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HIStalk Interviews Alexis Gilroy, JD, Partner, Jones Day

May 12, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Alexis Gilroy, JD is a partner with the Jones Day law firm of Washington, DC. She served as a subject matter expert for the Federation of State Medical Boards, which recently issued its model policy for telemedicine.

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My interpretation of FSMB’s model policy is that it focuses on trying to prevent online pill mills rather than expanding telemedicine, emphasizing that requirements are the same for both traditional visits and telemedicine encounters.

I think that’s right. Certainly to draw parallels between traditional in-person medicine and practicing medicine using telemedicine technologies. But really, there’s no difference. It’s still the practice of medicine with the same standard of care.

But the only caveat to that is that there are different standards that currently exist in some states for telemedicine services versus in-person services. The new policy would provide for more expansive use of telemedicine in contrast to states like Texas and Alabama and a new proposed rule in Tennessee, which limits the utilization of telemedicine without some prior in-person exam or visit or things like that.

 

Are FSMB’s model policies usually adopted by state medical boards without changes?

If we look back at a couple of different examples from other activities of the Federation, like their licensure and statement on where medical practice occurs, being where the patient is actually physically located … I went back to a paper letter they wrote in the 1980s that now we find most states have some form of either law or regulation that ties the location of where the practicing medicine occurs to the location of the patient. Which is a really important factor from analyzing licensure requirements.

If you think about it from that perspective, as history tells anything, it does tell us that Federation policies tend to inform and educate and hopefully advance various regulations and statutes of medical boards and regulators. But certainly regulators can pick and choose or choose to go a different direction as it relates to telemedicine from this model policy.

 

I’ve heard two interpretations of the model policy. One says that says telemedicine can be used to both establish and maintain a physician-patient relationship in the same way as an in-person visit. The other interpretation is that the initial encounter has to be conducted in person. Which is the case?

It’s my read that even in your initial encounter with a patient, the policy indicates that you can initially establish a doctor-patient relationship using telemedicine technologies. Which is a new and different view from some states, like the Texas and Alabama model and the proposed rule in Tennessee, which currently would require for establishment of a doctor-patient relationship through some prior in-person visit first before you can then have telemedicine encounters with a patient. 

The model policy takes a much more expansive view of telemedicine. Assuming that you meet the standard of care, you can establish a doctor-patient relationship for the very first time using telemedicine technology.

 

Some groups like the model policy, while some don’t. Was input solicited from groups or public comment or was it a closed door discussion?

In full disclosure, I participated and sat on what the federation referred to as the SMART work group. I acted in the capacity of an advisor on what’s the state of various regulations and legal issues out there when it comes to this topic and would answer questions from time to time from the medical board members that  over a period of a year met about this issue, discussed it at length, had done a pretty full survey of various laws and regulations. 

There were a number of other participants from the industry on the insurer side, the technology side, and the provider side that participated in those discussions, all in the realm of advisors to the board. It’s the medical board members and delegates that made the determination, the decisions, for what is going to be ultimately in the policy. But they did ask for industry participants and I believe also the policy was circulated among all the medical boards several months prior to the vote in April. There was clearly at least an attempt to consider input from a number of different resources.

 

Some people may have expected that the model policy would address the issue of state-specific licensure and oversight vs. national licensure. Are changes being considered that would make it easier for physicians to obtain licensure in multiple states?

Absolutely. There was a statement to indicate that this policy really doesn’t change licensure. It is what it is currently on the books in various different states. But there is a separate effort from the Federation of State Medical Boards to move forward an interstate compact of sorts that would address facilitating easier access to licensure. Not just for telemedicine providers, but for doctors who are conducting in-person services.

There’s also a number of different efforts in federal legislation that would push forward different licensure agendas, some related to specific Medicare-enrolled participants or Department of Defense individuals seeking care from healthcare providers. There are a number of different efforts going on.

This issue, although it does make a statement about licensure, really isn’t intended to speak toward or change or advance the case of licensure at all.

 

Secure messaging seems to fall under the model policy’s definition of telemedicine technology, while a telephone call clearly doesn’t. If I’m a patient from Ohio on vacation in Florida, I can call my Ohio doctor and they can diagnose and treat me without being licensed in Florida. The model policy would seem to prohibit that same conversation if was conducted via secure messaging. Is that your interpretation?

That’s not my interpretation. The intent here is rather than to focus on one type of technology, to indicate, number one, that you can establish doctor-patient relationship using telecommunications if you meet the standard of care and that that standard of care is going to be aligned with general principles of traditional medicine. 

Where this hits a rub when it comes to different technologies is every individual practitioner really needs to consider are the facts and circumstances such with using store and forward technology, using secure messaging, using telephone, using videoconferencing, that given the facts and circumstances, do I have enough information to make a diagnostic decision in compliance with traditional standards of care? 

There are certainly circumstances, I’m sure, where especially if you have a pre-existing relationship between the doctor and patient, that some practitioners would feel they would have enough information and history that when a patient contacts them by secure messaging or by phone, that they would be able to adequately determine what’s going on with a patient and assist them merely through those technologies.

There was some language in the policy that went along the lines of generally telephone-only doesn’t provide enough information to meet the standard of care. From sitting in the room and listening to medical boards discuss that concept and their thinking behind adding that language, it was rather than to limit the use of one type of technology or to box it out of telemedicine, that was by no means the case. Rather it was to indicate that without some pre-existing relationship or without the capability to get other data, whether it’s visual through video or whether it’s text data or pictures through store and forward or whether it’s claims data or other biometric data from a patient, they felt that in most cases — not all cases, but in most cases — if you only are able to talk on a telephone and it’s your first encounter with that patient, it may not be enough to meet the standard of care. 

They were trying to indicate that in that circumstance, they would feel like if you were in a case where you’re testing the standard of care,that’s probably not enough, rather than pinpointing or saying a particular type of technology is outside the bounds of telemedicine. It is a hard concept and it has been confused and probably will continue to be confused and debated. But that’s where we are on that issue, and that is how I interpret it and heard folks discuss it and talk about it.

 

Does the policy create a new standard of care that you can’t do an encounter by telephone for an ongoing patient who is not presently in the provider’s state of licensure because it’s not considered telemedicine? Or that the provider can’t conduct that encounter by secure messaging because it is considered telemedicine?

It doesn’t create a different standard of care because the standard of care depends on the facts and circumstances in each case. But what it should do is remind practitioners to consider — whether it’s telephone, whether it’s videoconferencing, whether it’s any form of technology, and this is the only means by which they have to engage with the patient, and in particular with only telephone being used — am I able to get enough information through that to diagnose the patient? 

I think that’s what the medical boards were attempting to do here, to highlight something for practitioners that they should be careful that in scenarios where they’re only able to just talk by telephone and nothing else with a patient that they may only be meeting for the first time. Are they able to get enough information? 

There certainly may be some facts and circumstances where they are. Perhaps with mental health scenarios, other sorts of scenarios, that may be perfectly capable and meet traditional norms of research and other standards to meet the standard of care to get them the relevant information. But I think it should cause practitioners to take some pause and to consider whether any type of technology, used alone or in a particular circumstance, gives them enough information. In most cases, they’ll find and consider that absolutely it does. They’re able to gather the history that they need, determine whether given the facts and circumstances that this is an appropriate diagnosis, and that they can move forward and treat the patient. 

That’s the good news of what this policy does. It says that we’ve got these amazing tools now available to us today that we call telemedicine. We can change the models and delivery paths with which we can provide medicine and the medical boards aren’t going to get in the way of that. We just need to use our discretion appropriately and consistent with traditional standards of care.

 

How would the policy have addressed the recent Idaho case where the physician has been threatened with loss of board certification for taking a telephone call from a patient in which she was licensed and issuing a prescription for an antibiotic?

It’s a really good example. This is a scenario, if I’m a telemedicine practitioner in Idaho, now it informs me about, well, wait a minute, how are the Idaho regulators actually looking at this topic? Should I go in and educate them further about how I can use telecommunications to gather information and help me as a practitioner appropriately diagnose and treat a patient? And maybe that should be happening? 

Should I, though, look at this and say, now I have a better idea about what Idaho might be thinking and adjust my practices and procedures appropriately. Maybe I should also seek claims data or seek some other verification rather than just a telephone information.

I think things would perhaps have been different in that case had the practitioner had a pre-existing relationship. Most medical boards do view that very, very differently than no prior relationship. I think it does inform you. That’s sort of the point.

These are all very individual fact-specific circumstances and that was telling to see how a board would react to it. You have to take that into account when you’re building your business model around telemedicine and when you are, as a practitioner, using telemedicine technologies to engage with patients. And hopefully educate the regulators.

It will be an evolving process with regulators. I always encourage telemedicine companies and practitioners to engage with the boards. That education is very, very important.

 

Where do you see the discussion going from here?

Where we need to see more discussion is around things like the mobile devices, like you mentioned earlier. The secure messaging, the non-traditional telemedicine.

Telemedicine is a fairly new technology, but in some cases, it’s been around for a long time, especially the doctor-to-doctor telemedicine. How we’re using smartphones and apps in different ways, and does that allow us to engage with the patients and providers in many different ways? Not just physicians, but ancillary healthcare providers. 

The other issue in addition to the very first question you mentioned around –is this just really restating the obvious, there’s nothing new here — many states are actually silent on much of this. Which, to some, you might feel, well, that’s great – let’s go ahead and do it if there’s no prohibitions on it.

The problem is many of the traditional healthcare laws are written in the context of traditional bricks-and-mortar and in-person practice, things like how you supervise various different healthcare providers or how you engage with them in an in-person environment. The laws are just written with that in mind, so it’s very difficult to analyze them in the context of many of these new technologies. 

I think engaging with health regulators around those topics is really the next stage of this, in helping them understand. I’ve yet to find medical boards and members and regulators who aren’t anxious to hear about new, good use cases that advance the quality of care. They may be hesitant to modify regulations, but if you have very thoughtful and positive engagement with them, it usually leads to a good end result.

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May 12, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Morning Headlines 5/12/14

May 11, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Catholic hospitals suffer second data breach this year

Catholic Health Initiatives sues an unknown Pakistan-based hacker that compromised its network in hopes that it can then convince Microsoft to release the true name behind the outlook email account that was used in the attacks.

Insurance CEO: Shut down Hawaii health exchange

The CEO of Hawaii’s health insurance exchange is calling for it to be shut down after a disastrous $100 million rollout that netted only 9,000 enrollments.

Greenway’s Barnes talks next steps

Greenway Health VP of industry and government affairs will leave the company at the end of the month. He will reportedly launch his own health IT focused startup, in addition to providing health IT consulting services.

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May 11, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Monday Morning Update 5/12/14

May 10, 2014 News 3 Comments

Top News

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Catholic Health Initiatives files a lawsuit against an unknown hacker, hoping to convince Microsoft to turn over the identities behind several of its email accounts that were used to breach CHI’s systems from Pakistan. The John Doe hacker redirected internal emails to his or her own account and  took control of some of the organization’s domain registrations. The systems of CHI affiliate Franciscan Health System were compromised in March when employees were fooled by a phishing scam into providing their login credentials to a hacker site.


Reader Comments

From Iron City: “Re: reduced readmissions. These stories get a lot of attention, but it’s easy to overstate the gains on readmissions from situations where the same patients were simply kept in the ER or observation instead. That is cheaper and still a partial success, but not the same as avoiding the readmission cost completely.” That’s a good point. You would have to take a guess at which patients would have been readmitted, then examine claims data to see if they were treated in other hospital settings instead. Just looking at the overall readmission percentage wouldn’t provide the full picture. I also question the historical inability of hospitals to understand their true marginal cost of an admission vs. their average cost of an admission – putting one more patient in a bed for the night doesn’t necessarily trigger the same high expense as having a post-up cardiac surgery patient occupying a similar bed during that same night.

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From Blockade Runner: “Re: SuccessEHS. We are a FQHC with a grant to implement the product, which was bought by Greenway. The CEO failed to mention a long-term plan for it in a recent webinar even after saying it has 8,000 providers using it. We’re thinking about starting a search. We have specific needs for our UDS reporting and our sliding scale fees based on the Federal Poverty Line. Are any FQHCs using something that works?” My caution there would be to give Greenway a chance to address your concerns directly rather than reading too much into lack of encouraging news in a webinar. If you like their product, put your concerns in contractual T&Cs and see if they approve them – if not, your worst fears are probably justified.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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Three-quarters of poll respondents say doctors should be licensed nationally rather than by individual states. New poll to your right or here: athenahealth got a lot of stock market attention last week. What was your reaction, if any?

Listening: new from Atlanta indie-soul singer Curtis Harding, sweet 1970s-style horns over a hip-hop beat. One track even goes disco while managing to sound great. I’m also still playing a lot of Georgia grunge rockers Dead Confederate.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Friday’s market close share performance after Thursday’s earnings announcements: Castlight Health up 10 percent, Allscripts unchanged, Nuance down 3 percent, The Advisory Board Company down 2 percent.

