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News 11/21/08

November 20, 2008 News 14 Comments

From Wayne Twitchell: "Re: Boston Globe article. If you’re charged with something serious like manslaughter, do you get the local city/town lawyer to defend you, or do you go into one of the big city firms who have a lot of resources and do a lot of extra things (pro bono work, research, etc.) that a small local firm can’t do? I go with the big city firm. The defense and the outcome could be the same, but it’s my life we’re talking about. Granted, the national (or local) healthcare situation is different in that we’re all paying insurance and there’s the perception that our costs are going up because big city hospitals are getting more money for the same things that community hospitals do. But I think it’s unfair to compare a big hospital or hospital system to a community hospital just because they do some of the same stuff." 

From The PACS Designer: "Re: digitally connected patients and SOA. Intel has entered the digitally connected patient field with a new FDA 510(k) approved application called the Intel Healthguide which allows clinicians to monitor remotely the activities and conditions of their patients. Additionally, Intel will be using service-oriented architecture (SOA) to accomplish the monitoring tasks." Link.

From Unknown1: "Re: health benefits. I think it would be very interesting for you to do a poll on the current health benefits employers are providing their employees this year due to increasing costs of services, economy, etc. Here is a link describing the new plans UnitedHealth Group is providing all its employees. They are only offering plans with HSAs; annual deductibles of $4.6K per family and nearly $10K for annual out of pocket expenses. It is very disappointing to see a leading healthcare insurance company treat its employees the way it treats the providers — squeezing every last dime out of them." Link.

Listening: Camper Van Beethoven, 80s college radio eclectics whose music crosses all genres (and who knock out a respectable Pink Floyd cover).

CCHIT is only halfway covering its budget through certification fees so far, so they’re wondering if Obama will fund them after their federal contract ends on April 19. Seems like just about every Bush HIT goal didn’t amount to much except to get David Brailer a cushy post-government job (thriving RHIOs, EMR adoption, a strong ONCHIT, adoption of VistA, etc. were all kind of a bust) but at least CCHIT has had tangible results. Whether that’s good or bad depends on who you ask.


The Decatur paper writes a feature on St. Mary’s Hospital (IL) and includes a photo of its MEDITECH system.

Google’s SecondLife killer, Lively, dies early in its FirstLife.

Also kaput: the print version of PC Magazine, bowing out after a 27-year run to become an online-only publication. At the rate print publications are shrinking and dying, we’ll have plenty of trees.

To your right: put your name in the Subscribe to Updates box to join thousands of readers who get instant notification when I write something new. Or, right below that, click the Email This to a Friend icon to pop up a handy-dandy form to easily e-mail everyone you know to convince them to read HIStalk and help reduce the neurotic behaviors that Inga and I exhibit when we worry about being unpopular. The Search HIStalk box Googles through the 5.5 years of HIStalk, while clicking the ugly green box below it lets you send a confidential message (with attachments, even) to me like we were spies or something. And please, if you have the interest, please click some of those sponsor ads to your left to avoid me having to explain to some Internet hotshot company VP why they aren’t getting clicks and therefore will not be renewing their sponsorship, which will then raise those neurotic behaviors all over again.

AHRQ gives University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston a $1.3 million grant to train six students for five years on HIT. They’re working on interesting projects.

Jobs: Soarian Consultants (MA), Epic Resolute Consultant (PA), Multiple Epic Positions (CO).

Henry Ford Health System gets an eHealthcare award for its Web site.

Struggling Canadian EMR vendor MedcomSoft sells its Canadian Medworks 4.0 customer base to HTN for $85,000. Could be related to this announcement, in which a Canadian investment company places a $100,000 loan "to a third-party company in the healthcare/technology sector … to undertake a strategic acquisition." Seems like those numbers should have some additional zeroes to be worthy of press releases.

UCSD (CA) chooses FairWarning for privacy auditing.

Kindred Healthcare (KY) will use Allscripts Referral Management.

Document management vendor DB Technology names Charles Wilson as CEO.


