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Morning Headlines 6/23/14

June 22, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Secretary Burwell announces steps to bolster management and accountability ahead of the 2015 open enrollment period

Incoming HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell reorganizes the Healthcare.gov management team in preparation for the 2014 open enrollment period, beginning in October.

Evidence based medicine: a movement in crisis?

BMJ publishes an article calling out evidence-based medicine practices as being laden with unintended, negative consequences. The article cites an overabundance of evidence, particularly evidence that does not result in meaningful quality gains, as well as the pharmaceutical industries heavy handed influence on research, and evidence-based medicine’s inability to cope with patients with comorbidities.

Medical Device Data Systems, Medical Image Storage Devices, and Medical Image Communications Devices – Draft Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff

The FDA publishes draft guidance confirming that it will not enforce regulations on Medical Device Data Systems, which are define as hardware or software products that transfer, store, convert, or display medical device data.

New Technology Helps Vets Navigate the Medical Quagmire

The Huffington Post profiles BlueButton, calling it a means for veterans to download all of their VA and DoD medical records so that they can skip the unacceptable waiting lines at the VA and seek care elsewhere.

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June 22, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Monday Morning Update 6/23/14

June 22, 2014 News 2 Comments

Top News

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HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell reorganizes the staff of Healthcare.gov in preparation for the next open enrollment period that starts in November, hiring Andy Slavitt of Optum (above) as CMS principal deputy administrator. Optum helped fix Healthcare.gov after its disastrous rollout. Slavitt fills the vacant position that places him as second in command to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, replacing Jonathan Blum, who left the agency in April. Burwell also announced plans to hire a Healthcare.gov CEO and CTO.


Reader Comments

From Dingo Boot: “Re: HIStalk Practice. I took a break from reading but I’m back. A double dose of industry news there and on HIStalk gives me an edge, I think.” Thanks. Jenn is doing an amazing job on HIStalk Practice. She is contributing in other less-obvious ways and will most likely become more visible on HIStalk.

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From The PACS Designer: “Re: the bionic pancreas. A new concept to help with Type 1 diabetes has been announced by Boston University. The bionic pancreas device uses uses a smart phone, glucose monitor, and insulin pump to automatically control blood sugar levels.” Quite a few groups were working on the concept, including University of Virginia, but what’s different about this device is that it can manage both high and low blood glucose because it is loaded with both insulin and glucagon. This one’s getting coverage because it was mentioned in a NEJM article describing results from a tiny study of 52 patients over five days. It avoids finger sticks by using a continuous glucose monitor and lets the patient describe what they just ate, such as a “typical breakfast” or “small bite.” Most interesting is that the system doesn’t know or care what type and dose of insulin the patient has been administering since it’s measuring blood glucose continuously – all it needs is the patient’s weight and their descriptions of meal size.  


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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Epic supports interoperability as well or better than its competitors, according to 75 percent of a large number of poll respondents (630). Quite a few thoughtful and informed comments were left on the poll, many of them non-anonymously. I’ll excerpt a few that are from real-life experience rather than the more common sideline Epic bashing or cheerleading:

I’ve worked with several vendors over the years and plenty of HIEs. At the end of the day, Epic connects to other Epic facilities or to non-Epic just fine. Epic to Epic is priceless and effortless. More than 50 percent of the patients in the US today are or will be using Epic when the current Epic pipeline is implemented. For organizations that are not Epic, we expect them to connect to a commercially available HIE or to the federal level HIE (eHealth Exchanged managed by Healtheway). We have no plans to connect our Epic system to other EHRs directly, not when the states and fed are encouraging and incenting us to connect to HIEs.

Epic has already built and tested connections to a wide variety of other vendors, so that implementation is rather easy. Epic notifies us when a new vendor connection is available and we are eager to proceed based on prior success. When configuration changes are found, Epic promptly addresses and tests changes, so there is no finger pointing or project delays. Epic is dedicated to interoperability in a way that I don’t see from a variety of other EHRs. Interoperability projects with Epic will be delivered in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the expense of many other vendors

My experience with Epic and Direct messaging to date is less robust than some other vendors. At this point in time, Epic can only send and receive CCDA documents — other enclosures like notes, radiology reports, discharge summaries, .wav files — are unable to be sent from Epic to other EMRs. I have seen other EMRs be able to send us different types of information, including free text notes (like an email) and we cannot process them. So in this regard, Epic has lower performance than other vendors.

Our hospital connects with other Epic facilities, local, state and national government organizations and we are currently working on connecting with non-Epic entities. Whether we connect via Query/Retrieve or interfacing, Epic has always been extremely knowledgeable and helpful in assisting us to link to Epic or non-Epic entities.

Very impressed with Epic interoperability. They do it the best of any vendors we’ve had to work with. If we are frustrated its the lack of real standards across the industry. Id like to see true semantic interoperability.

Epic has the ability, but not the will to interface with other vendors. As one of those vendors, our customers are not getting what they need to support their workflows in specialty areas when Epic declines to provide interfaces to vendors supporting specialty areas.

New poll to your right (or here): have you as a patient had a video-based “visit” in the past year? Vote and then click the “Comments” link to describe.

Listening: new from Mali Music, also known as 26-year-old Kortney Jamaal Pollard from Savannah, GA. His heartfelt lyrics are always uplifting and often religious, while musically it’s mostly neo-soul with some light rap thrown in. It’s likely to polarize people who react strongly to some aspect of his work, which I did: I loved it. Coincidentally sticking with the Georgia theme, I’m also listening to the defunct, Athens-based Magnapop.

firsthistalk

Saturday was the summer solstice, which means it had more hours of daylight than any day of the year. It also reminded me that Friday marked 11 years since I wrote the first HIStalk post. Several of the folks who have recently recommended me on LinkedIn have been readers since the beginning, or at least nearly so, with quite a few going back to 2005 or 2006. Thanks for reading regardless of how long you’ve been doing so. I’m lucky to be doing something that gets me so excited every single day that I can’t wait to get started.


Upcoming Webinars

June 24 (Tuesday) noon ET. Innovations in Radiology Workflow Through Cloud-Based Speech Recognition. Sponsored by nVoq. Presenters: David Cohen, MD, medical director, Teleradiology Specialists; Chad Hiner, RN, MS, director of healthcare industry solutions, nVoq. Radiologists – teleradiologists in particular – must navigate multiple complex RIS and PACS applications while maintaining high throughput. Dr. Cohen will describe how his practice is using voice-enabled workflow to improve provider efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction and how the technology will impact evolving telehealth specialties such as telecardiology.

June 24 (Tuesday) 2:00 p.m. ET. Share the Road: Driving EHR Contracts to Good Compromises. Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenter: Steve Blumenthal, business and corporate law attorney, Bone McAllester Norton PLLC of Nashville, TN. We think of EHR contracts like buying a car. The metaphor has is shortcomings, but at least make sure your contract isn’t equivalent to buying four wheels, an engine, and a frame that don’t work together. Steve will describe key EHR contract provisions in plain English from the viewpoint of both the vendor and customer.

June 25 (Wednesday) 2:00 p.m. ET. Cloud Is Not (Always) The Answer. Sponsored by Logicworks. Presenter: Jason Deck, VP of strategic development, Logicworks. No healthcare organization needs a cloud – they need compliant, highly available solutions that help them deploy and grow key applications. This webinar will explain why public clouds, private clouds, and bare metal infrastructure are all good options, just for different circumstances. We’ll review the best practices we’ve learned from building infrastructure for clinical applications, HIEs, HIXs, and analytics platforms. We will also review the benefit of DevOps in improving reliability and security.

June 26 (Thursday) 1:00 p.m. ET. The Role of Identity Management in Protecting Patient Health Information. Sponsored by Caradigm. Presenter: Mac McMillan, FHIMSS, CISM, co-founder and CEO of CynergisTek. Identity and access management challenges will increase as environments become more complex, users create and manage larger amounts of sensitive information, and providers become more mobile. Learn how an identity and access management program can support regulatory compliance, aid in conducting audits and investigations, and help meet user workflow requirements.

July 2 (Wednesday) noon ET. The CIO’s Role in Consumer Health. Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenter: David Chou, CIO, University Of Mississippi Medical Center. We are moving towards an era where the consumer is searching for value. Healthcare is finally catching up with other industries and this is forcing health care providers and health plans to rethink their "business model" as consumers test new decision-making skills and demand higher quality and better value. Technology can provide value in this space as we move towards a digital healthcare.


Sales

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Centegra Health & Wellness Network chooses Valence Health to provide infrastructure and support for its clinically integrated network.


Government and Politics

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FDA publishes draft guidance stating that won’t enforce regulatory controls on Medical Device Data Systems (MDDS) because they pose low risk to the public and are important for advancing digital health. MDDS are medical devices that transfer data electronically (such as from a ventilator to an EHR), store and retrieve data (blood pressure readings), convert data using preset specifications (pulse oximeter data to printed form), display data (displaying a patient’s EKG), or store or communicate medical images. Only apps that control other medical devices would continue to be regulated. The 60-day comment period is open.

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ONC will present a webinar on Thursday, June 27 at 1:00 ET on how to implement digital privacy notices on websites. PatientPrivilege won ONC’s contest to create compelling, easy to implement online NPPs – its example shows how one might look.

A Huffington Post article talks up Blue Button (and Humetrix’s iBlueButton) as a way for veterans to work around the never-ending DoD-VA EHR fighting, saying it’s easier for veterans to just download their own information and take it to whoever they’re seeing, including private practice doctors.


Other

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Niko Skievaski, the guy behind “Struck by Orca: ICD-10 Illustrated” (you have more time to buy it now that ICD-10 is delayed) has made the Breadcrumbs knowledge management software available for free. Users can ask questions and receive answers from the health IT community, members of which earn reputation points from the moderators.

A BMJ essay says evidence-based medicine is having a crisis, postulating that its promise isn’t being met because: (a) drug and device vendors have hijacked the process by manipulating clinical trials and publishing only favorable research to create “evidence”; (b) the amount of available evidence is unmanageable for practicing physicians, even with technology help; (c) the low-hanging fruit of managing established diseases has already been picked and the emphasis has moved to industrial-scale screening that may involve unexpected opportunity costs or unintended consequences; (d) less-skilled or lazy doctors may treat by template rather than by using experience and judgment; (e) EBM gives bureaucrats a way to impose rules that marginalize the physician’s skill and eliminate the opportunity for the patient to be involved in the decisions made about them; and (f) EBM works best for a single condition, which isn’t usually the case. The authors plea for a return to “real” EBM that uses the physician’s judgment, involves the patient, resists the use of “evidence” created by special interests, and places ethical care as its highest priority.

I’m fascinated that Google just bought home security and camera vendor Dropcam for $555 million in cash. The Wi-Fi video service offers live streaming, two-way talk, alerts, and night vision. Naturally I was thinking about healthcare uses, such as monitoring processes (like in the OR, pharmacy, etc.) or as a patient advocate wisely unwilling to leave a loved one lying in a hospital bed surrounded by potential misadventure. The company has lots of competitors, but their product looks simple to set up and my interest was more in the concept rather than the specific product. On the Big Brother side of the argument, I can just see a clueless, overly controlling Dilbertesque IT director demanding that work-from-home employees have the camera trained on their chairs at all times.

A video from Missouri Economic Development highlights Cerner’s program to hire military veterans.


Contacts

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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.

 

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June 22, 2014 News 2 Comments

HIStalk Interviews Farzad Mostashari, CEO, Aledade

June 20, 2014 Interviews 9 Comments

Farzad Mostashari, MD, MSc is CEO of Aledade of Bethesda, MD.

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How do you pronounce the company’s name? Is it Allay-DODD?

Allay-DADE.

Explain the company’s business model and what Venrock’s interest is in backing it with a significant investment.

The business model is pretty simple, actually. We’re going to give physicians – independent primary care practices – pretty much everything they need in order to form and join an ACO. The key business model for an ACO in this case is that the main revenue source for us comes if and when we generate total healthcare spending reduction and improvement in total healthcare quality and coordination.

This is all predicated on our belief that with the right tools, with the right technology, with the right boots on the ground, with the right team, with the right primary care providers, we can go right at the heart of what’s ailing healthcare today and get to better care, better health, and lower cost. If we can do that, the company prospers and the primary care docs prosper.

 

Who actually writes you checks and how do you calculate that savings that I assume you’re getting a percentage of?

