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Morning Headlines 2/21/18

February 20, 2018 Headlines No Comments

Time to Release Medicare Advantage Claims Data

A JAMA editorial calls for CMS to release Medicare Advantage encounter data to allow taxpayers to see how their money is being spent on its growing number of beneficiaries.

Electronic Health Records Don’t Reduce Administrative Costs

Researchers find that a large academic health system’s certified EHR significantly drives up administrative costs associated with billing and insurance activities.

Leaked Nokia memo says no path forward for ‘struggling’ digital health business

Less than a week after announcing a strategic review of its digital health business, Nokia Chief Strategy Officer Kathrin Buvac tells employees that it will most likely not be a “meaningful part” of the company’s future.

News 2/21/18

February 20, 2018 News No Comments

Top News

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A JAMA editorial calls for CMS to release Medicare Advantage encounter data to allow taxpayers to see how their money is being spent on its growing number of beneficiaries. The article concludes that if the data is good enough to pay providers from, it’s good enough for the public to see. 


Reader Comments

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From Jagged Pill: “Re: Orlando Health’s CIO position. It’s interesting to compare the stated job requirements with the credentials of the chosen candidate.” The job description doesn’t contain the requirement that the new VP/CIO have experience in an organization of similar size ($3.4 billion), but some might be surprised that new CIO Novlet Mattis got the job with just four years of CIO experience, all of that accrued in one-hospital, $954 million Rex Healthcare (NC). She came from Ascension Information Services, so maybe there’s a consulting connection there. The job description also says that Orlando Health will be choosing a new EHR and replacing its best-of-breed systems, which will be a huge loss for Allscripts (Orlando Health paid them $5.1 million in FY2016, according to tax filings) and a big win for Cerner or Epic. A local announcement says the IT department’s annual budget is $145 million. According to those same tax filings, retired CIO Rick Schooler was making $785K per year. Another interesting tidbit is that Orlando Health’s VP/CIO position reports to the CFO, which is almost unheard of except in small hospitals where the primary objective is controlling cost.

From Jack Anape: “Re: Mitre’s report on Cerner interoperability. Will the VA make it available to the public?” I haven’t heard what’s in the report, but I would bet the VA won’t release it publicly, especially since it looks like there’s about an 80 percent chance that VA Secretary David Shulkin will be shown the door after ending up on the wrong end of White House infighting. What the report says is anyone’s guess, but given that its emphasis was on how Cerner would interoperate seamlessly with whatever EHRs are being used by community-based providers that might treat a veteran, it doesn’t seem likely that the report will provide a ringing endorsement. There’s also the chance the White House-pushed, no-bid contract Cerner signing could be put on hold or the EHR decision process restarted if Shulkin isn’t there to promise Congress that this time, the VA really, really, really won’t blow through taxpayer IT billions without much to show for it.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

I’m enjoying the responses to “What I Wish I’d Known Before … Taking a Travel-Heavy Job.” Add yours and you’ll see it in this weekend’s write-up.

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Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor WebPT, the most-trusted, industry-leading rehab therapy software platform. The Phoenix, AZ-based company’s robust, Web-based solution – created by a therapist for therapists — offers EMR, scheduling, documentation, billing, outcomes tracking, business reporting, patient engagement tools, and system integration in enhancing patient care and driving business growth regardless of staff size, facility type, or number of specialties. The company has a  99 percent customer retention rate, 99.99 percent uptime, 10,000 clinic customers, and 79,000 member users. The company announced last week its acquisition of BMS Practice Solutions, the largest rehab therapy RCM company. WebPT offers video testimonials and case studies that explain why more therapy professionals rely on WebPT than any other software. Industry long-timer Nancy Ham is CEO and board member. Thanks to WebPT for supporting HIStalk.

Here’s a physical therapy practice’s WebPT testimonial that I found on YouTube.

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Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Philips Wellcentive. The Alpharetta, GA-based company has since 2005 driven quality improvement, revenue growth, and business transformation for healthcare organizations that are transitioning to value-based care. The company’s population health management solution boosts clinical, financial, and human outcomes and has been recognized as a PHM leader by KLAS, IDC, and Chilmark. Philips Wellcentive helps its customers provide care management for nearly 50 million people, using intelligence gained from 2.5 billion data points each month to earn $700 million each year in value-based revenue through improved outcomes. I interviewed PHM Business Leader Niki Buchanan a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to Philips Wellcentive for supporting HIStalk.


Webinars

None scheduled soon. Previous webinars are on our YouTube channel. Contact Lorre for information.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Inovalon reports Q4 results: revenue up 19 percent, adjusted EPS $0.06 vs. $0.05. Shares rose 9 percent in the past year vs. the Nasdaq’s gain of 23 percent. 


Sales

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The Sac Valley Medshare HIE chooses Diameter Health for clinical data normalization and standardization services.


People

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Datica hires Christopher Gerg (Gauntlet Consulting) as CTO/CSO.

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Ciox Health hires Florian Quarre (Deloitte) as chief digital officer, David Dyke (Change Healthcare) as VP of product management, and Paula Lawlor (Accuity Delivery Systems) as EVP of provider solutions.

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Sumit Nagpal (LumiraDX) joins Accenture as managing director and global lead for digital health strategy.


Government and Politics

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A perceptive New York Times article says that a widening gap between Americans who pay full price for their ACA marketplace health insurance and those who get free or heavily subsidized coverage causes some of the resentment against social programs that middle-class citizens pay for. It concludes that the only universally liked social programs are Social Security and Medicare because everybody benefits from them.

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Researchers create a live tracking website to call out organizations and individuals that aren’t complying with a new law that requires that all completed or abandoned FDA-registered clinical trials to publish their results, good or bad. Interestingly, the FDA itself has no plans to do tracking of its own. Clicking an organization’s name shows every clinical trial that it has underway, which then links to the ClinicalTrials.gov site for full study details. 

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HHS issues a proposed rule that will allow insurers to sell short-term health insurance plans that don’t meet ACA requirements. CMS says lower premiums will allow people to buy insurance who otherwise can’t afford it, although it doesn’t mention that bare-bones plans historically have barely resembled real health insurance with a long list of excluded services and no coverage of pre-existing conditions. Not to mention that they will likely destroy what’s left of the marketplace risk pool. I looked at some of the plans offered and they have deductibles as high as $12,500, 40 percent co-insurance up to a maximum of $10,000 annual out of pocket, no coverage for conditions that have been treated in the preceding 24 months, and a lifetime maximum of $600,000 (your cancer and stroke crystal ball had better be accurate). HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a tweet that the change will offer people “quality, affordable healthcare that works for them,” although he didn’t mention whether he or members of Congress who are covered by generous, taxpayer-paid plans with ACA-mandated coverage are planning to trade theirs in.


Privacy and Security

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says he won’t sign off on mandatory physician use of its CURES prescription drug monitoring program until its security has been certified.


Other

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A KLAS report on clinical mobility finds that few hospitals are keeping late-model iPhones for employee use like they did before the iPhone 6, with some of them instead moving to Zebra phones because of the iPhone’s shortcomings (lack of ruggedization, poor WiFi connectivity, and lack of swappable batteries). The iPhone is still the first choice for executives and doctors who get a hospital-provided phone to keep. BYOD strategies include paying employees a stipend for using their own phones for work, providing secure texting apps, securing the device remotely via mobile device management, offering remote system log-in as a value-added option, allowing employees to disconnect while not on call, and blacklisting apps if necessary.

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Google researchers apply deep learning to images of the eye (specifically the retinal fundus) to accurately determine cardiac risk factors, such as a patient’s age, gender, smoking status, blood pressure, and likelihood of having a heart attack. They hope to expand their work with a larger dataset in which more cardiovascular events occurred and to fine tune their risk prediction by looking at lifestyle changes or medications.

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Eric Topol notes that healthcare has morphed from a small industry to the country’s largest without improving outcomes.

A tiny physician survey finds that three-quarters use mobile health in their practice, but mostly only for internal messaging or for quick EHR lookups on their phones. Almost no practices offer telemedicine visits, although that doesn’t necessarily mean their patients aren’t using it – maybe they’re just getting them elsewhere. Few practices accept information from patient wearables, most commonly because the data doesn’t flow into their EHR , although I would bet the real reason is they aren’t being paid to review the information and are afraid of being sued if they miss something.

A medical resident’ s opinion piece ponders whether “the academic arms race” gunner competition among medical school applicants creates better doctors or perhaps instead burns them out. It made me think – are intelligence, drive, and competitiveness the best predictors of being a caring doctor?

Experts warn that the US military’s planned surge will struggle since three-fourths of Americans aged 17-24 are ineligible to serve because of obesity, other health conditions, criminal backgrounds, or lack of education. From the non-military viewpoint, that means employers will either have to hire them warts and all or they’ll be unemployed and thus supported by taxpayers.

In Australia, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians goes back to paper for its medical trainee exam after its first attempt at using a computer-based system locks users out five hours into their test. Test-takers who were planning to leave immediately afterward for vacation or to curl fetally in the corner from panic attacks over their future now have to prepare for the paper re-test that will be administered on March 2.


