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News 1/9/09

January 8, 2009 News 8 Comments

From Peter Marshall: "Re: layoffs. Here’s another one: Cabell Huntington Hospital (WV)." Link. The hospital laid off 40 people on Tuesday. Like everybody else jettisoning employees, the CEO says the goal is to flatten the organization, making you wonder why he let it get un-flat in the first place (and whether the managers who hired them should be left unscathed). Also in WV, Weirton Medical Center forcibly parts ways with 36 FTEs. Other layoffs: Crozer-Keystone Health (PA), up to 400 employees; Uniontown Hospital (PA), 50 FTEs; Wilkes Regional Medical Center (NC), 45 employees; Noble Hospital (MA), nine employees; Mercy Health Systems (KS), 44 employees; Baptist St. Anthony’s Hospital (TX), 47 employees; Meridian Health (NJ), 65 positions. Erlanger Medical Center (TN) announces plans for a hiring freeze, layoffs, and renegotiation with suppliers. In case it’s not obvious, hospitals were waiting until after the holidays to cut staff, but the plans were in place long before Christmas.


From djk: "Re: Swedish Covenant Hospital, Chicago, is named a HIMSS Analytics Stage 6 EMR hospital." Their congratulatory letter from Mike Davis says 25 hospitals have now hit the Stage 6 mark.

From Boutros Boutros-Ghali: "Re: Web 2.0 and social networking. I’m interested in what role it will play in healthcare." I’d like to hear some opinions on this. I have to say I’m skeptical because some of the ideas seem obviously lame and the folks behind them are often light on track record, with a singular fixation on selling out their fledgling enterprises to the first willing party, so I’ll say that lots of the "companies" (more like "Web sites") will sink without a whimper without accomplishing much of anything. I’m always suspicious, too, that they tout fresh thinking only because that’s all they’ve got. Still, some will likely survive. The question is whether patients really have enough clout to matter in the grand scheme of things. Patients paying out of their own pockets could band together via social networking, but healthcare is mostly divided as those with insurance or those unable to pay — there’s not much middle ground because of absurd hospital policies on pricing and non-discounting.

Allscripts-Misys just announced Q2 numbers: revenue up 33%, EPS -$0.05 vs. $.07, slightly missing expectations on revenue but beating earnings estimates. The stock is up nicely after hours (3.5%), probably because the recent Leerink downgrades already took the wind out of its sails (not a bad thing, maybe, since reaction to the news will appear more optimistic and maybe rightfully so). And, surely the combining of the two companies made the numbers sketchy until that settles out. No matter how you look at it, the jury’s still out.

I should mention that I’m way behind on e-mail, so if you’ve sent me something, I’ll try to catch up over the weekend. Between the day job and HIStalk, I’m tied up from before daylight until bedtime.

The AHIC Successor organization is finally announced as the National eHealth Collaborative, hoping to get face time with Obama’s underlings in the next day or two. Our esteemed contributor John Glaser is on it, so I’m trying to twist his arm to explain the organization’s role and its plans going forward.


Clinical trials imaging services vendor Bio-Imaging Technologies sells its CapMed personal health records division to Metavante Technologies, a $1.5 billion annual sales banking and payment technology vendor whose healthcare offerings include benefit payment cards, eligibility and claims processing, ID cards, and (here’s the tie-in, I’m guessing) health savings accounts. CapMed and its icePHR was an early HealthVault partner, won TEPR’s "Best PHR" in 2008, and was supposed to be the medication PHR provider for IBM’s NHIN prototype, although I don’t know how that turned out.

I played around with Twitter once (for about 30 seconds) and lost interest, but I see several folks have signed up to follow me. Coincidentally, Bruce Friedman tells me he finds it useful for short thoughts and reminders about news items (he’s a lot smarter than I am). Question: what would I do with it? I can see that it might be fun to Twitter from HIMSS (since I could use the Bold instead of waiting to get the laptop online). Otherwise, am I missing something that would be valuable to readers?

HIMSS says it will work collaboratively COCIR, a European medical equipment trade association (its words, not retracted like HIMSS did) for "public policy activities" and conference production. Being psychic, I’ll predict that HIMSS will just buy it outright before long. One of its main activities, according to its site, is helping push the products of its vendor members (sound familiar?): "COCIR sees a negative trend in the age of the EU equipment base and is extremely concerned about this lack of investment. Continual investment in state of the art electromedical equipment is essential for the comfort of patients and medical staff." Not to mention profits.