At least it isn’t more Cerner problems: Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead has its ambulance booted. The private towing company said signs were clear, but the ambulance’s tracking equipment showed it was left for just one minute while the driver helped a patient into a dialysis facility.


Also in the UK, nurses are monitoring patients who transmit data to hospitals by cell phone. The t+ Medical software costs around $30 per patient per month.

And still again in the UK, IT systems three London hospitals are shut down and ambulances diverted after the Mytob mail worm is discovered on some PCs.

Unrelated: kudos to Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York, grilling the CEOs of the Big Three auto companies on why taxpayers should underwrite their continued incompetence: "There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses. It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious. Couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it." 


A reader points out another way to help disabled war veterans (other than clicking the Project Valour-IT graphic to your right): donate money or raise puppies for Canine Companions for Independence.

Lofware announces Web services capability for its print server.


A New York Times article profiles American Well, which offers 10-minute virtual patient visits with physicians by Internet webcam through insurers. Interesting: AIG is providing malpractice insurance and it’s cheap enough that the health plans are paying for it instead of charging the docs. The company is a HealthVault partner. Almost everyone on the leadership team came from TriZetto.

Acquisition expert Derek Eckelman joins Sunquest as VP of business development.

Mammoth Hospital, which is anything but mammoth at 17 beds but is in Mammoth Lakes, CA, implements DeviceLock USB security. Some nice quotes are included from IT operations supervisor Paul Fottler. Sounds pretty cool: network admins can lock out USB ports, WiFi and Bluetooth adapters, peripheral devices, ports, printers, and other plug-and-play devices on PCs, even by day of the week and time. It also enforces encryption policies. It’s $42 each. PC Magazine gave it four stars and the company has some interesting free downloads: Plug and Play Auditor, Active Ports, Active Shutdown, and several other utilities.


The iCEphone, originally developed for the British military by The Medical Phone Ltd. of Edinburgh, Scotland, will be sold in a medical/emergency software configuration.

E-mail me.

HERtalk by Inga

From Tammi: “Re: holiday parties. My company doesn’t have holiday parties, but this weekend while chatting at the coffee shop, a couple mentioned their son runs a high-end restaurant in the Denver area. Included on his property is a venue which is booked a year in advance for corporate holiday parties. The companies are calling in great numbers to try to get out of their bookings.” In our unscientific poll to the right, it looks like 41% of companies are either cancelling or scaling back parties this year. I’m predicting a related decline in Alka-Seltzer sales as well.


With all this gloomy news about layoffs and poor financial results, I have decided I need news that lifts my spirits. Thus, the rest of today’s HERtalk will contain only good news. Up near the top is athenahealth’s plan to add 100 new jobs in 2009 in its new Belfast, ME facility, which already employs 140.

I also heard that Digital Healthcare, a provider of a retinal health assessment solution, just raised an additional $5 million in funding to expand operations. The NC company employs a number of former Misys folks, including former VPs Marc Winchester and Scott Sanner.

I am sure that Peter S. Amenta, MD, PhD is happy to be appointed the new dean for UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He has served as interim dean for the last two years.

Scott P. Serota, President and CEO of BCBSA releases a statement saying, “BCBSA and the 39 member Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies today announced support for every individual being required to have coverage and all insurers being required to accept everyone regardless of their health status.” For anyone who has ever been declined insurance, this is a comforting statement. AHIP had a similar endorsement today, announcing support for guaranteed coverage without pre-existing exclusions. (OK, I recognize that insurance for all has its issues, but remember, I’m having a happy post day).

Here is a technology I want to hear more about. M*Modal launches AnyModal CDS Mobile for the iPhone. Apparently the SaaS technology allows clinicians to dictate via the iPhone. The product uses “speech understanding” services that allow the dictation to be captured, understood, and transcribed real time, giving physicians the ability to immediately review and sign off on the document.

