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

June 18, 2014 Readers Write 1 Comment

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


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

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

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

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

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

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June 18, 2014 Readers Write 1 Comment

Advisory Panel: Budget Challenges, Favorite Vendor

June 18, 2014 Advisory Panel No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epic. They are our EMR and provide great support

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

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

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June 18, 2014 Advisory Panel No Comments

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

June 18, 2014 Darren Dworkin 2 Comments

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

Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet Trends


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

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

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

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

Trend #1


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

Trend #2


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

Trend #3


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

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

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

Trend #4


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

Trend #5


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

Trend #6


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

Trend #7


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

Trend #8


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

Trend #9


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

Trend #10


Precision medicine is on the way (period).

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

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

1-29-2014 12-54-46 PM

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

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June 18, 2014 Darren Dworkin 2 Comments

Mostashari Launches ACO Creation Company for Independent Physicians

June 18, 2014 News 7 Comments



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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 18, 2014 News 7 Comments

Morning Headlines 6/18/14

June 17, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Nuance Communications Explores Possible Sale

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

Digital woes hamper Alexian Brothers’ shift to new Medicaid program

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

Medtronic buys Covidien for $42.9 billion

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

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

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

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News 6/18/14

June 17, 2014 News 16 Comments

Top News


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

Reader Comments


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


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


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

HIStalk Announcements and Requests 

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

Upcoming Webinars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


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


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


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


From the Streamline Health Solutions earnings call:

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


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



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

The FHP Health Center (Guam) selects eClinicalWorks.


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



Practice Fusion names Robert Park (Chegg) as CFO.


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

image image

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

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

Announcements and Implementations


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

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

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

Government and Politics

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


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

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

Innovation and Research

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



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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

Sponsor Updates

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


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.


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June 17, 2014 News 16 Comments

Morning Headlines 6/17/14

June 16, 2014 Headlines No Comments

VA Seeks Proposals for New Scheduling Technology

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

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

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

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

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

ACA triggers big drop in Minnesota’s uninsured rate

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

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June 16, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 6/16/14

June 16, 2014 Dr. Jayne 3 Comments


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email Dr. Jayne.

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June 16, 2014 Dr. Jayne 3 Comments

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

June 16, 2014 Interviews No Comments

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


Tell me about your job.

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


What is the informatics influence in the School of Medicine?

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

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


Describe how PCORnet came about and what it does.

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

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

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


What Temple systems are contributing data to PCORnet?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 16, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Morning Headlines 6/16/14

June 15, 2014 Headlines 5 Comments

Cumberland Consulting Group Acquires Cipe Consulting Group

Nashville,TN-based Cumberland Consulting Group acquires Cipe Consulting Group, a Seattle-based firm that specialized in EHR and Revenue Cycle projects.

Is Meaningful Use Becoming the Next ICD10?

Eric Boehme, associate director of informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, questions the future of the EHR Incentive Program after MU Stage 2 is delayed, ONC National Coordinator, Farzad Mostashari, CMS Administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, and the HSS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius all resign, and ONC’s stimulus funding begins to dry up.

Lack of input, training created problems with Athens Regional electronic records system

A local paper reports that two Cerner VP’s and the hospital’s own CMO are blaming the IT department at Athens Regional Health System for its failed $31 million implementation, saying that IT-led installs are atypical and that the clinicians that would ultimately be the primary end users should have made many of the decisions that were being made by IT leadership.

Beware Bad Data About Hospitals

Johns Hopkins’ patient safety expert Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD publishes an editorial on the unregulated and often confusing state of hospital quality data.

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June 15, 2014 Headlines 5 Comments

Monday Morning Update 6/16/14

June 14, 2014 News 3 Comments

Top News


Cumberland Consulting Group will announce Monday that it has acquired Cipe Consulting Group, a 50-consultant, Seattle-based EHR and RCM consulting company. Franklin, TN-based Cumberland has 230 consultants.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


Responses to my poll about meeting attendance in the next year indicate that it’s the HIMSS conference (33 percent) and vendor user groups (26 percent) well out front, followed by CHIME (9 percent) and then a scattershot of other meetings with low percentage numbers. New poll to your right: how well does Epic support interoperability compared to other EHR vendors? After you vote, click the “Comments” link at the bottom of the poll to explain why you think so.

Things you can do to help me with HIStalk: (a) read HIStalk Practice and HIStalk Connect; (b) support my sponsors by checking out their ads, reviewing the listings in the Resource Center, and using the RFI Blaster for any consulting needs; (c) review the archived educational material on HIStalkU; (d) send me anything readers would find useful – people I should interview, conferences I should attend, and of course news, rumors, and fun stuff; and (e) tell people you know about HIStalk since I don’t advertise and nobody will hear about it otherwise. Thanks for reading HIStalk even though I started writing it in 2003 just for myself and it was mostly that way for years.

Upcoming Webinars

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

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

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

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

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

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Streamline Health Solutions reports Q4 results after a delay involving an auditor change and an internal controls audit: revenue down 3 percent, EPS –$0.14 vs. –$0.63.

Announcements and Implementations


IT gets the blame (at least from non-IT people looking for a scapegoat) for the failed $31 million Cerner implementation at Athens Regional Health System (GA). The hospital’s chief medical officer says users weren’t well trained and the CIO was holding back information, while Cerner claims IT was running the project without getting users involved. The CEO and CIO were forced out after physicians protested.  My suspicion is that the medical staff docs were already mad at administration over something unrelated, refused to participate, then capitalized on go-live challenges to get the CEO fired. The CIO was probably collateral damage since an IT system was the claimed problem.

