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Monday Morning Update 4/25/16

April 24, 2016 News 9 Comments

Top News

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Lockheed Martin lays off 200 IT employees in preparing for the $5 billion merger of its IT business with Leidos.

It’s called a merger rather than an acquisition because the companies are using a tricky Reverse Morris Trust so Lockheed can exit the IT business without paying taxes on its gain. A company creates a subsidiary, the subsidiary merges with another company to form a new company, and the new company then issues at least 50 percent of shares back to the original company’s shareholders.


Reader Comments

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From Madison: “Re: Nordic. No more word of what happened with the Drew Madden sexual harassment and retaliation charges, but it looks like Nordic wanted a change. First they brought in a new CEO, moving Drew to president. Now he seems to be gone — he is no longer referenced on their page.” The LinkedIn profile of former Nordic President Drew Madden shows he left the company this month, with a tagline he added saying, “Honored and blessed to have worked for THE BEST company in the business!” A former marketing VP filed a complaint in 2014 against Nordic with Madison, Wisconsin’s Equal Opportunity Division, claiming she was fired for complaining about suggestive texts sent her by Madden, while Nordic says the VP willingly participated in such attention, their banter was lighthearted and not unusual for co-workers, and she was fired for poor performance. You can read what he said and she said.

From Finally: “Re: Epic. Heard they’re on a hiring freeze for roles they have been continually hiring for (implementation, development, etc.) for years. Seems like they overstaffed with optimistic thoughts of government deals.” Unverified. 

From Ben: “Re: Vail Valley Medical Center. Therapist steals medical records.” The Colorado hospital will inform 3,100 patients that a former physical therapist copied their medical records onto a thumb drive before leaving to join a new employer. The hospital says it has since added restrictions on how employees can copy patient files and adds that police are investigating.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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It was nearly an even split between poll respondents who would be concerned about their privacy if they were being treated for depression by an EHR-using provider. Some respondents commented that the real problem is the perception of mental health issues as a personal weakness. Tami summarizes well in saying, “Depression and mental needs to be treated more along the lines of cancer. If you can get help before it progresses too far, treatment can be easier and perhaps quicker. If you wait too long, it can be a death sentence. There are risks with every piece of data that leaves you.”

New poll to your right or here: what is the best answer for reducing the time doctors spend entering data into EHRs?

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We fulfilled the DonorsChoose grant request of Ms. Hamilton, whose Arizona special education middle school class asked for timers, books, and math games. She reports that the students are now competitively playing multiplication bingo and challenge themselves to beat the clock in completing their assignments.

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Also checking in is Mrs. Bierhals, whose Pennsylvania second grade class received programmable robot kits and an iPad Mini. She says, “The children have been using the items from the minute we received them. We have managed to build all the robots and programmed them to run on different frequencies. Since the weather is starting to break, we are planning on having Robot Races outside for the end of the year. Now we have to work on their driving skills.”

I think we’re entering the summer health IT doldrums, at least as evidenced by the paucity of significant, interesting news items.

I wasn’t much of a Prince fan, but like a lot of people who are jarred into paying attention only after someone famous dies, I’m learning what I’ve missed in appreciating 2004 video of an ultra-cool Prince leading a supergroup with his scorching guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

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Comcast, the “Most-Hated Company in America” that provides around half of the residential broadband connections in the US (under the Xfinity name) where many of its customers don’t have an alternative, finds a loophole around net neutrality to try to protect its cable and content businesses against cord-cutters who decide they only need a Roku box running Netflix or Hulu. The company is rolling out Internet usage caps that work like cell phone data plans in charging customers extra if they run over Comcast’s limit. Use of Comcast’s own Stream TV service doesn’t count since technically it uses Comcast’s wire but not the Internet, putting Netflix at a huge disadvantage. Comcast says the change is about fairness since customers who use less data pay less, but that’s not exactly true – nobody pays less and the best you can hope is to not get dinged extra for the same service. Complaints suggest that people are avoiding buying houses in areas where Comcast is the only source of Internet connectivity. Please, Google, put fiber everywhere.


Last Week’s Most Interesting News

  • Maine becomes the second state to mandate electronic prescribing of narcotics.
  • Patient privacy finally trumps the demand for medical reality TV as New York-Presbyterian pays $2.2 million to settle HIPAA charges that it provided patient information to TV crews.
  • Parrish Medical Center (FL) says its IT payments spat with McKesson is endangering patients as the company stops providing drug database updates and threatens to pull its entire product line from the hospital.
  • The federal government launches a criminal probe of Theranos.
  • Court filings of MetroChicago HIE’s lawsuit against the defunct HIE vendor Sandlot Solutions show the HIE desperately trying to restore its Sandlot-housed data before the company closed its doors for good.
  • Canada’s Alberta Health Services says it will RFP a new system, expecting to spend at least $316 million to replace 1,300 mostly non-interoperable systems whose purchase it subsidized.
  • A Wisconsin jury awards Epic $940 million in its trade secrets lawsuit against India-based Tata Group.
  • VA CIO LaVerne Council hints that the VA plans to built a VistA replacement instead of buying a commercial product, telling Congress that a working prototype of a product she likens to Facebook and Google will be ready within a few months. She also confirms that she has placed the VA’s $624 million patient scheduling system contract with Leidos and Epic on hold while they test a homegrown product that will cost only one-tenth as much.

Webinars

April 26 (Tuesday) 1:00 ET. “Provider-Led Care Management: Trends and Opportunities in a Growing Market. ”Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenter: Matthew Guldin, analyst, Chilmark Research. This webinar will provide a brief overview and direction of the provider-led care management market. It will identify the types of vendors in this market, their current and longer-term challenges, product capabilities, partnership activity, and market dynamics that influence adoption. It will conclude with an overview of key factors for vendors and solutions moving forward.

May 5 (Thursday) 2:00 ET. “Reducing CAUTI and Improving Early Sepsis Detection Through Clinical Process Measurement.” Sponsored by LogicStream. Presenters: Jen Biltoft, director of quality improvement, SCL Health; Marla Bare, EHR architect, SCL Health. This webinar will describe how SCL Health reduced catheter-associated urinary tract infections by 30 percent in just three months through clinical process measurement. The SCL Health presenters will also share their plans for applying a similar process to the early detection of sepsis.

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


Technology

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Several CNET editors who bought Apple Watches but then stopped wearing them say it doesn’t really do anything useful, its apps are lame, it’s easier to just pull out a phone, and it’s too complicated. Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak isn’t impressed:

I worry a little bit about — I mean I love my Apple Watch, but it’s taken us into a jewelry market where you’re going to buy a watch between $500 or $1,100 based on how important you think you are as a person. The only difference is the band in all those watches. Twenty watches from $500 to $1,100. The band’s the only difference? Well this isn’t the company that Apple was originally, or the company that really changed the world a lot.


Other

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A JAMIA article says hospitals should not prohibit testing in their EHR’s production environment because test environments can’t perfectly mimic the live system’s interfaces and realistic patient data. I ran a poll in February at the suggestion of Dean Sittig, one of the authors, and 15 percent of respondents said they never allow creating test patients in production. The article offers these tips:

  • Test software changes in the test environment first, then enable the change in production for a small group of testers if possible.
  • Use distinctive names for test patients in the production environment, using a consistent prefix such as” ZZZtestingBWH345, OneTest” rather than cute names like “Santa Claus” or names like “Test” that actually exist as real patient names.
  • Create specific user accounts for testers and lock them out of making changes to non-test patients if possible, auditing their transactions to make sure they are performing only approved work.
  • Train downstream personnel on how to respond when they see the results of test patient transactions and notify them before testing starts.
  • Filter test patients from reports and data extracts.

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The death of Prince at 57 caused folks to look back on a year-old research paper that analyzed the deaths of US pop musicians, finding that they die nearly 20 years younger than the rest of us, with the most common age at death being 56. The author even looked at deaths by musical genre, finding that gospel singers had a better quality of life while rappers are nine times more likely to die by homicide than the average person. Metal and punk performers were much more likely die by accident or to commit suicide.

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The Rochester, MN paper notes that Mayo Clinic has nicknamed its Epic project Plummer to honor internist and endocrinologist Henry Plummer, MD, who created Mayo’s practice model in 1910. He also developed the clinic’s “one patient, one record” paper records system and the pneumatic tube delivery system to deliver them (it was the interoperability API of its time). Apparently he was well compensated (or well inherited) since he built Plummer House, his 300-foot-long, five-story family Tudor estate on 65 acres that features 49 rooms, 10 bathrooms, and nine bedrooms. His mark as an innovator carried over into the design of Plummer House, which when completed in 1924 had a central vacuum system, underground sprinklers, a security system, garage door openers, a heated pool, and the city’s first gas furnace.

Here’s the first of three “2016 HIS Vendor Review” summaries from Vince Ciotti and Susan Pouzar of HIS Professionals.

Imprivata creates a pretty funny video urging hospitals to “ditch your page boy.” I noticed immediately that for both patients pictured, their vital signs monitors are working great despite not being attached to them (perhaps there’s a wireless innovation there as well) and that the guy’s IV drip is not actually dripping into him. I noticed a few other mistakes at re-creating a hospital room – do you?


Sponsor Updates

  • T-System will exhibit at ILHIMA Annual Meeting April 28-30 in Tinley Park, IL.
  • Verisk Health’s Sam Stearns and Molly Grimes contribute an article to Employee Benefit News on optimizing the value of maternity care.
  • Huron Consulting Group will exhibit at the Association of Information and Image Management Conference April 26-28 in New Orleans.
  • ZeOmega will host its Connections 16 client conference May 2-4 in Dallas.
  • Xerox will host a Google+ Hangout on population heath management May 5 at 1pm ET.
  • YourCareUniverse publishes a new white paper, “Addressing the Rise of Healthcare Consumerism & The New Marketing Reality.”
  • ZirMed will exhibit at the Radiology Business Management Association Summit April 24-26 in Colorado Springs, CO.

Blog Posts


Contacts

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

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April 24, 2016 News 9 Comments

Morning Headlines 4/22/16

April 21, 2016 Headlines No Comments

An Act To Prevent Opiate Abuse by Strengthening the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program

Maine will require all narcotics prescriptions to be transmitted electronically after June 1, 2018. Providers will also be required to check the state’s drug monitoring database prior to writing new prescriptions.

Rejecting employees’ pleas, EmblemHealth CEO sets major IT layoff

New York insurer EmblemHealth will lay off 250 IT and operations employees after contracting with Cognizant to modernize the company’s IT systems.

Hospital’s dispute with software provider puts patients at risk

A local TV station reports that patients at Parrish Medical Center (FL) are at risk after McKesson blocked the hospital from updating the drug formulary in its Horizon system. The hospital is in the process of suing McKesson over the implementation, which it says included unfinished software, missed deadlines, and monetary disputes.

Centra Selects Cerner’s Enterprise-Wide IT System

Five-hospital health system Centra (VA) contracts with Cerner to replace EHRs in use at each of its hospitals and 50 ambulatory and long-term care facilities.

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April 21, 2016 Headlines No Comments

News 4/22/16

April 21, 2016 News No Comments

Top News

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Maine will require prescriptions for narcotic drugs be transmitted to pharmacies electronically beginning January 1, 2018. Prescribers of narcotics and benzodiazepines will also be required to check the state’s prescription monitoring database before issuing a new prescription and every 90 days as the prescription is renewed.


Reader Comments

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From Meditech-Using CIO: “Re: Meditech. This comment from their 10-K is one of many reasons the company in its current state won’t be the company they seem to think it will be. Essentially all of its 2015 income was given back to shareholders as dividends rather than increasing R&D or hiring more talent. The whole corporate structure seems to be based on shareholder enrichment. Also, take a look at product revenue, which has dropped by nearly half in two years. Perhaps the problem is that everybody on the leadership team started with the company right out of school – not one executive knows anything other than Meditech, which I cannot imagine under any scenario being a good thing unless you’re all about dividend income.” Meditech’s executives average 36 years of employment with the company, starting their careers there at an average age of 25. The least-tenured of the executive team joined Meditech in 1990. I’m anxiously awaiting the company’s Q1 numbers, which rumors suggest will be highly interesting.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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We funded the DonorsChoose grant request of Ms. W, who asked for three tablets for her California second graders. She has installed reading and math practice apps and says, “The tablets have been especially useful for my most struggling readers. They often have a hard time working independently during reading rotations. They all try really hard, but get stuck on some of the work. The tablets have given them an opportunity to work on fluency and sight words with a little more support even when a teacher is not available to help them out.”

