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News 9/26/08

September 25, 2008 News 7 Comments

From EMR Wannabe: "Re: Philips. Within the next ten days, Philips will announce divestiture of its SpeechMagic division. Conjecture is that SpeechMagic is getting resistance from large inpatient vendors because Philips competes in areas where GE, Siemens, and others make big money (radiology and PACS systems). SpeechMagic is about to take another run into the U.S. market, starting in 2009, but it does not fit into the Philips technology portfolio."

From Mrs. Lab Queen: "Re: Sunquest. The Tucson GM initiated a program to turn over the lower third of the staff and 50% of sales as well. Believes this will help increase performance numbers to pay for the sale to Vista. Does this tactic really work?" I‘ll go out on a limb and say yes, sometimes (if the good people don’t leave along with the not so good). Other than the tremendously cold-hearted aspect of that plan, it has always made sense to me to richly reward the top 20% of performers, take your chances in replacing the bottom 20%, and try like crazy to move some part of the middle 60% into that top 20%. The problem, of course, is that it always ends up being subjective since it’s hard to objectively measure who’s contributing, so it turns into a popularity contest and a breeding ground for showy but marginally useful extra effort (people sending e-mails at 2 in the morning just to show how dedicated they are). Tough times make job competition more intense, so it’s probably not going away. Companies may run businesses as though everybody’s a contractor, a concept that I like only conceptually.

From Tina: "Re: Sunquest. As an employee of Sunquest who went through the Misys national nightmare, I love reading all the bad news about Misys. They just about ruined a good company and we are trying to resurrect ourselves to the great company we were before Misys screwed everything up." You will probably enjoy the certain upper management confusion that will arise when Glen Tullman becomes their boss. They’ll be going, "Hey, I thought it was us acquiring Allscripts."

From Joe: "Re: PACS patents. DR Systems has taken to suing a variety of PACS vendors for patent infringement. One of those vague ‘idea’ patents (patent 5,452,416), where the idea may have already been in circulation at the time of filing in 1992.  Basically, DR claims they invented the PACS idea/interface and everyone owes them for it. Currently in the dock: Siemens, Fuji, Kodak, Emageon, eRAD, and NovaRad.  Already sued: Vitalworks and Merge. No way to know who else has settled. If your name hasn’t been mentioned yet, get ready. This has all been conducted on DR’s home court in the Southern District of California. The implications for future of PACS sector are potentially profound." The fulltext patent with drawings is here. Also, a mention of their suit against Emageon (news story here) and settlement with Merge. I also found this mention of a suit against Kodak. Old court records show a suit against Fuji in November 2007. Notice that the About Us /Company link of their site has two entries: Patented Technology and Executive Management Team.

From The PACS Designer: "Re: Top 500. TPD wants to congratulate the healthcare providers who were selected by InformationWeek for their 2008 IT innovations by being selected to be in the InformationWeek Top 500. The top healthcare provider at #7 was Advocate Health Care, led by Bruce D. Smith, Sr. VP & CIO. Baylor Health Care System, led by David S. Muntz, SR.VP & CIO, was #16. Congrats to all on being the best in the eyes of InformationWeek."

An English hospital’s Cerner system crashes again, this time for 12 hours. It’s odd that stories like that always make the papers there, maybe because of some NHS resentment or something.

Odd lawsuit: a patient claims his surgeon stapled his rectum shut, leaving him unable to move his bowels for 17 days.


The local paper writes up the EMR go-live of Blue Hill Memorial Hospital (ME), part of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems. The paper doesn’t say, but I think it’s a Cerner shop.

WCA Laboratory (NY) goes live on SCC Soft Computer lab. I hadn’t heard much from that vendor in quite some time.

The missing British hospital CDs containing information on 18,000 employees turn up, but the hospital isn’t that happy about it after spending $46,000 sending out employee notices. They thought the CDs were lost in the mail on their way to McKesson, but it turns out a hospital employee had them all along. According to an employee, "It was a massive waste of time and money although everyone seems to be breathing a sigh of relief. It was all a bit stupid. We knew the CDs would turn up."

AHLTA cost the government (us) billions, but now its CDR is getting so big that it’s nearly unmanageable. An MHS engineer called it "failed" as it tries to keep up with a data growth rate of 1.4 terabytes a month, although a couple of statements in the article make it technically suspect.

