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Morning Headlines 5/15/14

May 14, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Royal Devon edges towards Epic

In England, Epic is named vendor of choice at Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. Financial details were not disclosed, but an insider familiar with the process explained,  “Epic presents incredibly well to clinicians, when they’ve seen it they just don’t want anything else, but affordability is a huge issue.” Epic’s total project costs at Cambridge University, its first and only UK site, came in at $335 million over 10-years.

Health IT Summit: Halamka predicts only 20% will achieve MU Stage 2

During a speech at the iHT2 Health IT Summit, BIDMC CIO John Halamka, MD predicts that only 20 percent of hospitals will attest for Stage 2 Meaningful Use this year.

Big Data Treasure Trove From Routine Medical Checkups

The Wall Street Journal reports on several recent clinical research projects that use retrospective EHR data analysis rather than clinical trials. In some instances, the findings resulted in new medical discoveries, and the development of new clinical tools.

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May 14, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Health IT from the CIO’s Chair 5/14/14

May 14, 2014 Darren Dworkin 7 Comments

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

Hockey and Health IT Innovation

I grew up in Montreal, Canada, so hockey is in my blood. With the playoffs in full swing, I thought I would write my post themed to my hometown sport.


(There was no reason to include this photo, it just seemed like a fun thing to do.)

Innovation is on everyone’s mind in healthcare today. Much of that focus is either directly or indirectly tied to IT. As healthcare models continue to evolve, many believe that given the rapid pace expected, IT innovations will be needed to fuel the change.

As health systems prepared in the past to meet the demand for EMRs, what will they need to do differently to meet this growing expectation of delivering innovation?

Using hockey as a backdrop, here are eight themes.

  1. Learn to skate. Learning the fundamentals is clichéd advice for a reason. In health IT, this means implementing an electronic medical record. EMRs can be big, complicated projects and can lead to great things, but having an EMR only means you can skate. It is the starting point to becoming a hockey player. Innovation starts after the go-live.
  2. You have to lose a lot to win. The teams with the best regular season records won just 56 of 82 games this season, which means they lost 34 percent of the time. To innovate, you have to be prepared to fail. Hospital cultures are not set up up for this mindset. On the other hand, new entrepreneurial companies are often forced to pivot to new models to stay alive — it is in their DNA by design.
  3. Icing is a delay-of-game penalty. Delays or failing to make a decision will not work in today’s rapidly changing healthcare environment. Yesterday’s news was the need for change. Today’s news is improving our velocity of change. Health IT innovation needs to be supported around a model adoption. This is what a health system team can do best. Others who are better equipped to iterate might need to create the innovations themselves.
  4. Three referees are on the ice during the whole game. Like hockey, healthcare has rules, regulations, and operating procedures. They are in place to help protect everyone. But that does not mean you can’t play aggressively, increase your tempo, and skate hard. Playing hard also does not mean the rules don’t matter. Health systems are experts at operating procedures. Find a way to be part of the process without feeling the need to own it.
  5. The team is more that just a star player. Healthcare is no doubt a team sport, but sometimes the team needs to viewed as being beyond the four walls of the hospital. The innovation team should not be viewed as just employees, but also all of your great partners. If you don’t have great partners, it is time to make that a priority.
  6. If you can’t make the shot, pass. Making the great shot is often about being in position. If you are not in the right position, then pass to someone who is. Some of the best hospital IT departments I have seen are amazing at implementing and understanding the complex workflows of healthcare. That does not mean they are best positioned to develop new software.
  7. Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. What has worked in the past for healthcare and health IT will not necessarily work in the future. The puck has moved.
  8. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. Innovation in health IT is all about taking the shot (and the risk.)

Game on!

1-29-2014 12-54-46 PM

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

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May 14, 2014 Darren Dworkin 7 Comments

HIStalk Interviews Sai Raya, PhD, CEO, ScImage

May 14, 2014 Interviews 2 Comments

Sai Raya, PhD is founder and CEO of ScImage of Los Altos, CA.


Tell me about yourself and the company.

I’ve been in medical imaging for a long time. For 30 years, from my university days at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I started a little company for 3D imaging workstations and that kind of stuff. 