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From the Allscripts conference call:

  • Quarterly bookings grew 26 percent, with recurring revenue making up 78 percent of the total.
  • The $3 million drop in revenue came from an unnamed outsourcing client that took its $20 million per year effort in-house.
  • Allscripts says constrained provider capital and a lack of enthusiasm for rip and replace projects will help it sell portal and interoperability products.
  • The company says the 10-year, $500 million agreement it signed with Xerox’s ACS subsidiary in 2011 has “challenging economics” and may require changes.
  • Paul Black says that hosting systems without owning any of the underlying infrastructure has “created a more virtual environment than we’re comfortable with” and that the company will be “much more active managers of our destiny.”
  • Black says he feels “pretty good” about the company’s functionality for inpatient, outpatient, revenue cycle, population health management, and patient portal.

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RadNet says in the earnings call that all of its 260 diagnostic imaging centers will be running eRAD RIS/PACS within a year. RadNet acquired the Greenville, SC-based eRad in September 2010 for $11 million.

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A site promoting Utah tech business profiles Health Catalyst, which it says will generate up to $100 million in revenue this year and will IPO in 18-24 months.


People

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Justin Barnes, VP of industry and government affairs at Greenway Medical, announced this week that  he’s leaving the company at the end of May. He tells our Jennifer Dennard that he’ll be stay busy over the summer with plans to start two companies (one of them in healthcare IT, with a nod toward consumerism, interoperability, and patient engagement), join a tech incubator, and continue his involvement with government issues in an unstated capacity. He says his Greenway departure is friendly and unrelated to its November 2013 acquisition by Vista Equity Partners or the April 2014 departure of Greenway President Matt Hawkins.

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Speaking of Matt Hawkins, who was CEO of Vitera when it was acquired by Greenway in November 2013 — he’ll be replacing Richard Atkin as president of Sunquest, according to internal sources.


Government and Politics

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The CEO of HMSA, Hawaii’s biggest medical insurance company, says the state should either shut down the Hawaii Health Connector insurance exchange site or let the federal government take it over. The exchange received $200 million in federal taxpayer money, spent $100 million developing the site, signed up just over 9,000 customers, and raised only $40,000 in user fees that were supposed to fund its ongoing operation. Hawaii didn’t really need the exchange at all since a state act requires employers to provide subsidized insurance to their employees.  In an interesting story twist, the state’s legislature passed a bill last week ordering HHC to kick out the insurance company members of its board, among them HMSA, which in that role oversaw the site’s creation and is now calling for its shutdown.


Other

Hospital music videos have probably reached the Peak of Inflated Expectations on Gartner’s hype cycle now that the marketing people are cranking them out for commercial benefit, but you might still be cheered up this Monday morning by HHC Elmhurst Hospital Center’s cover of “Happy.” Or not, since it probably drives cynics and pessimists crazy (although I’m both and I like it.) 

You also might be inspired (or not) by “Steve Jobs’ 13 Most Inspiring Quotes.” My favorites:

  • "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
  • "I’m as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things."
  • "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me."

The Massachusetts House passes votes to eliminate a law that would have required physicians to demonstrate EHR competency or Meaningful Use certification as a condition of earning or renewing their medical licenses after January 1, 2015. The House voted to delay from 2017 to 2022 a requirement that all providers use EHRs that are connected to the state HIE.

An interesting patient-centered technology example on ReelDX: the mother of a patient records her toddler’s respiratory symptoms on her smartphone. The question: why can’t the video (or other media) be included in the EHR?

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Weird News Andy submits a spinning heart story from NEJM: a motorcyclist survives an accident in which his heart rotates 90 degrees due to air pressure in his chest. Doctors removed the air and the heart shifted back. And in a WNA-like story that he didn’t actually submit (yet), an English hospital admits that a man scheduled for an unspecified “minor urological procedure” was instead given a vasectomy.

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A UPMC employee sues the health system and a payroll processing firm after a data breach in which hackers filed fraudulent tax returns using the identities of UPMC employees. What’s unusual about the lawsuit: (a) the employee is only asking for identity theft protection, which is usually offered anyway, although she wants 25 years of it instead of the usual one year; and (b) UPMC isn’t a client of the payroll processing firm she sued, according to that company.

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Strange: Kosair Charities sues Kosair Children’s Hospital (KY), claiming the hospital is mismanaging its donations, while the hospital responds publicly that the charity isn’t giving it enough money. According to the IRS documents I found, the charity brings in $15 million per year, holds $163 million in assets, and gave the hospital $4 million in the most recent year. Hospitals are last on the list of charities I would support given the waste, mismanagement, and self-serving agendas I’ve seen firsthand in having worked for a few of them. Supporting hospitals isn’t the best way to support patients.

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Here’s a brilliant flow chart whose author I can’t credit because it is has been tweeted / retweeted / incorrectly retweeted so many times I can’t figure out its source. Someone shares my intense annoyance at pedantic blowhards who hijack the microphone after a conference speaker has opened the floor to questions that turn out to be eloquent expressions of self love. Use the microphone kill switch, moderators, or take responsibility for the trampling injuries that will result from the mad dash for the exits.


Contacts

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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect

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May 10, 2014 News 3 Comments

Advisory Panel: How Will the ICD-10 Delay Affect Your Organization?

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.

This question this time: How will the ICD-10 delay impact your organization?


The ICD-10 delay will cost us more for the implementation. It could be up to $1 million in implementation resources. Our project team will extend for another year, upgrades will stay on track, and we will dual code for longer than planned. We have hired coders who only know ICD-10 and we have to retrain them for ICD-9 so that they can be productive. Unless our vendors come out with yet another ICD-10 version, we should be finished with upgrades by this summer and have a year or longer to test.


[from a vendor member] The delay won’t impact our organization at all  We were ready a while back and so honestly the bad part of this is that all our hard work as compared to other vendors will somewhat go unrecognized. That said, it’s really not that bad since it just means our solution will be even better given the year delay.  Our clients who were already on the track for ICD-10 readiness are all staying focused on ICD-10 preparations regardless of the delay.


Overall I am neutral on the delay. We have done a great deal of preparation, but most of that is helpful with ICD-9 or 10. It would have been a much bigger relief and benefit if MU Stage 2 were delayed. We had already begun an aggressive Clinical Document Improvement (CDI) program aligned with our ICD-10 project. We will continue that program and will also complete our Computed Assisted Coding (CAC) project as it is well underway and has the added impact of allowing us to outsource much of our coding function. Most of the software upgrades came with the MU S2 changes so that testing was needed. The places we will cut back on is training, testing, and outsourced project manager costs. The CDI related training will continue and coder training will be slowed. All other ancillary training and provider ICD-10 specific training will be put on hold. Testing with payers will be delayed for as long as it takes. Unfortunately, this does not really make any resources available to do all the other projects on the list!


This hospital was in the midst of individual system testing and had worked with a few payers to do some combined testing when the delay was announced. Most systems had been upgraded and others were close. We had implemented computer-assisted coding in 2013 to ease the transition into dual coding and had that project live. We had purchased ICD-10 training content, had our coders trained, and had started scheduling provider training. I’d like to say the ICD-10 delay was good because of everything else we have going on in IS (MU Stage 2, an anesthesia go-live, new clinics opening, etc.) as well as all of the other pressures placed on our providers. The reality is that this organization is going to absorb even more expenses than planned due to the delay. The opportunity costs alone concern me. We could have done more productive things this past year that could have had positive impact to our bottom line or patient care. We will have some repeat work to be done in testing and training for the next run at things (unless it’s delayed again – ICD-11 anyone?) I’d like to see us push through and get the rest of the systems upgraded and get our providers trained. The rest of the organization wants to put everything off until we have to do it.


The good news is that we have more time to modify application systems that fell behind schedule for ICD-10 updates. We will be adding more acceptance testing of system changes, especially for our physicians. On the coding side, we will expand our dual coding efforts to identify where improved clinical documentation is needed. Physician training will be delayed. The longer the work spans the higher the cost. So far we’ve estimated an impact of $500,000 to $1 million extra expense due to our need to extend resources.


We are one of the few sites that are rejoicing over the delay. We were woefully late (I have not been here long) and were trying to do too much before the deadline. We will maximize the delay to our benefit.


We were all ready, but stopped cold and now have some smart team members who can do other things. It also meant the government has lost all credibility in this area and we will not try and be too ahead of the curve next time. 


The ICD-10 delay shouldn’t impact us terribly, so I don’t see it as good or bad. Our primary systems have been set up for dual coding for several months now. The majority of our coders are through a vendor, so our primary target is the physician population. The focus with the physicians to date has been better documentation rather than ICD-10 so we will continue this strategy. We are also implementing computer-assisted coding with a live date of June so that will continue as well.


Time was tight for us but we were on track to be ready by 10/1. Although we had begun training, it was organizational / high level therefore we don’t see the time wasted. We are going to use the time to focus on more of the plumbing prior to launching additional training before the next requirement date kicks in. Overall we see the delay as good organizationally.


It is good for us. Generally speaking, it is hard to see how the good of ICD-10 outweighs the bad. With everything else going on in healthcare and healthcare IT, having another year to prepare is a good thing. I have been somewhat surprised to see our professional organizations (CHIME, HIMSS, AHIMA) come out so strongly in favor of keeping it in 2014 when almost half of the provider organizations feel positive about the delay.


We would have been ready for ICD-10 this fall. While the delay does give more time to test, etc. we see it as a negative. We will continue with our testing (integration underway) and will move forward with the majority of our plans this year regardless of the delay. Main impact is around the timing of training – this will be delayed and we have to now reassess our plans to keep ICD-10 “fresh” for those coders that were in process. Also, it causes us to have to extend our resource commitments – whether internal or consulting – which will cause additional expense. We also now have to reassess several large go-lives whose schedules were made based on ICD-10 happening this year.


We have already implemented tools to support ICD-10 in our EHR and will use the delay time to get our users used  to more specific documentation to support ICD-10. Will shift our planned education push to meet new schedule.


As an organization, we are not happy with the delay. We believed we were well positioned for October 1, but we were unsure how our payers, especially CMS, would be ready. The delay will cause us to slow down our physician education, but we are continuing our work on infrastructure like reports and having them ready to go. Concerned they may decide to skip ICD-10 and go to ICD-11 and have another delay.


It gives us time to complete the required upgrades without the intense pressure and also focus on a clinical replacement. Being a McKesson Horizon customer, we have to select a new system.


[from a vendor member] The delay is unfortunate and bums me out.  If folks weren’t ready, we need vendors who step up to take care of the transitions, not more delays. We were ready and spent a tremendous amount of effort to get ready so the biggest negative impact to us is all the things we could have done instead. What could we have done for caregivers instead of using our resources on ICD-10? High opportunity cost.


Kill me now. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever encountered in my health IT career. We make plans for big projects at least a year ahead of time. Much of our project planning for converting hospitals to Epic was designed around avoiding the immediate post ICD-10 period. Since CMS has been silent—are we to assume the next date is October 1, 2015? We need to make plans and are in a holding period once again. Does anyone have any credibility on this topic?


We’re not stopping, but we are slowing down. We’re in the middle of a bunch of other projects (MU, physician documentation, revenue cycle revisions, massive system upgrades to non-clinical systems, etc.) that need attention. Most of our vendors will have compliant systems long before the deadline, so that all we really will have to do is flip switches. I consider this a neutral to positive. We’ve got limited staff resources to address everything and this gives us one space where we have a little breathing room.


The ICD-10 delay gives us a chance to spend more time implementing and more thoroughly testing our solutions end to end. I for one was thankful for the delay as we just had too much going on at one time. The only question I have is whether or not the Feds will start leaning toward ICD-11 instead.


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May 9, 2014 Advisory Panel No Comments

Morning Headlines 5/9/14

May 8, 2014 Headlines 8 Comments

Flatiron Health Raises $130 Million Series B Round Led by Google Ventures and Agrees to Acquire Leading Cloud-Based EMR Company Altos Solutions

Oncology analytics startup Flatiron Health raises a $130 million Series B round led by Google Ventures. The startup, which was founded by two 20-something ex-Googlers with no medical or health IT experience, is also announcing that it will immediately invest some of that new capital by acquiring Altos Solutions, another cloud-based Oncology analytics firm.

Castlight Health Announces First Quarter 2014 Results

Castlight Health reports its first quarter results since going public: total revenue was $8.4 million, up significantly over 2013 results, but EPS was -$0.72 vs. –$1.19, missing analyst expectations. Their stock price is down seventy percent since their March IPO.

New HHS data show quality improvements saved 15,000 lives and $4 billion in health spending

HHS reports that, since implementing the Affordable Care Act, reductions in falls, adverse drug events, and infections “have prevented nearly 15,000 deaths in hospitals, avoided 560,000 patient injuries, and approximately $4 billion in health spending over the same period." HHS also says readmission rates have dropped 1.5 percent.

19th Annual Sohn Investment Conference: David Einhorn

Hedge fund manager David Einhorn’s slides from the critical presentation he gave on athenaHealth are released. Athena’s stock prices have dropped 15 percent since his statements.