Government and Politics


Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) ask unnamed stakeholders for ideas on how the use of government healthcare databases can be expanded. Chuck asks a lot of questions and writes a lot of letters, but that’s usually the last you hear about it.


Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Eric Boehme, associate director of informatics, worries that the already-complicated Meaningful Use timetable could take an unexpected turn between the recent Notice of Proposed Rule Making and the actual rule, as in what happened with ICD-10. He also takes an interesting long view: “This is all too late and too little. MU is in trouble. Two powerful committees in Congress asked for a pause for MU to evaluate the success of the program and to emphasize the lack of true interoperability. ONC has lost a significant portion of its funding as the stimulus money dries up. Recently, some members of Congress questioned how much ONC should regulate HIT. ONC National Coordinator, Farzad Mostashari, CMS Administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, and the HSS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius have all resigned.”



A Wall Street Journal editorial by patient safety expert Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD of Johns Hopkins Medicine urges consumers to “Beware Bad Data About Hospitals” in the current “Wild West” environment in which “there are greater protections about what claims we can make about toothpaste than a hospital or measurement organization can make about quality of care.” He recommends creating the equivalent of a Securities and Exchange Commission to oversee development and use of quality indicators. Until then, he suggests that consumers use only composite scores such as those from The Leapfrog Group and Consumer Reports. He concludes with a simple plea: “There really is very little useful information on pricing. There should be.”


An unnamed IT system goes down at Fletcher Allen Health Care (VT) Friday morning, forcing the hospital to go to paper.


The Detroit newspaper profiles Sorie Kanue, a former Michigan State football standout and team captain (playing safety) who worked in IT after college and then went to nursing school. He has been named nurse of the year twice at Detroit Medical Center’s Heart Hospital and is working on his MSN.



Fortune profiles Elizabeth Holmes, who as a Stanford sophomore in 2003 founded blood diagnostics company Theranos, which now has 500 employees and a valuation of $9 billion. When questioned by her professor about why she wanted to start a company, she answered, “Because systems like this could completely revolutionize how effective healthcare is delivered and this is what I want to do. I don’t want to make an incremental change in some technology in my life. I want to create a whole new technology, and one that is aimed at helping humanity at all levels regardless of geography or ethnicity or age or gender.” The company’s product can run dozens of tests from a single, tiny sample of blood drawn via pain-free finger stick, and the company’s app supports its pledge that “we believe you have the right to your own health information” and “answers at the speed of digital.” Test cost is as little as a tenth of what hospitals charge. Walgreens will put the company’s labs in many of its drugstores, but Theranos is also working with UCSF, Dignity Health, and Intermountain. Holmes says patients don’t have 40-60 percent of lab test orders drawn because of the pain or inconvenience involved.


”The Daily Show” invites a group of Google Glass fans to defend their worship of the technology, include one woman who claims that she was a victim of a hate crime because she wore Glass into a bar and filmed fellow patrons without their permission, eliciting their angry taunts as she cursed at them and announced while recording, “I want to get this white trash on tape for as long as I can.” The same woman’s neighbors had previously filed a restraining order against her for recording their private conversations. She and her fellow Glassholes probably should have stayed home: after hearing that Glass early adopters are called Explorers, the host responds, “Magellan was an explorer. Chuck Yeager was an explorer. You guys have a %&@! camera on your face.”


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.



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June 14, 2014 News 3 Comments

Morning Headlines 6/13/14

June 12, 2014 Headlines No Comments

ONC’s Chief Privacy Officer Tenders Resignation

Joy Pitts, the ONC’s first Chief Privacy Officer, resigns after four years of service.

Healthcare authentication software provider Imprivata sets terms for $75 million IPO

Imprivata reports that it will raise $75 million in its upcoming IPO by offering 5 million shares at a price of $14 to $16 per share.

KeyBanc Downgrades Computer Programs and Systems (CPSI) to Underweight

Analysts downgrade CPSI stock due to increased small market competition. Healthland is seen as a stronger market presence, and Epic is encroaching on the territory through its Community Connect program.

NHS waiting list passes 3m for first time in six years

In England, the NHS appointment wait list has passed 3 million patients for the first time in six years, though it managed to meet its goal of providing 90 percent of patients with appointments within 18 weeks.

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June 12, 2014 Headlines No Comments

News 6/13/14

June 12, 2014 News 13 Comments

Top News


ONC announces that Chief Privacy Officer Joy Pritts, JD has resigned after four years on the job.