There is an organization, an accountable care organization, which we will stand up. That entity then enters into contracts with health plans. The contracts with the health plans basically say, “You have a projected total cost for this panel of 5,000 or 10,000 patients. If we come in below that benchmark, the health plan gets half and the ACO gets half.” The largest plan in the world, Medicare, now has this available for primary care providers throughout the country. Many other health plans are following suit.

 

If I’m a physician and I decide I want to get in on this ACO thing, who are my fellow members or should I even know or care?

Healthcare is very local. We believe that you need boots on the ground, like the Regional Extension Centers in a way, harking back to that. Or even before that, to my experience with Mat Kendall, my co-founder, when we were in New York City. We went to 233 independent practices and we enrolled them in the Primary Care Information Project. This is similar, where in a given geography, we get a field team out, we find the right practices, and we bring them together, oftentimes with practices in a group they haven’t worked with before.

But really the work is done one-on-one with the practice. There’s a common set of tools — referral management tools, patient management tools, and risk management tools — but the real work happens in an individual, given practice, with the team going into the field.

What we’re looking for isn’t really networks of docs that have already come together. We’re looking for the independent, individual practices who might have thought, gee, I really want to get into this, but I’m just one practice — I only have a few hundred patients. They can’t by themselves enter into these risk arrangements. They need to be part of a bigger group. We’d be aggregating them with other docs who could form the core of this new high-value network.

That’s part of the value proposition we offer. It’s not that we’ll sell to anyone or work with anyone. A big part of this is the filtering out to make sure the people — the people you’re in the boat with — are really the people you want to be in the boat with.

 

What’s the risk to the practice?

Risk is something we have to manage. One risk is that it turns out there’s someone in the boat who’s not pulling their weight. Part of what we have and part of what Medicare requires is some incentives within the ACO that say, “We’re not just going to divide up the shared savings totally equally.” How much your participate in the ACO makes a difference in how much of a share you get. How do you on the key performance indicators determines how much of a share you get. In extreme cases, if someone’s really not doing anything, you can be expelled from the ACO. You can be voted off the island. That’s one risk.

I spent nine months at Brookings becoming a little bit of a student of ACOs that have succeeded and those that haven’t. One of the risks is if you don’t understand the regulations and their implications. This is one where being someone who’s been a regulator before and who understands how the regulators think is pretty helpful — to be able to reduce that risk for them. To say that I understand and our team has an in-depth understanding of what the regulations say and also what the implications of them are so you avoid some of the gotchas that have gotten people before.

 

I assume the doctor’s entire panel doesn’t just go ACO — there’s some blend of insurance patients and then adding new patients and converting some patients.

Exactly. This is perfect because it helps you transition.

It’s really hard to be going from one day doing fee-for-service regular practice and the other day to be taking full cap risk as part of Medicare Advantage. That’s not really feasible. There’s no health plan in the world that’s going to just turn over full risk contracts to you if you haven’t had the experience with this.

This is an ideal transition path for practices who know that’s the direction they’re in, that the future is value-based purchasing and being able to take accountability for total risk. This is training wheels, one-sided risk from CMS for three years. I’d love to go to a casino that gives me one-sided risk. [laughs].

In this model, if you get savings over the threshold, you share it with CMS. If costs go up, you don’t have to pay CMS the difference. It’s a really perfect opportunity for them to begin to gain the skills, gain the competencies, gain the tools, and then ramp up the risk. Ramp up with the number of different health plans that are participating. Expand to other commercial plans — as I said, more and more are going to be willing to give you these sorts of deals if you’ve proven your ability to manage risk. Then ramp up in terms of the kinds of risk you accept.

Initially, maybe you start off with one-sided risk. Then in three years, if you’ve done a good job with that, then you can feel more confident to move to two-sided risk or even delegated capitation agreements, where you get paid upfront for managing the total cost.

 

You mentioned the boots on the ground approach. Is this tied in any way to the Regional Extension Centers?

Well, you know, I have been a huge fan of the work of the Extension Centers. I’ve been saying for some time that the future for those Extension Centers is going to be in providing not health IT help, but actually getting into practice transformation. There’s not the funding available from the federal government for them to expand in a major way and to have a sustainability for those Extension Centers.

But you know, this could be a set of services that they could contract with us or anyone else to provide. This could be part of the sustainability model for Extension Centers moving forward if those Extension Centers have demonstrated their value to the providers and have the ability to move beyond just health IT to true practice transformation.

 

Assuming you work with the RECs in some capacity, who do you employ within the company?

There’s a set of central resources that you need that you don’t want to duplicate for every ACO — for every ACO to have their own legal team and have their own regulatory review and have their own IT team. 

One of the things I’ve realized is once you are doing this ACO work, I can’t tell you the number of IT companies who assure me that they have the solution for me. [laughs] I’m the former National Coordinator for Health IT. I’ve seen a few products in my day. I have a sense and my chief technology officer Edwin Miller has been involved with some 30 different products. We have the ability to weed through and find out what makes sense to buy, what makes sense to build, and how do you assemble this all into one integrated technology platform. For a small ACO to do that, that’s just prohibitive.

I’ve talked to many ACOs  who a year into it say, “We haven’t done anything because we’d have to start all over with our IT vendor.” That’s part of the central support that they get — the integrated technology platform, the data, the analytics, the regulatory, the legal, protocols, all that stuff. Then that’s partnered with the boots on the ground, which are local to them. A medical director who’s dedicated to them. A nurse coordinator. The project managers and transformation staff who go into the practice. The best of both worlds.

 

You mentioned EHR optimization and the integrated data and technology platform. Do you anticipate working with the EHRs each practice runs or will you have a relationship with vendors that will become the standard for the ACO?

Step one is I’m going to pre-select the practices based on their ability to demonstrate Meaningful Use. For me, Meaningful Use is, “You’ve got to be this tall to ride.” Because without that, you don’t have the data to be able to make all this work.

Two, you and I know well that the EHR systems are not optimized, particularly for population health. We’re not going to rip and replace people’s EHRs, but we’re going to optimize the hell out of them. Make sure that the efficiency is there, that the workflows make sense, that the work of documentation doesn’t all fall on the poor doc. That you actually make use of the data you’re collecting. That their decision supports are meaningful and tied to the quality measures they’re trying to accomplish. That the registry functions actually work as intended.

Our team will have something of an advantage having not just implemented the certification and Meaningful Use qualities, but having actually built, with Edwin, three cloud-based EHRs that met the Meaningful Use requirements. So step one, make sure that they have the basic foundation.

Step two, optimize the heck out of them. Step three, bring to bear the tools that EHRs aren’t really built for. I wrote about this after HIMSS last year. There are too many people selling shrink-wrapped population health — reporting, really, not management — tools that are trying to automate stuff when we’re in the discovery stage. I think the first infrastructure we really need is a discovery set of tools, where you have a very flexible data architecture underneath with some very flexible data analytics tools on top. Then you figure out what it is after you do discovery. Then you create protocols. Then you move to automation.

We’ll look at what’s available right now in terms of both the fundamental underlying data architecture, the middleware tools that are needed, the analytic tools that ride on top, and then some frameworks for being able to create custom visualization into that framework. As I’m describing it, I’m sure you are seeing the flavor of what we’re building is not monolithic software platforms or enterprise pieces of software. It’s really more of a platform that becomes a chassis with separation between the logical layers.

 

There are a lot of certified products, so in a given group of practitioners that might want to be part of an ACO, you might have 10 or 15 EHR systems. How can you optimize those systems not knowing them first-hand like the users of those systems do?

I think we’re going to need to probably develop and hire and add to the team people who are experienced and experts in each of probably the top half a dozen, maybe eight EHRs, that will probably account for the bulk of our practices we want to work with. That’s one. 

Two is to work with the vendors. This is one of the advantages that I’ll have. I’ll continue to take a vendor-neutral approach on the EHR side, which is more comfortable to me, and I’m sure there will be some that see the opportunity to work with us and will be able to learn from us even as we are working with them to optimize their solutions for the practices.

The EHR vendors need to learn how to optimize their own systems for population health management. There will be no one better to work with than us in terms of figuring out what that means.

 

You’ll be supporting some number of the more popular EHRs and then building the data layer that’s aggregated across all members of the ACO and you’ll provide analytics and population health management tools to sit on top of that?

Correct.

 

From the physician’s standpoint, you’re handling the administrative overhead. They’re just using the EHR they’ve always used and it’s somewhat invisible to them other than optimization changes or changes to meet quality standards. You’ll report back to them from the centralized version of their data collected with everyone else’s.

That’s right. Same EHR, just better. [laughs]

 

Hospitals and even practices are hearing “ACO” and are writing checks having no idea what they need or want. Will people get burned trying to jump too early on what they think the future will be?

I think this is a key risk for for ACOs — jumping on with the wrong technology and the wrong technology platform. Assuming that there’s going to be some magical ACO technology that’s going to solve your problem. This is still very much about discovery before we get to automation.

 

What have we learned about ACOs since the arguably mixed success of the Pioneer group? Can ACOs work everywhere and not just in areas where Medicare is paying too much?

Great question. I think my team at Brookings was the first to actually identify the individual 29 who had gotten shared savings and then start to look at the predictors and correlates of that.

What we found was that, one, it had been assumed that the Pioneer-type ACOs, the big integrated delivery networks, were going to blow the small physician-led ACOs out of the water. That was not true. Thirty percent of the physician-led ACOs demonstrated savings in Year One versus 20 percent of the hospital-sponsored ones. That’s a really interesting observation.

The second observation that I’ve had in a more qualitative than quantitative way has been that among a lot of ACOs that didn’t succeed, there were three factors and one underlying issue. The one factor was that they didn’t understand the regulations. The second factor was that they didn’t use data. They didn’t use data, they sat on the data, this treasure in the form of the claims data of every client paid by CMS, they just sat on it. They didn’t do enough with it. The third thing was that they didn’t change practice enough. They had monthly meetings and that was kind of it. If you do that, it’s too hard. You’re not going to generate savings.

I think those three factors are going to be more important than where you are. It’s can you use data? Have you invested enough, both in terms of your time and in money, in changing what you do? Third, do you understand the regulations? That’s what I’m bringing to the practices.

What you still need — and no one can hand it to you — is will. The will to change. That’s what we have to select for.

 

Hospitals I’ve worked in were swimming in data but didn’t act on it because there wasn’t enough imperative. Do we have enough data to move to a value-based payment model? Do you think the economic pressure will be enough to get people to pay attention?

I do. I do. Particularly for the smaller primary care practices.

With the hospitals, it’s more complicated. A, they have tons of competing demands. Forget about academic medical centers who have the teaching mission and the research mission and all of that mixed in. Even in just the tertiary care setting you have all these entrenched structures that reflect the fee-for-service optimization world.

For the hospital, life begins with the emergency room admission. Now you’re asking them to think about how to prevent an admission. That is totally foreign to a hospital and totally schizophrenic in terms of their revenue, where on the one hand they’re trying to reduce admissions, but on the other hand that’s their revenue and their bread and butter — heads in beds.

With a physician — and particularly a primary care-led ACO — it’s much easier. One, you don’t have tons of committees [laughs] to navigate through. It’s a small practice. The doc gets together with the office manager and their nurse and they say we’ll do this, and they do it, and it happens. I’ve seen time and time again in trying to make changes that it’s easier in the smaller practices than in the larger institutions.

Two, the incentives are much more meaningful to the primary care doc who is making $150,000 a year. That’s their take-home pay — $150,000 a year on average. For them, saying you could make an extra $50,000 or $100,000 – that’s really meaningful. That’s game-changing for them, whereas for a hospital to get back half of the revenue that they lost, that’s not really a game-changer.

 

How do you see small practices being configured differently with primary care docs getting squeezed by mid-levels and then operating under an ACO model?

We’re not going to try to totally upend the practice. We’re going to start with pretty simple stuff. Is there going to be someone to answer the phone at 9:00 at night when the patient calls or is there an answering service that says to go to the emergency room? That’s not totally upending the practice structure, exactly.

I think in the ultimate manifestation of really optimizing for value, what I suspect we’re going to see is primary care providers using referrals as consults. Neil Calman at the ACO Summit talked about how when as a group of family medicine docs they took over a practice that had tons of specialists in it – 10 orthopods and a hematologist or whatever – and they looked at what the patients were coming in for, they realized this is family medicine stuff. They were managing people with stable anemias. They were managing people with stable seizure disorders.

Use specialists as consultants, not to manage patients with stable conditions. That’s an example of disruption, where the primary car doc starts to do more of the work and not just refer patients reflexively to this specialist for this and that specialist for that and a third specialist for that and a fourth specialist for that. 

