Recent Articles:

Morning Headlines 10/2/14

October 1, 2014 News 1 Comment

‘Data dump’ reveals billions in pharma payments to docs, hospitals

CMS’s Open Payments website goes live, publishing transactional data on $3.5 billion worth of payments made by pharmaceutical and medical device companies to doctors and hospitals over the last five months of 2013.

Information Governance: Principles for Healthcare (IGPHC)

At its annual conference, AHIMA publishes an information governance framework to help health systems establish “an organization-wide framework for managing information throughout its lifecycle and for supporting the organization’s strategy, operations, regulatory, legal, risk, and environmental requirements.”

About 44,000 apply for MU hardship exception

CMS reports that it received 44,000 hardship exception applications from providers prior to the July 1 deadline.

PQRS GPRO Registration Extended Until October 3rd

The Physician Quality Reporting System enrollment window for the Group Practice Enrollment Option will remain open until October 3 due to a software glitch that prevented some provider groups from enrolling by the September 30 deadline.

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October 1, 2014 News 1 Comment

Health IT from the CIO’s Chair 10/1/14

October 1, 2014 Darren Dworkin 2 Comments

Fine print: The views and opinions expressed in this article are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Security Might Be the One Thing

I often get questions like, “What keeps you up at night?” or “What are your top priorities?” Invariably I cite items from our IT strategy, and almost always I remember to add security.

But I think it is time for me to admit I have it wrong. Security should be at the top of my list, not just on the list. It should have an etched place in the number one spot. If I was going to be kept up at night, there is no better topic to evoke fear than security.

Let’s face it: the healthcare industry has been terrible at managing security. Since 2009, more than 900 reports of breach have occurred, covering a staggering 30 million patients. Half of the data loss is a result of us losing things, which essentially translates to the realization that we are not very good at keeping our patients’ data safe when practically no one is trying to take it.

But that is changing. Statistics are a little shaky, but let’s say that roughly 3 percent of reported data loss is a result of people intentionally trying to take it. This Pandora’s box has been opened and we should expect it to stay open and become a growing threat. The incidents with Boston Children’s, Community Health, and the “playful” attack on are all windows into our future.

Bad people will try to get data from an industry that has minimally demonstrated its ability to hold onto it. If there ever was a time to get our ducks in a row, it is now.

We have moved from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s — when healthcare’s IT data was made up of registration, scheduling, lab, radiology, and maybe some pharmacy — to the 2000s with robust EMR data. But the stakes are rising as we are duplicating the EMR data outside of our transaction systems into massive stores for mining. We are setting the data free by making it available any time from any place and from practically any device – hello, BYOD. The risks are greater and stakes are high. We will need to climb the learning curve rapidly and without a net as each breach is a CEO, board, and/or public event.

Luxury goods manufacturers long ago realized they don’t just sell products, but rather an experience. Similarly, healthcare organizations might say that they don’t just provide care, but trust. With so much talk about healthcare’s move into patient engagement, let’s start with the most basic way to engage our patients – keeping their data safe and maintaining their trust.

We all have work to do.


  1. Innovate. We need new products. We don’t need more companies built around missing bells or whistles for our EMRs. We need new product in a category underserved – security and privacy.
  2. Build your products with security baked into the DNA of the product to promote doing the right thing. Make it impossible to download an unencrypted file or develop ways to track and remote erase lost data.
  3. Accelerate your plans to host our data. We clearly need your help. But once you get our data, do a better job protecting it than us.
  4. Almost 20 percent of reported breaches came from issues with a business associate. Don’t be one of those — we are depending on you. You can build the scale and make the investments in security that are not always practical for individual healthcare organizations.
  5. If you are not in the healthcare space, come on in. We need your help.


  1. Partner with vendors to innovate. They need our help to understand the nuances and complexity of healthcare.
  2. Make security not just a priority, but the priority.
  3. Allocate spending like it matters.
  4. Differentiate between security and privacy and focus on each separately.
  5. Providers contributed to a greater than 130 percent increase in patient records lost in 2013. We all know we can do better. Let’s bend the curve.
  6. Treat patient data security with a similar focus to how we treat patient safety.

Government (yes, it has a role, too)

  1. Modify the breach notification rules to be more specific to the types of breaches. We have desensitized a nation to data loss warnings. I would bet that most readers or someone they know has received a letter regarding a loss or breach of their data and offering a credit monitoring service. These notifications are essentially based on the theory that we can’t prove something did not happen, so we must notify. Let’s focus our attention on when we know something has happened. This is the important place that needs our collective attention.
  2. Create a safe harbor for healthcare organizations to use advanced tools to proactively determine if risks or breaches have occurred. Here are a couple of examples. Tools exist to retrospectively scan if PHI was shared from our email systems. If we run these tools to educate and teach ourselves how to do better, we are open to reporting. Security experts say there are two types of organizations, ones that have had their networks penetrated and those that don’t know it yet. If we deploy advanced tools to study our networks in partnership with the best companies, we would be open to massive reporting requirements.

I had the pleasure recently to speak to an audience hosted by NIST, OCR, and HHS. I asked the audience how many have received a text, email, or call relating to possible fraud on a credit card. Most raised their hands. I asked how many had ever received the same notification related to their own electronic health data. No one had.

Like barcodes from manufacturing and real-time alerting from the financial sector, let’s adapt tools and products that work in other sectors to help healthcare become excellent.

Let’s engage our patients by building and keeping their trust!

1-29-2014 12-54-46 PM

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

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October 1, 2014 Darren Dworkin 2 Comments

HIStalk Interviews Mike “The PACSman” Cannavo

October 1, 2014 Interviews 4 Comments

Mike Cannavo, aka “The PACSMan,” is founder and president of Image Management Consultants.


You recently spent time working for a major vendor after years of solo consulting, but now you’re back on your own again. What was it like on the dark side?

I was always curious on what it would be like to work for a vendor again, but I didn’t want a job that required me to be away from my kids while they were growing up. My father worked three jobs during my own youth and I really didn’t get to know him until after my mom passed away in my mid-30s. As tempting as some of the offers I had from major companies were, I swore there would not be another “Cat’s in the Cradle” scenario in my own life, so I chose instead to balance my own work life with fatherhood. My youngest son graduated high school in May 2011 and I accepted a position with a major vendor in July 2011.

The market had changed a lot since I last had a real job with a steady paycheck. Some things, like corporate politics, remained the same. I stuck it out almost 2.5 years until I looked in the mirror, didn’t like what I saw, and then played Roberto Duran and finally said “No Mas.” Besides, I had at least 50 bets out there that I wouldn’t last more than two days in a big company setting.

On the positive side, I learned the value of service, how important having a good project manager really is, why managing expectations is key, why you need to get everything in writing, and the importance of a strong IT department. On the minus side, I learned that simply doing your job often isn’t enough. The blame game is alive and well and people often rise to the level of their incompetence.


How has PACS changed in the last four years since we last spoke in an interview?

PACs is no longer an independent system, but is instead looked at as a crucial part of the EHR. Vendor neutral archives, once considered a central data repository for radiology images only, have been expanded out to included cardiology, medical records, and numerous other ‘ologies. Large healthcare systems are either planning or implementing the sharing of images and images locally as well, both on a regional and even national basis with establishment of HIEs. Interestingly, private HIEs are growing at the rate of three to one over public ones, with over one-third of all hospitals and about 10 percent of all private practices sharing data.

We still have a very long way to go, but as we both know, all progress in healthcare is slow.


You mentioned in an article I read that the PACS sales process has changed as well.

For all intents and purposes, large-scale capital doesn’t exist. What little does exist is being used to replace things that should have been replaced years ago. The name of the game is finding ways to implement new technologies by either offsetting costs from operating budget or showing a return on investment out of the box by obtaining either increased reimbursement or decreased costs.

As controversial and possibly upsetting as this statement might be, improving patient care, while important, can’t be done at increased cost. You have to somehow show an ROI for the facility or it’s usually a no-go.

Healthcare profits are getting eaten alive by the need to implement federally mandated programs, from MU to shoring up internal security. Nearly all of these involve IT departments that have their own staffing and budget cuts to deal with.

What’s funny in a not so funny way is that MU encourages hospitals to share data with a laundry list of people, yet it also needs to be secure enough that no unauthorized access happens lest you incur a $10,000 per event HIPAA penalty. Look at the Community Health Systems breach. This will cost them a fortune if the feds don’t take into account they did all they could from a security standpoint, assuming they really did do all they could to prevent the breach. This will take years to sort out, all the while with the organization having the sword of Damocles dangling over their heads.


What would you do differently as a health system?

Implement solutions that make sense, recognizing that many solutions don’t have to involve technology at all, but instead require workflow or process changes. I can’t begin to tell you how much trouble employing a common sense approach to problem solving has gotten me into over the years working for companies that sell technology-based solutions. Sometimes you just need to step back though and examine the problem before throwing hardware and software at it in the hope that solves the problem.

Companies typically sell products instead of solutions. End users buy products they hope provide solutions. Never the twain shall meet. End users need to be more educated before they make decisions because those decisions will last a lot longer than expected. For the most part, companies sell products and services and do not necessarily ensure that what you are buying or have already bought is what you need or is being properly used.


What’s the status of the PACS marketplace?

There is lots of interest in VNAs, especially those that can be used as an enterprise solution that takes images from all the ‘ologies as well as the EMR. Medical image sharing, where images are securely transferred between sites and patients as a cost-effective alternative to CDs, is also hot, especially after Nuance’s purchase of Accelarad.

Software add-ons such as radiation dose management, peer review, critical results reporting, and ED discrepancy are also hot. So are PACS dashboards, although most sites want the dashboards for free stating it’s like a speedometer in the car. For that matter. most sites want everything nearly for free, but it’s simply not going to happen. Data analysis is smoking hot right now, but finding time to review the analysis remains to be seen.

What’s not hot are upgrades for the sake of upgrading without a distinct advantage or improved feature/functionality. All the big companies want you to do this. Solutions that have anything proprietary in nature. Solutions that doesn’t interface easily with the other clinical systems in use. Anything that doesn’t show a value or ROI out of the box.


What about the cloud?

Depending on whose survey you believe, up to 80 percent of all hospitals have at least a few cloud-based applications running. Adoption is much slower than expected, but that is because there are so many unknowns, including security.

As was pointed out in a recent HIStalk article, running a data center isn’t the strength most providers have. Cloud providers can offer higher reliability and redundancy at a better price point than a facility maintaining its own hardware. Cost-effective high-bandwidth networks have also eliminated most of the barriers to using the cloud as well.

Once we are comfortable with the security aspect of having images and information stored in the cloud, usage should take off. Sadly, HIPAA penalties and the limits of business associate agreements in protecting the end user have made providers gun shy.