After that company, I started this company with a different mindset, with zero investment from any external people. I wanted to take one customer at a time and build a good ecosystem with customers. That’s what we have done.


What effect have publicly traded conglomerates and startups had on the healthcare IT market?

The fundamental problem with quarter-to-quarter financial reporting is that middle managers are forced to sell whatever they can, say whatever they can, and show the numbers. In the process, they have to go out and acquire new companies and change the solutions and whatnot.

Over time, they are working with one hospital. Maybe in about 10 years, there may be a couple of forklift updates. They acquire Company A and they have a solution for that. Then they acquire a new company, so they take the Company A solution out and put the second company’s solution in. In the process, hospitals are paying more. They don’t have the continuity in terms of what the hospital would like to do with data mining and all that stuff. 

Small companies, on the other hand, can’t survive without proper financial backing. It is a competitive world. 

From the lessons that I learned in my first venture, it’s very clear to me that the only way to build a solid company with a good financial foundation and bring that equilibrium is to have customer loyalty, and then continue the same solution over and over again. That’s why we have customers still with us since 1996. We never did the forklift update. The programs that we rolled in 2000 still work fine. That’s why there’s a kind of loyalty and a relationship between vendor and the hospitals and the physicians. That’s what we’re trying to enjoy.


It’s tough being an early adopter, like those pioneers who wanted to get rid of film and paper and move to PACS and EMRs before those systems were ready. Did hospitals jump on board too early?

Absolutely. Some people jumped on board without much thought. Somebody came and said, if you go to digital, you will save 50 cents per film or something like that. But first generation is first generation. They chose certain solutions. 

Now we may be in the third generation. But in the grand scheme of things, digitization of the enterprise is just the first phase of what is going to happen to this healthcare IT in general. Whatever digitization that we’re trying to do these days, it is not dead yet. We’re maybe 70 percent of the way there. 

This becomes kind of a building block for the future healthcare IT, where information and imaging have to co-exist. There cannot be any boundaries between these two things. A patient record is a patient record. It has to have everything that patient has ever done.


How do you see the market shaking out as imaging systems and EMRs try to figure out that co-existence?

If you went to something like RSNA in 2007, everybody was a PACS vendor. Everybody was changing film. But if you went to the latest RSNA, some companies went away and some got merged. A lot of consolidation is going on. In the process, certain hospitals learned something and some did not. 

Images are growing. The image pointer that’s in the EMR seems to be the buzzword right now. That will go on for some time.


What are the most important workflows that an imaging system needs to address?

When we started this product we call PICOM, the fundamental point that I was trying to make was, if you go to any department — doesn’t matter, radiology or other — you see images and information. You have images and then lots of requisition sheets and observations and tech notes and physician notes and all kinds of things.

We wanted to create a platform that combines images and information together. Of course, we’re talking data in terms of components in the departments. We’re not talking EMR kind of systems.

For some of them, we had standards like DICOM and document exchange kind of things. Others we did not. We started acquiring them in their native format and put that solution together.

These days, if you go to any kind of imaging system, you have people talking about not just images, but information. Once this total data package is available, it needs to be seamlessly available to the front-end portal that the physician is going to interact with. There’s a lot of work to be done there. In my opinion, that is going to be the key for people that are involved with imaging.


How often do physicians who aren’t radiologists want to see the original image versus the interpretation from the radiologist?

We are coming from a multi-departmental type of company. We treat both radiology and cardiology together. In fact, we deal with radiology, cardiology, OB-GYN, and orthopedics all together. That’s one product for us.

Any patient that goes to the hospital many times, you get the ECG done more than you get chest film done. Images and waveforms are all together. In the case of ECG-type studies, as soon as the physician gets some kind of test result for the patient and before the physician wants to consult with the patient, they do want to take a look at these waveforms to tell them exactly what’s going on. 

Modalities like ECG where the waveforms and interpretation are together – they are bound to open those kinds of things. Similarly these days, mainly for the orthopedic things, they generally use the images, but if it is a big CT study, I don’t think they’ll be using it.


