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Startup CEOs and Investors: Bruce Brandes

Startup CEOs and investors with strong writing and teaching skills are welcome to post their ongoing stories and lessons learned. Contact me if interested.

All I Needed to Know to Disrupt Healthcare I Learned from “Seinfeld”: Part II – And YOU Want To Be My Latex Salesman 
By Bruce Brandes


Upon being granted an interview with IBM while in business school for a chance at my first real job, my initial enthusiasm was slightly curbed by the fact that the position was to become a sales rep. With an undergraduate degree in finance and an MBA, I had imagined a career on Wall Street. 

A sales rep? The vivid composite in my head was of some guy in a shiny suit, with a pinky ring and remarkable hair, trying to sell me something that I really did not need. Just like George Costanza’s dream of pretending to be an architect or a marine biologist before compromising to a desperate hope of an imaginary job as Jerry’s latex salesman, I would have to reconcile the dream with reality.

My IBM sales school training quickly helped reorient my mindset with my new responsibilities as a marketing representative (I was relieved to hear that the dirty word “sales” was not in the official title). One of my first and most enduring lessons came at a meeting of the executive leadership team of a large hospital in New Orleans, my IBM regional executives, and me. As the conversation turned to a mention of a product I had just learned about in training, I enthusiastically interjected with the sales pitch I had recently memorized. The hospital COO interrupted me with the rebuke, “You don’t know what you don’t know. Please be quiet.” Ouch. 

After the meeting, I expected my manager to explain IBM’s termination process. Instead, he suggested if the instinct popped into my head to blurt out a verbal sales catalog, to bite the tip of my tongue behind my lips as a reminder to keep listening and ask another question or two before speaking.


I soon appreciated that if I first focused on understanding the opportunity or challenge my prospective customer sought to address and then honestly assessed the likelihood that the solutions I represented could help, “selling” did not have to command the same disdain as Newman entering Jerry’s apartment. In fact, it is quite satisfying to help address a customer or market need better than anyone else. That has to be your goal, not earning a commission. A commission check should be the result of your achieving that goal, not the goal itself.

I have also grown to appreciate that “sales” does not have to be a four-letter word. Few businesses can afford to make payroll without having paying customers who are sold on what they do. Each person in the company — from the receptionist to accounts payable to the housekeeping staff — play a role in what ultimately contributes to an organization’s market success. In fact, in some way, everyone is selling something.  Doctors are selling their medical care. The server in a restaurant is selling a dining experience. J. Peterman is selling the urban sombrero.

From a sales perspective, today’s healthcare landscape (as discussed in part 1 of this series) is the opposite of what it was 25, 10 or even five years ago. Historically in the US, our 5,000+ hospitals enjoyed individual freedom in their buying processes. Within each hospital were many managers with decision-making and budget authority for certain products and services. In parallel, independent physicians had broad flexibility in how vendors could earn their influence. 

The role of the sales rep for a vendor was important to lead the navigation of an over-extended procurement processes which included cold calls, demonstrations, requests for information, dinners and dancing, requests for proposal, reference calls, golf, site visits, etc. A handful of dominant vendors led with a sales strategy of FUD –fear, uncertainty, and doubt. No one ever got fired for buying IBM … until they did.

Given rapid consolidation, many hospitals are now are under more centralized control of larger regional and national health systems. Financial challenges have restricted purchasing authority to a limited number of actual decision-makers. A new regulatory environment and group purchasing contracts limit sales reps influence over doctors’ buying decisions. Industry pressures demand that procurement processes and implementations accelerate for solutions with meaningful promise.

At the same time the market has many fewer buyers with greater urgency, there has been an exponential explosion of the number of vendors trying to sell to these poor, overextended, confused people. Most new vendors are hiring the same salespeople who were historically successful (programmed and rewarded) under the old model that is less likely to be effective now. Hiring sales reps without healthcare experience creates a different set of issues. The net of the story is that traditional sales strategies and tactics (and the simple math) of how buyers and sellers engage no longer work for healthcare.  


Healthcare executives are overwhelmed with a universe of shiny things, trying to differentiate the sales messages from companies that seem as fictitious as Vandelay and Kramerica Industries. We need innovative companies with collaborative sales approaches that are "real and spectacular”, enabling healthcare organizations to address current challenges and seize new opportunities. How many of you Seinfeld fans think you could win that sales “contest?”

Bruce Brandes is managing director at Martin Ventures, serves on the board of advisors at AirStrip and Valence Health, and is entrepreneur in residence at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business.

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February 16, 2015 Startup CEOs and Investors 2 Comments

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 2/16/15

February 16, 2015 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment


A reader with a keen eye sent me this warning sign, saying it reminded him of the modern workplace. The beach is lovely… except for the sharks, hippos, and crocodiles. It arrived while I was preparing some thoughts on what the workplace has become. The recent Wall Street Journal piece “Everything is Awesome! Why You Can’t Tell Employees They’re Doing a Bad Job” is making the rounds at our hospital. If the pay wall won’t let you read it, I recommend a search using key words from the title – that’s how I got the full text.

I have to admit that I was drawn in by the opening paragraph: “Fearing they’ll crush employees’ confidence and erode performance, employers are asking managers to ease up on harsh feedback.” I’m a firm believer in public praise and private criticism. However, the article seems to advocate swinging the pendulum pretty far to avoid any negative feedback for employees. Suggested employee review phrases include “we haven’t done this” rather than “we can’t do this,” which tells me something about the companies advocating this approach: they are probably not in healthcare. What might work at VMware Inc. or the Boston Consulting Group isn’t going to work in a Joint Commission-accredited, CMS-regulated, state-licensed facility where we’re forced to say “we can’t do this” every single day.

For those of us on the clinical side, as young nurses or physicians in training, we didn’t get to pick our assignments. We did what we were told and we did it as well as we could possibly do it, with the hope that our next assignment would be more educational or at least less odious. At the end of medical school, physicians almost get raffled off (National Residency Matching Program, anyone?) to hospitals for an additional three to seven years of on-the-job training. The vast majority of us work really hard, in part to make sure we continue to be at the top of our games, but also because we realize that people’s lives are on the line every day when we go to work.

In my organization, we’re seeing that as Baby Boomers retire and are replaced by Millennials, we’re being asked more and more to consider employees’ feelings as we assign work to them. I’m not a Baby Boomer, but as someone who has worked in a top-down, mission-critical environment for most of her career, I share a lot of the psychology. For those of us used to doing what needs to be done regardless of how we feel about it, worrying about employees’ feelings is not the first thing one thinks of when something goes terribly wrong. Hospital work places an incredible amount of pressure on everyone to have a zero-error workplace; we need to be able to deliver constructive criticism or even corrective action when it is required. When the Code Blue is over and the patient has either survived or died, we debrief. We talk about the team, how things went, and sometimes the emotional side of it. But that’s well after the fact.

When an employee has a lot of issues or requires more remediation than makes sense for their skills and role, the ability to provide clear feedback is essential. Feedback needs to be ongoing — no one should ever be surprised by what they hear in a performance review. Additionally, we’ve seen employees (and former employees) become more litigious over the last few years. Having appropriate documentation of non-performance and resulting interventions is essential to managing those situations. It’s more difficult for someone to come back at you for wrongful termination when you have a well-organized history of events.

The article cites experts who agree that “tough feedback sometimes motivates people better than praise,” but it was well below the fold. Tough feedback certainly doesn’t mean yelling at staff or belittling them, but it may mean making clear statements of events and their consequences that workers are not ready to hear.

I recently asked a lab analyst to review some normalization work that his co-worker did as a peer review. The reviewer “corrected” the work, adding new values that were clearly incorrect. I marked up the review, provided specific explanations of why each element was incorrect, and met with the analyst to review it. I thought he was going to have a breakdown. Unfortunately, he was less concerned by the fact that his work might have caused a serious patient safety issue and more concerned that I was “going after him.” If he thinks a private meeting where we discuss the facts around why one cannot round lab values or change their units inappropriately is “going after” someone, then he probably doesn’t need to be in healthcare. He also probably doesn’t belong at Netflix, either, which the article cites as “devoted to toughness.”

Reading through the 130+ comments on the piece, I’m not the only one with second thoughts about some of the approaches recommended. One had a great point about the concept of work teams: “Playing on a team is based on performance, perform well = get to play, if I don’t, I remain on bench or I am removed. Regular coaching includes what an employee does well and recommendations on what will allow them to reach the next level of performance.” Another asked, “If we equate a company department or division to an orchestra, how long would the conductor let bad musicians ruin the entire performance?

One comment gave a lot of food for thought: “Under-performers do not hurt their managers nearly as much as they hurt their peers, who daily must compensate for their failures and sometimes watch them reap rewards for inadequate work. Any organization of any real size can compensate for a few under-performers, mostly because their peers pick up their slack, usually with no recognition or reward. However, I have repeatedly observed that when left unchecked, these situations quickly tank morale and end with the departure of those who can afford to leave, usually with no statement of why they are leaving, because they don’t want trouble.”

I’ve seen that situation first hand, when more than half of a manager’s subordinates applied for transfers over a 12-month period. The underlying issue was his inability to deal with two members of the team who were not performing. They were perceived as favorites and the others were afraid to speak out, so they left. I’ve also seen the dark side of ignoring poor performance, when the team members who were tired of picking up the slack went on the offensive. They ultimately took down not only the underperformers, but also the manager.

Every workplace is different. Although some management strategies involve clear expectations and performance goals, others can be quite murky. There may be hidden (or blatantly advertised) agendas and infighting. In other words, the beach may be lovely… but watch out for the wildlife.

How does your organization find the right balance between praise and correction? What did you think about the WSJ article? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne. clip_image003

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February 16, 2015 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment

HIStalk Interviews Doug Fridsma, CEO, AMIA

February 16, 2015 Interviews No Comments

Douglas Fridsma, MD, PhD is president and CEO of the American Medical Informatics Association.


What are AMIA’s big issues and where will the organization go in the future?

I’ve been AMIA for approximately three months. It’s been my professional home for nearly 20 years. One of the things that attracted me to moving to AMIA is that as there’s been tremendous change that’s happened with electronic health records and a move from a paper-based economy in healthcare to one that’s about electronic data capture, analytics, and things like that, the informatics professionals that have been doing this for many, many years have an opportunity to have a significant impact on the kinds of decisions that are made around the leadership of various organizations, as well providing expertise as we try to figure out how best to use this new technology.

Part of the attraction in coming to AMIA was we have 5,200 members that stand ready to serve in a capacity that will help advance research on the best ways to use information technology, the best ways to look at the data and do the analytics, how to connect the bioinformatics and the precision medicine initiatives through clinical research and into the clinical care space. This is a group that has provided tremendous value to the community and to the researchers and things like that.

Our role now is to not just think about the value that we can provide, but the impact that we can make in the kinds of decisions that are being made and the kinds of technologies that are being deployed. My hope is that as we move into these new payment models and as we think about the way in which healthcare is being transformed, it isn’t going to be the case where you need a good accountant to get paid. But what needs to happen is if you’ve got a risk-based payment system in which clinical care organizations assume a certain amount of risk for the patients that they care for in those settings, it’s going to be your ability to do good analytics, identify those patients that are high risk, and target your interventions in a cost-effective way that is going to make the difference between those in clinical care organizations and medical homes that can be self-sustaining versus those that are going to be struggling. The difference with that is going to be to have the informatics expertise to come forward. That was what drew me to AMIA.