Sponsor Updates

  • Hands On Technology will integrate Ability Network’s RCM application into its rehab EMR/PM.
  • PatientKeeper and its owner HCA are awarded a patent for the way its software displays the most relevant patient information based on the user’s specialty and preference.
  • SSI launches an analytic product for ambulatory surgery centers.
  • Audacious Inquiry delivers more than 5 million clinical event alerts per month via its Encounter Notification Service.
  • The Tech Tribune includes CareSync in its list of the top 10 best tech startups in Tampa, FL.
  • CTG acquires Paris-based consulting and digital services business Soft Company.

Blog Posts


Contacts

Mr. H, Lorre, Jenn, Dr. Jayne.
Get HIStalk updates. Send news or rumors.
Contact us.

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HIStalk Interviews Tom Skelton, CEO, Surescripts

February 20, 2018 Interviews No Comments

Tom Skelton is CEO of Surescripts of Arlington, VA.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

I’ve been in technology for 30 years. I’ve been doing this a long time. I still find it challenging and interesting and I hope that all this technology that we’re all deploying is making a big difference out there.

Most people probably think of Surescripts in terms of electronic prescribing, which is now widely implemented and in some cases mandated. The next wave involves add-on capabilities, such as prescription price transparency and automating prior authorization. What is the status of those efforts within the industry and within Surescripts?

I think you are absolutely right. There’s a lot of information going back and forth. Prescriptions, eligibility, and some of the core things have made huge strides.

Price transparency is a big thing and we as an industry need to rise to the occasion. We’re now able to provide, at the point of care, information about co-pay and therapeutic alternatives. These are extremely helpful for consumers and fit very well into a consumer-driven world.

I would say it’s early stages here. It took 14 or 15 years to get 90 percent of prescriptions on the network. Electronic prescribing for controlled substances was introduced in 2011 and at the end of 2016, the number was up to 14 percent. The transparency piece is going to take a little while, but we expect a very big year in that regard for 2018. We have a lot of rollouts going on and physicians and patients will start to benefit from that very quickly.

Will the model follow e-prescribing, where the initial effort involved standalone applications that were rarely used that were then integrated into physician workflow?

Yes. Physician workflow is one of the absolute keys here. We’re in a market where physician burnout is rampant. Pressure on their time is just absolutely amazing.

Since its founding, Surescripts has been focused on partnering with electronic healthcare records vendors and other technology providers to make sure that physicians and pharmacists don’t need to step out of their workflow to do what needs to be done for a patient. If you’re looking at price transparency, the issue goes just beyond pricing and the alternatives. It’s a lot deeper than that. It sets the stage for whether or not a patient adheres to the treatment regimen that the physician has prescribed. That’s one of the key things that gets lost. That co-pay differential — $10 here, $20 there — makes a big difference in adherence levels.

That’s a huge issue for the industry. It’s a huge issue for the country. You move into the world of electronic prior authorization. All of this ties together when you look at what’s going on in the market. This front door of understanding what the patient’s benefits really provide them. Also, understanding whether or not that prior auth is really necessary. Making that as easy as possible is key.

When you look at adherence, the introduction of prior auth alone causes adherence scores to fall substantially. They approach a 40 percent decline in some cases. Not just prescriptions — when I was running a radiology company, we saw 25 percent declines in utilization as soon we sent letters saying that we were introducing prior auth for MRIs. This is something the healthcare system has to get good at.

That’s also true when you look at specialty drugs. You’re seeing a huge increase in utilization and cost of specialty drugs across the system. That’s also driving prior authorization work, and that’s important as well. When you’ve got $500 billion worth of specialty pharmacy spend, you want to make sure that very sick people get access to the drugs that they are required to take.

Is it a challenge for EHR vendors now that many other software vendors want to connect to them and it’s hard to determine whether a given company is a partner or a competitor?

Absolutely. I don’t think there’s any question that the EHR vendors have a tremendous challenge in dealing with all of the requests that are made of them and in meeting those requests. We’re coming out an era where government mandates drove a lot of the innovation and pushed a lot of the coding towards the EHRs. As that era recedes into the past a bit, they’ve got tough choices to make about what innovation they code first.

Our job is to make it as easy for them as possible. We’ve built tools that help do that. We have accelerators that make it easy for them to do that integration, taking advantage of standards that exist in the market, both technical standards in the information provided and the standards around how that’s formatted. They’ve certainly got a lot of work that they need to do. They are the front door, in many cases, to these hospitals and physician offices.

FDA and drug companies are interesting in using provider EHR information for market surveillance. Do you see Surescripts as having a role in provider-FDA data exchange?

As our role in the industry has grown and changed, we’ve tried to support certain key initiatives, whether they’re government initiatives, research initiatives, etc. We’ve been pretty selective about that, but we try to help out where we can. When they are looking for a comprehensive story, going to the EHR is the natural place for them.

Should we be optimistic about the current and future state of interoperability?

It has changed and improved substantially. I worked at a company in Raleigh, NC where we had a huge team of people doing nothing but HL7 work. It was unbelievable the time, energy, and resources we put into that. The industry has moved so far beyond that now.

One of the challenges that the industry has is that we’ve not done a great job setting the bar for success. Like many industries that don’t have great data to support a position, we end up living on anecdote. I can tell you 10 stories about my mother and elderly relatives and what they encounter in the healthcare system with interoperability. Those anecdotes are going to rule the day until we as an industry come together to help explain what the interoperability journey looks like and help provide criteria upon which we can be judged.

What role do you see for pharma in using healthcare data?

You’re asking specifically about data, but I’ll tell you one of our learnings. We just had some folks come back from JPMorgan. Emerging firms, smaller innovative firms, are being founded to fulfill a specific niche need. Pharma and life sciences are being viewed as important to their business models. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is probably less the point than the fact that these are large, healthy firms that are seeking to foster innovation and further their interest. A lot of these smaller startups are looking to them as key components of their business model.

How much of the success of Walgreens and CVS was due to innovative IT work and what can providers learn from that as the market consolidates?

The key word obviously is consolidation. Whether it’s horizontal or vertical, the entire healthcare ecosystem is undergoing another wave of consolidation.

As you pointed out at the beginning, when you and I used to talk 15 years ago, there were 800 EHR vendors. That number is down substantially. If you look at the market share on the hospital side, you’ve really got three key firms. If you think about the fact that firms like Walgreens and CVS have historically been innovative, both in technology and in evolving their business model, I don’t think that’s a surprise. That would also be true of groups like United Healthcare and others. There are a lot of large firms that have been innovative in terms of what they’ve done to evolve both their model and the infrastructure that they’ve built to support that new model.

Where do you see the future direction of Surescripts?

You highlighted a couple of these things that we would talk about. We would certainly talk about price transparency. The other thing that we would talk about is that there’s a lot of commentary and interest in how interoperable the system is. The second piece of that is you have to peel back the onion a little bit. The information that’s being moved — how actionable is it when it arrives? How accurate is it? We’ve made a huge investment there over the last few years.

The introduction of Sentinel was an important moment for us as an organization. It moves us beyond just talking about how data is formatted to how actionable it is when it arrives. It puts us in a situation where, instead of having one in 10 prescriptions requiring some type of phone call or human intervention, we can work with our EHR partners to help identify areas where those prescriptions might benefit from different work up front to make those scripts more actionable when they arrive. We think that’s a important.

We’re going to scan 2 billion prescriptions this year and eliminate 50 million instances where somebody’s got to do something. That 50 million is a monthly number, not an annual number, so 50 million times a month we’re saving a pharmacist, physician, pharmacy tech, or a physician assistant a lot of time trying to sort through these. That’s what technology is all about. We’re proud to be moving down that path.

The ability to get information at the point of care is still an aspiration. Forty-eight percent of all diagnostic errors are still due to a lack of access to the appropriate information at critical points in the care process. We’re doing work around medication history. Delivering that information in a natural workflow for the physician is an important piece of what we do. A lot of folks do those things, but they do it with information that has lags in it or information that’s incomplete. But we’ve got big and deep coverage there and we’re providing a billion medication histories annually.

When you’re looking at informing care decisions, it is still a heterogeneous world. Health systems still rely on information from other medical practices and other healthcare institutions. The ability to locate a record for a patient in this heterogeneous healthcare system is an important piece of what we do. We can help people locate records, and once they’ve located them, there are a number of mechanisms for moving them and we have offerings in that area. You have to be able to know where that patient was and we think we can help.

Those are the types of things that we’re working on today. You can see additional intelligence coming to bear with us helping physicians and pharmacists through clinical alerting based on rules and engines that they help configure. We see all of that as natural for us and part of the prescription and medication ecosystem.

We haven’t even discussed opioids yet. Certainly from our standpoint, that is a huge situation that needs to be dealt with. We certainly respect, understand, and applaud all of the attention and the scrutiny, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to make that real.