Has radiology embraced Meaningful Use?

With few exceptions, not at all. The vast majority of clients I am dealing with are taking a wait-and-see approach to MU before investing money due to the never-ending changes in the rules. This reflects the general population as well, where only 4 percent or so of all eligible providers have attested to Stage 2 so far.

The cost to implement MU has, in many cases, exceeded any return on investment that a group or imaging center will see. When you add the aggravation factor, you are definitely in the red.


What will we see in the future?

No one really knows what is going to happen with Meaningful Use, ACA, HIEs, and a whole lot more. Vendors are pulling their hair out trying to get any decisions from end users — positive or negative — while end users take the Holiday Inn approach — where the best surprise is no surprise — and choose to remain in limbo doing nothing. In the mean time, IT stands at attention waiting for something to happen so it knows what resources need to be dedicated when and where.

What is frustrating is that even if something shows a ROI right out of the box, a lot of end users are still afraid to pull the trigger. If we can’t overcome the paralysis by analysis, you are going to see a lot of companies go belly up, and soon. Add to this the market consolidation that is going to happen in the next few years with at best a few dozen companies left to provide PACS solutions and it’s a scary time, especially since all of those will need to be integrated into the EHR as well.

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October 1, 2014 Interviews 4 Comments

Readers Write: Will You be Shocked by Shellshock?

October 1, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Will You be Shocked by Shellshock?
By John Gomez

Here is a riddle for you. What is old yet new, and at the same time scary yet contained, while being known yet potentially a big surprise?

If you answered Shellshock, you collect $200 and go to the front of the class. Shellshock is a new computer exploit that was discovered in the past few weeks, but “new” isn’t exactly right. The actual vulnerability, which may compromise Linux- and Unix-based systems, has actually been around for 25 years. While newly discovered, it is actually rather old.

Shellshock is scary because it allows someone to take over a Linux- or Unix-based computer (such as your Mac, iPhone, iPad, BSD, Red Hat, Ubuntu system) and bypass all security. This is accomplished by accessing the old-school command line shell known as Bash and executing commands that to most of us make no sense at all in this day of graphical interfaces.

Want to see if your Mac, Linux, or Unix system is vulnerable? Open a terminal or command shell and type in the following (no, it won’t give me super secret ninja access to your system):

env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable’ bash -c ‘echo this is a test’

If you see the word “vulnerable” after you hit enter, your system is at risk.

Before you get worried, keep in mind that in most cases, if you have a firewall up and running, you are more than likely safe (assuming your firewall isn’t at risk of Shellshock, but that is beyond our focus in this article). 

Shellshock exists because a programmer 25 years ago made a coding error in a fundamental part of the operating system. Shellshock isn’t some trick or hack — it’s just exploiting a bug. Unlike a worm or virus that is purpose built, Shellshock is really just a how-to for hackers to embrace.

Most vendors of Unix/Linux-based systems such as Apple, Red Hat, and others have already released patches to fix the bug. The challenge you face is making sure that you deploy these patches quickly. A smart hacker could take control of your system and prevent the patch from being effective, so time isn’t on your side. You need to move fast.

You can ask your security team to check their IDS and other logs to see if someone has attempted to gain access to your system using the Shellshock vulnerability. If your team sees active Shellshock scans, you should really do a triple check of your systems and determine if you were penetrated. It isn’t easy to figure out, and more than likely you should get professional support if you suspect you were scanned and successfully attacked.

We have covered why Shellshock is old yet new and scary yet contained. What about known and yet a surprise? It is known simply because we know the targets. Most hackers are going to attack web, database, and other IP-based servers on your network that run on Linux/Unix. Where is the surprise?

The surprise is that what may be most vulnerable are those things we think of the least. Most connected devices we find in a healthcare environment (from a lab to a clinic to a retail pharmacy to a doctor’s office and everything in between) are based on some form of Linux/Unix. This not only includes your medical devices and diagnostic equipment, but also things like your security system, CCTV cameras, and smart door locks.  

Being we live in the age of the Internet of Things (IOTS), chances are that if your device or system has an IP address or a call-home feature, it is running some form or Linux/Unix. That means that you could be in a for a big surprise if a hacker gains control of your MRI, CT scanner, or something less critical like your CCTV cameras.

The good news in all this (if there is good news) is that most devices run a form of Linux/Unix known as BusyBox, which is not vulnerable to Shellshock. Also, most devices in healthcare environments do not make use of Bash, which is the component that is vulnerable.  

That said, you really shouldn’t just hope that your devices are running BusyBox or that Bash isn’t present. It would be wise and prudent (and some may say legally responsible) to evaluate your risk by contacting your vendors to see what devices are vulnerable. Ask the vendor directly what they intend to do and how quickly if they have an at-risk system. Don’t be surprised if many of your device vendors don’t know if they are at risk or not — many deploy Linux/Unix systems and cannot clearly detail if Bash is enabled or not.

If the device you are concerned about involves patient care, you have a critical decision to make and need to clearly understand if there was an attack. For the most part, patient care devices such as an MRI are behind (or should be behind) several layers of network protection or only have a one-way connection using a trusted tunnel. While hoping that is true, check, double-check, and triple-check because lives are at stake.

You should also make sure your physical security organizations understands the impact of Shellshock on their systems. In this IOTS world, many of the devices that could be vulnerable may have nothing to do with traditional IT. For instance webcams allowing security teams to monitor infrastructure are IP based and many are now accessible to security officers from smartphones. Most webcams have built-in web servers based on Linux/Unix and live on your network in some form or fashion.  It is important that those who are responsible for non-IT/HIT electronic devices also make sure that their devices are secure and not vulnerable to Shellshock.

Lastly, you should be checking with your HIPAA business associates to understand their response to Shellshock. You have an ongoing requirement to ascertain your BA’s ability to protect patient health information. Like Heartbleed, Shellshock is considered a significant threat and could easily be used to compromise PHI. Failure to assure that your BA is taking steps to secure your PHI on their networks from Shellshock could be an issue for your organization.

So there you have it. Shellshock is all at once old and new, scary and contained, and known. Because of this brave new world of connected everything, it could very well provide you with the surprise of your life.

John Gomez is CEO of Sensato of Asbury Park, NJ.

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October 1, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Morning Headlines 10/1/14

September 30, 2014 Headlines 2 Comments

Optum To Acquire MedSynergies To Help Physician Groups Enhance Patient Care, Improve Practice Performance

Optum will acquire MedSynergies, a physician practice management, revenue cycle management, and referral management software platform with 9,300 customers across the US.

Doctors Find Barriers to Sharing Digital Medical Records

The New York Times interviews Epic CEO Judy Faulkner in a piece addressing problems with interoperability between EHRs, and the accusations that have been leveled at Epic specifically.

An Interview With George Halvorson: The Kaiser Permanente Renaissance, And Health Reform’s Unfinished Business

Health Affairs interviews Kaiser Permanente ex-CEO George Halvorson, who discusses a variety of topics, including the rise and fall of HMOs, the implementation of its $6 billion health IT infrastructure, and the state of health reform in the US.

Effect of a Postdischarge Virtual Ward on Readmission or Death for High-Risk Patients

A study published in JAMA finds that discharging patients directly home, versus transferring them into a post-discharge “virtual ward,” where elements of acute care are carried out in the community setting, has no effect on readmissions or death rates.

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September 30, 2014 Headlines 2 Comments

News 10/1/14

September 30, 2014 News 5 Comments

Top News


UnitedHealth Group’s Optum division acquires MedSynergies, which offers physician practice billing and quality services. MedSynergies was founded in 1996 by a group of Texas ophthalmologists. Its board chair is Joe Boyd, whose history includes being GM of the healthcare practice of Perot Systems, board chair of Healthlink until it was sold to IBM in 2005, and board chair of Encore Health Resources until it was sold to Quintiles earlier this year. I interviewed him in 2012.

Reader Comments


From CloudedCare: “Re: CareCloud. Recently laid off a number of their implementation team and the senior leader running that department. The venture debt must be creating pain or their onboarding process needs a revamp.” The company provided this response to my inquiry: “CareCloud is increasingly gaining traction among larger medical group clients, and optimizing our organization to best support their needs. This includes an expansion of professional services offerings and realignment of the team to deliver them.”

From Bloomington Onion: “Re: health system bond downgrades following EHR implementation. They always blame billing issues and reduced productivity due to revenue loss. I wonder how many of them expect it going in?” I would imagine most health systems expect a short-term jump in AR days, but not to the extent that would cause bond raters to question their financial outlook. Hospitals can’t seem to survive without constantly borrowing money and downgrades mean they pay higher interest rates.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Zynx Health, healthcare’s pioneer and leader in evidence-based clinical solutions. Solutions include ZynxAnalytics (pinpoints opportunities to reduce care variation), ZynxOrder (evidence-based order sets), ZynxCare (patient-focused plans of care), ZynxAmbulatory (evidence-based order sets for primary care), and ZynxEvidence (online library of clinical evidence guidelines, and quality measures). A brand new product is ZynxCarebook, a mobile platform that connects care team members and guides them to best practices with clinical evidence while making communications more efficient (the “virtual huddle” capability is a cool idea) and eliminating HIPAA concerns related to text messaging. ZynxCarebook stratifies discharge risks and suggests interventions as it supports care transition plan collaboration – clients have experienced a 22 percent reduction in 30-day readmissions, an 18 percent improvement in HCAHPS scores, a LOS decrease of 0.5 days, and a 40 percent increase in referrals of high-risk patients to post-discharge care management. Zynx is part of Hearst Health, which also includes First Databank, MCG, and Homecare Homebase. Learn more by signing up for a demo. Thanks to Zynx Health for supporting HIStalk.

I found this new Zynx Health video on YouTube, which features customer testimonials.

Listening: new from Sloan, an underrated Canada-based power pop band that’s been around for almost 25 years with no lineup changes and with all four members writing hook-heavy songs that sometimes sound like the Beatles (and still sound good even when they don’t).

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Hospital financial management software vendor Healthcare Insights will merge with NOMISe Systems, which offers hospital cost accounting and analytics software. Business will continue under the Healthcare Insights name.


Forbes names its 400 richest Americans, with Microsoft’s Bill Gates leading the list at $81 billion of net worth. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg jumps to #11 as the company’s share price increase boosts his wealth to $34 billion, while the founder of the GoPro wearable video camera clocks in with $3.9 billion. New to the list is Elizabeth Holmes, the 30-year-old Stanford dropout who founded lab testing company Theranos and owns half of the company, which is valued at $9 billion. Patrick Soon-Shiong of NantHealth is #39 with $12 billion, while Epic’s Judy Faulkner is listed at #261 with an estimated worth of $2.4 billion. Cerner’s Neal Patterson comes in at #395 with $1.55 billion.