The other thing we have to recognize is that although AMIA has oftentimes been associated primarily with research and with scientific investigation, we are far more than just that. We have probably one of the broadest representations across the health fields in the association. We have physicians, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, and public health experts. We represent the whole scope of care and care delivery that occurs. Very few other organizations have that breadth of expertise within their organization.

We have to also realize that when it comes to informatics, it isn’t really defined by what we know. Although we certainly have a number of experts in our organization that know a lot and are experts both nationally and internationally, we have to recognize that informatics is more than just what we know — it’s what we do. We think about engaging those people that may not consider themselves an officially trained informatics representative, but they are doing the kinds of things that an informatician would do in a health system or within a research environment. Those people also have a home here with AMIA. 

Getting basic science researchers that are doing high-quality research in academic environments connected to the practitioners in the field benefits both communities. It both provides areas that are right for investigation to the researchers because they understand the problems better, but it also provides the latest techniques and the latest technology that then the practitioners can apply to the care that they provide. 

To me, particularly as we look at the federal activities around the interoperability road map and the strategies for getting health information technology across the country, AMIA is well positioned to be a strong contributor and a leader in the ways in which this information can be analyzed and delivered.


Is it important that AMIA makes informatics and informatics education more user-friendly more than it has been in the past?

One of the strengths that we have with AMIA is our educational focus and the high quality of education that is being provided. For example, we have our annual meeting, which is driven by scientific submissions from folks and case studies of practical implementations. At our last annual meeting, we had high school students presenting some of the projects that they had worked on. We have increasingly educational focus on creating high-quality accredited master’s and other programs that are recognized and accredited as being significant in their quality and the way in which they teach.

Engaging that practitioner is increasingly important as well. We have a meeting that we hold every year — we’re in our second year — called iHealth. IHealth is geared towards those practitioners who are out there in the field struggling to implement electronic health record systems, trying to figure out how to optimize them in their environments to make sure that they’ve got the right work flow and work flow integration and usability. How to look ahead to the next phase — what is the innovation that is coming around the horizon?

This notion of implement, optimize, and innovate is where we can make a contribution. That’s going to be a focus on practical applications of activities. Fundamentally, if we want to have the impact out there, we have to make the educational programs more accessible and address the current day-to-day issues that many of the people that are the practitioners out there in the field struggle with. Many folks go through our 10×10 program, which provides a basic understanding and basic introduction to informatics. But we need to make sure that we also address some of the targeted areas that many of the leaders — the CMIOs and the folks that are out there supporting the CIOs in informatics — also have the tools that they need.


HHS says it will move quickly toward value-based payment and ONC is retooling from an EHR implementation focus to more on interoperability. Will things continue to change as quickly as they have in the last few weeks?

I would add to not only the CMS changes around how they want to move very, very quickly to value-based purchasing and get people away from fee for service — they call that category 1 — into category 3 and category 4, which is about ACOs and shared risk models. It’s an aggressive timeline, but it’s those kind of things that are going to drive more and more people to think about sharing data and providing a new format that will allow them to do the deep analytics necessary to make those models work.

The interoperability road map was also issued and it signals an increasing responsibility, if you will, for that private sector to be able to step forward and to answer some of these questions. Of the many recommendations that are put forward, the majority of those recommendations are targeted to the private sector, that is, outside of the federal government. It includes some of the state agencies, the vendors, the physicians, and patients, all of whom have responsibilities for getting to this kind of interoperability that we would like to see.

I think there has always been the plan to take a look at Meaningful Use and to begin to think beyond just the electronic health record and see the ecosystem that’s developed. Certainly within AMIA, we don’t think about things just in terms of the electronic health record. We think about it in terms of the learning health system.

One of the diagrams that is in the interoperability road map was one that I contributed while I was there at ONC. It tried to take a look the forward scale with which we need to engage the community. We need to be able to have patients, the electronic records that are in a physician’s practice … we need to think about this from a population and public health perspective. But we also have to think about it from the clinical research that is intended to benefit the population or the public at large.

All of those things are going to be important. The EHR is only one aspect of that larger learning healthcare system. Organizations like AMIA can provide some leadership there to get the ways in which all of those different systems are going to be needing to interact.

In addition to those two announcements, there were two other announcements that are going to be equally important in terms of the kinds of conversations that need to happen. The first was the 21st Century Cures draft collection of legislation. It runs 393 pages, but it includes a whole host of different areas focused at modernizing the healthcare ecosystem all the way from FDA and the approval of devices and drugs all the way through to how we might be able to get more interoperable systems that are able to share data between the various systems.

The fourth was the President’s announcement around precision medicine. This is an ambitious goal, to begin using this all this data that’s available electronically, to combine that with genetic information and other kinds of information to be able to target the therapies we use for patients more precisely. 

When I think about precision medicine, it’s really not just about understanding a patient’s genome and using that as a way of targeting therapies, although that’s an important aspect of this. Precision medicine is about using all the data that’s out there to be able to better target the therapies that we prescribe and that we deliver to our patients. That may mean that if we have information from a patient that is related to their Fitbit and tells us about their activity cycles, we might be able to use that to more effectively monitor and manage their diabetes and the cycles they might have with their insulin. Knowing something about what they eat and their social circumstance, or maybe geographically that they’re living in a food desert that doesn’t have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. All of those things can play into how we can target our therapies to help provide new ways of treating diabetes, obesity, cancer, and all the other things that are out there.

So there’s been really four announcements: 21st Century Cures, precision medicine, the interoperability road map, and CMS. The challenge that we’re going to have is to try to integrate all those activities together. That’s the place where informatics can help. How do we make sure that how we collect data for precision medicine and how we collect data within the EHR can be complementary or that they can support each other? How do we make sure that the incentives that are aligned to try to do value-based purchasing also drive us towards a place in which we have more granular data access that allows for different systems to communicate with one another as well? 

Those are the kinds of challenges that are ahead. I’m excited that being at AMIA, we have a whole host of folks with tremendous expertise that can help add to the conversation that’s sure to happen over the course of the next couple of months.


We’re asking health systems to be even more competitive than they’ve been, but we’re also asking them to share data about their customers with each other. That doesn’t happen in any other industry. Do providers have enough incentive to be interested in interoperability barring the technical challenges?

I certainly think that there are going to be important parts of interoperability that transcend a lot of those business cases. What’s different about healthcare is that the person left out of the equation in terms of incentives is often the patient. From a perspective of competitiveness and taking care of our patients and things like that, one of the things that’s really challenging is that if I’m a patient and I’m seeing a doctor who uses System A, and then my insurance changes or I get a new doctor and I decide to change plans and now I’ve got a doctor who uses System B, that information currently can’t flow from System A to System B. My information is locked away. It’s never able to be moved.

It’s as if financial systems said that once you deposit your money into our accounts, you’re going to have to empty your account because we have no way of transferring the money to another bank account if you decide to change. Or if you buy a car, you’re locked in because your garage and everything else only fits that particular car, so you can’t move to a different automobile.

One of the things we have to realize is that the patient is why all of this industry exists, in that we need to make sure that what we do, the decisions that we make, are focused on the things that can help benefit the patient. There’s a good chance that people will have to move up the value chain. It isn’t that the patients are captured and we have their data and we’re not going to share it — it’s how can we best provide services in that we can compete on things other than our ability to interoperate with other systems. 

That’s really where we need to get to, the situation in which patients have free access to their information. They can move it wherever they want. The way you maintain patients in your practice or in your health plan is by providing higher quality services because you have that openness and can integrate all the various systems that are there.


Is trying to use data from wearables to empower patients an informatics project? Do we need to focus on the intelligence to take those never-ending streams of data and take action without requiring the practitioner to visually examine it to figure out what’s going on?

The way you characterize the problem makes it an informatics issue. The whole notion of how do you summarize complex data in ways that can be easily presented to physicians is really important. As we think of precision medicine and other things like that, we’re going to get a lot more different kinds of data. Precision medicine isn’t going to be just about health data. It’s going to be about wearables. It’s going to be about the kinds of foods that you buy and how much exercise you have and where you live and whether it’s walkable, those sorts of things. 

I really believe that as patients have more and more tools, we shouldn’t be afraid that a patient is going to have a Fitbit and they’re going to have all this other information. We should embrace that because that helps engage patients in their own care. That will be transformational.


Do you have any final thoughts?

We talked a lot about kind of how we can get to patient engagement and the power of informatics with all of this. What’s really important from my perspective is that by engaging the patient and creating a means for us to take informatics expertise and getting it out there for providers and for patients to be able to leverage, that’s when we’re going to see the real value. 

At the turn of the century, there was a tremendous amount of activity and discussion in the Journal of the American Medical Association around a new technology that had just come out. It was all about the physician’s automobile. Between 1906 and 1912, there was a whole series of articles geared towards the physician about how they might best use this transportation revolution that was occurring to create better return on investment. They would be able to see patients more quickly. They would be able to increase the number of patients in their practice and see more patients more rapidly.

There was a lot of discussion about the technology, whether you should have hard tires or soft tires, whether the engine should be gas or electric. Statistics about the Philadelphia Stanley Steamer as an early ambulances. All of that was a very, very an active part of the discussion that occurred. But by 1912, most of that conversation had gone away, and in large part, no one was talking about the physician’s automobile any longer because Henry Ford developed the Model T. This was a technology that simplified things and made it accessible to patients.

There were six Duesenbergs that were produced. They were brilliant engineering feats, but six Duesenbergs weren’t going to change the way in which the transportation industry worked. The way we’re going to transform healthcare is not through creating six Duesenbergs or focusing on the physician’s automobile. It’s about engaging the patient and providing them the tools and resources that allow them to be first-order participants in the care that they receive. 

I’m very hopeful that as we get more and more technology that’s out there, people are going to start to expect that just like they can order airline tickets and they can have their boarding passes on their smartphones and they can pay for their food and transactions using their phone, that increasingly they’re going to see the healthcare environment as something that they’re empowered to be able to manage, whether that’s through a website or through an iPad or an iPhone. That’s when we’re going to get real transformation. 

To get there is going to require us to do all the things that we’ve done in the transportation industry and what we’ve done in electronics — to break down the barriers for sharing information and for getting things from one place to another. Once that begins to happen, we’re going to see a tremendous increase in engagement with the patients. That is going to benefit everybody. It’s going to benefit the patients, the providers, the health plans, and — I hope as we think of precision medicine — the public as we figure out new ways to be able to take care of patients and to deliver their care more effectively.

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February 16, 2015 Interviews No Comments

Morning Headlines 2/16/15

February 16, 2015 Headlines No Comments

Reforming the Military Health System

A report on the military health system written by a group of DoD, VA, and health IT experts calls on the DoD to migrate its TRICARE insurance program from a fee-for-service to a value-based reimbursement model and warns that locking into a long-term, commercial EHR contract based on current needs could be tantamount to signing a twenty-year contract with Blackberry just before wireless data plans  changed the smartphone landscape.

The software ‘unicorn’ that will never go public

Fortune profiles eClinicalWorks, whose CEO launched the company with no VC backing and bootstrapped it into a $320 million annual revenue enterprise.

