentoring is targeted towards an average or underperforming employee who has great potential, but has other components preventing them from reaching it. This can help an employee develop and discover how to excel in the field, and provide he or she with knowledge to succeed.

HIT leaders can participate in any of these mentorship programs to offer advice, share past experiences, and help up-and-coming leaders in the field. In fact, HIT leaders should view mentoring as an essential leadership skill. Mony Weschler, chief technology and innovation strategist at Montefiore Medical Center (NY) has had many great mentors who helped propel his career. Now he gives back, and according to Weschler, “What I really enjoy is mentoring others and infecting them with a passion for healthcare IT.”

There’s no doubt that mentoring others can be quite rewarding. By participating and becoming a mentor, you are likely to:

  • Obtain personal satisfaction from making a difference to the career development of another person.
  • Help in shaping future leaders and thereby impact the organization’s succession planning.
  • Increase your professional networks.
  • Enhance your people skills in areas such as leadership, interpersonal skills, and communication.
  • Learn more about areas in the organization where you may not be as knowledgeable.
  • Re-energize your career.

Overall, mentors can provide so much value for mentees and often mentorship programs are what shape future leaders of companies. When asked about mentors, Sue Schade, founding advisor at Next Wave Health Advisors and serving as Interim CIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland, summed it up nicely: “I’ve had mentors along the way, people I have either worked side by side with or as my boss. These have been some really solid people who have been able to give me good advice and who have been supportive and helped me stretch. Knowing how I have been supported in my career is why I have been so willing to do the same for others, to give back now that I have something to offer.”

Frank Myeroff is president of Direct Consulting Associates of Cleveland, OH.

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May 25, 2016 Readers Write No Comments

Readers Write: Ten Ways to Avoid Making the List

May 25, 2016 Readers Write 1 Comment

Ten Ways to Avoid Making the List
By Ryan Secan, MD, MPH

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In honor of the Year of the Hospitalist, I would like to share some hard-earned wisdom with those just entering our profession.

There are many unique things about hospitalist medicine – the seven on/seven off schedule (don’t get me started on this one – that’s another post), the exclusive inpatient focus, and the unfortunate administrative tasks that always seem to fall on our shoulders. Since we don’t have appointments, our patient assignments are determined early each morning at about 7:00 a.m. And often, ‘making the list’ is a job that falls to one of the hospitalists (despite hospital administrators consistently talking about everyone practicing at the top of their license). This remains a manual process that is time-consuming, painful, and delays everyone’s start to the day.

In my 15+ years of experience as a practicing hospitalist, I’ve never run into anyone who enjoys this process, and in fact have seen lots of creative ways that folks have been able to avoid the job. At one of my prior programs, the first doc who arrived in the morning made the list, so everyone started coming in later and later to avoid it. When you feel like you aren’t up for the task, feel free to borrow from:

The Top Ten Ways to Avoid Making the List

  1. Refuse to shovel your driveway. Even if the hospital sends someone out to get you, the list should be done by then (this will only work in Boston through April).
  2. Delete Waze and just accept that traffic will make you late.
  3. Make the list really badly once. They’ll never ask you again.
  4. Keep handy a picture of your car with a flat tire. Send to your program director in the morning as needed (but remember, you have four tires).
  5. Hide in your car until everyone else has gone in.
  6. Park really far away to get those 10,000 steps.
  7. Schedule 7:00 a.m. family meetings.
  8. Fake an emergency page.
  9. Become a nocturnist.
  10. Talk to IT. Isn’t there an app for that?

Ryan Secan, MD, MPH is chief medical officer of MedAptus of Boston, MA.

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May 25, 2016 Readers Write 1 Comment

Readers Write: Telehealth Can Create a Healthcare Nirvana: More Access, Lower Cost, and Enhanced Experience

May 25, 2016 Readers Write No Comments

Telehealth Can Create a Healthcare Nirvana: More Access, Lower Cost, and Enhanced Experience
By Rohan Kulkarni

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Healthcare in the United States generally inspires a sense of foreboding despite the progress that has been made since the 2010 enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While there continues to be challenges on both the cost of care and patient experience fronts, I believe that the most progress has and can continue to occur with access to care, which can in turn impact cost and experience.