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Also checking in is Ms. Read from Texas, whose middle school class received a bunch of electrical components for working on “squishy circuits.”

This week on HIStalk Practice: AMA launches the Healthier Nation Innovation Challenge. Urgent Team goes with DocuTap’s EHR, PM, and billing software. Physician’s Computer Company works with ThinkMD to bring its MEDSINC technology to the US market. The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers selects HIE connectivity consulting services from EMedApps. Everseat offers users rides to their doctor appointments via Lyft. SingleCare partners with AmericanWell to offer Pittsburgh members virtual consults. Robin Zon, MD of Michiana Hematology Oncology shares her experience with patient-friendly clinical trial technology.

We’re down another music legend on the year as Prince dies at 57.

Listening: new frantic, ragged dairy punk from Appleton, WI’s Tenement, a necessary antidote to over-produced, soulless musicians who never seem to sweat or express any emotion other than self-admiration.


Webinars

April 26 (Tuesday) 1:00 ET. “Provider-Led Care Management: Trends and Opportunities in a Growing Market. ”Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenter: Matthew Guldin, analyst, Chilmark Research. This webinar will provide a brief overview and direction of the provider-led care management market. It will identify the types of vendors in this market, their current and longer-term challenges, product capabilities, partnership activity, and market dynamics that influence adoption. It will conclude with an overview of key factors for vendors and solutions moving forward.

May 5 (Thursday) 1:00 ET. “Reducing CAUTI and Improving Early Sepsis Detection Through Clinical Process Measurement.” Sponsored by LogicStream. Presenters: Jen Biltoft, director of quality improvement, SCL Health; Marla Bare, EHR architect, SCL Health. This webinar will describe how SCL Health reduced catheter-associated urinary tract infections by 30 percent in just three months through clinical process measurement. The SCL Health presenters will also share their plans for applying a similar process to the early detection of sepsis.

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


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

Non-profit insurer EmblemHealth lays off 250 IT and operations employees and contracts their work out to Cognizant. EmblemHealth says using systems offered by Cognizant subsidiary TriZetto will save hundreds of millions of dollars in development costs and won’t require company maintenance resources. Displaced employees are complaining that they have been asked to train their offshore replacements. The attorney who was helping EmblemHealth’s IT employees unionize posts a video in which EmblemHealth CEO Karen Ignagni announces the layoffs. She has been CEO for just seven months following  long career as lobbyist-CEO of the American Association of Health Plans, but before that, she ironically worked for the AFL-CIO as director of employee benefits.

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Microsoft reports Q3 results: revenue up 2 percent, EPS $0.62 vs. $0.61, missing earnings expectations.

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Venture capitalist Bill Gurley says the the Silicon Valley “unicorn” bubble burst when the Wall Street Journal started its investigation of Theranos. He makes these points about those privately held companies with paper valuations of more than $1 billion:

  • Theranos is an example of a company that raised money from a handful of investors with a high paper valuation, but that doesn’t mean the company is doing well or that shares are worth the valuation imputed by what those investors paid.
  • Unicorns have rarely gone public, leaving insiders no way to cash out.
  • High-profile startups are failing and laying off employees in attempt to slow their record-setting burn rates.
  • Mutual funds are writing down some of their overly optimistic unicorn investments.
  • Nervous investors are asking questions about profit, not just the previous goal of growth at any cost.
  • CEOs desperately want to avoid new funding rounds at lower valuation, investors don’t want to write down investments that previously looked successful, and founders may cash in ahead of their investors in a rush to the exits.
  • Opportunistic “shark” investors are offering funding with ugly terms buried in the details that underlie their seemingly high valuation, allowing entrepreneurs to prop up a high valuation with a ticking time bomb of unfavorable terms that can only be dodged with a successful IPO.
  • Entrepreneurs accustomed to readily available capital will find it hard to accept new funding rounds at lower valuations, the pressure to quickly become profitable, or to reverse “stay private longer” thinking and prepare for an IPO.
  • Gurley concludes, “Founders have come to believe that more money is better, and the fluidity of the recent funding environment has led many to believe that heroic fundraising is a competitive advantage. Ironically, the exact opposite is true. The very best entrepreneurs are relatively advantaged in times of scarce capital. They can raise money in any environment. Loose capital allows the less qualified to participate in each market. This less qualified player brings more reckless execution which drags even the best entrepreneur onto an especially sloppy playing field. This threatens returns for all involved.”

Sales

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Centra (VA) chooses Cerner Millennium and HealtheIntent for its five hospitals and 50 non-hospital locations. 


People

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HealthLoop names Bevey Minor (MarketPoint) as chief marketing and development officer and Harry Kirschner (The Advisory Board Company) as chief revenue officer.


Announcements and Implementations

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Mount Sinai Health System (NY) joins the OpenNotes movement.

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Northwell Health (the former North Shore-LIJ) announces that its 3D bioprinting body replacement parts project will receive $100,000 in additional funding after it received the most public votes among three of its innovation projects. Northwell will spin the project off as a separate company, which expects to have the technology ready for human use in five to 10 years.


Government and Politics

Politico reports that the Coast Guard has terminated its Leidos/Epic EHR project without any sites going live after spending $60 million, which is hardly news since I reported it here (and confirmed it with Epic) on October 7, 2015.

The State of Utah declares pornography to be a public health hazard that creates psychological and physiological addiction, although the non-binding resolution carries no funding to do anything about it.

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England’s Health and Social Care Information Centre renames itself to NHS Digital, with Noel Gordon named chair.


Privacy and Security

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New York-Presbyterian Hospital (NY) pays $2.2 million to settle HIPAA charges of disclosing PHI to the ABC crews filming the TV series “NY Med.”

Crouse Hospital (NY) fires one of its medical residents after he was caught hiding two spy pen cameras in one of the hospital’s ICU bathrooms. The doctor’s lawyer says his client – who also has three years’ experience as an investigative reporter — was trying to find the person who stole his Adderall prescription and GoPro camera, noting that the spy cameras weren’t pointed at the toilet and did not record anyone identifiable on the video.

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The information of 3,200 patients of Wyoming Medical Center (WY) is exposed when two employees click links in phishing emails. The hospital says its email system contained PHI, such as medical record numbers, dates of service, and some medical information. One of the affected patients is the hospital’s CEO.


Other

Another healthcare payment quirk: a woman’s doctor-ordered genetic test isn’t covered by her insurance company because they say it’s experimental, but instead of being billed at the testing company’s $349 uninsured patient rate, they insist that she pay $1,494, the amount the company charges insurance companies. In other words, having insurance cost her an extra $1,145.

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Arizona State University’s business school names McKesson Chairman, President, and CEO John Hammergren as its 2016 Executive of the Year, in which it recognizes “top executives who serve as exceptional models for future business leaders.”

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An Orlando TV station says patients are being endangered at Parrish Medical Center (FL), which is suing McKesson for what it says is a botched software implementation. The hospital claims McKesson shut off its access to drug database updates and has threatened to remove all of its products the hospital uses if the hospital doesn’t pay the bills it is disputing. Parrish signed up for Horizon Clinicals, Horizon Enterprise Revenue Management, business intelligence, cardiovascular information system, ambulatory PM/EMR, and RelayHealth in February 2011.

I ran across a study concluding that only about half of psychiatrists (as surveyed in 2009) accept medical insurance, the lowest insurance acceptance rate of all specialties. That means those already-alarming studies showing that most behavioral information isn’t visible in EHRs actually understate the problem – they assumed that the denominator was the number of visits found in claims databases, but those visits insurance didn’t cover wouldn’t be recorded anywhere except in the private records of the mental health professionals.

A federal appeals court rules that Reading Hospital (PA) isn’t liable for the injuries sustained by an AMN Healthcare contractor who sued the hospital after falling down a flight of stairs while supporting the hospital’s Epic go-live. The court ruled that AMN’s contractor was actually a hospital employee because the hospital directed his work, leaving him unable to sue the hospital for personal injury because he was already covered as a “borrowed servant” by workers compensation.

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Fox consumer affairs TV reporter John Stossel, writing from his New York-Presbyterian Hospital bed, says the hospital’s care is good but its customer service isn’t:

Doctors keep me waiting for hours, and no one bothers to call or email to say, "I’m running late." Few doctors give out their email address. Patients can’t communicate using modern technology … I fill out long medical history forms by hand and, in the next office, do it again. Same wording: name, address, insurance, etc. … In the intensive care unit, night after night, machines beep, but often no one responds … Patients will have a better experience only when more of us spend our own money for care. That’s what makes markets work.


Sponsor Updates

  • Iatric Systems will exhibit at ANIA 2016 April 21-23 in San Francisco.
  • Influence Health will host its annual Client Congress April 24-27 in Phoenix.
  • Ingenious Med is recognized as a Pacesetter by the Atlanta Business Chronicle for the fourth year in a row.
  • Cumberland Consulting Group will offer legacy system data management services in conjunction with Trinisys.
  • Leidos donates $32,000 to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation through a Defend the Rim campaign with the Washington Wizards.
  • Life Science Nexus features LogicStream Health in a new blog.
  • Agency Spotter Founder Brian Regienczuk interviews Medecision CMO Ellen Donahue-Dalton about healthcare marketing trends.
  • Netsmart will exhibit at the CIBHS National Behavioral Health Information Management Conference & Expo April 27 in Garden Grove, CA.

Blog Posts


Contacts

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

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April 21, 2016 News No Comments

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 4/21/16

April 21, 2016 Dr. Jayne No Comments

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There has been a lot of buzz this week around the announcement of the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) model. CMS hopes to build on the previous Comprehensive Primary Care initiative, this time recruiting 5,000 practices into two tracks. The strongest candidates for participation will be practices that are already involved in care coordination and population management.

CPC+ differs from some of the other quality programs in that the incentive payments are prospective and the way in which practices manage their patients will determine how much of the incentive the practice gets to keep.

Practices will be selected after the identification of 20 participation regions which will be dependent on payer participation. The goal is for the majority of patients in the practice to be covered by one of the participating payers. Although physicians seem interested in the prospective payments, their enthusiasm was somewhat tempered by the need to wait until regions are determined. Payer proposals can be submitted through June 1, with submission of practice applications to follow. I attended one of the CPC+ webinars this week and actually enjoyed learning about some of the nuances of the program.

CMS also announced that those practices participating in the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) initiative can extend their involvement for an additional two years. CMS will use the extra time to evaluate outcomes and determine whether bundled payments are leading to better care while controlling costs. I wonder if their evaluation will also look at the stress levels of providers involved in the initiatives and the ratio of their patient-care hours to administrative time both before and after the initiative.

In other government news, our friends at ONC shared a comprehensive evaluation of the Regional Extension Center (REC) program. Highlights include data that 68 percent of eligible professionals receiving incentive programs under Stage 1 of Meaningful Use worked with a REC. If you don’t want to try to make it through the entire 124 pages, I’d recommend the Executive Summary, which is only six pages.

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I’ve been waiting for the HIMSS16 presentations to be available online so I can grab a couple of slide decks. Although I understand they’re trying to be hip with their screen layout, you can only see eight sessions at a time, which leads to a lot of scrolling. I had quite a bit of difficulty finding the sessions I wanted, until I realized that sessions starting with “The” were filed under T.

After locating my sessions and downloading the slides, I decided to watch a couple of the sessions that I missed. The first one had audio which I couldn’t hear despite maximizing the settings of my tablet and the streaming content. I could tell the people were talking, but couldn’t make out any of the words. Good luck to the rest of you hoping to watch the sessions.