Ex-Lizard Squad Hacker Targets NHS Websites

A 16-year old hacker has published a list of security vulnerabilities, including SQL injection flaws and generic admin login settings, that he and a hacker group called Lizard Squad discovered on NHS websites.

A Warehouse Fire of Digital Memories

Following the seven-alarm fire in Brooklyn that destroyed decades worth of archived paper medical records, Google VP Vint Cerf warns that the same fate awaits electronic records because as soon as the proprietary systems that read them are gone, the data will be inaccessible. He is calling for the creation of new technologies that can extract data from old software systems that have since been sunset.

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February 16, 2015 Headlines No Comments

Monday Morning Update 2/16/15

February 14, 2015 News 6 Comments

Top News


A national security think tank’s report on military health system reform — written by former government officials General Hugh Shelton, Stephen Ondra, and Peter Levin, all of whom now work for corporations — says the DoD’s $4 billion AHLTA system has a “tortured history” of poor design and lack of interoperability with the VA, and despite President Obama’s specific instructions in 2009 for the departments to develop a joint EHR, “DoD has spent billions of dollars and still not fielded any newly integrated clinician-facing software.” The report adds that the DoD will spend more billions to buy a commercial system that may not serve it well, explaining:

Given the fast pace of technology changes, we hope that DoD will not repeat the mistaken multi-billion dollar decision that will hold it captive to the innovations of any single company or the services of a solitary vendor …DoD is about to procure another major electronic (health records) system that may not be able to stay current with – or even lead – the state-of-the-art, or work well with parallel systems in the public or private sector. We are concerned that a process that chooses a single commercial “winner,” closed and proprietary, will inevitably lead to vendor lock and health data isolation.

Hugh Shelton was formerly chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is now chairman of Red Hat. Stephen Ondra, MD was a White House health information advisor and is now SVP/chief medical officer of insurance company Health Care Service Corporation. Peter Levin was CTO at the VA and now is CEO of Amida Technology Solutions, which offers applications built around Blue Button.

Reader Comments

From Camino Real: “Re: OpenNotes. Cerner will also be using it as the default.” I’m still interested to learn more about the technology changes required by EHR vendors and how the patient interacts with the EHR.


From Back to School: “Re: master’s in health informatics. I’m considering the online programs of UCF and USF, but neither is CAHIIM accredited and therefore I can’t sit for the RHIT exams. I’m not sure if that’s a necessary certification when pursuing a career. I would be interested to hear from someone who graduated from an online program.”

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


Eighty-one percent of poll respondents are skeptical that Athenahealth can turn BIDMC’s homegrown WebOMR into a competitive commercial product. Ann commented that it’s hard to commercialize a system that was built for a specific organization and wonders how much effort Athenahealth will spend on requirements, design, and testing. Reluctant Epic User says the value to Athenahealth will be in using BIDMC’s intellectual property to turn its RazorInsights acquisition into a more capable offering, adding that the big winner is BIDMC, who gets cash for an asset they weren’t willing to monetize and a free 20-year license to whatever Athenahealth develops if they like it. New poll to your right or here: should biometric security protection be mandatory for systems that contain patient information? I would also be interested in hearing from biometric security experts – how reliable is it and why isn’t it more widely used for IT systems in general?


HIStalk “I want to come” registration will close soon, so it’s your last chance to avoid non-buyer’s remorse in a few weeks.

Last Week’s Most Interesting News

  • The IPO of analytics vendor Inovalon values the company at more than $3 billion.
  • A private equity vendor acquires marketing company BrightWhistle and will merge it with Influence Health.
  • Legislators agreed in a congressional hearing that ICD-10 implementation should not be delayed again and a GAO report finds no major issues with CMS’s readiness for it.
  • Premier announces strong quarterly results and hints at further acquisitions.


February 17 (Tuesday) 1:00 ET. Cloud Computing – Cyber-Security Considerations. Sponsored by Sensato. Presenter: John Gomez, CEO, Sensato. This webinar will examine the security challenges involved when healthcare organizations implement cloud-based services.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


HealthStream will acquire San Diego-based credentialing software vendor HealthLine Systems for $88 million in cash, announcing plans to combine its business with that of Sy.Med Development, a credentialing systems vendor that HealthStream acquired in 2012 for $7 million.

“Fortune” profiles eClinicalWorks , which has grown without venture capital and is run by co-founders who placed their ownership in trusts so that none of them can cash in their shares or try to take the company public. CEO Girish Navani told the reporter, “I don’t need to be the richest man in Massachusetts,” adding that employees like profit-sharing cash even more than stock options since “they can buy stock in Apple.”

Government and Politics


A McClatchyDC article calls attention to the fact that emails older than six months are fair game for warrant-free US government snooping because the 29-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act categorizes anything older than 180 days as “abandoned.” Several bills have been proposed to change the law, one of them by Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), who explains, “The government is essentially using an arcane loophole to breach the privacy rights of Americans. They couldn’t kick down your door and seize the documents on your desk, but they could send a request to Google and ask for all the documents that are in your Gmail account.”

A same-sex married Indiana couple sues the county health department for refusing to list both their names on their child’s birth certificate. The couple changed the “Father” field on the submission form to “Mother No. 2,” but hospital’s software couldn’t handle the change, so the resulting birth certificate listed only one of the women. The county’s health administrator says his department sympathizes, but state law is clear that birth certificates are intended to list only biological parents.


The title of a Medscape article “House Hearing Dampens Hope of ICD-10-Delay” obviously sees the other side of the ICD-10 argument. It quotes the one negative testimony from the hearing, which came from an Alabama urologist representing the American Urological Association. He said, "Physicians have to have a guarantee that we’re going to get paid if we don’t code right. You’re not going to pay me because I code it wrong? Some doctors won’t be able to do it. Do they deserve the death sentence and be put out of business?” He says doctors have been too busy with Medicare cutbacks and Meaningful use to deal with “another expensive distraction with little demonstrated value to improving direct patient care.”He suggests another delay or a dual reporting option that allows doctors nearing retirement or having hardships to keep using ICD-9.

Privacy and Security

Re/code’s Kara Swisher (the separated wife of White House CTO Megan Smith) interviews President Obama, who says that state-sponsored cyberhacking is too sophisticated for the private sector to defend against without government help, adding that companies within a given sector need to work together to share information since any one of them could be the weak link that exposes the others. Asked how the US government can condemn state-sponsored hacking when it is guilty of the same thing, the President said that international standards should be developed, adding that industrial espionage should never be allowed. Silicon Valley companies that passed on attending the White House’s cybersecurity summit in protest of the National Security Agency’s heavy-handed citizen spying included Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo. The President added that he’s looking at wearable fitness trackers and is leaning toward an Apple Watch as his first.


In England, a 16-year-old hacker publishes a list of vulnerabilities in NHS sites that includes SQL injection flaws, cross-scripting bugs, and administrative logins. The same hacker live-streamed some of his recent attacks, inviting people to watch as he broke into the sites of a travel insurance company and an Illinois university.

A Texas judge dismisses a patient’s lawsuit against a hospital whose systems were hacked early this year, saying that she suffered no injury as a result since her credit card didn’t bill her for the resulting fraudulent charges and use of her Yahoo Mail account to send spam stopped once she changed her password.



A Florida jury finds that concierge medicine firm MDVIP falsely identified its doctors as superior in the 2008 case of a now-deceased patient whose leg had to be amputated after poor care coordination, awarding her husband $8.5 million. The jury found that the patient’s MDVIP-provided primary care doctor misdiagnosed her circulatory condition and referred her to an orthopedist without providing her medical records. The industry-dominating, 700-physician MDVIP was purchased by Proctor & Gamble in 2009 and sold again in 2014 to a private equity firm that also holds positions in Wellcentive, Modernizing Medicine, Infor, and Meditech. The company does not hire physicians, but instead charges them a franchise fee. MDVIP’s chairman and CEO is also chairman of work site health provider Crossover Health, whose CEO is former Medsphere co-founder Scott Shreeve, MD.

Novant (NC) connects its EHR to the federal health information exchange, allowing it to exchange records with the VA if the patient approves.

“Father of the Internet” Vint Cerf says the loss of medical records in a recent Brooklyn warehouse fire could happen again if priceless original documents are stored only in electronic forms. He worries that the digitized versions of photos or documents are of inferior quality compared to the originals and that software companies may stop supporting those file types, creating “a forgotten generation” of material that can’t be viewed. I immediately thought of all the family memories from the 1990s that are sitting in closets around the world on now-obsolete and decomposing videotape.


The Toronto Star finally admits it was wrong in running an anecdote-filled, science-light article titled “a wonder drug’s dark side” in implying that HPV vaccine is dangerous and then insulting the scientists who pointed out the article’s many flaws. The publisher now concedes that the headline was misleading, the front-page hysterics were inappropriate, and the story’s emphasis on emotional stories rather than the medical literature was wrong.

Sponsor Updates

  • Medicity puts together “A Year in Review” that offers a snapshot of its 2014 accomplishments.
  • TransUnion Healthcare President Gerry McCarthy writes about “Revenue Cycle Management Solutions: A Shift to Value-based Care.”
  • The SSI Group and T-System will exhibit at the HFMA Dixie Institute February 17-20 in Charleston, SC. ZirMed will present there.
  • Stella Technology launches a company e-letter.
  • VisionWare updates its Resource Library.
  • Verisk Health’s Matt Siegel is profiled in this month’s edition of “Predictive Modeling News.”
  • Voalte CNO Candace Smith, RN writes about her work as co-chair of the 2015 Manasota March for Babies in Florida.
  • Surgical Information Systems will exhibit at the OR Business Management conference February 16-18 in Orlando.
  • Zynx Health’s Siva Subramanian writes in the company blog that, “To Achieve My Vision for Improving Healthcare, We Have to Focus.”
  • Xerox Healthcare will host a February 17 Google + Hangout on patient engagement with Eric Topol, MD, Geeta Nayyar, and Jennifer Dennard.
  • Lynn Schep asks in the SRS “EMR Straight Talk” blog if the MU prayers of providers will be answered thanks to a potentially shortened reporting period.
  • April Truelove of Sagacious Consultants writes about her experience at the ONC Annual Meeting.
  • Perceptive Software’s “In Context” blog features a piece on “Hybrid Cloud: Concept vs. Market.”
  • PDS will exhibit at the February 20 IT United CIO Forum in Milwaukee.
  • Patientco client Grinnell Regional Medical Center’s AVP of Finance, Kyle Wilcox, pens an article on “How compassionate payment collection boosted Grinnell Regional.”
  • PatientSafe Solutions offers a sneak peek at its plans for HIMSS15.
  • Passport Health and RazorInsights will exhibit February 17-20 at the HFMA Dixie Institute in Charleston, SC.
  • Boston-based Jennifer Crowley writes about her “love” of snow and expecting the unexpected in healthcare in the latest MedAptus blog.
  • Navicure VP of Product Management Jeff Wood is featured in an article on “7 Ways to Manage High Medical Bills.”
  • MBA HealthGroup offers “4 Tips to Get Through the New MU Reporting Period.”
  • Nordic’s Abby Polich offers tips on “Extending Your EHR: Preparing for Success.”
  • Netsmart’s Matthew Arnheiter is featured in an article on giving voices to people with speech impairments.
  • Orion Health’s Harish Panchal writes about “Investing in Integration Engines.”
  • PMD’s Clayton Hoeffer offers insight into “Dog-Driven Development.”