Reader Comments

From Anonymous Tipster: “Re: Wayne Tracy on VistA. I agree it would be a tragic shame to see VistA replaced. Unless Epic were to make some dramatic changes in its approach to interoperability, this could be a disaster for the VA. Anyone who has ever suffered through a migration to Epic could tell you how difficult this can be from a workflow perspective (not to mention cost overruns). You think there’s backlog now? Remember the iEHR project that died? It’s an election year and the money is rolling in big time from lobbyists  — maybe Epic will even begin to divert some of its campaign dollars to Republicans).” The DoD’s IT efforts have been financial disasters, with AHTLA and its predecessors rumored to have cost $10 billion. The VA has done very well with VistA, but its more recent efforts involving government contractors (BearingPoint’s CoreFLS at Bay Pines) were spectacular failures, so there’s no guarantee that VistA wasn’t a one-trick pony. It’s also true that DoD and VA don’t agree on anything despite their common responsibility in caring for active service members who eventually (hopefully) become veterans. Kaiser had to pull the plug on its IBM-developed system that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and replace it with $4 billion or so worth of Epic, so that’s an interesting IBM-Epic partnership (I can’t imagine Epic letting IBM tell its 25-year-olds how to implement.) Add replacing VistA to DoD’s $11 billion project and you’re probably talking about $30 billion worth of overruns, delays, and potential patient harm as the VA and DoD are forced to smoke their first-ever HIT peace pipe – that number has substance since the DoD walked away from iEHR because it was going to cost $28 billion and nothing involving the federal government ever comes in on budget, especially if the military is involved. Britain’s failed NPfIT has been called one of the most expensive government IT projects in history at around $17 billion, so we’ll beat that for sure. One final thought: Epic’s Judy Faulkner and InterSystems’ Terry Ragon are already healthcare billionaires as sole owners of their hugely successful private companies — an IBM-Epic DoD deal would certainly raise the numeric placeholder in front of their billions.


From Expandable Beltway: “Re: DoD bid. Cerner is teamed up with Accenture.” Unverified. I am getting anxious to hear what Dim-Sum has to say. Lorre would love to get him or her to present a webinar on the DHMSM topic, for which I would even arrange one of those voice-changing gadgets.


From Cool Runnings: “Re: Benefis EHR RFI. They use Meditech inpatient and replaced LSS with NextGen a few years ago. NextGen is taking a hit in Montana – a small hospital sued them, Bozeman Deaconess is rumored to be switching from Meditech/NextGen to Epic, and Community Medical Center in Missoula is merging with Billings Clinic, which very likely means a move from NextGen to Cerner Ambulatory.  I’ve heard that Benefis is talking to athena, but may be leaning toward looking for an integrated solution instead of just an ambulatory switch.” Unverified, but I should have checked Meditech’s online customer list, which would have told me that Benefis runs its soon-to-be-gone systems.  

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

It’s time to say goodbye to Inga, who has moved on to greener pastures after seven years of contributing to HIStalk and HIStalk Practice. She finished working on the sites in April and has finally tied up her last loose ends. Rumors that she is launching a healthcare shoe division of Christian Louboutin may or may not be unfounded, but we will wish her well in any case. Jennifer Dennard took over writing HIStalk Practice several weeks ago, while Lorre is happily handling the non-writing HIStalk chores.

This week on HIStalk Practice: ONC’s 10-year vision statement on interoperability prompts CommonWell to up its game. Several trade associations line up with telemedicine-related requests for new HHS head Sylvia Burwell. ARcare receives the HIMSS Analytics Stage 7 Ambulatory Award. Epocrates ranks number one again. HIT Policy Committee meeting numbers show $24 billion in MU incentive payments so far. Jim Morrow, MD gives healthcare IT its due as an independent physician. Wesley Medical Center docs face employment ultimatums. Northern Virginia launches the HeaLiXVA HIE. Thanks for reading.

This week on HIStalk Connect: Dr. Travis discusses the concept of patient ownership of health data, its benefit to public health in general, and the role that Apple and Samsung will play in advancing the concept. ZocDoc expands its business model to include corporate wellness services. Autism Speaks signs a deal with Google to create a database that will store 10,000 fully sequenced genomes in the cloud, where researchers across the globe can access the data.

Upcoming Webinars

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

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

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

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Imprivata sets terms for its $75 million IPO that values the access management company at around $400 million.


KeyBanc downgrades shares of CPSI, saying that Healthland is strong in the small-hospital market and that Epic’s Community Connect program is making it a competitor there as well.


Elsevier acquires Amirsys, which offers clinical decision support and learning tools for radiology, pathology, and anatomy that will be integrated with the Elsevier Clinical Solutions suite.


Mediware acquires Harmony Information Systems, whose systems help state and local agencies track long-term care policies.



The State of Vermont signs a six-month $5.69 million contract with OptumInsight for evaluation, remediation, and operations support for its health insurance exchange.


In England, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust awards a five-year, multi-million pound contract to Advanced Health & Care to develop an EHR that up to 3,500 clinicians will use on iPads. Oxford Health provides services for mental health, home care, children and family, and substance abuse.


Irving, TX-based USMD chooses the population health management platform of Lightbeam Health Solutions for its ACO and other risk-based programs. I interviewed Lightbeam CEO Pat Cline three weeks ago.



IMDsoft names Lars-Oluf G. Nielsen (Epic) CEO.

Announcements and Implementations


Estes Park Medical Center (CO) goes live on Medhost EDIS.

UPMC (PA) will deploy 2,000 Microsoft Surface Pro 3 devices to deploy its Convergence app, which UPMC says it first tried to roll out on the iPad without success. Convergence, developed by UPMC and Caradigm, gives clinicians a single view of UPMC’s Cerner and homegrown applications and suggests and monitors compliance with clinical pathways.


Nevada, MO, Cerner’s testbed for healthy communities, gets a new playground courtesy of the company and the Nevada Parks and Recreation Department.

Government and Politics

CMS reassures taxpayers that the workers who were sleeping on the job at the call center of Serco (which has a $1.25 billion contract) are busier now that the site is actually working.