Being on the HIMSS website also reminded me that I needed to submit my sessions for continuing education. After my experience with the streaming presentations, I was hoping for a better experience, but left disappointed. Although I liked the fact that it prevented you from accidentally trying to claim credit for two sessions in the same time slot, it did it by refreshing the screen which required the user to re-select the day each time before searching for the next session.

I eventually was able to get all of my sessions selected. HIMSS has to submit them directly to the American Board of Preventive Medicine for credit, so I’ll be checking back in a week or so to ensure they get posted. Given the cost of attending the conference, I want to maximize my returns.

I’ve started to plan my next couple of trips and am excited to report that there will be no healthcare- or IT-related educational components. One trip involves camping in bear country, which is a new experience for me. The other involves wine country, so it should be a good balance.

What are your travel plans for the summer? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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April 21, 2016 Dr. Jayne No Comments

Morning Headlines 4/21/16

April 20, 2016 News 1 Comment

Report to Congress April 2016

In a MACRA-mandated report to Congress, ONC evaluates the feasibility of establishing an EHR comparison tool to support providers evaluating health IT products.

2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index

IBM publishes its 2016 Cyber Security Intelligence report cites healthcare as the most targeted industry for cyber attacks in 2015.

US to Delay Release of New Hospital Ratings

CMS announces that it will hold off on publishing quality ratings for hospitals until July amid questions from health providers and Congress over the methodology behind the ratings, “We are concerned that the star rating system may be misleading to consumers due to flaws in the measures that underpin the ratings,” states an April 11 letter signed by 60 senators.

Here’s Why This Genetics Biotech’s Stock Plunged Today

Gene sequencer manufacturer Illumina’s shares dropped 23 percent Tuesday after reporting preliminary Q1 revenue of $572 million, missing its forecasted $596 million, and lowering its projected 2016 growth from 16 percent to 12 percent.

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April 20, 2016 News 1 Comment

Readers Write: The Journey from Population Health Management to Precision Medicine

April 20, 2016 Readers Write 1 Comment

The Journey from Population Health Management to Precision Medicine
By David Bennett

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Imagine a world where individuals receive custom-tailored healthcare. Patients are at the center of their own care, making key decisions themselves. They are supported by research and education, and their information is shared easily between caregivers and clinicians. Preventive care is more effective than ever, and medical interventions occur in record time.

With precision medicine, this world is not just within reach — it’s already happening.

Precision medicine (also known as personalized medicine) is the next step in population health management, transforming healthcare from being about many, to focusing on one.

Population health serves as the “who” to identify cohorts of patients that are at risk and require attention. Precision medicine is the “what,” providing caregivers with the specific information they need to create effective prevention and treatment plans that are customized for each individual.

Having the largest variety of data sets possible optimizes therapeutic tracking of each patient’s care plan to make and refine diagnoses. This sets the stage to pursue the most personalized therapy possible by detecting patterns in clinical assessments, behavior, and outcomes.

Data is essential, but it’s only useful if you have the ability to make big data small in order to personalize care. Today’s technology platforms can do just that, by capturing vast amounts of health data and applying real-time analytics that provide information and tools that help healthcare professionals and health insurers make more effective, individualized treatment decisions.

Using this information to engage patients and guide care management makes the journey from population health management to precision medicine that much easier, paving the way for an era of truly personalized medicine that prevents the deterioration of health.

The timing couldn’t be better for precision medicine’s heyday, and here’s why: one-size care does not fit all.

Many factors are converging to make the adoption of precision medicine a reality:

  • A growing number of EMRs, EHRs, and HIEs are being connected and cover a significant number of individuals.
  • Patients are more interested in participating in their care, especially when they get access to their own data. There are myriad devices on the market today that are relevant — from wearable devices that measure activity and sleep quality, to wireless scales that integrate with smartphone apps, to medical devices that send alerts (such as pacemakers and insulin level trackers). The data from these devices contribute to a robust longitudinal patient record. The interactive nature of the technology is also an excellent way to engage patients.
  • MHealth advances allow us to easily capture consumer data using cellphone technology and monitoring patients remotely with telehealth and virtual consultations.
  • Ability to see which inherited genetic variation within families contributes both directly and indirectly to disease development. We can now adjust care plans when genetic mutations occur as a reaction to the treatment in place.

If we look at healthcare outcomes in the United States, it’s clear that we need to anticipate patients’ needs with evidence and knowledge-based solutions. Only then will we will be able to identify a patient’s susceptibility to disease, predict how the patient will respond to a particular therapy, and identify the best treatment options for optimal outcomes. Precision medicine will get us there.

Precision medicine is about aggregating all forms of relevant data to enable different types of real-time data explorations. More concretely, specific areas of medicine are expected to make use of new sources of evidence, and the data types they leverage vary based on medical specialty. A good example would be the difference between the data sets used by oncologists versus immunologists.

There are two critical types of data explorations that both need a very large number of data sets to bring results:

  • Medical research with scientific modeling. Precision medicine can be leveraged to advance the ways in which large data sets are collected and analyzed, which will lead to better ways and new approaches to managing disease.
  • Clinical applications. Treatment plans and decisions can be greatly improved by identifying individuals at higher risk of disease, dependent on the prevalence and heritability of the disease. We call this cognitive support at the point of impact. To support this, more control is needed in real time over macro variables: genomics, proteomics, metabolism, medication, exercise, diet, stress, environmental exposure, social, etc. Precision medicine provides a platform that has an extensive number of data sets with the ability to easily create custom data sets to capture these types of variables.

Precision medicine not only means care tailored to the individual, it also brings to the healthcare industry the visibility on variability and the speed necessary to act expediently on findings to prevent the deterioration of health. Not only does this enhance patients’ lives, it saves healthcare dollars and prevents waste.

Tailoring deliverables to the needs of individuals is nothing new, at least in other fields such as banking and retail. Pioneers in these industries have leveraged open-source technology on a solid data foundation to meet their markets’ challenges.

Surely we can do the same in healthcare, where it’s literally a matter of life and death. That’s why so many of us are working on a daily basis to accelerate the science behind precision medicine and to encourage its adoption. Precision medicine is nothing short of revolutionary, and together, we can all make it a reality.

David Bennett is executive vice president of product and strategy at Orion Health of Auckland, New Zealand.

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April 20, 2016 Readers Write 1 Comment

Readers Write: Three Tips for Supporting a Population Health Management Program

April 20, 2016 Readers Write 1 Comment

Three Tips for Supporting a Population Health Management Program
By Brian Drozdowicz

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Provider organizations have a lot of options when selecting population health management expertise and system support, including analytics, data aggregation, clinical workflow / care management, and patient engagement solutions. With the market for these solutions expected to reach $4.2 billion by 2018, it is not surprising that new vendors pop up practically daily, or that existing vendors are beefing up their solution portfolios to capitalize on the opportunity.

As providers’ wish lists continue to grow, driven in part by government initiatives and commercial payer programs, system selection starts to take on the overwhelming feel of a second EMR implementation. This is causing providers to hesitate just when they need to act. How can providers find the right path to effective population health management?

No matter what shape a program might take, the right team is a foundational imperative. Assuming risk for populations often means that provider organizations are learning and mastering a new set of skills while simultaneously balancing the demands of “business as usual.”

One frequently deployed tactic is to hire staff from payer environments. They bring the requisite knowledge to the table and can help incorporate proven payer techniques and processes that both build on and complement a provider’s current infrastructure. Team members are needed who “speak data” and are also representative of groups across an organization (e.g., clinicians, program managers, business leads, finance team members, IT staff) to best determine what program goals are, what is possible for the specific organization, and what actions should be taken along what timeframe.

Once  the right team is in place, here are three tips to support the implementation of a population health management program:

  1. Recognize that data quality is more important than data quantity. The foundation of any population health management program is data. However, providers don’t need or want it all because each type of data has to be managed and maintained, often by separate people and according to different rules (e.g., privacy constraints). Focus on obtaining and properly maintaining the right data to drive population analysis, program structure, program management, and ongoing assessment.
  2. Learn to embrace claims data. Provider organizations need the longitudinal view that claims data provides to adequately assess utilization, total cost of care, and provider performance, and in turn to answer complex, multi-faceted questions about risk. Other benefits of claims data include that it is: (a) easier to manage and maintain; (b) more readily available and accepted than ever before; (c) controllable from a systems perspective; and (d) proven to yield accurate insights.
  3. Show physicians the numbers and what drives those numbers. Physician change is required to embrace the concept of value-based care. Comparative performance data can be a huge eye-opener. Physician leadership can help physicians be the champions of program performance assessment by making sure they can dig deep into the data, develop confidence in its findings, and understand what precisely needs to change. Complement performance data with compensation plans that reward participation, improvement, and outcomes. Start by placing the emphasis on participation, and then weight improvement and outcomes more heavily over time.

Provider organizations must know what is essential versus nice to have before they go into the vendor evaluation process. In a new and volatile market, the number of vendors offering potential solutions is huge, and the allure of slick user interfaces that can perform every population health management function, while integrating all types of data, is understandable.

However, little is proven, and most organizations do not have the time to wait until it is. Solutions have a gestation period to build, test, and revise before they become accurate, produce valid results, and deliver actionable business value. Answers are needed now, so organizations should look for a track record of results in a similar setting.

What does an organization need to effectively manage risk and care for populations? Of course, the answer is, “it depends,” but if you build the right team and thoroughly research your options, these tips can help bring order to the chaos.

Brian Drozdowicz is executive vice president of product management at Verisk Health of Waltham, MA.

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April 20, 2016 Readers Write 1 Comment

Readers Write: It’s Time to Get Doctors Out of EHR Data Entry

April 20, 2016 Readers Write 5 Comments

It’s Time to Get Doctors Out of EHR Data Entry 
By Marilyn Trapani

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There was a day when medical transcription was neat and clean. A doctor dictated what happened during an exam and a transcriptionist accurately typed each detail into the patient’s record. Each future encounter built on that record, a detailed history meant to ensure quality care. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it worked.

Now doctors sit for hours each week in front of a computer screen entering patient encounter data into electronic health records (EHRs). These complex systems were meant to more efficiently and effectively track health data for hospitals, payers, and physicians alike. EHRs were promised to save physician practices, hospital systems, and other provider organizations millions of dollars in the long run. 

Reality shows something quite different. Placing documentation responsibilities on physicians is resulting in severe problems not only for doctors, but for patients and the hospitals and practices who serve them. Doctors are spending more time – in some cases, 43 percent of their day – entering data into EHRs, which means less time available for patients. This continual influx of data is bloating EHRs with unnecessary, repetitive, unintelligible information. 

Doctors play an integral part in developing and maintaining medical records. But we are asking them to do too much and the entire healthcare system is suffering because of it. Instead of dictating information into the medical record, many physicians are required to type notes into their EHR, which is time-consuming and distracting.

That’s just one challenge they face when required to directly document into an EHR. Upon accessing the system, the doctor enters a patient’s medical number and their record pops up. There are boxes for history, medications, procedures, etc. This “structured data” methodology allows physicians to click radio buttons or check boxes to denote what was done, but too often allows for little or no free text. Physicians are presented options from which to choose, even if those options aren’t applicable. The structured data choices can’t be changed, and the patient’s record is built off what the doctor ultimately chooses as the lesser of evils.  

Most EHRs allow doctors to copy and paste information from one area of the record to another. This creates “note bloat,” a serious issue that’s resulting in junk data and unwieldy, unmanageable records. It’s not uncommon for information copied from one patient’s record to end up in a different person’s file.

Not only does that create note bloat, it also causes mistakes. One hospital was recently sued by a patient who suffered permanent kidney damage from an antibiotic given for an infection. The patient also had a uric kidney stone, which precludes antibiotic use. The EHR file was so convoluted, none of the attending physicians noticed the kidney stone. Printed out, the patient’s record was 3,000 pages. The presiding judge ruled the record inadmissible, in part because a single intravenous drip was repeated on almost every page.