What’s the status and challenges of sharing images across organizations?

The basic problem is there’s no universal patient identifier. We have our own way of doing it, but fundamentally it’s exchanging information from one PACS system to another system or one ordering system.

We created what is known as a universal MPI translator. That’s what we do. Right now, 20 percent of our business is interoperability, where we have to pull and push information from disparate systems and consolidate the reading and that kind of stuff. 

That seems to be the name of the game for the next two years before somebody has to come up with a standard. If that somebody is the government, it’s not going to happen any time soon. [laughs]


What are the most pressing issues you are seeing from providers?

On one side, it’s the image life cycle management. It’s well defined and many companies have good solutions, including us.

But in the whole process, the diagnostic physician contributes the most complex and important content. The diagnostic physician’s impressions need to be distributed everywhere, wherever it’s needed. In fact, even for Meaningful Use, we have to take certain key measurements or key statements that need to be delivered to the EMR in a separate channel. 

These are all the challenges. We have doubled up a good set of tools to do those things. Of course other people have also done that. But in the process, we’re still learning. 

I see the importance of  driving the subset of information from the diagnostic report and making that information co-exist with the image pointers or images and making them travel across the enterprise or make them travel outside the enterprise. That is the challenge.


Is there anything that’s being discussed that would allow images to be searched on qualities that weren’t noted by the interpretation, like the content of the image itself that might interest a researcher?

We have a lot of metadata in these images. If you want to search by image type or study type, it is possible. But the quality of the image, still it’s a visual perception, and a trained eye is the only one that seems to be doing a good job in terms of image quality audit.

But in terms of searchable images using, for example, something like “mitral valve prolapse,” that is easy to search and get information. It depends on the system. Some systems can do it. 

In our system, we maintain an outcomes database and analytics and other things that we take very seriously. Every data object that comes into our system has the metadata latched on. It’s embedded right there in the image itself. It becomes easy to share that information or maybe make it available as an API for other systems to search.


With the rise of the vendor-neutral archive, what data types are people wanting to store that you wouldn’t have expected five years ago?

That’s funny. In 2000, we started an online “PACS in the cloud” type of environment called PICOM Online. Those days it was not cloud — it was an America Online-type of company name, so we called ourselves PICOM Online. [laughs] 

My fundamental thing there was exactly this. It’s not just images. You’ve got to get all your documents, your spreadsheets, your PowerPoint presentations, and your business documents or billing statements — whatever is needed. They all get packed up into one object. It’s called study object. That study gets archived. The intelligence on the back end of the archiving system should handle based on how the client is interacting with it.

That’s exactly what we have done. After 14 years, more than 100 hospitals are using our online cloud solution. It’s a complete PACS, including reporting, voice recognition, and all kinds of crazy things. Some of the big companies these days are now finally opening their eyes and looking at the importance of delivering the documents with the images.

But 80 percent of the industry is still DICOM in, DICOM out, DICOM in, DICOM out. That’s all they talk about.


What’s the future of the industry or the company or both over the next few years?

Interoperability and making the image pointers universal. That’s one thing. 

Security seems to be the biggest factor now, in terms of how securely we can encrypt this data and make it available to the right people at the right place at the right time and have the complete audit trails going with it? That is the key technology that we as an imaging provider needs to provide to the EMR companies.

No matter what, the biggest companies like Epic, when it comes to imaging intensified activity, it’s going to be with PACS vendors and image workflow vendors. We collect the data and then we have to make this data properly available to these people. That is a growing opportunity for us and I think it’s going to be there for a long time to come.

There’s going to be major consolidation and all that stuff, but still lots of hospitals don’t like this cookie cutter type of an approach. They would like to have customizable solutions that works for their hospital. That’s the opportunity smaller companies like us have.


Do you have any final thoughts?

We like what we are doing and we’re having fun. Being a private company with a good balance is a nice thing to do. We’re enjoying our little company.

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May 14, 2014 Interviews 2 Comments

Morning Headlines 5/14/14

May 13, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

McKesson Reports Fiscal 2014 Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year Results

McKesson reports Q4 and full-year results: revenue for the quarter ended up 25 percent, at $30.5 billion, and dusted EPS climbed to $2.55 vs. $1.48, beat analyst forecasts on both.

