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Morning Headlines 1/19/17

January 19, 2017 Headlines No Comments

CMS announces extension of 2016 reporting deadline and intends to modify 2017 requirements

CMS notifies eligible hospitals participating in Meaningful Use that the deadline for submitting eCQM data for the 2016 reporting period has been moved from February 28 to March 13 and reports that additional changes are being considered to further ease reporting burdens.

Using the Electronic Health Record to Understand and Minimize Overuse

A JAMA article suggests that EHRs will deliver value by helping identify and minimize unnecessary, low-value care which the authors say accounts for “substantial health care expenditures and may cause harm.”

Theranos just made another major leadership change

Just prior to news broke that Theranos failed a second CMS inspection at one of its blood testing labs, the company announced a new advisory board that will focus on technology.

Trump HHS pick Tom Price faces Senate questioning on Obamacare, stock buys

Representative Tom Price, MD, President-elect Trumps pick to lead HHS, faces questions before the Senate HELP committee.

CIO Unplugged 1/18/17

January 18, 2017 Ed Marx 2 Comments

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

Baking with Oma

Oma — my mom and the grandmother of my kids — was dying a slow death at the hands of ovarian cancer. While cruel, it allowed us four years to say goodbye. Often life ends suddenly and you never get a chance to say goodbye. We had a long farewell. I wrote extensively about Oma’s influence on my career in 2010.

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Growing up, Oma used November to bake. She baked thousands of German Christmas cookies for family and select friends. Under the cover of darkness (or so it seemed), Oma carefully placed the treasure of spitzbuben, haselnussmakronen, and weihnachtsplätzchen in large tins in the cool, dry utility room. They were sealed until the first advent of Christmas.

Through the Advent season, we sang carols, read scripture, and lit the candles on the Advent wreath. With the spice of mulled cider in the air, Oma distributed plates full of cookies to each of us kids, and to Opa — if he behaved. Christmastime was near, which also meant it was time for cookie trading. Cookies displaced dollars as currency during the holidays.

When Oma took ill, something nudged me to carry on the German Christmas cookie-baking tradition to honor her and keep our heritage alive.

The Christmas before her death, we flew Oma and Opa for a visit – and to bake. Oma baked from scratch and out of love, following secret family recipes that had been handed down through generations. With my kids, we dutifully watched and practiced the art of German Christmas cookie-baking with Oma.

Today, despite careful translation, calculations, and experimentation, our creations are not as tasty as Oma’s, but we remain determined. One of my sisters also continues the tradition and we now have annual cookie-tasting contests to see whose baking finesse is closest to Oma’s.

I cherished the times we baked with Oma and I know she loved to teach her kids and grandkids. I still can see our flour-covered aprons, smell the sugar and cinnamon melting in the oven, and hear the retelling of stories about previous generations and their baking escapades. Rat Pack Christmas records would play in the background and texts and phone calls would not interrupt us. We relished in the pure joy of togetherness and enjoyed laughter, silliness, and I confess, raw cookie dough.

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This year, our baking tradition grew to include my two daughters plus the girlfriends of our youngest boys. There I was, like Oma years before, converting grams to ounces and reminiscing. Oldest daughter Talitha is now the baking matriarch and organized our novice bakers. Seven hours later, we had baked a dozen dozen German Christmas cookies. We even managed to bake some gluten-free cookies since we wanted to be politically correct.

Lessons learned baking with Oma:

  • If you want to know people, you have to spend time with people. That’s pretty obvious, but ask yourself how many hours you spend with family or direct reports really getting to know them. My relationship with Oma grew exponentially after I left home because of the uninterrupted hours we were able to spend together being silly, doing things like baking cookies.
  • Magic happens when you create together. Watching movies is fun and taking walks enables conversation and touch. But when you create together, it takes relationships to another dimension. While certain deliverables may take longer to create, I am increasingly amicable to working with others to develop presentations and other work products.
  • Learning stimulates creativity. I am not averse to the kitchen, but I have never really enjoyed cooking. However, baking with Oma stimulated my creativity by forcing me to learn new things, such as how the mixture of various ingredients and the addition of heat can bring about change. I now recognize that there are many parallels between baking and many work activities that can lead to transformation and innovation.
  • There is joy in cooking. It’s not so much the cooking that brings the joy, but the uninterrupted time spent with the ones you love. There is no joy in multitasking. I continue to struggle, but I am getting better at putting my phone away.
  • Serving is good for the soul. Many of us don’t take the opportunity to serve enough. Baking cookies and sharing them is a simple act of service (though arguably it matters whether or not they taste good.) Delivering cookies you baked to friends and families is powerful. It reflects the money, time, and energy you poured into creating something for the benefit of others.
  • Understand the workflow. There is no substitute for being there and walking the walk. Had Oma sent emails that we followed ingredient by ingredient, line by line, our cookies would have been OK. It was not until she was with us and we watched and emulated her, however, that we really understood. Understanding the workflow turned out to be the ultimate secret ingredient.
  • Create memories that lead to legacies. Oma was absolutely the queen of cookie baking! The memories that my siblings and kids have of Oma are forever etched in our minds and we fondly retell our stories of German Christmas cookie-baking hundreds of times. Memories and legacies matter, as evidenced by my own family’s commitment to annual bake-offs to see whose cookies most closely emulate Oma’s. Consider what you are best known for in the workplace and decide if it’s the legacy you want to create.

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I could continue with lessons learned, but these are the ones that quickly come to mind as I reflect on this past holiday season. The pictures and videos don’t do justice to the bonding that takes place when you take time to be in the moment and create with family, friends, and co-workers. Look for such opportunities in your daily life. I promise you won’t regret the time spent creating new memories.

Cookie, please.

Ed encourages your interaction by clicking the comments link below. He can be followed on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or on his web page.

Readers Write: Are You Ready for the Quality Payment Program?

January 18, 2017 Readers Write 7 Comments

Are You Ready for the Quality Payment Program?
By Kory Mertz

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With the start of the New Year, the first performance period for the Quality Payment Program (QPP) has officially started. The QPP, part of the MACRA legislation, was passed with strong bipartisan support in Congress and sends a clear signal of the federal government’s accelerating effort to move to value-based payments.

QPP creates two new tracks for Eligible Clinicians (ECs), as program participants are called: the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and the Alternative Payment Models Incentive Program.

MIPS

MIPS consolidates and sunsets three programs focused on ambulatory providers: the Physician Quality Reporting Program, the Value-Based Payment Modifier, and the Medicare EHR Incentive Program for eligible professionals. In 2017, ECs can receive a maximum payment adjustment of plus or minus 4 percent based on their performance in four categories. ECs who are new to Medicare or who bill less than $30,000 or see fewer than 100 Medicare beneficiaries during a year will be exempt from MIPS.

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In response to significant feedback from the provider community, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has simplified the requirements and made 2017 a transition year to help ECs get used to participating in MIPS. Providers have three general approaches they can take:

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Alternative Payment Models Incentive Program

The second track of QPP is focused on increasing EC participation in Alternative Payment Models (APM) (i.e. Accountable Care Organizations, bundled payments, etc.) by offering a 5 percent bonus and exemption from MIPS for ECs who participate in an Advanced APM and meet certain participation thresholds. In 2017, ECs must have at least 25 percent of their Medicare payments or 20 percent of their Medicare patient panel in a CMS Advanced APM to receive the bonus and MIPS exemption. ECs who meet lower payment or patient thresholds have the option to be exempt from MIPS. CMS maintains the list of qualifying Advanced APMs here.

Moving Forward

The overarching framework created in the legislation and initial rulemaking completed by the Obama Administration will continue unchanged in 2017. The Trump Administration will have a chance to put its own twist on the QPP in 2017 by filling in the program implementation details through sub-regulatory guidance (much like CMS has done with the Meaningful Use program) and in 2018 and beyond through rulemaking to establish future program requirements. If Representative Tom Price is confirmed as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, he may accelerate efforts to reduce provider burden and simplify the QPP.

As providers prepare to participate in the first year of QPP and HIOs prepare to support providers’ success, they should keep the following in mind.

  • While APMs have gained significant attention in recent years, CMS anticipates that the vast majority of providers will participate in MIPS in the early years of the QPP.
  • Providers just beginning to think about the QPP requirements should  generate reports to determine which providers are likely to be an EC during the performance period and which will fall under the low volume exclusion; map out the existing TIN/NPI structure of the organization to help support decision making around group versus individual reporting; and undertake a scan across the organization to determine existing Advanced APM participation by ECs. If an organization participates in an Advanced APM, a report should be generated based on all participating providers to determine if participants will qualify for a bonus and MIPS exemption under the APM track.

HIOs have the opportunity to position themselves to support providers’ success in QPP. HIOs should ensure they have functionality that aligns with program requirements, including:

  • Implement certified tools to collect and submit electronic quality measures to CMS to support ECs and help them achieve bonus points for the quality performance category.
  • Support ECs success with a variety of ACI measures including HIE (send and receive); view, download and transmit; and submitting information to public health and clinical data registries. A key consideration in determining which measures to support include the existing exchange environment the HIO operates in, if certified technology is required to meet the measure, whether the HIO’s technology meets the requirements (i.e. providing machine readable C-CDAs), and the ability to provide ECs necessary audit documentation.
  • Support improvement activities. For example, “Ensure that there is bilateral exchange of necessary patient information to guide patient care that could include one or more of the following: Participate in a Health Information Exchange if available; and/or use structured referral notes.” A key consideration for supporting improvement activities is whether the HIO has the ability to provide ECs with necessary audit documentation.

Kory Mertz is senior manager of Audacious Inquiry of Baltimore, MD.

Morning Headlines 1/18/17

January 17, 2017 Headlines No Comments

How Repealing Portions of the Affordable Care Act Would Affect Health Insurance Coverage and Premiums

The Congressional Budget Office publishes its predictions on the impact ACA’s repeal will have, concluding that premiums will spike and the number of people who are uninsured would increase by 18 million in the first coverage year following the repeal.

Second Theranos Lab Failed U.S. Inspection

Theranos fails an inspection of its Scottsdale, AZ blood testing lab but fails to disclose this information to its investors.

Introducing IMEDS, a Public-Private Resource for Evidence Generation

The FDA launches the Innovation in Medical Evidence Development and Surveillance System, or IMEDS, which will make the FDA’s Sentinel System data and analytics tools available to private researchers.

The Heroism of Incremental Care

In a New Yorker op-ed, Atul Gawande, MD compares the incremental approach primary care providers take in managing conditions with the one-and-done approaches surgeons prefer, conceding that primary care may be doing more good in the long run.

US insurers get inside cars, mouths, grocery carts in profit search

Reuters covers the use of data mining by health insurers to help price policies and target profitable customers more effectively.

News 1/18/17

January 17, 2017 News 7 Comments

Top News

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The Congressional Budget Office says that repealing the Affordable Care Act will cause the number of uninsured Americans to jump by 18 million in the first year, swelling their numbers to 32 million in 10 years.