In late January, Jay Vance, president of the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI), testified to the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that EHR documentation burdens on physicians can be reduced by expanding language to a draft bill aimed at improving the functionality and interoperability of EHR systems.

The move to pay providers based on the quality of the care they deliver instead of the volume of cases seen by physicians and specialists is driving much of the federal healthcare discussion. There’s a chance that work can help restore sanity to the interaction between doctor and document. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), the bill that ended the onerous Sustainable Growth Rate, authorized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to pay physicians via value-based reimbursement. The law also called for a replacement for Meaningful Use.

One component of MACRA is the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) that, among other things, incentivizes providers for using EHR technology. The goal is to achieve better clinical outcomes, increase transparency and efficiency, empower consumers to engage in their care, and provide broader data on health systems. But there is more that can be done. 

This is progress, because at the end of the day, patient focus should always trump data entry by physicians. That’s not to say that physicians shouldn’t have a hand in documentation. According to AHDI, accurate, high-integrity documentation requires collaboration between physicians and the organization’s documentation team – highly skilled, analytical specialists who understand the importance of clinical clarity and care coordination. Certified documentation and transcription specialists can ensure accuracy, identify gaps, errors, and inconsistencies that may compromise patient health and compliance goals.

AHDI’s recommendation: include wording that expands the definition of “non-physician members of the care team” to include certified healthcare documentation specialists and certified medical transcriptionists.”

There’s not a single documentation and transcription scenario to meet every organization’s needs. But there is common ground to be found where all functions – EHR vendors, documentation specialists, transcription experts, physicians, hospital administrators – can create a structure that results in clean, effective, understandable patient medical records. 

Step 1 – reduce doctors’ administrative burdens. A physician’s role in documentation should be focused on dictation, not data entry. EHR voice recognition software allows doctors to directly narrate into the system. Like any other text, narrated notes need to be reviewed for accuracy and then approved. In some cases, doctors are approving their entries without reviewing them. This increases the risk of inaccurate data and mistakes. 

Step 2 – find the balance of structured and unstructured EHR data. There is a place for both structured and unstructured data in the EHR. Structured data can be queried and reported on with much greater ease than free flow text. However, doctors complain there aren’t enough options to share narratives about encounters and what patients had to say about their visit. The goal of an EHR is to provide a complete and accurate view of patients’ conditions, treatments, and outcomes. It makes sense to use structured data for entries such as those required by CMS. Using dictation and expert transcription assistance, unstructured free-text narratives and information also can be a part of the EHR while maintaining accuracy and completeness. 

Step 3 — eliminate interface barriers. EHRs require interfaces to “talk” with other systems. Fees charged for said interfaces prevent providers from using outside documentation and transcription services. Interfaces are necessary, but should be part of the standard development of EHR structured data forms and information collection.

Step 4 – put the responsibility of document editing and transcription in expert hands. I believe there will be resurgence of transcription services in 2016. Streamlining data entry into an EHR will never replace the need for documentation and transcription experts. Providers will continue to need outside assistance in ensuring patient data is accurately and cleanly logged in the EHR. 

EHRs are here to stay. So are documentation and transcription experts. Provider organizations need both of us. When experts on both sides to combine their strengths and expertise, we can put doctors, physicians, and other health care professionals back where they belong: taking care of patients.

Marilyn Trapani is president and CEO of Silent Type of Englewood, NJ. 

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April 20, 2016 Readers Write 5 Comments

HIStalk Interviews Michelle Holmes, Principal, ECG Management Consultants

April 20, 2016 Interviews 1 Comment

Michelle Holmes is a principal with ECG Management Consultants of Seattle, WA.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

I am a principal with ECG Management Consultants. I’ve been with the firm for about ten and a half years. I’ve worked in healthcare since 1993 and have been involved in healthcare IT specifically since 2003, which was when I was involved in my first EHR implementation.

ECG is a healthcare consulting company. We focus on providers and payers, specifically. We’ve been around since 1973 and have services in technology, operations, finance, and strategy.

How actively are health systems buying physician practices or affiliating with them in creative ways, and how are tighter linkages between health systems and practices affecting quality and cost?

I wouldn’t categorize it as an emerging trend. It’s a trend that we’ve been seeing for quite a while now, which is various forms of consolidation. Whether it’s acquisition or some other type of affiliation, the number of independent physician practices is reducing in size and the number of independent hospitals is reducing in size.

A lot of that has to do with efforts associated with improving quality and also containing costs. Reducing redundancy out of the system, whether it be from a personnel perspective, a technology perspective, whatever the cost basis might be in that regard. Also taking the things that the individual organizations do really well — in terms of service lines, specialty care, etc. — and proliferating that across a broader network of providers to try to increase the quality for that provider base up to a higher bar than what was previously variable from group to group to group.

Are you seeing any new urgency on the part of health systems to look harder at their costs since they are responsible for a lot of overall healthcare expense?

With the transition from volume to value, it’s essentially becoming a business imperative that they do that. Whether that includes acknowledgement that they they were part of the problem, or they see that now is the opportunity to focus on that and to act on that because it’s a requirement if they’re going to be sustainable and maintain any type of margins because of how the payer environment is shifting. Either way, the focus is there. You see cost control measures, but you also see a shift in care out to the ambulatory environment just to reduce the higher-cost acute care that tends to result in the larger bills.

Are hospitals prepared to be more responsive to their customers or patients than they’ve been in the past?

It’s highly variable in the market. You see some organizations that have led the charge on that and have made it a competitive advantage for themselves within their respective markets.

If you look at, for example, the portal adoption rate for Kaiser since they launched their portal in the early 2000s and had that focus, that’s become a mainstay of their business and has helped them to be competitive in many environments where the consumers have multiple options, in terms of insurers, but overall network providers. Then you see other pockets of the country that aren’t thinking that way at all yet. There is a ton of variability there.

For some payer and provider organizations in the country, you’re seeing entire consumer technology divisions being created and being supported with capital and operating dollars. To have the patient be more at the center of the decisions that are being made and do internal investment in consumer technologies, versus just waiting for the broader IT industry to necessarily catch up in some cases.

What is worrying academic medical centers right now?

The AMCs have a lot of the same pressures as other organizations, but then they have additional requirements that are put on them, whether it be research, their GME programs, or where they get their funding. They have their own concerns as everyone else, but they have a lot of additional challenges and requirements that they have to work through that make it much more difficult to figure out how they’re going to allocate funds and where they’re going to receive funds from.

You also see academic medical centers that have had a distributed group within them, separate sets of clinics that were operating fairly independently and they’re trying to create more of an integrated group within themselves to try to lower the cost basis, but also try to take out the variability from area of care, whether it’s department to department or specialty to specialty. To your point earlier, they can also look at the cost and the quality basis that they’re working from at the same time. 

They have to handle all that at the same time that they’re dealing with the challenges of operating a school of medicine, operating a school of nursing, looking at the research requirements, providing faculty oversight, running GME programs, et cetera. It’s a lot to handle.

It’s been said that we’ve laid the technology tracks and are now realizing what we can do with newly collected healthcare information. What ideas are out there?

In terms of Meaningful Use, it definitely got systems in environments of care where it didn’t exist before. Areas of the hospital, clinic, or whatever that were largely paper based. It did push a lot of organizations to at least get some digital storage. Did it get all of the benefits that were touted at the time? I personally don’t think so. I think a lot of people don’t think so either, in terms of it being the magic bullet that it was marketed as, to improve care and improve safety. As people have these systems, whether they be expensive systems or lower-cost systems, in their environments now, they’re seeing ways that they can optimize those systems so that they’re using the data to make better decisions.

A lot of the other benefits in terms of efficiency, I don’t think that we’ve seen those. The usability of most of the systems, especially on the clinician side, hasn’t been there to allow more efficient work flows. They’re looking at ways that they can use the information and system to make wholesale different decisions about how they’re going to run their organizations, versus just appending that, they plug the system in and it’s going to make cappuccino for them, for example, and do all these wonderful things. They’re going to have to make more transformational decisions about how the organization works on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. If they can make some of those decisions based on what the data is telling them, at least they can be more directive in what they’re moving toward 100 percent reactive to whatever the latest firefight is.

What will the impact of the CPC+ program be? Do you see CMS wanting to become more involved with how EHRs are used?

Moving away from just the rules and regulations associated with Meaningful Use is allowing the vendors to put more of their R&D dollars in some of the stuff that matters more so in terms of how systems are used within environments of care and that usability factor that’s going to drive efficiency and adoption that actually results in these types of outcomes. I think CMS putting some focus on programs like this, as opposed to, “Which buttons are you clicking to produce which reports?” so that you can satisfy the requirements of a given stage and avoid the penalty for not complying with those stages — we’ve gotten a little bit of that behind us.

By having more quality-centered programs like this announced, it’s going to further help align the interests of the users of the systems and the makers of the systems so that those development dollars are going into things that can help the providers, help the hospitals and clinics, and ultimately and ideally, provide some efficiency and care outcome impact as well.

The nice thing about these programs is that they do emphasize the fact that there’s a lot in these technologies that people put in in the Meaningful Use era that they just haven’t really used yet. They were using the basics of it, whether it be decision support or outreach to patients for reminders, et cetera. They were using it to hit a numerator and a denominator without as much line of sight on what the impact of that could be or should be.

Programs like this one are a good reminder that you have a lot of tools at your disposal already. If you narrow your view and just try to move the needle a little bit in a couple of these areas, you can get some benefit out of them instead of trying to hit a numerator number just so that it looks right on the report, but not necessarily seeing what value that’s providing to your patients.

Do you have any final thoughts?

It’s an exciting time in the industry because organizations are  focusing on IT as a strategic enabler of other outcomes or directions that they want to move, as opposed to IT and IT investments as a standalone decision that they have to do or that may only be linked to the financial side of the company or the organization.When I first started implementing EHRs, it was really common that the IT director, or even CIO, reported up through the CFO, for example, and didn’t necessarily have an equal seat at the table with those making decisions. We’ve changed a lot of that in the last 10 years.

Organizations, especially now as they’re looking at how to optimize their systems and, more and more, if they need to replace their systems and how they need to replace their systems –  that’s a much more coordinated and collaborative conversation with strategic drivers, financial drivers, and clinical quality drivers. You have your IT leaders saying, "We’ll help enable whatever the best thing is to support those other goals and initiatives," as opposed to having more of an IT decision or an IT implementation in a silo, where we hope that we get those other benefits and we definitely hope that we don’t introduce harm or a step back in those other areas of the organization. “We’re going to do this with the intent of improving those areas and measure our success as to whether or not we did that,” versus measure our success on, “Did we get everything turned on at the time that we said we were going to flip the switch and within the capital budget that was given to us as part of our implementation?”

For me as a consultant, it’s a lot of fun right now. We’re doing this and we’re actually seeing some of the outcomes from what we’re doing, as opposed to, we’re doing this and we’re trying to get really excited about a go-live event, not knowing whether or not that go-live event is actually going to lead to anything meaningful in terms of real outcomes on the care and safety side, or on the cost control side.

For a while there, it was a bit of a sludge getting through healthcare IT consulting on a day-to-day basis, where it was so focused on go-lives and numerators and denominators. We took a step too far away from why it is that we got in this business in the first place. Now we’re getting closer to some of those original projects, at least in philosophy and emphasis, where nobody was making us do it, but we did it because it was the right thing to do. For me, my job is a lot more fun, over the last 18 to 24 months even, than it was for the few years before then.

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April 20, 2016 Interviews 1 Comment

Morning Headlines 4/20/16

April 19, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Theranos Is Subject of Criminal Probe by US

Federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation to determine whether Theranos misled investors about the state of its technology and operations.

Major Health Insurer Bailing On Most Obamacare Exchanges

UnitedHealth Group pulls its plans from ACA exchanges, citing $1 billion in losses from the markets over the past two years.