Google Glass healthcare telepresence vendor Pristine raises $5.4 million in Series A financing.


The state of Ohio offers CoverMyMeds $482,000 in incentives to execute its plans to add 116 jobs, move to a larger Columbus office, and create a $2 million training program for software engineers.


Christopher Rural Health Planning Corporation (IL) selects eClinicalWorks EHR for its 13 locations.

In England, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust chooses Allscripts Sunrise.



Connie D’Argenio, RN, MSN (Philips Healthcare) joins Huron Consulting Group as managing director of its healthcare practice.


PerfectServe names Travis Hiscutt (CRI) as sales director for the southeast.


Bimal Shah, MD, MBA (Duke University Health System) joins Premier Research Services as VP.


Katherine Schneider, MD (Medecision) is named president and CEO of the Delaware Valley ACO (PA).


The Cal Index HIE announces two new board members: Mark Savage (National Partnership for Women & Families) and Beth Ginzinger, RN, MBA (Anthem Blue Cross – above).

Morris Collen, MD died last week at 100 years old. He was the last of the seven original partners who created Permanente Medical Group, founded its Division of Research more than 40 years ago, and later embraced a second career as an a medical informatics expert after developing a health assessment tool in the 1950s that was automated as a patient screening tool. He said on his 100th birthday that his proudest accomplishment was his involvement with Kaiser’s EHR. AMIA’s annual excellence award is named after him.

Announcements and Implementations


Cerner announces that its HealthyNow app with newly added Apple HealthKit integration is available to Sharp Health Plan members. It allows users to set health goals, earn rewards, share information with providers, and manage medication schedules.

MModal announces availability of computer-assisted physician documentation for its Fluency Direct speech recognition system. The cloud-based solution gives physicians feedback about possible documentation deficiencies as they type or dictate. 

Beaumont Medical Group (MI) goes live on Wellcentive’s PQRS Enterprise Solution, aggregating information from its Epic EMR.

Nuance expands its consulting services to include coding and abstracting compliance monitoring.


HCA International will distribute physical therapy and pathology images using Picsara from Sweden-based Mawell. A pilot project found savings of up to an hour per day per clinician when physical therapy sessions were recorded and reviewed using video instead of writing and reading notes.


Two North Carolina-based HIEs, Carolinas HealthCare System CareConnect and Mission Health Connect, will share their 3.5 million patient records. They will fill a need in the western part of the state since North Carolina’s first HIE, WNC Data Link, will shut down on September 30 after running out of money.

AirWatch debuts AirWatch Video, an enterprise application integrating content delivery network operators to secure companywide video initiatives.



Dartmouth College will use a telehealth robot from Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Center for Telehealth on the sidelines of home football games as part of a remote concussion assessment program.

HITRUST warns that the newly discovered Shellshock Unix shell vulnerability could be even more dangerous than Heartbleed since it gives hackers complete control of a server and thus the network on which it resides.


Intel introduces the Basis Peak smartwatch that includes step counting, an optical heart rate sensor, sleep tracking, and smart phone notifications. It has a Gorilla Glass touch screen, works with both iOS and Android, is waterproof, claims a four-day battery charge life, and costs $199.


Bizarre: Microsoft decides to name the new Windows release Windows 10, skipping a number. Every other Windows version is problematic, so maybe it’s hoping to dodge the bullet even though Win 8 was the disappointing follow-up to Win 7. The new version downplays the much-reviled Metro tile interface, brings back the start menu, and finally shows evidence that Microsoft understands that few users have or want touch screen laptops and desktops no matter how convenient it might be for Microsoft to design one OS for all platforms.



Alabama’s medical association registers its displeasure with ICD-10 with its “Top 10 Craziest ICD-10 Codes” social media campaign.


The local TV station covers the rollout of the MedaVet app by Washington State University’s veterinary hospital, which allows pet owners to have around-the-clock access and review their care plans. The company’s site says the cloud-based service includes a customized site for the veterinary practice, creation of templates and health plans, incorporation of promotional and wellness information, a calendar of daily tasks with learning material and appointments, a shared health journal that shows task status with an optional photo, and a social support network. It costs $239 for up to three vets. What’s interesting is that the same company – MedaNext – offers care plans for humans, too.


The local paper highlights the implementation by Floyd Memorial Hospital (IN) of CrossChx, a fingerprint-based biometric solution for spotting patient identity theft. Founder and CEO Sean Lane was an Air Force captain and NSA Fellow, serving five tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq before founding Battlefield Telecommunications Systems. CrossChx, which is based in Columbus, OH, says its solution is live in 28 health systems (of 61 signed) and that it has verified 6 million identities. 

The New York Times interviews Epic CEO Judy Faulkner in covering the challenge of EHR interoperability. She says the government should “do some of the things that would be required for everybody to march together,” adding that Epic created Care Everywhere only when it became clear that the government wasn’t going to go far enough.

A Toronto study finds that assigning patients to a post-discharge “virtual ward” (at-home care coordination, visits, care plans, home care, and follow-up) failed to improve the rate of readmission or death compared to just sending the patients home as usual. The authors suggest these issues caused the surprising failure of all that clinical attention to make any difference: (a) it was hard to get in touch with the patient’s PCP and their in-home support workers; (b) the variety of EMRs used made it hard to figure out who was doing what; and (c) the intervention was started after discharge instead of before.

Amazing Charts apologizes for long customer support wait times, blaming a Meaningful Use services rush. Users unhappy after the company’s 2012 acquisition by Pri-Med are venting their frustration on the company’s discussion boards, with one summarizing, “AC has created these logjams by being unable to prioritize what is important, continuing to partner with NewCrop, releasing buggy new versions, and offering unlimited support for a flat price which may create abuse.” Users are also upset that the company is charging them to watch Meaningful Use webinars.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka tells a local business group that, “The academic medical center is a dying beast,” urging those systems to reinvent themselves in the face of competition from retail clinics and community-based hospitals and practices.


Walgreens CIO Tim Theriault, speaking at Oracle OpenWorld this week, says the company has distinct IT strategies for the retail and healthcare sides of its business. The retail initiatives are focused on a customer loyalty program, determining what items each store stocks, and using analytics and personalization to connect more closely with customers. For its healthcare business, the company plans to perform in-store lab tests and to exchange information with doctors and hospitals collected through its health cloud.


Former Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson says in a Health Affairs interview by healthcare expert Jeff Goldsmith that the organization spent $6 billion implementing Epic:

Halvorson: When I got to Kaiser Permanente, one of the things that I told the board was that we were going to do what I did when I helped build health plans in Uganda. We were going to have every single element of the care system connected electronically, so there would be no paper record.

Goldsmith: So you told them you wanted to catch up to Uganda?

Halvorson: I’m not kidding.  I actually learned in Uganda that to strip the whole process down to its most elegant essence was to have no paper anywhere. In Uganda, we couldn’t afford to pay a claim or for patients to show an ID card.

A New York Times article highlights hospitals that use out-of-network ED physicians who stick patients with huge bills even when the patient is careful to use an in-network hospital’s ED in a crisis. Texas lawmakers found that the state’s three largest insurance companies had no in-network ED doctors at all. The article points out that 1980s emergency medicine board certification pushed hospitals to contract out their ED coverage and bill the physician services separately. One patient observes, “It never occurred to me that the first line of defense, the person you have to see in an in-network emergency room, could be out of the network. In-network means we just get the building? I thought the doctor came with the ER.”

Weird News Andy says he plays golf like this, too. A previously profanity-hating grandmother recovering from a stroke finds herself swearing involuntarily when things upset her, including poor performance on the golf course. WNA also notes this story, in which coroners are determining whether high chlorine levels in the water supply of England’s second-largest hospital caused the deaths of two dialysis patients. Meanwhile, an anonymous WNA-wannabe contributes this story, in which surgeons saved a teen whose hair-eating psychological disorder caused her digestive system to be blocked by a world record nine-pound hairball.

Sponsor Updates

  • DataMotion announces that 37 EHR vendors have used its Direct secure messaging service to achieve 2014 ONC-ACB certification.
  • PatientSafe delivers three areas of consideration for bringing contextual communication to clinicians in a follow-up blog regarding clinicians struggling to find the context.
  • PMD announces that its mobile patient status verification is accelerating hospital reimbursements.
  • GetWellNetwork’s O’Neil Center publishes an e-book entitled“Patient Engagement: Beyond the Buzz” including ten interview and articles with provider perspectives and insider insights.
  • HealthEdge partners with NTT DATA to offer a migration program from TriZetto Facets technology due to Cognizant’s acquisition of TriZetto.
  • Judy Starkey (Chamberlin Edmonds & Associates) joins Streamline Health’s board of directors.


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.



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September 30, 2014 News 5 Comments

Morning Headlines 9/30/14

September 29, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Shellshock bug could threaten millions. Compared to Heartbleed.

An old, but newly discovered command shell vulnerability called Shellshock has left millions of computers and servers vulnerable to hackers. The National Institute of Standards and Technology rates it a 10 out of 10 in terms of severity, compared to the Heartbleed vulnerability which had only been rated a 5 out of 10.

No New VA Patient Schedule System Until 2020

New contract documents published by the VA reveal that the department will not complete the roll out of new scheduling software to its 153 hospitals until 2020, contradicting acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson’s claim that the software would be installed by 2016.

Obama presents public health strategy at summit meeting

During a public health summit in Washington focused on the current Ebola outbreak, President Obama cited syndromic surveillance tools as a critical component of his plan to prepare for future outbreaks.

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September 29, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Readers Write: Feeling the Pain of Meaningful Use? Try Vicodin

September 29, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Feeling the Pain of Meaningful Use? Try Vicodin
By David Ting


Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements state that eligible professionals must transmit more than 50 percent of all permissible prescriptions electronically using a certified EHR system, an increase from a 40 percent threshold in Stage 1.

Although the use of e-prescribing continues to increase (Surescripts reports adoption rates of about 73 percent), many CIOs and other healthcare leaders I meet think they will struggle to achieve the 50 percent threshold without including controlled substances, which are almost always prescribed using paper-based prescriptions.

In today’s frenetic healthcare environment in which clinicians are constantly pressed for time, many default to a single workflow of using paper prescriptions for all medications for simplicity. This decreases utilization of e-prescribing and makes it harder to meet the required 50 percent threshold. In addition, it decreases patient safety and provider efficiency and results in greater inconvenience for patients who are forced to not only pick up a prescription at the provider’s office, but also endure longer wait times at the pharmacy.

For those CMIOs feeling the pain of trying to meet Meaningful Use e-prescribing requirements, Vicodin might provide the answer.