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.


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February 14, 2015 News 6 Comments

Readers Write: Becoming an Influencer in the HIT Industry

February 13, 2015 Readers Write 3 Comments

Becoming an Influencer in the HIT Industry
By Frank Myeroff


With all the noise out there, you have to call attention to yourself and be known for something if you want to stand out. In other words, you need to brand yourself within the healthcare IT industry to become known as an “influencer”.

An influencer is an individual who has above-average impact on a specific niche process. An Influencer is a person who is well connected and who is regarded as influential and in-the-know; someone who can give advice, direction, knowledge, and opinions about that niche.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Find a specific niche. Focus on a specific topic within healthcare IT and be perceived as the “go-to person” for that topic. Also, try to go deeper within a niche. Can you specialize even more? Conquer one area completely and you will find that your audience will come to you. For example, you can become well known for the ability to disseminate government HIT initiatives or even international HIT news stories.
  2. Invest 10,000 hours. In his book “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell says that you need 10,000 hours to get good at anything. Has healthcare IT engrossed you over the last decade to the point that you’ve invested 10,000 hours in becoming better?
  3. Get in front with social media. In today’s world, social media is dominating, so it’s a good idea to use your name as a brand and promote it well. To be successful, you must build your brand using Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
  4. Create a LinkedIn Group. This is a great way to engage like-minded professionals and attract new members and connections. LinkedIn Group discussions should be topical and timely as well as find answers to burning questions.
  5. Start blogging. Write blogs that people find different, useful, and informational. As part of blogging, make a video or record a podcast. Also, think about how to be a guest blogger on other relevant blog sites. Be creative. Your goal is to provide meaningful content that will resonate with your specific audience.
  6. Accept speaking engagements. If you’re comfortable in front of an audience and have the ability to be an interesting presenter, hit the speaker circuit. Trade shows such as HIMSS or other HIT business forums and summits usually have a call for speakers about a year in advance of the event. Make sure you provide a unique, timely, and interesting topic to be considered. In addition, offer to be interviewed by hospitals and healthcare IT publications. These can be of benefit by showing your credibility when vying for a speaking engagement.
  7. Send press releases. Sending good content in a press release format can be powerful and will give you high visibility especially if sent through a distribution service such as PR Web. A PR Web press release can help you get reach and publicity on the Web and across social media. As a result, your press will be seen by a large number of journalists with HIT publications as well as provide SEO for your website or blog.
  8. Create and run a seminar or webinar. Recently our marketing department attended a luncheon and seminar hosted by a trade show display house. The presentation was all about the hottest trends in the trade show industry. They did not try to sell us anything. Instead, they positioned themselves as the go-to people or thought leaders for the trade show industry. As a result, we trusted their knowledge and purchased a pop-up banner for our upcoming HIT shows, events, and summits.
  9. Help others succeed. For each action, take a look for ways to partner and co-brand with other experts. There’s power in numbers. Also, when you gain the respect of other experts, you get the benefit of being referred to their contacts. For example, we know of an RN who is considered an influencer because he spends time helping other RNs to understand health policy, procedures, and technology. The information he provides is tried and true. The RNs trust his information, and in turn, they give him a louder and stronger voice. In other words, they became his brand advocates.
  10. Be available. The more you get yourself out there, you increase your chances of being recognized and asked for your expert opinion. Make sure you’re easy to find. Always give publications, journalists, and prospective customers your contact information and let them know that you will make yourself available to them at their convenience.

Building your own personal brand and becoming an Influencer takes time and dedication. But if you establish yourself strongly in the HIT industry, in time you will be a sought-after resource and derive the visibility and long-lasting relationships you desire.

Frank Myeroff is president of Direct Consulting Associates of Cleveland, OH.

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February 13, 2015 Readers Write 3 Comments

Readers Write: A Healthcare Tale of Two Continents

February 13, 2015 Readers Write No Comments

A Healthcare Tale of Two Continents
By Ted Reynolds


An interesting byproduct of growing up American is that we tend to view everything from one perspective – our own. That’s not surprising given our standing in the world and the influence our culture seemingly has.

Over the last year, I had the unique opportunity to work on a significant electronic medical record (EMR) implementation in Europe that forced me to look beyond my singular, American view. What a revelation! During my time working on this engagement, I learned to view healthcare differently and gained knowledge that has proven invaluable to my ongoing work stateside.

While there are some similarities, there are also striking differences in how the US and Europeans approach and deliver healthcare. I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast these approaches so you can benefit as well from my journey across the pond.

Let’s start with the similarities. My main observation is that change is certain and swift in both the US and Europe. The status quo on both sides is giving way to new ways of thinking, partly driven by technology.

We have greater access to larger amounts of data today, and as a result, the unprecedented opportunity to improve care and outcomes while reducing costs. With healthcare costs continuing to climb in the US and economic recovery slow worldwide, we simply cannot afford to continue with the old models of care delivery.

My experience working in Europe gave me a unique “outside looking in” perspective on American healthcare.

For instance, the big US EMR wave has passed. According to the December 2014 HIMSS Level 7 survey, nearly two-thirds of hospitals now have computerized provider order entry (CPOE) and an EMR implemented. In this area, the US is well ahead of our European counterparts, so we have more patient data than ever before.

However, many organizations have yet to recognize the promised results out of these systems despite significant investment. The focus for US healthcare today has turned towards reducing costs, improving quality through performance improvement and optimization efforts, and making better use of the available data through analytics.

Another US trend is increased merger, acquisition, and affiliation activity among providers. I believe this will most probably affect the one-third of organizations that have not yet implemented new EMR technology. They will likely seek to join with (or at least establish an extended EMR relationship with) stable organizations in order to remain competitive and control costs. IT issues surrounding these new arrangements are enormous. Among the top concerns we’ve seen in these arrangements are the initial loss of control and resulting service levels from the hosting organization.

Finally, call it what you will — accountable care, population health, value-based care, pay-for-performance, etc. — rising healthcare premiums and deductibles will continue to drive the migration from fee-for-volume to fee-for-value. This change will have substantial IT implications – some known, others yet to be seen. Some of the most visible are:

  • Health information exchanges (HIEs) or other forms of data interchange between disparate systems will no longer be a “nice to have.” The downside of our EMR implementation wave is that we now realize the problems associated with absence of real data interchange. This issue must be addressed if we are to recognize the full potential of electronic data.
  • Data analytics become essential. The healthcare industry must unravel the data to information to knowledge to real action transformation in order to demonstrate value. Data analytics will help hospitals and health systems better understand and apply best practices to enable care standardization among providers – a key step necessary to thrive in a landscape heavy on bundled payments and other shared risk plans.
  • Revenue cycle technology replacement and optimization will become an increasing priority as many were originally implemented in reaction to Y2K. These outdated systems cannot adapt to the variations and requirements that new risk-based contracts bring and must be upgraded to new, more flexible systems.

Conversely, the EMR wave in Europe has just begun.

Several large American integrated vendors are starting to work their way across the pond and into new markets. It will be interesting to see if they take some of the lessons learned in the US market (especially around interoperability) and apply them there.

Some of these transitions may be eased in a socialized medicine environment, which has one reimbursement model for an entire country – as opposed to the large variety of complex reimbursement models in the US. A single reimbursement model has the opportunity to significantly streamline billing.

Although the revenue cycle and financial applications in Europe vary greatly from those here in the US, the clinical workflows are very similar. On one of the large EMR implementations I worked on in Europe, the hospital used 90 percent of the American vendor’s clinical model workflows as-is.

On the other hand, Europe’s procurement cycle is extremely long, similar to that of US federal and state organizations. Given the rapid pace of change in healthcare today, I would expect to see Europeans accelerate that process over time.

Many European countries are ahead of the US in establishing national health identifiers and national provider registries. This puts them in a much better position to share data about patients across providers. They are also doing a better job of delivering high quality outcomes at lower costs.

Finally, due to the size of the various national markets, you do not see the proliferation of large, homegrown software vendors as observed in the US. This has made these countries targets for established American EMR vendors such as Cerner and Epic.

My takeaway from my time working in the European healthcare market and the opportunity to attain an “outside looking in” perspective on the US market is quiet simple. We both have much to learn and can learn a lot from each other.

Ted Reynolds is senior vice-president of CTG and is responsible for CTG Health Solutions

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February 13, 2015 Readers Write No Comments

HIStalk Interviews Tim Elliott, CEO, Access

February 13, 2015 Interviews No Comments

Tim Elliott is CEO of Access of Sulphur Springs, TX.


Tell me about yourself and the company.

We started the company about 15 years ago based on some needs that a customer had. It was with another one of our companies at that time. It grew into what it is today. We deal with enterprise forms management.

I grew up in a family that was in the multifunctional hardware business. The need for forms came out of that.


What’s going on with electronic forms in healthcare?

It has changed a lot. When we first started, everyone needed the ability to get rid of pre-printed forms. So we first started, it was all about output of forms — current forms, forms with barcodes, and that sort of thing. That’s been the legacy piece that we’ve been dealing with for probably the last 10 or 12 years.

About five years ago, we bought another company called Formatta out of Virginia and it changed what we’re able to do. So many of our customers were wanting to go completely paperless. Everything we do now is dealing with paperless, web-based forms.


What are some creative things customers have done outside their core EHR functionality?

We’re gap fillers. A facility buys Epic, Cerner, Siemens or Meditech. Every facility has most of the same needs, but they all have different workflows and processes. The big EMRs are good at addressing all the big stuff. We go in and help deal with the little stuff.

Some systems don’t have great procurement systems. We have the ability to have automated purchasing systems, where you’re signing off on POs and requisitions. We have a customer in Kansas City who runs a lot of their HR — their customer-facing or their employee-facing stuff — directly off our solutions. They’re using some pretty big EMRs and some pretty big HR systems.

Every customer does something a little bit different. Our customers have driven some interesting solutions that we never thought of. A lot of things that we market came from our customers. They didn’t necessarily come from our minds.

That’s really what’s fun about what we do. We go into every healthcare facility with some specific things we know that are issues, but we get a lot of, “Wow, that’s really neat, but wouldn’t it be cool if we could do this?” or, “We’ve been trying to solve this problem for five years and this might do that.” We began discussions around that and the light bulb goes off. They start seeing how something like this could fix some of those things. We fix it electronically instead of with paper or additional processes.

We’ve worked over the three to four years on integration. It’s one thing to have a paperless front end, but what happens to the data? What happens to the forms at the end? We’ve gotten really good at the integration — where do these things reside, where do they go, where do they attach, what records do they go into?


When you’re talking to CIOs, what seems to be worrying them most these days?

Cost. Dollars. Most of them have spent so much on investing in IT solutions or trying to get some of the money coming in. It’s not as much about the solutions that fulfill the daily needs, but how can we get by and how can we get everything in place in order to meet the regulations? 

The people who are working out in the departments are aware of that and that’s important to them as well. But they’re really concerned with, how do I keep this from being a three-day process? How can we make this a one-day process or a one-hour process?

Someone pays many millions for Epic, Cerner, Siemens, Meditech or whatever it may be. About two to three years down the road, they start addressing some of those things. They all think it’s going to be paperless and everything’s going to be great with the world and it’s going to solve all their problems. Then the paper starts seeping through the concrete a little bit to the top. They’re starting to see those gaps and we’re able to address those.