California bars ED doctors from billing patients directly when their HMOs won’t pay the full bill. The California Medical Association complains that the ruling lets HMOs pay ED doctors whatever they want.

CHIME’s advocacy people mail (warning: PDF) Tom Daschle to let him know how much it supports EMR adoption (notice the letter manages to slightly botch the full name of HIMSS, leaving out the "and"). At least CHIME wasn’t as blatant as HIMSS in snaking a long tongue in the general direction of the federal feed trough, mentioning only incentives ("necessary funds") for EMR adoption. Still, they’ve got advocacy people.

Rick Peters, like me, is critical of the HIMSS EMR Welfare Program. He’s unhappy that HIMSS doesn’t talk more about its HITSP and CCHIT affiliations (I don’t see that as a problem and they haven’t tried to hide that fact, but maybe it’s less obvious than it seems). There’s a lot of dense and less interesting stuff in the middle, but the conclusions are interesting: that HIPAA was subverted by EDI claims clearinghouses who convinced Congress that they already had the best solution available, which killed all the positive possibilities of bringing in new approaches. The EMR tie-in: "Federal funding should go to fund research and innovation in health care IT along the lines of the NIH, NSF, and DARPA, not the status quo. Direct purchase of products and their subsidy should be avoided. There is a market (finally) for EHRs after all these years and the market should figure itself out without artificial influence. If vendors or institutions seek funding from the Federal government they should have to compete openly with academic institutions, independent contractors, start-ups, and all their competitors, without unfair and anti-competitive artificial constraints." That’s not to say that the current vendors may not be the best electronic medical records solution, only that nobody’s opened up the competition to see if the money might be better spent elsewhere or in having those same vendors take a different direction.

Jobs: Senior Network Analysts – Cisco Wireless, Cloverleaf Integration Consultant, Soarian Consultants, Revenue Cycle Consultant.

I’ll be winding down the HISsies nominations shortly, so if you haven’t voted yet, now’s a great time. Some of them gave me a chuckle, I’ll say that, and some of the serious ones (best CIO, CEO, and hospital) have some good nominees to choose from. That will lead up to the HIMSS conference, of course, so if you have suggestions on what Inga and I can do there to make it more fun for everybody, then let’s hear them. I thought about doing a live Internet radio broadcast from Chicago, or maybe a nightly recap with call-ins, but that sounds like a lot more work than my typically lame brainstorms involving Fake Ingas and free drinks.

American Sentinel University adds new members to its healthcare advisory board, including Roy Simpson of Cerner. It’s not regionally accredited, instead holding the less-accepted DETC accreditation that online-only schools often earn (meaning you can’t always transfer credits to a regionally accredited school). That’s at least better than the highly iffy Kennedy-Western University that’s popular with healthcare people, which just changed its name and fled from California when the state cracked down on diploma mills. I used to link to the bios of vendor and hospital executives whose degrees came from phony schools, but I got tired of the nasty e-mails demanding that I not mention that their "schools" were complete shams. Let’s just say there are a lot of those folks, some even double-appending "Dr." before and "PhD" after their names (usually a sign of stupidity or vanity) with only a mail order credential.

Dumb press release headline: "Solos Endoscopy, Inc. Receives Purchase Order from Cleveland Clinic." I can’t wait for the follow-up ones announcing shipment, receipt, and payment.

How does this happen? Police reports say Christ Hospital (NJ) threw out a newborn baby’s body in the trash, leading to search of garbage dumps in two states. The mother and the hospital can’t agree on whether the baby was born alive, a key point in the inevitable lawsuit to come.

The chairman of Indian outsourcing company Satyam Computer Services, in a story being called India’s Enron or India’s Madoff, admits that the company falsified its earnings and assets for years, saying specifically that over $1 billion of cash on its most recent financial report doesn’t exist and revenue was 20% less than reported. Shares were down an astounding 91% before trading was halted Wednesday, dropping from $9.35 to $0.88. You’re doing a heckuva job there, PricewaterhouseCoopers, auditors for the company. Enron took down Arthur Anderson, so PwC has got a heap of trouble on its hands. Anybody want to buy PwC Healthcare cheap? You may get the chance. The lawsuits will still be flying by the time you would graduate from law school in case you’re considering a career change.