Jon Stewart makes fun of the June 9 testimony of Assistant Deputy VA Under Secretary Philip Matkovsky, in which Matkovsky says in in the deadest of deadpans, “Our scheduling system scheduled its first appointment in April of 1985. It has not changed in any appreciable manner since that date.”

It isn’t just the VA that has an appointment problems. England’s NHS backlog hits three million patients who are waiting for appointments, not even counting six trusts that couldn’t report data because of computer problems. Still, NHS squeaked by in meeting the requirement that it treat 90 percent of patients within 18 weeks. As with the VA, increasing demand could cause NHS to start missing its goals routinely.

OpenFDA was possible only because the agency used a startup’s technology to turn its document backlog into discrete data. Captricity uses a combination of optical character recognition and crowdsourcing the unreadable parts by giving human reviewers “shredded” sections so they don’t see entire Social Security numbers or full names, preserving confidentiality. Pricing runs around 15 cents per page.

Innovation and Research 


Device maker Medtronic says every person will eventually want sensors implanted in their bodies that will generate data for self assessment, remote monitoring, and disease management. The company is testing a pill-sized cardiac pacemaker and has already released the Linq insertable cardiac monitor that’s the size of a AAA battery and uses cell technology for remote cardiac monitoring.



Via Christi (KS) asks for patience as it tries to recover from slowdowns caused by its Cerner Millennium go-live, with one patient reporting a 12.5-hour wait to get from the ED to a bed.

A McKesson-sponsored report predicts that value-based payments will double within five years, to two-thirds of the total.


AMA approves guidelines recommending that limitations on physician payments for providing telemedicine services be removed as long as a valid patient-physician relationship has been previously established, the physician is licensed in the patient’s state and follows that state’s laws, and standards are followed the same as for in-person encounters.

CHIME and AMDIS announce an alliance in which CHIME will provide health IT support to AMDIS and AMDIS will provide physician informatics advice to CHIME. The organizations recently jointly offered the CHIME/AMDIS CMIO Boot Camp, modeled after CHIME’s longstanding CIO Boot Camp.


Georgia Regents University will host the week-long NLM Georgia Biomedical Informatics Course September 14-20 at the Brasstown Valley resort in Young Harris, GA. Applications are due July 7. The nationally known faculty will teach change agents (biomedical educators, medical administrators, faculty, and others who don’t have knowledge of the field but who can spread the word) how to apply informatics solutions such as clinical informatics, big data, and telemedicine to their delivery, research, and education challenges. Enrollment is limited and competitive since the National Library of Medicine will pay for the registration, travel, housing, and meals of those accepted.


For $2,500, you can buy a report containing a SWAG at the size of the EHR market over the next four years in which the authors clearly don’t have a clue about data precision and presentation. Either that or they are very good at estimating the market to within 0.004 percent. I don’t see them trumpeting proof of previous accuracy.

A hospital in France blames a drug delivery robot’s computer bug for sending $15 million worth of drugs to the incinerator in the past five years.

An English hospital apologizes for the death of an 11-month-old baby whose acute appendicitis was not diagnosed because the samples for ordered tests were not delivered to the lab. A Trust spokesperson said that the pathology computer system has been upgraded to flag specimens ordered but not received.


Castlight Health co-founder Giovanni Colella, MD (formerly of RelayHealth), says big data rather than government intervention is needed to fix healthcare. He recommends: (a) companies should analyze the claims data from their health plan to see what they’re paying for; (b) gag clauses prohibiting the release of price contracts between insurance companies and providers should be abolished; (c) the government should allow the private sector to use Medicare claims data and physician quality data; and (d) price, utilization, and quality data should be made publicly available in the absence of a compelling reason not to.


More from Castlight Health: the company releases interactive maps showing national in-network pricing for lipid panel, PCP visit, head CT, lower back MRI (above, which ranged from $676 in Fresno, CA to $2,635 in Sacramento, CA, just 171 miles away by car.)

Sponsor Updates

  • Healthland will offer its hospital customers Meaningful Use Manager of Iatric Systems to help with their Meaningful Use attestation.
  • Grinnel Regional Medical Center (IA) reports a seven percent increase in cash collections, 79 percent of payments made via self-service, and 124 saved hours per month in a two-year review after its go-live with Patientco’s payment automation solution.
  • Impact Advisors and the Scottsdale Institute publish a report from the CIO Summit on IT Cost Management and Value Realization.
  • Sixteen medical innovations were showcased at Premier, Inc.’s Innovation Celebration in San Antonio, TX this week.
  • Quest Diagnostics certifies MedicsDocAssistant EHR v. 7.0 from Advanced Data Systems as a Silver Quality Solution under its Health IT Quality Solutions Program.
  • Janssen Diagnostics collaborates with Halfpenny Technologies to provide specialized reporting for HIV/AIDS healthcare.
  • GetWellNetwork recognizes several providers for using its solutions to improve care at GetConnected 2014 in Chicago, IL.
  • Hills Health Solutions signs a distribution agreement to make Lincor’s interactive patient engagement technology available in Australia and New Zealand.
  • Craneware and Centura Health (CO/KS) will co-present best practices of charge capture during HFMA ANI 2014 in Las Vegas June 24.
  • InstaMed shares how its Premium Payments solution has changed the consumer payment process.
  • Medfusion publishes a white paper on creating patient value through portals.
  • Gartner names Covisint a Leader in Identity and Access Management as a Service.
  • PeriGen CNO Rebecca Cypher will discuss fetal heart rate interpretation at AWHONN 2014 in Orlando June 14.