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May 8, 2014 Headlines 8 Comments

News 5/9/14

May 8, 2014 News 5 Comments

Top News

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Google Ventures invests $130 million in oncology data platform vendor Flatiron Health, which will use some of the money to acquire oncology EMR vendor Altos Solutions. The two 20-somethings who founded Flatiron Health sold Google their online advertising platform for $81 million in 2010. They knew nothing about advertising or healthcare before starting their companies. Their first Flatiron oncology rollout was in 2013. It’s a lot of money, so let’s hope Google’s investment outcomes exceed their healthcare ones.


Reader Comments

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From Dave Miller: “Re: UAMS. We are now live fully everywhere on Epic. It has gone really well, with just a few of the usual minor bumps (printing, security, scanning, etc.). I think this has been the best of my three Epic go-lives (University of Chicago, Carle Foundation Hospital, now UAMS). I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. We also did enterprise speech recognition, device integration, and barcoding among other things. We went from a HIMSS Stage 4 to a Stage 7 (application in process). My lab team made me an honorary member of the Beaker team with the shirt above, maybe because I am a former med tech.” Dave is vice chancellor and CIO of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. Congratulations to the team. I told Dave he has more Epic experience than some of the consultants out there.

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From Joe: “Re: IBM’s Watson. I followed your link from HIStalk and got a Chat Now window on IBM’s page. I’m curious about Watson in healthcare, so I accepted. See the transcript – I decided to open with a (perhaps obtuse) nod to Alan Turing, which I figured any good IBMer should appreciate. Touchy, touchy! Or maybe they have an algorithm that indicates anyone skirting around Turing Test references is clearly a cycle-wasting tire kicker.” I replied to Joe, “Maybe the IBM rep was indeed a Turing fan and decided to prove in the most definitive way possible that he’s not a computer!” Joe says he’ll try again, asking, “Did you kill our previous session because you ARE a computer, or you are a human trying to PROVE that you’re not a computer?”

From Trey Hermanos: “Re: athenahealth. Can somebody tell me how many providers athenahealth has on their network? An article says 37,000, but Jonathan Bush said 52,000 at a recent conference. Their implementation is a breeze compared to others, but in their quest for growth and relevance, they risk losing the 1-10 doc practices that made them what they are today, the practices that aren’t getting decent service and call-backs from their account managers. They gave their award for improved patient experience to Target’s clinics, the same corporation that compromised the identities of millions. The company doesn’t think you need to see a doctor for ‘small things,’ a view held by many despite the fact that the knowing when something is simple or not requires skill and sophisticated knowledge. A recent article called ‘Nurses are not Doctors’ said you have to know a lot to do primary care – the Target and Walgreens clinics are there to sell what’s on their shelves. There is no respect for knowledge and we spoil our patients the way we spoiled our kids to the point they have no coping skills and grow up entitled. Athenahealth must feel undervalued and not appreciated enough, sort of like primary care.”

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From HIT ESQ: “Re: patent troll. A company called Presqriber is filing a massive number of patent infringement cases against EHR vendors. It has no Google hits except these cases. Its patient is for an ‘Interactive Medication Ordering System.’ They appear to be the first major patent troll in a few years.” The patent is from 1998, so I bet someone bought it from a defunct vendor (“Poetry” is referenced as the system name, which had some California pharmacists and urgent care people involved and is presumably long gone) and hopes to milk vendors for go-away money. They hit all the majors in their list of 20 except one – Epic, who has a history of launching a full-scale legal counteroffensive on patent trolls. HIT ESQ also called attention to two class action lawsuits brought against Cerner for claimed labor standards violations, which although I can’t pull up the documents since I don’t have access to the PACER system, usually means a salaried employee claims they should have been paid for overtime because they were misclassified and should have been hourly. 


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

Highlights from HIStalk Practice this week include: A report finds that higher payer doesn’t necessarily equal higher job satisfaction. Another says the physician industry generates $26 billion in sales revenue and supports $15 billion in wages and benefits. Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group and Northwestern Medical Group merge to form the second-largest physician group in Chicago. A trio of ophthalmologists turns to crowdsourcing to fund their digital physician on-call answering system. A study uncovers the fact that hospital prices and privately insured patient spending increase when hospitals acquire physician practices. A physician pleads with Forbes editors to get RAC bounty hunters off his back. Arizona Care Network and Northeast Medical Group launch separate ACO initiatives with payers. Don’t write athenahealth’s eulogy just yet –several company partners make product announcements. 

This week on HIStalk Connect: Google continues its move into healthcare, as it grows its team of A-list genetic scientists working on its Calico moonshot project. Google also led the massive $130 million Series B funding round of oncology data analytics startup Flatiron Health. In other non-Google related news, PatientsLikeMe CEO Jamie Heywood discusses the details of its recent Genetech deal. 

Listening: new from Brody Dalle, the former (female) lead singer of The Distillers.

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Want to get in touch? I created a new contact form that covers everything I could think of. Submissions go straight to my inbox (which is usually overloaded, so keep expectations modest.)  There’s a link at the top of this page, too.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Castlight Health reports Q1 results in its first report as a publicly traded company: revenue up 339 percent, adjusted EPS -$0.72 vs. –$1.19, beating on revenue but missing earnings estimates by a mile. The company, whose market capitalization is around $900 million, had revenue of $8.4 million and lost $24 million in the quarter. Shares have dropped nearly 75 percent since CSLT’s March IPO, which some analysts called at that time “the most overpriced IPO of the century.” Castlight Health was founded in 2008 by Todd Park (White House CTO and athenahealth co-founder), Bryan Roberts (Venrock), and Giovanni Colella, MD (RelayHealth). Shares that rocketed to $40 on IPO day are now worth around $10 less than two months later.

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Allscripts reports Q1 results: revenue down slightly, adjusted EPS $0.07 vs. $0.09, missing expectations on revenue.  

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Nuance reports Q2 results: revenue up 5.5 percent, adjusted EPS $0.28 vs. $0.34, beating expectations on both.  

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The Advisory Board Company reports Q4 results: revenue up 15 percent, adjusted EPS $0.34 vs. $0.34, beating expectations on both.

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Hedge fund manager David Einhorn sent athenahealth’s stock price reeling this week when he said his firm has shorted the company’s shares because athenahealth is a faux cloud vendor whose real business is unsexy business process outsourcing that doesn’t deserve high share valuation. He didn’t just blurt it out – his slides from the investor conference presentation summarize his analysis:

  • The company has failed to meet its 30 percent organic growth target for 2013, analysts have cut revenue expectations for the next two years, and earnings estimates keep going down.
  • He says ATHN and some of the friendly analysts who cover it use a lot of buzzwords in describing what the company does, hoping to make it sound cooler and deserving of high share price, instead of what it is – an efficient business process outsourcer similar to lower-margin companies like MedAssets and Accretive Health.
  • The valuation numbers of Morgan Stanley, which also happens to be ATHN’s largest shareholder, are shaky (although that company might also question Einhorn’s negative analysis since he, too, is providing supposedly unbiased information that could move ATHN share price in a personally beneficial direction.)
  • Einhorn questions Morgan Stanley’s assumption that athenahealth’s inpatient business will jump from 0 to 40 percent of its revenues and that it will launch an inpatient revenue management service that will bring in $2.5 billion a year.
  • The report says Epic is unbeatable in hospitals and will expand into other markets, including gaining ground with hospital-acquired small practices that might otherwise be athenahealth prospects.
  • He says that HITECH is winding down and practices that wanted EHRs have already bought them, with Kareo, eClinicalWorks, and CareCloud offering lower-priced RCM and EHR products as athenahealth competition.
  • Capitation would hurt athenahealth, he says, because providers would be paid upfront and wouldn’t need its help.
  • He predicts a worst-case share price of $14 vs. then-current $127 (now $107), saying ATHN is like the 2004-era WebMD.

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Meanwhile, Jonathan Bush said Thursday that Einhorn doesn’t understand the company, which he then compared to Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon. He added, “The right price of athena is … completely out of my pay grade,” but told also CNBC that he’s sure ATHN is a $1,000 stock and then said, “Who cares about net income?”

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Streamline Health will acquire the assets of cost and spend management solutions vendor CentraMed.

Cedars-Sinai Health System (CA) and MemorialCare Health System (CA) form Summation Health Ventures, a healthcare IT development fund that will seek startups not only for potential return, but their capability to create technology that the hospitals can use.


Sales

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Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital (VA) will implement HCS Interactant for its LTACH and SNF service lines.


Announcements and Implementations

An engineer who helped develop ride service Uber launches Pager, which allows Manhattan residents to request an off-hours telephone consultation or house call from participating doctors. Telephone calls cost $50 (of which Pager skims $10), while house calls run $300 and the company keeps $50. Like Uber, Pager is thinking about surge pricing, raising charges when demand is high. It has only 20 doctors participating during its launch testing period. He should have chosen a less-generic name: Uber was always easy to find, but I couldn’t locate anything on Pager despite extensive Googling.

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Policy documentation software vendor PolicyMedical will integrate with the Access electronic forms system.

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Hybrent announces a medical supply ordering application for clinical staff.

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Mandi Bishop, Nick Kypreos, and Lauren Still put together Team FloriDUH to create open source data visualization tools. They’ve been invited to compete at Health Datapalooza in Washington, DC June 1-3 and have formed a non-profit foundation to distribute tools they build. They are hoping to raise $10,000 in a Medstartr project that starts Friday, May 9 to cover travel costs and extend their product offerings.


Government and Politics

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HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who I assumed was long gone but apparently isn’t, leads a thinly veiled cheer for the Affordable Care Act in touting its supposed benefits as analyzed from HHS’s databases: a tiny reduction in readmissions and a nine percent drop in hospital-acquired conditions in 2011-2012 and a claimed 15,000 lives and $4 billion in healthcare spending saved. President Obama’s nominee to replace Sebelius, Sylvia Burwell (above), faced her first Senate confirmation hearing Thursday and received near-universal compliments, even from Republicans.

New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University will pay $4.8 million to settle charges related a 2010 privacy breach in which the medical information of 6,800 patients was exposed when a CU physician-programmer tried to deactivate a personally owned server he had connected to NYP’s network, opening up the patient information it contained to the Internet. The error was discovered, as it always is, by someone Googling individuals and turning up inpatient clinical information. Neither organization had checked the server’s security, conducted a risk analysis of all systems, or developed policies and procedures for database access. It’s the largest HIPAA fine ever.

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Health Information Technology Exchange of Connecticut will be shut down since the HIE has spent its federal grants without accomplishing a whole lot.


Other

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A former Epic intern and employee who worked directly for Judy Faulkner for a time writes about his experience in a Madison online publication. He says Judy isn’t reclusive, just more interested in tending to her company and its customers than gabbing with reporters. He anguishes over whether the company spends too much on fancy buildings. He says Epic is good place to work because it quickly jettisons underperforming employees, but wonders if it shouldn’t hire more experienced people even if Judy’s long-held belief is that she can turn a new college grad into an “Epic person” in three years while experienced hires would take twice as long.

Weird News Andy reacts to this story by saying, “Mmmmm, bacon.” Scientists question the 1950s study that claimed saturated fats cause heart disease, saying the researcher chose specific countries that would prove his point, used small sample sizes, and studied one country during Lent when nobody was eating meat or cheese. The Wall Street Journal essay by the author of a pro-saturated fats book says that funding by Crisco’s manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, made the American Heart Association a national force and the group later spearheaded a move to vegetable oil for a “healthy heart” even though proof was lacking.


Sponsor Updates

  • Alan Worsham (Sutter Health) and Joe Schmidt (Emory University School of Medicine) join Culbert Healthcare Solutions as practice directors.
  • InterSystems TrakCare gains the largest share of non-US hospitals and is named a clear leader by KLAS.
  • Perceptive Software’s Larry Sitka will speak on breast tomosynthesis and John Hamdor will present on image-enabled EMR management at the SIIM14 conference.
  • Tampa General Hospital (FL) is live on Wolters Kluwer UpToDate Anywhere integrated into Epic.
  • Extension Healthcare releases a two-part white paper to aid hospitals with compliance with clinical alarm safety.
  • Capsule Tech celebrates National Nurses Week by posting celebrations and nurse-focused activities on the company’s blog.
  • Merge’s Mark Bronkalla explains the service model of PACS shifting to enterprise IT in a recent blog posting.
  • Gwinnett Medical Center and Connance will co-present at the Healthcare Business Insights’ Spring Member Retreat on “How Revenue Cycle Can Change Patient Loyalty.”
  • ICSA Labs certifies 29 vendors in April, including HIStalk sponsors Iatric Systems, Quest Diagnostics, and Orion Health.
  • Netsmart advocates for behavioral health providers on Capitol Hill.
  • Visage Imaging offers a NVIDIA case study in connection with a video detailing the architecture of the Visage 7 Enterprise Imaging Platform.
  • Aspen Advisors Founder and Managing Principal Dan Herman and principal Jody Cervank discuss IT’s impact on operations, clinicians, cost and productivity at a regional VHA COO/CFO Joint Affinity Group.
  • Ashish Shah and Brian Ahier of Medicity discuss the landscape and future direction of data exchange networks in a recent article.
  • Carolinas HealthCare System shares how Medicity was instrumental in its HIE CareConnect success.