Once your system is installed, do super users create the applications or does IT have to do it?

It depends on the facility. Usually we’ll go in and implement based on a need. They have a particular need or problem they’re trying to fix. We’ll go in and help and implement around that. Our professional services people will help them solve that. But then we’ll train a super user on how to replicate that, or how to fix the problem. 

We have different types of customers. We have some that have incredible admins that are doing an incredible job of understanding what it does. We’ll call them in three months and they will have fixed four other things that we weren’t even aware of when we first started with their work flows. Then we have some users that need our help and we push them a little bit here and there. Then we have some that just say, come in every six months, look what we’ve got, find our gaps, and help us fill those. But most of our clients do a lot of it themselves.


Are you using newer technologies such as web-based forms and smartphone form entry?

We’re doing a lot. In the last year and a half, we’ve done a lot of development on the app side where we can use iPads and iPhones. It’s a question of which is the best platform to do certain things on. How do you do it on the iPad screen or a Surface screen or an iPhone screen or a Samsung Galaxy screen? All those are different. How can you make that experience right for all of them? That’s what we’ve worked on the last two years. 

We’re getting there and we have customers using it now. We have a couple of international customers that are going to do some incredible stuff with it with the iPad. Patient-facing forms, patient-facing stuff on the web or on an iPad or a Surface there in the facility.


As a gap filler, do you worry that other companies will widen their reach and step on your turf?

They do. We’re partners with a couple of EMR vendors. Their goal is to try to fill all the needs of their clients. The reality is that, at the beginning, they can’t. As they build a new version, they push that out to their clients. Those clients see holes and they ask for those to be filled. They can’t fill all those immediately. I takes four, five, or six years before they can meet all of those. That’s where we fill those gaps until their vendors can fill those. By that time, there’s other gaps that we fill.

We’ve been doing that for 15 years. We don’t try to take the place of their EMR. All we try to do is fill those gaps until they can be served by that vendor. We’re usually finding other things around it. Once our customers install our solutions, they keep them there a long time. It’s just not always the same solution at the end that it was at the beginning.


Where do you take the company from here?

We’re looking at a lot of interesting things. We’ve had more change in our customer base in the last two years than we’ve had in the last 15 and that’s good. We’re focusing on is the integration part, integration directly inside of some of the EMRs. With a lot of our web-based solutions, we’ve found some really nice niches. I’m sure that everyone will hear more about this in the next year or two. But really doing some neat things around trying to make the experience better not only for the patients in the facility, but also all the team members inside of the facility, giving them an ability to do things easier, faster, better, and paperless.
What you’re going to see from us in the next year or two is a lot of integration directly with the EMRs, a lot of integration with the data back into multiple places so that it can be analyzed, used, played with, understood, all those things. That’s where our focus has been the last two years and what you’re going to see from us the next two.


Do you have any final thoughts?

Access is a development company. We do a lot of fun things, but our favorite thing is listening to what our customers are saying and filling those gaps they have. They’re the ones that make us better. This healthcare thing that we’re all in is really about users and customers and what they want. We’ve been very, very blessed to be able to have team members on our side who listen well and develop around that. We’re excited to see what the next two or three years have for us.

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February 13, 2015 Interviews No Comments

Morning Headlines 2/13/15

February 13, 2015 Headlines No Comments

Inovalon (INOV) Stock Rises Today on NASDAQ Debut

Analytics vendor Inovalon ends its first day on the stock market at $29.61, nearly ten percent up on the day.

NPSF convenes panel to set plans for progress

The National Patient Safety Foundation announces plans to convene a panel of patient safety experts that will assess progress made since the publication of IOM’s “To Err Is Human,” and then form patient safety goals and strategies outlining the next 15 years.

Deloitte announces new approach to EHR implementation and support

Deloitte begins marketing an EHR implementation and support approach designed to support smaller hospitals interested in migrating to a value-based reimbursement model.

Patient safety leader named CIO at Brigham & Women’s

David Bates, MD is named as the next CIO of Brigham & Women’s and the executive sponsor of the Brigham Innovation Hub. He was previously the chief quality officer at BWH.

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February 13, 2015 Headlines No Comments

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 2/12/15

February 12, 2015 Dr. Jayne No Comments


AMIA announces its Third Annual Student Design Challenge. Teams of graduate students are invited to submit “novel and original ways to facilitate engagement between humans and computing data-analytic systems.” Eight finalists will be invited to present posters at the AMIA Annual Symposium, with the top four teams delivering formal presentations. Proposals are due by June 1.

My wish list of things that would immediately better my own human-computer interaction: high-quality real-time voice recognition that could immediately map to discrete data fields in my EHR to facilitate interoperability and E&M coding support; a reporting platform that would let me do clinical queries based on concept associations rather than painstaking identification of specific data fields; and ways to manage constantly-changing clinical recommendations that don’t require a fleet of IT staffers.

This week has been a whirlwind. We’re delivering the first burst of training for ICD-10. Our corporate decision-makers wanted to maximize physician time out of the office, so they have bundled education on readmissions, length of stay, and preventable harms together as well. Although it may have saved providers from making multiple trips to the hospital for training, I’m pretty sure most of their brains stopped absorbing about 45 minutes into the session. Our team was batting cleanup with the ICD-10 content, so we’ll be planning repeat sessions both online and in-person.

I’ve also been busy preparing a lecture for Grand Rounds. It used to be that Grand Rounds was about presenting interesting clinical cases or new advances in treating diseases, but now we spend a lot of time talking about Meaningful Use and other regulatory concerns. I’ve been tapped to talk about the Security Risk Assessment needed for successful Meaningful Use attestation. It’s probably a reasonable topic since it’s been part of the HIPAA requirements for nearly a decade, yet many physicians act as if they haven’t heard of it.

Not only can providers be asked to pay back incentive money, but they can risk other penalties from the Office for Civil Rights. It’s a complex topic because it’s not once-and-done like “implement a certified EHR” or “turn on drug/allergy checking.” It requires physicians to create the assessment and maintain it as a living document, reassessing risk as they purchase new technology or change their information strategies. Given all the recent breaches, I’d think there would be more interest in security and risk. I’m looking forward to it since I do enjoy helping community providers learn how to navigate some of the thorny issues that employed physicians don’t necessarily have to deal with.

There are a lot of free resources available to providers and they’ll be taking home a tool kit to keep them headed in the right direction, whether they decide to try to perform the risk analysis on their own or hire an outside professional to complete it. I’ll also ask them to suggest topics for the next “administrative” Grand Rounds. Reading the comments and suggestions on their evaluation forms is usually good for a laugh or two.


The New Year always brings new vendor contracts. In addition to a new benefits manager for our flexible spending accounts, we also have a new purchasing agreement for office supplies. My assistant ran across this informational popup today. I’m going to have to seriously indulge my office supply habit if I’m going to hit that minimum.

Are you hoping your Valentine brings you a fragrant bouquet of Mr. Sketch markers? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne. clip_image003

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February 12, 2015 Dr. Jayne No Comments

News 2/13/15

February 12, 2015 News 3 Comments

Top News


Shares of analytics vendor Inovalon (renamed from MedAssurant in 2012) started trading on the Nasdaq Thursday with a first-day price increase of just under 10 percent. The Bowie, MD-based company’s market capitalization is $3.3 billion. Chairman and CEO Keith Dunleavy, MD, who founded the company, holds 44 percent of the shares, valuing his stake at nearly $1.5 billion.

Reader Comments


From Rude Boy: “Re: Epic. They are adding OpenNotes capability to their system.” Verified. Epic will not only add OpenNotes capability to its base product and to MyChart, it will turn the capability on by default. Providers can still choose which notes the patient can see. I’m interested in what other EHR vendors are doing to support OpenNotes since I hear a lot about the concept, but not much about how vendors are retooling their products to support it.


From Chill Wills: “Re: Deloitte. MedCity News blew this story.” Indeed they did, and all they had to do was reword the press release to look like real reporting (i.e., practice normal healthcare IT journalism). Not only did they misinterpret a routine Deloitte announcement about a new EHR consulting package in thinking that the company built and released an actual EHR, they also misspelled “Deloitte” in the article body as well the name of Deloitte’s Mitch Morris. MedCity just sold out to another company, so maybe they were over-celebrating.

From Chiaprism: “Re: HIPAA violations. A hospital nurse claimed I couldn’t stay overnight in my inpatient boyfriend’s room because that would be a HIPAA violation.” It is surprising at how often HIPAA is invoked incorrectly in an attempt to bolster an losing argument. A friend recently tried to make a doctor’s appointment for her 90s-age grandmother and was told by the barely-legal receptionist that it’s a HIPAA violation for someone to make an appointment who doesn’t have the patient’s power of attorney, which is clearly ridiculous. They wanted a faxed copy of the document sent to their fax number, which turned out to be disconnected, so my friend just called up pretending to be her grandmother and the receptionist violated HIPAA herself in providing patient details such as her conditions and medications.

From Matthew Holt: “Re: HIStalkapalooza. I was the one who requested you bring the band from Orlando and am ecstatic they’re back. My first and last time influencing anything on HIStalk! Now I just have to hope I get a  party invite!” I was skeptical when Imprivata chose the band as sponsors of last year’s event since I don’t usually like pop cover bands, but Party on the Moon was a big hit and filled the dance floor.  I probably would have misguidedly chosen a Finnish death metal band whose lead singer would have crashed hard to the floor as mosh-averse IT-type audience members scattered away from his stage dive landing zone instead of catching him.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


Signups are still open to attend HIStalkapalooza on Monday evening of the HIMSS conference. Submit your information if you want to attend – even if you’re a sponsor, long-time supporter, or VIP, I still can’t invite you if I don’t know you want to come. The priority order for invitations is providers in hospitals or physician practices (I generally invite every hospital employee who signs up) and then Platinum-level HIStalk sponsors (they’re guaranteed two tickets each). That still leaves the majority of invitations for other folks who sign up, and if I have enough capacity to invite everyone on the list, I will.

This week on HIStalk Connect: Blueprint Health unveils its newest class of startups. VisualDx rolls out a global emerging diseases tool designed to help doctors diagnose infectious conditions. Noom partners with Viridian Health to advance diabetes care.

This week on HIStalk Practice: DigiSight Technologies raises a new round for ophthalmology. Frontier Behavioral Health goes with CoCentrix EHR. Vermont governor takes VITL to task for its Super Bowl ad. Michigan’s REC achieves MU goals. Azalea Health and Imprivata launch new services. Burgeoning physician social networks highlight healthcare’s fascinating "ick" factor. KiddoEMR CEO Joe Cohen, MD shares frustrations, challenges of private-practice HIT. Brad Boyd offers insight into gauging patient access performance. Thanks for reading.


Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Cureatr. The New York City-based company, founded by a group of physicians, offers the nation’s leading mobile care coordination solution. It provides real-time care transition notifications (including group messaging and photo sharing), cross-platform secure messaging, and clinical workflow tools (including best practice checklists) to eliminate interruptions in care, saving time and money in the process. Providers use an organizational directory to check team member availability and to send urgent messages. One hundred percent of clients report faster response time and improved coordination, with physicians saving an average of 90 minutes per day and nurses saving 60 minutes. Hospitals use it to expedite clinical decision-making and streamline care delivery, specialty care providers benefit from connecting with referring providers and extending their services, and physician groups use it to navigate patient care and influence care decisions. I interviewed founder and CEO Joseph Mayer, MD a year ago, when he said, “The next 12 months is really about what’s coming after messaging. Optimizing the care team mapping side of things, i.e. routing of messages to the right person at the right time, or routing information at the right time beyond messaging, task management.” Thanks to Cureatr for supporting HIStalk.