In August, DEA issued a ruling to reclassify hydrocodone combination products such as Vicodin from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance. This ruling puts tighter controls on how these highly addictive medications can be prescribed. For instance, doctors can prescribe a maximum three-month supply (previously it was six months) before patients need another prescription to be written.

Consider that in 2012, 135 million prescriptions were written for hydrocodone combination products in the US. The ruling could conceivably double this number, which would increase the total number of prescriptions for controlled substances by 25 percent or more. This increase in volume will exacerbate the challenges created by the inability to e-prescribe controlled substances, particularly as it relates to dual workflows for prescribers and the consequential impact on meeting Meaningful Use requirements.

For this ruling to be successful and have the desired impact on reducing drug abuse, systems like electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) must be implemented to ensure the tighter restrictions are enforced without creating barriers for physicians to write and refill prescriptions for patients truly in need. EPCS makes it far more difficult to obtain highly addictive prescription medication for illicit purposes without placing any undue burden on patients with legitimate needs.

Now that EPCS is allowed by the DEA, providers can choose to include controlled substances as part of their equation for Meaningful Use, as long as the decision applies to all patients and for the entire reporting period. With an EPCS system in place, healthcare providers and organizations can more easily meet Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements for e-prescribing while also realizing all of the additional benefits of EPCS. 

David Ting is founder and chief technology officer of Imprivata of Lexington, MA.

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September 29, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Readers Write: The Key to Transitioning from PQRS to Risk-Sharing Agreements

September 29, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

The Key to Transitioning from PQRS to Risk-Sharing Agreements
By Mason Beard


If you, Dr. X, report on quality for your Medicare patients, you’ll get a nice bonus. That’s how PQRS started out—a purely pay-for-reporting initiative.

The bar for this program was set fairly low to encourage providers to meet the requirements. But in its crafty way, the federal government has steadily shifted the program away from the carrot and toward the stick. In fact, the incentive phase of the program ends next year. Providers who don’t measure up will simply experience the stick. In other words, the government has moved its focus from reporting to performance.

I don’t want to paint CMS as conniving to punish poorly performing providers. The truth is that PQRS has been a very successful program and is driving an important focus on the quality of care delivered to Medicare beneficiaries. Another quite evident truth is that CMS is not stopping here.

CMS isn’t just creating government programs and regulations; they’re trying to change provider behavior to rally around outcomes reporting and better care. They’re pushing providers inexorably toward value-based reimbursement (VBR). Reading the tea leaves of what’s happening with PQRS—and considering the proposed Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)—the government is going all in on this.

Technology can help providers who are doing PQRS reporting prepare to move successfully into more sophisticated VBR arrangements. From the beginning of PQRS (PQRI at the time), it was evident that providers would need HIT tools to help them track, measure, and report on quality measures. PQRS has been around long enough that there are now a variety of tools providers can use to help them fulfill this requirement.

Not all of these tools can help providers meet PQRS requirements and transition to more sophisticated VBR arrangements using the same infrastructure. Make no mistake — such a transition is essential. To manage it successfully, organizations don’t need a point solution, they need a platform.

Here’s why. The new PQRS, the MIPS of the future and other VBR arrangements don’t focus on reporting outcomes; they focus on improving outcomes. The only way organizations will be able to improve outcomes is by implementing what I call the 4 As:

  • Aggregation. Providers need to be able to gather clinical and administrative data from the disparate technologies across their system.
  • Analytics. Providers need some level of analytics to understand their population, identify gaps in care, and assess risk.
  • Action. Providers can’t just aggregate data and analyze it and then not do anything about it. They need some system in place to engage their patient population (via care management workflows, automated outreach, reminder letters, etc.) and fill gaps in care.
  • Accountability. They need to be able to prove the value back to the stakeholder. Simply put, this means reporting the outcomes for a variety of initiatives to CMS and other payers.

It’s important to note that PQRS point systems only address the fourth A: accountability. (Even then, they may not have the flexibility to adapt to the various reporting initiatives that will be required by multiple payers as time goes on). If a PQRS solution only addresses the fourth A, it can’t prepare an organization for risk. It doesn’t create processes that move the organization away from a fee-for-service world.

A platform, on the other hand, enables provider organizations to enter the value-based world. Performing PQRS reporting on a platform is the perfect starting point. As providers fulfill the PQRS reporting requirements, they can layer in processes that help them transition from a reporting workflow to a more proactive workflow focused on population health management. With the aggregated data and intelligence they build up around their performance in the process, they become equipped to enter into VBR arrangements with commercial payers.

A platform delivers an easy, turnkey way to branch out from PQRS to address other, more sophisticated payer initiatives. The time to plan for this transition is now because the stakes are rising. Every plan—both government and commercial—is developing some kind of risk- or performance-based initiative. With a platform, providers don’t have to take the plunge immediately. They can first dip their toes in the waters of PQRS and then move steadily into a world of improved outcomes and value-based reimbursement.

Mason Beard is senior vice president of solutions and co-founder of Wellcentive of Alpharetta, GA.

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September 29, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Readers Write: EHR Divorce Rates on the Rise – Four Factors that Predict Electronic Health Record Adoption Success

September 29, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

EHR Divorce Rates on the Rise – Four Factors that Predict Electronic Health Record Adoption Success
By Heather Haugen, PhD


Despite healthy growth in the implementation of EHRs, the lack of effective adoption plans is impeding their intended purpose of helping healthcare providers improve care.

In 2013, nearly six in 10 hospitals have adopted at least a basic EHR system. But not all EHR users are happy with their purchase. In fact, 30 percent of hospital executives admit they are dissatisfied with their system, and 30 percent of current EHR solutions are replacements of another product.

Research reveals that a myopic focus on the go-live event is the root cause of low EHR adoption rates and increases the chances of organizations’ divorcing their EHR vendor. In contrast, those healthcare leaders who focused on the processes and discipline required to achieve adoption and maintain it over the long run were more likely to achieve the clinical and financial outcomes they expected from the EHR.

EHRs have the potential to improve both patient care and work efficiencies in delivering care, but these outcomes are only possible when clinicians adopt the best practices and workflow needed to continually improve how the system serves the organization.

The research published in “Beyond Implementation: A Prescription for Long-Term EHR Adoption” revealed four key factors that predict EHR adoption:

Engaged Clinician Leadership

Engaged clinician leadership is the most important predictor of successful EHR adoption. IT leaders are often given primary responsibility for the organization’s EHR system. While their skills and experience are necessary for functionality of the EHR system, the input and expertise of nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and other clinical staff is essential to driving staff’s proper use of the EHR and improved clinical and financial outcomes.

Moreover, leaders of EHR adoption efforts need to be highly engaged through and beyond go-live. While this may seem like a given, competing priorities make it difficult to maintain the degree of engagement required after the go-live event. When comparing organizations with successful implementations and those who have become dissatisfied with their system, our research shows that engaged leaders:

  • are well informed and aligned in how they communicate the value of the EHR;
  • empower clinicians to make decisions about how the EHR should be implemented and used;
  • understand the degree of change required and set priorities appropriately; and
  • stay engaged for the life of the application.

Effective Training to Ensure Proficient Users

The way in which clinicians and users are trained impacts their level of proficiency. In healthcare, we often use traditional methods – one-time “training events” that occur at a certain time and place. The trainers focus on teaching the hundreds of features and functions available in the system over multiple days with the goal of reaching “mastery” by the session’s end. But this is an ineffective, insufficient, and unrealistic method.

Bill Rieger, CIO of Flagler Hospital (FL) originally thought that implementing his health system’s new EHR would include traditional, classroom-style training. This approach required training sessions to begin a full six months prior to go-live due to limited classroom space and a large clinical staff. By making the switch to using scenario-driven simulations – a hands-on method – the hospital was able to begin the initial training program just six weeks prior to go-live, resulting in increased retention and a more successful launch.

Simulation-based training that focuses on helping users become proficient in new workflows and best practices results in dramatically better outcomes compared to traditional training and takes about half the time. This style emphasizes an accumulation of experience over time. It happens continuously in the specific work environment and leverages role-based content to provide a level of individualized fluency. Critical thinking skills and retention of content improve significantly when the goal is proficiency, in contrast to attending a more passive training event.

Measuring for Improvement

Defining metrics to track proficiency in EHR use and communicating them with clinicians is another critical step for adoption. Without it, improper use of the system is more likely to continue. Through a process of peer-to-peer auditing and regular progress reports, clinicians can track their performance and improve in necessary areas – ultimately enhancing patient care in the process.

In addition to providing feedback for clinicians, measurement can help optimize the EHR platform. For example, if simulation reports reveal that a large percentage of users click in the wrong area when completing a certain task, it would indicate a point of non-intuitive design. Armed with such data, the EHR vendor may be able to modify the system for improved use.

Adequate Resources and Prioritization Beyond Go-Live

A focus on the people, processes, and evaluations to improve adoption over the lifecycle of the application is required for long-term success, yet very little attention is typically paid to sustainment efforts.

Even when a new EHR is well accepted by clinicians and they become proficient in the application, adoption is a process that can never be finished for two reasons:

  • There will always be new clinicians and residents entering the healthcare organization. An organization with a successful EHR program will ensure that these individuals receive every bit of guidance and have the ability to be just as successful in their use of the EHR as those clinicians who had been present at the go-live event.
  • EHR systems will always be subject to upgrades and changes. While the changes are meant to enhance the system, they will do more harm than good if end users do not receive the appropriate level of guidance when being introduced to new workflows and processes. 

Too often, people that are recruited to work on EHR adoption efforts eventually revert back to their previous roles and work on their former projects, leaving the organization without proper resources to account for this inevitable cycle brought on by time and turnover. Flagler Hospital overcame this tyranny of time by keeping implementation committees in place and by focusing on long-term, ongoing education even through multiple EHR upgrades.

Moving from an EHR implementation focus to an EHR adoption focus requires a significant overhaul in how we think, how we lead, and how we behave. Now is the time for healthcare leaders to evaluate their organization’s performance in these four key areas that predict EHR adoption.

Heather Haugen, PhD is managing director and CEO at The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company of Greenwood, CO, which recently delivered an HIStalk webinar on this topic that can be viewed as YouTube replay.

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September 29, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 9/29/14

September 29, 2014 Dr. Jayne No Comments


As a CMIO, I often feel my attention is all over the place. I’m dealing with clinical documentation needs for various constituencies while trying to ensure compliance with a host of federal, state, and other quasi-regulatory standards bodies. I’m also trying to implement tools to measure patient, physician, and employee satisfaction while maintaining my sanity in what seems like an upside-down healthcare world.

Given that background, you can’t imagine the serendipity I found when Dr. Andy’s recent CMIO Rant coincided with my weekend project to review E&M coding.