How Massachusetts screwed up Obamacare

Massachusett’s poor performing health insurance exchange was the result of a systemic failure to communicate between three state bureaucracies that were all issuing change orders to CGI, the lead contractor responsible for the site. MIT health economist Jon Gruber, who is a member of the state health exchange’s board of directors, says "There wasn’t a single point of management," Gruber says. "It was poorly set up and it was this horrible combination where the contractor would get different orders, and would do none of them."

The Advisory Board’s CEO Robert Musslewhite on Q4 2014 Results – Earnings Call Transcript

During The Advisory Board’s Q4 earnings call, CEO Robert Musselwhite reports that the company acquired HealthPost, a physician search and schedule tool similar to ZocDoc, for $25 million.

Medtronic exec: Google looms large as next great rival

Medtronic’s resident technology scout Dr. Stephen Oesterle predicts that 20 years from now Google will be a dominant player in the medical device industry, competing with the likes of Boston Scientific and Covidien.

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May 13, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

News 5/14/14

May 13, 2014 News 7 Comments

Top News



The Phoenix VA hospital that is charged with creating a secret waitlist to hid months-long treatment delays waited until the last minute to implement the electronic waitlist system whose VA rollout started in 2001. According to a former VA official, “Phoenix was one of the very last to deploy. Transition from a paper-based system to the electronic one was not handled well. From what I hear, there was a great deal of resistance from staff as well.” The electronic system was introduced to increase transparency and reduce paper-based mistakes.

Reader Comments

From KD: “Re: Epic. I heard a rumor they will buying InterSystems. Any chance you can get the lowdown?” I haven’t heard anything and my one possible source hasn’t responded. I’m highly skeptical. Arguments for: Epic customers pay a lot for InterSystems Cache’ licenses and Epic and its customers are heavily dependent on that company as a result. Arguments against: almost everything else. The companies have been working collaboratively together for decades, their founders are billionaires and don’t need the money, Epic has never done an acquisition and that would be a huge one, and both companies generally stick to their knitting (the exception being a couple of InterSystems application acquisitions years ago.) I can’t imagine this is true.

From Lee Brother: “Re: MU Stage 2. At a conference, John Halamka says most hospitals will either apply for an exemption or quit the program completely.” That’s likely given that only four hospitals have attested so far. Running your business is more important than running after government money that comes with strings attached.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Pharma commercialization services vendor Quintiles will acquire consulting firm Encore Health Resources, hoping to use real-time EHR information to give drug companies outcomes data. Houston-based Encore has 250 consultants.


McKesson announces Q4 results: revenue up 25 percent, adjusted EPS $2.55 vs. $1.48, beating consensus estimates of both. From the conference call:

  • Technology Solutions revenue was down 1 percent on the quarter, up 5 percent on the year.
  • The company expects Technology Solutions revenue to “decrease modestly” in FY2015 because of declining Horizon business and “the impact of eliminating a low-margin product line.”


The Advisory Board Company says in its earnings call that it paid $25 million to acquire HealthPost, a physician finder and appointment scheduling site that will be rolled into the company’s Crimson analytics offerings that are used by 1,400 hospitals. HealthPost has seven employees, seven customers, $1 million in annual revenue, and is break-even on the P&L side. According to Advisory Board Chairman and CEO Robert Musslewhite,

“HealthPost is a cloud-based ambulatory scheduling solution that enables health systems to reduce referral leakage and track new patients by using it. It does it with what we felt like was a market leading SaaS technology that enables physicians and consumers to identify the right provider of care, based on certain criteria, especially in terms of geography and it makes it a very easy one-click appointment booking experience for either the provider or the patient. So we’re excited about it. In terms of how we’re going to roll it out, it’s still TBD. I imagine we will have a program launch coming from it, then more news on that down the line. But your question — as your question indicate, its certainly very complimentary to a lot of the works that we do in Crimson Market Advantage and with our MRS acquisition from last summer.”