Their job, frankly, is going to become a lot more interesting. That lets them shed some of the boring stuff that pays the bills today – the strep throat, the poison ivy. Let the mid-levels do that. Heck, let the urgent care center do that. Let CVS do that. Focus on what the highest value work is that each part of the healthcare system can provide.

 

Where do you hope the company is in two or three years?

For me, I want to have the most successful ACO in the country. [laughs] That to me is success, where we’re the best. We’re the best. We figure out how to use data and technology to bring the focus on the outcomes.

Gosh, I just can’t wait to tear into the meat of what we’ve needed to do, which is about the outcomes. It’s about being able to focus on how do we get measurably better health, measurably better patient experience, and lower cost. And use data and technology in really fundamental ways to accomplish that, but to have our eyes on the prize instead of structures and processes and so forth.

 

Do you have any final thoughts?

It’s an exciting time. This is in some ways a strange turn for me to do a startup and join the ranks on the private sector side. But in other ways, it just feels incredibly familiar to me. [laughs]

Let’s start with a blank piece of paper. Let’s think about what the world needs and build a team, build an awesome team, that can use data to improve population health. In a way, I feel like I’ve been in training for this all my life.

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June 20, 2014 Interviews 9 Comments

Readers Write: Replace Your RFP with an RFS

June 20, 2014 Readers Write 2 Comments

Replace Your RFP with an RFS
By Patty Miller

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I have been on both sides of an RFP, as a member of the organization issuing the RFP and the organization receiving the RFP. In one case, when on the issuing side, we did not select a vendor, as no traditional vendor solved our problem. We went back to the drawing board, so to speak.

From the receiving side, I have seen organizations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars on software or services, only to realize none or a small portion of their anticipated ROI because they implemented only part of the services or software or never completed the implementation.

What happened? Everything was spelled out in the RFP. All the vendors followed the steps and they had their evaluation process down.

The RFP is a wonderful tool to reduce price and squeeze an existing vendor for savings or to use when the solution is known. But what happens when there is a real problem to solve or when venturing into new territory?

That is where the RFS, or Request for Solution, comes into play. Entrepreneurs, innovators, and vendors are some of the most effective problem solvers we have in society today. How do we harness them? Bring these solution architects into our fold and share the insights we have into the problem we are trying to solve or the direction we would like to take. Then, we can create a solution that is used, solves challenges, and realizes the desired ROI.

Let’s use an example scenario. Our organization is looking to purchase analytics software. What is the desired outcome? Is this in line with our strategic goals? For this example, we would like to better understand how we are paid and ultimately be paid 10 percent faster.

Problem Definition Phase

In this phase, the solution architects are engaged as a group or one-on-one to hear what the problem and current state is. An NDA may be a good idea during the problem definition phase. To convey the problem and current state, a presentation, observation, or a demonstration can be used. That’s it. Share the problem, nothing else.

In our case of looking to purchase analytics software, we find our DSO to be 89 days on average. Delays in cash collection inhibit our ability to reinvest in the company, thus delaying sales.

Ideal Future State Definition Phase

Describe and share with the solutions architects what some of the desired outcome looks like when the problem is solved, such as, we will reduce defects or have zero defects. We can deliver 10 percent more of our product to the customer for the same price. We have reduced overtime by 10 percent.

Make part of the selection criteria about these outcomes and other outcomes they can deliver and convey this information to the solution architects so that they will provide all the value they can. The ideal future state should align with organizational strategic goals as well.

In our scenario of looking for analytics software, we would like to bring DSO down from 89 days to 80 days and increase sales by 5 percent. Due to the high importance of cash in running a business, it is in our best interest to collect outstanding receivables as quickly as possible. By quickly turning sales into cash, we can put the cash to use again — ideally, to reinvest and make more sales.

Solution Definition Phase

During this phase, work collaboratively with each solution architect to refine the initial solution they provide. If this is a large project, this phase can take months. The payoff is implementing a solution or service that is used, solves challenges, and realizes the desired ROI.

In this phase, the solution architects are designing and proving — through POCs, demonstration, references, or site visits — how their analytics software will help us reach our desired outcomes along with other benefits they can provide. We decided the goals of this implementation. They will be to reduce DSO and more accurately forecast sales because the solution architects demonstrated in their solution that we would be able to forecast sales more accurately.  They also demonstrated how that would lead to turning sales into cash.

Contracting Phase

Contracting should include deliverables and a timetable based on the collaboratively designed solution.

For our analytics software scenario, in contracting we ask for a guaranteed outcome, perhaps not as aggressive as our original goals. In some instances, it might be more aggressive, depending on what the solution architects have demonstrated they can deliver and if our goals have changed in any way. Contracting can be difficult because everyone is trying to minimize risk during contracting, but ultimately everyone should have a little skin in the game, both solution architect and buyer. Include a change policy during contracting.

In our scenario of analytics software, we agreed that DSO would decrease by nine days in one year.

Implementation Phase

During this phase, the solution should be referenced frequently. If there are changes, they should be documented per the change policy agreed to in the contracting phase, especially if the anticipated outcomes change. Needs change during an implementation and, if additional value can be achieved, it may make sense to proceed in a slightly altered direction.

In our analytics software scenario, during implementation, some lean processes were put in place and DSO decreased by two days. We are now looking for the software to give us another eight days instead of the initial nine, although we think the benefits will be greater.

Solution Monitoring Phase

For a period of 3-12 months or more after the solution has been implemented, there should be frequent monitoring to ensure that the solution or service is utilized, has solved the challenge, and realized the desired ROI. If not, the solution architects or issuing organization should be accountable as per the contract.

 

If someone is truly interested in solving a problem, that person will have skin in the game. RFS issuing or receiving can be a scary process for an organization that is accustomed to the traditional RFP. The organizations interested in change will embrace the RFS; others may be resistant.

No organization can afford to spend its resources, time, people, and capital on a project that does not produce the desired outcome. I expect many vendors, entrepreneurs, and purchasers will welcome this collaborative solution design, but some will be resistant due to the insecurities associated with change.

Harnessing the power of the Request for Solution allows for bringing solution architects into your fold and implementing a solution that is used, solves challenges, and realizes a desired ROI.

Patty Miller is sales manager, health and sciences division,  for TechDemocracy of Edison, NJ.

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June 20, 2014 Readers Write 2 Comments

Readers Write: AMA Adopts New Recommendations on Telemedicine, Signaling Further Comfort with Telehealth

June 20, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

AMA Adopts New Recommendations on Telemedicine, Signaling Further Comfort with Telehealth
By Alexis Gilroy, JD

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Earlier this month, the American Medical Association (“AMA”) approved recommendations regarding the provision of medical services using telecommunications technologies (commonly known as “telemedicine”). AMA’s report, on the heels of a policy adopted in April by the Federation of State Medical Boards, indicates the growth of telemedicine, an increased comfort-level with telemedicine, and a desire to align legal and regulatory frameworks between medical services provided “in-person” and those provided using telemedicine.

In particular, AMA’s report provides an overview of key topics specific to telemedicine, including reimbursement, known practice guidelines, and telemedicine use cases, and it establishes a number of new AMA policies and recommendations regarding telemedicine services. The report is a significant departure from some of the AMA’s previous policies regarding the use of telemedicine, including a 1994 AMA opinion prohibiting physicians from providing clinical services via telecommunications (to which the report notes “may no longer be consistent with the best ethical analysis”).

Most notably, perhaps, the AMA advocates equating the standard of care for services provided via telemedicine with the standard of care for in-person services. While this may just seem like legal jargon to some, it has potential real positive impact on the digital health industry. This move signals an acknowledgement of telemedicine as an accepted delivery model akin to “in-person” delivery models. After all we are talking about medical services in either context with the difference merely being the venue for accomplishing delivery.

Unfortunately, to date, regulators do not always have similar views between medical services provided “in-person” versus telemedicine, as adopted regulations in many states indicate a strong deference to traditional “in-person” services and in some cases a flat prohibition on services provided through telemedicine. For example, Texas and Alabama currently require an in-person exam prior to any services provided via telemedicine in a patient’s home regardless of the patient’s illness or situation, causing significant roadblocks for telehealth providers in these states. This is especially frustrating for some home-based patients who could significantly benefit from engagement with a primary care or specialty physician using telemedicine.

With the AMA’s support through the new policy, similar to the Federation’s telemedicine policy, we may see state medical boards and other regulators rethink existing and proposed regulations specific to telehealth that placed an across the board barrier on the delivery of some medical services merely because the provider chose to utilize telecommunications rather than considering whether telemedicine could be used safely and perhaps more effectively for some patients and illnesses.

The AMA’s adopted recommendations about the delivery of health care services via telemedicine include the following items:

  • Establishing a valid patient-physician relationship. Telemedicine services should be based on a valid patient-physician relationship established prior to providing telemedicine services, which can be established through: (a) a face-to-face examination, where a face-to-face encounter would otherwise be required for providing the same service in-person; or (b) a consultation with another physician who has an ongoing patient-physician relationship with the patient and agrees to supervise the patient’s care; or (c) meeting standards of establishing a patient-physician relationship included as part of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines on telemedicine developed by major medical specialty societies, such as those of radiology and pathology. Although this recommendation does not explicitly describe what constitutes a “face-to-face examination,” the full report provides that “[t]he face-to-face encounter could occur in person or virtually through real-time audio and video technology.”
  • State licensure. Physicians and other health practitioners delivering telemedicine services must abide by state licensure and medical practice laws and requirements in the state where the patient receives services.
  • Choice of provider and information on provider credentials. Patients seeking care delivered via telemedicine must be offered a choice of provider. Further, patients receiving telemedicine services must have access to the licensure and board-certification qualifications of the health care practitioners providing care in advance of their visit.
  • Practice guidelines. The delivery of telemedicine services must follow evidence-based practice guidelines, to the degree they are available, to ensure patient safety, quality of care, and positive health outcomes.
  • Patient history and documentation. The patient’s medical history must be collected as part of the provision of any telemedicine service, the services provided must be properly documented, and a visit summary must be provided to the patient.
  • Care coordination. The provision of telemedicine services must include care coordination with the patient’s medical home and/or existing treating physicians, which includes, at minimum, identifying the patient’s existing medical home and treating physician(s) and providing such physician(s) with a copy of the medical record.
  • Emergency referral protocols. Providers must establish protocols for emergency referrals.
  • Privacy and security. Delivery of telemedicine services must abide by laws addressing the privacy and security of patients’ medical information.

Alexis Gilroy, JD is a partner with the Jones Day law firm of Washington, DC.

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June 20, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Morning Headlines 6/2014

June 19, 2014 News No Comments

CMS urged to quickly finalize proposal to ease 2014 EHR meaningful use

The American Hospital Association writes a letter to CMS and ONC asking that they quickly finalize the more flexible EHR attestation rules outlined in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

athenahealth Leads Industry in Meaningful Use Stage 2 Attestations

athenaHealth reports that its users represent 59 percent of the eligible providers that have attested for Meaningful Use Stage 2 so far, even though it only owns three percent of the practice market.

Providers Update Electronic Health Record Systems

As Epic Systems sweeps across North Carolina, the Wilmington Business Journal reports that 70 percent of the residents there now have charts in Epic.

Ad-Tech Entrepreneurs Build Cancer Database

The Wall Street Journal interviews Flatiron Health CEO Nat Turner. Flatiron is an data analytics startup that collects cancer treatment details and subsequent outcomes from cancer centers around the country, and then aggregates the information to evaluate what treatments work the best for different types of cancers.

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June 19, 2014 News No Comments

News 6/20/14

June 19, 2014 News No Comments

Top News

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The American Hospital Association urges CMS and ONC to quickly adopt plans that were identified in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would give hospitals flexibility in the combinations of EHR certification and Meaningful Use stages that are permitted for 2014. AHA observes that the proposals are last minute given that the last FY2014 reporting period is July through September 2014 and the NPRM’s comment period won’t be finished until that reporting period is underway, meaning that “hospitals are essentially being asked to act on faith that the agencies will finalize these proposals as written while risking that they may not.” AHA also wants the 2015 reporting period shortened to 90 days and to avoid setting a firm October 2016 start date for MU Stage 3 given that “fewer than 10 hospitals and 50 EPs had attested to Stage 2” as of mid-May.