Our medication history offering is a big part of that solution. Doctors are allowed to see a lot of that information in most states. That’s important. I just saw some data the other day that shows that following the I-STOP implementation in New York, they’re approaching 90 percent penetration. When nationally you’re at 14 and New York is at 90, you can see the digitization that has occurred.

Digitizing those prescriptions is an important part of allowing people to do the analysis they need to do. If society as a whole decides that we need to do more behavioral work to support those patients, or whatever it is that we decide to do to treat them, the sooner we can help recognize it, the better. This problem is not going away without some type of intervention.

Do you have any final thoughts?

You asked a great question. Where are we on the road to interoperability? Should we be positive about it? Should we be concerned? What I would say is that there’s a huge amount of work to do, There needs to be an appropriate amount of focus on that work. There’s also a huge amount of progress that has been made, and will be made in the future.

I continue to be optimistic that with the combination of private entities partnering, and then private entities partnering with the public interest at the state and federal level, you’re going to see continued progress and acceleration over the course of the next few years. It’s not a panacea, but I think it’s going to be very positive and will have a huge impact. Patients and all of us US citizens are going to benefit enormously.

Morning Headlines 2/20/18

February 19, 2018 Headlines 2 Comments

21st Century Oncology’s new CEO seeks to rehab company image, expand operations

21st Century Oncology announces it will expand operations after emerging from bankruptcy and tackling legal issues related to a privacy breach of 2.2 million patient records and an investigation into improper Meaningful Use reporting.

There’s No Stopping the $50 Billion IPO With a Silly Name

Siemens confirms that the IPO of its Healthineers business will take place in the first half of this year.

Google AI can scan your eyes to predict heart disease

Verily researchers develop an early-stage algorithm that can evaluate retinal scans and, aided by machine learning, predict cardiovascular risk factors.

Partners HealthCare outsourcing coding jobs to India

Partners HealthCare (MA) will lay off 100 coders and outsource their jobs to India as part of a three-year plan to cut up to $800 million in costs.

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 2/19/18

February 19, 2018 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment

From time to time, I contemplate heading back into the CMIO trenches full time. Although I do a lot of CMIO work in my consulting practice, it’s usually episodic and I miss seeing projects come full circle. I also miss being part of the strategic planning team, helping lay out the vision for an organization and how it plans to support patients and providers.

When I serve as an interim CMIO, I’m usually charged with keeping the ship afloat rather than deciding where the ship is going or what kind of cargo it will be carrying. Or perhaps I’m brought in as a consultant, tackling projects that the CMIO should be doing but doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle. There are some times where maybe the CMIO wants to do the project, but it’s politically charged and leadership feels having third-party assistance will help steer them through a rocky course. Those are challenging but often fun, although they can be stressful.

As I’ve talked to recruiters and looked at various job postings, I’m seeing some trends in CMIO job descriptions that I’m not sure I’m fond of. It might be a function of the duration clients have been using clinical systems, but I’m seeing more “maintenance” type job responsibilities and fewer “leadership” elements. Organizations are recruiting CMIOs to manage systems and data and people, but not necessarily for the ability to shape mission or to help architect strategies for delivering care in increasingly complex environments.

It feels like the role is being diminished somewhat, and the salaries are commensurate with that change. Of course, I have to remind myself that the positions I am looking at are sometimes in organizations that have struggled with even having a CMIO, let alone keeping one. If they were a great place to work and had found the right person, they wouldn’t have a vacancy.

Regardless of the situation, though, and the reason for the vacancy, it’s difficult to look at positions that are less C-suite and more director level, regardless of the title. Usually those positions have a salary range that is also less C-suite and more middle management. I recently spoke with a recruiter about a position with a salary range that was closer to that of a new graduate fresh out of residency than to an executive-level position, and certainly far less than one could earn in clinical practice. When asked about how they see the range as being supportive of the position, they mentioned that it was less than they pay their staff physicians “because it doesn’t have all the stress that comes with clinical medicine.”

When you hear comments like that, you know immediately that a position isn’t going to be a good fit. I would argue that anyone who thinks that being a CMIO is less stressful than other physician roles probably doesn’t understand what typically falls under a CMIO’s responsibility. I also didn’t like the fact that they were comparing the roles like that, because frankly being a physician is stressful and being an executive is stressful, but in different ways on different days. I don’t think that comparing stress levels across the organization as a means to justify salary shows that an organization is very progressive. It also highlights the risk that they might be in the habit of pitting various constituencies against each other in the hospital, which again is not a good sign.

I’m also struck by the lack of diversity in some organizations’ leadership profiles. At one organization, a large community health center that sees a very diverse population, the entire leadership team was composed of Caucasian males over age 55. I try to judge a potential job based on the job, but given the fact that I didn’t feel welcome during the interview, I didn’t think I’d feel welcome on the leadership team. Having grown up around many hunters and fishers and being fairly outdoorsy, I can talk hunting and fishing in a passable fashion, but it was nearly impossible to steer them away from conversations about who had the better deer lease and whether the wives would be coming to hunting camp this year or not. There were also conversations about how much money their stay-at-home spouses spent that were entirely inappropriate for an interview situation and made me concerned about how my potential peers viewed women in the workplace since none of the wives discussed work outside the home.

Another organization had an interviewer that asked me directly whether I had children. Although it was offered in a folksy tone under the banner of “help us get to know you,” it’s irrelevant to the job and role and was an immediate turn-off. It also said that this is an employer who doesn’t even understand the basics of employment law. As a seasoned people manager, that’s not something I want to sign up for. Given the desire of employees to have work-life balance along with the challenges of a graying society, rather than asking those kinds of questions, potential employers should be trumpeting whatever provisions they have in place to allow people to have children, build families, and participate in the care of aging family members.

Other organizations have been much more welcoming and have been proud to showcase provisions they have in place to keep their workforce healthy and productive. I’ve seen some fairly generous sick leave policies and concepts such as floating holidays to ensure that employees get time off on days that are significant to them and to their families. Vacation tends to still be a bit of a sticking point, though. Although I understand having people “earn” multiple weeks of vacation as they build tenure with a company, offering a senior-level applicant two weeks of vacation with the option to have a whopping three weeks of vacation after five years of service is a bit of a non-starter. We know the US lags behind the rest of the world with vacation days, and as a potential applicant who’s well established in the workforce, it’s a concern.

The issues I describe aren’t unique to finding CMIO positions and they apply to many other situations I see in the workplace. Potential employees want to feel valued and they want to feel like they’re moving to something better that offers more opportunity and/or rewards than their current situation. They don’t want to feel like they’re making a lateral move, let alone a downward move. I’ll be meeting up with some of my CMIO colleagues at HIMSS and will be interested to see how they feel about where they are in their careers or what the future holds. Until then, I’m off to the airport on my next adventure.

Email Dr. Jayne.

HIStalk Interviews Jim Causon, CIO, Memorial Hospital

February 19, 2018 Interviews 2 Comments

Jim Causon, CPA is CIO of Memorial Hospital in Stilwell, OK.

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Tell me about yourself and the hospital.

Memorial Hospital is a 50-bed acute care hospital. It has a 10-bed geriatric psych unit and a physicians’ clinic that has anywhere from 12 to 16 physicians, depending on who comes and goes at any given time. It’s in rural Oklahoma in Adair County.

The clinic sees about 3,000 patients a month. The total population for the county is 3,000. [laughs] You know everybody. We draw a lot of people through the clinic. We see a lot of frequent flyers. It’s a nice little facility. It’s about an hour or hour and a half from the next-largest facility.

I am a partner in an accounting firm, Causon & Westhoff CPAs. We provide the CIO function for the hospital.

What technologies does the hospital use?

It terms of patient care, billing, and admission, discharge, and transfer, we use Medsphere OpenVista CareVue in conjunction with Stockell Insight CS. We just bought the clinic live on the EMR in August. We bought the hospital up first, got everybody comfortable with it, and then brought it into the clinic.

How has Medsphere worked out?

It has worked out well. That was a big concern up front when we were looking for a product. We were probably a little later to the ball game in selecting a vendor, mostly because we wanted to see how other implementations went at other sites with different vendors.

Then, of course, cost was a big factor. The government didn’t do anybody any favors by publishing what they were going to pay. Everybody was at the top of that rate for what they wanted for their product, which left little for implementation, hardware support, and that kind of stuff. We were fortunate to find Medsphere. The pricing worked out well for our small hospital and we were able to get it up and running easily. It was really an easy process, or as easy as going from paper to electronic can be. The technology part was easy compared to the people transition.

I assume your doctors are community based. Did you get good buy-in for physician order entry and other direct physician use of Medsphere?

We did. We have one doctor who probably does three times the volume of anybody else. He was a big concern for us in terms of being able to keep up. Are we going to have to hire additional staff to support him?

He was the silent champion when we came online. He picked it up real quick, didn’t have any problem with it, didn’t really get behind significantly in the beginning. He does well with it. We’ve got a couple of doctors that see a third of the patients that he does who still struggle with it a little bit.