Due to some discrepancies in coding volumes after a recent ambulatory EHR upgrade, our compliance officers asked for a thorough review of the system’s E&M calculation tools. There are quite a few nuances to how the system codes and we’ve also had some recent coding education outside of the EHR, so I wasn’t convinced we weren’t dealing with another variable.

Our system is flexible and allows physicians to choose either 1995 or 1997 guidelines for each encounter. What if the recent coding class had physicians making different choices than they did previously? What if they were scared by the gloom-and-doom predictions of a RAC audit and undervalued their documentation?

I had been sitting for several hours with my trusty-rusty paper coding review forms, scoring visit documentation based on the guidance from our coding and compliance team. Once a visit was scored, I compared the results to the EHR’s calculations. Our EHR breaks down its coding suggestions parallel to E&M guidelines, so it is fairly easy to compare the bullets it counted vs. what I counted on paper.

Fortunately, our system does not advise on the level of Medical Decision Making, but rather requires providers to select that coding component. I can’t imagine how controversial the review would be if the EHR was prompting it.

There’s so much going on with HIStalk I tend to get behind from time to time. When I couldn’t handle any more bullet-counting, I took a break to catch up on HIStalk Connect and HIStalk Practice. Imagine my delight when I found Dr. Andy’s response to the AMA’s comments on EHR design. His first counter-request for the AMA is for them to help us fight “regulations that require overly detailed physician documentation, like the CMS E&M coding guidelines, which really set a floor of complexity below which we cannot sink.”

I laughed out loud, as I do every time I receive an email from CMS advocating their brand of “administrative simplification,” which has to be the biggest oxymoron ever. Just that morsel would have been enough to make my day, but then he covered their seemingly contradictory request for EHRs to lower cognitive workload while requiring them to enable dozens more tasks than we ever handled on paper. “Massive cognitive workflow” were the words he chose. Having had a 40+ patient clinic day this week, I can attest to the massive nature of the volume of information I had to process to care for them.

Note that I didn’t say data. Data implies the information is in the EHR or another accessible system that I could theoretically review. The reality is that physicians have to handle information on a much broader scale – the patient’s history, family members’ version of the same events, stories about what the patient read on Google, the physical exam itself, in-office testing, and more – on top of the actual electronic data available. Add to that mountain of information the fact that we’re now caring for patients in the office that would have been cared for in the hospital five years ago and it would be easy to become buried.

Reflecting on this massive cognitive workload inspired my new and improved “guidelines” for E&M coding. I didn’t have enough time (or martini fixings) to flesh out the entire scheme, so let’s confine our thoughts to established patient office visits.

Traditional E&M coding poses five levels of service – 99211, 99212, 99213, 99214, and 99215. The value of the visit (and thus the payments) increase as the level of service increases. Typically 99211 and 99212 are not used to bill actually physician services, so I threw them out. Talk about administrative simplification – I just slashed the number of things I have to think about by 40 percent.

Looking at the rest of the codes and what you have to have to justify documentation in the traditional coding construct, I identified some sample visits that were reflective of the codes even by conservative standards. They fell into nice groupings based on the amount of information the physician had to interact with during the visit. I’m not just talking about information that one would have to review, but also information one might have to deliver. Out of ten charts reviewed for each level of coding, I had a 90-100 percent concordance when using the “information burden” scheme to value my efforts.

Here’s how it works.

99213 – Now called “Mild Information Burden”

  • Patient has fewer than three issues he/she wants to be seen for today.
  • Patient has been seen at fewer than three healthcare facilities/providers in the last three months.
  • None of today’s issues will cause death or serious consequences if left untreated.
  • Determination of proper treatment requires review of fewer than three data sources (EHR, clinical data warehouse, HIE, antibiogram, CDC bulletin, guidelines website, Sanford guide, discussion with colleague, etc.)
  • Treatment requires fewer than three instructions, outside orders, or documents (patient education handouts, prescription, therapy order, referral, prior-auth, FMLA papers, etc.)
  • Visit requires less than 15 minutes for documentation.

99214 – Now called “Moderate Information Burden”

  • Patient has more than three issues he/she wants to be seen for today.
  • Patient has been seen at three or more healthcare facilities/providers in the last three months.
  • At least one of today’s issues will cause death or serious consequences if left untreated.
  • Determination of proper treatment requires review of three or more data sources.
  • Treatment requires three or more instructions, outside orders, or documents.
  • Visit requires more than 15 minutes for completion, including documentation.

At this point, based on my “rules of three” and the two levels of coding, you could quit. However, neither category covers what I had to manage for several patients seen in this week’s clinic. I decided to reserve the highest coding level for those special circumstances, but in keeping with the rules of three:

99215 – Now called “Severe Information Burden”

  • There are three or more non-office personnel in the exam room (patient, family members, children, interpreter, etc.)
  • Patient has been seen by facilities/providers that are members of three or more ACOs.
  • At least one of today’s issues will lead to hospitalization in the next three months.
  • There are three or more possible ways to treat one of today’s issues, depending on the patient’s insurance status and/or ability to pay for non-covered services.
  • More than three separate logins and passwords are required to access the data needed to care for the patient.
  • Visit takes long enough that it requires cutting three or more subsequent appointments short in order to catch up.

Maybe it’s just me, but those rules would be much easier to follow than what we currently have. I’d rather use my cognitive skills to deliver quality care and build relationships with patients than to remember whether I’m supposed to be documenting by organ systems or body areas. What does “expanded problem focused” mean anyway? Or “detailed”? I like to think that all my visits are detailed, if not comprehensive. Current E&M coding turns those perfectly good words into something incomprehensible.

Give it a shot – pull a couple of visits and see whether my proposed coding system holds up under the stress of your clinic day.

Do you dream of a world without E&M coding? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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September 29, 2014 Dr. Jayne No Comments

Morning Headlines 9/29/14

September 28, 2014 Headlines No Comments

HealthKit support added to WebMD, Carrot Fit, Yummly, more

A week after a bug forced Apple to pull HealthKit from its iOS 8 release, the feature is back up and running with a growing list of optimized health apps feeding data into it.

Citizen Hackers Tinker With Medical Devices

The Wall Street Journal covers the concerning rise in consumers hacking their own medical devices to add functionality that the FDA has yet to approve.

Deaths fall ‘with use of software’

In England, death rates drop at two NHS hospitals after a risk score-based alert system was implemented that monitors vital signs, calculates an “early warning score,” and then alerts nurses when the score trends outside of an acceptable threshold.

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September 28, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Monday Morning Update 9/29/14

September 27, 2014 News 3 Comments

Top News


Apple’s HealthKit health data aggregation system and the apps that use it go live after being pulled previously from the initial iOS 8 rollout due to unspecified bugs. Some HealthKit-powered apps that are back in the App Store after the iOS 8.0.2 update are FitPort, MyFitnessPal, WebMD for iPhone, and Carrot Fit. HealthKit allows iPhone-collected fitness measures to be forwarded to other iPhone apps, brokering the exchange using the phone owner’s permissions of allowable data sources and destinations. That might be the most significant aspect of HealthKit – the consumer-patient is in charge of the collection and movement of information about them.

Reader Comments


From Ben and Jerry: “Re: Chuck Podesta. Gone from Fletcher Allen, now CIO of UC Irvine Health.” Verified per his LinkedIn profile.

From WisconsinBeerGut: “Re: Epic to Cerner conversions. I’ve worked for Epic and consulting companies and I’m not aware of any clients that have replaced Epic. Some mergers to watch that involved Epic and non-Epic users are NorthShore-Advocate in Illinois and UAHN-Banner in Arizona.” Given Epic’s cost, you’d have to really hate it to contemplate spending money to replace it. That’s not the only reason that it keeps users, but it may be significant one.

From Ex-Epic: “Re: Cernover. Judy prides herself on the fact that Epic has never lost a customer to Cerner or any other vendor. There have been some small scale de-installs for various reasons unrelated to dissatisfaction with Epic and those of course get swept under the rug, but to my knowledge (and according to Judy) there has never been an Epic to Cerner move.”

From AtUGM: “Re: Epic’s app exchange announced at UGM. It envisions that hospitals will sell their self-developed apps. My organization has discussed this with Epic, but Epic hasn’t provided any way to do it other than as a spin-off, which we’re loath to do. Eclipsys had an app exchange and I don’t think it went anywhere. It would be great if you wrote a feature discussing these app development opportunities with the big companies and what it would take to actually be useful to those of us in the industry.” I assume that vendor-specific app stores work like Apple’s – the vendor skims 20-30 percent off the top and sells apps that meet their published requirements. I would be interest in hearing about anyone who’s actually bought an app from a healthcare IT vendor’s store. I would be worried about paying a lot for something that might be poorly supported or that won’t be enhanced regularly.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


Most poll respondents like the idea of a 90-day MU reporting period for 2015 instead of the 365-day version that is official for the moment. New poll to your right or here: is it OK for an EHR vendor to block system access to a late-paying practice or hospital? Leave a comment after voting with your thoughts.

Last Week’s Most Interesting News

  • Intermountain Healthcare joins the Cerner-Leidos-Accenture DoD EHR bidding consortium.
  • Hospital operator HCA announces its intent to acquire physician systems vendor PatientKeeper, signaling that it will remain a Meditech clinical system customer.
  • A government report exposes HHS-CMS infighting and incompetence as went down in flames at its launch last October.
  • ZirMed acquires predictive analytics vendor MethodCare.
  • ONC Chief Science Officer Doug Fridsma, MD, PhD resigns to become president and CEO of AMIA. 

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Oncology data vendor COTA closes $3.7 million of a planned $7 million funding round. Most of the folks involved are from Hackensack University Medical Center’s cancer center.

Meditech finally issues its 2013 annual report that was due 11 months ago but was held up following revenue recognition changes. Revenue was down a bit from 2012 at $580 million, but net income rose to $133 million (that’s an enviable margin). Neil Pappalardo owns nearly 41 percent of the company, or about $680 million worth. The directors and officers of the company have been around forever, with the newest hires among their ranks having joined the company 24 years ago.



FCC Director of Health Initiatives Matt Quinn leaves the agency for a job with Intel.

Announcements and Implementations


CareSync announces version 2.5 of its personal medical records system, which adds the ability to collect and track information from 80 health and fitness apps such as Fitbit and Withings blood pressure cuffs.

CVS Health announces new MinuteClinic affiliations with University of Maryland Medical System, UTMB, and UAB.

Government and Politics

An investigation finds that HHS paid WebMD $14 million to promote the Affordable Care Act.



