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HIStalk Interviews Art Vandelay, A Reader Who Knows His Stuff

September 17, 2007 Interviews 5 Comments

by Inga

HIStalk has a surprising number of great posters who provide thoughtful commentary. One such reader is Art Vandelay, whom I decided was a genius after he provided a terrific analysis of how healthcare would be impacted by Wal-Mart. I had to think of a creative excuse to talk to this great mind, so I convinced Mr. H that Art would be a great interview subject.

Inga: Art Vandelay is not your real name. How did you select it?

Art: I really enjoy Seinfeld and saw a few references to it in HIStalk, so I took it to see if anyone knew what I was talking about. Art is not a real person. He is an artificial character, so I can relate it to my alter ego.

How long have you been reading and posting on HIStalk?

I have been reading since mid to late 2006 and never really went too far back on old posts, but definitely read it as soon as it comes out. I find it interesting and timely. An interesting phenomenon is that some of my old colleagues have left healthcare. HIStalk replaces some of the old shop talk I used to have with my colleagues. It’s a good bridge for that.

What can you share about your background? What do you do besides write interesting commentary on HIStalk?

[Laughs] Right now I am working for a large delivery system. Essentially, I am responsible for a lot of their different initiatives. It’s a lot of project-based work. It involves pieces and parts of an enterprise architecture, but they really don’t call it that.

Prior to that, I was working for a large healthcare outsourcer and had done some cutting edge development work on that. It was really interesting work. I got to work with some old legacy systems and integrated them with newer technology using Web services.

Before that, I worked with a Big 6 consulting firm, back when there was a Big 6, primarily helping with system selection, organization strategic reviews, and package system implementation. I burned out on that really fast. You do double the work you do with other organizations. But it was a great experience.

I graduated with a Masters in healthcare management and was really intent in landing on the business side of healthcare, but the money was on the technology side and I’ve really enjoyed it.

What would you say is your primary area of HIT expertise?

Wow, I never really thought of that. I have a very strong understanding of the vendor space and a general understanding of the architecture. I am more of an apps person than an infrastructure person. I operate more at a business interface level and have worked more with business unit sponsors on the projects I have worked on.

Some of your postings are fairly technical.

Yeah, I have gotten to know a lot of that because of a lot of the things I was involved with before. You can’t work with all the vendors without knowing all the blemishes around them. But I consider myself more on the business side.

Do follow other HIT blogs?

Actually, let me check my RSS reader [Inga laughs because it is such a techy thing to do – even if Art is just on the “business side.”] Shahid Shah The Healthcare IT guy, Medical Connectivity, Neil Versel, Candid CIO, Ignacio Valdes, MD – Linux Medical News, NeoTool Healthcare IT, Running a Hospital, and LabSoftNews.

You are well read.

Yes. I like reading little snippet things. The blogosphere is good for that.

Are there any HIT companies that you believe are doing things right?

I think overall that some of the niche vendors are more innovative. Companies like SCI. They have made a good niche for themselves, but need to more aggressively market themselves. They need to promote their value proposition, to get in there and push their story better. I have heard really good things about them.

NeoTool has an interesting niche around interface delivery using BizTalk. Offering a competing product is a bold move because it may cause channel conflict. Medseek has done some interesting work and is addressing some unfulfilled niches. Emergin is very innovative, have a great niche. It will be interesting to see what do they do next, if they will they take their product to the next level. They have a very strong position from which to build.

The biggies aren’t doing a lot right now or at least not showing a lot of value. Cerner, Eclipsys, Siemens, Epic. They are trying to be too many things at one time right now.

Are there any up and coming trends that you think are going to be big?

A lot! [laughs]. I could talk about that for a long time. Retail, I think, diverse delivery locations and anyone doing medical storefront. Consumer-driven health plans. With high deductibles, consumers will have more control over where they go if they have a particular condition and they can choose their specialist. Medical tourism will probably pick up because of consumer-driven healthcare. It might be overseas or in a vacation spot.

So, what I really see being pushed is more continuity of care record, CCR. There will be a bigger push because you are going to receive your care in different places and you need to bring your medical record back with you.

You are definitely going to see a lot of virtual alliances, like people partnering with Wal-Mart locally to meet referral patterns or Cerner working in Dubai and Cleveland Clinic in the Middle East. A lot of health systems are trying to take their brand images overseas, essentially putting their Good Housekeeping seal of approval on the overseas facility. From a practicality standpoint, that means more network linkage. Some growth of teleconsulting will come with that.

Really, when you start to look at consumer-driven healthcare, it might lead to patient liability estimators. If I go to health system X, I can expect to pay $10,000 on a surgery and $12,000 at health system Y. Then I can decide how I spend my money.