When we went live in August with the clinic, for probably the first four weeks following go-live, we had a dip in the number of people we saw and charges going out. But by Month 2, we were back up to where we normally are. We saw very little decrease in productivity when we brought the clinic live.

You had no unexpected impact on revenue or accounts receivable?

Our days in AR went up a little bit when we first went live in the hospital. It really wasn’t significant. We did it sort of backwards. Most people bring in their ADT, billing, admit-discharge software first. We didn’t. We started with the clinical side. We kept all of our old billing software in place, and once we were up and running on the clinical side, we brought the admit, discharge, billing in on top of it. We kind of did it in a backwards order, but it worked out well for us.

When you look at hospitals paying huge maintenance costs for Epic or Cerner even as they’re trying to cut costs, are you glad you chose a less-expensive product?

It was more about, we have to get this right, because if we don’t, we can close the doors on the hospital. There is not a lot of big budget in there for getting it wrong. [laughs] We were very careful in our choice and the way we implemented it to protect the revenue streams as we brought it online to make sure we didn’t get a very big drop at the beginning.

What kind of technology staff do you have?

Until we implemented Medsphere in the hospital, I was the only IT person for the facility. We had a maintenance person that had some computer experience that I would recruit to restart this machine, fix that printer, run this cable, that kind of thing. I was it. Probably a year after we were on CareVue, we brought Insight up and added a fair number of new machines. We decided it was time to bring a person in house. We hired a person to be in house to take care of user issues. I maintain the servers and all of the larger issues. That’s the way we’ve run it since then. Really, it’s just the two of us.

Does it scare you reading about malware and having just two people to protect the systems?

Scares the pants off me. [laughs] Our biggest risk is what that end user is going to click on in their e-mail that’s going to cause us problems. We have had one laptop that was infected with ransomware, but it was a non-critical machine. It was identified almost immediately and we dropped its connection within a couple of minutes. We didn’t have any problems with the rest of the system, but that’s a worry every day. What is going to pop up that you’re not protected for that you don’t know about yet?

We do as much as we can in terms of firewalls, monitoring, protection, filtering, and education, but you never know. Our people are getting better. They send me e-mails that say, “Hey, this doesn’t look legit. Is it?” Most of the time, it isn’t.

We are getting ready to implement a process where we send fake e-mails to employees to see if they click on it or not. A lot of other people are doing that. That is our weakest area, the end user. Plan for the worst and hope for the best, is that how it goes?

Do you have other systems you would like to implement but can’t justify financially?

With current market, everybody is holding onto their dollars the best they can. Medsphere and Stockell have been very good to work with. If we need something or want something, they will help us figure out a way to do it at a relatively low cost, or a lot of times, at no cost at all. If it’s something someone else has, something they were going to do anyway, or something that would be a nice feature for some other hospital, they will help us get it done.

Stockell Insight CS has a large user group. They donate a certain number of hours every year to the user group. We meet in June every year to recommend the enhancements. They tally up the number of hours the enhancements that were submitted will require and they do as many as they can. We vote as a group on which ones we want. We have taken a large delegation this year and just about every year. Almost everything we’ve requested, they’ve been able to provide for us. I really can’t complain with the additional expenditures to get us what we want and what we need.

What opportunities and challenges do you see in using technology to align more closely with patients?

The biggest challenge for us is the consumer. We are in a small, rural community. It is primarily a Cherokee Indian population. A lot of people don’t have cell phones, don’t have computers. As we started rolling out our patient portal and trying to meet Meaningful Use by getting people to sign up, they’re like, I don’t have an e-mail. I don’t have a cell phone. OK, what do we do? [laughs]

Even down to our employees. When we tried to implement direct deposit for paychecks or self-service for payroll, where you can print your own W-2 and stuff they, didn’t have a computer. Some didn’t even have a bank account. Those are the kinds of issues that we face, more so than people saying, why can’t I do this online? It’s more like, please, will you try this online? [laughs]

Do you have any final thoughts?

I saw other hospitals is that were picking a vendor for pharmacy, picking a vendor for lab, and then trying to integrate all these vendors through interfaces. When something didn’t work, these guys were pointing at those guys who were pointing at somebody else. Getting it fixed and reconciled is almost impossible because everybody is pointing fingers at each other.

When we selected this system, all of those departments were integrated. We don’t have 10 different software products that are trying to do this work. Pharmacy, lab, and radiology are all in one software. The only interface we have is the interface from Medsphere to Stockell, and since they’re under the same umbrella, we have one throat to choke if things don’t work.

Their support for both sides is first class. They are very professional and quick to respond. If something is not working and we’re concerned about it, then they’re concerned about it. With other facilities and some other products, I don’t get that feeling. We’ve had a good working relationship with their support teams. There are times where we lean on them more than a large facility might because we don’t have the IT staff on site to do it. I can’t say enough good things about the support coming out of these guys.

We have been happy with our choice. Irv Lichtenwald is top dog at Medsphere. He has a monthly call with each client, so we talk to him directly at least once a month. If we have problems or concerns, 30 minutes after the call, someone is calling me back to say, heard you talked to Irv today. Yes, where are we on this? You don’t feel like you’re just a number. When I call and say who I am, they don’t ask me for my client number and have to look me up. They know who we are. That’s nice. That says something.

Morning Headlines 2/19/18

February 18, 2018 Headlines No Comments

Holy Cross CEO covers payroll, seeks more cuts

Holy Cross Hospital (NM) says its financial problems are due to a problematic software rollout, its conversion to a critical access fee structure, Medicaid payment delays, and a lawsuit judgment that raised its malpractice insurance by $600,000.

US Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2019

Last Thursday’s meeting of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs covered the VA’s FY2019 budget request, with much of the discussion focused on the cost and timing of the Cerner roll out.

MCH’s Cerner implementation showing progress

Texas-based Medical Center Health’s $47 million Cerner roll out suffers implementation problems that Cerner has attributed to hospital clinicians and administrators.

Monday Morning Update 2/19/18

February 18, 2018 News 4 Comments

Top News

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Thursday’s meeting of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs covered the VA’s FY2019 budget request. Health IT-related topics:

  • Committee members fretted about the appearance of privatizing of the VA in giving veterans an option to turn to community providers for timely care, the VA’s cost of which has risen dramatically with higher usage.
  • Rep. Phil Roe, MD (R-TN) said the value of the Cerner contract alone in the VA’s EHR project will be $10 billion, not including infrastructure and VistA maintenance costs.
  • Rep. Roe questioned whether it will ever be possible to turn VistA off. He thinks it will need to run for many years for looking up information that can’t be converted to Cerner.
  • Rep. Roe said, “It is unthinkable that the VA could potentially spend billions of dollars on a project that doesn’t substantially increase the department’s ability to share information with DoD or community providers.”
  • VA Secretary David Shulkin said the VA doesn’t have an EHR, it has VistA, which he says is instead “130 electronic records,” referring to the “different parts of VistA.”
  • Sec. Shulkin said he paused the project to make sure that the VA can exchange information with community providers, as 36 percent of veterans are getting care in the community. He said the American healthcare system hasn’t yet figured out interoperability, but the VA can lead the way.
  • Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) questioned the rollout of a scheduling system given that the pending Cerner project has “run into trouble.” Sec. Shulkin said the VA’s Epic scheduling project (MASS) pilot will go live in Columbus, OH in March and the VA is looking forward to seeing how it works. Commercial scheduling products are being tested at three other sites.

Reader Comments

From Ticklish: “Re: opioid crisis. This article says it’s caused by a lack of interoperability. Think so?” Of course not. Short-sighted healthcare people forget that prescribed, FDA-approved opioid drugs make up just part of the available smorgasbord of narcotics, and in fact, their higher cost and reduced availability is pushing users to cheaper, more easily obtained forms that doctors and hospitals don’t control. I’m not convinced that anything can stop the use of drugs by determined people, but if there is a magic bullet, I’m certain it isn’t prescription databases, cracking down on supply, or mass incarceration. And while everybody was focusing on Oxycontin, crystal meth usage has returned with a vengeance lately with purer, cheaper product available everywhere, so now there’s that massive scourge to deal with again. Our real problem is that a huge chunk of our society (one in seven, according to the Surgeon General) finds living in an un-medicated state intolerable, apparently not really caring whether their minds are altered by depressants (including alcohol), stimulants, or both. That massive demand and the associated profit will assure a steady supply that can’t be stopped, even by admirably trying to contain opiate over-prescribing.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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Digital health apps already have challenges with proving their worth, but here’s another problem: half of poll respondents – presumably most of them being health IT experts — wouldn’t be happy at having an app prescribed instead of a medication. Maybe the unstated problem is that the mental picture of a “digital health app” is a patient portal, activity tracker, or record-keeping system instead of an FDA-approved treatment that delivers proven outcomes.

New poll to your right or here, as suggested by a reader: What impact would a job candidate’s CPHIMS credential have on your hiring decision? Long-time readers may remember that I asked this same poll question way back in 2009 and 2010.