CBO predicts that Insurance premiums for individual policy-holders will increase by 25 percent in the first year following repeal and will double within 10 years.


Reader Comments

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From James Jones: “Re: Merge Healthcare. The big story is Nancy Koenig leaving, but the positive news is that the reorg relates to growth, not downsizing, and that the first cognitive product will be releases in Q2 2017. Here’s the internal email sent to the team on January 10.” The internal email says that the first cognitive solution release under IBM Watson Health will address aortic stenosis.

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From Pilsner: “Re: Santa Rosa Consulting. Deleted all its past tweets.” I contacted the company, who says they cleaned up their Twitter account following the departure of one of their internal marketing folks. The Twitter account will be put into use again following an upcoming rebranding.

From Willie Slicker: “Re: HIStalkapalooza. You should keep doing them – it’s great for HIStalk branding.” I don’t pay much attention to HIStalk branding, but as it stands, what I am paying attention to is the check I’ll have to write to cover the event’s cost beyond what sponsors are graciously underwriting. That has understandably dampened my enthusiasm from throwing further free parties since I have to ante up nearly double what I paid for my last new car a couple of years ago.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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Thanks to our two new HIStalkapalooza sponsors. Lucro offers a digital platform that helps health systems make better, faster, less-risky purchasing decisions. Physician’s Computer Company (PCC) provides EHR/PM for pediatricians that consistently out-KLASses all competitors with a 95.1 overall score.

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We helped Ms. L from Missouri in funding her DonorsChoose grant request for STEM learning materials. Her fourth graders are building the example electronic circuits and will then move on to creating their own designs.

Listening: new from Kvelertak, face-melting heavy metal from Norway that requires all of my limbs for desk drumming, complete with showy flourishes of my imaginary sticks. Face-melting isn’t for everyone, so there’s this: new from Khalid, a stunningly expressive 18-year-old singer and musical newcomer from El Paso, TX who blends R&B with old-school soul. Mark your calendars for six months from now – Khalid is going to be big.


Webinars

January 18 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “Modernizing Quality Improvement Through Clinical Process Measurement.” Sponsored by LogicStream Health. Presenters: Peter Chang, MD, CMIO, Tampa General Hospital; Brita Hansen, MD, CHIO, Hennepin County Medical Center. The presenters will describe how they implemented successful quality governance programs, engaged with their health system stakeholders, and delivered actionable information to clinical leadership and front-line clinicians. Q&A will follow.

January 26 (Thursday) 1:00 ET. “Jump Start Your Care Coordination Program: 6 Strategies for Delivering Efficient, Effective Care.” Sponsored by Healthwise. Presenters: Jim Rogers, RN, RPSGT, director of healthcare solutions, Persistent Systems; Jason Burum, chief client officer, Healthwise. This webinar will explain how to implement a patient-centered care coordination program that will increase quality as well as margins. It will provide real-world examples of how organizations used care coordination to decrease readmission rates, ED visits, and costs.

February 1 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “Get your data ready for MACRA: Leveraging technology to achieve PHM goals.” Sponsored by Medicity. Presenters: Brian Ahier, director of standards and government affairs, Medicity; Eric Crawford, project manager, Medicity; Adam Bell, RN, senior clinical consultant, Medicity. Earning performance incentives under MACRA/MIPS requires a rich, complete data asset. Use the 2017 transition year to identify technology tools that can address gaps in care, transform data into actionable information, and support population health goals and prepare your organization for 2018 reporting requirements. 


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Document solutions vendor Auxilio acquires healthcare security solutions vendor CynergisTek for $34 million in cash and shares. CynergisTek generated $15 million in revenue and $5 million in EBITDA in 2016.

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Dear Auxilio, you forgot to change your site’s title in WordPress, so it looks really amateurish in Google searches and on the browser tab. Please correct this at your earliest convenience. Yours, Mr. H(TML), who also wonders whether “at your earliest convenience” really means something since it sounds more like something a non-native English speaker would say. At least don’t make “at my earliest convenience” part of your voicemail greeting because what that means is that you’ll call back whenever you feel like it regardless of your caller’s needs.

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Forbes profiles the just-launched Forward, a San Francisco primary care practice started by a serial entrepreneur who sold his artificial intelligence company to Google. Forward describes itself as looking more like an Apple Store than a doctor’s office. Members who pay $1,800 per year are tested on an AI-powered body scanner, are given a wearable device that the practice says it will monitor, and are sold branded nutritional supplements. We’ll have to take their word on having doctors with “world-class backgrounds” since the company is too enamored with its architecture and apps to say who’s actually delivering the care it offers (maybe it’s just a bunch of hipster docs sitting at a Genius Bar). The track record of millennial-pandering “startups” like this is pretty abysmal, both in terms of financial viability as well as making much of a difference in population health. I’ll be shocked if it’s still around two years from now.

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Formativ Health – formed last week by Northwell Health and Pamplona Capital Management – acquires EHR/PM/RCM vendor Etransmedia. It’s probably not relevant, but Northwell – the former North Shore-LIJ – uses Allscripts, which in 2014 lost a $10 million deceptive business practices case to Etransmedia, who bought a bunch of Allscripts MyWay licenses for resale only to get stuck with them when Allscripts abandoned the product. Etransmedia developed and sells the Connect2Care EHR/PM.


Sales

John Muir Health (CA) chooses Sectra’s cloud-based image archive and universal viewer.


People

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CTG hires Hamish Stewart-Smith (Encore Health Resources) as managing director of healthcare sales for North America. He is a United States Air Force Academy graduate who spent 11 years as an officer.


Announcements and Implementations

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HIMSS further blurs the barely visible line it draws between providers and vendors in launching a marketing summit in Las Vegas, with Steve Lieber saying, “We specialize in supporting organizations who market tech solutions to HIT customers.” At least he’s honest in admitting that what HIMSS does best (and most profitably) is to help HIMSS vendor members sell stuff to HIMSS provider members. Another aspect of that blatantly commercial offering is the apparently new HIMSS Media Lab (referenced but not mentioned in the announcement), whose primary objective seems to be selling ad space in HIMSS publications and relentlessly targeting the provider audience in being “obsessed with getting under their skin, on their mind, into their hearts” as they “study professionals in their natural habitat.” It’s interesting that HIMSS is launching a conference targeting marketing professionals while simultaneously trying to take away their business. Provider-siders who feel like lab rats being studied as they attempt to avoid predators now understand that they’re in the HIMSS version of “The Twilight Zone,” where the seemingly normal small town is not as it seems. We are all just paying acolytes in the HIMSS Church of the Generated Lead.

McKesson offers a cloud-based option for InterQual Criteria.


Government and Politics

FDA announces IMEDS, which will give patient safety researchers access to privacy-protected drug and medical device safety reports. 

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I found the ethics disclosure form of HHS Secretary nominee Tom Price, MD, who reports holding shares in Athenahealth and McKesson. Meanwhile, Sen. Al Franken and two colleagues ask to have Price’s confirmation hearing postponed pending an ethics investigation after reports that he traded shares of healthcare companies while sponsoring legislation that could have affected their share prices to his benefit.

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McKesson will pay $150 million to settle federal charges that it violated the Controlled Substances Act by failing to report pharmacy customers that ordered suspiciously large quantities of oxycodone and hydrocodone. The company will also stop filling controlled substances orders from its distribution centers in four states.


Privacy and Security

From DataBreaches.net:

  • Sentara Healthcare (VA) notifies 5,000 patients that their information was exposed in a breach involving an unnamed Sentara vendor.
  • Little Red Door Cancer Services of East Central Indiana is hit with ransomware, with hacker The Dark Overlord demanding a $43,000 payment that the non-profit agency declined to make since it was able to restore from a cloud-based backup.
  • In Canada, a pediatrician who had been accused by several parents of falsely claiming they had abused their children kills himself after sending a media outlet a USB drive with patient information that apparently supports his abuse claims.

Reuters covers the ways insurance companies are using technology to measure customer behavior and potentially to set premium rates accordingly. Examples: a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush that phones home to a dental insurance company, car monitoring devices that record driving habits, and fitness trackers whose information is reported back to insurers. Those in favor say the information can change behavior positively, while critics are concerned that the information will be used to charge some customers more or to cherry-pick only lower-risk consumers.


Other

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A review of the Orphan Drug Act concludes that drug companies have hijacked the law’s noble intentions (encouraging them to develop drugs for rare conditions) by invoking orphan drug status for mass-marketed drugs to get seven more years exclusive marketing rights. The skyrocketing number of orphan drug approvals includes such bestsellers as Crestor, Ability, Herceptin, and the Humira (the world’s best-selling drug) as companies repeatedly file for protection using new rare conditions. Seven of the 10 best-selling drugs were so-called orphan drugs that earned rare disease approval after the fact. Drug companies are being coached on the process by former FDA officials who have hung out consulting shingles for fees that can approach $100,000, suggesting that the companies employ approaches such as trying out their existing drugs for treating unusual diseases in Africa. 

A Johns Hopkins study finds that privately insured patients get stuck with the high bills of out-of-network doctors hired by in-network hospitals, noting that the doctors with the highest markup (defined as the multiple they charge private patients vs. their Medicare rates) are those the patient doesn’t choose. Anesthesiologists, ED doctors, pathologists, and radiologists charge four times the rate Medicare pays them. Anesthesiologists in 10 cities made up the top 2.5 percent.

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Surgeon-author Atul Gawande, MD admits in a New Yorker article that he has failed to appreciate the role of the primary care physician whose impact on health is less immediately decisive but no less important than the stroke of his well-aimed scalpel. He notes that his OR is equipped with a battalion of people and millions of dollars worth of equipment, while “incrementalists” are lucky to afford a nurse. Some snips:

We will increasingly be able to use smartphones and wearables to continuously monitor our heart rhythm, breathing, sleep, and activity, registering signs of illness as well as the effectiveness and the side effects of treatments. Engineers have proposed bathtub scanners that could track your internal organs for minute changes over time. We can decode our entire genome for less than the cost of an iPad and, increasingly, tune our care to the exact makeup we were born with. Our healthcare system is not designed for this future—or, indeed, for this present. We built it at a time when such capabilities were virtually nonexistent. When illness was experienced as a random catastrophe, and medical discoveries focused on rescue, insurance for unanticipated, episodic needs was what we needed. Hospitals and heroic interventions got the large investments; incrementalists were scanted …But the more capacity we develop to monitor the body and the brain for signs of future breakdown and to correct course along the way—to deliver “precision medicine,” as the lingo goes—the greater the difference health care can make in people’s lives, as well as in reducing future costs. This potential for incremental medicine to improve and save lives, however, is dramatically at odds with our system’s allocation of rewards.


Sponsor Updates

  • HBI Solutions produces a video titled “Spotlight Data Solution Overview.”
  • Agfa Healthcare publishes a new white paper, “How Enterprise Imaging Aligns with Value-Based Care.”
  • Besler Consulting releases a new podcast, “A closer look at patient reported outcomes.”
  • EClinicalWorks will exhibit at the NHMI Annual Orthopaedic Winter Meeting January 20-21 in Stowe, VT.
  • Healthgrades announces the recipients of its 2017 Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence.