Reader Comments

From Clueless About HIT: “Re: magazine’s Top 100 ‘HIT’ vendors. Many represented their revenue from payers, life sciences, and government health as ‘HIT.’ This includes Cognizant, Optum, Infosys, TriZetto, Syntel, and Edifecs. Either these vendors are clueless about what ‘HIT’ means or they are deliberately misreporting. It also speaks volumes about publications that come up with these lists.” I never even look at those lists, to be honest. They’re great for the magazines who make them up to sell ads, but even if the numbers are accurate (and that’s obviously dependent on interpretation), who cares? Bigger vendors aren’t necessarily better vendors, and anyone who would make a buying decision based on a company’s annual revenue is likely to be disappointed. I think I’ll sell spots on a “Coolest Vendor” list and donate the proceeds to charity – at least some good would come from it.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

This week on HIStalk Practice: ARcare CIO Greg Wolverton talks agility and mandatory EHR training. Virginia’s "people problem" gets in the way of HIE. Mobile access to EHRs takes a back seat to workflow. Physicians may be the biggest barrier to HealthKit’s success. Dr. Gregg pontificates on the inevitability of change. The Brookings Institution highlights the top challenges of Medicare ACOs. ONC leadership changes have some questioning the longevity of the Meaningful Use program. Thanks for reading.

This week on HIStalk Connect: Former National Coordinator Farzad Mostashari, MD, launches a startup that will focus on optimizing EHRs for primary care practices interested in joining an ACO. Dr. Travis discusses the promising but very new telecharting market. In an effort to keep up with Apple and Samsung, Google will unveil its new health data platform at next week’s Google I/O developers conference. Mr. HIStalk interviews Colin Konschak, CEO of Divurgent.

Listening: Birdy, the 18-year-old singer-songwriter from England who has recorded several international hits and contributed a track to “The Hunger Games.”


Webinars

June 24 (Tuesday) noon ET. Innovations in Radiology Workflow Through Cloud-Based Speech Recognition. Sponsored by nVoq. Presenters: David Cohen, MD, medical director, Teleradiology Specialists; Chad Hiner, RN, MS, director of healthcare industry solutions, nVoq. Radiologists – teleradiologists in particular – must navigate multiple complex RIS and PACS applications while maintaining high throughput. Dr. Cohen will describe how his practice is using voice-enabled workflow to improve provider efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction and how the technology will impact evolving telehealth specialties such as telecardiology.

June 24 (Tuesday) 2:00 p.m. ET. Share the Road: Driving EHR Contracts to Good Compromises. Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenter: Steve Blumenthal, business and corporate law attorney, Bone McAllester Norton PLLC of Nashville, TN. We think of EHR contracts like buying a car. The metaphor has is shortcomings, but at least make sure your contract isn’t equivalent to buying four wheels, an engine, and a frame that don’t work together. Steve will describe key EHR contract provisions in plain English from the viewpoint of both the vendor and customer.

June 25 (Wednesday) 2:00 p.m. ET. Cloud Is Not (Always) The Answer. Sponsored by Logicworks. Presenter: Jason Deck, VP of strategic development, Logicworks. No healthcare organization needs a cloud – they need compliant, highly available solutions that help them deploy and grow key applications. This webinar will explain why public clouds, private clouds, and bare metal infrastructure are all good options, just for different circumstances. We’ll review the best practices we’ve learned from building infrastructure for clinical applications, HIEs, HIXs, and analytics platforms. We will also review the benefit of DevOps in improving reliability and security.

June 26 (Thursday) 1:00 p.m. ET. The Role of Identity Management in Protecting Patient Health Information. Sponsored by Caradigm. Presenter: Mac McMillan, FHIMSS, CISM, co-founder and CEO of CynergisTek. Identity and access management challenges will increase as environments become more complex, users create and manage larger amounts of sensitive information, and providers become more mobile. Learn how an identity and access management program can support regulatory compliance, aid in conducting audits and investigations, and help meet user workflow requirements.

July 2 (Wednesday) noon ET. The CIO’s Role in Consumer Health. Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenter: David Chou, CIO, University Of Mississippi Medical Center. We are moving towards an era where the consumer is searching for value. Healthcare is finally catching up with other industries and this is forcing health care providers and health plans to rethink their "business model" as consumers test new decision-making skills and demand higher quality and better value. Technology can provide value in this space as we move towards a digital healthcare.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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BlackBerry reports a surprise quarterly profit and announces the Passport, which CEO John Chen says is either the world’s smallest “phablet” or its largest phone. It features a hardware keyboard at a 4.5-inch square display. The device will be marketed to healthcare users, which is a key target of the struggling BlackBerry.

Vocera opens an office in Dubai, UAE.


People

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Fraser Bullock (Sorenson Capital) is elected chairman of the board of Health Catalyst, replacing David A. Burton, MD.  

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Valence Health names Tony Gutierrez (Missouri Care) as VP of operations of its health plan division and Jack Risenhoover (Napier Healthcare) as VP of business development.

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Kryptiq hires Jacquelyn Hunt, PharmD, MS (Bellin Health System) as chief population health officer.

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AirStrip appoints Orlando Portale (Palomar Health) as chair of its newly created Innovation Advisory Board.


Announcements and Implementations

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Aprima will offer dashboardMD’s performance management and BI reporting tools.

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Kareo offers medical practices a guide for registering for the VA’s “Accelerating Access to Care Initiative,” which allows them to serve VA patients who can’t get appointments for primary or specialty care.

In England, Cerner launches a SaaS version of Millennium for smaller NHS trusts (under 500 beds) that can’t afford its system otherwise. The company says it’s similar to a US version used by 70 hospitals.

Athenahealth announces that its users account for 59 percent of the 485 providers who have attested for Meaningful Use Stage 2 even though its market share is les than 3 percent.

Hartford HealthCare’s Integrated Care Partners goes live with High Line Health’s Visual Analytics Platform for population health management and value-based care.

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California Telehealth Network chooses HealthFusion’s MediTouch as its first EHR partner.


Government and Politics

Governors of several New England states say they will explore sharing prescription data to thwart doctor-shopping drug seekers who cross state lines. 

ONC will present a webinar on the FDASIA draft report on Friday, June 20 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

The US House Energy & Commerce Committee’s 21st Century Cures seeks guidance on how the vision of a digital health ecosystem (mobile apps, EHRs, cloud, and big data) can be realized to create new treatments and cures. Public input is solicited to cures@mail.house.gov. The group will convene a roundtable in Washington, DC on Tuesday that includes Jeffrey Shuren, MD, JD (director, FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health), Martin Harris, MD (CIO, Cleveland Clinic), Jonathan Bush (president and CEO,athenahealth), and Joseph M. Smith, MD, PhD (chief medical and science officer, West Health.)


Innovation and Research

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Apple files patent applications that include an iPhone receiving sensor data — including from at least one that’s worn and not part of the iPhone — and calculating a “personal scorecard” and triggering alarms.


Other

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The Wall Street Journal profiles Flatiron Health, which gathers de-identified treatment and outcome data from cancer centers to give doctors visibility into how treatments are working for the 96 percent of patients with cancer who aren’t enrolled in a clinical trial. The 28-year-old co-founder, who with his Flatiron Health co-founder sold their advertising technology company to Google in 2010 for $81 million, says it was hard to get the cancer center CIOs and doctors to contribute information they considered proprietary. The company has 105 employees, has 200 cancer centers on board, and received a $130 million investment from Google in May 2014, using some of the money to acquire oncology EHR vendor Altos Solutions.

A survey by FICO (the former Fair Isaac) finds that 80 percent of people want to communicate with their providers via smartphone, while 76 percent would like medical appointment reminders and 69 percent say they want appointment scheduling and medication reminders.

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Rady Children’s Hospital (CA) exposes the information of 14,000 patients when employee accidentally attaches a worksheet to emails sent to six job applicants.

A Huffington Post report calls out for-profit hospices that make up nearly 60 percent of the total, including 6,100-employee Vitas, which was bought out for $406 million in 2004 by the parent company of Roto-Rooter. Companies are accused of upcoding, sending marketers to find dying hospital inpatients to sign up quickly, enrolling patients at Medicare’s expense who were healthy enough to play golf, treating patients against their will, and having a high rate of safety and patient care violations. Experts say the problem is that Medicare pays set day rate, encouraging hospitals to enroll patients who don’t require their services and provide higher levels of services than the patient needs. Medicare’s data shows that non-profit hospice had an average length of stay of 69 days vs. 105 days for for-profits.

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Fletcher Allen Health Care (VT) will change its name this fall to The University of Vermont Medical Center.

A North Carolina business paper mentions the status of EHR deployment in the state. Wilmington Health is about to go live with NextGen, New Hanover Regional Medical Center is expanding Epic to give inpatients access to MyChart, and Novant is expanding Epic use throughout its facilities. Tad Dunn, CIO of New Hanover, says 70 percent of the citizens of North Carolina now have a chart in Epic.


Sponsor Updates

  • Connance announces the Analytically Optimized Revenue Cycle, predictive analytic and workflow strategies to increase cash 10-30 percent and reduce cost up to 25 percent.
  • Elmhurst Clinic (IL) shares how its use of healthfinch RefillWizard has led to happier doctors.
  • Nuance announces that Valley Medical Center (WA) gained $2.2 million in revenue by using its Clintegrity 360 clinical documentation improvement program.
  • Fujifilm Medical Systems USA will demonstrate the latest version of its Synapse Cardiovascular and it Synapse Mobility mobile ap, which will allow viewing of non-DICOM information from its vendor-neutral archive in EHRs such as Epic, at the American Society of Echocardiography meeting in Portland, OR starting this weekend.
  • Sagacious Consultants will participate in the HFMA ANI 2014 in Las Vegas June 22-24.
  • Predixion is recognized as a Challenger in the Advanced Analytics Market by Hurwitz & Associates.
  • Texas Pulmonary & Critical Care Consultants is experiencing increased doctor collaboration since going live on pMD Messaging.
  • Texas Children’s Hospital shares how it improved appendectomy outcomes using Health Catalyst’s analytics solutions.
  • InterSystems expands its New York City office.
  • Aspen Advisors celebrates its eighth anniversary, adding 10 clients this year.
  • Divurgent announces the addition of Cost to Collect service to its Revenue Cycle Management Practice solution.

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne

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Quite a few readers responded to my recent Curbside Consult regarding a telemedicine solution a potential part of an employee benefits package. One made a very good point:

I read your recent op piece on the new “benefit” your HR department is trying to roll out to employees. I wondered what issue they were trying to solve, other than be on the “bleeding” edge of offering this service? If the employees have an access issue, seems like the first step would have been to meet with medical staff leadership and brainstorm alternatives. I’m just a CIO with no clinical background so I can’t bring a clinical perspective to the discussion, but the one that I always tell my colleagues I do have is that of a patient and how our decisions are viewed through those “lenses.” In this case, I wonder how someone I don’t know and have never met will understand me within the full context of my medical history and current environment and can deliver better quality and outcomes than someone who does.

That’s a very good point and one that was brought up to some degree in our committee’s discussion. It also makes a good point about IT solutions. In general, it’s good practice to understand the business problem you’re trying to solve prior to looking at vendors. In our case, the business problem is that we’re notoriously cheap. Our employees haven’t had raises in years (blamed on MU-induced belt tightening). Many of us suspect they’re trying to use this as a way to make up for what we’re lacking in salary or other retention perks. Another reader wrote:

As a long-time practice administrator in hospital systems, I totally agree with your reaction. The med exec committees will have a heyday and make life miserable for the hospital administrators. Aren’t we all trying to keep care within our own “families?”

Another physician reader referred to the story as, “Almost Dilbert material, except there are too many layers of absurdity.” I almost spit coffee on my keyboard as I read that because I had to withstand the pointy-haired boss in a previous life. The need for patient privacy was also a recurring theme:

At our facility, we have an aggressive strategy to significantly incent our employees to receive care within our network. The loudest noise we hear on this topic is what you alluded to – patient confidentiality. It is cited as the #1 barrier to our employees seeking care with us.

Readers also sent plenty of tips about nice seaside locations where I could consider practicing. It’s looking awfully tempting. Another travel-savvy reader sent me this article about the urgent care clinic that recently opened. Since the airport already has a liquor store in the baggage claim area, it was only a matter of time. They do offer hangover remedies including intravenous fluids, vitamin B12, and oxygen. I wonder if Chicago O’Hare will offer the same options for HIMSS15 travelers? Not likely.


Contacts

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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.

 

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June 19, 2014 News No Comments

Morning Headlines 6/19/14

June 18, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Launching Aledade

Former National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, MD, announces today that he is launching a new startup dedicated to helping primary care physicians form ACOs. The new venture is backed with a $4.5 million seed investment from Venrock.

What should Congress do to help medical innovation?

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a roundtable meeting next Tuesday to discuss the implications data-driven population health programs have on individual patient privacy rights.