WestView Capital Partners makes a minority growth investment in Meditech technology solutions provider Park Place International.


Three Lawson Software founders will pay $5.8 million to settle insider trading charges related to the company’s 2011 acquisition by Infor.


Partners HealthCare (MA) will consolidate several laboratory, pathology, and blood banking systems in moving to systems from Sunquest.


Saint Francis Health System (OK) will deploy Perceptive Acuo VNA. 


University of Louisville Physicians (KY) selects Shareable Ink’s Anesthesia Cloud and ShareMU for 45 of its providers across 20 operating rooms.


Vanderbilt University Medical Center (TN) chooses CitiusTech’s BI-Clinical health content and analytics.


UW Medicine (WA) hires Versio (formerly known as ScribeRight Transcription Agency) to bring legacy ambulatory data into its new Epic system.



Medfusion names Michael Raymer (MModal) as VP of solutions management.

image image

Predixion Software names Costa Harbilas (HP Software) as SVP of global sales and Terri Avnaim (Quest Software) as VP of marketing.


Abington Health (PA) hires Jonathan Sternlieb, MD (Holy Redeemer Health System) as CMIO.

Greg Shorten (Allscripts) joins Shareable Ink as chief growth officer.

Announcements and Implementations

Nominations are open through Thursday for Mosby’s Superheroes of Nursing contest.

EClinicalWorks says that more than half (580 of 1,147) of Federally Qualified Health Centers use its products, four of them being Davies winners.


Cerner’s community health work in Nevada, MO is profiled in the Kansas City paper, which points out that the healthcare IT market is maturing and the project can help generate consulting revenue for Cerner and enhancement of its Healthe Intent population health management software. According to Cerner’s population health VP, “It’s in the DNA of our company to have the vision and passion to fix what’s broken in health care. We’ve solved the data problem. Now, it’s not about what the doctor does. It’s about what the individual does.” According to an analyst of the all-important stock market, “Other than goodwill with the client, I’m not sure how they get paid for thinking about real-world population management.” The Healthe Intent system is running at two hospitals, one in Chicago and another in Vancouver, with a third to be announced.

Government and Politics


The Massachusetts Health Connector health insurance exchange failed because the three state agencies involved didn’t communicate with each other, according to a board member of the $57 million site, which the state will be replacing. "There wasn’t a single point of management. It was poorly set up and it was this horrible combination where the contractor [CGI] would get different orders and would do none of them."


North Carolina’s HHS signs a data use agreement with the NCHIE as part of a House bill that requires hospitals to submit the demographic and clinical data of Medicaid patients to the HIE, allowing DHHS to monitor services and patient safety.

Innovation and Research

Researchers develop a smartphone app that analyzes the voice tone of callers with bipolar disorder to provide an early warning of mood changes.

The SVP/MD of medicine and technology of medical device maker Medtronic says the company’s biggest competitor won’t be current players, but rather “will be Google. I am certain of it.” He cites Google’s $8 billion annual R&D budget and its recent work on a smart contact lens that can measure glucose levels. He adds about healthcare, "It’s where the money is. We’re spending 18 percent of the GDP on healthcare. Why wouldn’t they think that’s where they want to be? We spend more on healthcare than we do on manufacturing in the US, so everybody thinks it’s their destiny.”


Venture capitalist Beth Seidenberg, MD of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers offers advice for entrepreneurs trying to get a foothold in the tricky world of digital health:

  • Build interfaces to open up intentionally built data silos
  • Help customers make their own decisions.
  • Figure out a revenue model upfront.
  • Make healthcare apps social so users don’t get bored.
  • Include healthcare experts on the management team.



Confused about “correlation” vs. “causation” when a shoddily created study claims that Event A must have caused Event B because they happened together? See the chart above from a website devoted to ridiculous examples of “Spurious Correlations.”


It seems there’s a national healthcare IT conference every week, and despite claims that everybody in healthcare is struggling financially, somehow those conference rooms (and $300 hotel rooms) keep filling up with attendees. I suspect many of those attendees just keep popping up at one conference or another since I don’t know many working people who have the travel budget and time off to support endless conference attendance. One conference I hadn’t heard of is running now: the National Healthcare Innovation Summit in Boston. It’s put together by HIMSS, apparently, since membership gets you a $700 discount on the $1,095 registration fee and the browser’s tab title is “HIMSS Innovation Summit.”