Glucose monitor manufacturers and the FDA express concern that the technologically sophisticated family members of diabetes patients are hacking the devices to make them more useful, partially because FDA takes forever to approve manufacturer-requested changes. A group of engineers, many of them parents of diabetic children, modified a glucose monitor to send readings to a website so that parents can monitor their children who are away on sleepovers.


A Premier study of ACOs finds that while most are improving care using basic internal systems such as EHRs, patient registries, and data warehouses, they struggle with bringing in data from external sources and providing patient-facing technologies. The key obstacles are interoperability problems and cost.

Penn Medicine (PA) has developed 75 apps, including the MedView physician portal and new Connexus patient data display app.

Weird News Andy provides a non-weird item: US hospitals aren’t prepared to handle Ebola-related patient waste since no disposal packaging has been approved, causing waste management companies to refuse to accept it. Emory University Hospital finally convinced Stericycle to accept 40 bags of infectious waste by first autoclaving it, but only after CDC brokered a deal.

Death rates dropped at two English hospitals that moved from paper-based vital signs charting to using the VitalPAC electronic system that provides warnings when patients are deteriorating. The hospitals developed the “early warning score” software with a vendor.

Here’s the more traditionally odd Weird News Andy article, which he titles “Give It a Shot.” The state nurse’s union sues Brigham and Women’s Hospital for requiring employees to get a flu shot after voluntary efforts failed to move the needle (pun intended) above 77 percent participation vs. 90 percent success in peer hospitals. State law prohibits hospitals from requiring employees to get a flu shot even though several hospitals require it as a condition of employment.  

Healthcare Analytics Summit 14 Report 


I attended Health Catalyst’s Healthcare Analytics Summit 14 last week, my first visit to Salt Lake City. Note: in the interests of disclosure, the company comped my registration fee although I paid my own expenses otherwise. I took the photo above from my room’s balcony, by the way – a very brief rain shower kicked up on a sunny afternoon and created a double rainbow over the City-County Building.

The Health Catalyst folks were hoping for around 100 attendees and ended up with 500. The event was held in a beautiful five-star hotel, the Grand America, which had surprisingly reasonable prices and outstanding service. Rooms, food, and meeting facilities were excellent.

Salt Lake City apparently is not quite as Mormon Church-driven as I naively expected since you can actually get ethnic food and alcoholic beverages, although some odd rules are in place (as explained to me, you can’t order drinks without buying food, so you pay $2 for a bowl of peanuts to allow you to order a beer). Good restaurants were an easy walk away, everything from tapas to tacos (my choices: Green Pig Tavern, Eva, Himalayan Kitchen, Caffe Molise, and Tin Angel Cafe). It’s a lot smaller city than I would have guessed – around 200,000 residents – and the mountains create an attractive backdrop. I checked out a rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir that was inspiring. The weather was a lot hotter than I expected. My overall impression of the city was favorable, although since I don’t ski, I’m not sure I would have a non-business reason to return.


The event logistics were unparalleled. Plenty of Health Catalyst folks were on hand to direct people, answer questions, and even run a Genius Bar-type setup to help attendees use the cool app developed for the conference, which allowed interactive voting, reacting to speakers, and connecting with fellow attendees. I happened to chat with the guy whose company developed the app while walking to a session and he said it was built specifically for this conference. If it can scale, it would be pretty cool for larger conferences as well.

Presenters included Glenn Steele, Jr. MD, PhD, president and CEO of Geisinger Health System; James Merlino, MD, chief experience officer, Cleveland Clinic; Mike Leavitt, former Utah governor and former HHS secretary; Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering, Google; Penny Ann Wheeler, MD, president and chief clinical officer, Allina Health; and Charles Macias, MD, MPH, chief clinical systems integration officer, Texas Children’s Hospital.

A bizarre press restriction prevents me from even mentioning the name of the keynote speaker, although you can see it here. That’s too bad because I would have gushed about how entertaining and surprisingly relevant he was, and my fellow attendees seemed to agree given their highest rating of his keynote from all of the first day’s sessions. It was a bold choice by Health Catalyst. I enjoyed his talk more than any keynote I’ve ever heard. He would make an outstanding HIMSS keynote presenter, much better than the drones they’ve propped up on stage lately.

My least-favorite speaker was Mike Leavitt, who always struck me as a lightweight political journeyman turned opportunistic lobbyist. He rambled and misspoke to the point that I was checking email for most of his presentation. Everybody else did a great job, although I might have dialed back the presence of Health Catalyst people on the podium a bit if the intention was to engage attendees who don’t necessarily have a Health Catalyst connection. It got a bit confusing since three of the folks involved are from the same family (Burton) and were introduced with both past and present titles as the company made changes over the years, so I couldn’t keep track of who’s who as they came and went from the podium over the two days. I didn’t get a whole lot from the three breakout sessions, so for me the value was in the keynotes.

Health Catalyst used information collected from the app to announce some interesting (and sometimes creepy) facts gleaned from audience responses, such as that Android users were most likely to blow off the breakout sessions after attending the keynotes. Every session included several instant poll audience questions and a team of analysts presented the results immediately as the presenter paused. That was pretty cool and a nice touch to connect presenters with the audience.


I should also note that this was neither a user group meeting nor a selling opportunity. The presenters for the most part were vendor-neutral and talked about using data in general, not Health Catalyst’s products in particular. I also applaud the company for really thorough preparation right down to the minor points of quality of the handouts, stage setup, and food and break logistics. Also a high point was distribution of an internally written book that I’ll be reading cover to cover. They really have a lot of good information to share that transcends their products alone.

Some of the memorable points of the conference from my perspective:

  • It’s clear that the hasty move to electronic medical records and health apps is creating more data than anyone understands. We’re at the exploratory stage, trying to figure out which of thousands of data points are relevant in predicting outcomes or triggering interventions. This is exciting. We are surrounded by data that we don’t yet know what to do with, but the first glimmers of success are coming out.
  • A lot of people, including many of healthcare’s leaders, aren’t convinced that the industry should be data driven. Not only does the “medicine as an art vs. a science” argument arise, but leaders often have personality types that value bold decisions based on emotion, history, gut instinct, leading through relationships, and valuing consensus over facts. As was said several times in the conference, it takes courage to use data, especially when it tells us something we don’t want to hear or that requires unsavory actions.
  • Becoming a data-driven organization requires two attributes. The first is fairly simple from the non-IT point of view – collecting and analyzing the information. The second is having the organizational willpower to do something with it. Facts alone don’t change anything – leadership is required.
  • Better care costs less. Analysis nearly always shows that the highest-cost organizations deliver lower-quality care. The upside of this is that we can improve care and outcomes without spending a penny more than we already do as a society, provided we have the will to do it.
  • As the unnamed keynote speaker pointed out, people mimic those who are having success. The organizations improving care and reducing cost through the use of data will find their competitors raising the bar by doing the same. Nobody wants to be in the higher percentiles of cost or the lower percentiles of quality, so as competitors eye each other warily, it’s likely that they will raise the boats for everyone.
  • Everybody has a data warehouse. Most of them don’t provide useful information.
  • You can’t selectively intervene on individual patients by using claims data. By the time you take action, the high-cost patients have costs trending back down and you’ve missed the opportunity.
  • People seem to love QlikView as a data analysis and presentation tool. I noticed several presenters from provider organizations were using QlikView dashboards.
  • An interesting thought from one presenter: “We don’t take a quality assurance or compliance approach.” In other words, it’s not effective to chase the 2.5 percent of outlier providers. Instead, move the 80 percent even higher since improving the already-good majority has a much greater overall impact.
  • The maturity progressions looks like this: data reporting –> data analysis –> decision support –> predictive analytics.
  • “Predictive analytics without actions an interventions are useless.” You can predict things you don’t care about or are reluctant to act on.
  • The most relevant health factors involve socioeconomics. Healthcare delivery organizations can’t fix those.
  • The wisdom of crowds still has value even in an analytics-driven organization.

I give this conference a high grade. The logistics were superb, the size and scope was just right, the value was significant, and the speakers were well chosen and interesting.


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

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September 27, 2014 News 3 Comments

Morning Headlines 9/26/14

September 26, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Intermountain Healthcare Partners with Cerner to Provide Clinical Governance for Leidos Partnership for Defense Health

Intermountain Healthcare joins Cerner, Accenture, and Leidos on their joint-bid to win the DoD EHR deal, making Cerner the only vendor with a prominent health system listed as a contributing member.

Premier, Inc., eHealth Initiative survey suggests many ACOs lack mobile applications and face high costs

A survey of 62 ACOs find that 95 percent are experiencing significant problems integrating data across disparate systems, and that 90 percent cite cost and ROI of health IT solutions as a barrier to adoption.

Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange ICD-10 Survey Results

A survey of 514 providers, vendors, and payers finds that while some progress has been made in preparation for the ICD-10 transition, most organizations have slowed, or completely halted, preparation efforts.

MEDITECH: Form 10-K Annual Report

After an 11-month delay in financial reporting due to revenue recognition issues, MEDITECH files its 2013 year end results: revenue fell three percent to $579 million, while net income rose slightly to $133 million.

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September 26, 2014 Headlines No Comments

DoD EHR Update from Dim-Sum 9/26/14

September 25, 2014 News 2 Comments




Between 2000 and 2003, Harvard Business School published a case study on Toyota industrial engineering processes in a hospital. Toyota collaborated with Beth Israel and LEAN Healthcare was born – now that was a great and interesting collaborative. Well defined and the results were quantifiable!

Collaboratives can add value; even ones that may not sound great at first could prove to define and refine standards, improve care, and actually enable better quality controls for care. If you like collaborative approaches, take a look at what has been done between Deloitte and Northern New England Accountable Care Collaborative (NNEACC). The solution is called Insight. After mentioning that new collaborative, I cannot help but remember a strange and poorly constructed one. How can anyone forget the ill-fated relationship between Philips and Epic that ended in 2006?

I can think of one specific collaborative that has promised the world and delivered almost nothing (see NwHIN). However, after a cursory read of the DHMSM Team Leidos article about a collaborative effort linking Cerner’s mega client Intermountain Health on governance structure, I began to think of what other collaboratives I would want to accentuate and/or at least commoditize so that I might differentiate my team to compete for the DHMSM opportunity. IBM will certainly throw in an Epic-esque client that has provided the groundwork for improvements across the Epic stable of solutions. I even think CSC and Allscripts might find their favorite client pet co-development.  I think I like Collaboratives.

One has to wonder, what was the primary edict for the collaborative, and what measurable outcomes have been reported – indicating value? To what extent have the monies invested into the collaborative been shown to improve profitability or improve PQRS results? I am not against collaboratives so much as I have a real desire to understand how some of them were stood up and made financially viable, why some dissolved, and most evolved with grand entrances into the market only to die a death of irrelevance. I think I like Collaboratives.