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne

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We hosted a site visit at the office yesterday. It’s been a long time since we’ve done one and I had somewhat forgotten what an adventure they can be. We’ve been a reference site for our ambulatory vendor for years, but because of everything going on with upgrades, Meaningful Use, and ICD-10 preparation, we had taken a break.

We’re old pros at site visits since we were early adopters of EHR and had put our ambulatory physician practices through an accelerated implementation that was not only rapid, but successful. We had only been live for a few months before the vendor started asking us to host site visits. Initially I was naïve enough to think it was simply because we had done a great job. Only later (after I swiped our vendor contract from an unattended filing cabinet) did I learn that our CFO had leveraged potential site visits against discounts on our initial software purchase. I’m glad he was confident in our potential abilities!

Our formula for site visits is pretty standard. Our local vendor exec and the prospect’s vendor exec bring the entourage to our corporate headquarters. We start with a presentation on the history of the physician group and our ambulatory project. We share some fairly detailed information about our methodology, decision making, and implementation processes and then talk about results we’ve achieved over the years.

Although most of the groups that visit us ask to go to the practices and shadow physicians, we have a strict policy of not allowing it. We make that clear when the site visit is scheduled. The disruption to patient care is aggravating to our physicians, and if I was a patient, I wouldn’t want a bunch of visitors looking over my doctor’s shoulder and asking questions about the software.

Instead, we invite some members of our clinical advisory board to join the group for lunch. Most of them will have their laptops or tablets with them, which allows for hands-on discussion of workflow or how they handle challenges. Not all of them are serious fans of EHR, but they usually provide a balanced perspective.

Although members of the vendor sales team are usually present, they’ve learned to just sit back and let it unfold. There have been a couple of account reps that tried to jump in and camouflage deficiencies in the product, but being on the receiving end of our evil eye usually shuts them up. We’re completely open about what the clinical and billing systems will (and won’t) do. Most of the reps have learned that prospects appreciate that level of candor.

We’ve had some visitors that were squeamish about having the vendor in attendance. When that’s the case, we’re happy to kick the vendor people across the street for coffee. Other visitors have tried to beat up on the vendor with them in the room in the hopes of increasing their negotiating power by making the product seem deficient.

My favorite site visit was a couple of years ago. The revenue cycle director and I are good friends and have done so many talks together that we decided to mix it up and do each other’s parts in the presentation. I’m not sure the prospect fully understood the humor of what was going on, but the sales execs could barely keep straight faces as I chatted about denial management and my billing colleague started talking about clinical quality.

Even though we’re somewhat contractually obligated to host site visits, our vendor has never asked us to hide anything or to portray anything other than our real experience. They’ve been respectful when we simply have too much on our plate and understanding when we refuse to do them because we’re waiting for delivery of code that’s been delayed and we want to make a point. We actually have fun doing them since we get to tell our story and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in an industry that’s still in its relative infancy.

You never know how visitors are going to behave in a site visit until they start talking. This one was one of those doozies.

It was a bit of an unusual visit to start with. The visitors were already live on our vendor’s platform, but had “paused” their implementation. They were coming to us to see an example of a success story and to hopefully learn ways to improve when they restarted their project. They are a high-value client, so a vendor VP and some other execs came along for the ride. Although they had provided us the back story beforehand, it was interesting to watch the visiting CMIO explain that his initiative was essentially a failure / money pit without actually admitting as much.

We set the stage with our group’s profile, which was similar to theirs when we started our project. We went through our financials, success metrics, clinical quality indicators, and then jumped into the discussion of our implementation methodology and physician adoption strategy. No matter what platform you’re on, the latter two are critical in my book. Implement faster than your organization can handle or slower than it needs and you have a mess. Fail to think about physician adoption and you have the same mess, but exponentially larger and more painful.

Barely two slides into our EHR implementation presentation, the visiting CMIO started interrupting. Every time I would talk about how we did something, he would jump in with a counterargument about why that wasn’t a good idea. I would talk about how we implemented our pilot practices in phases and he would explain that in his master’s coursework, they had discussed that phased implementations are a mistake. I’d talk about how we brought laboratory and document interfaces live with the billing system (months before EHR) to pre-populate charts and he’d argue with me about medico-legal risk. I would say the sky was blue and he would try to tell me it was brown.

I thought I was holding it together pretty well in the face of his bad attitude, but I had to work to not laugh at my co-workers, who kept darting their eyes around to see how people were reacting to his bluster. I spotted a sidebar conversation that I knew was probably an attempt to guess how long I was going to let him continue his boorish behavior. The sales execs were increasingly agitated and tried to redirect him without being adversarial, but no one from his hospital tried to intervene.

Finally, I reached my breaking point. You can make fun of some of our user engagement strategies. You can think we’re goofy at times with how we do team building and change management. But don’t diminish the product of thousands of hours of hard work by our staff and end users, especially when you’ve got your own project on hold and your vendor is flying you around the country trying to help salvage your implementation. And definitely don’t try to tell us our strategy “can’t possibly be effective” when we have brought hundreds of physicians live successfully with no real revenue impact to them.

I gave him my best “steely-eyed missile man” look – the same one I give medical students when they appear particularly unprepared and which has been honed by years of craziness in the ER. I simply said I guessed we didn’t have anything to really teach them and handed the presentation controller to my revenue cycle colleague.

She’s usually the master of the poker face, but this time her expression said it all. I thought I heard a couple of people suck in their breath, but they were drowned out by the sound of the vendor VP choking on his breath mint.

To her credit, my colleague rapidly advanced through the rest of my slides and dove right into the wonders of the central business office without missing a beat. I caught a couple of smirks among our site visit guests, so I’m encouraged that there is hope for them even though their boss is clearly a jerk. The CMIO seemed to be trying to figure out what had just happened and started sputtering and trying to backtrack, but my colleague pressed ahead. I’m betting our vendor won’t be inviting him to any other client sites any time soon. I’m hoping our next guests leave their confrontational physicians at home.

Are you a reference site? Have any good stories? How do you deal with adversarial visitors? Email me.


Contacts

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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

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May 8, 2014 News 5 Comments

Morning Headlines 5/8/14

May 7, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

Data breach results in $4.8 million HIPAA settlements

New York and Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University will pay a $4.8 million HIPAA fine, the largest settlement to date. The data breach occurred when an in-house developer accidently compromised a network shared by the two organizations, leading to PHI being not only open to the internet, but indexed in Google search results. The health system learned of the breach when the family member of a deceased patient reported finding the medical records of her relative online.

State-Based Obamacare Exchanges Cost Far More Than the Federal Market

State-based health insurance exchanges are paying significantly more per enrollment than states that choose to rely on the federal Healthcare.gov site, according to a new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report. Hawaii paid an average of $920 per enrollment on its state site, making it the most expensive exchange in the nation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Florida, Wisconsin, and Virginia all used the federal exchange and paid $20 or less per enrollment.

Report Reveals Trends In Health IT Data Analytics and Reporting

46 percent of respondents in a new data analytics survey report a positive ROI on their investments, compared to just 14 percent who reported a negative ROI. Granted, the study was funded by a health IT vendor, and 75 percent of the respondents said that they are only using Excel, Access, or Crystal Reports to manage their analytics programs.

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May 7, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

Readers Write: What is a Patient Safety Organization and Should You Join One?

What is a Patient Safety Organization and Should You Join One?
By Brenda Giordano, RN, MN

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Can they really say that?

In 2011, the government asked Walgreens for information about two of its pharmacists. Walgreens said “no” to the request. There was nothing the government could do about it — Walgreens belonged to a Patient Safety Organization (PSO).

If you are a provider and are unfamiliar with PSOs, take six minutes to read this article. You’ll not only learn how to have a more just and fair culture of safety, but also how to have stronger legal protections for the work your teams do with safety events.

Nine years ago this July, Congress passed the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005, also called the Patient Safety Act. This law created a system of voluntary reporting to Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs) of safety events, near misses, and unsafe conditions, similar to what is available within aviation. At the same time, a Network of Patient Safety Databases (NPSD) was established so data could be analyzed and we could all learn why safety events occur and how to avoid them. 

The ultimate aim is to improve safety, but in a manner that also creates environments where working through the nitty gritty of what happened and why it happened can be done with legal protection and confidentiality. This freedom to fully explore safety events and safety data should foster a Just Culture, where reporting an event does not result in punishment, but rather in learning.

Let me take a pause here to lay this out very plainly. Provider organizations (hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, pharmacies, home health, ambulatory care, physician and dentist offices, laboratories, renal centers, ambulance and paramedic services, and so forth) can receive legal protections from discovery in the case of a civil law suit if they belong to a PSO and put together a Patient Safety Evaluation System. This means that if, heaven forbid, you, as a provider find yourself being sued, there are strict limits on what can be “discovered” (think “uncovered.”)

Two things can be discovered: the facts of the case (what is in the medical record) and the billing and discharge information. Everything else — with exceptions that make sense, like the committee meetings where specific safety events are discussed or the information gained from root cause analysis – is legally protected.

If you hang around a hospital, clinic, or any of the above-mentioned care areas, you probably know that after an event, the Risk people often rush in and tie people’s hands on what is documented. They are afraid that a lawsuit will uncover all kinds of things that the facility would be liable for, that would make them look bad, or that would hurt their reputation.

This is a logical approach, but sometimes the end result is that few things are learned and progress on safety is slow since everyone’s mode is CYA (the only acronym I decided to not spell out). I really wish it was not like this because I truly believe that complete transparency is the better road to take.

The reality is that few organizations have the guts to be fully transparent. The legal protection provided by this law tries to break up that bad cycle of “burying our mistakes” and remove the fear so that honest work on safety improvement can happen.

Comparative information in safety is hard to obtain. To that end, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) created a common format so that event information from any safety reporting system can be placed into 10 categories. Research can then be done on falls, medication errors and so forth. PSOs send de-identified information to AHRQ in this common format for addition to the Network of Patient Safety Databases.

Here are few reasons for joining a PSO.

  • It encourages a healthy culture of safety. It’s hard to learn when you are worried that you’ll be punished or found out in a public way. A PSO helps to remove the “‘whack of the ruler across the knuckles” attitude that does not help anything. The intent of the law is to foster learning, not place blame. We all want to improve safety and quality for our patients. A healthy Just Culture of safety can foster this.
  • Do it while it’s voluntary (unless you have really bad readmission.) Joining a PSO is voluntary, but in the future, hospitals with 50 beds or more need to have a Patient Safety Evaluation System in place to participate in state insurance exchanges (the exact date is not set). By joining a PSO now, hospitals can be prepared for this eventuality with a good system in place. No one knows if the PSO program will ever be mandatory, but knowing the government… About the readmission exception, courtesy of the Affordable Care Act, if the Secretary of HHS has determined you are eligible, well, you probably know who you are and why you need to be part of a PSO.
  • Remove wasteful costs that come with poor safety. Safety-related lawsuits are costly to defend. In addition, liability carriers increase premiums when they have to defend you a lot. Imagine having your carrier tell you, “Your premiums will be going down because we’ve had so few cases where we needed to defend you.” Wouldn’t that be nice?
  • Compare and collaborate with other organizations. PSOs can provide de-identified regional and national safety benchmarks. Knowing where you stand can help you to focus your improvement efforts and where to give praise. PSOs can also broker collaboration among their members so they can share what they have learned. It’s great to have a buddy outside your own system where mutual learning is not just allowed, but encouraged.

There are around 80 PSOs. Some are specialty based, others are state based, and many will cover multiple types of providers across the US. I hope you will consider joining one.

Brenda Giordano, RN, MN is operations manager of the Quantros Patient Safety Center, a federally-listed PSO serving 4,000 facilities, of Milpitas, CA.

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May 7, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Readers Write: The Engaged Healthcare Consumer is a Myth

The Engaged Healthcare Consumer is a Myth
By Tom Meinert

Although I am a reader, this may be more appropriately titled “Patient Writes.” I have been feeling cynical lately regarding healthcare. It seemed to culminate with a recent experience with my health insurer.

My daughter had to get an MRI. Shortly thereafter, I received the bill for my portion and it was a nice, whopping $1,000. Aside from the sticker shock, I was surprised because I had an MRI about a year and a half ago and I only had to pay $400. It’s the same Insurance plan for both of us, and although the MRIs were done at different places, the difference of the sticker price of the MRIs was $250. I was expecting to pay a bit more, but somehow a $250 difference actually cost me $600 more out of pocket. 

I called my insurer. After 40 minutes, I learned the following.

  • It’s not just what the hospital charges, but how they bill it. That may significantly change how much I have to pay out of pocket.
  • The people I call don’t have the information about the true cost to me.
  • Even if they have this information, they can’t share it with me.

This call confirms what has bothered me all along. Despite all the talk and hype regarding patient engagement, consumerization of healthcare and mHealth ushering in a whole new world along with the ACA, the concept of an engaged and informed consumer of health care is a myth.

I have worked my entire professional career in healthcare IT. I believe it can help change it for the better. Admittedly, most of my time has been spent working on projects that help improve care within a hospital.