Blog Posts


Contacts

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

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Morning Headlines 1/17/17

January 16, 2017 Headlines 1 Comment

Trump Is Considering Another Thiel Associate to Lead FDA

President-elect Trump is reportedly considering Silicon Valley executive Balaji Srinivasan to lead the FDA. Srinivasan has no medical background, but earned consideration because he is a Peter Thiel associate.

Survey Snapshot: What Patient Engagement Technology Is Good For

A recent NEJM Catalyst survey on patient engagement tools finds that providers are excited about the potential benefits associated with new technologies, but do not know which ones to recommend.

You can now book workout classes directly from Google

Google partners with digital health startup MindBody to let users search for, book, and pay for exercises and wellness classes from within Google’s search results.

Why Regulating AI Is A Mistake

Following the recent death of a passenger who was driving in an auto-piloted Tesla, AI experts weigh in on the pros and cons of regulating the use of artificial intelligence.

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 1/16/17

January 16, 2017 Dr. Jayne No Comments

In the hospital, a curbside consult is an informal consultation between physicians that avoids the sometimes cumbersome request and documentation requirements for a “real” consultation. Of course, without the request and documentation piece, it also avoids the billing and payment piece, so it’s essentially a freebie given between colleagues.

Most of the time you never know who the patient is. It just starts out along the lines of, “I wanted to pick your brain about this guy…” Doctors get curbsided by their friends and family members as well, usually about a test result or a visit to the doctor. Most of the time the requests I get from friends are easy to answer. This week though, my IT colleague Jimmy the Greek asked me to translate his MRI and I was digging deep to find anything in my memory about a “pistol grip deformity” of the hip.

Thank goodness for eOrthopod, who was able to quickly answer my question so I could talk intelligently about his situation, which I had been following tangentially over the last few months. As we go boldly where no one has gone before with a new president and the impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act, I thought it was worthy of sharing and discussion. So get your popcorn, wine, tequila, or other beverage of choice and sit back for the first installment of Dr. Jayne’s Journal Club, where we will review a patient case presentation.


A year ago, I injured my hip in martial arts class participating in kicking-for-height competition with a 15-year-old whose flexibility would make Gumby green(er) with envy. I’ll have your loyal readers know that I won that contest, despite the fact that I seem to have lost the war, and have now been set adrift in the murky waters of consumer-driven healthcare. For months, my hip would hurt, so I’d rest it, but then go take another martial arts class, where I’d aggravate the injury again. I finally quit taking lessons in August and I assumed that without the thrice-weekly strain I was putting on the injury, it would heal quickly. Finally, in October, I couldn’t take it anymore and went to see my chiropractor. (Being a savvy consumer of healthcare services, I didn’t want to go see my orthopedist right off, as that’s like asking my barber if I need a haircut).

After a few weeks of adjustments, home exercise, and K-Tape, my chiropractor referred me to a physiatrist. I was warned ahead of time that, “He and his office staff are . . . a bit quirky.” My first impression of this highly-regarded doctor was formed when he blasted the exam room door open, pointed at me, motioned toward the hallway, and said “You – come out here.” While his bedside manner (and as I learned later, professionalism) left quite a bit to be desired, he seemed knowledgeable and capable, and really, that’s what’s important.

I was sent for an x-ray to rule out anything skeletal and told that the office would receive the results electronically and call me to discuss next steps. After completing the x-ray, I left a voice mail in the practice’s general mailbox to let them know. The outgoing message admonished me to wait at least 48 hours for a reply and not to call back before then, as doing so would drop me to the end of the line. I waited a whopping four days for a call back and finally decided to risk my place in line. The not-so-cheery voice on the other end of the phone told me that no, I would not get a call, and no, I did not need an appointment. All I had to do was show up on the practice’s doorstep, imagery in hand, and the doctor would see me immediately. I agreed to come in the next week, as I was on vacation from work.

Fast forward to Monday morning, when I darkened the aforementioned doorstep with my presence. Sadly, that’s all I could darken because the door was locked. It seems that this paragon of all that is good and right with the practice of medicine decided to take Monday off. The desk staff was working, however, and when I bent their collective ear about better communication with patients, I was (quite literally) screamed at for my trouble. For those of you keeping track at home, I had already been given two conflicting pieces of information about how to get my test results, neither of which I would later find out was correct. Dr. Professional reviewed my x-ray early the next morning and decided I was in need of an MRI with contrast agent.

This morning, I dutifully arrived 15 minutes early for the procedure so I could fill out the exact same paperwork I had filled out before the x-ray, despite the fact that I was merely at a different location of the same imaging firm run by the same hospital system. I was told by the technician who was getting me prepped for the procedure that the radiologist performing the arthrogram is notoriously late. When she finally arrived (15 minutes after her scheduled start time), she approached me with a needle that looked like a cross between a whaling harpoon and the drill bits that arctic researchers use to take core samples. Once the lidocaine kicked in, though, it didn’t matter. The staff tried valiantly to get me to use the standard MRI machine, but in the immortal words of Clint Eastwood, a man’s gotta know his limitations. Mine happen to include enclosed spaces. Off we went to the “open” machine, which, much to my chagrin, is about as open as Internet access in North Korea. I only required one break from my incarceration in the evil machine.

Instead of going straight home, I decided to drop in on Dr. Wonderful (CD in hand) to get his take on my MRI. While en route, I called the office to make sure he was there. It only took me three tries to get through to a human. When I told her why I was calling, she was astonished that I would ever think to just drop in, because as everyone knows, an appointment is required to review imaging results with the doctor. So now I wait until next week.


I am familiar with the physician in question, but hadn’t had any patients in common for nearly a decade, so decided to do some Google stalking. He’s on staff at Big Medical Center, so would have access to the clinical data repository at a minimum and most likely would have direct access to the PACS due to his specialty. He’s been recognized multiple times by his peers as one of the community’s “Best Doctors in Town” which can be confusing since patients don’t understand how those honors are usually bestowed. Our city’s magazine that runs the feature every year solicits feedback from other physicians, but many of us think it’s a joke because one colleague had moved away three years prior but continued to be on the “best doctors” honor list.

He’s got four stars on Healthgrades with 28 reviews and no disciplinary actions by the board of healing arts. But it sounds like his practice is disorganized and doesn’t take advantage of patient-friendly technology solutions like a patient portal or secure messaging, even though they have a portal link on the practice website. There’s no information on the website about the processes and procedures that didn’t work so well in this case, so a patient looking to do things the “right way” would have trouble confirming.

Of course, in consumer-driven healthcare, the patient’s main recourse is to vote with his feet, which is sometimes challenging to do when you’re partway into a course of treatment or into a diagnostic process with another provider. Fortunately, our patient has his imaging studies in hand, which sadly not every patient has. Our patient is also a well-educated IT guy with the flexibility to make time during the day to call offices and run down results, and many patients don’t have the ability to do those things, making their diagnostic and treatment course even more fragmented.

When I hear about situations like this, I think about whether technology would have made anything better. There were definitely some opportunities here, but the real issue isn’t something that the current focus of regulation or rulemaking is going to address, other than patient satisfaction scores, which I hope were appropriately low in this case, if they were even solicited.

Our patient has since been referred to an orthopedic surgeon, so we’ll have to check in with him down the line to see if the brave new world of high tech healthcare has done any better for him. As a consultant, I see these situations all the time, and typically the physician is resistant to change as are the members of the office team, who seem to be part of the problem here. The worst cases are often the hardest to fix.

Email Dr. Jayne.

Morning Headlines 1/16/17

January 15, 2017 Headlines No Comments

Justices Will Hear Challenges to Mandatory Employee Arbitration

The Supreme Court agrees to hear a case brought by Epic and two other corporations seeking clarification on the use of arbitration clauses in employment agreements that prohibit employees from banding together to take legal action over workplace issues.

Hospital closes systems after IT attack

In England, Barts Health NHS Trust shuts down several of its IT systems after suffering a “non-ransomware” cyberattack.

The Biggest Changes Obamacare Made, and Those That May Disappear

The New York Times offers point-by-point analysis of the real impact of repealing ACA and outlines possible replacement legislation.

Rudeness and Medical Team Performance

Researchers in Israel finds that when nurses are scolded by rude patients, their performance decreases across all measured clinical quality categories for not only that patient, but all of their patients. Preventative cognitive bias modification programs were shown to help neutralize the impact rudeness has on performance.

Monday Morning Update 1/16/17

January 15, 2017 News 5 Comments

Top News

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The US Supreme Court approves the request of Epic and other companies that asked the court to rule on the use of arbitration clauses in employment agreements to prevent employees from filing labor-related class action lawsuits.

Two federal appeals courts have ruled that the National Labor Relations Act protects the right of employees to engage in “concerted activities,” while a third court has rejected that argument in saying that the arbitration clause prohibits employees from suing their employer as a class.

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Epic wants to the court to set a standard by which such arbitration clauses will or won’t be consistently enforced.


Reader Comments

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From Pappadum: “Re: MD Anderson’s losses and layoffs. Encore ran the selection process and made $48 million, while third parties were paid hundreds of millions of dollars more. The larger story is how companies stand to benefit from an Epic selection (selling services afterward) and Epic’s inability to control the cost of their projects given their third party dependencies. You would think a system as notable and healthy as MDA would generate more discussion in the risk/reward of implementing Epic.” Unverified. I don’t have a lot to say about how consulting firms steer clients toward systems and then sell them more services, or that Epic projects are nearly always eye-poppingly expensive. However, MDA signed every agreement (apparently without a gun to its head) and is responsible for its own implementation no matter who it hired to help or at what price it elected to pay. It has a track record of underperforming EHR implementations, all the way through the homegrown ClinicStation system that Epic replaced, so perhaps the outcome was predictable. Certainly the entire industry could learn from MDA’s experience, but I don’t expect they are anxious to share. Also, to be fair, it’s early in their implementation when a lot of Epic projects look bleak before improving, not to mention that many if not most of MDA’s problems don’t have anything to do with Epic even though it’s an easy target.

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Perhaps this is a good time to refer folks to my report on Epic from almost a year ago, in which I obtained insight directly from Epic-using health systems (22 CEOs, 13 CFOs, 96 CIOs, 39 chief medical officers, and 32 chief nursing officers). All of those CFOs say they would choose Epic again, and even though project cost was Epic’s lowest score by far in my report, only 15 percent of CFOs said their projects ran over budget. The CFOs scored Epic at 7.4 on a 10-point scale on the all-important question of whether Epic’s benefits were worth its initial and ongoing costs.

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From Spiritus Frumenti: “Re: Zynx, Has essentially laid off their entire executive team.” It’s apparently a bit lonely at the top, as the company’s executive page lists only President Kevin Daly and SVP Jim Connolly. Having been expunged in the past six weeks are the other two executive team members, Bertina Yen and Victor Lee, both of them physician VPs who, according to LinkedIn, left in December 2016 (Yen does not list a current employer, while Lee is now VP of clinical informatics at Clinical Architecture). Going back a year ago finds eight executives listed, all of them now missing except for Jim Connolly. Daly was promoted to president from another Hearst company, MCG, in January 2016.