February 13 (Friday) 2:00 ET. Inside Anthem: Dissecting the Breach. Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenter: John Gomez, CEO, Sensato. The latest intelligence about the Anthem breach will be reviewed to provide a deep understanding of the methods used, what healthcare organizations can learn from it, and how to determine if a given organization has come under similar attacks. Attendees will be able to ask questions and put forth their own thoughts. 

February 17 (Tuesday) 1:00 ET. Cloud Computing – Cyber-Security Considerations. Sponsored by Sensato. Presenter: John Gomez, CEO, Sensato. This webinar will examine the security challenges involved when healthcare organizations implement cloud-based services.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock



The Advisory Board Company reports Q3 results: revenue up 15 percent, adjusted EPS $0.26 vs. $0.26, beating expectations on earnings and meeting on revenue. Above is the one-year ABCO share price chart (blue, down 13 percent) vs. the Nasdaq (red, up 14 percent). The company’s market capitalization is $2.2 billion.


Advisory Board Chairmen and CEO Robert Musslewhite announces in the company’s earnings call that it has acquired clinically-focused advisory firm Clinovations.  



Vocera reports Q4 results: revenue down 14 percent, adjusted EPS –$0.10 vs. $0.03. Above is the one-year VCRA share price chart (blue, down 46 percent) vs. the Dow (red, up 11 percent). The company’s market capitalization is $234 million.


From the Cerner earnings call:

  • Bookings for the quarter hit a record $1.16 billion, with 28 percent coming from outside the Millennium customer base.
  • Expenses involved with the $1.37 billion Siemens Health Services acquisition will reduce margins by a few percentage points until 2017.
  • The company says early purchasers of niche population health solutions are already kicking those products out just 18-24 months later as they look for tools that can aggregate data from multiple systems and insert real-time information into clinician workflow.
  • The company’s Siemens-related work will be focused this year on (a) migrating those customers who want to move to Cerner products, and (b) selling the former Siemens customers services such as process optimization and performance improvement.
  • Cerner will continue to sell Soarian Financials as a standalone product, saying surprising demand exists for standalone patient accounting applications.
  • Cerner plans to go live with some of its Intermountain work in Q1.



Private equity firm Silver Lake acquires Atlanta-based healthcare marketing technology vendor BrightWhistle, which it will merge with its existing portfolio company Influence Health (the former Medseek).


Ocean Health Initiatives (NJ) chooses Forward Health Group’s PopulationManager and The Guideline Advantage.


Hospital CIMA San Jose (Costa Rica) chooses Allscripts Sunrise for its 62 beds.

Announcements and Implementations


Epic announces on that its FHIR testing sandbox is live, with formal FHIR production support planned for a June release.

PerfectServe signed 29 new client contracts and had 260 go-lives in 2014, with 45,000 clinicians using its communications platform.  

Saint Francis Medical Center (MO) begins its Epic implementation, with an expected go-live in July 2016.


Stanford Health Care releases its self-developed iOS 8 mobile app that connects with Epic and Apple’s HealthKit.

Government and Politics

Legislators and providers agreed in a congressional hearing Wednesday that ICD-10 implementation should not be delayed further. Video of the meeting is here. Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) commented, “The United States is one of the few countries that has yet to adopt this most modern coding system. Australia was the first country to adopt ICD-10 in 1998. Since then, Canada, China, France, Germany, Korea, South Africa, and Thailand – just to name a few – have all also implemented ICD-10. In the United States, Congress, through one vehicle or another, has prevented the adoption of ICD-10 for nearly a decade.”

GAO is accepting nominations through February 27 for openings on the HIT Policy Committee in the areas of consumers, providers, health plans, and quality reporting.

The VA says its Janus viewer, which visually merges a patient’s VA and DoD EHR records on the screen, will be made available to third-party care providers in about a year. The VA will send a service member’s doctor a link rather than attaching full records to an email.

Privacy and Security

A 60-year-old man sends a phony recruiter $4,300, scammed into thinking he was being offered a job with Cerner by email, not finding it unusual that the recruiter demanded that he send money to pay for his company PC before starting work.

Innovation and Research


AHRQ-funded researchers at UCSD roll out a “lab in a box” that uses a camera, microphone, keystroke monitor, and Microsoft Kinect sensors to measure how EHR use affects patient encounters, such as analyzing how much time doctors spend looking at the screen instead of the patient. The researchers plan to compare distraction levels across practice settings, provide data to help EHR vendors write less disruptive software, and possibly even warn doctors in real time that they aren’t paying enough attention to their patient.



Techcrunch profiles CliniCloud, which has launched a Bluetooth-connected stethoscope and non-contact thermometer kit. Its app is integrated with Doctor On Demand, which provides video chats with doctors to discuss the results. The device will ship in July and can be pre-ordered for $109.

In Chicago, the MedEx ambulance service rolls out 10 ambulances equipped with Google Glass to allow paramedics to live-stream hands-free audio and video to hospitals.


Two Epic technical writers file lawsuits against the company that claim they should have been paid overtime, with both suits seeking class action status. The technical writers say they should have been categorized as hourly rather than salaried employees since their jobs don’t require advanced knowledge or computer expertise. Epic has offered to settle a previous similar suit brought by its quality assurance employees for $5.4 million.

A market research firm says that health IT jobs are harder to fill in New York than anywhere else in the country.

A South Florida “doctor and entrepreneur” launches ClickAClinic, which he says is the state’s only telemedicine services provider that’s licensed as a clinic. I suspected from the use of the title “Dr.” without further explanation that the “doctor” wasn’t an MD, which turned out to be true – he’s a chiropractor. I would never engage any service from someone who uses the title “Dr.” in front of their own name instead of their actual degree since they’re either egotistical or trying to hide something. A lot of MDs (and particularly the wives of male MDs) introduce themselves in purely social situations as “Dr. John Smith” as though the guy at Home Depot or the neighbor down the street really cares.

Facebook rolls out an option that will allow a user to name a “legacy contact” who can explain to breathless followers that the stream of cute videos, quiz results, and click bait “likes” has been sadly interrupted by their faithful curator’s demise.

Sponsor Updates

  • Nuance’s Clintegrity 360 Facility Coding topped the “Best in KLAS Awards” in the Medical Coding category that had been dominated by another vendor since 2008. Clintegrity 360 Quality Management Solutions also was named a category leader.
  • PatientSafe Solutions President and CEO writes “Prepare for Post-EHR Era with Actionable Data Delivered in Clinical Context.”
  • Stella Technology offers “HIE Implementation Tips & Tricks.”
  • Healthwise wins international awards for two of its health videos. 
  • Lifepoint Informatics opens up registration for its User Conference March 18-19 in San Diego.
  • LifeImage’s Mike Murphy writes about “Medical Image Exchange for Cancer Care: More Collaboration and a Better Patient Experience” in the latest company blog.
  • Kathleen Aller of InterSystems explains that “You CAN Get There from Here: Navigating Interoperability.”
  • Intellect Resources President and CEO Tiffany Crenshaw explains in the latest company blog that “Hiring Top Tech Talent Requires an Investment in People.”
  • InstaMed asks healthcare payers to participate in its Healthcare Payments Annual Report survey.
  • IngeniousMed’s Brian Vice is featured in a “CBS Evening News” segment on job growth.
  • Impact Advisors Principal Robert Faix shares insight into how hospitals are getting hacked.
  • Healthgrades sponsors the inaugural Special Olympics dual slalom race at the Winter X Games in Aspen, CO.
  • Healthcare Growth Partners advises Keais Records Service on its recapitalization by CapStreet.
  • HCS will participate in the February 19 HFMA event – “Emerging Management Challenges in the Physician and Hospital Arena” – in Philadelphia
  • The HCI Group is named to the University of Florida’s inaugural 2015 Gator 100.
  • Clara Hocker of Hayes Management Consulting offers tips on “Building a Better Billing Office: What You Need to Know” in the latest company blog.
  • DocuSign offers digital best practices for digital business success. 
  • Erin Michaud asks, “Why is a Project Manager Important to Your Clinical Data Conversion?” in the latest Galen Healthcare Solutions blog.
  • Extension Healthcare will exhibit at the Texas Regional HIMSS Conference February 19-20 in Austin.
  • Greythorn Managing Director Richard Fischer shares insight into the shortage of “right skills” in IT.


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

Get HIStalk updates.
Contact us online.


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February 12, 2015 News 3 Comments

Morning Headlines 2/12/15

February 11, 2015 Headlines No Comments

Lawmakers oppose delaying October rollout for ICD-10

A group of representatives hears testimony on the implementation of ICD-10, including 6 of 7 industry representatives speaking in favor of an on-time transition.

U.S. creates new agency to lead cyberthreat tracking

Following the string of recent high-profile hacker attacks, the US will stand-up a new  intelligence unit called the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center that will be focused on tracking cyberthreats

Government Watchdog Says Veterans Affairs at High Risk for Fraud, Waste

The GAO publishes a report labeling the VA’s health care system a “high-risk” area of the government, citing vulnerability to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.

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February 11, 2015 Headlines No Comments

Readers Write: Patient Discipline, Or is it Simply Willpower?

February 11, 2015 Readers Write 6 Comments

Patient Discipline, Or is it Simply Willpower?
By Helen Figge


The dust seems to be settling a bit these days, with overwhelming sighs of relief about the redefining of MU2, ICD-10 continuing the saga onward but slower, and the unending chatter about the patient portal and how we need to get patients to use it in order to reap the benefits of the various regulations and mandates in place forcing doctor’s and caregivers alike to make us all healthier. Couple that to our worries that once we have the collected data, we then are able to analyze the data in a way that actually benefits the end user – you and me – the healthcare consumer. Just as worrisome is the safety of the data and its security.

The quandary to all of this at times is that we are still a very sickly society. More than one-third of US adults are obese. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, which are some of the leading causes of preventable death. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in 2008 was $147 billion, while the medical costs for people who are obese is about $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

Surely we have many of the technologies in place to help counteract these serious statistics — various forms of health information technology solutions that actually can assist clinicians to take better care of their patients. The technology is in place, now we need to best utilize it, right?

One term continues to be said and that is patient engagement — engaging the patient to care, which is deemed as one of the cornerstones for healthcare success in making us healthier than ever before. The baseline theme common to many in the patient engagement framework is managing information and making it available to both the patient and care team in a manner that supports care decisions, improves bi-directional communication, and optimizes outcomes. This is the nirvana we strive to accomplish in healthcare, and we appear to be doing so as we move forward in time.

We are seeing more and more patient engagement opportunities available to the healthcare consumer. These are in the forms of weight loss programs, reminders to eat and exercise, Facebook clubs, and many other forms of enticing the patient to care.

Despite the benefits of patient engagement solutions and the investments currently being made, convincing the patient to care might be the more difficult aspect to all of this and will require innovation. Lack of health literacy in a large portion of the population, fragmented end-user market, poor access to healthcare, and security of patient data again stated are still hindering growth of this market to convince the patient.