Ohio passes a law requiring that pharmacy technicians register with the state board of pharmacy and pass a competency exam even though the state (like all others) already required held pharmacists accountable for checking their work. It came after a two-year-old died from an incorrectly compounded IV. That’s great for the techs, of course, since the now-limited supply will raise wages.

The Jerry Seinfeld commercials couldn’t save Vista (although they won lots of "stupidest waste of money" awards), so Microsoft moves right to the Windows 7 beta and hopes everybody forgets the debacle of dysfunctional drivers and wildly underestimated system requirements intended to keep its PC partners happy while burning its own customers.

Loma Linda University opens a new hospital with all the latest sexy stuff: robotic surgery, private rooms with balconies, room service, and flat screen TVs. The cost: $4 million per bed. The impact on local health: we’ll see.


The local business paper writes up Polymap Wireless, a Tucson company that makes Bluetooth-enabling technologies for scales, blood pressure cuffs, and glucometers so they can transmit results over the Internet to providers.

Iatric Systems creates an endowment to provide one hospital in need with its Security Audit Manager and related services.

Someone steals $60,000 worth of nurse call center hardware from Bear River Valley Hospital (UT), which was storing it in an unsecured storage until a new hospital opens up next month.

Creighton University (NE) is losing $10 million a year on its faculty practice organization, blaming a lack of patients and computer problems that delayed billing. The plan: hire 50 or more new doctors to bring in more patients. The impact on local health: we’ll see (I know I said that before, but I’m now fixated in Don Berwick’s statement that all this increased supply of medical horsepower just raises costs). I suppose it’s unthinkable to simply scale back the services to match the income. That’s like asking the government to live within its means.

The family of a toddler killed in an Illinois medical helicopter crash sues the company that operated the helicopter, its parent company, and the estate of the pilot killed in the crash. The former chair of the National Transportation praised the family for bringing the case forward "to push the industry for tighter rules," but he’s hardly unbiased: he’s one of the lawyers hired by the family.

E-mail me.

HERtalk by Inga

From Frank Sinatra: “Re: MyWay product. I hear that the Allscripts-Misys MyWay sales are strong. Results are well above goal. MyWay is the repackaged iMedica product that is now being sold strictly through resellers to 1-3 doctor practices.” Good news for Allscripts, though I still can’t figure out why they would choose to sell this seemingly popular product through resellers only. Aren’t the majority of the country’s physicians in 1-3 doctor practices?

Summa Health Network utilizes new technology from MDdatacor to use data from physician systems to determine compliance with evidence-based guidelines.

Tufts Medical Center warns thousands of BCBS HMO patients that providers will not accept its insurance as of February 1. Tufts is not happy that BCBS is paying them 20-40% less than other Boston-area teaching hospitals. BCBS admits an imbalance in rates “that can be because of market clout.” Tufts does not want to sign up for a new payment system that includes per-patient payments, plus additional payments for meeting quality targets.

Merge Healthcare cancels plans to sell its China-based operations. Inqgen Technology intended to purchase Merge’s Cedara Software Shanghai, but Merge’s new management wants to focus on growing its business internationally.

Just two weeks after raising $6 million for expansion, Motion Computing CEO Scott Eckert resigns. The company also laid off 25% of its workforce, or about 30 people, following its previous layoffs of 55 employees in April and July.

This could be a fun lawsuit to track. A San Francisco chiropractor sues a former patient for libel and invasion of privacy after the patient posts a negative review on Yelp. The patient disliked the doctor’s billing practice and felt he was being dishonest with insurance companies.


Parkview Medical Center (CO) takes top honors in a national patient safety contest sponsored by Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare magazine and Precision Dynamics Corp. Parkview implemented a new barcode technology system that reduced medication administration errors from 20% to 8%.

The executive director of Maine’s HIE initiative HealthInfoNet expresses concern the project will run out of money before it’s operational. It has relied on grants, but the director hopes to receive additional dollars from a possible federal HIT economic stimulus package. After all, federal bailouts are all the rage.

This sounds like one nice guy. A New York surgeon demands that his estranged wife either give him back the kidney he donated to her in 2001 or pay him $1.5 million. He’s a little miffed that she had an extramarital affair.


Back in 2003, People Magazine named Sanjay Gupta one of the “Sexiest Men Alive.” You would think that once you get that title, there isn’t too much more a guy could aspire to. Yet, now he is being considered for the Surgeon General post despite skimpy public health experience and a cozy relationship with the drug companies that sponsor his TV career. Kind of makes you wonder what might be in store for Brad Pitt.