There is going to be a big push on outcomes information, high-level stuff. Everyone defines an outcome in a slightly different way. When we capture it, we discretely capture it, but, each entity defines it differently.

With consumer-driven healthcare, you probably will see more push for access statistics. How quickly can you can get into a location? If you can’t get in to see a physician, who cares how good he is?

The pay-for-performance trend will drive the need for more metrics. There needs to be a lot of work to define things and there needs to be standardized data definition. I could keep going …

Great! Keep going.

Direct contracting will make a comeback. Health systems will try to directly work with employers to get the every last bit of margin out. But they will have to watch what they are getting into. I can see payers trying to prevent entry of providers, which will affect costs even more. Managed care contracting, referral management, decision support around cost modeling – all will make a comeback.

Increased consolidation among payers and providers. Who would have thought someone would partner with Wal-Mart?

Another big trend is centralization. You see this within organizations and in a technology-enabled way with remote monitoring. A lot of people are making moves in the home monitoring space. Folks are discharged as inpatients, but need some monitoring at home. Monitoring elderly folks with RFID to make sure they are eating, not wandering, going to the bathroom.

PACS, allowing remote diagnosis. As that becomes more prevalent in other specialties, you will see a push for some health systems trying to brand themselves. Wouldn’t you want a Mayo doctor to look at your EEG?

With that, a lot of the remote consults would come up. Get a second opinion with Cleveland Clinic. Within organizations, I see consolidation between clinical engineering and IT. The medical device manufacturers are introducing mainstream technology with a whole new slew of challenges in terms of maintenance, integrating, and day-to-day maintenance. Integration is a new skill set that IT companies can bring to them.

Labsoft News talks about convergence between lab and radiology departments. That will definitely come about. Nicholas Carr, a Harvard professor, talked about “IT doesn’t matter”. In my mind, it gets down to our IT departments. Will they deliver commodity services, or, will they become partners with the business side? Organizations are expecting their investments to show return. IT departments either will step up or will be relegated to utility.

Because of the economy, I think there will be a big focus on value. How do I squeeze the most amount of capability in all the technology I have invested in? Which goes back to IT partnering on the business side. IT has to really get involved in the business.

I would expect a growing number of organizations to have CIOs take over the business function. You are seeing it a little in other industries and I think it will come out in healthcare. CIOs are ready to take another step. For CIOs that have made promises, they are going to be asked to step forward and show ROI.

I think we are going to see a return of some best-of-breed. As purse strings get a little tighter, I think best-of-breed will come to show the best ROI, rather than a full Cerner or Epic system.

There is focus on squeezing the value out of investments and a lot of vendors are acquiring because of that. They will go for some of the niche vendors that can add value to their systems. Around revenue cycle systems, who really has done anything new? No one has any investment in R&D that is showing anything. The big vendors will buy small niche players to tap on to the maintenance stream and fill the product gaps.

Who do you admire in the industry ?

Mr. HIStalk, because he makes some very good observations and has great commentary. It’s true. I think I have made some comments about Emergin’s CEO. It’s going to be interesting to see what they do next.

I admire the Epic leadership team. They have created a brand around themselves. I don’t know if it was meant to be that way, but I think it gets them a lot of attention. Among a lot of the biggies, they have delivered the best and kept promises.

Anything else you would like to add?

One question that you forgot to ask, my dream job. A consultant who really didn’t have to travel that much. What drugs am I on – no travel? Think tank analyst. I’d love to be able to what-if all day, debate with someone, and get paid for it.

Realistically, it is anything where I could feel I am making a difference that would provide a solid standard of living so I could consistently be with my wife and kid.

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Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. Great stuff. Can you provide a link to his Wal-Mart analysis? I have this have this hate/admire relationship with the worlds larges retailer. My wife grew up in Bentonville, her brother built a business as a Wal-Mart supplier, only to be driven out by their predatory practices. They offer a great example of monopsony: The power of the single payer to drive prices down. A real put-it-in-your-pipe-and-smoke-it insight to those who think that our current financing system is “market based.”

  2. Art, enjoyable post. We have a small case of mistaken identity going on in industry over this interview. Your career description, and even voice you are writing in is eerily similar to my own. Didn’t know there were two of us running around out here, but entertatining to say the least!

  3. Come on Cosmo, or should I call you A.G. Pennypacker, or Dr. Van Nostrand, or Peter Van Nostrum, it is your old pal from with Vandelay Industries, purveyors of fine latex products and anonymous health care technology blog comments .

    For anyone looking for a fine Julliard-trained dermatologist, Dr. Van Nostrand has cured many a patient. He is more than just a pimple popper.

  4. Yes, I, too, have enjoyed your posts as well as your latex products. Hopefully, you will be able to one day pursue your dream of becoming an architect, Mr. Vandelay.
    Godspeed Art!
    Kal Varnsen

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