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne


This has been a rough week in the healthcare IT trenches. Our medical group has been in acquisition mode again, resulting in the addition of several new specialties. Unfortunately, this time around our EHR vendor doesn’t have content for any of them.

Luckily we’ve been through this enough to have a process in place. Our implementation team sends out a staffer or two to observe the practice’s current state workflow and documentation style. This is essentially a reconnaissance mission. We try to blend in and to avoid having the practice ask us a lot of questions while we gather data.

The team then comes back and makes a presentation to the implementation manager, the application team manager, and me to talk about what their current process looks like and how much we’ll be able to handle with the EHR as-is, without any additional development. Depending on the specialty, it’s hit and miss.

For example, when we added vascular surgery, we were able to handle 95 percent of their needs because we have both general surgery and cardiovascular content. On the other hand, when we’ve added certain pediatric subspecialties, we’ve had to get creative with what we choose to offer them. Vendors haven’t quite figured out that children are not just little adults and it’s not as easy as just having them use adult content with the same specialty name.

For example, pediatric cardiology deals with care for children who have had a variety of surgical procedures that are largely unspoken of in the adult cardiology world. On the flip side, there isn’t very much coronary artery disease or many triple vessel bypass surgeries among the pre-adolescent set.

Often we’re working with physicians who are used to dictating their notes and having them transcribed. We’ve had good success at putting them in our EHR “core” templates for documenting histories, assessments, and plans, but we augment the “story” part of the visit with voice recognition. It’s a hybrid approach, but it prevents us from doing costly development that will only be used by a handful of physicians. It also provides for physician satisfaction in that they’re used to being able to include a detailed narrative in their visit documentation.

We encountered a rare bird this week, however: a subspecialist who seriously believes she’s going to be happy with point-and-click documentation. She wants us to build a whole herd of custom screens for her. She dictates on the hospital system at present and has no previous experience with discrete data.

In our experience with other physicians of the same subspecialty, it’s generally not worth building custom screens. They tend to change their minds before the content is even built. If they don’t change their minds, once they see it, they decide it’s too “clicky,” and 90 percent of the time they end up dictating anyway.

We had our follow-up meeting with her today. We ran through the options and asked her to try some typical click-by-click workflows in the general medicine templates just to get a feel for what it would be like. She wasn’t terribly proficient, so we had her try voice recognition within the system. She did fairly well with that. It was clear to the team that she’ll likely do better with that kind of hybrid approach. The subspecialist was unconvinced, however.

We moved to our next tactic,  which is to ask the physician to use our recommended workflow for a couple of months and then decide if we still need custom content. It was obvious that she was not buying what we were selling. She told us we were just being difficult and didn’t want to do what she asked. She then accused us of trying to skimp on her content for budgetary reasons.

We explained the history with other physicians in her specialty, even trying to show her the content we had previously built that her peers had abandoned. She didn’t want to see that either, but made it completely clear that she expected us to build custom content for her alone. I knew we weren’t going to win this discussion, so we agreed to go back to the office, brainstorm other solutions, then meet up in a few weeks.

In debriefing with the team in the car, we’re not sure what to do for her. We have more than a decade of experience doing this. We know what works and what doesn’t work. However, we have a physician with no EHR experience (and no track record as an end user – she won’t even use the hospital system) who is demanding a certain course of action. My team asked what we should do.

My thoughts went into doctor mode. It feels like the scenario where a patient is demanding an antibiotic where none is indicated, or insisting on a procedure that could potentially be more risky than it is worth. The patient in this case is arguing with the IT-equivalent of our professional medical opinion as to the course of care. In the medical world, we wouldn’t be bullied into doing something that is not of benefit. Not to mention that building clicky screens for a provider who has never been exposed to that documentation style is a recipe for unhappiness.

Our plan is to bring some of her soon-to-be colleagues in the same subspecialty with us to our next meeting and hope that their shared experiences will steer her in the right direction. We’d like her to make the choice herself without us having to flat out reject her request, but I’m not sure how we’ll handle it if she doesn’t start to get on board with our advice. Being new to the group, we know her level of trust of our team is low and her experience with EHR is minimal, so that seems like a logical approach.

I never like disappointing people. It’s always difficult to have those conversations with patients when you deny their requests. It’s doubly challenging when you’re dealing with a peer who might be more senior than yourself, and particularly difficult when they’re in a seemingly more prestigious subspecialty than your own.

In other parts of the physician universe, we’re also dealing with some significant Meaningful Use issues where physicians are requiring retraining and a lot of hand-holding. This was just one more thing to add to the mounting heap of stress.

I polled a couple of my CMIO peers on how they handle these situations. They didn’t have too many better answers. For all our readers on the implementation and content side, what’s your take? Is there a silver bullet solution? Email me.


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.


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June 12, 2014 News 13 Comments

Morning Headlines 6/12/14

June 11, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

Q&A: Karen DeSalvo on Meaningful Use, ONC Reorg

National Coordinator for health IT Karen DeSalvo, MD, sits down with Scott Mace of HealthLeaders Media to discuss EHR usability, ONC’s restructure, and the future of Meaningful Use.

Group Of Electronic Health Record Vendors To Become Officially Interoperable

CommonWell, the EHR vendor interoperability alliance, will begin rolling out data sharing functionality to its customer base this summer.