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Readers weighed in on “What I Wish I’d Known Before … Going to my First HIMSS Conference as an Exhibitor.” This week’s question: what do you wish you’d known before taking a travel-heavy job?

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Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Wolters Kluwer Health. Every health professional knows their medical evidence and technology brands – Lippincott, Ovid, UpToDate, Medi-Span, Health Language, PharmacyOne Source, and Emmi. Those products deliver clarity when and where it’s needed most, driving better care decisions and consistent outcomes across the care continuum. Its “Eyes Wide Open” report provides practical ways to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes. Thanks to Wolters Kluwer Health for supporting HIStalk.

Listening: new from Superchunk, angry protest poetry cloaked in masterfully crafted indie punk-pop. The Chapel Hill, NC band has never lost its relevance or fierce independence, and to my ears, has never sounded better. I saw their frenetic but somehow simultaneously laid back show live awhile back and was most struck by a fan’s shouted request for some non-Superchunk song, with the laughing reply of guitarist Jim Wilbur being, “Mac [McCaughan] won’t sing any lyrics he didn’t write, so that’s not going to happen.” That’s admirable.


Webinars

None scheduled soon. Previous webinars are on our YouTube channel. Contact Lorre for information.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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From the Allscripts earnings call following mostly good results that were marred by much lighter bookings than analysts expected, sending shares down 7 percent Friday:

  • President Rick Poulton touted the company’s acquisition of McKesson’s EIS business and Practice Fusion, saying that they give the company hundreds of new client relationships; fill several EHR portfolio gaps; create a large, actionable patient data set that life sciences and payer companies will pay for as they did under Practice Fusion; and add $300 million in annual recurring revenue, all for a net investment of $50 million.
  • The sales cycle is lengthening and customers are looking harder at return on investment.
  • End-of-life of the former McKesson Horizon Clinicals and Series 2000 product lines is March 31.
  • The company is pitching its DbMotion to the VA as it transitions over several years to Cerner or whatever vendor it chooses.
  • Allscripts declined to say how much Hyland Software is paying for the former McKesson OneContent content management business, but the Allscripts SEC filing seems to indicate $260 million plus assumption of certain liabilities minus other financial adjustments.

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FDA approves the marketing of Viz.AI’s AI-powered CT scan analysis to notify providers quickly of a possible patient stroke for direct intervention.

Adventist Health hospitals in California will shift 1,200 IT and revenue cycle employees to Cerner, according to layoff notices filed with the state.


Sales

Presence Health (IL) chooses R1 for RCM services and will transfer 1,000 of its employees to the company.


Decisions

  • St. Charles Prineville Hospital (OR) will go live on Epic in April 2018.
  • Lake Forest Hospital (IL) will go live on Epic on March 3, 2018.
  • McLaren Oakland (MI) will go live on Cerner in late 2018 or early 2019.

These provider-reported updates are supplied by Definitive Healthcare, which offers a free trial of its powerful intelligence on hospitals, physicians, and healthcare providers.


People

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Orlando Health (FL) hires Novlet Mattis (Ascension Information Services) as CIO. She replaces Rick Schooler, who retired in September 2017.


Announcements and Implementations

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Hartford HealthCare (CT) reports that its use of Stanson Health’s clinical decision support prevented 250 unnecessary transfusions in 45 days, providing an annualized $1 million in savings.

Columbia Basin Health Association (WA) goes live on Versus Advantages RTLS patient flow solution in its new outpatient clinic.

Research network TriNetX develops an algorithm that can deduce the line of chemotherapy treatment a patient is undergoing, helping biopharmaceutical researchers develop new therapies. 


Privacy and Security

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A security researcher reports a SQL injection vulnerability in Epic’s MyChart, also noting that Epic was “quick to respond to contact and patch the vulnerability.” That’s commendable – software vendors rarely behave nicely (and often threateningly) toward strangers who are nice enough to warn them of security flaws in their products. I don’t know how Epic notifies customers and distributes the patch, but I assume it will be quick now that any interested hacker could theoretically exploit it. For non-techies, SQL injection is an old hacker’s method in which they paste an SQL statement into a web page input field – such as name or city – that the web page then executes, giving the hacker access to the underlying database (read, update, delete) without having to pass through the site’s authentication.


Other

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The CEO of Medical Center Health (TX) tells the board that its Cerner implementation is one of the organization’s most pressing issues, explaining, “This was an attempt to find an ideal system. That is not a possibility. There is no ideal electronic medical system.” He says he’s worked at hospitals that use Meditech and Epic and those products have the same problems. He says Cerner blamed hospital clinicians and administrators – “pretty much everyone except themselves” – for not implementing the system correctly, but says the hospital and vendor are now working together and Cerner is providing consultants at no charge. The hospital expects the implementation to come in at $47 million, $7 million under budget.

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The financially struggling, 47-bed Holy Cross Hospital (NM) says its problems are due to a problematic software rollout, its conversion to a critical access fee structure, Medicaid payment delays, and a lawsuit judgment that raised its malpractice insurance by $600,000. The hospital didn’t name the system, but they started conversion from Meditech Magic to CPSI Evident last fall. The CEO said in his presentation to county commissioners last week that he should have delayed the October 1 go-live, but realized that many of the 100 on-site vendor support staff would be unavailable for a later date. He also says he regrets conducting the critical access switch and EMR conversion nearly simultaneously, but the hospital’s underlying financial problems were in place long before either.

A Miami pediatric surgeon is charged with unlawfully accessing a computer when his former girlfriend finds out that, while they were dating, he logged in thousands of times to the streaming video feed from her in-home security cameras using hospital computers. He says she gave him the password, he was just checking into her well-being, the two cameras were not the bedroom, and she didn’t complain until they broke up and he declined to pay her the $400,000 she demanded.

I like seeing a rare non-stuffy, HIMSS-related vendor press release. Cybersecurity services provider Lunarline says it is “planning for a wild HIMSS 2018,” explaining that, “Our sales team somehow convinced the conference organizers to let us serve beer at our booth. Because, you know, there is never enough alcohol in Vegas.” The company’s website is mostly dry and unremarkable, but a few glimmers of wit shine through.


Sponsor Updates

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Mr. H, Lorre, Jenn, Dr. Jayne.
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What I Wish I’d Known Before … Going to my First HIMSS Conference as an Exhibitor

I knew HIMSS was a big conference, but I didn’t realize that the impact would be that it is just hard to move around and accomplish a lot. You never really get to see the whole exhibit floor or do a lot of things because it just take so long to get there. Food lines are long, there’s no place to sit. It’s a complete workout. The startup pavilion has some of the more interesting companies and the big vendor booths are very impersonal. Then, when it is all over, you wonder what you really accomplished or learned and if it was worth all the trouble.


Wear really, truly comfortable shoes.


That my exhibitor badge gets me into educational sessions as well. Someone more experienced at these events helped guide me in finding helpful sessions for my area of expertise.


Very long hours on your feet. I have a pair of super supportive shoes I call “my HIMSS shoes” and I am never without them.


HIMSS is all about making and strengthening business relationships. But on the floor, you literally have about 30 seconds to get someone’s attention and earn the right to have a meaningful conversation.


As an exhibitor, it can devolve into a party atmosphere, quickly. Pace yourself.


Wear comfortable, not necessarily stylish, shoes.


Wear comfortable shoes!


The exhibit hall is like the Caribbean, full of ports (booths) and buyers are like cruise ship passengers. The enthusiasm doesn’t always stick once they get home and visitors will confuse ports/vendors. Give them something memorable (in good way) and be prepared to present again after HIMSS if you want them to truly remember anything you showed them.


Be careful about scheduling meetings first thing in the morning after the first day. Last day first or last are the worst times for any real business to happen.


Stop at two drinks. Period. It’s possible, even likely, that key people in the industry are around you at all times, even 1 a.m. in the hotel bar. Remember that this is your career and you’re making an impression even after exhibit hours are done.

Make reservations for every anticipated meal, even if for two people, as everything will be packed. And, if invited to a meal by a vendor, verify that that vendor has a reservation inclusive of all invited attendees. I attended a breakfast at a previous HIMSS with a vendor where the rep from the vendor did not make reservations for an intolerably crowded joint and eight executives huddled around a bar-height bistro table for two in the hallway of the casino discussing the strategic direction of our partnership.


How your message gets lost in the noise and the value proposition is questionable, unless you are one of the larger vendors.


The amount of time you will be on your feet. I have HIMSS shoes, comfortable, dressy shoes half a size too big with the most cushioning insoles I could find and hiking socks.


Establish scheduled meetings before or during HIMSS if you are looking to sell (vs. touch current customers, develop business development relationships, or perpetuate your brand). It is not worth pulling anyone off the floor to learn about your product anymore since, unlike in the early days, most of the folks walking the floor are fellow vendors.


HIMSS is in a conference that companies in the healthcare information technology industry must attend even, if the value for doing so is minimal. Pulling out is a public red flag that there is a problem or at least a big change in the company. So we go and represent with minimal expectation of value, but it can be fun for the team selected to the representing.