Oregon takes steps toward lawsuit over defunct health exchange website

Oregon is reportedly preparing to file a lawsuit against Oracle Corp over its failed $134 million health insurance exchange.

FDA Proposes Rules for Listing Risks on Social Media

The FDA has issued long awaited regulatory guidelines for drug manufacturers and medical device makers that use social media for marketing purposes.

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June 18, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Readers Write: AHIP Institute 2014 Recap: My Impressions of the Show

June 18, 2014 Readers Write 1 Comment

AHIP Institute 2014 Recap: My Impressions of the Show
By Kasey Fahey

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After attending the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute 2014 in Seattle, I walked away with a greater knowledge of the current state of the healthcare industry as a whole. AHIP is the national trade association representing the health insurance industry. It is one of the most effective trade associations in Washington, DC.

The choice of Seattle as the hosting city was excellent. It is a top technology hub in the country and I partially credit the incredible coffee for all the innovative thinking.

  • The payer industry is poised for huge growth, as are many other sectors of the healthcare IT world. However, as we shift from a fee-for-service industry to pay-for-performance, the collaboration between payers and providers will continue to evolve and blossom in a shared risk model. That said, health plans are just as concerned with outcomes, readmission rates, and population health as the health systems. Many providers are trying to break into the payer space and compete with companies that have already established themselves. There is room for potential collaboration between the two.
  • At the show, there were companies of all sizes from startups in growth mode to large, established players in the game. There were many companies focused on claims processing and core administrative platforms and the big data and analytics space. It seems as if vendors both catering to payers and providers are heavily focused on big data and analytics.
  • With the population health initiative, I see a lot of potential partnership opportunities for payers and mobile companies to monitor patients at home to reduce readmissions, improve the quality of care, and lower costs simultaneously (the holy trinity of healthcare IT). My colleague Norm Volsky, recently attended the ATA conference in Baltimore and wrote a recap. He mentioned that many of the telehealth / telemedicine vendors are in startup mode with innovative technology, but with a lack of funding or a concrete revenue plan. Many vendors at AHIP mentioned they’d like to create mobile / remote solutions within the upcoming year. With this in mind, a collaboration between the two spaces would allow health plans to use remote patient monitoring without having to develop proprietary solutions and the mobile companies to find the funding they need while sharing their technology with patients.
  • This show was significantly smaller than the annual HIMSS conference, where there are vendor booths as big as city blocks and miles upon miles of fancy displays and creative advertising ploys. Institute was more low key, which was also refreshing. There were a little under 200 vendors, and they focused on the meaningful benefits of their solutions without wildly expensive spinning signs from the ceiling. That said, it was not as visually appealing or as easy to tell the huge players in the industry from the rookies based on booth size. I did, however, enjoy Practice Fusion’s creative “Jeopardy” game. The takeaway from this is that the payer vendors seem to focus more on hard ROIs instead of marketing. Their messages and analyses are tight and they seem to have more of a B2B sale than vendors in the provider space.
  • I was surprised at the abundance of C-Level executives at the show and the lack of actual health plans. It was primarily all vendors, who mentioned that they expected to be able to meet with health plans for business opportunities. It seems in the provider space that health system and hospital C-level executives are in high attendance at shows like HIMSS, so perhaps there is a lack of participation by health plans.

Overall, the show was nicely done with many speakers and sessions on a variety of topics. As far as the future, the healthcare industry as a whole relies heavily on public policy. However, there is huge growth and partnership potential across the industry and everyone has the same goals in mind: lowering costs, improving care, and reducing readmission rates.

Kasey Fahey is director of payer practice for healthcare IT at Direct Recruiters, Inc. of Cleveland, OH.

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June 18, 2014 Readers Write 1 Comment

Advisory Panel: Budget Challenges, Favorite Vendor

June 18, 2014 Advisory Panel No Comments

The HIStalk Advisory Panel is a group of hospital CIOs, hospital CMIOs, practicing physicians, and a few vendor executives who have volunteered to provide their thoughts on topical industry issues. I’ll seek their input every month or so on an important news developments and also ask the non-vendor members about their recent experience with vendors. E-mail me to suggest an issue for their consideration.

If you work for a hospital or practice, you are welcome to join the panel. I am grateful to the HIStalk Advisory Panel members for their help in making HIStalk better.


What are your biggest capital and operational budgeting challenges and what creative solutions have you used to overcome them?


Being able to retain talent and valuable people in a very competitive environment while facing lower reimbursements.


We are receiving diminished funding for maintenance of infrastructure systems (storage, network, tools, etc.) while experiencing increasing demand for security solutions and acquisitive growth requiring unplanned support. We are shifting resources as needed to keep up with demand and we’re candidly disclosing the system availability risk levels we believe are rising as a result of delaying infrastructure maintenance. We’ve tapped philanthropic donors for “marquee” investments, leaving routine sources to the less-glamorous work. 


Our hospital has seen volumes plateau and reimbursements decreasing. Our revenues are well below target and we are trying to cut expenses everywhere. Going into our next financial year, we are focusing on optimization efforts of existing systems and infrastructure replenishment. All other projects will have to show hard dollar ROI to be approved.


[from a vendor member] We’re seeing that a number of our clients are employing advanced analytics to their administrative data to address and close gaps related to missing charges for devices, drugs or care provided. Leveraging their own historic HIS data with predictive modeling technologies, they’re bringing in millions of additional dollars in net revenue per year — an interesting and creative approach to addressing budget challenges.


Like everyone else, we are expected to do less with more. We are located in a remote area and have little access to advanced IT talent. I located a vendor who provides DBAs (and other programmers) at less than $30/hour. We currently use them for SQL and Oracle DBA as well as a Citrix administrator, all 20 hours/week. There is no way that we could afford this support any other way.


After an enormous EMR expense, the hospital is looking to cut down ongoing expenses, pointing out that IT is not a source of revenue. They seem most eager to trim optimization expenses, particularly in compensation to clinical experts and consultants. On the clinical side, we have done best with investing in fewer, but more involved subject experts ("a few good men and women"). They do well getting ad-hoc consensus and being the face of IT. On the consultant side, we have made the case that "a few good men and women" are essential to operations.


As reimbursements are continuing their decline, we are under the same scrutiny as all other departments. What was once considered nearly untouchable is now under the microscope. Our biggest challenge does not come under a program or project specific area, it is everything we do. We are in the process of figuring out what we need as essential services and what can be shut down. This is not a small task as we have some platforms that do not scale well and causes us duplicative support and infrastructure services. In addition to that, the shadow IT problem is hard to fully identify and reduce spend on. This will be an ongoing challenge for us and I believe will become more acute for all providers in the next few years.


Our board has a policy that project overruns over 5 percent have to be approved by them. We were replacing our pharmacy system and working on MU2 with the same set of resources. As MU2 came to be more complicated than anticipated, we pulled internal resources away from pharmacy and brought in more expensive outside resources. Pharmacy went live on time but $500K over budget. This is the only time in 20 years that I’ve had to go to the board for a project overrun. My point is that it demonstrates again what a huge distraction MU has and will continue to be along with potential career-limiting impact.


I work for a provider organization that manufactures many of its own products. As such prior to my arrival we had begun experimenting with outsourcing development, at least the maintenance/break-fix items from the products we develop. Largely speaking, this wasn’t successful for many reasons.  Although the entire organization was cutting back and findings ways to get more efficient, I was able to position this as a means to eliminate the outsourced relationship, hire/onboard new personnel (still in process) to create a budget neutral situation where the organization’s experience was better with our own internal resources yet achieved a positive boost from a cultural perspective (we are hiring now vs. outsourcing). From a cost savings perspective, I focused my efforts on how technology could take out costs from the organization creating re-engineering opportunities. For example, driving efficiency through the applications used by our operational teams so they could cut headcount by 20 percent. Another example is how we are re-architecting our corporate fax solution (we fax many of our results back to our customers/partners) saving 40 percent in fax costs on an annualized fashion. Re-engineering through technology doesn’t necessarily have to include headcount reductions.


Who is your favorite healthcare IT-specific vendor (product or services) right now and why?


None really. One must not underestimate the power of IT vendors to disappoint. One CMO once advised me in advance that there is really a "curve of disillusionment" but what I did not anticipate is how much disappointment I was going to experience not from the IT product itself but from the people in the company.


I continue to like Impact Advisors and their Epic consultation services. We have encountered novel integration challenges in our acquisitions and they seem to have been there/done that.


Right we are very pleased with select vendors that spend time learning about our business and figuring out how to adapt their offerings for our benefit, challenging us along the way with how to think differently. The best example for us right now is CDW, which frankly was surprising to me when joining the team. CDW offers a basic fulfillment service for most equipment we purchase but they also bundle it with creative solutions like headcount to help drive our Sharepoint implementation as well as creative packaging such that we can avoid shipping/prep of equipment at our location rather pre-loading it at Sharepoint, including asset tagging, and direct shipping it to our destination. CDW has done a nice job understanding how they can help us and brings great value outside of basic order fulfillment service


Aspen Advisors. They’ve done a few key projects for us that have come in on time and under budget.


INHS (now Engage). Hands-down favorite. My biggest beef about vendors (product or service) is that they don’t have to live with what they deliver. If you are required to support what you implement or recommend, it seems to change your build and recommendations. INHS provides the IT systems for numerous hospitals and practices, so I know that when they build something for me (a non-INHS site) or make a recommendation, it is something that they can or have lived with in the past. They also understand that the build/recommendations have to be practical and executable and as non-invasive as possible to our customer. That frame of reference makes a significant difference. 


Epic. Best support ever, and they seem committed to our success despite a rolling cast of characters. Very few issues are dropped, even when we don’t like the answers. They do prompt, customer-wide notification of clinical issues and potential near misses.


The only vendor names that come to mind are the ones that are letting us down in a significant ways by their lack of proper development focus, ability to deliver on time, or just a general lack of indifference toward our needs as a customer.


Epic. They are our EMR and provide great support


Prominence Advisors. They are a small consulting firm full of "Epic all-stars" and have been tremendous in helping us with our Epic project.


None of our vendors are standouts. They continue to deal with MU and it has distracted them.


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June 18, 2014 Advisory Panel No Comments

Health IT from the CIO’s Chair 6/18/14

June 18, 2014 Darren Dworkin 2 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.

Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet Trends

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Each year Mary Meeker publishes a report describing Internet trends. I’m not sure I know the full history of the report, but she traditionally presents it in the spring at the AllThingsD conference (formerly run by WSJ) and now at the new version of the conference called <re/code>.

It is hard to imagine how much research and data must be collected to produce such a data-rich report. I have never seen her present it live, but I’m told she shares the whole thing in an action-packed 15-minute presentation.

The full report is available here. It is truly amazing and is one of my favorite things to read of its kind.

Since my world is healthcare IT, here are a few of my own opinions of how the larger trends described will have an impact.

Trend #1

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Tablets are growing at a faster rate than PCs and laptops ever did, with a growth rate of 52 percent. With only a 6 percent population penetration or 439 million global units, we will likely soon see tablets pass both desktops and laptops. I think this will translate to at least three things in the healthcare setting: (a) the mobile shift has another big wave coming; (b) like smartphones before tablets, the unit growth will be propelled by BYOD; and (c) users will expect to use multiple devices in one setting and be able to easily navigate between them.

Trend #2

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Cyber threats are intensifying along all dimensions. They occur more frequently, happen faster, and result in more serious implications. An exposed machine is likely to be compromised in 15 minutes or less. While healthcare has struggled to not lose information and has achieved a mostly failing grade, we are in for a major shock wave as new entrants begin to seek the data we have.

Trend #3

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I hope healthcare is really at the inflection point predicted. The backdrop plays out as follows:

  • Providers have underutilized technology historically.
  • HITECH Act brought billions in spend.
  • 52 percent of consumers want access to tools to manage their care and data on quality, satisfaction, and reviews of doctors and hospitals.
  • 84 percent of hospitals have EMRs.
  • 51 percent of doctor’s offices (and rising) have EMRs.
  • 62 percent of consumers/patients want to communicate via email.
  • Venture fund investing in health IT is up 39 percent to $1.9B.

Some of the hottest spaces will be employer engagement, telemedicine, adherence tools, and chronic disease management platforms.

Trend #4

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While our existing client-server and even our cloud-based healthcare applications will continue to struggle with interoperability (of workflow, not so much around data), everyone will get a new chance at building it right. The mobile platform will create an environment to have single purpose, best-of-breed apps working in a unified way in a dynamic user-initiated platform.