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From Cheesy Goodness: “Re: Epic’s Community Connect program, as at UIHC. It’s a stroke of genius since it takes Epic out of the picture for selling and servicing small community organizations (which Epic is not built for), it creates additional ties with the reselling large provider organization and thus increases barriers to their replacing Epic, and it hits hard at competitors such as Athenahealth and EClinicalWorks.”

From Porkpie Hat: “Re: Merge Healthcare. Lots of major reorgs going on under IBM Watson Health.” Unverified. 

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From Man About Town: “Re: WSJ article claiming Epic is hindering interoperability. This doesn’t bode well. The majority of Judy’s employees very publicly supported Democrat candidates, which served the company well when they were in power, but now could lead to repercussions.” The article was poorly done and full of inexpert opinions more suited for a crappy LinkedIn vanity piece than WSJ, but it did get exposure it didn’t deserve. I don’t think rather modest political donations will have much of an impact either way. I’m also certain Epic’s lobbying firm, Card & Associates (which had strong connections to the George W. Bush White House) is – like all other DC lobbying firms – working overtime to understand the new administration and start whispering to it the messages of its clients. I assume Epic also has a friend in House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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HIStalkapalooza signups are winding down, both for this year and forever since it’s the last one. We’re at around 900 requests, so it’s about time to call it.

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About a fourth of poll respondents either left for a better job or were promoted in the past year. Desperado expresses appreciation to the less-competent salespeople who allowed him to get promoted last week, while Paragon(e) and J3 lost their jobs to offshoring and acquisition, respectively. Frank’s advice for those who want a real promotion is to do your own thing, where you can focus on what’s important to you and be paid commensurate with your abilities, as hanging out your own shingle is “the last promotion you’ll ever need.”

New poll to your right or here: Has your employer cut expenses or reduced future expectations because of ACA uncertainty? I would be happy to get your poll vote and elated to read your comment explaining it.

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Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Parallon Technology Solutions. The Nashville-based company’s 400 professionals have implemented EHRs in 300 facilities and offer staffing and remote support services for all major acute care and ambulatory EHRs (Meditech, McKesson, Epic, Allscripts, etc.) and related applications. Its services include EHR implementation, help desk, application support, managed services, hosting, technical staffing, and strategic IT consulting services. It can help optimize Meditech investments, being certified to deliver READY Levels 1-3 and Pathway implementations for 6.x. Its Tier 1 Help Desk service alleviates challenges with hold times and first-call resolution rates, freeing up internal resources to work on priority projects and providing legacy system support. Technical services include data extraction and archive, reporting,  wireless network installation and support, voice communications, and integration. The company also outsources hard-to-find talent such as application developers, product analysts, DBAs, and network engineers. President and CEO Curtis Watkins is an industry long-timer with executive IT experience at HCA, St. David’s HealthCare, and Community Health Systems. Thanks to Parallon Technology Solutions for supporting HIStalk.

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We funded the DonorsChoose grant request of Ms. L on the west side of Chicago, who asked for math center materials for her kindergarten class. She is using the games during 25-minute math station rotation, putting out two or three of the games for students to learn from even as they’re having fun. She says they always rush to the Unlock It! game pictured above.


Last Week’s Most Interesting News

  • Two California HIE announce plans to merge.
  • President-elect Trump nominates David Shulkin, MD for the post of Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
  • Congress quickly begins dismantling the Affordable Care Act.
  • IBM Watson Health and the FDA announce plans to study the use of blockchain technology to exchange information between study participants and researchers.
  • President Obama and Vice-President Biden express frustration with lack of healthcare data exchange, with the President saying EHRs are his biggest disappointment of the Affordable Care Act.
  • A Wall Street Journal opinion piece calls Epic the “chief obfuscator” in being primarily responsible for the lack of EHR interoperability.

Webinars

January 18 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “Modernizing Quality Improvement Through Clinical Process Measurement.” Sponsored by LogicStream Health. Presenters: Peter Chang, MD, CMIO, Tampa General Hospital; Brita Hansen, MD, CHIO, Hennepin County Medical Center. The presenters will describe how they implemented successful quality governance programs, engaged with their health system stakeholders, and delivered actionable information to clinical leadership and front-line clinicians. Q&A will follow.

January 26 (Thursday) 1:00 ET. “Jump Start Your Care Coordination Program: 6 Strategies for Delivering Efficient, Effective Care.” Sponsored by Healthwise. Presenters: Jim Rogers, RN, RPSGT, director of healthcare solutions, Persistent Systems; Jason Burum, chief client officer, Healthwise. This webinar will explain how to implement a patient-centered care coordination program that will increase quality as well as margins. It will provide real-world examples of how organizations used care coordination to decrease readmission rates, ED visits, and costs.

February 1 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “Get your data ready for MACRA: Leveraging technology to achieve PHM goals.” Sponsored by Medicity. Presenters: Brian Ahier, director of standards and government affairs, Medicity; Eric Crawford, project manager, Medicity; Adam Bell, RN, senior clinical consultant, Medicity. Earning performance incentives under MACRA/MIPS requires a rich, complete data asset. Use the 2017 transition year to identify technology tools that can address gaps in care, transform data into actionable information, and support population health goals and prepare your organization for 2018 reporting requirements. 


Sales

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Southern New Hampshire Medical Center (NH) chooses the Voalte Platform for smartphone-based secure communication and alert notification.


Decisions

  • Sycamore Medical Center (OH) with switch from BD to Omnicell automated dispensing cabinets in 2017.
  • Optim Medical Center (GA) will switch From Metro MedDispense to BD Pyxis MedStation automated dispensing cabinets in March 2017.
  • Baton Rouge General Medical Center – Bluebonnet (LA) will go live with Omnicell automated dispensing cabinets in 2017.

These provider-reported updates are provided by Definitive Healthcare, which offers powerful intelligence on hospitals, physicians, and healthcare providers.


Government and Politics

In Scotland, 18 clinician organizations respond to the government’s call for input on its digital health strategy, urging the government to increase information-sharing capabilities among clinicians.

The New York Times speculates on the effect of proposed legislation that would dismantle the Affordable Care Act:

  • Eliminating insurance subsidies will cause 22.5 million people to drop their coverage, driving up prices for everyone as fewer healthy people sign up.
  • Eliminating the federal Medicaid expansion will leave 12.9 million people without coverage.
  • Consumer protections such as those involving pre-existing conditions, lifetime limits, and insuring adult children can’t be changed using the budget reconciliation process, so those will remain in place.
  • Eliminating the requirement that people carry insurance and that employers offer it will reduce the incentive of healthy people who can’t get employer-provided insurance to insure themselves.
  • Taxes on high incomes, prescription drugs, medical devices, and health insurance could be rolled back to pre-ACA numbers.
  • Value-based care models and other Medicare payment experiments will likely continue.

Privacy and Security

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In England, Barts Health NHS Trust shuts down some of its systems (but not Cerner Millennium) after an unspecified cyberattack that it says wasn’t ransomware.


Other

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Cleveland Clinic tries to distance itself from the somewhat anti-vaccine comments made by its wellness center medical director, although it draws Twitter wrath for: (a) promoting other “bogus treatments;” (b) not pulling the original article down; (c) downplaying “a series of bad decisions flying in the face of evidence” in calling it “confusion;” and (d) running a wellness center in the first place. There must be tension given that CC is a medical and research powerhouse on the one hand, while on the other the wellness center’s online store offers trendy detox kits, meditation DVDs, and bags of quinoa. Surely patients must be confused as the clinic outsources to them the responsibility to reconcile the separate-but-equal parts of the organization that may or may not offer evidence-based care.

A study in Israel finds that rude patients get their doctors worked up to the point they deviate from practice standards. Teams of NICU doctors and nurses who were scolded by an actress playing an angry mother fell short for the rest of the day in all 11 performance measures reviewed in the study. The researchers then tried two possible solutions. Having the clinicians write about their experience afterward made the situation worse, but assigning them a behavioral modification game raised their rudeness thresholds to the point that their performance was identical to that of the control group, in effect providing them with rudeness resistance. The bad news for patients is that even if you don’t get  nasty yourself, you are equally disadvantaged when following another patient who did (and we all know there’s plenty of them out there).


Sponsor Updates

  • Santa Rosa Consulting migrates Memorial Health System (OH) to Meditech 6.15 Ambulatory.
  • ZeOmega publishes a new case study explaining how its clinical and technology assessment team helped MDwise improve operational efficiencies and increase ROI.
  • The Red Hot Healthcare podcast features Conduent (formerly Xerox Healthcare) VP of Health Strategy Rohan Kulkarni.

Blog Posts


Contacts

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

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Morning Headlines 1/13/17

January 12, 2017 Headlines 1 Comment

Merger May Revitalize California’s Flagging Effort To Pool Medical Records

The nonprofit HIE California Integrated Data Exchange will merge with Inland Empire Health HIE, creating an exchange with the medical records of 16.7 million people.

Obamacare is one step closer to repeal after Senate advances budget resolution

The Senate approves a budget resolution that begins the process of repealing ACA.

Arizona Plans to Sue Blood-Testing Company Theranos

The Arizona Attorney General is seeking outside legal counsel as it prepares to sue Theranos, alleging that it defrauded consumers in the state.

HealthTap launches Dr. A.I.— Meet your new, personal AI-powered physician

HealthTap launches an artificial intelligence-powered online symptom checker that “helps route users to doctor-recommended insights and care.”

News 1/13/17

January 12, 2017 News 6 Comments

Top News

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The California Integrated Data Exchange (Cal INDEX) will merge with the Inland Empire HIE.

Cal INDEX, which has had statewide ambitions since its 2014 founding by Blue Shield and Anthem, has struggled with lack of participation by providers in a competitive environment who may not be willing to give an insurer-operated HIE their data. Its only health system members are Dignity Health and the just-signed St. Joseph Hoag Health.

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Former White House and ONC HIE advisor Claudia Williams has been hired as CEO, Cal INDEX’s fourth since 2014.


Reader Comments

From Ray Wrangler: “Re: Merge Healthcare. GM Nancy Koenig is taking a year-long personal leave of absence and will be replaced in interim by Andy Warzecha. A permanent GM is being considered.” Unverified. I’ve asked the company to confirm but haven’t heard back.

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From Snowman: “Re: Epic. Various critical access hospitals in Iowa (such as Virginia Gay in Vinton and Myrtue Medical in Harland) are converting to Epic as part of the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics Epic Community Connect program. This is being run through an entity called University of Iowa Health Ventures.” Thanks. I had mentioned Myrtue’s conversion recently in my Decisions section from Definitive Healthcare.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

Signups are still open for the 10th and final HIStalkapalooza, so you won’t want to miss Party on the Moon’s figurative closing rendition of “The Last Waltz.” Meanwhile, I need some help with red carpet duties in a key role, so contact Lorre if you’re a quick-witted, outgoing female willing to spend some time participating in the event instead of spectating. I still need event sponsors, too, for companies interested getting enough tickets to create their own sub-party as well as earning significant industry exposure. Signups so far include 90 CEOs and presidents, 14 CIOs, financial industry bigwigs, and more SVP/VPs than you can shake a stick at (like a post-blackout baby boom nine months later, deals will be announced months from now whose consummation began with a House of Blues twinkle in someone’s eye).