Events and Updates

February 17, 2018 News No Comments

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Weekender 2/16/18

February 16, 2018 Weekender 1 Comment

 

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Weekly News Recap

  • Drug maker Roche pays $1.9 billion to acquire oncology EHR and precision medicine vendor Flatiron Health, started just a few years ago by two guys in their 20s who were backed by Google Ventures (now Alphabet).
  • Nokia will conduct a strategic review of its digital health business, which it formed just two years ago by acquiring connected health hardware vendor for $212 million, after which it wrote down most of the cost.
  • Fitbit acquires app-powered health coaching vendor Twine Health with intentions of moving into chronic care management.
  • HHS’s budget request would cut ONC’s budget from $60 million to $38 million, while HHS OCR would see its budget reduced by 20 percent.
  • The White House’s proposed budget would give the VA an initial $1.2 billion to implement Cerner.
  • The VA says Cerner passed an external interoperability review, with contract signing expected by the end of February.
  • American Academy of Family Physicians gives HHS and ONC a list of specific actions it would like to see to reduce the health IT burdens of clinicians.
  • CPSI takes a $28 million impairment charge due to poor revenue and high development costs of its acquired American HealthTech post-acute care product.

Best Reader Comments

A price comparison tool that is integrated with an e-prescribing tool, ideally within an EHR sounds easy enough, but when I think of the frequent changes of PBM pricing and insurance formularies being integrated and updated in the EHRs, not to mention try to envision the extra time this would take the providers (doctors and/or nurses) to review that and discuss with the patient, I just see more time spent in the visit, not less. I’m trying to imagine my aging parent having that conversation with the doctor. (My Two Cents)

Doctors didn’t spend six years in medical school to learn how to help their patients find the cheapest pharmacy. Of course there should be transparency in pricing. But let’s not waste physicians’ time by putting more administrative work on their plates. (Debtor)

This approach – company running its own health programs — has been tried a dozen times before going back to the 1940s. They’ve even run their own clinics, hired own docs, etc. Doesn’t change much. The real irony is that the problem started when companies gave health care as a fringe bene to avoid wage increases and kept expanding benes year after year. Came back to bite’m hard. The only way a company today can really reduce health care costs is to deny expensive procedures to their employees (using whatever excuse they can come up with…same way HMOs do it). And based on 50 years of experience, I doubt they have the fortitude to do that. (HIS Junkie)

it is much easier for the President/CEO/Board to make high level, structural changes to an organization. Moves like M&A or even divestitures. Those organizational changes can be done over a timeframe of months. Restructuring the internal support systems to reflect the new organizational structure typically takes several years. Not that I’m complaining! Those C-level org changes give you a clear mandate and direction for where your business IT systems need to go. And there’s a deep well of work to be fulfilled in order to get there. However this also means that IT can fall far behind the curve of what the organization needs. (Brian Too)


Watercooler Talk Tidbits

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Readers funded the DonorsChoose teacher grant request of Mrs. N in New York, who asked for STEM books, supplies, and take-home lab kits for her middle schoolers. She reports, “My students’ faces lit up when I showed them the materials and they could not believe that they would be able to take them home! They wanted to use the materials immediately and could not put the books down. Since the kits are in such high demand, I use a raffle system to distribute them every Friday. Students can keep the kits from Friday to Friday and they will also be used in class on Friday afternoons. This way, more students can benefit from the resources, At the end of the day each Friday, the kits will go home with different students. Thank you for supporting science education outside of the classroom. My students and I are extremely grateful and fortunate to receive funding for our Mobile Science Labs.”

I’ve been overwhelmed with LinkedIn-powered cognitive dissonance lately as I try to reconcile self-stroking descriptions of prior job performance with associated short tenures. Could a person really have driven a gazillion dollars’ worth of new sales, massively improved a product or service, or masterminded the creation of endless synergies, all in a short time? And if so, how did their former employer not collapse completely after the devastating loss of such a key employee? I’m extra suspicious when the follow-up to their lustrous performance was either extended unemployment or independent, non-specific “consulting,” suggesting that their claims aren’t surviving close examination by prospective employers.

This is smart: Wisconsin biohealth industry advocate BioForward awards seven “scholarships” that will help selected Wisconsin health IT companies cover the cost of attending HIMSS18 to make business connections. The winners are Yahara Software, Ancilla Partners, Healthio, Alithias, Spaulding Medical, Wellbe, and Physician Compass.

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A reader ran across a year-old AMIA promotional video, which he or she describes as, “nothing but stock video clips string together almost at random, like it was made by an intern or new graduate hired right into the marketing department who knows nothing about the field of informatics.” It’s tough to try to explain informatics with a video, but this one is really puzzling – watch it with sound off and try to figure out why clips of someone staring at a mountain, flipping book pages in a meeting, and hugging a returning soldier in the airport would add value to the narrative that describes informatics. I blame the ever-increasing tendency of lazy readers to require pictures – even obviously irrelevant or gratuitous ones – before they will begrudgingly read or listen to a few words. Your local TV news is a good example, featuring meaningless video recycled from old stories and talking heads who were hired for looks instead of brains talking “on the scene” in front of a darkened building where a crime occurred 12 hours before.

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Athenahealth’s investor presentation from this week includes a photo of company leadership, raising the obvious question: where de women at? It looks a fraternity’s yearbook photo. They have two females on their 11-member board, but otherwise, it’s all testosterone-powered. Allscripts has one woman on its seven-member executive team and zero of nine on its board. EClinicalWorks doesn’t list its executives. Cerner has two female executives of 10 and two of 10 on its board. Meditech has five females among its 12 executives, clearly a frontrunner in declining to create a no-girls-allowed treehouse. 

The Houston newspaper covers a Walmart program that sends employees who have specific, serious conditions to hospitals such as Memorial Hermann and Johns Hopkins for treatment that the company pays for entirely as a single, bundled payment. Interestingly, 40 percent of those sent to Memorial Hermann turn out to not need the surgery they were told by their local doctor or hospital that they had to have, raising the possibility of widespread inaccurate diagnosis or overtreatment.

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This is exciting and seemingly mostly overlooked. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch Saturday will carry two satellites that will allow the company to test the feasibility of offering Starlink global, satellite-powered broadband service. The satellites will be placed in a 300-mile low Earth orbit that allow offering gigabit-level service with latency of only 25 milliseconds vs. the long round trip (600 milliseconds) and thus slow service provided by current Hughes satellites orbiting at 22,000 miles. The Starlink plan, which calls for nearly 12,000 connected satellites, was approved by the FCC this week. Ponder both the business and societal benefit of fast, globally available, and cheap broadband service. It’s especially important, now that the FCC has killed net neutrality, to give consumers broadband alternatives that don’t involve digging up streets to lay cable. 


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Morning Headlines 2/16/18

February 15, 2018 Headlines No Comments

Alphabet-backed Flatiron Health is being acquired by Roche

Drug maker Roche will acquire oncology EHR and personalized medicine vendor Flatiron Health for $1.9 billion in cash, giving the company a $2.1 billion valuation that includes Roche’s previous investment in it.

Allscripts to sell OneContent business to Hyland

Allscripts will sell the OneContent document management software business it acquired as part of McKesson EIS to Hyland Software for undisclosed terms.

Nokia announces strategic review of its Digital Health business

Nokia conducts a strategic review of its digital health business just two years after it created it by acquiring connected health hardware vendor Withings for $212 million.

News 2/16/18

February 15, 2018 News No Comments

Top News

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Drug maker Roche will acquire oncology EHR and personalized medicine vendor Flatiron Health for a $1.9 billion in cash, valuing the company at $2.1 billion including Roche’s previous investment in it.

Flatiron had raised $313 million in three funding rounds from 2013 to 2016. The company was valued at $1.2 billion just two years ago.

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Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg started the company in 2012 after selling their previous advertising technology company to Google for $70 million. Google Ventures, now Alphabet, invested $130 million in Flatiron Health in May 2014. The founders graduated from The Wharton School’s undergraduate program in 2008, which would make them around 32 years old.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Loyale Healthcare. The Lafayette, CA-based company– founded in 1990 as CashNet – helps make a patient’s financial experience as positive as their clinical experience. That’s especially important as patients become responsible for a bigger portion of their healthcare costs. The company’s predictive analytics and behavioral indicators create personalized patient financial plans and workflows that allow providers to conduct honest conversations about treatment costs and payment responsibility. Patients appreciate getting the transparency and support they need to feel in control, while provides are taking the cue of successful retailers who recognize that their most valuable asset is their customer relationships. They can increase revenue, decrease staff time, and minimize bad debt while providing personalization that optimizes affordability and collections. Loyale’s patient relationship portal provides balance notification, combined statements, 24/7 self-service, online payments, and secure digital communication. Its platform applies KPIs, best practices, red flags, and analysis of patient sentiment and behavior while integrating with all leading systems. Thanks to Loyale Healthcare for supporting HIStalk.    

Here’s a just-released Loyale Healthcare explainer video.