Health apps: Unlimited promise or ‘like having a really bad doctor’

The LA Times highlights the persistently poor clinical quality of consumer-focused medical apps, citing concerns over diabetes management apps that do not instruct users to call 911 when their sugar levels are dangerously low, or apps for people with depression that do not recommend calling a suicide hotline when users report feeling unsafe or suicidal.

Movie stars have their uses: medical science isn’t one of them

The Guardian discusses the role movie stars have in forming public health opinions after Robert De Niro lobbied to have a discredited movie about the risks associated with vaccinations included in the Tribeca Film Festival.

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April 19, 2016 Headlines No Comments

News 4/20/16

April 19, 2016 News 7 Comments

Top News

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Federal prosecutors launch a criminal investigation of Theranos, seeking to determine whether the lab company misled regulators and investors about its technology. Founder Elizabeth Holmes said during her squirmy and somewhat creepy “Today” show appearance on Monday (sans her trademark black turtleneck, but sporting her equally common deer-in-the-headlights look) that she was “devastated” to learn of extensive company failings of which she was previously unaware.

Holmes confidently told “Today” that the company will survive because the world needs it, although I wouldn’t be so sure. She says Theranos will “rebuild this entire laboratory from scratch.” Maybe the show’s label of Holmes as “billionaire” (on paper, anyway) was correct before the hydrogen-filled Theranos zeppelin went down in flames, but I doubt anyone would buy the entire, permanently tarnished Theranos for anywhere close to $1 billion at this point.

The mistake Holmes made in starting Theranos as a rich, Stanford dropout (at 19) was proclaiming it to be a high-valuation, disruptive Silicon Valley tech startup rather than a tiny entrant into the boring back office lab system business that is dominated by Quest and LabCorp, failing to put reasonable clinical oversight in place and competing with them mainly on price (although the sustainability of even that business model has yet to be proven). It’s  OK and maybe even desirable to be quirky, obsessively focused, publicity-shy, and inexperienced when you’re starting a faddish website for easily amused 20-somethings, but less so when you’re running a federally regulated medical business with lives on the line.


Reader Comments

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From CarrolltonObserver: “Re: Greenway Health. Tee Green is stepping away and another 100 employees were let go last week. My guess is that Tee is slowly stepping away to get into politics.” See  my mention in the People section below. The company says Tee “will remain in an active, full-time role as executive chairman, focusing on innovation and growth initiatives,” which sounds like work more appropriate to the position he left than the one he’s taking. 

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From Blue Horseshoe MD: “Re: cholera in Haiti. This article that describes the US implications is mind-blowing, but it also demonstrates the power of data visualization in epidemiology and thus in medicine.” Haiti’s cholera epidemic, which has killed nearly 10,000 people and infected 775,000 others, was apparently caused by UN peacekeepers from Nepal who brought the disease with them and from whom it spread due to negligent sanitation practices. The article says the CDC and the US administration are trying to hide the outbreak’s source by using questionable public health tracking measures. No cases of cholera had ever been reported in Haiti until the peacekeepers arrived and geo-mapping of reported cases points directly to the UN facility, with a CDC official going on record in unscientifically characterizing its response as, “We’re going to be really cautious about the Nepal thing because it’s a politically sensitive issue for our partners in Haiti.”

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Speaking of the value of data visualization, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health launches a fully online, part-time masters in spatial analysis for public health.

From How EMRya?: “Re: the EMR replacement market. All the vendors thought the high EMR dissatisfaction rate would keep the market going with replacements. I don’t think it evolved that way. Physicians burned themselves out with their selection process within the past five years and don’t want to go through it again with vendors that seem about the same. Companies like NextGen and Greenway are retooling their business to an EBIDA strategy of just holding onto the base in running a profitable company in a saturated market.” I agree that it’s not likely that large numbers of physicians will want to go through choosing and implementing a new EHR no matter how unhappy they are with their current one. Even if they do eventually switch, it would be tough to build a stable business based on what they might do and when they might do it. I predicted early in the HITECH days that vendors would scale up to meet temporary demand, but then find it hard to shrink back down once they had blown through their share of the taxpayer billions. Maybe that’s why everybody from Allscripts to EClinicalWorks is trying to pivot into something fresh that’s outside their historic core competency, which usually ends up being population health management for lack of alternatives.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor PokitDok. The San Mateo, CA-based company (its name is pronounced “pocket doc”) offers a healthcare API ecosystem that meets consumer-driven healthcare market demands. APIs include clearinghouse (enrollment, eligibility, authorizations, claims, claims status, referral – all of those X12 APIs are free); patient scheduling (across all major PM/EHR systems); identity management (EMPI queries); payment optimization (medical financing qualification tools); and a Private Label Marketplace for provider search (scheduling, eligibility, payments).  Customers use these APIs to connect doctors to patients, to help payers and providers develop new business functions, and to connect EHRs and other digital health services. PokitDok’s APIs allow startups to scale immediately with lower cost, encouraging innovation and connectivity. Thanks to PokitDok for supporting HIStalk.

Here’s an overview video of PokitDok that I found on YouTube.

My latest pet peeve: people who say “pop health,” apparently challenged to find time in their day to enunciate the three additional syllables. They probably mean “population health management technology” anyway, so maybe their 10-syllable avoidance is worth it. 

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Mrs. Ulhaque from Texas is happy that we funded her DonorsChoose grant request for a single classroom iPad that is shared by her 24 students. She says they love playing educational games and she is rewarding students who show academic improvement with extra time on it.

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Also checking in is Ms. Munoz, who teaches Grade 5-6 math and science for special education students (intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, brain injury, autism, etc.) We provided four tablets and cases, which she says have helped the students complete lessons they couldn’t previously tackle before because of their disabilities and motor skills problems.  The students who can’t write or speak are using a communications app that allows them to interact with their teachers and fellow students. Just to give you an idea of how little it costs to fund such a significant classroom project, HIStalk readers paid for half of the $363 total and Google matched that amount.


Webinars

April 26 (Tuesday) 1:00 ET. “Provider-Led Care Management: Trends and Opportunities in a Growing Market. ”Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenter: Matthew Guldin, analyst, Chilmark Research. This webinar will provide a brief overview and direction of the provider-led care management market. It will identify the types of vendors in this market, their current and longer-term challenges, product capabilities, partnership activity, and market dynamics that influence adoption. It will conclude with an overview of key factors for vendors and solutions moving forward.

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


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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A reader provided details on the lawsuit brought by the MetroChicago HIE against Sandlot Solutions. The HIE says Sandlot took away its data access one day after warning it that it would be shutting down but then provided a database copy. The HIE said that was unacceptable since any technical snags in restoring the information could cause the HIE itself to shut down. The lawsuit says Sandlot was insolvent and was closing following a failed merger attempt. Santa Rosa Consulting, listed in the lawsuit as Sandlot’s owner (which I’m not sure is exactly true – the parent of both is Santa Rosa Holdings), was a co-defendant in the lawsuit. Sandlot announced its only funding round ($23 million) about 18 months before it shut down (it’s always a red flag when a company fails to raise new money unless it’s doing so obviously well that it doesn’t need it). Interestingly, the HIE says Sandlot’s actions violated HIPAA since the company is a business associate of the HIE. Also interestingly, the lawsuit claims that Sandlot refused to provide the HIE with its data because the database would contain previously deleted data from other Sandlot customers.

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UnitedHealth Group makes good on its earlier threat to stop offering policies on Affordable Care Act marketplaces as it loses $1 billion on those policies over the past two years. The company will offer exchange policies in only a handful of states in 2017, saying that the market isn’t growing and it’s being stuck with sicker patients as younger, healthier ones don’t see the value in buying health insurance. UHG’s policies are rarely the least expensive and it holds only a 6 percent market share.


People

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Scott Zimmerman (TeleVox / West Interactive) joins Greenway Health as CEO, according to his LinkedIn profile. He apparently replaces Tee Green, who is now listed on the company’s site as executive chairman.

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Voalte hires Adam McMullin (SFW Capital Partners) as chairman and CEO.


Government and Politics

A study finds that nearly 3 percent of physicians who provide Medicare Part B services billed CMS for work that would require more than 100 hours per week, with optometrists, dermatologists, and ophthalmologists leading the pack. Those same providers also submitted more high-intensity billing codes than average. The authors suggest using Medicare’s utilization and payments data to flag potential fraud, although they probably underestimate the complexity of how providers use their National Provider Identifier to bill Medicare for services they don’t necessarily provide personally.

Florida becomes the second state to prohibit hospitals from balance-billing patients treated in their network for services rendered by the hospital’s out-of-network practitioners — such as surgeons, ED doctors, and anesthesiologists — for which the patient can’t seek an in-network alternative. The patient will pay the in-network rate, leaving the insurance company and provider to negotiate any additional payments.


Privacy and Security

The computer systems of Newark, NJ’s police department are taken offline for four days following a ransomware attack.


Other

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The board of Massena Memorial Hospital (NY) approves $1 million to upgrade its “ancient” Meditech system (or “metatech,” as the local paper spells it) in contracting with CloudWave for cloud-based hosting. The CEO warned the board that their current implementation runs on Windows Server 2003, which he describes as “a big garage door somebody could hack their way through and steal everything.”

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A brilliant article in London’s “The Guardian” says unlearned movie stars should stick to pretending to be someone else on screen rather than taking positions on medical science, referencing “Vaxxed,” the new movie about Andrew Wakefield, the widely discredited anti-vaccine doctor who eventually lost his medical license. Robert DeNiro included the film in his film festival with a vague rationale that the documentary “is something people should see,” only to pull it when scientists complained. The Guardian notes:

If “Vaccinating With the Stars” looks a little inappropriate where public health is concerned, so too is the prospect of children falling ill because an actor clearly hasn’t read Wakefield’s Wikipedia entry. Unless, worse still, he has.

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An LA Times article quotes University of Michigan’s Karandeep Singh, MD, MMSc, who says unregulated and sometimes poorly design healthcare-related apps can be “like having a really bad doctor.” It points out a recent study of Instant Blood Pressure, a $4.99 app marketed without FDA approval that correctly diagnosed hypertension only 25 percent of the time, with the company hiding behind the excuse that it isn’t intended for diagnosis and treatment, thus rendering its raison d’être questionable.

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A New York jury awards $50 million to a woman who says she has become incontinent after her obstetrician performed an unnecessary episiotomy during the birth of her healthy child in 2008. The woman says she was forced to quit her job, has to wear panty liners, and can’t have sex with her husband. The doctor, who insists he did nothing wrong and that the woman never complained about any issues, says, “Someone can just make up a story, cry to the jury, and they will ignore all the records and give her a big award.”

Sparrow Health System (MI), bowing to pressure from the National Labor Relations Board and the state nurse’s union, rescinds its policies that prohibited employees from talking about health system policies on social media and to the press. NLRB says the health system’s policies related to social media, cell phone use, the wearing of unapproved buttons, and gossiping are overly broad and are discriminatory.

Minnesota hospitals report that their emergency departments are becoming “holding pens” for sometimes violent mental health patients, forcing other patients to wait for hours or to be sent elsewhere as up to half of their gurneys are occupied by patients who require levels of oversight and security that few hospitals can provide. One hospital psychiatrist reports, “This is supposed to be a place of peace and security. Instead, we have acute psychiatric patients banging on windows, throwing feces, and assaulting people. It’s deeply unsettling to other patients in the ER.”

In Canada, Alberta Health Services will spend $316 million over the next five years to replace 1,300 mostly non-interoperable clinical systems with a single system that can maintain a single medical record. It will issue an RFP shortly. The College of Physicians and Surgeons termed existing systems “woefully inadequate” in late 2014, with a government official adding that after spending nearly $300 million, Alberta “really got nothing more than electronic isolated file systems. Do we realize we need to have data exchange standards before we start adding systems? We need systems to talk. It blows my mind.”