Trend #5

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The term “big data” is overused, misused, and probably overhyped. But that is probably because it is still early and it is hard to get actionable results today. From a trend perspective, it could be the most exciting thing to watch in healthcare in the years ahead. It will pose complex challenges around transparency and privacy, but we should imagine a healthcare world that is filled with sensors producing troves of data that we can analyze and problem solve in real time.

Trend #6

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Privacy will drive new approaches to have data that is uploadable and shareable without being findable. This trend will probably help us get around complex privacy concerns in the short term by making the data single use.

Trend #7

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It won’t be just about what wellness or health sensors we have on our bodies or even in our bodies. Our smartphones will sense things for us. We might not need a fitness band if our phones can tell us the same thing. Samsung’s new device has 10 sensors. Apple’s new iPhone will likely match or surpass that.

Trend #8

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Bigger, cheaper, and faster. Compute measured by $ per 1mm transistors from $527 in the 90s to $0.05 now. Storage measured by $ per Gigabits from $569 in the 90s to $0.02 now. Bandwidth measured by $ per 1,000 Mpbs from $1,245 in 1999 to $16 now. All the while, use of the cloud is rising. It is getting hard to imagine why any healthcare organization would be thinking to build a new massive data center of the past.

Trend #9

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Beautiful new interfaces aided by data-generating consumers will not just be the new standard, but the only standard. As consumers and employees continue to use a host of well-designed apps in their daily lives, tolerance for poorly designed UI will plummet. As consumers continue to engage in managing their health information through provider-based portals, the EMR titans will either rapidly evolve their UI or be disrupted by those who can.

Trend #10

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Precision medicine is on the way (period).

Mary Meeker’s whole report is 144 pages (with an additional 20 pages in the appendix – referenced as the slides she ran out of time to talk about). I recommend you give it a read.

Let’s not just find a better mousetrap. Let’s disrupt the whole idea. Mary’s report should challenge us all to re-imagine!

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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June 18, 2014 Darren Dworkin 2 Comments

Mostashari Launches ACO Creation Company for Independent Physicians

June 18, 2014 News 7 Comments

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Former National Coordinator Farzad Mostashari, MD, MSc announced this morning the launch of Aledade, a new company that will help independent physicians form Accountable Care Organizations. The Bethesda, MD startup is backed by $4.5 million in seed funding from Venrock.

Mostashari said in a statement, “Empowering doctors on the front lines of medicine with cutting edge technology that helps them understand and improve the health of all of their patients has been the mission that’s animated my career. That’s Aledade’s mission – and we’ve assembled the best possible team to guide our doctor partners to success in the ACO space.”

The company, which is not tied to any hospital or health plan, says it has initiated partnerships in four areas it has targeted – Delaware, Arkansas, Maryland, and New York City – and will use that experience to create a replicable model that will allow it to expand rapidly over the next year.

Mostashari will serve as Aledade’s CEO. His co-founders are EVP Mat Kendall, formerly ONC’s Director of the Office of Provider Adoption Support, and CTO Edwin Miller, formerly VP of product management for CareCloud.

Aledade will offer primary care doctors services to form an ACO that include on-site clinical support, EHR optimization, implementation of an integrated data and technology platform, quality reporting, provider benchmarking, real-time ADT notification, identification of high-opportunity patients, and patient outreach.

Mostashari adds in a company blog post, “I have also found my cause. It’s to help independent primary care doctors re-design their practices, and re-imagine their future. It’s to put primary care back in control of health care, with 21st century data analytics and technology tools. It’s to support them with people who will stand beside them, with no interests other than theirs in mind. It’s to promote new partnerships built on mutual respect, and business arrangements that will truly reward them for the value that they uniquely can bring- in better care coordination, management of chronic diseases, and preventing disease and suffering. It’s to achieve lower cost through better care and better health. ”

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June 18, 2014 News 7 Comments

Morning Headlines 6/18/14

June 17, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Nuance Communications Explores Possible Sale

Nuance executives are reportedly looking to sell the speech recognition company and are actively holding meetings with potential suitors, including Samsung. Activist investor Carl Icahn, who has amassed a 19 percent stake in the company and is now the single largest shareholder, is likely pushing for the sale through his two recently placed board representatives.

Digital woes hamper Alexian Brothers’ shift to new Medicaid program

Alexian Brothers cancels its plans to form an ACO, saying that connecting the various ambulatory EHRs within its market would be too difficult to manage.

Medtronic buys Covidien for $42.9 billion

Medical device maker Medtronic buys rival Covidien for $42.9 billion, a 29 percent premium over the company’s closing stock price Friday. The deal will allow Medtronic to move its headquarters to Ireland, where it will enjoy a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, far lower than the 35 percent federal tax rate in the US.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 2014 Update: How the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally

A Commonwealth Fund study finds that the US has the most expensive health system in the world, but underperforms compared to other countries on most quality, access, efficiency, and equity measures.

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June 17, 2014 Headlines No Comments

News 6/18/14

June 17, 2014 News 16 Comments

Top News

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Nuance is reported to be discussing a sale of the company to Samsung, with shares rising nearly 10 percent Monday and a bit more on Tuesday on the rumor. One might speculate that the recent addition of two of Carl Icahn’s people on Nuance’s board may have heightened the money-losing company’s interest in finding a buyer. Samsung already uses Nuance’s voice technology in its devices (as does its arch nemesis Apple, for which Nuance provides Siri), but would probably have little interest in Nuance’s considerable healthcare businesses that includes Dragon speech recognition, transcription, clinical documentation and coding, and image sharing. Highly paid Nuance CEO Paul Ricci ($78 million compensation in three years and shares worth $60 million) swelled Nuance with a bunch of acquisitions in two main sectors (healthcare and mobile) and has declined to focus its corporate strategy despite lackluster results, while Icahn likes selling off individual parts to create shareholder value. It will be interesting to see whether cash-rich Apple will be threatened enough by the rumored Samsung interest to make overtures of its own for the $6 billion market cap Nuance or perhaps part of it if Nuance is willing to break it up.


Reader Comments

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From Joe: “Re: rumored Nuance acquisition talks. Ironically Domino’s announced its Nuance-powered ‘order your pizza by voice’ app today. There’s probably a ‘Pete’s a delivery boy’ misrecognition joke in there somewhere.” Domino’s, which like Walgreens and other retailers is making technology an integral part of its product, says that typing characters is becoming obsolete and its app (which features order-taker “Dom”) will differentiate it from competitors. It’s refreshing to see how non-healthcare companies use technology to improve their business and customer experience given obvious, non-government mandated incentives (i.e., profit) to do so.

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From KayCee: “Re: Epic. I asked Epic about whether their name should be capitalized.” KayCee inquired of Epic, “Only Mr. HIStalk seems to be defending the position that an all-caps reference reflects ignorance” and asked the company’s position. Epic’s response from spokesperson Shawn, who said the email was forwarded to him because, “We don’t have a marketing department,” states “EPIC” was used in an old version of the logo, but that was changed in the late 1990s and “Epic” is correct. I enjoyed Shawn’s erudite conclusion, which is more tolerant than mine: “Without judging whether it represents ignorance or an historical homage to our early years, we’re pretty forgiving and accepting of the misuse.” I will stubbornly point out that Shawn said that writing EPIC constitutes “misuse.”

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From Art Vandelay: “Re: Walmart opening clinics. The mind begins to work when combining this with information from Castlight Health: there is no state exchange or ‘caid expansion, Austin, TX has very expensive office visits but isn’t representative of the state, Walmart enters with a low-cost alternative. Most large health systems aren’t worried about retailers like Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens entering the market. It is less about primary care and more about interrupting their ecosystems for chronic care management – how will the data come back, will they use similar protocols, will patient education materials and the plan of care align.” Walmart will open its second and third company-owned clinics in Texas, expecting to expand that to a dozen this year in a pilot project. They will offer primary care services for $40 and will treat insured Walmart employees for just $4, but they won’t take private insurance, only Medicare and Medicaid down the road. The clinics will be staffed by nurse practitioners and managed by workplace clinical operator QuadMed.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests 

Lorre has a lot of webinars going on and could use more CIO-type reviewers to fill out a quick evaluation form after watching a recording of the rehearsal that lasts about 30 minutes. I will send a $50 Amazon gift certificate as my thanks (or just my thanks to the folks who can’t accept them because of employer policy). Let me know if you can help out every now and then. I provide each Webinar presenter with three reviews of their practice session — two from CIOs and one from me – to make their live day webinar the best it can be in terms of educational value and in keeping my short attention span engaged. If you’d like to present a webinar, I’m all ears for that, too – I’m up for anything that is educational and interesting to readers.


Upcoming Webinars

June 24 (Tuesday) noon ET. Innovations in Radiology Workflow Through Cloud-Based Speech Recognition. Sponsored by nVoq. Presenters: David Cohen, MD, medical director, Teleradiology Specialists; Chad Hiner, RN, MS, director of healthcare industry solutions, nVoq. Radiologists – teleradiologists in particular – must navigate multiple complex RIS and PACS applications while maintaining high throughput. Dr. Cohen will describe how his practice is using voice-enabled workflow to improve provider efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction and how the technology will impact evolving telehealth specialties such as telecardiology.

June 24 (Tuesday) 2:00 p.m. ET. Share the Road: Driving EHR Contracts to Good Compromises. Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenter: Steve Blumenthal, business and corporate law attorney, Bone McAllester Norton PLLC of Nashville, TN. We think of EHR contracts like buying a car. The metaphor has is shortcomings, but at least make sure your contract isn’t equivalent to buying four wheels, an engine, and a frame that don’t work together. Steve will describe key EHR contract provisions in plain English from the viewpoint of both the vendor and customer.

June 25 (Wednesday) 2:00 p.m. ET. Cloud Is Not (Always) The Answer. Sponsored by Logicworks. Presenter: Jason Deck, VP of strategic development, Logicworks. No healthcare organization needs a cloud – they need compliant, highly available solutions that help them deploy and grow key applications. This webinar will explain why public clouds, private clouds, and bare metal infrastructure are all good options, just for different circumstances. We’ll review the best practices we’ve learned from building infrastructure for clinical applications, HIEs, HIXs, and analytics platforms. We will also review the benefit of DevOps in improving reliability and security.

June 26 (Thursday) 1:00 p.m. ET. The Role of Identity Management in Protecting Patient Health Information. Sponsored by Caradigm. Presenter: Mac McMillan, FHIMSS, CISM, co-founder and CEO of CynergisTek. Identity and access management challenges will increase as environments become more complex, users create and manage larger amounts of sensitive information, and providers become more mobile. Learn how an identity and access management program can support regulatory compliance, aid in conducting audits and investigations, and help meet user workflow requirements.

July 2 (Wednesday) noon ET. The CIO’s Role in Consumer Health. Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenter: David Chou, CIO, University Of Mississippi Medical Center. We are moving towards an era where the consumer is searching for value. Healthcare is finally catching up with other industries and this is forcing health care providers and health plans to rethink their "business model" as consumers test new decision-making skills and demand higher quality and better value. Technology can provide value in this space as we move towards a digital healthcare.

Speaking of webinars, Steve Blumenthal’s abstract for his EHR contracts one was witty, so we suggested he do a video introduction. I can’t help but snicker every time I play it, especially when I see his fake smarmy, “Oh, I just noticed the camera was running five feet from my face” introduction. He’s a good actor and funny (even by non-lawyer standards), so it should be a good webinar.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Cost management systems vendor Equian, which changed its name from Health Systems International a few weeks ago, completes its acquisition of AfterMath Claim Science, which offers data mining cost analysis solutions to payors. 

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Consulting firm VeritechIT acquires Health Technology Solutions, a one-employee consulting firm run by Terry Grogan, acting CTO for Temple University Hospital (PA). It appears from VeritechIT’s bio page that Michael Feld — listed as founder, president, and CEO – is also acting CTO of Lancaster General Health System (PA).

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Medical device maker Medtronic acquires competitor Covidien for $42.9 billion in cash and stock, giving Medtronic a convenient excuse to move its headquarters out of US tax jurisdiction to Ireland even though the company’s name will continue as Medtronic and its “operational headquarters” will remain in Minneapolis. Several companies have taken the acquisition route to evade the 35 percent US corporate tax rate that’s one of the highest in the world, the only method remaining to accomplish that since US laws now prohibit a company from simply moving its headquarters offshore to pay a lower tax rate (12.5 percent in Ireland). The deal also gives Medtronic a place to spend the $14 billion of foreign profits it has parked offshore to avoid paying US taxes.

