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Monday Morning Update 5/12/08

From Irwin M. Fletcher: "Re: degrees. Inga hit the nail on the head: if you could get HONEST responses from people, those with advanced degrees would say it was required (self-validating) and those without degrees would say the school of hard knocks is the best alma mater. An advanced degree isn’t as much about what you learn, but the personal and/or professional commitment you are demonstrating."

From Befuddled: "Re: Secretary Leavitt. Interesting that he is finally getting it and  looking beyond EMR industry rhetoric. ‘I think it’s important to remember that the goal here isn’t [EHRs]. The goal is to transform the sector of health care into a system of health care, a system that provides consumers with information about the quality and cost of their care." Link. I take it as more of an endorsement of EMRs, but as a tool toward an end that doesn’t stop with checking off the "we’ve implemented one" box. His closing comment says so: "Health information technology is an enabler of better quality, lower costs, fewer mistakes and more convenience … The goal is the value that the records produce, not just the existence of the records."

From Concerned Customer: "
Re: Merge Healthcare. Any news or rumors as to what will happen? They are our PACS vendor and things are not looking too rosy." The company’s market cap is less than $12 million, its auditors expressed doubt last month that it can continue without a cash influx, the low share price triggered a Nasdaq de-listing notice, and management has said they will consider "all strategic options" as they try to stop the bleeding with layoffs. A new report says that cash is down to $8.5 million on March 31 and the company has no credit to finance what it said was its only hope, a new teleradiology business. Also in Friday’s report is a statement that the company may be forced into bankruptcy on June 30 (headlines like those don’t exactly enthuse prospects). Shares dropped another 10% to $0.35 Friday. I would expect you’ll see worse support and development because of the job cuts, which nearly always drive off the best workers who have other options. Then, it’s wait and see as to whether they’ll limp into bankruptcy (which could last years), sell out to another vendor or to private equity, or start a long recovery. I’d like to say something reassuring, but these particular tea leaves are ugly. If you’re already a customer, though, I’d sit tight since you don’t have a lot of options anyway.

From Luvvin It: "Re: maybe it won’t be Allscripts-Misys. From the Telegraph: Software group Misys firmed 9¼ to 174¼p amid rumours of a possible bid in the range of 210p-220p per share."

From Samantha Sang:
"Re: 1500s. Has anyone heard of  any medical billing services or EMR/billing software able to fax all of the their 1500s? Seems like a cool and obvious idea, but I’d never thought of it until recently."

From Blogreader:
"Re: advance degree. See this post." Link. Scot Silverstein doesn’t usually have good things to say about CIOs and IT departments, so if you don’t want to start your Monday morning sputtering and flinging your coffee at your monitor, don’t click the link. He often makes harsh observations from the context of "the IT people didn’t hire me, so they must be insular fools who hate doctors" angle, but he does make an occasional point.

I knew I was about to be embarrassed when the e-mail subject read, "A bit late, but thanks – Steph from Johns Hopkins." I had made a silly comment the other day about her HISsies CIO of the Year win awhile back, joking about not hearing from her (and having no reason to expect to since readers voted her in). She reads HIStalk, as I now know. Doh! She sent a gracious, fun, and appreciative e-mail that made me feel like a real doofus for shooting off my mouth. She says HIStalk is "superb," which makes me regret some of my more sophomoric writings (or maybe she was referring to those?) Anyway, my new BFF (as Inga says) Steph was ultra-cool about it, even signing off with "Listening: Memory Almost Full, Paul McCartney." She gave me a Listening! It made my day.

Speaking of HISsies winners, the 2006 Industry Figure of the Year writes about the 2007 winner: Justen Deal comments on athenahealth.

Idiotic lawsuit: a man drives his car through a chain link fence and into a river, trapping his 75-year-old mother-in-law underwater for 30 minutes before police and firefighters can get her out. The town honors her rescuers as heroes in a formal awards ceremony, but the woman and her family sue the town, a selectman, her rescuers, the police chief, an architect, an engineer, and her son-in-law, complaining that the area needed concrete barriers and the city should have had its own team of divers so she could have been rescued more quickly. She was quoted as saying family members commonly sue each other after accidents to collect insurance. She just settled for $870,000.

EHR Scope’s spring issue is now available, with articles on security, evidence-based medicine, and the usual comprehensive list of EMRs.

Inga and I have approved a bunch of LinkedIn requests, which we find fun (it’s like counting how many yearbook signatures you got compared to everybody else, although I suppose today’s high schoolers probably just text each other instead of actually placing pen to paper). One request had this comment, which says it all for me: "I totally dig your blog! I give it to my staff as assigned reading. Please connect with me so we can both pretend Linked In is meaningful in some way:)" I’m admiring my 72 high-powered connections and feeling pretty full of myself right about now.