Webinars

None scheduled in the coming weeks. Previous webinars are on our YouTube channel. Contact Lorre for information.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

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Allscripts reports Q4 results: revenue up 22 percent, EPS $0.18 vs. $0.14, meeting earnings expectations and beating on earnings. Bookings fell far short of expectations, however, sending shares down in early after-hours trading Thursday. The company announced that it will sell the OneContent document management software business it acquired as part of McKesson EIS to Hyland Software for undisclosed terms.

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Nokia announces that it is conducting a strategic review of its digital health business just two years after it created it by acquiring connected health hardware vendor Withings for $212 million. Nokia had already written down $164 million worth of goodwill related to the business in October 2017.

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The Chartis Group acquires Atlanta-based consulting firm Oncology Solutions for an undisclosed sum.

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Ellkay relocates to larger office space in Elmwood Park, NJ that will accommodate up to 500 employees.

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Rehab therapy software vendor WebPT acquires billing and collections company BMS Practice Solutions.

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Aetna defends its medical review practices following the publication of quotes from the testimony of a former medical director who said he never reviewed patient records in making coverage decision. Aetna says:

  • The story was pushed by a former patient who is suing Aetna and was “conveniently” published just days before the trial was scheduled to begin.
  • The medical director said in a sworn statement that he always reviewed the relevant portions of medical records, nurse summaries, notes, and the company’s Clinical Policy Bulletins.
  • Aetna has paid for all of the $20,000-per-dose treatments of the patient who is suing them. That person remains an Aetna member. The only treatment interruption he experienced happened because he refused to provide blood work ordered by his doctor.

Government and Politics

A federal judge rules that the DOJ can move forward with a lawsuit against UnitedHealth that claims the payer bilked Medicare out of $1.4 billion by submitting invalid diagnostic data for Medicare Advantage plan members.


Innovation and Research

A retrospective study shows that patients who used Glytec’s Glucommander Outpatient insulin therapy management tool and self-tested blood glucose levels twice a day saw better outcomes, including a 3 percent reduction in A1c levels, than those who did not.


Other

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An Allscripts client newsletter says the company’s counsel has concluded that its practice customers do not need to notify patients or OCR following its January ransomware attack.

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EClinicalWorks posts a nicely done video that describes the work of Petaluma Health Center (CA) during the Northern California wildfires of October 2017.


Sponsor Updates

  • AltaPointe Health (AL) adopts the Carequality framework via its Netsmart EHR.
  • TeleHealth Services will deliver Healthwise’s patient education videos through its patient engagement platform.
  • Medecision looks back on a successful 2017.
  • Elsevier collaborates with the VHL Alliance to offer content on Von Hippel-Lindau disease at PracticeUpdate.com.
  • EClinicalWorks customer Petaluma Health Center (CA) wins the 2017 HIMSS Davies Award for improving hypertension control among its patients.
  • Healthwise will exhibit at the West ACE User Group Conference February 21-23 in San Diego.
  • Ingenious Med publishes a new white paper, “Five Guide Posts for Transforming Health Care Systems.”
  • Independent reviewer G2 Crowd names the Liaison Technologies Alloy Platform an Integration Platform as a Service Leader.
  • Vyne adds new features, including a Web portal, to its FastAttach electronic claim attachment software.
  • Definitive Healthcare welcomes its 1,500th customer.
  • The Obix Perinatal System  of Clinical Computer Systems, Inc. earns ONC 2015 Edition Health IT Module certification. 

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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 2/15/18

February 15, 2018 Dr. Jayne 2 Comments

Lots of people are catching Olympic Fever. I’d much rather see that in the community than influenza. I’ve been catching some figure skating and snowboarding on the TVs in the patient rooms, which I much prefer to the omnipresent HGTV.

This Winter Games marks the debut of GE’s Athlete Management Solution, which sounds like a cross between an EHR and a clinical data repository with a side of SNOMED. GE Healthcare’s CTO noted, “Olympians train for many years to represent their nations at the games. Their Herculean efforts must be matched with superhuman clinical speed and quality.” I’d like to see some superhuman clinical speed in my own EHR, but would settle for seeing what GE has in store for both these games and those upcoming in Tokyo in 2020. If any readers are at GE, let me know if you can refer your favorite anonymous blogger for a demo.

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Gallup and Sharecare recently released the “2017 State Well-Being” rankings. I’m not surprised that well-being is on the decline given the political turmoil we’re exposed to on a daily basis along with the pressures of social media and an unpredictable economy. No states showed a statistically significant improvement in the score, and 21 states experienced decreased well-being. The declines were driven by decreased numbers in social well-being and purpose along with the mental health aspects of physical well-being. The highest score was South Dakota with a 64.1 out of 100, followed by Vermont at 64.09. Louisiana and West Virginia rounded out the bottom. I’ll be taking a trip to the latter next summer and will let you know if the beauty of the New River Gorge improves my wellness and sense of purpose.

A reader asked me to further clarify my recent Curbside Consult comments regarding information blocking. In my travels, I frequently encounter major health systems that are guilty of information blocking, throwing up barriers in the way of patients who want to share their information. Examples include telling patients that outside physicians aren’t in the EHR directory for sharing records, refusing to send records by Direct protocol, citing HIPAA as a reason for not sending records to a consulting physician, failing to release specifically requested portions of the record, and downplaying the known interoperability features of their respective systems. Unaffiliated (read independent) providers are blocked from accessing clinical data repositories unless they sign cross-marketing agreements.

People are quick to blame EHR vendors for so-called information blocking, but in my experience, there are plenty of tools available but too many policies and procedures that discourage their use. I guess the theory is that if you make it harder for an independent consulting physician to receive your patient’s data, maybe the patient will be frustrated and choose an employed physician who documents on the shared hospital EHR, therefore solidifying the hospital’s market share.

Failing to accept labs sent from “outside providers” because of perceived compatibility issues and forcing patients to endure duplicate tests is also something I’m seeing more and more of as well. I’m proud to be an independent provider, but given my history in the world of big healthcare, I wish we could all just get along and put the patient at the center of what we do.

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The Medicare Quality Payment Program attestation season is in full swing, with practices starting to realize that perhaps they weren’t as prepared as they thought. Organizations have until March 31 to submit their data for the 2017 calendar year reporting period. I’ve already gotten a couple of calls from organizations asking me to do the EHR equivalent of cooking the books, claiming that providers had the right information but just documented it in the wrong place in the EHR or maybe documented it incompletely. We’re 45 days into the new calendar year and I’m not about to manipulate someone’s database regardless of how well-intentioned they act or how much they beg.

The bottom line is that practices need to be monitoring their providers and their respective documentation habits (or lack thereof) throughout the year and catching problems early enough so that a mitigation plan can make a difference. I’ve had a couple of practices complain that their vendor didn’t have their 2017 measures packages ready at the beginning of the year, so they had nothing to run. I remind them that they could have kept running the 2016 packages to at least get an idea of the numbers since some of the measures didn’t change much, or that they can always create their own reports or use a third party to create interim reports. I know there are consultants out there that will help these clients massage their data, but I’m not eager to become one of them.

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I spent Valentine’s Day with the good folks at the Marriott, but at least I had some time to read #healthpolicyvalentines and feel the love. This one from California ACEP is my favorite. I also want to give a shout out to Alexander Gaffney @AlecGaffney for sharing the best FDA labeling letter ever:

Misbranded Food:

  • Your Nashoba Granola and Whole Wheat Bread (wholesale and retail) products are misbranded within the meaning of section 403(i)(2) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 343(i)(2)] because they are fabricated from two or more ingredients, but the labels fail to bear a complete list of all the ingredients by common or usual name in descending order of predominance by weight as well as all sub-ingredients, as required by 21 CFR 101.4. For example,
  • Your Nashoba Granola label lists ingredient “Love.” Ingredients required to be declared on the label or labeling of food must be listed by their common or usual name [21 CFR 101.4(a)(1). “Love” is not a common or usual name of an ingredient, and is considered to be intervening material because it is not part of the common or usual name of the ingredient.

There you have it, folks. Beware of foodstuffs made with love! In other news, chocolate is under scrutiny for its purported health benefits, with critics alleging bias through industry-funded studies. I see their point, but I do know that dark chocolate makes me smile, so I’m counting on it to help raise my personal well-being index.

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HIStalk Interviews Curtis Watkins, CEO, Parallon Technology Solutions

February 15, 2018 Interviews No Comments

Curtis Watkins is president and CEO of Parallon Technology Solutions of Nashville, TN.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

I’ve been in the healthcare IT industry since 1998 as a hospital IT director, vice-president of large corporations, CIO of a large health system, and deputy CIO of a very large health system. Most of my career has been on the provider side. I’ve been CEO for about three and a half years at Parallon Technology Solutions.

Parallon Technology Solutions is a healthcare IT services delivery firm. We provide EMR implementation, optimization, and full and partial IT outsourcing or managed services. We have a pretty big staff augmentation business as well, providing contract labor to health systems. Those are the three main pillars — EMR implementations, IT support, and staffing.