I for one like the New York eHealth Collaborative and the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, and not just because they have the word collaborative in their name. I think they are practical entities that leveraged historical regional extension centers, where money was initially provided by public funds and, through attrition and maturation of models and adoption challenges, the collaboration actually had to collaborate. They had to collaborate to survive. These collaboratives had to figure out smart ways to make their collaborative viable. Their challenge, unlike Intermountain Health (for Cerner) or Kaiser (for Epic), is that they had to work with disparate and competing entities, clinicians that were not incented by what their crosstown rivals did. The collaborative’s cross regions that did not in and of themselves support huge populations, and yet they wanted to know how their colleagues worked in other parts of the state, in rural, suburban, and urban environments.

Sounds remotely like the military HIT that we have grown to appreciate and fear. I like those collaboratives because they have to work together even though they are in a “coopetition” mode. (They were built to compete, to differentiate their medical specialty, and yet they know that cooperation has to occur for a peaceful co-existence and patient-first mentality. Thus the term “coopetition.”)

Honestly, I wish Team Leidos, Accenture, and Cerner would chat up their HealtheIntent population health tool, and what can be done to improve care coordination, quantify targeted chronic-disease management, improve appropriate care measurements, lower readmissions, and provide dynamic quality measures that actually act as a catalyst for patient engagement. Maybe Team Leidos could express its thoughts on how to turn prescriptive, descriptive, and predictive analytics into actionable analytics – impacting care and quality of life? Why not share its philosophical thoughts on data liquidity and how that could be the conduit for improved EHR and research data mining? Take the time to share their approach to research – we know IBM will reference Judith’s Cogito – so compete.

Maybe I am being harsh. I guess I am all too aware of how collaboration in the federal government has not always worked out very well. The best example of a collaboration was between the VA and DoD to share – or rather to transition – the EHR for a service member en route between active duty into veteran’s care. The best analogy: “Imagine spending the day as a cub scout during a camp out, eating gummy bears, enjoying hot dogs roasted over an open flame and masticating pounds of beef jerky on the three-hour canoe trip!” That was the planning for the debacle between DoD health and VA health – now imagine being stuck in the tent all night with those boys – that is pretty much the result of DoD/VA EHR interoperability – a smelly tent!  Not sure if there is a lesson in that story, but after reading it aloud, I smiled.

The good news is that at least DHMSM competing teams are looking to grab practical experience and applying it to the DoD HIT environment. Any collaboration with organizations that embrace HIT standards is a great thing. Any collaboration that shows that the HIT development vendor actually possesses a veracious understanding of governance structure – bully for them. Any collaboration that can accentuate the divine path to full-on proactive adoption, well then … that is Heaven. I like the move, and expect to see a lot more collaborating.

Inasmuch as I like the collaboration with Intermountain Health, I really would like to hear more about lessons learned from Accenture’s effort in Singapore. Cerner should express lessons learned from its NHS efforts. After all, Cerner had to work with Fujitsu (sort of the equivalent of our service integrators in and about the Beltway). Fujitsu is a less-than-stellar example of HIT consulting talent that was appointed by the NHS to implement, integrate, and manage the regional program. Maybe a white paper on nexus process and data touch points that could improve continuity of care with an eye on improving outcomes and lowering readmissions would be helpful and germane.

DHMSM is about transition and data liquidity. The DoD will not get excited with the commercial version of efforts to move from fee-for-service to value-based care. However, the DoD will perk up and pay attention to care coordination – so focus on the client and similar client experience and their deficits, lessons learned, and what new approaches improved adoption and workflow. One should remember that the DoD has stated on several occasions – mostly during Hill meetings – that the DoD does want to be more innovative like Kaiser (code for Epic). Cerner probably sees Intermountain Health as its Kaiser, so why not leverage that as a collaborative? I just hope Cerner can provide the depth of white papers and analysis of pre- versus post-Cerner in Utah and a lesser extent Idaho. That would be good news for the DoD.


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

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September 25, 2014 News 2 Comments

News 9/26/14

September 25, 2014 News 1 Comment

Top News


Intermountain Healthcare (UT) joins Cerner and Leidos in their bid for the DoD’s new EHR system. Intermountain will provide clinical governance of solutions and workflow to be proposed for the $11 billion Defense Healthcare Management Modernization Initiative (DHMSM). Intermountain is in the process of implementing Cerner’s EHR and revenue cycle solutions across its 22 hospitals and 185 clinics. The move is no doubt yet another feather in the cap of Cerner President Zane Burke, interviewed this week in the local paper: “It’s a really interesting time. We have a lot of work left in front of us, but I love the position we’re in and the clients that we have on the journey with us. It’ll be a lot of fun.”


Dim-Sum, HIStalk’s intrepid DHMSM insider, shares always entertaining and thought-provoking insight into the Intermountain “collaborative.” A snippet:

“After a cursory read of the DHMSM Team Leidos article about a collaborative effort linking Cerner’s mega client Intermountain Health on governance structure, I thought of what other collaboratives I would want to accentuate and/or at least commoditize so that I might differentiate my team to compete for the DHMSM opportunity. IBM will certainly throw in an Epic-esque client that has provided the groundwork for improvements across the Epic stable of solutions. I even think CSC and Allscripts might find their favorite client pet co-development. I think I like collaboratives.”

Reader Comments

From Chris Jaeger, MD: “Re: Sutter Health’s HIE discussions with Orion Health. As Sutter Health’s CMIO and executive sponsor of its HIE efforts, I can state without a doubt that the following post is false:
From Deal Breaker: “Re: Sutter Health. Stops discussion with Orion Health after its HIE project goes on for nine months. …”
Our collaborative relationship with Orion and related HIE efforts have never stopped – to the contrary, we continue to make great progress while also actively planning the next phases of establishing robust data exchange with those that share in the care of our patients.”

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

This week on HIStalk Practice: Athenahealth looks for the next great startup. TekLinks partners with Greenway. Doximity goes live in Utah. Physician practices in Texas take home quality improvement award for use of HIT. Physicians feel slighted by CMS thanks to attestation "glitch." costs more than originally thought. Physician executives have options when it comes to standing desks. Thanks for reading.

This week on HIStalk Connect: Dr. Travis analyzes the non-traditional roles that cloud-based computing has found in healthcare thus far, and speculates on its future. Researchers in Paris are working with 3-D video cameras to create virtual reality-based surgical training aids. Virtual visit provider Teladoc raises a $50 million Series C.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Allscripts and Citra Health Solutions (formerly Orange/MZI) announce a partnership to make their services available to each other’s customers. Citra, which provides consulting services and technologies for providers and payers, unveiled its new name and branding at the Allscripts user group meeting last month.


ZirMed acquires predictive analytics vendor MethodCare and announces plans for a Chicago-based Healthcare Analytics Center of Excellence led by MethodCare staff. Moving forward, MethodCare will operate under the ZirMed name.


Conifer Health Solutions agrees to acquire physician practice business solutions vendor SPi Healthcare for $235 million. SPi CEO John O’Donnell will join Conifer’s senior management team, reporting to President and CEO Stephen Mooney. The transaction is expected to close in Q4 2014.



North Philadelphia Health System (PA) selects Medhost’s inpatient EHR for implementation at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Girard Medical Center.


Beaufort Memorial Hospital (SC) selects the Access Passport online forms solution to take its paper-based accounts payable, human resources, and administrative documentation processes digital.

Announcements and Implementations


Community Hospital (NE) goes live on a patient portal from Relay Health.


Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta joins the Georgia Health Information Network. CHOA has integrated GaHIN’s Georgia ConnectedCare product into its Care Everywhere HIE application, which it launched earlier this year to facilitate data sharing with other providers using Epic.


Kennedy Health System (NJ) adopts the MedAptus Professional Charge Capture Solution for hospitalists at its three acute-care facilities.

image announces the availability of the MyMedicalRecords PHR to its customers. The PHR will offer travelers access to their medical records and such documents as passports, birth certificates, immunization records, and insurance policies.

Practice Fusion announces that its customers will soon be able to order, manage, and receive lab test results within its EHR through Quest Diagnostics. Physicians will also have the option to share test results with patients through the Patient Fusion portal.

Research and Innovation


A survey of 62 ACOs reveals that poor interoperability between organizations remains a big barrier to improving clinical quality. Additional findings include:

  • 100 percent of respondents find access to data from external organizations challenging.
  • 95 percent find interoperability of disparate systems to be a significant challenge.
  • 90 percent feel the cost and ROI of HIT has become a key barrier to further HIT implementation.
  • 88 percent face significant obstacles in integrating data from disparate sources.
  • 83 percent report challenges integrating technology analytics into workflow.


WEDI releases the results of its ICD-10 Industry Readiness Survey, which finds that vendors, payers, and providers have made some progress in preparing for the October 1, 2015, transition, but not nearly as much as likely needed for a glitch-free switch.



Jim Dowling (QuadraMed) joins Qpid Health as vice president of sales.


Michael McDermott, MD (Radiologic Associates of Fredericksburg) takes on the role of CEO at Mary Washington Healthcare (VA) beginning January 1, 2015.


Bob Taylor, DO (Greenway) joins Clinical Architecture as CMIO.


Ryan Witt (Juniper Networks) joins ClearDATA Networks as vice president of growth and innovation.


Steven Steinhubl, MD (Scripps Translational Science Institute) joins Vantage Health as chairman of the board.



This article covers the debut of Spruce, an app that lets users privately share photos and medical information with dermatologists, and then receive in-app treatment. Baseline, Cowboy Ventures, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers contributed $2 million to the launch in initial seed round financing.



Samsung, the Children’s Fund, and Columbia University announce at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting a two-year partnership to develop the Samsung Innovation Center at the Children’s Health Fund. The center will focus on advancing access to and quality of healthcare for medically underserved children through telehealth and other strategies.

Sponsor Updates

  • Intellect Resources describes Ochsner Health System’s (LA) challenges and results of its Epic implementation.
  • Connance will share how the University of Rochester Medical Center increased its charity care dollars while reducing bad debt during the HFMA Region 2 Fall Annual Institute October 22-24 in New York.
  • ReadyDock discusses the vulnerability of mobile devices to virtual and pathogenic attacks in a recent blog post.
  • Aprima and First Databank offer electronic prior authorization through Surescripts connection.
  • Etransmedia shares how a pediatric cardiology practice was able to reallocate resources after working with Etransmedia’s RCM team to automate its front office.
  • Billian’s HealthDATA shares 10 recent healthcare CIO placements.
  • CareSync rolls out V2.5, which combines wearables data with medical records using integrations through Validic partnership.
  • Craneware will host its first Revenue Integrity Summit October 14-16 in Las Vegas.
  • Greenway becomes the first ambulatory information provider to have a solution recognized as a Validated System by Healtheway’s eHealth Exchange Product Testing Program.