Above is a tweet from Microsoft HealthVault GM Sean Nolan, who says Meaningful Use complainers are “whiny.”

Financially struggling Cochise Regional Hospital (AZ) is fined for violating its license by not providing surgical services for two years, last cleaning its operating rooms in July 2012. The 25-bed hospital says part of its correction plan is to spend $2 million on an EHR. Its website touts its advanced technology from Empower Systems, which I’ve only mentioned once in HIStalk, in 2011 when the company’s CEO quit.

A report finds that at least 15 hospital executives in Connecticut were paid more than $1 million last year, including six from Yale New Haven Hospital alone. The VP of psychiatry at Hartford Hospital made $3.24 million.

The UPMC employee who sued her employer for a data breach drops payroll processor Ultimate Software Group from her suit, saying she was mistaken in thinking that UPMC used its services.


University of Mississippi Medical Center CIO David Chou lists 10 technologies that are revolutionizing health IT:

  1. Smartphones
  2. WiFi
  3. BYOD
  4. Government mandates
  5. VoIP
  6. Social media
  7. Virtualization
  8. IP-based medical devices
  9. Mobile health
  10. Big data


Johns Hopkins School of Nursing offers a free, five-week course (known as a MOOC, or massive, online course) on “The Science of Safety in Healthcare” starting June 2. Pay $39 and you get a certificate; add another $60 for CNE hours. Peter Pronovost is one of the instructors.


Two tear-down analyses of Google Glass find that the $1,500 gadget contains either $80 or $152 worth of parts.

Weird News Andy questions, “Dim bulbs or bright lights?” Two British doctors refuse to use energy-saving light bulbs in their homes and instead stocked up on the obsolete incandescent types. One claims the bulbs cause sunburn-type damage over time, while the other worries about the possibility of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Sponsor Updates

  • Portland (OR) IPA certifies a pilot group of clinics for NCQA’s Patient-Centered Specialty Practice Recognition using the IRIS referral management system of Proximare Health.
  • Allscripts announces GA of Sunrise Surgical Care 14.2.
  • GetWellNetwork CIO David Muntz will deliver the keynote address at the DoD/VA Healthcare Summit in San Antonio, TX next week.
  • TriZetto will offer Enkata’s claims processing system to its consulting clients.
  • EDCO Health Information Solutions publishes a blog post, “True or False: Decentralized Records Scanning Reduces Chart Quality.”
  • A Beacon Partners blog post urges providers to use the ICD-10 delay to gain a competitive advantage.
  • Visage Imaging will demonstrate its enterprising imaging platform at the SIIM annual meeting in Long Beach, CA this week.
  • Holon discusses the use of HIE for for identifying and reducing ED frequent fliers in a recent blog posting.
  • Wolters Kluwer will sell POC clinical decision support solutions to nursing schools for use in their curriculum.
  • CliniComp will participate in the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses 2014 Convention June 14-18 in Orlando.
  • Health Catalyst shares its history, goals, and direction.
  • AirWatch expresses its intention to continue working with BlackBerry.
  • Shareable Ink announces the members for its newly-formed Anesthesia Leadership Board.
  • ADP AdvancedMD offers a guide on how financial reporting is changing the way private practices operate.
  • Terry Edwards, CEO of PerfectServe, will speak at the WLSA Convergence Summit in San Diego May 14.
  • Arcadia Healthcare Solutions, Certify Data Systems, and CTG Health Solutions executives weigh in on the challenges of forming and operating an ACO.
  • Truven Health Analytics will provide technical support for CMS during the Testing Experience and Functional Tools demonstrations in Community-Based Long Term Services and Supports program.
  • CommVault extends its relationship with Microsoft to provide data management and protection.
  • Navicure achieves faster product development times by using of VMware vCloud Suite for provisional testing and development environments.
  • MModal opens a healthcare technology center in Bangalore, India.
  • Lexmark’s Perceptive Software passes all integration tests at the 2014 IHE North American and European Connectathons.
  • NextGen Healthcare earns its third Surescripts White Coat of Quality award.