Vendor Deals and Announcements

  • Diversified Radiology of Colorado streamlines its billing operations with its new AMICAS partnership. Diversified will utilized the AMICAS financials, dashboards, and claims processing solutions.
  • CareTech Solutions signs a five-year agreement to provide IT outsourcing to Central Maine Medical Family (ME).
  • The 49-bed Cogdell Memorial Hospital (TX) implements an integrated clinical and financial system from Healthcare Management Systems.
  • Newton Memorial Hospital (NJ) signs a six-year agreement outsourcing IT to PHNS.
  • Axolotl integrates M*Modal’s Speech Understanding engine into its Elysium medical transcription workflow solution.
  • Cancer care provider OnCare (HI) selects IntelliDose for chemotherapy treatment management to integrate with its Allscripts EHR/PM system.
  • Novo Innovations announces a record year in 2008 that included 17 new customers, more than double the previous year.
  • Press Ganey Associates acquires PatientFlow Technology, hoping to increase its clinical and operational presence while broadening its consulting services.

E-mail Inga.

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Currently there are "8 comments" on this Article:

  1. RE: “…nobody’s opened up the competition to see if the money might be better spent elsewhere or in having those same vendors take a different direction.”

    Based on my experience, the people who show-up to do the work will be the very same people who are currently active in standards, HITSP, and CCHIT today. Results are generally determined by who shows up to do the work.

    It’s true that large healthcare IT vendors, US government agencies, and a cadre of consultants dominate healthcare IT standards development organizations, HITSP, CCHIT, and NHIN. Yet it’s equally true – and disappointing — that representatives from providers, health plans, consumer groups, healthcare professional organizations, and other stakeholders are in the minority despite many calls for participation. We cannot expect a different direction without new and different inputs to develop a different consensus.

    The creation of standards and their implementations does not create adoption. Free and open technology has a cost for acquisition of operating hardware, staffing, documentation, training, ongoing operations, maintenance, and scaling to handle growth. One key barrier is the lack of capital investment funds. Reimbursement levels barely fund operating costs. A massive migration to a new technology base is unlikely, even by fiat. So what about the transition? How do we get there, even if we have a different direction?

  2. RE: Standards. Using the chicken and the egg analogy, do standards always follow the technology? If a maturity model for a certain technology exists, shouldn’t standards for application be inherent in the technology.
    WhizBang Gismo Inc. invents a “killer” device. What does the device do, who is to use the device, how do you use the device, why do you need the device, etc… Do you build it and the standards will come?

  3. Re: Twitter:
    While I use Twitter to share information with others, my main reason in using it is to LEARN from others. There is a lot of good information shared on Twitter, and “following” the right people is the key.

    I think that in your case, sharing information about stories, events, surveys, etc. could potentially help with increasing the visibility of HIStalk. It can also help with becoming more connected with your readers (at least the ones that use Twitter anyway).

  4. “Federal funding should go to fund research and innovation in health care IT along the lines of the NIH, NSF, and DARPA, not the status quo. Direct purchase of products and their subsidy should be avoided.”

    Could not agree more with this statement. Healthcare IT needs innovation not more subsidies for the status quo.

  5. On Social Networks on the Web, ala Web2.0.

    Plenty out there, most won’t make it but there are some that are truly remarkable and are changing/will change the game. Sermo is one for physicians that continues to gain traction. The other is PatientsLikeMe. Amazing site that has done some pretty remarkable things in the market. These two may well be bellweathers for the broader market – keep an eye on them. Twitter is something also worth watching. I’ve only been on Twitter for a short period, ut have already seen some good results.

  6. Does anyone really even remember the last time you could name the US Surgeon General or that he had a really meaningful impact during his tenure?

    My guess is that even most here on this board would probably say Koop and that is going back a ways now.

  7. Are you planning to take Satyam off your sponsor list ?

    [From Mr. HIStalk] Only if they ask. From my cheap seat, it looks to me as though the CEO and his brother were doing whatever they were doing without the involvement of anyone else, which is why PwC’s failure to detect massive accounting discrepancies is important. The company’s capabilities haven’t changed, although unfortunately a lot of innocent employees and customers are going to suffer. I’d like to say US laws and oversight would have prevented such problems here, but then I keep remembering HBOC …

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