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From the Streamline Health Solutions earnings call:

  • President and CEO Bob Watson apologized for the late financial report, caused by a change in CFOs, a change in audit firms, and completion of an internal controls audit required by the company’s market capitalization.
  • The company is offering the commercialized version of analytics software it acquired last year from Montefiore Medical Center.
  • In a refreshingly honest announcement, Watson said the company erred in taking on work to help its clients go live faster in hopes of being able to recognize more revenue from the backlog, which Watson said didn’t really help and cost the company twice as much as expected. He concluded, “An outside consultant stepping into XYZ health system doesn’t have the innate natural knowledge of how that health system’s IT infrastructure is organized and therefore cannot be that helpful. So that was our plan that didn’t work.”
  • Sales of computer-assisted coding solutions were delayed after the “disastrous” results experienced by early adopters of “some of our well-known competitors.”
  • The acquisition of Unibased Systems Architecture resulted in one new Q1 sale and renewals worth a total of $10 million.
  • The company’s products have been renamed within the Looking Glass family nameplate and underlying analytics platform.

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Healthcare benefits electronic payment systems vendor Evolution1 will be acquired by corporate payment solutions vendor WEX for $532.5 million in cash. The Fargo, ND-based Evolution1 has 300 employees.


Sales

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Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CA) and Wisconsin Statewide Health Information Network (WI) choose Orion Health’s Rhapsody Integration Engine.

The FHP Health Center (Guam) selects eClinicalWorks.

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Thibodaux Regional Medical Center (LA) will implement Health Catalyst’s Late Binding Data Warehouse and Analytics platform.


People

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Practice Fusion names Robert Park (Chegg) as CFO.

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Dan Baker (NextGen) joins Remedy Informatics as SVP of sales.

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HealthStream hires Tom Schultz (Infor) as SVP of sales and promotes Michael Sousa to SVP of business development.

Payment financing company CarePayment names Craig Hodges (Emdeon) as CEO. Outgoing CEO Craig Foude will stay on as board chair and managing partner for Aequitas Capital, founder and owner of the company.


Announcements and Implementations

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Aesynt, the former Pittsburgh-based McKesson Automation plus its acquired Health Robotics, says it signed 18 IV automation contracts in Q4. Those are for the former Health Robotics i.v.STATION hospital IV room products.

The Central Texas division of Baylor Scott & White Health goes live on API Healthcare’s ShiftSelect.

Memorial Hermann (TX) launches Wolters Kluwer UpToDate Anywhere for its 12 hospitals and 5,000 affiliated physicians.


Government and Politics

The VA will issue an RFP next week for a commercial patient scheduling system to work within VistA, with its CIO saying that while VistA’s clinical system is “one of the best out there,” its non-clinical modules haven’t kept up. He also says that current events make it obvious that the new system will include extensive auditing features to review changed appointments. The VA gave up on a previous attempt to build its own scheduling system a few years ago and nothing seemed to happen with the open source Health eTime app that won the VA’s scheduling system competition last fall.

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Health IT Now says HITECH has paid $24 billion to subsidize information-hogging EHRs and wants HHS to make data sharing (at no extra customer cost) a certification criterion. Health IT Now is a coalition of patient groups, providers, employers, and payers – it claims that Aetna, American Cancer Society, AHIMA, IBM, Intel, Oracle, the US Chamber of Commerce, and a few health systems are members – whose agenda involves promotion of interoperability standards, Meaningful Use changes to emphasize lower cost and improved outcomes, innovation and increased use of telemedicine, and medical licensing that spans state boundaries. I first reported on the group in mid-2007, saying, “The founding members include a couple of former Congressmen ([Nancy Johnson and John Breaux] and a cross section of influential medical, professional, and other organizations. I don’t think I’ve heard anything from them since (their “About” page claims “we will continue a formidable education agenda in 2012”), so while I agree with their platform, I don’t think it’s having much of an impact inside the Beltway. The only named employee is Executive Director Joel White, a former Congressional staffer who omits the group from his LinkedIn profile and instead list himself as President and CEO of Horizon Government Affairs, which sells political services and operates four other non-profit coalitions: Council for Affordable Health Coverage, Rare Disease Legislative Advocates, Prescriptions for a Health America, and Newborn Coalition.

DoD releases the third and near-final draft of its $11 billion DHMSM EHR solicitation, removing the veterinary medicine requirement, eliminating required use of any particular development methodology, and making the contract performance-based. Vendors will have a chance to ask questions on Industry Day next Tuesday, June 24, which would be fun to write up if you’re going.


Innovation and Research

Microsoft announces Azure Machine Learning, available in July, that will allow users who store data in its Azure cloud to use drag-and-drop predictive analytics. Potential healthcare uses include scheduling, reducing readmissions, and anticipating disease outbreaks.


Other

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Research by The Commonwealth Fund finds that the US health system is not only the most expensive among 11 developed nations, it is also the worst, coming in dead last in access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives, primarily due to the lack of universal healthcare coverage and support for the patient-physician relationship. The report also calls out the stubborn resistance to using healthcare IT. The bright spot, the report says, is that the Affordable Care Act is improving access and the system is moving toward more value-based payments. Methodology footnote: the study was done by surveying around 3,000 US residents with a self-rated health status of below average and recently treatment for a serious problem that involved at least one hospitalization, so the sample size wasn’t very large and the results reflected patient perception more than hard measures. The president of The Commonwealth Fund is former National Coordinator David Blumenthal, MD, so naturally the report pays disproportional attention to EMRs. Still, nothing in the results is all that surprising since it measures overall health of a cross-section of citizens, not just the specific healthcare outcomes of the more privileged among us.

The Wall Street Journal profiles Dignity Health’s use of Google Glass for clinical documentation, which it claims allows physicians to double the amount of time they can spend with patients. Dignity is using software from startup Augmedix to send Glass-collected information and commands to the EMR. It’s a small pilot started in January 2014 – the CMIO and two other docs – but they say manual EMR entry was reduced from 33 percent of their total time to 9 percent.

An apparent tornado damaged several homes and an elementary school within a mile of Epic’s Verona, WI campus Tuesday morning, but nobody was hurt.

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Overlake Hospital Medical Center (WA) gets a S&P bond ratings upgrade to A, primarily due to completion of its Epic implementation.

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In China, Internet giant Alibaba, which has more sales than eBay and Amazon combined and is planning a US IPO, unveils a 10-year plan to disrupt China’s notoriously backward hospital system with online payments, patient scheduling, e-prescribing, hospital transfer, insurance claims management, and eventually wearables and other prevention technologies. The company had released a patient self-scheduling application for 600 hospitals last year to fix the eight-hour process of getting an appointment, but the government shut it down over privacy concerns (not mentioning that the site competed with the government’s own online service). The announcement of Future Project is here, although you should probably be able to read Chinese since Google translates it as, “Today, Alipay announced a program called ‘future hospital.’ Payment was originally conducted in hospitals, registered, classified ad will be transferred to PayPal platform. The implementation of this plan is completely far away from us, section house, ‘said the doctor chase behind the ass, give praise it pro’ story can become true?” And in other breaking news, all your base are belong to us

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Alexian Brothers Health System (IL) cancels plans to form an accountable care entity to manage Medicaid patients, saying it’s too hard to connect the 10 EHRs used by 80 percent of the doctors, not even counting those that might have been added to the network later. The ACE would have been required to connect 60 percent of its network to the Illinois HIE within 15 months, include 100 percent within 30 months, and file electronic summaries of care for 70 percent of the network within 15 months.

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CHIME’s Keith Fraidenburg tweeted out this photo of Tim Stettheimer presenting at the CHIME/AMDIS CMIO Boot Camp at Ojai, CA this week. Attendees are welcome to send me a write-up about the experience.

Pittsburgh insurer Highmark stops paying higher physician chemotherapy fees devised by hospitals buying oncology practices and then billing out drugs at the much higher hospital outpatient rate. Other insurers are trying to hold down oncology costs by paying oncologists a stipend to use less-expensive (and less-profitable) chemo regimens or bundling all treatment costs into a flat payment. Brand name chemo drugs cost an average of $10,000 per month, giving physicians a financial incentive to use more expensive ones as insurance companies haven’t protested for fear of losing oncologists in their network.

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Mary Milroy, MD, the new president of the South Dakota State Medical Association says EHRs add an hour of busy work to a doctor’s day, adding that, “The systems we use are cumbersome, designed by IT people and not medical people. The huge problem is they don’t communicate.” Her clinic uses NextGen, another practice she covers uses Epic, and the local hospitals use Epic and Meditech. She says none of them talk to each other.

HIMSS Analytics has issued a new report about cloud computing, but with that ever-blurring line between whether HIMSS is a member organization or a vendor, you can’t download it without providing your email address, telephone number, job title, and other contact information for the inevitable sales cold call. I’m still not clear on how HIMSS managed to change HIMSS Analytics from a for-profit subsidiary to part of the non-profit HIMSS.

Non-profit patient advocate group Stupid Cancer launches an Indiegogo campaign to raise $40,000 to develop its free Instapeer app, which will connect young cancer patients to other patients, survivors, and caregivers.

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In England, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says new guidelines calling for hospitals to list the name of each patient’s doctor over their bed is a “huge step forward for patient safety” since it’s not always clear where the medical buck stops. A spokesperson for a patient group said writing names on a board is fine, but that won’t accomplish much if the doctor doesn’t stay in touch with the patient.


Sponsor Updates

  • Regenstrief Institute joins ConvergeHEALTH by Deloitte, a real-world evidence and analytics consortium.
  • SD Times names InterSystems and its Cache’ system as one of the software industry’s top 100 innovators in the Database and Database Management category..
  • RelayHealth announces that RelayHealth Financial has bolstered RelayAssurance Plus 5.0, providing transparency into your claims lifecycle.
  • AirWatch by VMware opens registration and lineup of analyst speakers for the AirWatch Connect Global Tour 2014 in Atlanta, London, and Sydney.
  • McKesson launches Benchmark Analytics service to provide custom reports and consultation to optimize performance.
  • GetWellNetwork CEO Michael O’Neil discusses the CDC Morbidity and Mortality report on the cost of cancer survivorship with a local journal.
  • Kareo and Falcon EHR partner to provide cloud solutions to nephrology practices.
  • Gartner names Informatica as a Leader in the 2014 Magic Quadrant for Structured Data Archiving and Application Retirement.

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June 17, 2014 News 16 Comments

Morning Headlines 6/17/14

June 16, 2014 Headlines No Comments

VA Seeks Proposals for New Scheduling Technology

The VA will issue an RFP for commercial scheduling software to replace its existing VistA scheduling system which, in the fallout of the VA waitlist scandal, has been heavily criticized as being outdated and unfit for use.

Major medical records breaches pass 1,000 milestone as enforcement ramps up

The HHS “Wall of Shame”, which lists all organizations that have had major data breaches, passes the 1,000 breach mark this month. One in 10 US residents is estimated to have had their health data compromised as a result of major data breaches.

Google Wants To Collect Your Health Data With ‘Google Fit’

Google will return to the consumer health space with a new Android-based platform called Google Fit. Google Fit captures health data from activity trackers and medical devices and consolidates it into a centralized platform. The move comes despite Google’s past failures in the consumer health space. Google launched Google Health in 2008, a service with a remarkably similar business model, only to shutter it in 2011 due to an overwhelming lack of consumer interest. The unveil pf Google Fit will take place during next week’s Google I/O developer conference.

ACA triggers big drop in Minnesota’s uninsured rate

The uninsured rate has dropped 41 percent in Minnesota, to below five percent, since September’s ACA enrollment period began. Research lead Julie Sonier said, “We have never seen anything like the change that we have seen between last fall and May 1st of this year.”

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June 16, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 6/16/14

June 16, 2014 Dr. Jayne 3 Comments

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I’m sure those of you that follow me on Twitter were wondering what could possibly have happened last week to make it one of the strangest days of my career. In retrospect, it wasn’t just one of the craziest days of my IT career, but of my physician career as well.

My hospital is part of a larger health system. When have to have a representative on some kind of IT-related committee, I am usually tapped to attend.

We’re a decent-sized organization with plenty of employed physicians. One of my CMIO friends in a similar situation has employer-paid medical co-payments to encourage staff to see the physicians in their group. Another offers their “associates” early access to office appointments that aren’t available to other patients. Theoretically, when you’re caring for your own people, it should be like a miniature accountable care organization and might give you insight into the best way to maximize health and lower costs for a defined patient population.