These efforts boil down to one common thread: self-motivation or self-discipline by the healthcare consumer. Without the engaged patient, the various interventions prescribed by their caregivers will go unnoticed and fall short of the clinicians’ effort to effectively prescribe. But how do you self-motivate or educate a person on self-discipline and have it, not withstanding lifelong tendencies, become a normal part of one’s life?

I take myself as an example. I don’t know how many times on a cold, dreary day I rather would have laid in bed than get my running shoes on and take a quick two-mile run up and down the road before any of the neighbors saw me, thinking to themselves, “What is she doing out in the dark with a flashlight in this hour?” It’s because I work for a living and I had to fit my run in before work and before life started.

But in the end, I did it, and do so faithfully. I disciplined myself knowing it was good for me. The alternatives are less than appealing. Forget that the doctor that says it is good for your blood pressure and weight and bones or the envy or guilt often times put on us by our peers because they do it. I do it for me and the motivation comes from within, not someone reminding me it is good for me. That is the discipline we need in healthcare as consumers if all of these tactics to entice us to take care of ourselves takes hold.

In order for patient engagement to work and before entities heavily invest in programs and concepts to “educate” the consumer about their health, we need to get to the root cause of self-discipline. Someone needs to understand how we discipline ourselves to take care of our health. That is where sustainable healthcare lies for us now and in future generations — teaching us the discipline, and in turn, the next generation.

Eventually we will not have the ability to be reminded to take care of ourselves by an outside party. Funding may run out, people may tire of the phone call to eat right that day or sustain from a cigarette else you will end up on oxygen and die a slow and painful death. We will need to learn from these efforts via patient engagement tactics, and in turn, use those pieces of information to further our own reasoning of, “Why do I need to do it?”

Whether it is home glucose monitoring, INR readings, blood pressure readings, or any of the other mobile device readings, what we do with the data to infuse the practices into everyday life will determine the long-term outcomes of healthcare success. Determining the outcomes of all of the healthcare reforms, reimbursements, and penalties really come down to one simple fact: will the healthcare consumer heed their doctor’s advice, listen to directions, and follow the protocol to keep them alive, make them well, or to keep them well?

It boils down to discipline. Are you disciplined enough not to be reminded to take care of yourself, or are you like most Americans who need to be cajoled, bribed, and threatened in order to take control of your own health destiny? Only your self-discipline can answer that question.

Helen Figge is SVP of global strategic development for Lumira.

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February 11, 2015 Readers Write 6 Comments

Readers Write: What is a Health Information Handler?

February 11, 2015 Readers Write No Comments

What is a Health Information Handler?
By Lindy Benton


Recently I received a query from a healthcare professional wondering about the definition of a “health information handler” and their benefits. I’ve long desired to do a presentation on the subject so as to discuss their reason for being, their importance. and how they tangibly serve health systems. Given the lack of awareness surrounding the topic, perhaps it’s an appropriate time for a refresher on the subject.

First, a little history. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) manages the health information handler program. CMS defines a health information handler as “any organization that handles health information on behalf of a provider.”

Providers and hospitals usually engage relationships with health information handlers (as third-party vendors) so they — the providers — are able to electronically submit claims data and health record attachments to payers and Medicare contractors in support of claims adjudication.

These health information handlers also are often called claim clearinghouses, release of information vendors, and health information exchanges. Most also offer electronic submission of medical documentation (esMD) gateway services.

EsMD is still a work in progress, an ongoing experiment spearheaded by CMS to support electronic exchange of information between health systems and Medicare audit contractors. Prior to esMD, providers had just two ways in which to respond to documentation requests from Medicare review audit contractors – mail or fax. EsMD fixed that problem. 

The program has been in effective for more than three years – Phase One went into effect on September 15, 2011. Phase Two will allow providers the ability to receive electronic documentation requests when their claims are selected for review. CMS has yet to launch Phase Two.

To date, tens of thousands of medical records and other health information have been submitted through esMD in response to audit requests. More specifically, though, according to AHIMA, the esMD program directly impacts health information manager professionals. For these folks — who typically pull and send medical records in response to CMS audits — the process can be slow, frustrating, and costly. The esMD program and the health information handler entities that facilitate the record exchange are working to simplify that process, AHIMA states.

The esMD gateway is not set up like a typical website, though. Not everyone who wants to submit information via the gateway can simply jump on, upload files, and press the “send” button. To interact with CMS through esMD, organizations need access to the portal. The gateways are costly to develop and maintain, so hospitals and providers turn to health information handlers to facilitate the exchange process.

Health information handlers build and service an esMD gateway for multiple provider participants and submit electronic documentation on a provider’s behalf. As more providers use health information handlers to simplify their audit processes, electronic health information exchange also will increase in usability.

Documentation requests from Medicare’s audit contractors are the primary requests received by health information professionals. Auditors request additional claims information from hospitals to verify or “ensure” that coding and claims are submitted properly. If claims are coded incorrectly, hospitals must return funds to Medicare. The program was designed to reduce incorrect Medicare payments and to recollect overpayment, identify underpayments by hospitals, and prevent future issues with payments. EsMD supports this effort and enables health information handlers to support the flow of information.

Overall, the recovery program has been a success from the perspective of CMS. Medicare’s recovery auditors returned more than $3 billion to the program in 2013. Providers may disagree, but in the very least they are able to more easily satisfy exchange of crucial information to support their billing practices with Medicare.

From a business and enterprise perspective, the move by CMS to launch the program has meant the growth of a number of health information handler firms that offer a variety of services and skill sets. In addition to providing exchange capabilities, some allow for capture of information, scanning, storage, and transmission in a secure manner. The health information handlers also track data sent and acknowledge and verify that it has been received by auditor through the gateway. Health information handlers are considered business associates of the organizations they serve and are required by CMS to follow HIPAA rules.

According to a Government Health IT piece earlier this year, overall the esMD program is still not streamlined, but there is traction here and despite ongoing setbacks more and more providers are using the program. CMS even reported that more than 500,000 records were sent through esMD in 2013 and more than 30,000 hospitals, physicians, and medical equipment providers use esMD for auditor medical record requests.

Because of the advent of esMD and health information handlers, hospitals and health systems are gaining speed in the processing of their audit documents as well as allow for the exchange of secure information between health system and Medicare auditors. The time saved in responding to the information requests is a huge benefit. There’s also the ability to address sensitive audits rather than sending information through mail or unreliable fax servers. This alone typically cuts down the time required to submit the documents for review and reduce potential penalties.

An example of this can be found at Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Florida. Established in 1967, just five years ago it faced a variety of Medicare audits and penalties. Now the not-for-profit 400-bed hospital is seeing a complete turnaround. 

One significant change is how the hospital now manages responses to Medicare audits. According to hospital officials there, the previous process had been cumbersome and meant printing, sorting, packaging, and mailing documents to Medicare to support claims and to adjudicate their bills. Since one patient record can fill a box or more, hospitals are left paying for all materials, labor, and shipping involved, enormous financial considerations for every organization.

The Medicare audit process has drastically improved because of Boca Raton Regional Hospital being able to submit documents electronically and denials related to untimely submission of records has disappeared entirely. For example, Medicare allows 45 days from the date of request for hospitals to respond, but Medicare still sends documentation requests by paper. Typically, by time the request gets to the proper department in the hospital, more than 10 days has elapsed. Managing the entire process requires a very strict time requirement and hospitals often fail to return records to Medicare on time, which means hospitals can no longer appeal. By automating the process and securely depositing electronic attachments to Medicare’s official information portal, Boca Raton Regional Hospital has prevented the loss of at least $350,000.

There are hurdles to widespread implementation, though, as hospitals resist using the solutions because they’re overwhelmed with current technology. They’re already so invested in other projects that many are unable to see the benefits of bringing on additional solutions and being able to exchange information with CMS. A prevailing thought is that those managing hospital IT departments simply are overwhelmed and growing ever more nonchalant about the idea that technology is going to save them or their employers any more than already has been promised.

In fact, recent reports have begun to surface claiming that CIOs at struggling health systems have little faith that new technologies, on top of recently implemented systems like EHRs, will do much good for them since these other solutions – the EHRs – had such little positive effect on their organizations’ bottom lines. Simply put, they’re sensing a bit of personal doom and are growing tired of all the hype. It’s unfortunate.

Also, for payers, despite the obvious benefits of encouraging health information handler relationships with physicians, esMD and electronic exchange are not a top priority considering all the issues they are managing, not the least of which is the current federal insurance overhaul. Perhaps time will change this, but for the foreseeable future, esMD is likely not going to gain the traction is needs to become an industry standard.

What is fortunate, though, is that service providers like health information handlers are having a positive impact on the healthcare environment and are bringing down some pretty mighty horses while also helping bring about better workflows, improved efficiencies, and increased profitability. Despite the lack of awareness surrounding these healthcare partners and their impact across the sector, many are still unaware of the health information handler’s purpose and the very term by which they are defined.

Lindy Benton is CEO of MEA|NEA.

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February 11, 2015 Readers Write No Comments

Readers Write: Innovative Examples of Patient Engagement Programs

February 11, 2015 Readers Write 1 Comment

Innovative Examples of Patient Engagement Programs
By Zach Watson


For providers looking to increase patient engagement, it can be difficult to distinguish the abstract from the actionable. Patient engagement has become a veritable pillar of new reimbursement models, new government programs, and in some measure, the quality of a physician’s practice.

But will better patient engagement truly reduce the use of medical services? If so, who is finding success, and how?

Patient engagement falls into three broad categories: changing the role of the patient and the patient’s family in the care team, using technology to retrieve information from the patient, and fundamentally altering the environment and manner in which patients receive care.

Let’s examine each of these categories in greater detail.

Patients as Care Managers

At this point, saying the healthcare system is fragmented is a truism. Efforts are underway to improve care coordination through information exchange via electronic health records and other medical software, but many of these initiatives are invisible to patients. Which is to say, they can’t engage with what they can’t use.

Consequently, one of the most effective ways to engage patients is to reposition them as a member of the care team. Instead of the patient playing a passive role in the care she receives, this new model depends on an egalitarian relationship between the providers and patients.

Patients have a large role in the decision making process, and with better information exchange, they can act as the manager of their care plan rather than merely the recipient.

The San Diego-based Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers expertly executed this model in 2013. Following MCG Chronic Care guidelines, the medical group created a multi-disciplinary team that identified high-risk patients for heart failure during their early interactions with the healthcare system and then provided personalized care.

The patients have greater control of the way their care is administered and they don’t have to repeat their diagnosis to different physicians as they move across the continuum of care. The result? A 49 percent reduction in 30-day heart failure readmission rates.

Technology for Collaboration

Patients with chronic diseases consume a disproportionate amount of healthcare resources, but managing these patients can be difficult without adequate technology. That’s why initiatives like the Collaborative Care Network were founded: to help physicians and patients better control the use of acute services.

Founded by a widespread group of pediatric gastroenterologists, the Collaborative Care Network used to be a patient registry where physicians shared treatment strategies and data with patients suffering from rare inflammatory diseases. The network improved remission rates by 25 percent, but the physicians took the program a step further and encouraged patients to contribute ideas for treatment and research they’d like to have done.