AMDIS and CHIME Form Strategic Alliance to Further Adoption and Transformation of Health IT

CHIME and The Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems announce a strategic partnership in which AMDIS will serve as a physician informatics advisor for CHIME, while CHIME will serve as a health IT advisor for AMDIS.

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June 11, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

HIStalk Interviews Matt Zubiller, VP of Strategy and Business Development, McKesson

June 11, 2014 Interviews 2 Comments

Matt Zubiller is vice president of strategy and business development for McKesson.


Give me some background about what you do at McKesson.

I’ve been with McKesson for about 10 years. I’ve held a variety of roles, both on the strategy side and the general management side. Most recently I was the general manager for decision support, InterQual, and the Clear Coverage business. Now I am responsible for the strategy for the McKesson Health Solutions business, which connects payers and providers.


What is the Better Health tour?

McKesson put on the Better Health tour with a variety of its customers and stakeholders. McKesson touches a lot of different people and customers. We brought pharmacists, payers, providers, diagnostics manufacturers, and technology companies together to talk about healthcare and what type of change is needed to move it forward.

We’ve done that across several regions–Portland, Boston, and also in Minnesota now. We are looking to bring together each of these different types of constituents to help them move healthcare forward and help be the change we want to see.


What kind of innovation are they talking about on the tour?

It starts with looking at the change. We as McKesson operate on an international basis, but healthcare happens very locally. Depending on the region you’re in, there are different problems that are being addressed.

They were macro issues, like the changing of reimbursement from volume to value. But also issues about how you help to move technology along, along with physician adoption. How do you help payers or a health systems collaborate more effectively with each other to help drive the inefficiency out of healthcare?


Can you describe what you’re seeing that’s interesting or what attendees are talking about?

They talked about a few models — particularly in Boston — that were interesting to us. There are technology innovators that we invited. We call them Edisons. They are the folks who are  pushing both technology and different healthcare business models forward.

One example was a company called Iora Health. They contract with payers, providers, and primary care to provide primary care services on a fixed fee per-patient basis. That business model innovation is super interesting. When you use technology to support it, it becomes a lot more efficient and effective so you can track the performance of those patients.

Another example is some work that the Tufts health system has been doing. Tufts is a big health system, the oldest in the country, I believe. They had been looking across their region within the Boston area. They had contracted with and also connected to community hospitals so they could serve a much broader region of patients. You don’t have to have patients come in all the way into the Tufts health center to be able to be served. The community physicians themselves and the community systems can help support their patients.

There are several different ways we’re using technology to help break boundaries, but also to be able to shift business models.


Jonathan Bush had an interesting thought in his book that part of the limitations of healthcare are geographic as well as driven by state-by-state licensure. In addition to telemedicine, he says hospitals should physically transport patients from long distances into their hospitals that perform high volumes of specific procedures, the focused factory model. What’s the potential of telling a patient in Boston that the best treatment for them at the best price might be in Ohio or Minnesota?

I think that is another factor as well. The walls are both regulatory and just the way we think about healthcare today. 

Clayton Christensen was presenting at our innovation conference as part of the tour. He was talking about different types of innovation, both incremental and disruptive innovation. One of the things he has espoused is the fact that you need to provide the best care in the lowest-cost setting. I think that equally applies to your point, around the fact that care can be provided in one region or another depending on how efficient and how effective that really is.

Part of the problem in healthcare — and this is something that also came up –  is how do you effectively measure that? When you move from a volume-based model to a value-based model, where everybody’s talking about being paid based on value, how can you truly get to agreement around what value is? That’s a particularly difficult concept that the government’s trying to push forward with the ACA program, to begin to define different types of metrics.

But in the end, part of the wall you need to break down is not just understanding what good quality clinical care is, but what the financial decisions are that come along with it so you can begin to represent value.


I’ve worked in hospitals almost all of my career and we never told patients that another facility might be better at doing certain things. You worked in an area of McKesson that managed that data, so you could see it. Is it hard to convince patients that their local, shiny hospital that’s a source of community pride isn’t always the best place for them to seek care?

It’s an incredibly difficult sell, but I think it’s also generational. If you look at the generations who are a bit older, their fundamental healthcare relationship is based on that trust between them and their physician. If you look at some of the new generations, they’re beginning to not only question that, but they’re looking for the tools, as consumers in healthcare, to find the best healthcare at the best cost. 

I think it’s incredibly difficult to bend that, but generationally we will probably end up getting there, even if it’s going to be 20 years from now. I prefer to believe we can use technology to accelerate that.


The big thing two or three years ago was medical tourism, with foreign hospitals marketing their Joint Commission accreditation, English-speaking employees, and luxurious accommodations. What happened to that?

I think medical tourism still has its place. I think that is still progressing forward. Telemedicine will help progress that forward.

What seems to be a big catalyst that’s going to be needed is this push towards value. It’s super hard to compare and contrast where can I truly get the best care at the best cost. It feels like medical tourism is still a bit of a novelty. 

But when you begin breaking down these walls, if you can very clearly communicate to the patient, the consumer making that decision, what quality procedure they can receive with turnaround times and outcomes associated with it as well as cost, I think you’ll begin to see consumers demanding more of that information from the rest of the healthcare system.


Health IT startups usually claim they are innovative, but they are also often naive about the entrenched players and the difficulty in targeting an audience to make a sale or even get a pilot. What advice do you have for those companies?