I have to admit I am way behind on my email and didn’t read the agenda for our Emerging Technologies meeting prior to heading uptown for the session. I’m barely keeping my head above water and didn’t think it was a big deal because usually the topics are things I can handle on the fly. This time, however, I was seriously wrong.

The meeting happens over lunch and I was trying to grab a quick bite while scanning the agenda as people arrived. One of my IT colleagues thought he was going to have to perform the Heimlich maneuver after I started choking on my salad.

Apparently our brilliant “ET” group decided to bring in a third-party solution for “advanced access” to physicians. Unfortunately, it’s a telemedicine solution staffed not by our own physicians, but by others in the market. As the meeting started, a glossy marketing slick was passed around. I thought it might be some kind of Friday the 13th prank until I realized they were serious.

Our human resources department wants to roll this out as part of our benefits package in the fall. They wanted to vet it with our group as far as our thoughts on HIPAA and other regulatory issues. The health system would pay a fee to the vendor, which offers “doctor visits anytime, anywhere!”

I’m not opposed to the concept of virtual visits, but I’m truly surprised that we wouldn’t give our own physicians the opportunity to not only serve the employee community, but to maybe make a little extra cash as “advanced access” physician resources. Given the recent draft policy from the Federation of State Medical Boards regarding telemedicine, we would be ideal. We’re licensed in the states where most employees live (and are usually located), so that’s easy. We already have unified medical liability coverage, so that’s easy, too. We also have a vested interest in keeping our collective employees healthy as a means to strengthen the community.

I also like the idea of employees being able to receive care without disrupting work schedules, although the service promises access to physicians “at home, at work, or anywhere you need care.” We have enough issues with staff using cell phones to take care of personal business in patient care areas and don’t want to encourage them to talk about their medical issues in the workplace. There aren’t a lot of private places in most of our ambulatory practices (the physicians don’t even have private offices any more) so I’m not sure that’s a benefit.

What really got me was the assertion that the third-party physicians would become “your doctor.” Are they really advocating conducting a longstanding patient-physician relationship established via smart phone? Are they going to be accessible 24/7 to handle all the health issues that typical patients should be addressing with their personal physicians? What is their plan for continuity of care?

I was trying to see the other side of the equation. Maybe they were worried about patient privacy. Employees might not want to see network physicians because their records would become part of our central database. That’s certainly valid. Maybe they were worried about accessibility and that’s a factor, although more and more of our employed practices are extending their hours and providing walk-in accessibility. Maybe they think offering this will differentiate us as an “employer of choice,” as the HR people like to describe it.

One of the other physicians at the table who wasn’t distracted by lunch managed to access the telemedicine website and find out more about it. Apparently they’re willing to partner with healthcare organizations to involve their own physicians, but our HR department didn’t think that was important. They figured they’d just offer it to our employees with the existing provider network because that would be faster.

I wonder if they seriously considered the public relations and morale repercussions of offering our staff having virtual visits with providers from a competitor health system. I’m sure the various medical executive committees at our hospitals will have a field day with this if it moves forward. That’s likely to happen since HR didn’t seem to understand our objections or find them valid. One of the physicians actually got up and walked out. The rest of us stuck it out, if for nothing else than to gather information to help inform our next steps.

Since we’re a technology committee and we couldn’t find any significant technology objections (I have to admit their setup looks pretty slick), it’s likely to move forward. I’m interested to see what the hospital administrators will think since it will likely have an impact on their bottom line.

I’d be interested to hear from organizations who have done something like this, including whether your providers participated or whether you used an existing or external network. We’re having a discussion with the vendor in a couple of weeks, assuming roadblocks aren’t thrown up in the interim. I’m putting together my list of questions and “what if” scenarios for the meeting.

Got ideas? Or alternatively a potential job with a seaside location? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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June 16, 2014 Dr. Jayne 3 Comments

HIStalk Interviews Aaron Sorensen, Director of Informatics, Temple University School of Medicine

June 16, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Aaron Sorensen is director of informatics at Temple University School of Medicine of Philadelphia, PA.

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Tell me about your job.

I’m at Temple University at the School of Medicine with an affiliated health system. Our new leadership is keen on creating a robust infrastructure to support clinical research. I’m heading up the informatics aspects of that.

 

What is the informatics influence in the School of Medicine?

Within the health system, you have the IT shop that runs a myriad of clinical systems. There’s a feeling from the researchers that all this data exists, but it’s hard to get at. What do you do with it once you have it? What are the appropriate safeguards regarding compliance and privacy? 

The School of Medicine is trying to make it so that every time a clinical researcher wants to ask a question of the clinical data, it doesn’t become a maze that you get lost in, with different people are telling you different things. There’s this straightforward way to do it and you can go to a central team of people that will guide you through the path and help you along your way.

 

Describe how PCORnet came about and what it does.

My understanding is that over 10 years ago, when the NIH was originally thinking about redoing the way they fund clinical research extramurally at academic medical centers, the PCORnet idea was floated. The feeling was that it would be costly and it would be hard to achieve. They had other priorities, so instead of doing that, they funded the CTSA awards.

PCORI, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, is not a federal organization, but it’s funded through the Affordable Care Act. It’s federal dollars, but it itself is a independent non-profit. The feeling was that it was worth pursuing the idea of creating a network of hospitals that have the ability to share de-identified patient data for the purposes of clinical research. 

Although they have grants that fund all different kind of things, just like the NIH does, I believe the crown jewel within the PCORI portfolio is PCORnet. It has 29 funded groups, some of which focus more on general health system patient populations, whereas others are more focused on particular patient groups with specific diseases.

 

What Temple systems are contributing data to PCORnet?

In terms of our electronic medical record, we’ve been on Epic outpatient for about three years. We’re just now kicking off the project to go with Epic inpatient. Epic, as most EMRs, receives a number of feeds from different systems. When you get to the back-end Epic reporting database, you not only have the data that originated in Epic, but from a number of different systems.

For our contribution to PCORnet, we are only using our Epic back-end database that gets feeds from cardiology systems, pulmonary medicine systems, and billing type of data. It’s a wide range of things. For the purposes of this project, we are only using what comes into our central EMR.

 

Can researchers query data from any or all of those 29 contributing organizations?

Yes and no. The 29 break out into two groups.

The patient-focused ones that are disease specific are called PPRNs, the Patient-Powered Research Networks. The health system ones, of which Temple plays a role, are called CDRNs, or Clinical Data Research Networks. 

I don’t know 100 percent what the PPRN plan is. I think it’s slightly less ambitious than the CDRN plan of which I’m a part. I can speak to the 11 funded groups that are part of the CDRN and that cross the country. 

There are two aspects to the PCORI contract. Our network is the University of Pittsburgh, Johns Hopkins University, Temple, and Penn State Hersey. Within our network, we have been funded to create the ability to share data for two different diseases. One is rare disease – idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Then a more common disease, for which we chose atrial fibrillation.

At the CDRN level, at the national PCORnet level, we have to support two cohorts. One is what they originally called an obesity cohort, but then they decided they wanted to expand beyond people who are already obese to include people who are at risk of becoming obese. They’re now calling it the weight cohort. We’re going to support a weight cohort. 

Then we have to have a randomly chosen one million plus patient pool from which PCORnet can do centralized queries. Each of the 11 groups has to make available at least one million randomly selected patients, or else their whole patient population, for these centralized queries. As well as a subset of that which will be used specifically for to measure issues around obesity. For that group, you have to have collected good data on weight, height, calculating BMIs, and things around diabetes, coronary artery disease, and certain co-morbidities associated with obesity.

 

Do researchers have to file paperwork for what they’re looking for? Can you tell how they are using the system?

Yes. Within our network, we have IRB protocols that have been set up to allow for the researchers to ask certain questions. That’s specified ahead of time and is pretty locked down.

For PCORnet, they have the ability to ask anything. The data is always de-identified. You’re not typically ever sharing patient-level information. You’re aggregating it so that they can get an understanding within a given population how it breaks out — what the demographics are, what the prevalence or incidence of a given disease is, etc. 

For those questions, they are not pre-established. It’s not like at the beginning of the project that we know, “We will ask these 100 questions over the next year and a half.” Each funded site will have the ability to not respond to a given query, assuming that they have good justification not to do so.

 

The advantage to the researcher is that they might need to reach outside of Temple to identify a patient cohort large enough for their project, right?

Exactly. For our rare disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, at the time we submitted the grant, we estimated that we only had about 70 living patients with that disease. If you went to Pitt, which was the highest, they maybe had about 350 or so. 

With only 70 patients, maybe you don’t even have the number to show any statistical significance in certain differences between drugs or other interventions you’re trying to assess. Whereas if you were to combine all the centers together and you get above 500 patients, then all of a sudden potentially you have the ability to make a finding that will stick with the general population.

 

Is there a plan to add organizations or conditions or to use the data more widely?

Yes. We were initially funded for 18 months. That 18 months is supposed to be used largely to build an infrastructure to support future research. There will be some research done during the 18 months, but the idea is to make sure you can set up this robust network for the future. 

PCORI has said that they will be having a Phase 2 in which no longer will they be paying to help you set up this infrastructure, but instead they will want specific questions answered. You have the ability to then apply for Round 2 funding, in which you will potentially participate in clinical trials where, using the network, you identify certain patient profiles and you go out and enroll them in certain studies, or for large-scale retrospective studies, where you harness the power of the longitudinal data you have for your one million plus cohort of randomly selected patients times 11.

So at least 11 million patients that you can then query to say, over the last 10 years, patients with this profile who were given this type of therapy, how did they fare over the last 10 years compared to this other therapy? There will be a Phase 2 where we can extend the funding to actually try to answer certain questions.

In terms of being awarded the contract, everyone was being asked, to what level is your institutional leadership committing to making this sustainable over the long run? Should the money dry up tomorrow, do you have strategies and do you have commitments from your top leaders to make sure that this stays in place and that you extend it to anyone outside of the network so that any non-funded investigators have the ability to ask any center and consortium … my consortium is called PATH , the initials of all the participating institutes. Geographically, we’re the mid-Atlantic CDRN. So anyone in our geographic area who is not at a funded institution has the ability to request access to our data and to collaborate with any of our investigators on any particular study.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

The one really neat thing that’s come out of this that’s linked to PCORnet is the use of i2b2. It stands for Informatics for Integrating Biology in the Bedside. It’s an open source software package created at Boston Children’s. It is used extensively throughout the Harvard-Partners HealthCare network. It allows you in an open, non-proprietary way to take data out of any clinical system, merge it with other data you might have – such as genetic data from other systems — and to make it queryable, both at your institution or potentially teaming up with other institutions. The adoption rate has been growing by leaps and bounds.

Temple was not an i2b2 user before this initiative. While we are implementing it for the purposes of PCORnet, as are many of the other CDRNs, we also are using it as a springboard to create an internal tool that our investigators can use for any patients of any disease asking potentially any questions using the EMR data. 

A lot of times when an institution implements a new clinical data warehouse, they take their time and go step by step. It evolves over a period of years, potentially. Whereas because of this PCORI initiative, we had to go from zero to 60 quickly. Phase 1 lasts 18 months, and at the end of 18 months, you have to show that you’ve successfully created this infrastructure which can be used for robust clinical research. 

The i2b2 prevalence within academic medical centers over the US has been growing. As I dug into it, I realized that people use it in different ways. If you are trying to share data with another institution via i2b2, one approach is to try to convert all your data to the same standard. If you have internal lab codes and the other institution has their own internal lab codes, you could try to convert all your codes to a standard like LOINC. Or, you could allow them to stay as they are and then you have some lookup table that converts on the fly from your local ones to a standard.

As I was experiencing this and going through the baptism by fire of getting our institution using i2b2, not only for PCORI but for ourselves, it became clear that there should be a boot camp that helps you think about all these things. It needs to give you what I call the mental scaffolding, so that from the beginning of a project, you can consider all of the types of decisions you’ll have to make and the potential downstream ripple effects.

I contacted Harvard, the folks that created i2b2 and the accompanying SHRINE software that allows you to connect other institutions. I gave them some ideas about how it would have been great if I had been able to take this intensive boot camp before our project started. We went back and forth and we’re going to offer a pilot i2b2-SHRINE boot camp at Harvard in early 2015. 

Harvard is trying to assess what type of a demand would there be for such a boot camp after the pilot. We’ll try to fill maybe 25 spots with the pilot, but then whether there is enough hunger and demand to offer it regularly. If any of your readers have any thoughts about that, I’d love feedback in order to gauge whether it’s a minor niche thing or if it has wide applicability.

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June 16, 2014 Interviews No Comments

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