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A study of those Dyson Airblade hand dryers with which business replace paper towels (while claiming unconvincingly that their motivation is your health rather than reducing their restroom expenses) finds that they blast germs onto anyone within 10 feet of the bathroom wall, so you’d better hope the person using it washed their hands well first. Dyson disputes the study, claiming the paper towel cartel is behind it.


Sponsor Updates

  • Aprima will exhibit at the Boulder Valley Individual Practice Association meeting April 26 in Lafayette, CO.
  • Catalyze CEO Travis Good, MD will speak at the HITRUST Annual Summit April 25-28 in Grapevine, TX.
  • Besler Consulting releases a podcast on “IME Shadow Billing.”
  • Crossings Healthcare Solutions will exhibit at the Cerner RUG April 20-22 in Charlotte.
  • Cumberland Consulting Group Managing Director Tom Evegan guest blogs for Revitas.
  • EClinicalWorks will exhibit at the California MGMA 2016 Annual Conference April 22-23 in Sonoma.
  • Isthmus Magazine features Healthfinch and its data partnership with Beekeeper.

Blog Posts


Contacts

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

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April 19, 2016 News 7 Comments

Morning Headlines 4/19/16

April 18, 2016 Headlines 1 Comment

Theranos Chief Elizabeth Holmes Is ‘Devastated’ Over Lab Deficiencies

Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes responds to federal calls for her ban from the blood testing industry, saying she is “devastated that we did not catch and fix these issues faster.”

CMS drops two-midnight rule’s inpatient payment cuts

CMS will stop imposing inpatient payment cuts to hospitals under the two-midnight rule.

Celebrating the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act’s First Birthday

Acting CMS administrator Andy Slavitt discusses the impact MACRA is expected to have on healthcare reform on the one-year anniversary of its passage.

Why Medical Devices Aren’t Safer

The New York Times argues for more robust tracking of implantable medical devices.

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April 18, 2016 Headlines 1 Comment

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 4/18/16

April 18, 2016 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment

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I recently concluded a long-term engagement with a client. Having started as a small private practice, they had grown to 20 or so physicians and wanted to get larger, but had been running in circles trying to figure out how to grow their business.

I was hired to do an analysis and conduct some strategic planning sessions. After my first call with them, it was clear that a multiple decisions had somewhat sabotaged their chances for success and that much work was needed before we could truly embark on strategic planning.

None of the physicians had really wanted to take the lead in managing the practice, so they hired an outside administrator. For lack of a better description, he was the Harold Hill of practice leadership. He had billed himself as an experienced administrator who could help them grow from 20+ physicians to over 100 in less than two years, so they hired him. I knew he was going to be an issue because he instantly opposed my involvement with the group, with some of his comments being red flags that he had something to hide.

It was clear early on that they had some serious issues with physician satisfaction and employee engagement that would make it difficult to grow at all, let alone quadruple in size. It’s hard to recruit physicians when the existing ones are disgruntled and when you’ve had turnover issues with staff.

When I tried to explore how their staffing ratios looked compared to various professional organization statistics, he couldn’t even cite his own ratios, falling back on the fact that, “Every one of our locations is a little different” over and over. The word “evasive” didn’t even begin to describe him at this point. He also kept going around and around about the fact that “we’re a family” and extolling the virtues of various team members.

In my experience, that’s a technique used to try to distract an observer from the fact that they are overstaffed, underproductive, or both. At many practices I’ve worked with, the sense of “family” often does not outweigh the fact that a staff member is dysfunctional or incapable, but it’s cited as a reason that the issue has not yet been dealt with. Family or longevity can also be a way to try to camouflage overcompensation of resources that haven’t been able to keep up with the evolution / revolution we’re seeing in healthcare delivery.

Once the administrator was hired, the physician partners gave him the reins and stopped checking in on management issues. There were some red flags on the revenue cycle side (lack of clean claims, increased denials, failure to track down slow-pay or no-pay accounts) and it was clear that some of the critical reports available in the practice management system had not been run recently.

The managing partners were shocked to hear that this was going on, although the audit trail data in the software was clear. If he wasn’t running the reports, he certainly wasn’t presenting the information to the practice. However, I had a hard time figuring out whether he was presenting bogus data or no data at all, because the physicians all just stared at each other around the table. When pressed about the lack of reports, he immediately threw the practice management vendor under the proverbial bus, but was unable to provide support tickets for the alleged problems.

In digging deeper into some of the employee satisfaction issues, it was clear that the new administrator had chosen his favorites and wasn’t doing anything to build relationships with the rest of the staff. He had given the favorites control of the other staffers and wasn’t monitoring the equity of shift assignments or the quality of work being performed. What I heard from the line staff didn’t match up with the inspirational posters he had placed around the office regarding the ability of employees to drive the success of the business.

Turnover was a significant issue with the clinical support staff. In working with the practice over several months, it was clear that they had no plan to engage the staff beyond just the day-to-day duties performed in a medical office. Those staffers that showed initiative and drive were quickly shut down by some of the favorite staff, who saw energetic young staffers as a threat. They quickly left.

Some of the remaining staff members were mediocre at best and were interested in punching the clock rather than making the practice great. While I was working with them, two staffers resigned. I asked if I could participate in the exit interviews and learned that they didn’t have them or see a need for them. I instituted them anyway and found that the employees didn’t feel like there was any room for them to grow in the practice, that they didn’t feel valued, and that they didn’t see it as a place they wanted to stay.

One mentioned that the administrator had done an employee survey which was supposed to be anonymous, but they suspected that their responses were identified and were shared with the middle managers who may have used the responses in a retaliatory manner. It’s a shame for an organization to fail to take advantage of employee feedback, but thinking that you can get away with creating a hostile / retaliatory workplace in this day and age is just shocking. Healthcare workers are in demand (particularly skilled ones who are energetic) and organizations should seek to cultivate them and empower them. This means really engaging with them and not just paying lip service to the concepts.

Apparently at least one of the partners had asked about turnover. The administrator’s idea was to put in place a bonus structure that was not clearly documented or well executed. Employees were told they would receive a bonus, and then it would be months before it was paid if it was paid at all (as was reported by two staffers). I’m not completely blaming the administrator for all of this, as the managing physician partners were also responsible for the situation. When hiring someone into a position of authority, organizations need to make sure the transition is carefully monitored and that outcomes are matching expectations. If they’re not, then there needs to be an intervention.

After receiving the results of my initial analysis, the practice decided to have me try to mentor the administrator to see if he could be salvaged. My gut instinct was that this was not going to be possible, but I was willing to give it a go. Working with him on a day-to-day basis, it was clear that he had no strategic plans for the practice and really had no idea what he was talking about in a lot of core areas. We tried to discuss managed care contracting as it relates to practice growth and he quickly became defensive, trying to cover the fact that he was lost in the discussion. We talked about physician incentive strategies and staff engagement and he had no concrete plans or goals. When asked to discuss the practice’s mission and culture, he popped out a canned response but could not elaborate.

After a couple of weeks, it was clear he wasn’t going to be part of their go-forward strategy, but the practice was on the fence about actually terminating him. Practices are often afraid of letting people go for fear of being sued. I explained to them that it’s really a fairly straightforward process, depending on whether you have an employment agreement or not and whether the job description is clearly documented. I suggested trying to document “non-performance of essential duties” strictly through the lack of diligence around the financial reporting requirements, which should have been a clean way to do things.

I was surprised that they didn’t want to go that way and instead wanted additional documentation. I explained that this would require some effort on the part of the managing partners as well as additional risk to the practice while the administrator was allowed to continue to alienate staff and fail to manage the practice. They disagreed, so we embarked on a four-week effort that ultimately did culminate in his departure, although not without a lot of angst among the partners and turmoil in the office.

My partner and I finally got them stabilized and spent quite a few additional weeks creating policies, procedures, and protocols to help take them forward. We took them through a search process and they’ve hired a new administrator who will be carefully supervised by one of the senior managing physicians, according to the steps we’ve laid out for them. My partner is going to continue to work with them on a weekly basis to make sure we can solidify their process and keep them moving forward. We’re planning to conduct the original strategic planning engagement down the road, but want them to show that they can at least keep 20 physicians and the accompanying support staff stable before they decide to try to grow again.

Given the changes in healthcare, I want to root for the independent practices and am happy that they are a large part of my consulting practice. It’s easy to throw up your hands and allow your practice to be purchased by a hospital or health system, but it doesn’t fix anything. Usually it creates more issues. I’m hopeful for this group, but we’ll have to see what the next six months bring.

Has your organization experienced their own Harold Hill moment? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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April 18, 2016 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment

HIStalk Interviews Ben Moore, CEO, TelmedIQ

April 18, 2016 Interviews No Comments

Ben Moore is founder and CEO of TelmedIQ of Seattle, WA.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

We’re a healthcare IT company focused on improving communication between clinicians to save time and increase patient safety. We do that by supplying HIPAA-compliant texting and voice solutions that integrate with the clinical systems in the hospital. We work with over 300 healthcare organizations to improve communication for close to 80,000 clinicians every day.

This company was started based on personal experiences within the healthcare industry. More specifically, my wife was in the hospital with a complicated pregnancy with the arrival of my daughter. I noticed a lot of issues in the communication between providers, specifically when patients were being handed off between doctors and nurses. That inspired me to start the company to fix that problem.

Into what groups would you categorize your competitors that offer pager replacement and secure messaging?

The first-generation, basic solutions take text messaging and secure that channel. The majority of the vendors fit into that space. There’s not really any efficiency gained by those solutions. There’s no clinical work flow. They don’t solve any of the fundamental problems. They just secure a channel that’s already being used. That’s the largest quadrant.

One step up from them are systems that attempt to do some integration with other systems, such as the call center and physician schedules.

The more strategic vendors are the ones that have robust, bi-directional integration with the medical record as well as work flow concepts.

The other component here is voice. Voice still drives between 30 percent and 50 percent of all communication between clinicians. You can also segment that out by which ones offer voice and which ones do not.

Sometimes technology vendors don’t understand that pagers offer value over telephones because they are asynchronous, which prevents busy clinicians from being interrupted. Are some vendors good with the technology but not all that aware of optimal clinician use?

Secure texting solutions give you that asynchronous approach, but it’s always been our belief that they’re not enough to replace pagers. We think it’s a dangerous context for an organization to try and replace pagers with texting. Some examples, such as who should get Dr. Smith’s messages when he’s unavailable? What happens if a page is not responded to in five minutes? Secure texting solutions don’t address those issues.

Pagers are more reliable than a smartphone in the sense that they are able to penetrate to the bowels of a hospital. It’s not enough just to say we’re going to replace pagers with secure texting. You need policy and rules behind how those messages get delivered.

The other thing that you need is voice capability, so you can call a pager number and leave a message. Secure texting platforms don’t do that.

How do you see the convergence of communications devices or services in healthcare?

There’s a few issues with respect to the secure texting solutions today. A lot of hospitals will buy them and layer them on top of other systems. It’s just one other mode of communication. Adding another secure texting platform to existing nurse mobility, house phones, and pager devices is not enough. It just adds to the clutter.

Our vision is of a single solution that coordinates all of those device end points. We’re calling that a healthcare communications hub.

As far as clinical integration, when you look at EMR platforms, when they’re used properly, they do a good job at clinical documentation. Some of them do an OK job at clinical work flow. But there’s a lot of things that need to be communicated between providers that should never go in the medical record, and some things that should. That’s one of the problems that we’ve tackled as a company.

For example, even a secure texting platform is not appropriate for the texting of orders if you haven’t thought through how those orders would make their way back into the medical record.

Are you taking situational awareness from the EHR and sending out alerts?

That’s one of our fundamental work flows. We have a deep level of integration with not just the EHRs, but also the lab systems.

We have a policy engine that allows the organization to set thresholds. For example, if a critical patient value comes back and it’s not read or accepted or reviewed by a clinician within a certain period of time, escalations can occur. That does two things. It improves your clinical efficiency by not requiring, for example, a physician to repeatedly log in to check for test results in the EMR. But it also fulfills the Joint Commission requirement to have escalations on critical lab value delivery back to the requesting provider.