But the more articles I read, conferences I attend, and apps I play around with, as I compare my own experiences as a patient, I am not impressed. Even more, I can’t see how healthcare is going to fundamentally change for the better.

I am frustrated and powerless. Over the past four years, my health has improved greatly. I have lost weight. My cholesterol is way down, along with my blood pressure and resting heart rate. Yet over this time, my personal out-of-pocket costs and premiums have increased.

I live in Massachusetts, which is at the forefront of healthcare reform. I can’t see a PCP without booking nine months in advance. I can see them only once every two years because that’s what insurance covers for a well visit.

Like more and more of us who were pushed into a high-deductible plan, I can only begin to empathize with patients who have complex problems who try to navigate the world of billing.

I hardly feel as though I am a consumer of healthcare. The truth so far seems to be that the definition of a healthcare consumer is simply proportional to the amount of costs pushed on to me. The more out-of-pocket costs I have, the more of an engaged consumer I am.

However, pushing costs on to me certainly does not make me an empowered and informed consumer. And it certainly doesn’t incentivize me to be healthy.

Going back to my phone call, it ended as expected. There was no real resolution. I still have to pay the bill. 

Those calls are recorded “for quality,” so I included one last comment out of frustration. Despite this company telling me that they have no real way to get at this information, someone there has it readily available at all times — the person who sends out all those bills that are accurate down to the last cent.

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May 7, 2014 Readers Write 4 Comments

HIStalk Interviews Lindy Benton, CEO, MEA/NEA

May 7, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Melinda “Lindy” Benton is president and CEO of MEA/NEA of Norcross, GA.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

I started my career in district programs serving multi-challenged preschoolers. Through that experience, I began to develop interest in technologies that could help those kids. But with that in mind, I’ve done healthcare technology software and service companies. They’re all dedicated to driving innovative technologies in healthcare. The decision I made to come to MEA was exactly for that reason. 

We are a critical link between payers and providers, which is a highly underserved market in our industry. We provide secure, compliant exchange of information. We have developed proprietary technology. We support bidirectional communication of requests, responses to those requests, and real-time access to documents by any authorized parties. They all have distinct relationships to the initial document that was requested.

We are the leading electronic provider. We have about 100,000 providers and 550 health plans. Our largest competitor is the US Mail and second to that would be a Fedex or UPS type sender. 

We have been innovating around a secure exchange of the medical transaction for 20 years. We are unique in the industry in the way that we capture and get rid of paper and conversations between the payer and the provider and the provider back to the payer.

 

How big is the company?

We have 75 people that spend every day working on this very niche-y transaction.

 

It’s an unusual company name. Is that because you operate two kinds of businesses?

They are two distinct businesses. The NEA side manages the conversations between dentists and their payers. The medical side is the providers, so that’s really more hospitals, doctors’ offices, and the payers. There are two companies.

The MEA/NEA brand is 20 years old. It has migrated over the years, becoming the exchange of attachments. We do not do claims — we have partners that do claims – but other than attachments, it was the only conversation that happened between a payer and provider other than the claim — the denial, whatever. 

It started there. But today, there are so many other paper conversations that happen in that world. Those are the conversations we address.

 

Most people would be surprised that submission of electronic attachments to support claims is such a big deal since it sounds as easy as an email attachment. Describe how that process works and why it’s so important.

Our technology enables the healthcare industry to reduce or eliminate the amount of paper. In 2012, we looked and there’s an estimated  0.9 billion to over 1.9 billion referrals or prior authorizations that were made across the healthcare system. That’s just in the revenue cycle.

There’s 8 billion pages of paper that are provider-to-payer messaging. I don’t think a lot of the offices that we serve today realize how much paper they have moving back and forth and the ultimate cost of that paper. People think of the cost being a stamp or a Fedex.

We did a study at a small community hospital. We have since spent about a year, probably a year and a half on that. About 40 percent of their claims were getting denied as a result of attachments only. It’s one little piece of the paper. This year, they have saved close to $500,000 just on getting zero denials. They went from getting denials because it was done by paper — it was too late, it came back, and all that stuff that happens that gets missed in the middle. 

By automating just that one little piece, they save $500,000. This is a 400-bed hospital. Multiply that times all the hospitals. It’s a huge problem that a lot of people don’t think of it as a priority, but you can save some real money.

We support scan and fax, but the ultimate goal is preventing the creation of paper in the first place. We’re addressing that, too.

 

Even though claims are electronic, there’s still a paper component in some significant percentage of them?

Correct. Call it anywhere between 13 and 15 percent of the claims — it just depends on which specialty — drops to paper. When there’s an attachment requested, the claim will drop to paper also, because they want it all to be together. Don’t blame them, right? You want the all documentation for that claim to support it.

They drop the claim to paper, so it does not go electronically. Which leaves a lot of room for not understanding the handwriting, misinterpreting, not getting it. It goes to a mail room. Payers are spending billions of dollars on mail room technologies.

If you and I had to communicate about a date on our calendars and we had to write each other letters and wait for responses and then the date’s wrong when you send it back — that is what’s happening today in the conversation between payers and providers. That’s what we solve. It’s a big problem.

 

It sounds as though both ends of the conversation receive benefit. Who pays for your service?

Both ends. The provider generally pays a flat fee. The payer pays per page.

 

Let’s say CMS is auditing a provider. How would it work with and without your system?

One of the four certified auditors will send a paper request to a health system or a physician asking for which charts they want to audit. If they did not use the gateway, they would take the paper and mail that chart and mail all the supporting documentation back to the auditor. That’s a paper transaction.

About a year and a half ago, Medicare, the CMS office, built this gateway. You had to get certified. A lot of people have come in and out of that certification because it’s not as easy to maintain as some think. There’s different changes in the regulations. We’re one of the top senders, if not the top, of the 18 or 20 of them. 

When you put it in the mail, there’s a lot of the “I didn’t get it” on the other end, whether it’s the payer, auditor, or requester. We allow for an audited, verified transaction. We send receipts back and say it got picked up. We know when it got picked up and we know when it got read. It’s almost like a read receipt that you get on your email. That doesn’t exist in paper.

 

You are the only company that does this?

There are other portals that payers have where they will ask for attachment through their portal. The problem with that portal is it is payer specific. I guess you could call that a competitor when you’re in an area where a provider is only using that single payer. We have not found one of those yet.

When you have a hospital that has multiple payers, we allow them to have the same work flow. We are part of their work flow. We will take care of sending it to the payers where it needs to go. It is not the onus of the hospital to go figure out which portal they need to use to go with which payers. You can imagine their desktop would have 50 icons on it where’d they have to go figure out the workflow for each. That’s what we prevent.

 

Accel-KKR took majority position in the company in September. What’s been the impact of that investment?

AKKR is a larger network of companies that we can partner with. KKR is the holding company, for lack of a better word, for Accel. They own very large companies like Mitchell, who do a lot of transactions in property casualty and worker’s comp. It allows for us to even add more services to our portfolio. 

It’s one-stop shopping. Rather than just the medical claims attachments that go between payer and provider, we can now add services for some of the other partners that they have in their portfolio. That’s been a big change.

The other is the broad thinking that Accel has around some of their portfolio companies and the industry. They have a lot of knowledge across a broader range of services that allows us to  utilize those in our network.

 

Where do you see the company going over the next few years?

We see ourselves leading the charge. We like to say that we are innovating the front of the curve. The curve is obviously the EDI 275 patient information transaction and getting that mandated and getting it out. That’s not there yet, but they are moving toward that. 

We see ourselves evolving into full-service revenue enhancement company. We want to get rid of all the paper that exists in the industry today, and that means a manual exchange of faxes and scanning and what they do today to get it to us. In order to get us a piece of paper today, somebody at the other end has to have some method of getting it in electronically.

We are working on the enhancement of our product. With our partnerships with the claims clearinghouses, the EHRs, and the practice management systems, that transaction by the end of next year will be digital for those who are adopting it … where the payer is going to request some additional documentation.

It will go back through the claims clearinghouse. We will take that transaction and go into the electronic health record or the practice management system. We will grab the document that’s requested and bring it in. What we need and what we’re developing through partnerships and internal development is there’s got to be some intelligence around the piece of paper. When they ask for the lab results for X, I have to be able to go read that. That’s the intelligence we’re developing.

Then we will try to get those health organizations and physicians to stop producing paper. That’s the industry trend — no more paper. When that happens, I don’t want them printing a piece of paper in order to give to the payer as supporting documentation. We are moving along that ride with the rest of the healthcare organization to produce that digital transaction.

 

Do you have any final thoughts?

The demands of the healthcare environment have never been more challenging. With emerging care and payment models, the collaboration between payers and the providers and that process that exists today, the exchange of HIPAA-secure documentation that’s paper-based and goes in fax and mail — that’s not efficient. That’s not HIPAA secure. That has to be eliminated. There’s tremendous cost and lawsuits and all the other things that are happening around that industry when it stays on paper.

The drug industry now drives patients to request a specific drug from their providers. We walk in and tell them what antibiotic we want. Providers need to demand from their payers the ability to communicate electronically so they have an audit trail, so they can track it, so it’s secure. That demand is not just a cost of doing it. I demand that you allow me to be secure in my transaction and not have a piece of paper that I’m faxing or Fedexing that’s going to sit on your doorstep.

I think we can change this a lot quicker than it’s changing. Payers have a lot on their plate. It’s not that they’re not talking about this, but to change the importance, providers need to start driving that contractually when they sign up with their payers — that they want that exchange to be electronic. They can help drive the industry.

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May 7, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Morning Headlines 5/7/14

May 6, 2014 Headlines No Comments

David Einhorn Shorts Athenahealth; ‘Caught Up In a Bubble’

Greenlight Capital hedge fund manager David Einhorn predicts that athenahealth shares will fall 80 percent or more from its recent highs, saying that the company’s 5-year 275 percent growth is symptomatic of what he calls an emerging tech bubble. Athena shares fell nearly 14 percent after his comments.

Massachusetts Starts Over on Health Website After Troubles

Massachusetts follows Oregon’s lead in scrapping its existing CGI-developed health insurance exchange. Despite being unable to bring its original site live after more than a year of work, Massachusetts has decided to try it all again, this time contracting with hCentive and setting an even more aggressive seven-month timeline in hopes that it will have the new site live in time for the November 2014 enrollment period. As a backup, Massachusetts will also enroll in the federal Healthcare.gov site. This dual-track solution will cost the state an additional $100 million.

The Watson Mobile Developer Challenge

IBM announces 25 finalists in its Watson Mobile Developer Challenge, of which eight are healthcare or fitness related. The contest sought innovative new ideas that would leverage Watson’s computing power to bring big data solutions to the mobile platform.

County pledges $500K to Lincoln software switch

Durham (NC) county commissioners authorize just $500,000 of the $1 million that Lincoln Community Health Center requested to implement Epic as an extension of Duke Health’s system. The total cost of the implementation is estimated at $2 million, and Duke had already agreed to pay $1 million of that, which now leaves Lincoln Community with a $500,000 difference to cover. The county commissioners suggested that Lincoln should convince Duke to pay the difference.

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May 6, 2014 Headlines No Comments

News 5/7/14

May 6, 2014 News 12 Comments

Top News

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Comments from hedge fund manager David Einhorn send shares of athenahealth down nearly 14 percent Tuesday after he tells investment conference attendees that ATHN is one of a few “bubble stocks” trading at high valuations for no good reason. He added that athenahealth really isn’t a cloud vendor deserving of high share price multiples since its main role is as a business process outsourcer of mundane back-office physician practice tasks. He also said that athenahealth’s promotional videos are full of buzz words and that “Epic’s dominance will only grow” as “the undisputed winner from the fragmented IT market.” He predicted the company’s shares will drop 80 percent. Above is the one-year chart of ATHN (blue) vs. the Nasdaq (red), with shares closing Tuesday as Nasdaq’s fifth-largest percentage decliner.


Reader Comments

From Bratman: “Re: Vonlay acquisition by Huron Consulting. The acquisition price was $35 million, all cash, and was a 1.2 times multiplier on revenue. There were several interested acquirers. The price may have ended up lower since Epic forced the Vonlay owners to modify the terms of the Vonlay-Epic agreement to extend the non-compete for former Epic employees from one year to two years. Epic required this change before it would agree to transfer the Vonlay agreement to Huron. The legality of forcing Epic employees into non-compete agreements they never knew about or agreed to is definitely up for debate and the length of the new non-competes likely makes them unenforceable. Epic seems to be using its power to try to minimize employee attrition and limit the supply of certified third-party consultants.” Unverified.

Upcoming Webinars

May 7 (Wednesday) 1:00 p.m. ET. Demystifying Healthcare Data Governance. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP, Health Catalyst. Challenged with governing data? This vendor-neutral discussion will cover the need to develop a data governance strategy, including general concepts, layers and roles, and the Triple Aim of data governance (quality, literacy, and exploitation.)


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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QPID Health raises $12.3 million in a Series B funding round and adds a board member from New Leaf Venture Partners.