Before I was in McKesson, I was both an entrepreneur and worked with a lot of entrepreneurs. One of the blessings you have as an entrepreneur is that you have wide-angle views, but also you don’t believe the obstacles in front of you are as big as they really are. I guess that’s the definition of an entrepreneur.

Healthcare moves slowly, more slowly than anybody else, because of all the constituents, stakeholders, and agendas that are involved. 

Most folks who know of McKesson don’t immediately think that we are this incredible source of innovation. But it’s interesting in that I see a lot of pockets across McKesson in the various different constituents we have that we are innovating. But I think that we can do it faster. I think we can do it smarter. 

That one of the reasons we put the tour together, to connect to those Edisons out there, those entrepreneurs who are thinking about new business models, who are thinking about overcoming the challenges that they see in front of them, and help us maybe get past, or in some cases, out of our own way. The partnership between the notion of the Davids and the Goliaths.

I guess you could argue that  McKesson can very much seem like a Goliath in many ways. But if we can partner with those Davids out there who are going to eventually disrupt the businesses that we work in in a way that helps support the innovation, I think we can get what consumers need in the long run, which is more clarity around value, as well as being able to progress and change and adapt our business models before they get adapted for us.


What’s a good way for McKesson to work with those little companies?

We’re still figuring that out ourselves. We’ve tried the acquisition route before in the past. We’ve also tried the investment route before in the past, and we’re going to continue to evolve that over the course of the next 18-24 months as well with a couple of things that are coming out that we’re happy to talk with you about.

But one thing I’d throw out there is that we know that both on the outside and the inside that McKesson’s really good at scaling up, being able to take existing business models that have shown good promise and be able to provide both the technological support and the infrastructure and the scale to be able to blow it out to all the different stakeholders that are involved. And be able to do that while managing all the various conflicts.

For an entrepreneur, that’s really hard work. Not only that, it’s some of the most difficult work for them to try to pass through, because most of the time, entrepreneurs are starting new things and trying to grow companies, while the scale that McKesson brings is super important. 

I think that there’s a nice pairing there, where people who are looking to start new businesses and be innovative can look at things in different ways, show how that works, and then McKesson can bring its scale and its process excellence, customer relationships, and network to help it grow quickly.


If you took the start-ups that have a paying customer or two, you would eliminate probably 90 percent of them. Assuming they’ve cracked the code and gotten that far into healthcare, what are the biggest potholes in the road that could cause them to fail?

One is time. Most of the time as an entrepreneur, you’re naturally also very aggressive around time. But in healthcare, the clock moves so much more slowly. 

The ability to not only get customers on board, but to demonstrate results to show that you can actually improve costs or improve outcomes, is critical. Once you do that, you can scale. You have to address time. You have to be able to demonstrate outcomes and cost savings.

Once you’re able to do that, one of the biggest challenges that the entrepreneur has is figuring out how to break into the markets. Being able to get in front of payers, for example. Payers are obviously very busy and they’ve got a lot of things on their plate already. They tend to be somewhat siloed organizations. If you’re trying to get into a payer organization, you have to figure out how to leverage relationships to go do that.

That’s one thing McKesson can do, and it’s something I’ve seen myself. On the provider side, we obviously have relationships with thousands of health systems and tens of thousands of providers. That same issue — how do you break into the mindset of the physician when not only you but every other entrepreneur out there is trying to figure out how to get a hold of their attention to have them use your product or to be able to buy your solution?


It takes almost as much effort for an insurance companies other deep-pockets investors to do a little deal as a big one, so it may not be attractive to take a minority position or to invest in a small company. Is there a middle ground where they should look to someone other than a McKesson to help them get to the next level without giving away all of their equity?

I’ve seen a lot of experimentation out there. You see joint ventures that are happening because they’re a little bit less intensive in terms of taking equity away from the entrepreneur. There’s a shared upside on both sides, which is nice. There are a couple of organizations that are out there that are using that very well to their advantage. 

There are venture funds that are being started by different organizations to support investments in those start-ups, which I think is also a good avenue depending on the level of engagement that the executives at that company have with those funds. That’s the real value the entrepreneur gets out.

If you serve a unique or specific niche or segment need, you can start with a simple partnership to demonstrate value and have the organization help you demonstrate that value. That can go a long way to the next step, be it a joint venture, a venture investment, or a potential acquisition down the road.


What do you see as the most likely area in which there could be true disruption versus incremental innovation, focusing on the technology side?

I look at technology as a great enabler of a disruption, but I don’t look at it as the source of the disruption.

As we move and shift our reimbursement system, it’s going to be a tremendous impact on our organizations. ACA, for whatever it’s worth, did many things. One of the things it did was expand access. It hasn’t done a lot around controlling costs.

I think you’ll see the next big change is going to be how to get our costs under control. Health systems have tremendous operating margin pressure. Health plans themselves are limited in terms of where they can reduce medical costs. 

In the end, I think the shift in reimbursement model from a volume-based, fee-based model to a value-based model is where you’re going to see significant disruption. You’re going to see providers beginning to think about pushing volume out to lower cost settings. You’re going to see payers incentivizing providers and doing it in a way that’s clear. 

They’re going to need technology to do all of this, from population management — which is one of the thing McKesson is focused on — through risk management, through telemedicine, through connectivity. CommonWell is a good example — to be able to share data across different systems. Work we’re doing around decision support to both know clinically and financially what’s most appropriate at the point of care. Those are technological innovations that are going to stem from that business model disruption.


Do you have any final thoughts?