It’s important to recognize the evolving patient population and how that will impact healthcare over the next 5-10 years.

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The Millennial generation was recently recognized as the largest generation, overtaking the baby boomers. They make up approximately a third of our total population.

The implications of that are highly consequential. Consider this: Millennials are currently low consumers of healthcare, accounting for less than 10 percent of the total spend. But historically, care consumption begins to steadily rise at a dramatic pace after women turn 25 and after men turn 30. This trend indicates that over the next five years, Millennial consumption of healthcare will significantly increase. Given the size and consumption preferences of that population, we are going to see marked changes in how healthcare is delivered.

One area in which Millennials will drive a seismic shift is the engagement of providers through virtual and mobile channels. It is seismic not only because of the size of the generational population, but their impact on the adjacent generation of Gen X who have had to continuously adapt to the new technologies. Let us consider a few ways in which they will manifest the idea.

Access

  • Alternate channels. In early 2016, Oliver Wyman published a white paper titled “The new front door to healthcare is here” in which they describe non-primary care physician interaction such as pharmacy- based clinics, mobile apps, and telemedicine in an alternate setting as the new front door of healthcare. As consumers find these alternate channels better, easier to access, and possibly less expensive, close to $200 billion in current healthcare spend is poised to flow from traditional venues to one or more of these alternatives. In fact, once you use a retail clinic or telemedicine, you are less likely to use traditional care.
  • Increased conditions supported. Telemedicine used to be for the simple stuff. Not any more. It is able to support more complex situations including strokes, intensive care unit situations, and behavioral health. As the number of conditions expands from the simple to the complex and as the monitoring of chronic conditions such as sugar levels for diabetes, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. becomes more stable, telemedicine will potentially become the channel of choice for healthcare interactions.

Cost

  • Impact on cost of care. There is a sense that telemedicine will bend the cost curve. However, it will be a while before the needle begins to move in any meaningful manner. In the short term, providers will need to strategically invest in telemedicine to extend their front offices all the way to patient homes or wherever it is that patients choose to connect from. But this investment will be a fraction of what it would take to build new physical structures. Consequently, there will be near term capital cost benefits with longer term operational savings that will be sustainable and meaningful.
  • Payers are paying. Recognizing the value of telemedicine both in its ability to provide care and optimize costs in the midterm, more payers are willing to reimburse these costs. Today, 29 states require insurers to pay for telemedicine services. Medicare is also beginning to pay for telemedicine-based care, which is a strong signal of the faith in the efficacy of this newer channel.

Experience

  • Convenience. Telemedicine offers new levels of convenience: the ability to get healthcare from the comfort of one’s home is very compelling. Paired with the prospect of having the physician send prescriptions to the local pharmacy that can deliver it to the home enhances medication adherence. This heightened level of convenience will influence the use of care in a timely manner. Patients will be able to avoid driving through traffic and decreased productivity at work but still receive the care they need.
  • Streamlined service. There is a very high likelihood that healthcare is about to be digitized end to end like never before, and that has healthy consequences. The telemedicine platform will be connected to the EMR platform, claims, and revenue cycle management, driving new levels of efficiency and enhanced patient experience. Healthcare will be at the tip of your digits.

Telemedicine is coming of age thanks to the large Millennial population that is likely to consume healthcare through this newer channel and payers’ willingness to pay for it. It is improving access at a fraction of the cost of a new ambulatory setup and giving rural constituents a chance for good healthcare. While still very small as a channel for healthcare delivery, it is about to be turned on its head like never before.

Rohan Kulkarni is vice president of strategy and portfolio for Xerox Healthcare Business Group.

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May 25, 2016 Readers Write No Comments

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