We’ll have another CMIO lunch at the HIMSS conference on Tuesday, February 21, starting at noon at Bistro HIMSS (just off the exhibit hall floor). I’ll buy lunch for up to the 20 attendees we’re allowed and you’ll get to eat something nice while sitting comfortably with CMIO peers. Sign up if you’re interested. Everybody seemed to enjoy it last time.

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We funded the DonorsChoose grant request of Mrs. I in South Carolina, who asked for a Chromebook for class science research. She says students are using it for virtual labs and study drills and adds, “I have inquiring, smart, and engaging students and I am planning a new project on encouraging students to focus more on STEAM , which I believe is the way to go in order to produce engaging and inquiring minds that will be able to compete in a global community.”

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Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Logicworks. The cloud automation and managed services provider offers secure, compliant cloud solutions in helping organizations architect, maintain, and automate custom Amazon Web Services infrastructure with 24x7x365 support, a team of highly qualified engineers, and 100 percent uptime SLAs. They’ll also help extend the data center to the cloud with their hybrid cloud offering, which includes cloud orchestration, 22 years experience in migrating and managing legacy systems to AWS, security management, and maintaining sensitive information in a private cloud to meet HIPAA, PCI, and SOX mandates while taking advantage of AWS’s scalability. Logicworks offers automation software that helps enterprises get to the cloud faster, fueling their next big ideas by allowing developers to spin up servers in seconds. Cybersecurity is implemented and monitored around the clock by best-in-class security experts. The company has completed 400 cloud projects in its 20 years in business, with deep expertise and an average engineer tenure of six years. Clients include 30 state HIEs, the largest health insurance exchange in the country, leading SaaS clinical software providers, global healthcare systems integrators, and healthcare analytics vendors. It just announced a mind-boggling $135 million funding round led by Pamplona Capital. Thanks to Logicworks for supporting HIStalk.

Here’s a Logicworks overview I found on YouTube. They also did an HIStalk webinar called “Cloud Is Not (Always) The Answer” a couple of years ago.

This week on HIStalk Practice: UnitedHealth buys Surgical Care Affiliates in $2.3 billion deal. Teladoc adds lab testing services from Analyte Health. Aledade raises $20 million. HealthTap debuts Dr. A.I. Emmi Solutions CEO Devin Gross shares patient engagement tips for practices facing resource limitations. Northwell Health launches new practice management business. MedEvolve debuts practice analytics. Humana VP of Provider Engagement Caraline Coats explains the ways in which the payer’s quality rewards program is helping physicians transition to value-based care.


Webinars

January 18 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “Modernizing Quality Improvement Through Clinical Process Measurement.” Sponsored by LogicStream Health. Presenters: Peter Chang, MD, CMIO, Tampa General Hospital; Brita Hansen, MD, CHIO, Hennepin County Medical Center. The presenters will describe how they implemented successful quality governance programs, engaged with their health system stakeholders, and delivered actionable information to clinical leadership and front-line clinicians. Q&A will follow.

January 26 (Thursday) 1:00 ET. “Jump Start Your Care Coordination Program: 6 Strategies for Delivering Efficient, Effective Care.” Sponsored by Healthwise. Presenters: Jim Rogers, RN, RPSGT, director of healthcare solutions, Persistent Systems; Jason Burum, chief client officer, Healthwise. This webinar will explain how to implement a patient-centered care coordination program that will increase quality as well as margins. It will provide real-world examples of how organizations used care coordination to decrease readmission rates, ED visits, and costs.

February 1 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “Get your data ready for MACRA: Leveraging technology to achieve PHM goals.” Sponsored by Medicity. Presenters: Brian Ahier, director of standards and government affairs, Medicity; Eric Crawford, project manager, Medicity; Adam Bell, RN, senior clinical consultant, Medicity. Earning performance incentives under MACRA/MIPS requires a rich, complete data asset. Use the 2017 transition year to identify technology tools that can address gaps in care, transform data into actionable information, and support population health goals and prepare your organization for 2018 reporting requirements. 


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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The charitable foundation of the late Helen Diller, who with her husband made billions by investing in San Francisco real estate, donates $500 million to UCSF, the largest gift to a university in history. She had previously funded a cancer research building that bears her name.

Arizona’s attorney general opens bids for law firms to sue Theranos for consumer fraud. Just in case CEO Elizabeth Holmes is reading, she’s leading a couple of HISsies categories, should she be available to receive her honors in person in Orlando (note: wear old clothes).


People

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ID Experts hires Brent VanLoo (HealthSparq) as CTO.


Announcements and Implementations

IBM Watson Health and the FDA will study healthcare data exchange using blockchain technology, initially focusing on oncology data. The two-year project will look at sharing owner-mediated data – from EHRs, clinical trials, genomics, and devices – with researchers.

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Telemedicine provider HealthTap launches Dr. A.I., an artificial intelligence-powered symptom evaluator that “converses” with users, matches their subjective information against their health profile, and then uses the company’s data repository to offer care recommendations and “patients like me” suggestions.

Press Ganey and Kronos will study a subset of their shared clients to measure the impact of workforce characteristics on nursing quality indicators.


Government and Politics

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President-elect Trump nominates VA undersecretary of health David Shulkin, MD for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who if confirmed would be the first non-veteran to serve in that role. He is also the first Obama administration holdover nominated by the Trump team. Shulkin is best known in HIT-land as having testified to Congress in June 2016 that the VA and DoD will be fully integrated by 2018 in describing the VA’s proposed digital health platform that may or may not include VistA.  

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Another ONC staffer will leave as part of the administration transition – Lucia Savage, JD, chief privacy officer. Deputy National Coordinator Jon White will serve as interim national coordinator with the departure of Vindell Washington, MD.

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The Senate votes along party lines to repeal the Affordable Care Act, using the same budget reconciliation process that was used to approve it seven years ago (with similarly partisan support). The House will vote quickly on the resolution, which if approved will give congressional committees the green light to craft legislation to dismantle major parts of the program. The Senate’s vote did not preserve protections for pre-existing conditions or the ability for parents to keep their children on their insurance plans through age 26. President-elect Trump said in his Wednesday press conference that he will roll out his replacement plan as soon as his HHS Secretary nominee Tom Price is confirmed. 

Here’s something to keep in mind as Congress guts the ACA: a new study finds that 60 percent of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover an unexpected $500 expense. I’m not sure subsidized health insurance helps much anyway considering that deductibles often top $7,000 before insurance pays a penny for non-routine care.

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ONC announces the Phase 2 winners of its Consumer Health Data Aggregator and Provider User Experience challenges that required using FHIR APIs. Winners in the Aggregator category: PatientLink Enterprises (gathering and managing patient data), Green Circle Health (family health dashboard), and 1upHealth (patient data organizer).

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Winners in ONC’s Provider category: Herald Health (alert workflow with push notifications), a team from University of Utah, Intermountain, and Duke Health (baby jaundice clinical decision support), and PHRASE Health (clinical decision support).

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John Halamka offers advice to the new administration about health IT:

  1. Create a national health identifier, a national directory of provider electronic addresses, and a baseline privacy policy and data sharing consent  that covers all 50 states.
  2. Don’t dictate provider workflows – let them decide how to use technology to keep people healthy and hold them to some element of quality and cost reporting.
  3. Align incentives while avoiding regulatory ONC zeal and use the only three clinician influence factors that work: pay them more, improve their professional life, or spare them public embarrassment.
  4. Share cybersecurity threat and mitigation information across the industry.
  5. Let EHR users drive product direction instead of forcing it via certification.

Privacy and Security

From DataBreaches.net:

  • Security experts alert a plastic surgeon and spa owner in Canada that his PHI-containing servers (including photos of unclothed women) are open to web searches. The problem was – as is often the case – an open Rsync device.
  • A two-state cosmetic surgery center is hit with ransomware, but apparently restores its systems without paying.

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Security firm Tresorit releases ZeroKit, which will offer developers using Apple’s open source framework CareKit with user authentication and end-to-end data encryption.

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A newly published book, “Our Bodies, Our Data: How Companies Make Billions Selling Our Medical Records,” says the “hidden trade” in medical information has become a multi-billion dollar business (mostly helping drug companies push their products) without improving outcomes.


Other

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Nearly half of Arizona’s doctors haven’t signed up for the state’s doctor-shopper prescription database, use of which will become mandatory in October. Doctors previously shied away in saying that the system is clunky. One PCP who’s been using it for years say she always checks a patient even though it takes 2-3 minutes.

In Washington, a car crashing into a utility pole on New Year’s Eve takes down the county’s 911 system and the local hospital’s connections to Epic for more than a day. Jefferson Healthcare says it will look for a backup plan in hopes of avoiding future interruptions to the services of its broadband provider, whose cables were damaged in the accident. At least it wasn’t the usual backhoe cut that zapped the hospital’s lifeline to the world.

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In Italy, a hospital suspends two of its ED doctors and its director after social media photos show doctors treating patients who were lying on the floor. The hospital had run out of stretchers after loaning several to an ambulance service. Hospitals were swamped after extreme weather and a meningitis scare happened during a holiday weekend when many doctors were on vacation. The director said that treating patients on the floor was better than not helping them at all.

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Weird News Andy is singing along to “Parentage by the Cell Phone Light.” Doctors at a hospital in China use their cell phone lights to illuminate their delivery of a baby of a woman who had gone into labor in the hospital’s parking lot. WNA wryly concludes, “Of course there are photos.”


Sponsor Updates

  • Rock Health awards Medicity’s Brian Ahier with the Digital Health Evangelist of 2017 award. Snowed in and unable to accept the award in person, Ahier posts his acceptance speech from his blanketed driveway.
  • Iatric Systems will exhibit at the MUSE Executive Institute January 15-17 in Newport Coast, CA.
  • AlleyWatch includes MedCPU in its list of the nine largest health tech startup fundings in New York City in 2016.
  • Meditech releases a new case study, “It’s in Their DNA – Avera Health Drives Precision Medicine at the Point of Care.”
  • Nordic Consulting releases a new podcast, “What the best health IT consultants do at the end of their contracts.”
  • PokitDok CEO Lisa Maki weighs in on the possible repeal and replace of the ACA on Bloomberg News.

Blog Posts


Contacts

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

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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 1/12/17

January 12, 2017 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment

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The American Board of Preventive Medicine announced the retirement William Greaves, MD, who has been its executive director since 2012. Greaves helped guide the Board’s inclusion of the Clinical Informatics subspecialty. Benson Munger, PhD will serve as interim executive director. Munger was deeply involved in the creation of the AMIA Clinical Informatics Board Review Course and the informatics community is enthusiastic about his role as the ABPM begins its search for a permanent executive director.