EPtalk by Dr. Jayne

Our hospital recently hosted a healthcare career day for middle school students. We’re in an economically depressed part of town with some serious socioeconomic issues, yet fully realize we’re going to need dedicated and well-educated healthcare workers to deal with the challenges we’ll continue to face. The goal of the day was to expose them to various opportunities either directly in or supporting healthcare. They were able to visit various areas of the hospital, including sterile processing, the laundry, patient care floors, engineering, and an operating room.

Some students were grossed-out by the idea of direct patient care, but were interested in engineering or IT, which is a good thing. It takes an army of people to keep an institution of our size going and often those jobs are independent of patient census or case mix, which is a good thing for job security. The highlight of the day for many was being able to see one of the air ambulances land and speak with the flight crew.

As a member of hospital administration, my role was to shepherd a group of students through various stations set up throughout the hospital, where they could talk directly to staff and learn about their jobs and how they contribute to the healthcare team. As is predictable with students in that age group, frequent questions included: “What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever seen? What’s the worst injury you’ve ever seen?” My favorite question was, “Is the stuff that happens on Grey’s Anatomy really true?” which made me wonder why a parent was letting a 10-year-old watch a show about sex-crazed doctors.

At one point, the air ambulance pilot received a question about emergency situations. He told the student his question was in the top 10 list of things he didn’t want to experience, to which the student responded “What’s number one?” I had to give him full credit for that one. I kind of tuned out after that because I was thinking about what I’d put on my own top 10 list of things of things I never want to happen.

I’ve experienced some things in my IT and practice careers that would definitely make that list:

  • Someone accidentally activated the fire suppression system at our corporate data center. Because we were using Halon, the building had to be vented by the local fire department with their positive-pressure ventilation equipment. This took about eight hours for a building the size of our data center. Unfortunately, our “hot backup” failed due to a defective network switch, requiring all practices to go to paper.
  • A local road crew cut the T1 line to my office. Luckily, we equipped key staff with wireless cards and network hot spots, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.
  • With my first EHR, the clinical documentation workflow went through a “locking” process as the provider finalized the note. This was after the provider reviewed the documentation on screen. Unfortunately, during the locking process some kind of character limit went into effect, causing the documents to truncate. When patients returned for their follow-up visits, their plans (at the bottom of the documents) were missing critical elements. Nothing makes your blood run cold like reading “Counseled patient on…” and having that be all that remains of your highly detailed patient plan.
  • Vendor sunsets a product that actually supports your workflow and that your staff likes, transitioning you to a product that is not yet ready for prime time. This has now happened to me twice.

None of these are quite as scary as having rotor failure on your helicopter or having the landing pad collapse underneath you, but in our world they’re pretty unnerving. What’s on your top 10 list of things you never want to happen? Email me.


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

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September 25, 2014 News 1 Comment

HIStalk Interviews Matt Scantland, Co-Founder, CoverMyMeds

September 24, 2014 Interviews 2 Comments

Matt Scantland is principal and co-founder of CoverMyMeds of Columbus, OH.


Tell me about yourself and the company.

My partner Sam Rajan, who’s a pharmacist, and I started CoverMyMeds to address prescription abandonment. We learned about the problem when we built a prior authorization system for a health plan. 

The idea for CoverMyMeds came to us when we looked at the fact that from the perspective of a doctor, it really doesn’t matter how good the prior authorization process is for any one health plan. It’s just one of dozens that the doctor needs to navigate. The idea of CoverMyMeds was, let’s create one-stop shopping so that the doctor can use one process to submit a prior authorization for any drug to any health plan.


Your Inc. 5000 numbers are pretty impressive with $19 million in 2013 revenue and 73 employees. Did you plan for that or did you just happen to hit on a niche that took off?

We’ve been thrilled with how things have gone. We’re growing over 100 percent a year since we started. We’ll do about $50 million in sales this year and have about 130 employees.

I wouldn’t say it’s any genius on our part. The prior authorization process is just incredibly painful for everyone that’s involved. The doctors and also the health plans have been looking to improve this process for decades. Working for them, we were the first to be able to create an electronic process that scales.


It seems you would have competition from someone like Surescripts if business is that strong. Do you have competition?

Surescripts launched a product at the beginning of the year that’s a little bit different than ours. Whereas our process works for any payer, whether the payer participates electronically or not, Surescripts is launching something that works just with payers that connect to Surescripts.

So far, because the PA process has not been something that’s electronic in the past, the value proposition of our service has tended to be much stronger for the participants, where with one integration in the electronic health record or in the pharmacy dispensing system, the PA can be submitted to any payer. We also lead the industry in connecting electronically to the payers, but the process works across the board.


It’s a fascinating business model that drug companies to pay for the service, which they fund from the revenue of what otherwise would have been unfilled prescriptions. Nobody who uses the service pays for it. How do you get the word out to doctors and pharmacies that it’s available and it’s free?

Being free helps. [laughs] You’re right, the drug companies and now the health plans pay for our service. This is a business that has what we call network effects, which means that the more people that use it, the better it gets for everyone.

We have a huge pharmacy network. Almost every pharmacy in the country, including the big chains, uses our service. When they initiate a PA, if the doctor’s office isn’t already a user, we invite them to become a user. Over time, we’ve built that physician network to more than 100,000 distinct providers. It creates that viral process that allows us to grow quickly as a network business.


You’ve connected electronically to EHRs and pharmacy systems. Is that work finished?

That’s really the future of our company, but it’s pretty new. We started in the pharmacy, which is where the PA process begins today. All over the country, the first time anyone tends to think about the prior authorization is after a claim rejection in the pharmacy. 

Today, we’re integrated into almost every pharmacy in the country, right inside the pharmacy management system. We’re looking to do the same thing in the electronic health records, although that’s a new area for us.

We announced a partnership with DrFirst, where we’ll make the PA process available at the point of prescribing. We’ll also connect those pharmacies into the DrFirst system so that PAs initiated in the pharmacy can be sent to DrFirst’s doctors electronically. We’re also working with most of the other electronic health records, so I’m trying to do that same type of an arrangement. We’ve come up with a financial model where we can actually pay the EHRs to do that work. One integration is something that works across the board for every payer.


You offer APIs and also widgets for web pages of both health plans and manufacturers, which is pretty smart to get people to have access to your service through the other sites of the companies that you work with. How much technology is involved in what you do?

CoverMyMeds is really a software company. We don’t do any actual PAs ourselves. Instead, we provide the tools that let providers automate their process in a self-service way.

We provide the APIs. That’s been the main driver of our growth for both the pharmacy management systems to do the integration and then also for the electronic health records. All of those systems can integrate using NCPDP standards or a REST API that can reduce the work effort needed to actually do that integration.


It will surprise people that there’s a company in a very specific, almost obscure niche that has grown so large and is still growing. Do you think you’re under the radar?

Yes. We absolutely are under the radar. But when you look at prior authorization, this is a problem that happens 200 million times a year. This is daily life in a pharmacy or a doctor’s office — 200 million patients that get their claim rejected and potentially will go untreated if this prior authorization process isn’t handled.

While it’s under the radar, it’s really contributing to that $350 billion or so problem of medication non-adherence. In a lot of ways, automating the PA process is the missing value proposition in e-prescribing. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have an electronic prescribing process if the doctor is just going to then go deal with a fax or a phone call with the health plan. This has become something that’s much more top of mind as life goes on here.


A lot of software startups are trying to find a pain point they can resolve without competing with big companies like EHR vendors. What advice would you have for them?

Listen to customers and solve a big problem. Ideally, do that in a way that doesn’t involve taking a dollar from someone else.

What has really worked well for CoverMyMeds is that this is a way to remove administrative waste from a process without cutting reimbursement to a doctor, pharma company, or health plan. Because it’s truly a win-win for all participants in the market, we have alignment and the help of large companies to make this thing get big.


Your website says you have a chef that creates lunch for employees every day, which is a kind of a Silicon Valley move, but you’re in Ohio. What’s it like working there?

[laughs] We think we’re one of the best places for technology and business people to work in Ohio. We consistently are winning these best workplace awards.

As a software company, we’re nothing without the people. We look at both how do we give a lot more value than our customers expect, and then also how do we give our employees a lot more than they expect? That as a result of that has let us get some great people and then they stick around with us.


As companies grow, there’s always that decision about what comes next – do you acquire somebody, do you get acquired, do you roll out other offerings. Where do you see the company going from here?

Prior authorization seems like a very niche thing. It kind of is, but at the same time, it’s also right at the intersection where a doctor is making a decision about the tradeoffs between the cost of a treatment and its efficacy. We think that that’s a fundamental problem in healthcare.

We have built both the network and the connectivity and then also the relationships with pharma, payers, pharmacies, and providers. We think we can help doctors make more intelligent consumption decisions. We think is a very large opportunity, starting with drug, but helping to get to more personalized medicine in terms of prescribing, and then also other procedures as well.

Because of the growth of the size now, we have a lot of interest from the financial and strategic partners. We’re always willing to listen. We think this is a very big standalone company on its own.


What else could be done with the network you’ve created? You have an athenahealth-type model.

That’s right. We look at athena as a great big brother of the direction that we’re looking to go.

There are very obvious applications. First of all, we’re fundamentally solving the first step in patient adherence, which is get the patient on their drug. The next challenge then is keeping them on the drug. That’s an adherence angle that many of our customers are asking for help with. That’s something that that both pharma and health plans are interested in. We think there are interesting collaboration opportunities there.

The other thing that we’re very focused on right now is helping the electronic health records make this PA process something that happens at the point of prescribing. Right now, if you think about e-prescribing, what you basically have is a shopping cart. The doctor orders a drug and the patient may or may not end up being able to actually get that drug. We think that putting this PA process at the point of prescribing allows it to move from what’s an exception process to something that’s much more decision-supporting for the physician. We’re very focused on helping the doctors and the EHRs achieve that.


Do you have any final thoughts?

I’d really like to thank the HIStalk community and you guys. You’re a huge part of my daily reading list. I don’t think there’s a more credible and important intelligent source as HIStalk in the whole industry. I’d just like to hear from people about what they think.

We’ve been thrilled with how things have gone. In a lot of ways, this business looks a lot more like a consumer Internet company than a traditional enterprise software company because of that network effect. We’re solving something that for a frontline healthcare person is a huge struggle. That’s been one of the most fun things, really, something that truly can impact hundreds of thousands of providers that make their life better. We just celebrated that 10 million patients have now gotten the drugs they needed that they wouldn’t have otherwise. At the end of the day, that’s what keeps us coming in in the morning.

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September 24, 2014 Interviews 2 Comments

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