Is the mix of your business services changing because of provider consolidation or other new trends?

You certainly hit on one of them right off the bat. The acquisition and divestiture process, both of them. Somebody is buying something and somebody else is selling. Both sides of that equation are creating a lot of work, primarily in infrastructure refresh and EMR implementation as the hospital system is brought on board. We’re seeing a lot of activity there.

Another big shift has happened over the last couple of years. In the wild and woolly days of Meaningful Use and EMR implementations, everybody had a lot of money and a lot of incentive to implement these systems, doing it fast and at any cost. It was a pretty easy time to be in our industry. As those systems sink in and become important to operationally support, we’ve seen the costs in healthcare systems and healthcare IT shops dramatically increase. Especially if somebody’s going from, say, legacy Meditech to Epic or Cerner. It’s a lot of operating cost increase.

Over the last couple of years, uncertainty – about reimbursement models, the exchanges, and non-clarity from the Trump administration about where hospital reimbursement is going — has created a drawback on non-essential investment in hospital IT systems. The focus is on looking at the sustainability and cost of keeping IT running.

We’ve seen a lot of opportunity present itself. We’re having a lot of discussions with a lot of health systems about how to reduce operating costs, whether by some type of outsourcing or by creating some type of shared enterprise-scaled environment. Especially when you look at small hospitals or small health systems. We view that as a big opportunity. They just don’t have the levers to pull to get the most cost-effective support mechanisms in place.

Has provider technology innovation suffered as high EHR maintenance costs eat up an even bigger percentage of IT budgets as they are cut back?

Yes. I’ve seen a shift into haves and have-nots in the health system. The medium-sized health systems, small health systems, smaller hospitals, community hospitals — most of them aren’t thinking at all about population health or business intelligence. To the extent they can get that from their package vendors, sure, but they’re concentrating on operations and looking at broader uses of data and broader uses of collaboration. Interoperability and integration have taken a back seat. That’s not a universal, but in a large number of hospitals, they just don’t have the dollars to invest in those types of tools and the resources to run them.

Are health systems using more remote contract IT workers?

Yes. It’s one of the things that we do. A mid-sized or small hospital system can take advantage of economies of scale. Our central remote team can support several hospitals at once in a shared environment. Hospitals get greater expertise as their share of a high-level person who they need only once in a while.

We put together groups of hospitals, understand their operations, and support them remotely. We’ve seen people increasingly be OK with that, especially if the company has good communication tools and the ability to talk with customers and report on actual experiences and actual outcomes. It’s more a case of having a good view of how your providers are doing as opposed to having to have them right in front of you.

Elbow support has to be there, especially for end-user support or to manage the unique things about a hospital or a health system, but I think remote support continues to be important. People are getting more comfortable with it.

How will consolidation of providers and insurers affect health IT?

You’re seeing a couple of trends there. Health systems, in particular, are trying to vertically expand their systems with LTACs and urgent care to provide more of the continuum of care for a patient across their life cycle. Providers, health insurance companies, and drug companies are starting to merge to try to gain competitive advantage in areas where they have the economies of scale to do that.

It’s really interesting to see discussions about corporations like Berkshire and Amazon. What are they going to do there? What’s in their mind as big companies and corporations try to define some part of that healthcare experience and manage more of the cost structure associated with their employee health? That’s going to be interesting. It’s really about just gaining economies of scale or getting cost advantage via strength in numbers or via some kind of shared services approach.

Do you have any final thoughts?

It’s a great time to be in the industry. A lot of things are changing. I think the most important thing is for companies to be flexible, dynamic, and be prepared to meet the needs of the hospitals and health systems as they evolve. We are well positioned to do that.

Morning Headlines 2/15/18

February 14, 2018 Headlines No Comments

NJII, Dept. of Health hope to create info exchange

The New Jersey Innovation Institute will partner with the New Jersey Department of Health to develop the grant-funded New Jersey Health Information Network, an HIE that will initially go live in Newark and then expand to other parts of the state.

On-Screen, On-Demand, On-Time: The Future of Telemedicine at Penn Medicine

Penn Medicine (PA) brings its telemedicine initiatives under one roof at the new Center for Connected Care, creating one of the country’s largest telehealth hubs.

US can sue UnitedHealth in $1 billion Medicare case, judge rules

A federal judge rules that the DOJ can move forward with a lawsuit against UnitedHealth that claims the payer bilked Medicare out of $1.4 billion by submitting invalid diagnostic data for Medicare Advantage plan members.

Readers Write: It’s Time for Drug Price Transparency

February 14, 2018 Readers Write 9 Comments

It’s Time for Drug Price Transparency
By Stanley Crane

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Stanley Crane is the chief technology officer of InteliSys Health of San Diego, CA.

EHR vendors face a tough challenge in deciding which new features to develop and integrate for their next release and which ones to leave on the cutting room floor. The benefits of each potential enhancement must be weighed against the costs, usually measured in programming time. Moreover, features required for Meaningful Use and MIPS must be included, making the triage even more difficult.

However, EHR companies are missing the boat if they neglect to add a feature that could have a massive impact on their clients’ patients. I am speaking here of prescription drug pricing comparisons, built directly into the EHR workflow of prescribers

We’ve heard a lot about drug price transparency lately. But the public discussion hasn’t come close to the truth.

There are vast differences in the prices pharmacies charge for the same drug from the same manufacturer within the same geographical area. For example, the price of generic Plavix (clopidogrel) ranges from $6.16 at one pharmacy in Aurora, CO to an amazing high of $150.33 at another pharmacy just a few steps away. That’s the equivalent of a gas station charging $72 per gallon for unleaded regular when a station across the street is asking $2.95. This is merely one of literally millions of examples of the absurd variation in retail drug prices.

Most doctors and patients are unaware that retail drug prices vary by so much. As a result, many patients go to the pharmacy, get hit with sticker shock, and walk out without picking up their medication. Others pay far more than they should for the drug because they’re unaware of widespread price variance.

A handful of companies now sell prescription drug price comparison tools directly to consumers. These haven’t had much impact, however. First, because not many people know about them. But also because it’s too complicated for the patient to move their prescriptions to another pharmacy.

Imagine how the situation would be different if a patient’s own doctor could tell him or her what their medications would cost at different pharmacies, regardless of whether the patient has insurance.

What our healthcare system needs today is a modern price comparison tool that is integrated with an e-prescribing tool, ideally within an EHR. The range of prices for a particular drug would appear on the prescribing screen within milliseconds of a physician selecting that medication. Using real-time pricing data from pharmacies, the software could show the cost of that drug at the closest pharmacies to the doctor’s office or the patient’s home or workplace. None of this information is available via EHRs on the market today.

Such a solution could use the patient’s insurance information in their doctor’s EHR, as well as search health plan databases to determine a patient’s out-of-pocket cost (after factoring in deductibles, co-payments, and out-of-pocket minimums). If the patient is on the hook for the cost — either because of a high deductible, high co-pay, or because he or she is uninsured –the software could show the cash price of the medication. It could also indicate whether the cash price is lower than the co-payment under the patient’s plan, ensuring that the patient pays the lowest price each time.

At the patient’s choice, the doctor could then send the e-prescription to the most convenient pharmacy that charges the lowest price for that drug. If the price is still too high for the patient, the software could automatically analyze the selected drug against therapeutically equivalent alternatives, enabling the doctor to prescribe a lower-cost alternative, again comparing the prices at local drugstores.

Transparency in prescription drug pricing offers several benefits. Patients are likely to have better outcomes if they fill their prescriptions and adhere to their prescribed therapy. Physicians can garner higher quality scores if their patients take their meds and control their chronic conditions. Lastly, if price transparency becomes widespread, some pharmacy chains will be forced to lower their prices to avoid losing customers to lower-priced stores or chains. If that happens, the whole system benefits, including patients, plans, employers, and taxpayers.

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Reader Comments

  • Sam Lawrence: Except in this case, coding = medical billing, not development. Though the same warning may be true...
  • BeenThere: Partners will find the savings from their cuts of coders as fools gold. There are a lot of hidden costs running an outs...
  • JC: If there is not there can be. VistA has a reference lab interface that can create the manifests/labeling and such as we...
  • Tom Cornwell: Great stuff from Dr. Jayne as usual. One small typo, last sentence of second-to-last paragraph: should be 'who's' not 'w...
  • HIT Observer: What I find most interesting here, is people defending their common practices rather than truly taking this as invaluabl...
  • Bob: There's no incentive for the provider to spend time doing a price comparison for the patient. Nor is it a good use of th...
  • Peppermint Patty: Veteran - can you clarify what was "fake "? Was something made up (definition of fake) or did you disagree with Vapo...
  • Pat Wolfram: Such a refreshing article. Thanks -- there really can be a simpler version of an acute HIT implementation. But I do ...
  • Woodstock Generation: Bravo to HIStalk's Weekender recaps and other news/opinions. I read it first thing on Monday mornings..................
  • Veteran: #fakenews...

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