What you said is exactly on point. That’s really where this industry is headed, which is situational awareness-based. Not just on the medical record, but also on the physician’s schedules, the time of day, and other policies that affect patient care.

What are the challenges in making the conversion from a hosted pager infrastructure to Wi-Fi or cellular?

It’s less of a problem now than when we started the company five years ago. You have corporate Wi-Fi that’s been put in place for the support of telemetry applications in healthcare. You can leverage a lot of those networks for the communications network.

What happens when the message does not get to the end point? That’s where you need a system that identifies that scenario and can respond on it through escalations or try an alternate delivery of a message. That’s an area that we were focused on from the beginning of our company. We productized that with our first launch called SmartPager. That’s exactly the issue that we addressed initially.

Is it now assumed that employees will use their own devices or are health systems buying devices for them?

What we’ve seen now as the norm is a mix of the two. It’s divided based on the type of clinician.

In the majority of our clients, the physicians are using “bring your own device” based on their preference. Some physicians are using corporate devices. But almost ubiquitously, all the nurses and other clinician staff that are on the communication network are using it from a corporate device.

It’s obviously important to have a solution that works nicely in that “bring your own device” environment, but that can also support a corporate device scenario. I believe that’s going to slowly evolve, where nurses will start to get more into the “bring your own device.” But right now, typically the policy for nurses would be corporate devices accessing through, for example, the nurse workstation. It’s not very common to see a “bring your device policy” for nurses. In fact, I haven’t seen that in my five years.

Are health systems interested having patients securely message into the health system with enough system intelligence to route their messages correctly, such as for population health management?

Yes. That is one of our initiatives, to allow patients to be a part of the communication platform.

Our experience when we tried to launch that initially was that it’s almost impossible to reliably get patients to install an app. Where we’ve taken the product — and where I believe the industry will go — is it will be a mobile Web experience that has a very similar experience to an installed app. That’s the best way to drive patient adoption, to not require them to install an app.

When the patient communication comes back in to the healthcare network, it has to be triaged based on who that message should go to and based on the call schedule and availability of the providers.

How does an answering service fit into the communications suite?

Our answering service essentially extends what is already being used as the texting platform and turns it into a converged solution. Clinicians can use one application to handle all of their texting and voice calls.

On my iPhone, if someone sends me a voice mail, I have no way to share that voice mail with a colleague. I’s the same thing for clinicians.Our solution allows voice mails to be passed around as they were text messages to allow for better communication. A lot of HIPAA audits overlook the fact that voice mail on personal devices is not secure and not being governed by the organization. By using a platform like ours, you can lock down not just texting, but also the voice mail communications between providers.

Where do you see the communications spectrum evolving over the next several years?

Things will be consolidating into single platform that involves all the stakeholders. Right now you have companies focusing on physician communication and others on patient-to-doctor communications, patient-to-practice communications, and nurse call communications. There’s no reason that can’t all happen on one platform, But in order to accomplish that, you need the clinical expertise, the integrations, and the experience of being in the market for a number of years.

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April 18, 2016 Interviews No Comments

Monday Morning Update 4/18/16

April 17, 2016 News 10 Comments

Top News

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Epic’s trade secrets lawsuit against India-based Tata Group concludes with the Wisconsin jury awarding Epic $940 million in damages. The verdict calls for Tata to pay Epic $240 million for the benefits received by its subsidiary (Tata Consultancy Services) from stealing Epic’s trade secrets plus another $700 million in punitive damages. The lawsuit said employees of Tata posed as Kaiser Permanente employees to gain access to client-only Epic documentation that Tata planned to use to develop a competing product.

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Tata says it will appeal, claiming it did not use Epic’s information in the development of its Med Mantra system. The company says its developers never saw Epic’s materials.

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The $940 million judgment will certainly be reduced by the presiding judge, who chided Epic’s damage claims before the hometown jury’s verdict was announced. He observed:

  • Epic didn’t provide the court with the method it used to calculate its damage claims until after the trial began, which could cause those claimed damages to be excluded.
  • Epic hasn’t proved that it was damaged to the extent claimed or that Tata benefited to that degree, explaining, “The complete lack of evidence tying the costs of Epic’s research and development efforts to any commensurate benefit to TCS dooms its methodology.”
  • Epic claims that the biggest benefit to Tata wasn’t stealing development secrets or source code, but rather then value of “what not to do” that is “spread throughout the enterprise.”
  • The only evidence provided of how Tata used Epic’s information was a side-by-side marketing graphic comparing Epic’s products and Tata’s Med Mantra, with the claimed damages “based on Epic’s speculation that the confidential information is sitting on a shelf somewhere to be used immediately after this trial ends.”
  • The judge says such “future use” assumptions are more appropriately addressed via injunction to prevent such use  rather than a speculative damage award. He also noted that Tata has mostly failed in its attempts to penetrate the US market and that an injunction would reduce its chances even further.

Reader Comments

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From Verisimilitude: “Re: HealthTap access on Facebook Messenger. I’m not sure how much privacy protection people are given. I’m no HIPAA expert, but my guess is there’s a big fat release and arbitration clause buried in a EULA someplace.” Video visit vendor HealthTap offers a free chatbot Q&A service using Facebook Messenger rather than real-time access to actual human doctors. HealthTap’s terms of service are indeed voluminous and include an arbitration clause. I tried the Facebook service and it was worthless – all I received within several hours of asking a simple question was a list of previously answered similar questions (that weren’t similar at all) and a link to HealthTap’s site.

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From Nasty Parts: “Re: NextGen. A major re-org was announced as Rusty Frantz continues the Pyxis-ization. It has dissolved its silos into ‘One NextGen,’ and as a result, multiple senior execs are transitioning out.” Unverified. Nasty Parts named several VPs who are leaving and says there’s “much more change to come.” I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Frantz has been CEO at Quality Systems for almost a year, so he’s had time to think through what needs to be done.

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From Maury Garner: “Re: Sandlot Solutions. You reported their closing. I ran across this lawsuit filed by one of their customers to prevent Sandlot from destroyer their data immediately after copying it for them. The article describes Sandlot Solutions as insolvent and closing.” I don’t have a Law360 subscription to see the details, but your description of their article seems accurate.

From Rebuttal: “Re: IT departments. In the last 5-6 years, I’ve noticed that organizations I’ve interviewed with seem to care more about what I can bring rather than having a balanced interest in our mutual needs. It seems that complex vendor systems have turned IT departments into sweatshops.” It may well be that the high cost of vendor systems has raised provider expectations that new hires will immediately pay off in task-specific, product-specific ways with implementation and optimization. It’s also probably true that for-profit companies in particular aren’t as interested in investing in mutually satisfying long-term relationships with new hires who might bolt once they’ve built their resumes. Lastly, I would speculate that the rise of the 1099 economy has redefined the work environment on both sides to a “what have you done for me lately” mindset. I’ll invite readers to weigh in.

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From Vince Ciotti: “Re: Bill Childs. Just to make sure readers appreciate how progressive Bill and the pioneering team at Lockheed were, they also came up with:

  • CRTs (cathode ray tubes). They called them VMTs (Video Matrix Terminals) in an era when most systems relied on keypunch cards and green bar paper reports for input and output.
  • Light pens. The precursor (punny?) to today’s mice, an idea Jobs and Wozniak copied from Xerox PARC. Clinicians using MIS only had to click on the VMT screen instead of trying to learn touch typing.
  • Screen building. Lockheed (later TDS) called it matrix coding, but teams of clinicians designed their own order screens rather than implementing a model designed by programmers who never saw a patient.

Feeling nostalgic? You can read more in Vince’s HIS-tory series that ran on HIStalk for several years. I immersed myself back into them over the weekend as a guilty pleasure.

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From Rocket J. Squirrel: “Re: Erlanger. A rocky start to the Epic project. The consultant evaluation ignored the lowest-cost option and the CTO who made the decision is gone after eight months. Totally behind on project staffing and already six months delayed.” Unverified.

From Alpha Surfer Dude: “Re: Dr. Brink’s article on radiology benefits managers. See what’s going on in Hawaii if you want to learn why this is so topical.” A Readers Write article by James A. Brink, MD, vice chair of the American College of Radiology and Mass General radiologist in chief, criticized plans to require pre-authorization of advanced imaging. He says electronic guidelines can help ensure the appropriateness of such orders in real time. Insurer Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) made outpatient imaging pre-authorization mandatory in December 2015, leading doctors to complain that care is delayed and that tests are often denied. Newly proposed legislation would hold insurance companies rather than providers liable for any civil damages resulting from pre-authorization delays. HMSA requires doctors to contact Arizona-based radiology benefits management company National Imaging Associates (a subsidiary of publicly traded Magellan Health), leading one Hawaii doctor to complain, “Do you want those decisions to be made by offshore non-experts?” Taking the counterpoint, it was widespread ordering of medically questionable imaging studies – sometimes by doctors with a financial interest in the machines used to perform them — that created the need for such restrictions in the first place. As they say, one person’s excess cost is another’s livelihood.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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Only 12 percent of poll respondents have had a virtual visit in the past year, although 81 percent of those who did were satisfied. New poll to your right or here: would you be worried about your privacy if you were being treated for depression by an EHR-using provider? Please explain after voting.

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Mrs. May, a first-year teacher from Florida, says her special education classes are using the STEM and engineering kits we provided in funding her DonorsChoose grant request not only to learn about science, but also “how important communication is to get to the finish line.”

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Also checking in is Mrs. Johnson from Oklahoma, who says her elementary school students “are loving the hands-on materials that you have provided for us. I no longer hear any complaints when I ask them to go to their math stations because they are not only enjoying them, but they are practicing their skills.”


Last Week’s Most Interesting News

  • CMS threatens to ban Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes from the blood testing business for failing to correct problems that CMS had previously called to the company’s attention.
  • Kaiser Permanente launches a database of data contributed by its members that researchers will use to study how genetic and environmental factors affect health.
  • CMS announces a five-year pilot of CPC+, a medical home model that requires the use of a certified EHR, and for one of the two tracks, a signed agreement from the practice’s EHR vendor that it will support the capabilities needed.
  • Kaiser Permanente releases a summary of what it has learned from having a large number of its patients use a portal, disclosing that one-third of its PCP encounters are now conducted by secure email with expectations that the percentage will increase significantly.

Webinars

April 26 (Tuesday) 1:00 ET. “Provider-Led Care Management: Trends and Opportunities in a Growing Market. ”Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenter: Matthew Guldin, analyst, Chilmark Research. This webinar will provide a brief overview and direction of the provider-led care management market. It will identify the types of vendors in this market, their current and longer-term challenges, product capabilities, partnership activity, and market dynamics that influence adoption. It will conclude with an overview of key factors for vendors and solutions moving forward.

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


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Cardinal Health-owned NaviHealth, which offers post-acute care utilization management services, will acquire care transition software vendor Curaspan Health Group.

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Behavioral health software vendor Quartet Health raises $40 million in a Series B funding round led by GV (the former Google Ventures), increasing its total to $47 million.


People

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Mark Cesa, whose long healthcare IT sales career included stints with Baxter Healthcare, GTE Health Systems, Eclipsys, Tamtron, QuadraMed, Allscripts, and Napier Healthcare, died of cancer April 1. He was 61.


Announcements and Implementations

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Voalte announces that it signed 125 hospitals in its fiscal year ending March 2016, increasing its customer base by 83 percent.

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Imaging IT expert Herman Oosterwijk posts the Digital Imaging Adoption Model that was announced a few weeks ago by the European Society of Radiology and HIMSS Analytics.