Speaking of physicians considering retirement, Massachusetts General Hospital has a 100-year-old physician who is still coming into work after 65 years. Dr. Walter Guralnick spends his time teaching residents rather than seeing patients. With a strong belief in equal access for all, Guralnick led the charge for dental insurance and founded what became Delta Dental.

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ONC has released the updated Certified Health IT Products List. In addition to the list of products on the “nice” list, there are now two pages for products that are no longer certified and developers who are blocked from certifying health IT products. The “developer ban” page is blank and the “decertified products” page has a lot of 2015 edition software, so it’s hard to know what you’re really looking at.

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Lots of reader mail this week.

From Daredevil: “Re: E&M coding. My hospital made an interesting choice to bill facility charges but no professional fees in its busy (hospital-owned) pediatric urgent care. As such, the providers were not burdened with counting elements in their documentation. We could simply document items required for clinical care and/or general risk management. This made it easier to focus on managing the patient, especially during high-volume times. The providers were compensated based on covered hours and procedures performed. The providers were eventually incentivized for throughput and had plenty of opportunities to work extra hours at a reasonable rate, so things seemed generally equitable. I would love to see E&M billing go away. The surgeons have it right with global billing. Their notes — at least in the hospital setting and for post-op visits — while seemingly sparse, stick to the facts. There is no endless scrolling to see what they are thinking.” This flat-fee approach is similar to what many cash practices do and what my urgent care does for self-pay patients. It’s not hugely profitable, but it keeps the lights on and allows the staff to deliver valuable and often much-needed care. It’s an interesting approach and I will be interested to see what some of my local colleagues think.

From End of Shift: “Re: complexity of the patients at the end of a shift. I found more than once that the last patient on a Sunday evening was the most perplexing or complex for the day. The tendency to want to expedite that patient who made it in right before the doors locked was also met was often met with the reality that this patient / family was the one who was home all day debating whether their concerns warranted a visit to the urgent care. I saw more than a few who needed a trip to the emergency department. It doesn’t seem to matter which setting we are practicing medicine in these days, but there seems to be constant pressure to do more in less time. I think we would all be better clinicians with better outcomes if we had the chance to slow things down a bit.” Thinking about patients debating whether their condition is significant enough for a visit certainly puts a different spin on things. We’re also seeing patients holding off on care due to rising copays. Last year, most urgent care copays were at $50 but we’re seeing a lot this year that are $75 and $100, which means their ED copays are probably $150 or $200. The price point alone is going to have an impact in shifting where care is delivered, even if it doesn’t change the nature of the care required.

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Illinois healthcare organization Presence Health has been fined $475,000 for lack of timely breach notification. The fine centers around an incident in October 2013 where paper operating room schedules went missing from a surgery center. They didn’t notify OCR until January 2014 and the investigation showed that patients were not notified within 60 days of discovery as required. Over 800 patients were affected, so a media notification would also have been required. Details of the investigation reveal similar notification delays from breaches in 2015 and 2016.

The new year seems to be bringing new jobs for many, at least according to my LinkedIn updates. I’m also seeing people update their profiles, potentially in search of new jobs. Pro tip: disable notifications before you start doing a bunch of updates so you don’t look like you’re getting ready to jump ship. I’m helping a client try to expand their EHR support team so I can offer some other job hunting tips based on the resumes I’m seeing:

  • Be sure you meet the minimum qualifications listed in the job posting or explain what equivalent skills you have that make you an attractive candidate. I’ve had more than 40 people apply for a physician informaticist position who are not physicians. My client might consider a nurse or pharmacist, but these folks had literally no clinical credentials. Similarly, if the posting requires five years experience, you might squeak by if you’ve been in the field for four, but if you have never worked in the field, it’s a better idea not to apply and waste people’s time.
  • Spell check your resume and have someone else review it for flow, consistency, and whether it makes sense. One candidate’s “summary” paragraph took up half a page and was a rambling incoherent explanation of why they appeared to job-hop every 18 months. Another’s was riddled with typos. Some include every job the applicant has had since high school, which just adds clutter.
  • Don’t expect clients to relocate you if the posting doesn’t mention relocation assistance. I have an ambulatory client in a small Midwestern city that is looking for a full-time billing office manager. Several people have applied from across the country. Since they were good candidates, we did phone screens, hoping to hear stories about people looking for jobs because they were relocating to be close to family, move with a spouse, etc. At least two of them asked about relocation packages, which is out of character for a 10-doctor practice. Understand your audience and your potential employer.
  • Make sure your contact information is professional. Your email address mustdrinkbeer@domain.com might have seemed like a good idea when you were in college, but it’s a terrible idea when you’re trying to be a professional adult.

What’s your best employee recruiting story? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

Morning Headlines 1/12/17

January 11, 2017 Headlines No Comments

A Senate Vote-a-Rama Primer, in Case You Plan to Sleep Tonight

Wednesday night, the Senate will vote on a budget resolution that will begin the process of repealing ACA.

IBM Watson, FDA to explore blockchain for secure patient data exchange

The FDA signs a two-year joint-development agreement with IBM Watson to investigate the use of blockchain technology for securely sharing patient data from EHRs, clinical trials, mobile devices, and other sources.

Health care must ditch its attachment to outdated software

Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush publishes an op-ed in STAT encouraging health systems to ditch legacy health IT software, while acknowledging that there will be no government subsidies to help providers buy more software under the Trump presidency.

Trump ‘Just Killed’ Paul Ryan’s Obamacare Repeal-And-Delay Strategy

Despite progress on ACA repeal efforts, President-elect Trump reported during a press conference Wednesday that the repeal and replacement of ACA would happen simultaneously.

HIStalk Interviews Jay Desai, CEO, PatientPing

January 11, 2017 Interviews 2 Comments

Jay Desai, MBA is co-founder and CEO of PatientPing of Boston, MA.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

Prior to starting PatientPing, I worked at Medicare at CMMI, the CMS Innovation Center. There I worked with a team to help implement the ACO program, bundled payments, and a lot of the other new payment models coming out of CMMI. The goal was to preserve the PPO model. No prior authorization, no utilization management, no traditional managed care control, no differential co-pays out of network, no PCP as a gatekeeper. Let patients go wherever they want to go. But risk.

Therefore, we needed to come up with an attribution model that was based on alignment, not necessarily membership enrollment. In that model, when a patient goes somewhere to receive care, you don’t really have too much control over them staying in network or even coordinating the care after they finish their episode, because you don’t know about it.

That created a major pain point for providers in this new model. A very basic problem emerged, which was, "Just tell me where my patients are” in real time — when they go to the hospital, ED, SNF, home health agency, or wherever they go. After scanning around the country and looking at the solutions that were available to providers, it felt like there was an important opportunity to build something that was focused and lightweight that could help providers know in real time where their patients are.

It seems as though it should be easy to send ADT notifications. Why wasn’t that happening already and what allowed you to turn that into a significant business?

A big part of the complexity in building this business is in the need for broad market adoption. Let’s say you’re an IPA. You get your list of patients and you want to know where they’re going. There may be 10 hospitals that represent a majority of them, and then there’s a long tail of other hospitals. On top of that, there’s 300 skilled nursing facilities, 200 home health agencies, 50 FQHCs and community health centers, a bunch of LTACs, and a spattering of other community providers. That’s a big list.

Building connectivity to all of those participants requires not only the technical implementation, but engagement and a reason to do this. You need to engage them not just as data senders or data providers. For any of those sites that’s a referral site for an IPA,  you need to engage them as data providers, but also as participants in the community to engage in the coordination of care with those other endpoints. That’s hard to do because it’s easier to sell a technology to one group and not worry about all the other places that they’re going to be a part of.

Our solution is about that. It’s about building the network, building the community for everybody to engage. Designing something that is light enough and gets broad participation and lift very quickly without being intrusive and with organizations that create constituency groups to do it was part of the challenge. How do you create something that’s elegant that still gets buy-in across the continuum of care, where sometimes there’s competitive dynamics that block information sharing, but still break down some of those barriers for folks to work with one another?

Who pays you, what sharing agreements do providers sign, and do they have to get patient consent?

There’s no cost to send the data. We only charge to receive information, what we call it pings. You pay to receive pings. That’s the real-time notifications.

There’s a lot of other bells and whistles to the service that I’m not describing now, but fundamentally that’s how it works from a business model perspective. It’s lightweight, it’s low cost, and it gets everybody in the community connected as both the sender and a receiver. You can join the community as a sender. You don’t necessarily need to receive, and in that world, it would be free.

For patient consent, we adhere to whatever the state rules are. In Vermont, for instance, we have a blacklist of patients who have opted out of data sharing and we will make sure not to share information on them. What we’re sharing isn’t very rich clinical information — we’re not sending lab results or behavioral health information. We provide the notifications. That could be on patients with behavioral health disease. The fact that they’re at the emergency room is what we would tell them, not necessarily that they’re there with a flare-up of a substance abuse issue or anything like that. The fact that they’re in the emergency room is something that we would be able to notify behavioral health providers about.

My point is that it’s a light level of data sharing. We seek consent in any instance where we have to. We have our own strict policies around how long is one considered a covered entity and how long is one considered a provider so that we’re not sharing data with people who aren’t allowed to see it.

As a provider, what’s my workflow when I get a ping?

There’s a lot of variability to how any given end user is going to act on a notification. They’re further variability in terms of the destination of where the patient is receiving care that will determine how they act on it.

For instance, if I’m an ACO care coordinator and I receive a notification that a patient is in the emergency room, a workflow may be in place to call the emergency room provider and call the patient to make sure that emergency room provider is aware of any case management services that may be available for the patient. Just to engage them in care coordination or case management upon discharge. They may also let the emergency room provider know that there are other supports for them in case they don’t want to admit the patient and want to take them out of the emergency room, to the extent that that’s an option for the patient and the emergency room provider feels like that’s the right thing to do.

If the provider receives a notification of a hospital discharge, they may initiate their medication reconciliation workflows or their transitions of care management workflows to get them in for a follow-up visit with a PCP or a specialist. If they get a notification that a patient is in a skilled nursing facility, they may have a regular rounding schedule or a clock that sets the timeline around when they should reach out to manage the length of stay at the SNF, largely to make sure that they’re supported with home care if that’s what’s required after the rehab period at the SNF. Again, that will be a function of the workflows.

They may want to make sure upon discharge that the patient is getting to the right post-acute care facility that’s part of a preferred network or deemed to be a high-quality provider. Another example is that if you’re a skilled nursing facility, your patient leaves your SNF, and you’re paying to receive the service when the patient bounces back to the ED, you would get notified. You may use the notification to call the emergency room to let the emergency room provider know that the patient is eligible to come right back to the SNF without a three-day hospital stay, for instance. That way, the emergency room provider can send them back into the community as opposed to admitting them to the hospital.