First they stopped serving meat, now they’re cutting back on patient care. An Australian hospital had to temporarily shut down its X-ray services because of unpaid bills.

The president of RJL Sciences gets three years’ probation and a $10,000 fine for creating FDA-unapproved software for AIDS drug maker Serono that falsely diagnosed AIDS "wasting" that would help sell Serono’s Serostim, which cost Medicaid $21,000 for 12 weeks of therapy. The drug company already paid $704 million for being scumbags, pocket change compared to the $13.3 billion that Merck paid to buy it two years ago.

Scribe Healthcare technologies offers a free version of its dictation, transcription, and document imaging system to solo transcriptionists and small physician practices.

Indian mob hospital news: a group storms a hospital and "blackened the faces" of husband-and-wife doctors, claiming that the gynecologist half of of the couple left a surgical mop in a woman’s abdomen during a hysterectomy.

Kaiser and the VA waste their time demonstrating the Nationwide Health Information Network that works only in the one country that’s too mired in debt to afford it. They should be in the printing press business since it’s going to take a lot of them to crank out the declining value dollars needed to bail out all of our suddenly needy and formerly anti-government capitalists in investments and car-making.

Off topic, I’ll side with non-candidate Senator Ron Paul, MD on the whole bailout issue: "The very people who have spent the past several years assuring us that the economy is fundamentally sound, and who themselves foolishly cheered the extension of all these novel kinds of mortgages, are the ones who now claim to be the experts who will restore prosperity! Just how spectacularly wrong, how utterly without a clue, does someone have to be before his expert status is called into question? Oh, and did you notice that the bailout is now being called a ‘rescue plan’? I guess ‘bailout’ wasn’t sitting too well with the American people."

GE takes a minority position in home monitoring company Living Independently Group. GE Healthcare also announced that it’s shutting down a Maine plant and GE cut its outlook because of its GE Capital unit.

Siemens Healthcare bags a $70 million imaging deal in Korea.

Charlotte, NC-based hospital operator Hospital Partners of America files Chapter 11.

Medical device maker Medtronic encouraged spine surgeons to use its products by lavishing gifts, phony patent royalties, and strip club visits, the company’s former lawyer says.

UPMC implements a salary cap and may lay off employees.

Medical records of 45 patients of Grady Memorial (GA) were inadvertently posted on an unsecured web server in July. Here’s the interesting part: of the article "Grady outsourced the job of transcribing the notes to a Marietta firm, Metro Transcribing Inc., which outsourced the work to a Nevada contractor, Renee Lella. Lella, in turn, turned the work over to a firm in India, Primetech Infosystems." I found this message from Lella on the website of the Republic of the Philippines looking for transcriptionists, so she was going international (beyond the arm of HIPAA enforcement, as it turns out). I wonder who’s held responsible since Grady probably didn’t know their information was headed overseas?

A patient in a Canadian hospital’s ED dies after waiting 34 hours for treatment, although they’re not quite sure since he may have been dead for several hours before anyone noticed.

No amount of pleading and common sense gets some caregivers to wash their hands, so Arrowsight Medical’s Hospital Video Auditing system offers a solution: put video cameras (warning: PDF) in the ICU. That’s like measuring the medication error rate by observation, but like the lawyers say, don’t ask questions whose answer you don’t really want to hear. That’s where Suzanne Delbanco went, by the way, which we just told you about Tuesday.


Speaking of handwashing stubbornness, that’s one gripe of a Baltimore internist who is quite unhappy with medical centers. "We remain absurdly complacent about rising iatrogenic infection rates, knowing all too well that we are allowing immunocompromised patients to die unnecessarily in our intensive care units. There are alcohol-based hand-washing gels everywhere, but no police or policy with teeth in it to enforce handwashing. We lurch toward physician computer order entry, clinging to the false belief that software programs will prevent adverse drug reactions and delivery of the wrong dangerous drug to the wrong patient. We understaff our pharmacies so that they can’t get the medications to the patients on time or alert us to our own prescribing errors. We burn out our nurses despite years of loyal service. We capitulate to the for-profit insurance industry that informs us they won’t pay for day 4 of Mr. Jones’ hospitalization because he has failed to meet some arbitrary criteria in their manual." His full article (warning: PDF) is here. It’s causing heated debate because it bluntly says what a lot of we hospital people know to be at least partially true nearly everywhere. I notice he’s in private practice now in a concierge model, charging a $1,500 annual fee for unlimited visits and not accepting insurance. Pretty reasonable if you ask me. I might want to interview him.