Speaking of iPhones, I’m betting this poor woman will be happier in divorce than she is in marriage. She discovers that her husband has e-mailed some “personal” photos of himself to another woman via his iPhone. He claims the Genius bar experts at the local Apple store said it’s a known iPhone “glitch” that photos sometimes mistakenly attach themselves to an e-mail address. The skeptical wife sends a question to an Apple discussion board, asking if other users agree with the Genius. The consensus: the marriage has the glitch.


Without a doubt, this story helped lift my spirits. Former Baylor Healthcare System (TX) VP of clinical transformation Mary Staley-Sirois leaves the corporate world to serve as VP of Global Program Development for MediSend, a non-profit humanitarian organization that provides medical aid, healthcare education and technology, and other services to hospitals in developing countries. Staley-Sirois will apparently take her extensive experience from Baylor and from Healthlink before that to grow the organization’s worldwide healthcare initiatives. Love it.

E-mail Inga.

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Currently there are "14 comments" on this Article:

  1. Unrelated: kudos to Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York, etc.

    Thanks for mentioning, although unrelated, I agree that sometimes we need to veer off the HIT path, if only to keep our balance!. Does anybody else wonder why we’d give ANY money to the kind of “leadership” who uses such poor judgment as they did? What makes us think they’d use any better judgment with our cash?

  2. Re:Partners – If I were a murderer who needed a lawyer I may go the city firm or I may go to the local lawyer who knows me best.

    If I can get the same legal advice and the cost is much lower and I am the one paying…. I would go to the local lawyer.

    If my employer and fellow employees are getting stiffed by letting me make this choice, I should be ashamed of myself and they should tell me I can’t.

    Partners does great work at the high end of the spectrum and if I needed a heart transplant I would go to MGH. If I needed an appendectomy I would go to the local surgeon who knows me at the local hospital with great outcomes and lower cost.

  3. In regards to Gary Ackerman, puleeeze – the guy was grandstanding. As for giving the autos money, please remember it’s a loan. Please remember, none of this would be necessary if the TRILLION bailout (not all loans) to Wall Street would have fixed the credit market. Then maybe people could get auto leases and loans. The last time a loan went to an auto company, it was paid back – early, with interest. I also note that the Chinese and German governments have done loans to their automakers.

  4. Your positioning of the picture of Mary Staley-Sirois and the previous news item, I hope, was unintentional. Not knowing Ms. Staley-Sirois the conclusion was obvious until I read the next article under her picture.

    [From Mr. HIStalk]: The text is always under the picture it refers to, at least unless I forget.

  5. I’m with Unknown1 on being interested in a poll on the current health benefits employers are providing their employees…

    My husband and I both work for insurance firms — second-tier brand names — and HSAs are now part of the offering. The deductibles for our plans (offered by BCBS and Aetna) are very much in line with Unknown1’s link to UnitedHealthcare.

    IMHO, the biweekly premiums are outrageous (in the $100 neighborhood) for deductibles of this magnitude. Even factoring in how you can take the $ in your HSA w/ you when you leave the company.

  6. American Well looks slick and certainly has lots of slick marketing behind it but until they expand beyond a pretty limited deployment/win at BCBS-HI, not much here.

    They’ve spent a ton on marketing and not much to show for it. Begging to wonder how much more runway they have.

  7. Good for Sanner and Winchester. I worked for both of them and they were leaders, which you couldn’t say about most of the other people with titles. No wonder lots of former purple bleeders either work with them or want to.

  8. I’d say good for Winchester – Sanner, not so much. Winchester is one of the good ones – very polished, very professional. Sanner – overpromised and underdelivered consistently. I hope that has changed.

  9. Agree with former MISYS–Winchester is one of the good ones, for sure. Sanner–may heave been hindered by Skelton, but he never carried a bag and that means no credibility to a salesfore he was trying to lead. Lot of guys would take a bullet for Winchester, because he had been where they were.

  10. Maybe Grizzled Veteran and former misys were fired by Sanner back in the day? I was there and have old sales reports to prove that Sanner grew sales in each group he had ownership of…Vision, EMR and overall sales…Sounds like a couple of folks who got canned..I know Sanner turned over about 75% of one of the first teams he took over yet grew sales by 35%…

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