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Radiology outsourcer Alliance HealthCare Services acquires the assets of OnPoint Medical Diagnostics, which offers a cloud-based scanner quality control system used by 81 hospitals, for $1 million in cash and two years’ of royalties.

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Huron Consulting Group closes its acquisition of Epic consulting firm Vonlay of Madison, WI.

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Pittsburgh-based teledermatology technology vendor Iagnosis raises $2.8 million from angel investors.

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Xerox will acquire ISG Holdings, which offers workers’ compensation software systems under the StrataCare and Bunch CareSolutions brands, for $225 million.


Sales

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Valley General Hospital (WA) chooses Medsphere’s OpenVista EHR for its 68 beds.

Alere Accountable Care Solutions will build a community-wide HIE for Whittier Independent Practice Association (MA).

Emerald Physicians ACO (MA) selects the eClinicalWorks Care Coordination Medical Record.


People

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Oneview Healthcare names Jeff Fallon (Fallon Strategy) as president, North America.

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ESD hires Cinthia Tenorio, LPN (Lake Health System) as CDI practice director and John Ortego (CTG) as Meditech practice director.

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Tracy Gregory (Linguamatics) joins SyTrue as chief scientist.

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Patrick Clark (Vonage Business Solutions) joins Wellcentive as CFO.

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Accenture CEO Jorge Benitez will retire from the company at the end of August.


Announcements and Implementations

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MModal announces enhancements to its Fluency Flex mobile dictation application for iOS devices.

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In Australia, Sydney Children’s Hospital Network announces plans to use commodity software for its telemedicine program, including Lync videoconferencing and Skype video calling, both from Microsoft.

RadNet goes live on Nuance PowerScribe 360 at the first of its 250 imaging centers and 27 practices.

Advocate Medical Group of Chicago (IL) implements Forward Health Group’s PopulationManager and The Guideline Advantage.

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Propeller Health earns FDA approval for the new generation of its inhaler-measuring asthma monitoring system.

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St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center (NY) goes live with Epic.

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Zoeticx makes available an API that it says will allow developers access to “any EMR system.”


Government and Politics

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Massachusetts announces that it will abandon its $57 million CGI-built health insurance exchange website and hire hCentive, which developed three other state marketplaces, to build a new one. The state also says that just in case that doesn’t work, it will just join the federal exchange in November. Massachusetts isn’t sure if it will need to ask the federal government for more money than the $174 million it already received since it is disputing its CGI contract, but the “dual track” option it chose (the sequel to its disaster movie) will cost another $100 million.

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CMS reports that only 50 doctors and four hospitals have successfully attested for Meaningful Use Stage 2 through (or “thru,” as the slide says) May 1. CMS also reports that it has approved 66 of 72 applications for hardship exceptions.

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Michelle Consolazio of HHS tweeted this photo of the HIT Policy Committee thanking outgoing member and Epic CEO Judy Faulkner, who has been replaced as its vendor representative after four years by Cerner CEO Neal Patterson.

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The talking heads in this hysterically partisan and sensationalist Fox News program seem exceptionally clueless yet smugly superior about nearly everything, but Jesse Watters (I don’t watch TV, so I don’t know who he is) outdoes himself at the 12:40 mark when talking about the VA wait list controversy by declaring, “They’re still using paper records at the VA. They’re not even computerized yet.” That’s embarrassing no matter what your political persuasion, but of course he only plays a journalist on TV and can’t be expected to differentiate between disability claims forms and medical records.

National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD says her husband, also a doctor, uses a “clunky” EHR. A bit of Googling suggests that her husband is (or at least was) an ED doc at Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Covington, LA, so perhaps his clunky EHR could be identified. I assume it’s Meditech since it’s an HCA hospital.


Innovation and Research

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MedStar Health (DC) will co-locate some of its employees in the offices of DC-based incubator 1776, connecting the health system with technology startups to arrange pilot projects. MedStar will also provide education for the 20 percent of 1776’s companies that deal with healthcare.

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IBM names 25 finalists in its Watson Mobile Developer Challenge. Those that are healthcare-related include GoGoHealth (telemedicine), Ultramatics (personalized health answers), Ringful Health (patient-physician communication), GenieMD (health management), Biovideo (information for expectant mothers), and Sense.ly/MyIdealDoctor (medical information).


Other

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Community Hospital (IN), which is treating the first US patient to be infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), used its Versus RTLS system (along with video surveillance recordings) to identify employees that had come in contact with the patient, earning a mention on the local TV news report. Hospital CMIO Alan Kumar, MD says, “We can tell down to the second how long they were in contact with the patient, and how long they were in the room, and provide data to CDC.” According to the state’s health commissioner, “MERS picked the wrong hospital, the wrong state, and the wrong country to try to get a foothold.”

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Durham County, NC commissioners vote to give Lincoln Community Health Center $500,000 to install Epic, half the amount it requested. The $2 million implementation would allow the clinic to connect with Duke University Health System’s Epic system. Commissioners suggested hitting up Duke for more than the $1 million it offered toward the cost, with one saying, “In the big scheme of what’s been invested at Duke, between $500 million and $700 million, this additional half a million, I would hope they would be able to absorb that and do what needs to be done.”

Investor Lisa Suennen (“Venture Valkyrie”) writes a blog post about the recent Health Evolution Partners Annual Summit that is brilliant in both insight and wit.

And this group of people, who know everything there is to know about how we got into such a healthcare system mess (because they helped create it) and what has got to be tackled to fix it (even if not how to do that exactly) is dealing with quite a conundrum. They are caught in a vortex where they have to straddle the old world and new world—the land where healthcare decisions are mostly still driven by volume and not quite ready to chuck it all for a world based on “value.” … it is impossible to train the entire hospital to act in two completely different ways based on the patient who shows up. You simply can’t run two different workflows and two different case management programs and two different follow-up programs efficiently. Most of the time the actual caregivers in a hospital—physicians, nurses, etc.—don’t even have a clue in what insurance program or risk-pool the patient is enrolled; certainly no one is yet handing out bar-coded wrist bands that tell the caregiver whether to minimize or maximize services, based on the financial motivation (I hope).

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Points from the 2014 HIMSS Regional Extension Center Survey, with 37 of 60+ RECs (which have received $677 million in taxpayer support) responding:

  • Nine out of 10 say their #1 business issue is staying alive, with several respondents saying financial sustainability isn’t possible or isn’t something they’ve planned adequately.
  • One-fourth of the RECS say they won’t be viable by the end of the year, and half of those that say they’ll survive expect state grants to keep them solvent.
  • Three-fourths of them want more ONC grants to keep afloat.
  • One-fourth of the respondents say they will partner with other RECs to ensure their viability.
  • Staffing ranged from two to 80, with an average of 23 FTEs.
  • The #1 services priority is providing information services related to business intelligence and data warehouses, while optimizing EHRs and providing Meaningful Use services came in right behind.

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Fitch downgrades the bonds of Centegra Health System (IL), blaming its acquisition of physician practices and its EHR rollout (McKesson Paragon, I believe) for “light operating profitability.”

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota fires its CEO right after the company reports an $80 million loss largely due to problems in its Noridian Healthcare Solutions subsidiary, which developed Maryland’s failed health insurance exchange website. Paul von Ebers had vowed Thursday to improve the organization’s financial position by reducing administrative overhead, which its board took to heart in unanimously voting Monday to fire him effective immediately.

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Guess which vendor is looking for a marketing director? Wrong … it’s HIMSS, trying to find someone to help push its many publications.

@deansittig tweeted out a link to an Epic promo-type video by Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford (CA) that is well done, but I liked the one above better.  

Some hospitalists at the annual conference of the Society of Hospital Medicine focus on IT issues, urging their peers to “establish ourselves for the informatics role we have taken” by earning informatics subspecialty board certification.

Weird News Andy intones that “exercise can kill you.” In Portland, OR, a naked man doing pushups in the middle of the street at 4 a.m. is run over and killed by a car, with predictable toxicology results pending. WNA can’t keep his hands off his Oregon as he files another story that he calls, “is there a governor in the house?” as ED doc and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber jumps out of his limo to perform CPR on a collapsed woman (WNA wonders he couldn’t spare some compressions for Cover Oregon.)

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The family of a Miami doctor sues the driver of the Lamborghini in which he died when it crashed into a car stopped at a light at over 100 miles per hour two weeks ago. The driver, the founder of a vodka company, was drunk when he and the doctor left the Versace Mansion after discussing investments. The non-practicing doctor had a vodka company, too, going by the nickname Dr. Vodka.


Sponsor Updates

  • Deloitee’s Harry Greenspun, MD is interviewed about mobile health devices on Federal News Radio.
  • Strata Decision Technology, MedAssets, and Prominence Advisors are named to Becker’s “150 Great Places to Work in Healthcare.”
  • Helen Figge with Alere Accountable Care Solutions discusses how to still meet requirements for MU Stage 2.
  • Capsule’s Michelle Grate explores healthcare as a complex adaptive system and explains why it matters.
  • Beacon Partners recommends five steps for developing a CDI program as part of preparation for ICD-10.
  • Voalte releases a white paper offering three key elements to secure physician texting.
  • Advanced Data Systems will integrate Merge Healthcare’s iConnect Network with its MedicsRIS.
  • Truven Health reports that premature or low-birth weight infants funded by Medicaid cost nine times more than uncomplicated newborns.
  • T-System’s Elizabeth Morgenroth offers three reasons to start documenting for ICD-10.
  • Aventura CEO John Gobron discusses awareness computing bringing intelligence to the clinician workflow at the Healthcare IT Institute in Sarasota, FL.
  • Cottage Hospital (NH) reports that it has saved over $100,000 in interface fees since going live on Summit Healthcare’s interface engine.

Contacts

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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

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May 6, 2014 News 12 Comments

Morning Headlines 5/6/14

May 5, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Epic, Cerner are top EHRs for docs meeting meaningful-use requirement

Epic remains the top vendor for Meaningful Use attestations by eligible providers with a complete EHR, while Cerner is the top vendor for EPs attesting with a modular EHR.

Health Information Exchange among U.S. Hospitals Continues to Grow, but Significant Work Remains

ONC says in a recent report that 93 percent of US hospitals now possess a certified EHR. In a separate report, it says that 62 percent of the same hospitals are using HIEs to exchange laboratory results, radiology reports, clinical care summaries, or medication lists with outside providers.

Fitch Rates Centegra Health System & Affiliates, IL Ser 2014A Revs ‘BBB’; Downgrades Rev Bonds

Fitch Ratings has lowered its outlook for Centegra Health System (IL) from stable to negative, and issues a rating of BBB on its revenue bonds. Fitch expected improved performance in 2013, but one-time EHR implementation costs, combined with an increase in practice acquisitions, dampened financial results. Centegra then added $200 million in debt to pay for construction of a 128-bed hospital.

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May 5, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 5/5/14

May 5, 2014 Dr. Jayne 2 Comments

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It’s time for another update in my ongoing saga about the physician group that our health system purchased. We’re in the process of preparing them to upgrade to the 2014-certified version of their EHR software. Initially, they balked at any suggestion of retiring their custom content. Our team has been diligently working on them and has convinced them to agree to approximately half of our recommendations.

At this point and given their resistance, I can get on board with half. It’s certainly more than none. Through discussion of their actual needs and observing their workflow, we’ve even identified a handful of customizations that we’re going to advocate that our vendor incorporate into the product out of the box. Ultimately, what allowed us to get the agreement we achieved was the idea they will be piloting the changes for a couple of months after the upgrade and then we’ll revisit them.

We added the pilot approach when we sensed they were stuck in analysis paralysis. The reluctance of the identified physician champions to make decisions was palpable. They feared backlash from their colleagues and claimed to be unable to reach consensus.

I’ve been through this enough times to know what kinds of darts their colleagues might start throwing, so I was happy to offer myself as a virtual human shield. If using the larger health system as the scapegoat for required change is what it takes to move them ahead, so be it.

Now that the decisions are made, it’s time to get their build underway and start preparations for testing and training sessions. I’m grateful the build will be fairly easy. Although large in number, most of the customizations are very easy. If we get in a bind on the timeline, we can always bring in contractors to knock it out quickly. As for the testing requirements, though, I think we’re going to be in for another fight.

Typically we bring in key end users to help us with testing. That way we can ensure that any unusual workflows they’ve come up with get put through their paces using the new software. Over time, we’ve aggregated many of these scenarios for our physicians into test scripts that our analysts can use to replicate their workflows.

The new group is a little bit of a mystery. though. I’m sure there are plenty of aberrant workflows we’ve yet to discover, so having access to their actual staff will be essential.

As we suspected, they didn’t want to let us pull anyone out of the offices or create a situation where overtime might be needed, so we had to get a little creative. I was able to pull together data from our previous go-lives and upgrades and convince them that if they let us leverage the users now, they will need less training right before the upgrade.

It still seems somewhat contrived that we have to produce data to convince them of a proven solution. I just have to keep reminding myself that they’ve come under our umbrella under circumstances that were less than willing.

I know there will be culture shock when they experience our training program as well. We require not only attendance, but participation in our sessions. Users are expected to demonstrate competency before they are signed off.