Maryland’s Health Care Commission endorses two health information exchange proposals, one of them from Erickson Retirement Communities and Baltimore’s three largest hospital systems that would involve Microsoft, GE Healthcare, and HealthUnity.

The Tampa paper runs an article on the use of PatientKeeper’s Mobile Clinical Results on smartphones at Oak Hill Hospital via the company’s deal with HCA.

The mesmeric Gwen at HealthcareITJobs gets a lot of e-mail questions, one of which she told me about: "Is Mr. HIStalk happily married?" I was preening like a peacock for about ten seconds as I pictured a longing female aroused by my manly journalistic bicep-flexing. Re-reading, however,  led me to a more likely interpretation: can that jackass’s wife really have tolerated him for all those years? I know — amazing, right? I’m shocked every morning when I reach over to Mrs. HIStalk’s side of the bed and find her instead of a note.

QuadraMed’s Q1 numbers: revenue up 21%, EPS -$0.02 vs. $0.03. I didn’t hear the conference call, but the message boards are reporting that QCPR is the focus and they’ll be selling off their pharmacy system (the old PharmPro, if I recall, which earned a mystifying #1 in KLAS at one point despite being one of the more primitive ones I’ve seen). They’re planning a reverse stock split.

The Irish Blood Transfusion service is ripped by auditors for buying the Progresa system that ran four years late and over budget before it was abandoned.

Friday wasn’t a good day for Central DuPage Hospital (IL). Backhoe operators took out an underground power line, leaving the hospital on generator for four hours. During that time, an electrical surge caused a computer monitor in an hospital office building to overheat, leading to an evacuation.

A reader suggested running a survey to see which hospitals have folks reading HIStalk. Those listed on the responses are here. What an impressive group you are!

E-mail me.

Art Vandelay on TCO (Total Cost of Onerous-Ship)

Kaiser’s announcement about its annual maintenance costs is déjà vu. I often feel it is the "total cost of onerous-ship" in my organization. Kaiser’s maintenance for HealthConnect is right in the middle of the range we see for TCO, which ranges from 20 to 36% of the cost of installation. (Before you fall off your chairs, I am very detailed in the costs I include, right down to power and cooling, percentage of time operations staff spend on monitoring, usage of tapes, and partial FTEs of support staff).

The wide variation in our TCO is driven mostly by the maintenance contract we negotiate with the vendor. The next largest driver is the human resources we need to maintain the application and supporting hardware. For example, clustered databases, redundant servers, and those with bi-directional interfaces typically require the most support. The rest of the costs are relatively minimal.

Two observations. Kaiser’s costs are not out of range by my calculation, but I would have expected more efficiency from their scale. Maybe their geographic distribution eats into their efficiencies. I would bet they will begin to look at more offshore support if their financial prospects don’t improve. They will likely also be eagerly awaiting Epic’s web browser client transition. That would hopefully move them away from one of the world’s largest Citrix farms.

Second, if users are looking for a real return on investment, the TCO can be a large hurdle to jump. In Kaiser’s case, the investment in the system has to cover the 25% maintenance (forever) and then be large enough to pay back a $4B investment in a reasonable amount of time. That can be a daunting proposition. By my calculations, a 50% annual ROI would break-even in 10 years when considering depreciation in the mix. A 50% annual ROI without depreciation would break-even in 7 years.

The PACS Designer’s Open Source Software Review

FileZilla is file transfer software for those who do frequent transfers. It uses File Transfer Protocol (FTP), which can be slow for large files over 10GB, so if you are transferring large files frequently, you would be better off with a Network File System software package. Setup can be tricky depending on your particular system’s configuration. Support from users appears to be good and recent posts of problems have been answered rather quickly. FileZilla is a software platform in the SourceForge.net community.

Features of FileZilla include:

Ease of use
Supports FTP, FTP over SSL/TLS (FTPS), and SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)
Cross-platform. Runs on Windows, Linux, *BSD, OSX and more
Available in many languages
Supports resume and transfer of large files >4GB
Powerful Site Manager and transfer queue
Drag & drop support
Configurable Speed limits
Filename filters
Network configuration wizard
Remote file editing
FTP-Proxy support

File sharing is becoming more popular in recent years, so saving time is important. It would be best to try FileZilla with a select number of users before deployment to a larger group.

TPD Usefulness Rating:  7.