Now patients actively share vital sign data and keep their medication doses recorded so physicians can closely monitor outcomes. As of 2012, the CCN boasted roughly a quarter of the US’s pediatric gastroenterologists, and the response rate of patients who received daily messages on their phones was 94 percent.

Care Direct to the Patient

It’s no coincidence that the stress of juggling Meaningful Use and clinical quality measures criteria while keeping a business afloat makes it more difficult for independent physicians to spend the optimal amount of time with their patients. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a number of physicians — roughly 10 percent — are entertaining a concierge model.

By reserving insurance payments for only acute episodes of care, physicians can charge patients a monthly or annual fee to have access to their services around the clock. What better way to engage patients than by visiting them in their own homes and making sure all their questions are answered before the appointment is over?

The concierge model takes other forms beyond the “doctor at your door” service. The Mayo Clinic recently entered the digital concierge market with its mobile app Better. For about $50 a month, patients have access to video chats with nurses, a symptom-check list that takes into account the patient’s health history, and other healthcare services.

At times patient engagement may seem esoteric, but the truth is that it applies to any instance where the patient can be more empowered in their care. To truly reduce healthcare costs, the system will need to reduce the rate of use. That means trusting patients with greater management of their own care while providing a more unified set of services when patients do need comprehensive medical attention.

Zach Watson is the content manager at TechnologyAdvice.

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February 11, 2015 Readers Write 1 Comment

HIStalk Interviews Jeff Lee, Principal, DCM Ventures

February 11, 2015 Interviews No Comments

Jeff Lee is a principal with DCM Ventures of Menlo Park, CA.


Tell me about yourself and the company.

DCM is a global venture firm. We manage about $2.5 billion investing in IT-related opportunities in the US with offices in Beijing as well as Tokyo. I’m a trained engineer, a product guy. I spent some time as an investor and then as an entrepreneur and then an investor. I’ve seen both the operating side as well as the investing side and the product-building side of technology companies.


Your world is mostly young, West Coast, and high tech. Is it hard to avoid having that mindset unduly influence your view of companies?

It’s funny you say that. I did my undergrad out here at Stanford and I spent five years at Cisco right in the middle of the boom and bust. I’ve seen both sides of that in the Valley. I intentionally left the Valley for eight years and spent the last eight before moving back up here in LA to see a different perspective on the rest of the country, how companies are started. I’ve intentionally gotten that experience to have a different perspective.


Where are the geographical pockets of innovation and which will be most important?

Around the country, Silicon Valley has always been the capital for technology. With globalization and the represented aspects of that domestically, you see a lot of interesting things coming out of LA, you see a number of interesting things coming out of New York. Boston historically has been a bit of a hub. If you think globally, you’re seeing a lot of stuff coming out of Asia as well, as far as big companies getting built and technology and stuff that’s frankly going cross-border.


Healthcare innovation often comes from the presence of a big vendor in a location like Madison, Wisconsin or Malvern, Pennsylvania. Do those areas spawn their own innovative ecosystems?

I suspect they do. One of the challenges, especially with innovation in the healthcare IT sector, is you really need a balance of healthcare expertise, but you also need the entrepreneurial blood. I think there may be some pieces of those coming out in places like Madison, Wisconsin.

It’s difficult to find the folks that are truly going to create game-changing companies. Not to say that there won’t be, but where you look geographically, some of the places that are hubs of innovation that are growing where there’s an increasing expertise in the healthcare space are where we tend to see some of the big opportunities emerging.


Do you sometimes look at a little company’s pitch and tell them that while they’ve built an interesting and potentially profitable small business, you just don’t see that it can scale to the point that would get you interested?

Definitely. There’s a bunch of statistics around venture capital and companies that hit. There are very few companies where venture makes a lot of sense, or when you look at the broad ecosystem of funding, small business is probably five percent or less.

We see a lot of those things. We are one solution of many for funding early-stage small companies. We tend to be the high-risk, high-return piece of it where there’s a good chance it might go to zero, but there’s a possibility that it could be a large, substantial public company. Those are the opportunities that we go after.


How important is the personality or the outlook of the founder when trying to identify those potential winners?

In my view, it’s the single most important factor. If I were to paint a broader picture around it, you take a great founder and management team in a big market. Those are really the two ingredients you look for and a great opportunity for us.


How do you project the timeline of how far the founder can carry you and then at what point you’re going to bring in a different managerial skill?

They depend on a case-by-case basis. Our ideal situation is a founder who’s the CEO of the company who can go all the way. I think that the passion that a founder has for a company and the desire to see it successful, which frankly sometimes is irrational of sorts, is really what it takes to get some of these companies all the way.

I’ll say that we infrequently will go into a investment thinking or knowing that the founder will only go so far. Usually it causes a lot of turmoil, and more often than not, will in essence sink the company at some point.

That being said, I think understanding that, and if that’s what the founder wants and acknowledges that, then we certainly can help in identifying the right talents or helping them think through the timing or the personnel that they should be looking for. We are active investors, but we will typically take a number two to the founder where’s it’s really their company, it’s not ours. That’s philosophically how we look at it.


How much extra value or extra credibility does a company have when the founders done it before?

It makes a huge difference if somebody’s been able to do it before. It’s the best indicator of future success. Again, every situation is case by case, but especially I would say in the sectors like healthcare where there’s a lot of innate domain knowledge that needs to be hedged, how to operate in it, your having that background is really important.


It’s always big news when a company is sold. What’s it like behind the scenes trying to get a company to that point? How do you find potential buyers? Are the sellers always happy to get a bunch of cash and turn over the keys to someone else?

The best exit opportunities are usually not being sought out and usually are on the backs of the success and high growth of a company. Before we get to that point, what we are focused on is always building a large, scalable, fast-growing business. If inbound interest comes in, we’ll seriously consider it. We typically are swinging for home runs, so more often than not if a company is doing well, we’re going to double down and help support that company to keep on going.

Sometimes to your point an attractive offer comes in. Depending on timing, you might then take it through a process and go talk to other folks and see what exits might be available. Obviously, if it’s an IPO, that’s a slightly different animal.

That’s typically how the best exits happen. Usually the ones where you really need to build a process around it are the ones that aren’t doing nearly as well.


If I’m running a really successful company and I’ve got funding and the growth is there, do I get a lot of calls out of the blue? Who’s calling me and what are they saying?

The calls don’t go to me typically. The calls would go to the CEO and the founder. I think a lot of the times they come from business partners. They might be the development partners, they could be customers. They come from the ecosystem.

I had this experience myself. I had started a company in the small business group buying space. As we are building and we were talking to a number of our distribution partners, one of them asked, "Would you consider a possible acquisition as opposed to just a partnership?" That was the beginning of a conversation that led to our eventual acquisition.

That’s typically how it happens. Usually, it’s not unsolicited. Usually, it’s a ongoing conversation or at least the relationship over six to 12 or even more months before a company is really going to look at writing a hopefully large check to acquire another company.


As an investor, how much influence do you expect to have?

Our typical type investment, which is I think a generally true for most in the venture industry, is we’ll write a large enough check and take probably 20 to 30 percent of a company, typically to warrant a board seat. We will typically not go in and operate the company, but we will help guide the strategy of the company, help guide the fundraising strategy of the company. We will make business development introductions to meaningful partners that could change the trajectory of the company. We’ll spend time recruiting for and qualifying if it’s a CEO or senior executives on the team, folks that really will come in and make a material change on the opportunity of the company.


What’s it like doing what you do?

It’s awesome. I love it. My day is spent predominantly meeting a lot of very interesting people. On the early-stage side, it’s meeting entrepreneurs, hearing about what they’re passionate about, where they think the big opportunity is. It could be in concert with a financing that they’re trying to put together or maybe getting to know people before that.

Part of it is getting to know folks in the ecosystem such as yourself or in the healthcare space. It might be other operating execs, people at large companies who understand what they’re looking at strategically or how we might be able to orchestrate some partnership between some of our portfolio companies and their company.

Then obviously getting to know other investors as well. Once we fund a company, when we look at a next major round of financing, we typically look to get an outsider to add additional value to the company or some of those that in reverse are doing smaller checks than us. They might see the opportunities to us.

Those are the broad pieces of the deal piece of it. Then part of it is working with our companies and our entrepreneurs. Some of that happens in the board room, where there’s usually it’s monthly. Usually there’s an update about the business and a discussion around the critical issues in the business both good and bad. Then we talk about, "What do we need to do to get to the next step? How do we work through the problems that a company is having?"

Frankly, a lot of the work happens outside of the board meeting itself. Coffee with the founder, sharing some of those similar issues or concerns, introducing people that maybe they need a VP of sales and if you can think of somebody who would be great, making that introduction or again business development partnerships where they’re looking for a channel to get to other customers.  We can make those kinds of introductions.

That’s typically how we work with companies. I think a board meeting is really a formalized way of driving that discussion, but those discussions happen offline and hopefully often.


Are there any technology areas that you like really well or that your firm would tend to stay away from?

Broadly, just looking at technology, the world has shifted from the way it was 10 or 20 years ago. This partially and directly answers your question, which is I think a lot of models had moved away from what I’ll call true technology and they’ve gone more to business model innovation.

With globalization, with the advent of outsourcing, it’s a lot easier to find talent to actually develop technology or software than it has been in the past. A big piece of it is, where’s is there empty space that you could leverage technology to create a sustainable business?

That being said, I do think there are a few interesting instances around what I’ll call real technology or hard technology. One that is not in the healthcare space but is a very interesting company that a friend of mine invested in is a company called Planet Labs. It’s literally NASA rocket scientists that have figured out how to build satellites for $20,000 and deploy them for under $50,000 or $60,000. Because of the cost basis and their ability to do this, they’re able to put up all these micro satellites in the space and basically give you almost a real-time picture of what’s happening, literally, on the planet. You can see deforestation, you can see weather patterns, and you have access to something you never had before.

We’re investors in a company called Athos, which developed a shirt with fabric that can measure your muscle twitch response. The product hasn’t been released yet — it’s in beta. What it’s able to do is determine how hard your muscles are firing and determine how to optimize your workouts, determine how to make sure that you don’t get injured. There’s a lot of other applications like that.

We’ve done a number of core technology investments as well. Lithium ion batteries, so your smartphone can last longer.

One company that might be a little bit more relevant is Augmedix. It leverages Google Glass. Attached in the back of the Google Glass is a scribe that might be in India or Bangladesh or some other place. They basically offload for a doctor the hour or two hours that they spend writing up notes every day. Because it’s a live video feed, because they get to know the doctors and what they’re looking for and how to input data, in essence you can take an hour and a half of doctor time that’s wasted into five or 10 minutes. That’s a way of leveraging technology and new business model where there’s a little bit more of a fundamental technology than the business model innovation.


Do you have any final thoughts?

There’s a big opportunity in the healthcare IT space. It’s obviously a large part of GDP and with the introduction of technology through EMR into the business and the pervasiveness of mobile, we spend a decent amount of time looking at where those convergence opportunities are. Augmedix, like I mentioned. We’re in a company called Stride Health, which is centered around providing better insurance solutions to contract workers.

We continue to look at a few things. There’s probably one or two projects that are in the works. We think there’s a big opportunity in the space.

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February 10, 2015 Headlines No Comments

Cerner Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2014 Results

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WakeMed goes live with its $100 million Epic install.

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