Big veterinary hospital chain Banfield sells its veterinary telemedicine systems company to a veterinary imaging and practice management software company.


Cell phone maker Qualcomm talks about the Pill Phone, which contains drug information and sends patient reminders.

Joint Commission says heparin mistakes should encourage hospitals to use CPOE and barcoding.

E-mail me.

HERtalk by Inga

From In the Know: “Re: Medcomsoft. The former CEO and VP of Business Development at Misys Healthcare are trying to raise money to invest in Medcomsoft. Tom will be CEO and Rich COO. Likely a new EMR/PM home for the employees lost in the pending Misys-Allscripts ‘synergies.’" Skelton and Goldberg were engaged by Medcomsoft back in June to serve in a ‘consulting role.’ As I went back and read Medcomsoft’s September 8th press release, I realized I may have overlooked this section the first time: ‘In conjunction with development of the revised business plan and associated financing requirements, the Company has identified a senior management team with deep domain expertise and a track record of success in the U.S. HIT market. Subject to completion of the targeted financing and final negotiation of mutually satisfactory employment terms, this senior management team would join the Company to drive execution of the revised business plan.’ Makes sense they would take a few displaced or disgruntled Misys folks with them.

From Fanny Mac: “Re: cell phone pictures of patients. There are bunch of poorly educated, lower-class clowns in hospitals that will always do this or snoop in patient charts. With the significant dumbing down of ‘grunt-level’ hospital workers in the last 25 years, this problem will never go away. Finding top-notch hospital workers is always a major effort nowadays and many are forced to accept – er, marginally capable individuals, primarily aides, therapists and technicians. This security breach and others make a mockery of HIPAA. Those of us in executive positions wring our hands, but simply don’t know about or understand the lower rungs of the hospital staff and what makes them tick. Is this an issue of class? You decide.”

CCHIT reports that there are at least 90 public and private EMR incentive programs. The combined programs represent at least $700 million in potential funding. I wonder how many of those organizations agree the study finding that despite relaxed Stark laws, EMR adoption is still moving slowing.

While I am all for clinical excellence, I wonder how many people would brag about receiving this EIC award to anyone outside of healthcare? Would they include it in their Facebook profile?

Cooper University Hospital (NJ) agrees to pay $3.85 million to the federal government to settle a whistleblower lawsuit. The case alleges that between 2001 and 2003, the hospital submitted Medicare claims that inflated its actual treatment costs in order to qualify on paper for outlier payments.

NIH director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni announces he is leaving the agency by the end of October.

The Leapfrog Group names (warning: PDF) 26 hospitals and seven children’s hospitals its list of 2008 Top Hospitals. Winners are selected from a Leapfrog survey that evaluates patient safety. To make the list, hospitals must have implemented CPOE and use it to alert physicians of common and serious prescribing errors.

E-mail Inga.

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Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. Good quote by Ron Paul. I know he is seen by a kook by a lot of people but many times when he speaks he makes so much *sense* which is something sorely lacking in Washington these days.

  2. RE: MedComsoft and Skelton and Goldberg taking over. Are they going to bring some of those innovative cobol-based products back to the market?

  3. RE: Mrs. Lab Queen: Too bad 1/3 of the executive staff isn’t included in this riff as many are ex-Misys executives and were part of the problem when Misys owned them; and as they continue to be now. A lot of good people have left voluntarily as it is so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Eventually the CYA management/executive staff will have no one left to blame and then Vista will finally get it.

  4. Normally I’d be leary about Skelton and Goldberg taking over a company, but, how much further can Medcomsoft go down? When a stock is at $.06 a share, all the damage seems to have been done already.

  5. Pill Phone – Qualcomm, heck just get an iPhone and go over to the AppStore, there is just such an app already there ready to use.

  6. Fanny Mac. Just an FYI its not just the “Lower Rungs” that have been involved in HIPPA incidents. In miultiple incidents at UCLA Physicians were a large number of those inapproperiatly accessing celebity records but it was only the ones on the Lower Rungs that were fired

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