I can go through a long list of how our users are acting on the notifications. Home health agencies may go to the patient’s home on Day One to set up home care. They’ll show up on Day Three and nobody’s there because the patient’s caregiver never told the home care provider that they went back to the hospital. So the home health agency may use it to verify that the patient is still at home and that they can continue to deliver services. Or if they go to the emergency room, they can reach out to the emergency room and let them know that the patient has home care if they want to send them back out into the community.

Is it always providers who are at risk that buy your service or would it ever be an insurance company?

There are case management services that are being offered by insurance companies that want to initiate their workflows when their patients show up at the hospital and the emergency room. They may use their prior authorization processes as a data source, but a lot of times the ER data is not readily available on a real-time basis because the billing clerks for the emergency room will batch bill or do them later, so it won’t be as real time as an ADT message. We have some health plan case management services that are receiving the notifications.

In the example I gave you of a home health agency getting a ping, they’re not at risk, necessarily. They are just providing their home care services. Being able to know the patient’s whereabouts allows the home care provider to deliver a high quality of care.

Other groups that are interested in our services are homeless shelters and social service agencies that are providing case management. This is the big reason that I started this company. At CMS, a lot of our work was to bridge the community providers with the acute care setting. I worked a lot on some of the preventative services as well, around getting social supports — whether it’s housing supports or Meals on Wheels — also included within the care coordination workflows. The emergency room is a vulnerable time for the patient and an opportunity to engage them in their follow-up to make sure that they’re getting the right care.

What did Silicon Valley investors see in the company that made them want to invest $40 million?

I’d love to ask them the same question. [laughs] I’d love for you to ask them that question as well.

We are entirely mission-driven. We are maniacally focused on connecting providers to seamlessly coordinate patient care. Patients get care from a lot of providers — seven providers on average for a Medicare patient — and they’re across a lot of unaffiliated and disparate organizations. That results in a lot of cost, a lot of excess use, and redundant procedures. That’s the value of coordination.The work that needs to happen to prevent some of that redundant work is not complicated. It’s straightforward.

What we’ve done is design a solution that meets the provider community where they are, with a straightforward, low-cost, non-intrusive, easy-to-use solution that connects them in a way that they haven’t experienced in the past. We think that the investor community is excited about us bringing our services and spreading our mission to the rest of the country and we’re thrilled to be able to do that.

Of the syndicate that we formed here, Todd Cozzens of Leerink Transformation Partners is extraordinary. The folks at Andreesen Horowitz – Vijay and Jeff Jordan – are just incredible people. What we’re excited about is the opportunity to bring the best of two very different approaches to building healthcare IT businesses. There’s the Silicon Valley approach of hyper growth and product and network effects, which is a big component of what we do, but we are serving the provider community. We don’t make any allusions about the fact that the workflows are complicated. I’m a healthcare person. I’ve worked in the healthcare industry for over a decade. I’m not a Silicon Valley tech outsider coming into this industry.

I’m very familiar with businesses like the ones that Todd has built and the folks at Leerink have built. There’s a certain discipline to focusing hard on delivering a clear ROI to your provider organization customer, being very sensitive to the regulatory environment, and making sure that we are hyper focused on the integrity of our data and patient consent. Not just not trying to hack our way through an industry that is designed the way that it is for good reason. This is patients that we’re talking about. There’s a good reason for the bureaucracy. There’s a good reason for the slower processes and change cycle.

That said, there is some wisdom from the Valley around a product orientation. A real love for creating outstanding user experiences. I just love learning from the folks in Silicon Valley, specifically Andreesen Horowitz. They’re outstanding.

It is bringing together multiple worlds to create what I think is going to be a better company. There’s aspects of Silicon Valley that healthcare can benefit from, and there’s aspects from healthcare that Silicon Valley needs to learn. I think we’re going to be able to bring both of that into this organization.

How do you see the company evolving, especially if interoperability starts to encroach on what you’re doing?

I hope that we are able to see a lot more progress on interoperability. Whether it’s through CommonWell, Carequality, or some of the other efforts happening with the established networks that may exist out there doing a lot more around clinical interoperability. I would be excited if some of that work accelerated because what that means is that there’s a switchboard or a network pulling together all of these disparate systems. Network alone doesn’t solve the problem. It needs to be network plus workflow, a really important transaction that’s delivered in a way that engages the end user uniquely.

Right now, to the extent we can rent another network, we’re certainly more than happy to do that. We partner with a lot of health information exchanges in markets where they are established and stakeholder organizations that have pulled together the data. We’re very good at taking that information and bringing it to life by getting users to adopt and love and tend to lighten the experience of using our application to solve a very important problem. But in the markets where there isn’t any network that’s the chassis, we will build it, and we have done that in many markets.

Both the network and workflow need to exist for this particular problem that we’re solving to be done well. If interoperability were to make a huge amount of progress, then that would be exciting for us, to be able to help realize the vision of the problems we’re trying to solve in healthcare that interoperability will facilitate.

Do you have any final thoughts?

I think the quote is, "I would have written a shorter book if I had more time." Building an elegant solution that seems simple requires a lot of deep understanding of the constituent organizations within the healthcare ecosystem. We’re proud that after three years, we’ve been able get to this place where what we are doing works.

We’re in six states. We have 44 more to go. We’re going to connect the whole country. We’re excited to go as fast as we can and support provider organizations out there to achieve some of the aims that they have for their organizations around improving care and lowering costs.

Morning Headlines 1/11/17

January 10, 2017 Headlines 7 Comments

Biden, Obama attack lack of meaningful use

Politico quotes Vice-President Biden as saying “you guys in the health care industry are the least sharing people in the world,” going on to say that he’d like to have the Secret Service lock the CEO’s of the major EHR vendors in a room and keep them there until he got answers.

Cleveland Clinic doctor’s anti-vaccine column: Q&A explainer

The VP of Content for Cleveland.com, the website that inadvertently ran an anti-vaccine piece by a Cleveland Clinic medical director, says that the Clinic’s communications team was setup as a trusted publisher and uploaded the controversial op-ed on its own without oversight or warning. and  Cleveland Clinic’s ability to publish articles to the site has now been revoked.

Iatric Systems Announces New FlexButtonTM Application to Bring Third-Party Patient Data into the EHR Workflow

Iatric launches FlexButton, an EHR bolt-on solution that pulls relevant patient data from other EHR systems into clinical workflows with the push of a button.

Siri, Am I About to Have a Heart Attack?

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, hedge fund manager Andy Kessler blames EHR vendors, Epic in particular, for the lack of EHR interoperability in healthcare.

News 1/11/17

January 10, 2017 News 12 Comments

Top News

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Politico quotes an obviously frustrated Vice-President Biden as saying healthcare industry players are the least-willing of all to share information, leading him to threaten to lock the CEOs of big EHR vendors in a room until they hear his message. “You think I’m joking. I’m deadly earnest and deadly frustrated as a lot of you are.”

Meanwhile his boss, President Obama, also said in an interview this week that EHRs are his biggest Affordable Care Act disappointment, explaining that healthcare still runs on mountains of paperwork, patients are sent bills they don’t understand, and doctors and nurses are wasting time entering data.

The president slipped in referring to “digitize” as “digitalize,” which means to dose patients with the heart drug digoxin.


Reader Comments

From Tabulator: “Re: the HIStalk Decisions section. It would be helpful to know if any of the product switches are due to an acquisition.” I don’t know that Definitive Healthcare has that information from their hospital user conversations, but I expect they’ll start providing it if so since you mentioned it.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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You can still sign up for HIStalkapalooza, but not for much longer. Some comments left by folks who want to come:

  • HIStalkapalooza, Still the place to be seen, The home of the stars, Time for drinking and dancing, and schmoozing with czars.
  • At some point, HIStalk will stop taking applications and IBM Watson Health will just predict who should receive an invitation. Until then, hope to see you soon.
  • Glad it’s back in Orlando. In Vegas, half the crowd left before the end, which is a disgrace to the event and the band. Pretty sure I have been last person out of every HIStalkapalooza ever.
  • What a party! The bash was probably responsible for a few HIMSS blisters — from my dancin’ shoes — but they were welcome ones (nicer than the kind developed from trudging around the exhibit hall).
  • I didn’t attend HIMSS last year and the one thing I missed most was HIStalkapalooza.
  • I only get to dance once a year! After Histalkapalooza, I turn into a pumpkin. Yours, Cinderella.

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Mrs. P says her Kentucky kindergartners are putting the tablets we provided in funding her DonorsChoose grant request to good use:

My kindergarten students use them in partner activities and individual activities working on letters, letter sounds, rhyming, reading fluency, counting, number identification, shapes, colors, following directions and basic math like addition and subtraction. With these hands on tools my students are becoming more responsible and independent, which is an incredible skill for students to master at a young age … Many have seen these but never had their own opportunities to use them or truly benefit from them … Some of my students have even come to school wanting to share things they found and learned at home using the apps and games I have told the parents about. Again, I couldn’t be more grateful and appreciative of this incredible gift and the sparks of excitement for learning you have helped create!

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Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Harris Healthcare. The 900-employee company’s health IT brands operate individually but are interoperable, including such names as QuadraMed EMPI indexing and cleanup, QCPR EHR, AcuityPlus staffing, Enterprise Scheduling, Enterprise Self-Service (patient access and engagement), ERP, RCM, TeamNotes clinical team documentation, and specialty solutions for the ED and perioperative suite, practice management, public health and health education, and several that are specific to the Canadian market. Analytics and business intelligence are provided at every level and the company offers professional and technical services. Thanks to Harris Healthcare for supporting HIStalk. 

A clarification on Bibb Medical Center’s (AL) August 2016 go-live on Athenahealth as reported earlier this week in the “Decisions” section. While BMC is a previous Prognosis Innovation Healthcare EHR user, they dropped that system some years ago and went back to paper, so technically Athenahealth didn’t replace Prognosis. 


Webinars

January 18 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “Modernizing Quality Improvement Through Clinical Process Measurement.” Sponsored by LogicStream Health. Presenters: Peter Chang, MD, CMIO, Tampa General Hospital; Brita Hansen, MD, CHIO, Hennepin County Medical Center. The presenters will describe how they implemented successful quality governance programs, engaged with their health system stakeholders, and delivered actionable information to clinical leadership and front-line clinicians. Q&A will follow.

January 26 (Thursday) 1:00 ET. “Jump Start Your Care Coordination Program: 6 Strategies for Delivering Efficient, Effective Care.” Sponsored by Healthwise. Presenters: Jim Rogers, RN, RPSGT, director of healthcare solutions, Persistent Systems; Jason Burum, chief client officer, Healthwise. This webinar will explain how to implement a patient-centered care coordination program that will increase quality as well as margins. It will provide real-world examples of how organizations used care coordination to decrease readmission rates, ED visits, and costs.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Telemedicine software vendor SnapMD raises another $3.25 million in its Series A round, increasing its total to $9.15 million.

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Clinical surveillance software vendor PeraHealth raises $14 million in funding.