Government and Politics

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VA CIO LaVerne Council says in Congressional testimony that the VA needs “a new digital health platform” and seems to suggest it will pursue a custom-developed system rather than buy a commercially available product or upgrade VistA. Council says a working prototype will be available in a few months that “is aligned with the world-class technology everyone’s seen today and using in things like Facebook and Google and other capabilities. But it also is agile and it leverages what is called FHIR capability, which means we can bring things in, we can use them, we can change them, we can respond.” Lawmakers are justifiably concerned that the history of the VA specifically and government agencies in general suggests a high likelihood of expensive failure and lack of interoperability with the DoD, but Council says the cost-benefit analysis is solid. She also reiterated previous statements that the VA is putting its $624 million Epic patient scheduling system rollout on hold while it tests its own self-developed system that will cost just $6.4 million. The VA and Congress, anxious to deflect bad publicity about the VA’s wait time scandal, quickly threw IT money at the patient scheduling problem last year despite scant evidence implicating technology as the problem.

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CMS Administrator Andy reiterates that EHR certification will require vendors to provide open APIs for interoperability.


Privacy and Security

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The Department of Homeland Security’s US-CERT urges Windows PC users who have Apple’s QuickTime installed to de-install it immediately after a security firm finds major vulnerabilities and Apple quickly drops QuickTime for Windows support. It’s fine on Apple devices.

A federal appeals court rules that a healthcare company’s general liability insurer must defend it against security breach claims even when the policy doesn’t specifically include cyberbreach wording. .


Other

Jenn covered for me Thursday and mentioned the JAMIA-published study that found missing information about patients with diagnoses of depression or bipolar disorder, about which I will opine further. The authors try to make the case that primary care EHRs suffer from “data missingness” that indicates that “federal policies to date have tilted too far in accommodating EHR vendors’ desire for flexible, voluntary standards” that “can lock providers in to proprietary systems that cannot easily share data.” Underneath that big (and preachy) conclusion is a little study with a lot of problems:

  • It analyzed data from 2009 only, eons ago in HITECH years (in fact, that was the same year that HITECH was passed, well before it had significant EHR impact).
  • It covered patients from a single insurance plan’s patients, treated by a single medical practice, using a single EHR (Epic).
  • The “data missingness” it claims involves only two behavioral health diagnoses that were likely treated by specialty providers (LCSW, PhD, psychiatrists) who weren’t HITECH-bribed to adopt EHRs and who often don’t use them because of privacy concerns and lack of benefit.
  • The study matched EHR information to claims data in finding that 90 percent of acute psychiatric services were not captured in the EHR. The authors should have noted that many patients seeking behavioral health services pay cash to avoid creating a claims history, seek help from public services, or travel out of their own area for them to maintain privacy, all of which could impact their conclusions.
  • It’s likely that some or even most of the patients with missing information would have opted out of automatic sharing of their behavioral health information given the chance.
  • The authors blame EHR vendors for the lack of interoperability, but give the organization they studied a free ride in assuming that it freely exchanges information with any other provider who expresses interest.
  • The study seems to state an expectation that every primary care provider’s EHR have a complete patient record from all sources of care, which is a nice dream, but as they correctly conclude is not today’s reality for many reasons, most of them unrelated to EHR vendors. That doesn’t necessarily mean the information isn’t available (via an HIE, records request, patient history, etc.) but only that it isn’t updated in real time across EHRs everywhere.
  • Lack of information doesn’t necessarily change the treatment plan or outcome. Doctors have never had that information, electronic or otherwise, so it’s not like EHRs caused a new problem.
  • The best conclusion is this: if you want the most nearly complete patient information available, use both EHR information and individual patient claims data across all commercial and governmental payers and present it from within the patient’s EHR record. That’s not how the system works for most PCPs, however.

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Kansas City tax authorities approve reimbursing Cerner for $1.75 billion of the $4.45 billion construction cost of the company’s new The Trails campus. Cerner says the new space will allow it to add 16,000 jobs within 10 years and  the increased post-construction assessment should generate $2.6 million of additional property taxes per year.

In Canada, Nova Scotia has spent $30 million on incentives for practices to use EHRs, but faxing is still the most common way for practices to communicate with each other because the government-approved systems aren’t interoperable.

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Lee Memorial Health System (FL) comes up with creative excuses for earning a one-star quality rating from CMS: (a) the hospital converted to Epic just three years ago; (b) incomplete EHR coding caused the health system to be compared unfairly; (c) CMS doesn’t take into account tourist-driven seasonality; and (d) CMS doesn’t take socioeconomic factors into account and therefore penalizes hospitals that treat poor patients who are sicker (a minor variant of the “our patients are sicker” explanation). The hospital didn’t suggest that it will actually treat patients any differently even though its largest customer gave it the lowest possible quality score.

Weird News Andy notes that “even junkies are logical” as evidenced by this story, in which drug abusers are injecting themselves in the bathrooms and parking garages of Massachusetts General Hospital so they can get medical help quickly if they overdose. MGH says people are even tying themselves to the emergency pull cords in its bathrooms so the alarm will go off if they keel over in a narcotic stupor.


Sponsor Updates

  • A Spok case study describes the 50 percent of University of Utah Health Care’s incoming residents and medical students who choose to communicate using Spok Mobile for secure text messaging.
  • Medecision President and CEO Deborah M. Gage is named as one of the most powerful women in healthcare IT.
  • T-System will exhibit at the UCAOA National Urgent Care Convention April 17-20 in Orlando.
  • Huron Consulting Group is named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Employers for the second consecutive year.
  • Wellsoft will exhibit at TCEP Connect 2016 April 21-24 in Galveston, TX.
  • ZirMed will exhibit at the California MGMA Conference April 21-23 in Sonoma.
  • Zynx Health will exhibit at the ANIA 2016 Conference April 21-23 in San Francisco.
  • PatientPay shows commitment to rid paper from healthcare billing in support of The Nature Conservancy.
  • QPID Health CMO Mike Zalis will speak at the North Carolina Association for Healthcare Quality Annual Conference April 21-22 in Durham.
  • Huffington Post interviews Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst.
  • The SSI Group will exhibit at the Healthcare Finance Institute April 17-19 in Tysons Corner, VA.
  • Streamline Health will exhibit at the 2016 California MGMA Annual Conference April 21-23 in Sonoma.

Blog Posts


Contacts

Mr. H, Lorre, Jennifer, Dr. Jayne, Lt. Dan.
More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.
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April 17, 2016 News 10 Comments

Morning Headlines 4/18/16

April 17, 2016 Headlines No Comments

Epic Systems wins $940 mln U.S. jury verdict in Tata trade secret case

Epic wins its trade secret lawsuit against Indian IT firm Tata Consultancies. A judge awarded Epic $240 million in compensatory damages and $700 million in punitive damages after concluding that Tata employees illegally accessed Epic’s customer website and accessed proprietary information.

VA teases plans for new ‘state-of-the-art’ digital health platform

VA CIO LaVerne Council says she will unveil plans for a “new digital health platform” to replace VistA.

Nova Scotia spends $39M on electronic medical records push

After spending $39 million in incentive payments to encourage EHR adoption, Nova Scotia continues to rely on faxes to communicate between facilities.

Kansas City TIF Commission approves financing agreement for huge Cerner redevelopment

Kansas City approves a reimbursement plan to repay Cerner $1.75 billion of the $4.45 billion it is spending to build its new campus.

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April 17, 2016 Headlines No Comments

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 4/15/16

April 15, 2016 News No Comments

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In follow up to my recent discussion of faxing as a primary mechanism of data sharing, a reader sent this piece with data from a January provider survey. Traditional communication methods (letter, fax, phone) are still in use by the majority of providers. The graphic only tells part of the story, however. In order to have a better understanding of the situation, we’d need to see data from the same providers that shows what percentage of communications falls into each of the buckets. For example, 89 percent of providers are receiving using paper-based methods. Is that one letter or a hundred? The same goes for electronic exchange. Maybe only 40 percent of providers are doing it, but they’re doing it 90 percent of the time. I wanted to dig deeper into the data, but it was behind one of those “enter your email address to access this resource” pages. Those drive me crazy – it seems like it’s always a multi-step process to get the download. I’d look much more favorably on an organization that presented its content up front and asked you to sign up if you wanted to learn more, compared to organizations that require your address and then clutter your inbox.

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Midmark’s announcement that it is acquiring RTLS vendor Versus Technology caught my attention. I’ve always been a fan of Midmark –  its sales team impresses me with their relatively-subdued, knowledge-driven approach as compared to the bluster of some of their competitors. They’ve been innovative in providing solutions that just work, which is always appreciated when you have hundreds of devices to bring online. Midmark is also interesting as a company. Starting more than 100 years ago as an industrial equipment company, they entered healthcare in the 1960s and diversified to veterinary and technology segments. It seems to be a company that works at its own pace and ignores the industry hype. We’ll have to see whether the acquisition changes that.

From Direct Doc: “Thanks for the Curbside Consult on the state of primary care training programs. What do you think about the fact that Harvard doesn’t even bother to train students in family practice?” He didn’t mention that the article he cited clarifies that it’s not just Harvard. There are actually 10 medical schools (many of which are regarded as the nation’s top schools) that don’t have a department of family medicine. Some of them do offer optional family medicine courses, but I can say from first-hand experience that it’s not the same as taking a course in a school with a full-fledged department. I was barraged with comments during my training that I was “too smart for primary care” and our administrators were saddened that my class had more students match into family med than into general surgery. They also allowed some financial aid shenanigans that actually put primary care grads at a disadvantage. Needless to say, I’m not on the alumni donation list.

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Wearable tech vendor Ringly announced the bracelet version of its customizable notification jewelry. Their ring offering was a bit too chunky for my taste but I really like the bracelet concept. I’m not a fan of gold accessories, but I’ve been watching their products for a long time. They have a non-gold option for ring designs, and once they offer one in a bracelet, I will be sold. The idea of being able to receive notifications when messages arrive from a specific sender is an attractive one. I don’t routinely use audio notifications on my phone and turn off the notifications on Outlook and other apps, but I’d like to know if a high-priority client is trying to reach me outside of my normal email-checking periods.

Mr. H mentioned the CMS announcement regarding the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) initiative. It’s designed as a new medical home model that allows practices to choose one of two tracks for value-based reimbursements. One track will provide a smaller, monthly per-patient payment plus bonuses. The second provides a larger payment but has more requirements. It’s slated to run for five years and they want to include 5,000 practices. The launch is scheduled for January 2017, which doesn’t give practices much time to get their acts together unless they’re already doing a medical home model or have started the extensive change management and process work that is needed to make it viable. I have worked with a couple of practices that participated in the original Comprehensive Primary Care (CPC) program that started in 2012 and runs through the end of this year. The ones I worked with were already recognized by NCQA for their Patient Centered Medical Home efforts, and were looking for assistance with reporting and other EHR needs to meet the CPC requirements.

The key Comprehensive Primary Care Functions involved include: access and continuity; care management; comprehensiveness and coordination; patient and caregiver engagement; and planned care and population health. The higher-paying track definitely has more extensive healthcare IT requirements including the ability to manage the payments on the revenue cycle side. Although track 1 maintains regular fee-for-service payments, track 2 delivers hybrid payments with reduction in E&M payments for a percentage of claims. Bonus payments are also tiered, at $2.50 per patient per month on track 1 and $4 on track 2. Interestingly, incentives are prepaid at the beginning of a performance year, but must be refunded if the practice doesn’t meet quality and utilization performance thresholds.

Track 2 partners must submit a letter from their EHR vendor that outlines the vendor’ commitment to “supporting practices with advanced health IT capabilities.” I found it interesting that this wasn’t required for Track 1, because I’m not sure what difference it really makes. Of course vendors are going to say that they’re supportive. What else are they going to do? The devil will be in the details though, and I’d be surprised if this doesn’t lead to a host of de facto requirements that vendors may struggle to meet.

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From The Ghillie: “I know that working with clients during their EHR transitions can be frustrating. You seem like an outdoorsy person, so I’d like to suggest an additional benefit to the paperless office transition.” I have to say, I’m smitten, especially since I’m a big fan of reduce/reuse/recycle. Most of my cast-off file cabinets were only two drawers, but I’m going to keep an eye out for a four-drawer on the yard sale circuit.

Do you have a novel use for cast-off equipment? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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April 15, 2016 News No Comments

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