We use both written and practical evaluations for non-provider users. Providers are expected to demonstrate mastery by replicating 15-20 past patient encounters in the new system. Ideally I’d like to get them to do more, but we’ve found that’s about all we can get them to agree to.

We find that when users have completed a certain number of scenarios, they are able to get back up to speed more quickly in the days following the upgrade. It’s not rocket science – it’s a simple matter of practice.

Nevertheless, we often have physicians who fight us about the need to practice. It’s difficult to help them understand that documenting quickly and accurately in EHR while preserving the integrity of the patient visit is a skill, just like anything else they do. They wouldn’t try a new procedure on a patient without supervised practice.

Some of them try to tell us that they didn’t need any special training to document on paper. Although I’d agree that they didn’t need “special” training, they did need training. As medical students, we wrote hundreds if not thousands of patient notes, notes that were critiqued by our interns, residents, and attendings. Those of us in employed practice models had our notes further critiqued by coding and compliance auditors as well.

We plan to have our first testing and training event in a few weeks. We’re bringing in the non-physician staff first and will do our best to make the sessions not only educational, but fun and interactive. By winning their hearts and minds, it should make for an easier battle when it’s time to address the physicians.

I always like to bring homemade goodies to user events and this won’t be any exception. Right now this quick bread (made with an insane amount of butter, sugar, and sour cream) is a leading contender. Despite the calorie count, I can at least pretend it’s a health food. After all, it’s got bananas — how can it not be?

Email Dr. Jayne.

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May 5, 2014 Dr. Jayne 2 Comments

HIStalk Interviews Keith Neilson, CEO, Craneware

May 5, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Keith Neilson is CEO and co-founder of Craneware of Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and live there to this day. My background was in physics. I was very poor at physics, so I migrated into computers and computer science and around those areas from sales and marketing positions, but also technical and development positions. 

In 1999, along with my co-founder Gordon Craig, we decided to form a software company. We met a healthcare consultant based in New Jersey called Nora McNeil, whose company did charge master management for a large proportion of the New Jersey and New York hospitals. We partnered with her to write some software to produce the first automated charge master solution in the marketplace.

 

It must have been tough to get those first customers to sign on with a company located outside of the United States. What was your story that led them to have that confidence?

In the early days, we were selling through the consultancy company. It was an extension to the services that the consulting company was providing. 

We started to develop our own direct sales force and direct sales after probably about the first year or so and started to move through from there. In the first year, it was all through Nora McNeil’s consulting company. We were writing software that her consultants were then using out in the field.

 

How many employees does the company have and how many of those are in the United States?

We’re about 220 in total, of which I think about 130 or 140 are in the US.

 

What are the key revenue cycle issues that hospitals are struggling with?

We started in charge master. I still believe that’s an untapped asset in many hospitals. The charge master is a valuable control point within their hospital operations.

We’ve widened towards a more transactional basis. We have transactional software that deals with claims generation, claims processing, and denials management. We have some RAC audit software in there as well and third-party payer audit software. At the front end, we’re starting to move more into patient access and into the consumerization of healthcare.

There’s probably three, maybe four areas that hospitals should be looking at. One is around, are they billing correctly and getting everything that they’re entitled to? Because they should be. Future revenues will be based upon their success in doing that currently, and equally we know that revenues are going to get tighter in the future. It’s going to be proportioned in different ways with the Affordable Care Act and different areas from there.

Hospitals should also be considering their cost base and looking at their supply side and their supply chain and whether they’re getting value out of that. 

The data that’s flowing through the revenue cycle, whether they’re capturing that and whether they’re utilizing that to the best value.

Lastly, it’s the consolidation trend. How do you manage? If you’re a consolidator, how do you get value out of the hospitals that you’re buying or the facilities that you’re buying to be able to achieve the economies of scale that people are looking for? Equally on the other side, if you are being acquired, how do you manage to continue to provide quality of care within your community and provide your mission and your needs from there?  

To me, those are the four things that are going to be the biggest challenges going forward.

 

How do you see the supply chain systems market shaking out given that many hospitals bought ERP systems but don’t seem to be getting the value from them they expected?

I think hospitals are probably getting exactly what they need from some of these systems — or certainly have the ability to get exactly what they need from them — which is very, very good quality stock management systems. In the healthcare environment, though, more uniquely than many other environments, supplies and pharmacy have to be tracked in a different way. Equally, they are billed in a different way because they are typically billed independently — or at least recorded independently — and in high volumes. It’s very different from many other industries. 

If  we take the car manufacturing industry, the car is the sum of many different parts. It is recorded within the ERP system as being the sum of many parts. But they don’t bill that way. They don’t claim that money back. They don’t get reimbursed on the individual parts. They get reimbursed on the car in its entirety.

In healthcare, that’s not the case, and I believe certainly for the foreseeable future that will not be the case. You’ll still need to have detailed out what drugs, what supplies are actually going in, for both a health and safety perspective of knowing where supplies and drugs have been administered, implantable devices, those kind of things. But also just from an accountability perspective, were they actually supplied to the patient? Did the patient actually consume them? Were they medically necessary?

Also record details of them from a perspective of trying to drive future cost savings in healthcare by understanding the use of implantable devices, new med tech as it’s coming through, general supplies, but also both the current wave of pharmaceuticals and the new wave of smarter pharmaceuticals that are coming through as well so that people can learn from that. 

Supply chain is quite a critical area for hospitals. I think the latest statistics I saw from American Hospital Association was that up to about a third of costs come from supplies and pharmaceuticals for hospitals. That drives directly to reimbursement as well because many of these things are on very thin margins and many hospitals are running very thin margins. That’s a significant amount of spend that I don’t think gets enough attention both from a financial and from a data perspective at this stage.

 

You mentioned getting paid for the components of a car rather than the whole car, but new payment models push more toward getting paid for the car. How do you think that will change your business?

On the surface, we’ll look at individual payments there. I would be very surprised if people don’t still want the detail and the data underneath.

If we are moving to electronic health records with a purpose of better understanding the patient interaction so that we can better anticipate cost and the need for investment in healthcare going forward, why would we go to the stage where we would then take that data and destroy that data? We’ll still need that data at a later stage.

I also think that there’s a potential that bundling ACO models were not necessarily indicating that need for data will be relatively short-lived. We already have a case just now where if we think about it, we have our DRGs, and within the DRGs, we have ambulatory payment classifications, which take over a higher level than the individual procedural codes below that. But although the individual procedural codes are not necessarily billed individually. You still have to record that you’ve carried out those individual procedures and you’ve proved the individual pharmaceuticals supplied down to the patient so that people know that they’re getting value and they’re getting the full treatment.

I think we’ll have a similar thing with bundled payments and in the ACO model. I don’t think that level of detail will disappear from underneath. It actually will become more critical as we go forward. The genie’s out of the bottle.

If we go to Volkswagen, although they sell one car, they don’t record all the data and all the component parts of that car and just say, well, that’s a Volkswagen Beetle. They look at all the individual components and have them all listed and have a full understanding of what the cost implication of supplying part A or supplying part B is to make up a brake caliper. 

From there, I think that level of detail is only going to increase underneath. And of course, with ICD-10, potentially ICD-11 — whenever that rolls out to bring coding in line with the rest of the world — you’re increasing that level of detail again.

 

The company has talked about acquisitions for some time. You’re publicly traded. You have a big footprint, with a fourth of US hospitals as customers. What are you looking for in terms of potential acquisitions, especially with regard to analytics?

Certainly from a data perspective, we believe that we should be continuing to invest in our internal data platforms to be able to take the information that we gather and build that into better products. That’s been a longstanding commitment from us to do that. In fact, we’ve had tools in that marketplace since I want to say 2005, but what we’ve tended to do is roll them into our other products rather than have them as standalone.

Part of the reason for that is that analytics themselves, I believe, are becoming more and more of a commoditized marketplace. You can buy off the shelf a whole series of Microsoft tools that even four years ago, we couldn’t have dreamt we would have had that kind of analysis ability at our fingertips. I think the actual analysis itself will become more and more commoditized.

Where I think we need to focus more of our efforts as an organization – and where I believe our customers are focusing and starting to look — is more of the content that goes alongside that to make those analytics intelligent. A combination of both predictive analytics, truly looking at how we can model the future to try and get an understanding of today and current short-term performance as well as long-term performance. How do we do that with predictive analytics?

But also looking at content and value add of, what do those analytics actually tell you? If you’ve got this traffic light, what does it really mean? How do you improve the performance of your operations with the ultimate aim of then improving patient care? What’s the thing or the 10 things that make the difference to improve that patient care and do that in an environment where you can afford to be able to do that?

That’s the bit that we’re trying to concentrate on more of. That’s what you see as quite a common theme throughout our products. It’s about applying that intelligence and doing more than just providing the tools, but providing some of the structure and some of the workflow in that as well. If you do highlight a problem, how you can correct that and manage it through?

 

How do you see the future playing out in terms of acquisitions?

We’ve made it quite clear and been quite public that we continue to look for acquisition opportunities that extend the range of our product set or augment the range of our product set. Particularly in our supply chain side of things, particularly in patient access. We’ve got some very good products in there, but we don’t have what we would call a gateway product in there, a product that’s strong enough as a standalone elite product that we can take in to a brand new customer.

From there, find revenue from that, then generate more sales and provide benefit to the customer as well and incremental extra benefit to the customer. We’re looking to add into patient access, and equally, we’re looking in around revenue cycle and revenue integrity with a slant towards supplies and pharmacy. That’s where we’re looking.

We are a publicly traded company, as you said, on the London Stock Exchange. We have been successful, but we believe we can be far more successful. We believe we can do far more to help our customers and provide value to them, and therefore through that, grow our business. We’ve only just scratched the surface of that.

In the future, I certainly would see us getting that scale and building that scale through a combination of both organic growth and through acquisition. Then to be able to look at potentially becoming a public company in the US as well.

 

I wouldn’t say you fell by accident into becoming an entrepreneur, but it sounds like it took some turns that wouldn’t have been expected. What are the most surprising things that you’ve learned in becoming an entrepreneur and now running a publically traded company?

I think it’s fair to say I fell by accident into healthcare, definitely. [laughs] That’s something that I’ve really enjoyed and certainly haven’t regretted at all. I  feel that we’re making a difference there.

From the entrepreneurial side of things, from a very early age, I’ve been writing software and selling software and doing things from there. I think what that can bring to healthcare is a very fresh approach. I think that both the combination of what we did both in 1999 and hopefully we have consistently done through today is try to tip some of those sacred cows over. Trying to look at healthcare as an organization and trying to understand where the differences are between healthcare and other industries and how we can bridge those gaps, predominantly how we can bridge those gaps with technology. 

We’ve been very much about trying to produce solutions which are easy to implement and easy to roll out for our clients and give them maximum benefit as quickly as possible.

I’m not sure if I answered your question. The lessons are being able to be dynamic in terms of your approach, being able to be flexible to the circumstances and the changing legislative landscape. But also being able to put those changes into context and look at them over the long term rather than just over short term. By short term, even cycles of two or three years, and trying to look at cycles of five and 10 years and see how we can have long-term sustainability.

Those are some of the things learned through the course of this journey and my previous work, but particularly are relative for healthcare just now.

 

Do you have any final thoughts?

I know that many of your readers will be potentially very frustrated with some of the changes that are coming through with the Affordable Care Act and some of the uncertainties that come with whether ICD-10 is coming in this year or next year and all the various different vagaries of that.

But underlying, healthcare in the US has the potential to be absolutely phenomenal. There is wastage there. There are areas that can be improved. But there are areas that can be measurably improved within the resource bands that are there just now. That sometimes gets lost in the noise. 

We talk about ACOs and we think, OK, everyone’s going to be an ACO. Actually, that’s probably not going to be the case. We talk about, everyone’s going to be driven by these quality measures and it’s going to be quality or everyone’s going to be affected by just having bundled payments. Actually, that’s probably not going to be the case.

What’s most likely going to happen is most facilities are going to claim and be reimbursed through a variety of different models. What they need to do is very calmly and rationally think through what the data implications of that are going to be. What data can they influence? What data do they need? What tools to be able to help understand and analyze and correct? 

There are tools being generated just now. We’ve seen a huge change in even just the last two or three years with the software that’s available and the adoption of software within facilities. I think the next two or three years and beyond that will have equally aggressive change coming forward. A lot of that will be for the better. 

There tends to be a big despondency and malaise out there, but actually things are turning out not quite as bad as people were expecting. I think a little bit of optimism should be there.

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Morning Headlines 5/5/14

May 4, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Blue Cross Blue Shield of ND reports $72.9 million loss

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota releases its 2013 year-end report. Within the report, BCBS-ND discloses that its bottom line dropped $72 million, compared to 2012. Its subsidiary Noridian Healthcare Solutions took a $51 million loss after being fired as the lead contractor on Maryland’s health insurance exchange. BCBS-ND took an additional $25 million loss when the newly implemented EHRs being rolled out by local providers caused billing delays and a claims backlog that BCBS significantly underestimated the value of, and did not budget for.