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Wireless heart failure monitoring platform vendor Endotronix enters into a $12 million financing agreement. The company has raised $34 million in funding through its July 2016 Series C round. 

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Accretive Health renames itself R1 RCM, ditching a memorable name (although stench-ridden due to widely publicized data theft, heavy-handed collections practices, and earnings restatement) in favor of something generic and less Google-friendly.


Sales

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Duncan Regional Hospital (OK) will upgrade to Meditech’s Web EHR.


People

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Intelligent Medical Objects promotes Eric Rose, MD to VP of terminology management.

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CHIME and HIMSS name Children’s Health (TX) SVP/CIO Pam Arora as their John E. Gall, Jr. CIO of the Year.

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CareSync hires Joy Powell, CPA (Healthways) as COO; Mike Hofmeister (Allscripts) as sales SVP; and Allison Guley, JD (All Children’s Hospital) as general counsel. Former COO Amy Gleason, RN has taken a new role as chief of staff.


Announcements and Implementations

Iatric Systems launches FlexButton, which allows users of several EHRs to view relevant patient information stored in other systems as part of their workflow.


Government and Politics

National Coordinator Vindell Washington, MD and FDA Commissioner Rob Califf, MD – both of whom were fairly recently appointed to their government roles and had expressed hope that they would be allowed to stay on – will leave their jobs after failing to convince the Trump administration to retain them.


Privacy and Security

From DataBreaches.net:

  • Presence Health (IL) will pay a $475,000 HIPAA settlement for taking too long to notify 836 affected patients that it lost paper-based OR schedules in October 2013.
  • Security researchers find another unsecured MongoDB healthcare database, with the sleep disorder records of patients at Womack Army Medical Center (NC) exposed to Internet searches.

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HHS OCR notifies Virginia State Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (who is a nurse and a physician) that she violated HIPAA by sending political emails to her patients during her 2015 campaign, then deleted the information from a campaign computer when she realized that she had violated the privacy of her patients. HHS OCR says she won’t be fined or penalized since she tried to mitigate the damage.

A California Department of Insurance investigation concludes that the 2015 breach of insurer Anthem, which exposed the information of 79 million people, was perpetrated by a hacker hired by an unnamed foreign government. The company will pay $260 million for security improvements and remedial action even though the report says its advance preparation was reasonable and its remediation plan were sufficient to allow its fast, effective response. The breach was caused when an Anthem employee opened a phishing email.

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Marijuana dispensaries all over the country delay appointments as “seed to sale” tracking software from MJ Freeway – whose use is mandated by several states — is apparently taken offline by hackers. The site of the vendor whose systems are used by 500 dispensaries is still down.


Technology

A Wall Street Journal article says Apple is not only failing to produce much innovation these days, it has made itself a follower to Amazon, Google, and Microsoft in the all-important rollout of artificial intelligence despite its own groundbreaking rollout of Siri five years ago. The article warns, “AI-powered voice assistants can directly replace interactions with mobile devices. It isn’t that screens will go away completely, but screens unattached to objects that can listen, talk back, and operate with autonomy will rapidly become obsolete.”

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Accenture names its health technology challenge winners:

  • QuiO (smart home injection devices and monitoring)
  • CaptureProof (a medical camera for creating a visual patient narrative)
  • UE Life Sciences (a hand-held breast lesion detection system for health agencies)

Other

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The New York Times profiles Nuna, a San Francisco-based, 110-employee startup that has combined the Medicaid databases from the disparate systems of individual states into a single cloud-based platform of de-identified data that researchers can use to explore patient behavior. The company has raised $90 million in funding. Co-founder Jini Kim — a former product manager for the failed Google Health and a participant in the fixing of Healthcare.gov – calls the company her “love letter to Medicaid” because her autistic brother’s care is paid for by the program. The article notes that nearly half of the children born in the US receive Medicaid benefits.

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Video artist ZDoggMD – aka Zubin Damania, MD, founder and CEO of members-only primary care practice Turntable Health – shuts down the so-called Healthcare 3.0 practice following the failure of the Nevada Health Co-Op in 2015 that led to loss of insurance for the practice’s patients. It had also received funding from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh as part of his downtown Las Vegas revitalization project. Damania says Turntable Health will live on as an “ethos, brand, and movement” without a physical presence, noting that he’ll still be selling company apparel. Its EHR will be used internally by its partner Iora Health.

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Twitter suspends the account of pharma bad boy Martin Shkreli after he announces that he has a crush on a Teen Vogue reporter, adding a Photoshopped photo of the woman and her husband in which Shkreli replaced the husband’s head with his own. He said it was innocent fun and that the woman had harassed him previously, then urged her followers to report him to Twitter when he responded. He also invited her to attend the presidential inauguration with him, which she declined by saying that she would rather eat her own organs.

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Abington Memorial Hospital (PA) will pay $510,000 to settle a Department of Justice investigation into the theft of 35,000 doses of controlled substances by a now-jailed pharmacist who manipulated the hospital’s electronic drug tracking system. The hospital has also spent $2 million upgrading its drug inventory systems.

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Research and Markets apparently foresees a very small RTLS market.

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Cleveland.com, the Cleveland Plain Dealer affiliate that ran the firestorm article on vaccine preservatives written by the medical director of Cleveland Clinic’s wellness center, says the Clinic’s corporate communications director electronically published the piece without notifying the site so it could be reviewed, then pulled it down after negative social media reaction, surprising the site’s editor both times. The site has since rescinded the ability of Cleveland Clinic to manage its own content. A reader comment says the Clinic “runs this town and all the media and politicians do as they say” in noting how many former journalists now work for the Clinic and the fact that the site allows some contributors to post content directly. Meanwhile, PCPs are already dreading the amount of time they’ll have to spend explaining vaccines to patients all over again.

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A Johns Hopkins bioethicist describes his opioid addiction that followed several post-accident surgeries, saying physicians are inadequately trained on narcotic prescribing (they receive less pain management training than Canadian veterinary students) and helping their patients wean off the drugs. He says pain management specialists see their jobs as prescribing and not following their patients to manage withdrawal, while the fragmented healthcare system makes it unclear who “owns” a patient at any given time. 

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A Wall Street Journal opinion piece written by a former hedge fund operator singles out Epic as being primarily responsible for lack of EHR interoperability, calling the company “chief obfuscator.” He notes a friend’s personal experience in trying and failing to have their hospital records sent from Boston to Miami, Epic’s non-participation in CommonWell, his claim that Epic charges four cents per message sent (“even Apple isn’t that greedy,” he says), and his own failure to retrieve his Epic hospital records in any form other than PDF. He concludes, “Make firms like Epic look at interoperability as an incremental profit center rather than an opening for competitors. The dream of smart machines crunching health info is real. Don’t let the dream walk with paper.” Everything seems simple when you don’t understand them to any degree of detail, so my best and gentlest counterpoint would be this – have any Epic hospitals exchanged information with each other or provided electronic information to patients? If so, then it’s not Epic’s problem that his two anecdotal experiences weren’t positive.

A hospital pharmacist’s letter to the editor of P&T magazine makes mistakes in trying to explain interoperability challenges from the pharmacy department’s perspective:

  • It says the main cause of data siloes is that hospital EHRs use non-relational databases. Not true – plenty of systems use relational databases and that underlying technology is not at all a barrier to interoperability regardless. The pharmacy department wants to extract EHR information to create their own pharmacy-specific applications, which is not what most people think of as interoperability. It would be easy but not necessarily technologically sound to query a live EHR database in real time, which is why HL7 interfaces were developed for systems such as automated dispensing cabinets, pharmacy drug tracking systems, and robotic packaging technology. I understand the frustration in not having easy access to live data, but it’s not because of a sinister vendor plot.
  • The author states, “We prefer to stay with our current EMR to avoid going through the pain of a conversion.” I think his hospital (St. Joseph’s in Irvine, CA) runs Meditech, but I’m not certain, and I’m not sure the hospital’s failure to move to a different system (of similar architecture) is based on conversion avoidance.
  • The author talks about Microsoft Amalga, which was spun off and renamed under Caradigm nearly four years ago and no longer has any Microsoft ownership.

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Weird News Andy snickers at the story he titles “Hospitals from Mars.” Candy manufacturer Mars is buying publicly VCA – which operates 800 pet hospitals and the Camp Bow Wow doggie day care chain – for $7.7 billion. WNA wonders if acquiring the company, which trades under the symbol WOOF, is a conflict of interest since chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Probably not — I was surprised to learn  that Mars already owns pet brands Banfield Pet Hospital, Eukanuba, Iams, Pedigree, Whiskas, and several others. Banfield is the pet equivalent of a chain of medical practices, employing 4,000 veterinarians (around 9 percent of the total number of US vets who treat pets). Another Mars business offers pet DNA testing. Those of us working in people healthcare can only envy the efficiency, aligned incentives, effectiveness, and patient satisfaction of our animal-treating peers. They are also better EHR users and are better at population health management in a competitive environment.


Sponsor Updates

  • Optimum Healthcare IT posts a white paper titled “Avoiding Common EHR Implementation Mistakes.”
  • PokitDok achieves EHNAC cloud-enabled and outsourced services accreditation for health information exchange.
  • Arcadia Healthcare Solutions hosts its annual users conference in Boston.
  • Besler Consulting releases a new podcast, “A Preview of Healthcare Policy in 2017.”
  • ONS Connect features Carevive Chief Clinical Officer Carrie Stricker, RN.
  • Meditech posts a case study titled “Avera Uses Pharmacogenomics, Meditech EHR to Drive Precision Medicine.”
  • Nashville Medical News include Cumberland Consulting Group CEO Brian Cahill in its list of Nashville healthcare leaders.
  • Dimensional Insight will exhibit at the Muse Executive Institute January 15-17 in Newport Coast, CA.
  • Healthgrades compiles a 2017 industry insider list for hospital marketers.

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Morning Headlines 1/10/17

January 9, 2017 Headlines No Comments

St. Jude releases cyber updates for heart devices after US probe

St. Jude Medical, which was recently acquired by Abbott Laboratories for $25 billion, releases a software patch intended to address cybersecurity vulnerabilities discovered in its heart implants. The vulnerabilities were made public several months ago by short-selling firm Muddy Waters and security firm MedSec, and nearly derailed the acquisition.

ICD-10 Section

CMS reports that the 2017 ICD-10 code update will prevent it from processing data reported for certain quality measures during Q4 2016, and as a result says that it will not apply PQRS payment adjustments to those affected.

President Obama talks to Vox about Obamacare’s future

In an interview with Vox, President Obama discusses his disappointment with the pace of digitalizing and sharing medical records, saying “it’s a lot slower than I would have expected; some of it has to do with the fact that it’s decentralized and everyone has different systems. In some cases, you have economic incentives against making the system better; you have service providers — people make money on keeping people’s medical records — so making it easier for everyone to access medical records means that there’s some folks who could lose business. And that’s turned out to be more complicated than I expected.”

Sylvia Burwell Remarks at the National Press Club

In her farewell speech, departing HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell warns against repealing ACA without having a comprehensive replacement in place.

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