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect

Get HIStalk updates.


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May 13, 2014 News 7 Comments

Morning Headlines 5/13/14

May 13, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

Quintiles Announces Agreement to Acquire Encore Health Resources

Health IT consulting firm Encore Health Resources is acquired by Quintiles, a consulting firm focused on optimizing research, development, and manufacturing in the pharmaceutical industry.

HITPC workgroup supports narrowed focus of EHR certification program

After a hearing on the EHR certification process last week, the Health IT Policy Committee formally endorses narrowing certification EHR requirements to interoperability, clinical quality measures, and privacy and security standards.

It Took the VA Hospital In Phoenix 10 Years To Install an Electronic Waitlist System

The Phoenix VA hospital was one of the last in the nation to implement the VA’s electronic appointment waitlist system. The system was generally available after 2002, but the Phoenix did not implement it until 2012. The hospital was recently accused of maintaining a secret appointment waitlist that kept veterans waiting more than a year for appointments, and resulted in an estimated 40 preventable veteran deaths.

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May 13, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

Encore Health Resources, HealthPost Acquired

May 12, 2014 News No Comments


Drug research and services vendor Quintiles announced this morning that it will acquire health IT consulting firm Encore Health Resources. Terms were not disclosed.

According to Quintiles CEO Tom Pike:

Today’s announcement signifies the increasing importance of leveraging EHR and real-world information to inform our customers and improve their probability of success. Encore has significant EHR expertise, strong relationships with many large U.S. provider networks and academic medical centers as well as experienced consultants, proven tools, and methodologies. It will be a key strategic addition for our business that will extend our services suite and allow us to work with Encore to strengthen its provider-focused solutions.”

Encore Health Resources was founded in 2009 by Ivo Nelson and Dana Sellers.


Another Nelson-related company, online provider search and booking site HealthPost, has been acquired by The Advisory Board Company, according to an announcement this morning. No details were announced.

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May 12, 2014 News No Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 5/12/14

May 12, 2014 Dr. Jayne No Comments


Mr. H recently asked the HIStalk Advisory Panel to weigh in on how the ICD-10 delay will impact their organizations. My organization had asked me to put together an impact statement, but I was waiting a few weeks to see if CMS issued a final date. Now that we know it will be October 1, 2015, we can start quantifying the costs. Some of them are fairly straightforward, but others are a bit more nebulous.

Like many of the Advisory Panel respondents, we will have a fairly significant cost for retraining physicians. We had already started many of our employees through a training program. Although initially it was informational and high level, we were set to accelerate rapidly into the summer. At this point, we have placed all training on hold and will plan to start from scratch again next January.

One of our training strategies included interactive Web sessions which are invoiced monthly based on our number of licensed providers. I was pleased to find out that our legal department had inserted a clause that addresses any delay of ICD-10, so we won’t be losing much on that contract. We’ll see if the vendor tries to renegotiate, however.

We had planned to have additional last-minute training sessions provided by contractors in September. We won’t lose much on those, either. The vendor involved doesn’t charge for cancellations that occur with at least 60 days’ notice. Given the fact that we’re going to have a longer training window, I doubt we’ll need those resources for the next go-round.

One of our major costs, however, will be the training that we’ve already put into our existing coding staff. Although the majority of our ambulatory physicians are expected to do their own coding, there are some subspecialties (particularly surgical) where coding staff are deeply involved. Additionally, we have our internal compliance and audit teams. We had already sent those teams through specialized training and they may need a refresher. Due to their specialized training and knowledge of our organization, we had provided retention bonuses for several of them to stay at least through November. Given the fact that many organizations will be retraining, I suspect their value will continue to increase and we’ll likely be extending those retention payments.