CPSI Announces First Quarter 2014 Results

CPSI announces Q1 results: revenue up five percent to $52.1 million, driving net income up 11 percent to $7.7 million. EPS $0.69 vs $0.63 last year, missing analysts forecasts by a wide margin. Stock prices ended down 4.6 percent at the end of the trading day Friday.

How scribes made Allina an extra $205,000

After Cardiologists with Allina Health started using scribes to handle EHR related data entry, the health system noticed a significant jump in patient volumes. Cardiologists using scribes were generating $205,740 in additional revenue per 65 clinic hours. Scribes also helped reduce doctor burnout.

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Monday Morning Update 5/5/14

May 4, 2014 News No Comments

Top News

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota partially blames its poor 2013 performance on newly implemented EHRs of providers that delayed their insurance claims submissions, which it says caused it to underestimate the value of those claims. I didn’t realize until reading the CEO’s discussion that Noridian Healthcare Solutions is a subsidiary of BCBS of North Dakota. Noridian built the failed Maryland health insurance exchange and was fired from its $193 million contract in February. Maryland has hinted that it may sue Noridian in hopes of getting back some of the $55 million it has already paid toward Noridian’s five-year contract. North Dakota’s insurance commissioner says the agency is watching BCBSND to make sure it doesn’t try to increase insurance premiums in the state to cover Noridian’s projected $17.8 million loss. Every time I hear that name I think of Veridan Dynamics from “Better Off Ted.”


Reader Comments

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From Guillermo del Grande: “Re: CIOs. Here’s a list of “A Few Things CIOs Should Know (Or Think About).”

  • If you want the FDA to regulate EMRs but have a service level agreement of two days for major fixes, you may want to learn about software development models. If you have to ask what a software development model is, how did you get to be a CIO?
  • FDA requires waterfall development. This is not Niagara Falls.
  • How many of the good EMRs use waterfall any more? Here’s a hint: not many. Most are agile. EMRs are more complicated than a medical device. How many different medical devices connect to your EMR? Do you even know? Do you feel like testing every scenario per medical device that connects to your EMR? Do you think your vendor does that?
  • Are you afraid to let developers and your IT people watch healthcare and the software in action? You’re not agile. You’re going over the waterfall in a barrel.
  • If your SLA is two days, but you require a change control meeting that only happens every two days, and then a software testing process that takes two days, and then another change control meeting, and then only migrate changes once a week, you may have a problem.
  • How long does it take your vendor to fix a minor issue? You should be asking this question before you buy.
  • What makes you think your IT staff can fix a problem in a SLA period when you don’t know if it’s something your IT folks can do or it’s something the vendor has to do?
  • Do not try to manipulate an IT staff or a vendor into repairing your highest priority by only reporting that item. IT staff have lots of end users. Vendors have lots of customers and sometimes will fix issues only if lots of different customers are seeing them.
  • If you think a problem made it to the field because the software testers at the vendor didn’t find the issue, you don’t know much about how software companies. Remember that story about the guy who had his heart burned out of his chest a few years ago because of a bug? If not, look it up on HIStalk — it was a known issue for 10 years. Ask your vendor how many known issues they have in their tracking system. Hint: they’re not all reportables.
  • The Supreme Court is reluctant to take new cases and software developers are reluctant to fix bugs for many of the same reasons and use some of the same processes.
  • “Not a customer workflow” is heard at many a vendor to defend not fixing a bug, often before there are any customers.

Thoughts on FSMB’s “Model Policy for the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine”

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The Federation of State Medical Boards is a Euless, TX-based non-profit trade association that represents all US medical boards that license physicians. It does not make regulations directly, but state boards usually adopt its recommendations.

Key points from its report include:

  • Telemedicine is defined as requiring videoconferencing. Encounters conducted via telephone or email are not telemedicine.
  • Physicians must be licensed in the state “where the patient is located” because physicians are licensed by individual states.
  • A physician-patient relationship must exist, but it can be established using telemedicine technologies.
  • The physician must document the patient’s history. Having the patient complete an online questionnaire doesn’t count.
  • The physician should obtain the patient’s informed consent, including a description of the security features of the telemedicine technologies being used.
  • The physician must make themselves available following the encounter.
  • The physician may not promote services for which they are receiving payment or benefits.

The intention of the group is clear. It wanted to prevent providers from selling prescriptions online. Nearly all of the wording restates requirements that are already in effect for traditional physician-patient encounters, clarifying that those requirements hold true for telemedicine-based encounters. The policy attempts to prevent online-only practices by prohibiting misleading websites, undisclosed financial relationships, and running an online consultation service simply to sell drugs online.

The only significant (but unsurprising) recommendation is that physicians must hold a license in the state where the patient is physically located during the encounter. That also is no different for traditional medical practice – an ED doctor in Florida can see vacationing patients from anywhere in the world from a Florida-based hospital, but he or she can’t travel to those other states to treat the same patients at their homes unless licensed there.

The most positive development for telemedicine supporters is that the model policy allows patients to be managed entirely by telemedicine without an in-person component.

The negative aspects of the model policy are:

  • FSMB isn’t a particularly transparent organization and didn’t disclose the members of the work group or who it consulted to develop its proposed policies. It also did not provide a way to incorporate industry or patient feedback.
  • Doctors already diagnose and treat patients by telephone and email, but those options are not considered telemedicine in the model policy, although it doesn’t limit or prohibit them. That would suggest that nothing changes for those visits, although future questions may come up involving payment for services.
  • Doctors must be licensed in the state where their patients are located, which isn’t even accurate in some cases (military physicians.)
  • It doesn’t address the desirability (nor should it have, most likely) of national rather than state-by-state licensure of physicians or an expanded reciprocity program that would make it easier to practice across state lines. That’s the biggest clash between telemedicine proponents and state regulatory boards, whose revenue and power come from overseeing in-state professionals and (arguably) protecting them from competition.
  • It calls for requirements that exceed those of non-telemedicine encounters, such as prohibiting randomly assigning patients to physicians (which EDs, walk-in clinics, and other services do routinely) and requiring that the medical records of patients be reviewed before treating them (which urgent care providers can’t do by definition.)

The conclusion is that telemedicine proponents wanted a policy that opened up state borders and encouraged innovative care, while FSMB’s goal was to prevent unethical doctors from running pill mills and online medical scams.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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A commendable 37 percent of poll respondents use an activity tracker at least five days per week. New poll to your right: should doctors be licensed nationally instead of state by state? It’s an important question if you think telemedicine can improve the efficiency and geographic reach of physicians.

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

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Upcoming Webinars

May 7 (Wednesday) 1:00 p.m. ET. Demystifying Healthcare Data Governance. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP, Health Catalyst. Challenged with governing data? This vendor-neutral discussion will cover the need to develop a data governance strategy, including general concepts, layers and roles, and the Triple Aim of data governance (quality, literacy, and exploitation.)


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Vocera announces Q1 results: revenue up 10 percent, adjusted EPS –$0.14 vs. –$0.07, beating expectations for both. VCRA shares were the second-largest NYSE percentage losers on the news, shedding 14.7 percent. From the conference call:

  • The company released the Vocera Collaboration Suite and an expanded Vocera Care Experience in the quarter.
  • It opened a development shop in India.
  • President and CEO Brent Lang called hospital spending “challenging” as hospitals wait to see where changes in patient population and healthcare reform go.
  • He quoted a report that says 97 percent of hospitals don’t believe their nurses have the right tools to determine the availability of caregivers and that consumer-grade smartphones aren’t working well for hospitals.
  • Lang mentioned a tentative US Army study in which use of Vocera’s system provided a 12-month payback.
  • The alarm management system it gained with its mVisum acquisition in January 2014 will be launched this summer.
  • Lang said the company will pursue more acquisitions.

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Evariant, which offers a patient marketing platform, raises $18.3 million in a Series B funding round.

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Hc1.com says it will create 175 jobs in central Indiana over the next five years, having just received $3 million in state tax credits. I can’t really tell what the company is selling since the site is a mess of buzzwords and vaguely feel-good statements behind one of the worst company names I can imagine (shades of 1999), but it seems to be a customer relationship management system for outreach labs and radiology practices.

General Dynamics will lay off at least 645 Utah-based call center employees it had hired under a CMS contract to take Healthcare.gov related inquiries about insurance.

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CPSI announces Q1 results: revenue up 5 percent, EPS $0.69 vs. $0.63. From the conference call:

  • The company installed financial systems in nine hospitals and clinical systems in 12.
  • Add-on sales made up 26 percent of total revenue
  • The company expects to gain ground with MU Stage 2 as “a number of our competitors continue to struggle with obtaining certification for their software, as well as struggling with the installation and usability of their software in the small hospital market.”
  • Its new ED module will GA in Q3.
  • CEO Boyd Douglas says that while Epic and Cerner talk about moving into smaller hospitals, CPSI isn’t seeing much of that, mostly just their usual small-hospital system competitors (Meditech, McKesson Paragon, and Medhost, I assume.)
  • The Leerink Swann analyst managed to say “sort of” four times in one question, also using that annoying verbal crutch twice in a follow-up question.

Sales

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The Defense Health Agency awards Leidos a $70.7 million, sole-source contract to support its EHR systems for the next 11 months.

Nashville-based MindCare Solutions signs the first customer for its tele-behavioral platform and provider network, Genesis HealthCare, which will offer remote psychiatric services to its 400 skilled nursing facilities.


Announcements and Implementations

New York State Immunization Information System will use Blue Button to make records available to the parents of patients.

AMIA calls for nominations for its 2014 awards for informatics leadership, nursing informatics, informatics health policy contributions, and informatics innovation. Winners won’t necessarily be the best, just the best who pay AMIA dues: a key selection attribute is “demonstrated commitment to AMIA through membership.”

The Boston Business Journal profiles Alere Accountable Care Solutions, mentioning that it will offer its care management, connectivity, and analytics systems in Europe. I interviewed CEO Sumit Nagpal in October 2013.


Government and Politics

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President Obama makes fun of Healthcare.gov at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, saying that he has replaced his campaign slogan “Yes We Can” with “Control-Alt-Delete.” Near the end of his presentation, he pretended to have problems with a video and former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius got a cameo as she rushed to the podium to fix it. The President’s last words of the evening, after thanking the press and uttering the obligatory “God Bless America,” were “Thank you, Kathleen Sebelius.” Other than following the party line, I question whether the fired Sebelius did anything worthy of that level of adulation.


Other

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A Minneapolis cardiologist, intrigued by the use of scribes in the ED, tries them in his cardiology clinic. The four doctors he studied were spending all but two minutes of their average 13-minute patient visit working on the computer. Turning that work over to scribes shortened the visits to nine minutes, but beyond that efficiency gain, patients got seven minutes of that as face-to-face time, nearly four times as much compared to non-scribe visits. The doctors saw 60 percent more patients using scribes, boosting revenue by $206,000 in 65 clinic hours. Patient satisfaction was unchanged, which is nice for making a case for scribes but not so nice for the doctors — all that extra face time apparently didn’t impress patients.

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Dr. Andy’s HIStalk Practice rant on the problem list is drawing interesting comments from his physician peers. Example: why can’t the problem list attribute cause and effect, or allow attaching meds to specific problems (or more than one problem?)

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The dean of the new Dell Medical School at the University of Texas (I wonder who paid for that?) says that while Austin is behind in a competitive biotech industry market, “Areas like digital health and informatics, no one owns that right now. That is an area that’s rapidly growing and ultimately it will win and be a huge area … Companies who handle personal data see that health is a huge frontier and represents a huge economic engine, but no one has been able to innovate the platform that scales to a huge field … There are companies waiting to do that, but no one is inviting them in. We can do that.”

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Mineral Community Hospital (MT) reports to its board that its NextGen implementation resulted in unplanned upgrade-related downtime and a 45-day delay in sending bills out for the 25-bed hospital.

A man Googling for CPAP machines for his sleep apnea notices that unrelated Google searches start displaying ads for those devices, leading him to complain to the Office of the Privacy Commission of Canada that targeting ads based on a health-related search constitutes a privacy violation. The office agrees after an investigation, determining that the practice not only violated its advertising guidelines, it also violated Google’s own policies that state the company won’t use health-related browser cookies to target ads. Google blames some of its advertisers and says it will improve its training and monitoring programs.

New York State Insurance Fund blames a software upgrade after the medical records of 20 worker’s compensation patients are to the wrong attorneys.

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Bizarre: a mother is awakened by the sound of a man’s voice in her sleeping 10-month-old daughter’s room screaming, “Wake up, baby.” She runs into the room and sees the camera of the video baby monitor turn toward her as the hacker who is controlling the camera starts screaming obscenities at her. The woman’s Foscam IP camera had been updated to fix a security flaw, but she didn’t know about it. The conclusion is that the Internet of Things will give hackers a lot of household (and hopefully not hospital) gadgets to play around with.


Sponsor Updates

  • The Health IT Quality Solutions Program of Quest Diagnostics certifies iPatientCare’s EHR as a Silver Quality Solution.

Contacts

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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

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Reader Comments

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