The tour is an exciting thing for us, but it’s just one part of the many things that McKesson is looking to do to drive and partner with innovators. Recognizing that we are a big organization that’s been around for a really long time, by working with those companies who have great ideas and those people who want to change healthcare for the better, the tour is just one good example of us trying to make that happen.

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June 11, 2014 Interviews 2 Comments

CIO Unplugged 6/11/14

June 11, 2014 Ed Marx 2 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Data-Driven Performance

I have a confession to make. While I am an uber advocate of data-driven performance in healthcare and IT operations, I seldom apply these tools to my personal life. Sure, I look at data when I consider investments and major purchases, but, put it this way, you’ll never see me with a Fitbit!

I am witness to the power of data to shape clinical transformation. Are you kidding me? Serving in organizations with mature electronic health records and advanced business intelligence tools, I see the evidence in our quality reports all the time. Bam! Data-driven outcomes for sure. Evidence-based medicine—check. Ditto on the business side. In fact, my organization is among the first in the country to post our data-driven metrics online. Transparency is a great motivator.

For all my talk on leadership, innovation, connected health, and business intelligence, you might expect me to be a walking wearable. Nope. I’m wired as a visionary. Details are not my forte. I might have a grand idea for a party, but I leave the planning and execution to the detailed-minded organizers.

When it comes to athletic endeavors, I’m about getting to the finish line fast. Forget style and quality form; just get out of my path.

Over the years, the downside of this method caught up with me. Time was no longer my friend. Another confession: my performance had stayed flat for a few years. I wanted to see improvements, so I needed to change.

My friend Ben Levine is a perennial “top doc.” He runs the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine and is one of the world-renowned types who’s been kind enough over the years to help train my mountain climbing teams.


Ben took me through the paces of his research lab. Part of our deal meant I had to be in a study and sport a wearable for a while.

After analyzing all the tests, he told me my body was capable of greater performance. My lifelong conditioning gave me a good base, including a resting heart rate of 40 (occasionally six BPM when asleep). But I had not reached my physiological potential.


I researched and found a triathlon coach to help me get to the next level of performance. Of course, it turned out that Amari of Dallas-based Playtri is a total data hog. She stretches me (no pun intended) beyond my comfort zone with all these wearables and resulting analytics.

In the past, I would cycle in a race and hope for the best by just doing whatever felt good. Now she had me monitoring a combo of heart rate, cadence, and wattage. Speed is secondary. If I focus on the analytics, the outcome (speed) will take care of itself. If I only look at speed, as I did in the past, I might dismount my bike only to find I have no legs left for the run –bonk!

I posted last fall about qualifying for regionals and then for the national Duathlon (run/bike/run) championships. Through grit, I lucked out and secured the last spot (age group) on Team USA. It was not pretty, but I made the team.

With the World Championship on the horizon as well as other important races, the time for data-driven performance arrived. A real life experiment—with me as the subject. Time to walk the talk.

Albeit imperfect in my utilization, Amari’s training formula is completely driven by near real-time data feeds. She makes adjustments based on daily training and race results. I dutifully wear the gear and upload. She parses the data, does meta- and microanalysis, and off we go.

What were the 120-day results?


I am writing this post on the plane home from the World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain. I followed Amari’s race plan, which was all data points: 150-165 BPM heart rate on the first 10K, 270 watts on the bike, never going lower than 165. It was not “outrun the person in front of me,” but to be patient and focus on my data. If I did that, the results would be my friend.

I finished in the top 25. I was the #4 American (an upgrade from #18 last fall) to cross the finish. Data-driven performance! I’m a believer. I can’t wait until I perfect the technology and discipline myself further under Amari’s coaching to see even stronger outcomes.

Personal life imitates professional. We must all push our organizations and ourselves to become data driven.

While being data driven leads to improved outcomes, no data tool could ever create the following. Intrinsic motivation does have a purpose.


The home stretch with .5K to go. I saw the Team USA Manager exhorting us to finish strong. Tim handed me Old Glory as I ran by and said, “Catch two more racers!” I caught my two as I turned into the stadium sprinting to the finish. Waving my country’s flag. Hearing chants of “USA USA USA.” Tears of joy.

Go Team USA!

Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.

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June 11, 2014 Ed Marx 2 Comments

Morning Headlines 6/11/14

June 10, 2014 Headlines No Comments

IBM Joins Forces with Epic to Bid for Department of Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization Contract

IBM announces that it will partner with Epic in the pending DoD EHR vendor search, naming IBM CMIO Keith Salzman, MD, MPH and 22-year Army doc, as project lead.

Intermedix Corporation Acquires T-System’s Physician Billing Division

T-System sells its ED billing solution to Intermedix, stating in a press release that it would focus its efforts on ED clinical and coding workflow.

Taxpayers Face Big Medicare Tab for Unusual Doctor Billings

The Wall Street Journal analyzes CMS payment data and finds that 2,300 physician practices earned $500,000 or more by repeatedly billing for a single procedure. One doctor in California billed Medicare $2.3 million for a non-invasive cardiac procedure that he describes as “exercise while lying on your back.” Though he is not a cardiologist, his practice performed the procedure more times than all of the cardiologists at the Cleveland Clinic combined.

Alliance for Connected Care

The Alliance for Connected Care writes a letter to incoming HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell asking that she use her authority to relax telehealth reimbursement regulations.

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June 10, 2014 Headlines No Comments

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