We will also have increased upgrade and testing costs. Our upgrade plan was pretty straightforward since our ambulatory vendor’s ICD-10 version is also their Meaningful Use 2014 version — we were planning to kill two proverbial birds with one stone. We had already done the majority of the testing and the code is already in production, so we thought we were home free. Now we’re going to have to take at least one if not two updates prior to ICD-10, which means more testing. Worst-case scenario, there could be more updates, because it seems like every time CMS issues a new FAQ or refines an existing answer, our vendor has to create a hotfix.

I feel bad for our vendor. As a high-visibility client, I have come to know many of the senior development team members personally. I know they have agonized over the hours they put into meeting certification and regulatory requirements and the fact that those projects have cut into clinical and usability issues. Even though they’re a vendor, I know they don’t have an endless pot of money or endless resources. Hard choices had to be made. There were a few times in the past few years where I sat on focus groups with other clients to discuss various development initiatives and rank potential work, so I know directly how much consideration went into those decisions.

That opportunity cost will play forward to our providers as lost functionality. I know our vendor has plans to use this honeymoon period to shift back to usability enhancements and adding functionality. Although this is a good thing, I would bet that due to the increased regulatory and certification complexity, they will take more time to deliver new features. We’ll be playing a game of chicken to decide which updates to take based on existing vs. future features and the testing timeline as we approach October 2015.

In my mind, though, one of the more significant issues isn’t really quantifiable. I’m not sure how much of an impact it will be. Many of our providers now assume we are on a slippery slope towards skipping ICD-10 altogether. I had forgotten everything I learned in middle school about voice votes vs. roll call votes, but the nuances of how the actual legislative timeline unfolded on this one have been an interesting read. I’m not sure if Congress used this as a deliberate jab to undermine the very clear statements by CMS on there being no delay or if they were just oblivious to the nuances of the ICD-10 portion of the bill. Who is to say that some crafty legislators won’t sneak something in later?

The only good news I’ve heard out of Washington recently is the reopening of the Washington Monument after being damaged by the 2011 earthquake. I’m a big fan of our National Parks and had visited shortly before it was closed. I hadn’t been aware that half of the $15 million restoration was funded by a private contribution and was pleased to learn it was completed on time and on budget. Maybe something inside the beltway can be done right, after all.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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May 12, 2014 Dr. Jayne No Comments

HIStalk Interviews Alexis Gilroy, JD, Partner, Jones Day

May 12, 2014 Interviews No Comments

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Where do you see the discussion going from here?

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

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

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

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

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

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May 12, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Morning Headlines 5/12/14

May 11, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Catholic hospitals suffer second data breach this year

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

Insurance CEO: Shut down Hawaii health exchange

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

Greenway’s Barnes talks next steps

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

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May 11, 2014 Headlines No Comments

Monday Morning Update 5/12/14

May 10, 2014 News 3 Comments

Top News


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

Reader Comments

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


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

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


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

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

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


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


From the Allscripts conference call:

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


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


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



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


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

Government and Politics


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect

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May 10, 2014 News 3 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 9, 2014 Advisory Panel No Comments

Morning Headlines 5/9/14

May 8, 2014 Headlines 8 Comments

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

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

Castlight Health Announces First Quarter 2014 Results

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

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

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

19th Annual Sohn Investment Conference: David Einhorn

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

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May 8, 2014 Headlines 8 Comments

News 5/9/14

May 8, 2014 News 5 Comments

Top News



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

Reader Comments


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


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

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



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

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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

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

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


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

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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



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

Announcements and Implementations

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


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


Hybrent announces a medical supply ordering application for clinical staff.


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

Government and Politics


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

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


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



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

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

Sponsor Updates

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

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.


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May 8, 2014 News 5 Comments

Morning Headlines 5/8/14

May 7, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

Data breach results in $4.8 million HIPAA settlements

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

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

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

Report Reveals Trends In Health IT Data Analytics and Reporting

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

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May 7, 2014 Headlines 1 Comment

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

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


Can they really say that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are few reasons for joining a PSO.

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

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

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

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May 7, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Readers Write: The Engaged Healthcare Consumer is a Myth

The Engaged Healthcare Consumer is a Myth
By Tom Meinert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 7, 2014 Readers Write 4 Comments

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Reader Comments

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