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January 27, 2009 News 9 Comments

methodist From The PACS Designer: "Re: best hospital workplaces. Fortune Magazine has just published its 2009 list of top 100 places to work, which includes 13 hospitals. The highest ranked is Methodist Hospital System (Houston) at #8; followed by #19 – Ohio Health; #45 – King’s Daughters Medical Center (KY); #62 – Griffin Hospital (CT); #63 – Mayo Clinic; #67 – Children’s Healthcare (Atlanta); #68 – Southern Ohio Medical Center; #75 – Atlantic Health (NJ); #76 – Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network (PA); #77 – Northwest Community  Hospital (IL); #79 – Baptist Health South Florida; #85 – Arkansas Children’s Hospital; #98 – Vanderbilt University. TPD congratulates those selected as being top notch in their treatment of employees." Link.

From FIT003: "Re: McKesson. They have started laying off staff. Long-term employees are the first to have been laid off. Initial numbers, placed at 50-75 people within the Alpharetta operations." Unverified.

From Songbird: "Re: Perot’s MEDITECH solutions group, formerly JJWILD. Planning a third round layoff this Friday, January 30." Unverified.

From KFC: "Re: Keane Healthcare. About 10% or 30-35 employees from the Keane Healthcare division over the last two weeks. With the sunsetting of the old First Coast Systems patient billing application and the merging of the Unix product, I wonder how this will impact the always-delayed timeline?" Unverified. For all these unverified layoff rumors, by the way, I will run a brief company response if one is provided, whether confirming or denying. That’s fair.

From Ken Kercheval: "Re: physician practice EMRs. It is going to be an interesting year. Lots of companies will go away. Like they say, ‘When the tide goes down, you find out who isn’t wearing a swimsuit’. Indeed."

From Jackie Martling: "Re: sponsor ads. Just a suggestion. The animation is annoying to the point I copy and paste your great content to avoid the distraction. Seems unfair to the non-annoying ads." Noted and dutifully passed along to the sponsors for their future consideration.

HISsies voting will be winding down shortly, so cast your vote now.

Listening: The Gaslight Anthem, a reader suggestion. Good Jersey Shore bowling alley ballads with a soupcon of punk. Should be on an indie film’s soundrack. They’re on Letterman Friday night and touring everywhere.

The Raymond James folks sent over a couple of briefs about the healthcare IT stimulus proposals on the table. They predict that HIT adoption incentives will be around $32 billion over ten years, with the biggest adoption jump happening in 2011-2014 and with the biggest potential beneficiaries being physician practices and hospitals in the 300-499 bed size. They question, as I did yesterday in HIStalk Practice, whether prospects may actually hold off on purchasing clinical systems until the federal involvement shakes out. With that in mind, I’ve put two new polls to your right — one for vendors, one for providers — asking about any purchase delays your employer has been involved with. Your comments are welcome, too, so feel free to e-mail me. The stimulus could actually be detrimental in the short term if potential customers become indecisive.

A Fort Bragg military team is the first to use the AHLTA-Theater battlefield EMR to document patient encounters stateside.

A former Kaiser Permanente employee in Los Angeles kills himself, his wife, and five children ages 8 and under (including two sets of twins), apparently after being fired in a dispute with an administrator. His suicide note claims that the administrator told him on coming to work one day that "you should have blown your brains out." His wife had also previously worked for Kaiser. Update: according to CNN, both parents had been fired from Kaiser for cause.

A reader says Ivo Nelson, formerly of Healthlink/IBM, will launch his new business next week. It’s called Encore Health Resources. The domain is registered to a PR firm’s contact and address.

IBA’s iSoft gets a deal to install its software at 38 Healthscope hospitals in Australia.

New on HIStech Report: an interview with Steve Ura, CTO of MED3OOO, including questions about its InteGreat acquisition.

Capsule (they seem to have dropped the "Technologie" part of their name except when referring to their Paris headquarters) announces the addition of 80 more medical device drivers to its library of 400.


Consumer Watchdog demands that Google "cease a rumored lobbying effort" related to stimulus bill discussions that would allow the company to sell patient information to Google Health advertisers.

Members of Parliament want individual trusts to be able to buy their own systems if NPfIT can’t get its Cerner and iSoft software problems fixed within six months. Also reported: one trust that’s merging with another may be planning to drop Cerner and go with the other hospital’s 20-year-old Atos Origin legacy system. All of this, of course, is a warning to anyone who thinks huge healthcare IT projects can work fine if given the proper money and oversight, neither of which is in short supply in the UK as NPfIT disintegrates.


This may sound off topic, but I’ve been involved with similar solutions that made IT a hero: an Indiana Web 2.0 startup announces that its WiFi digital sign technology has been installed at several hospitals. It’s a terrible press release (as any would be that references rotten teeth) but maybe interesting.


Hospital layoff: Hennepin County Medical Center (MN), 100.

The Wisconsin paper investigates a touchy topic: do hospitals provide enough free care to be worth all the tax breaks they get, especially when governments are strapped?

A rumor site reports that Apple CEO Steve Jobs will undergo surgery at Stanford Hospital, citing as a source "a secondhand account passed along from an employee at Stanford." I’m sure the HIPAA-violating source will provide updates throughout the day if the story is true (he was rumored to have been thinking about a liver transplant).

A phony doctor is arrested at his fake doctor, nurse, and dentist school in India. Graduates of the "Medical Diploma Training Agency" are actively practicing, it’s believed. The doctor was printing his own diplomas, but later outsourced it to a computer company. He was turned in by a night guard who paid for his dentist’s diploma, was told he had to ante up more money, and then was allegedly beaten by the fake doctor for complaining.

Siemens says its healthcare business isn’t so great, but it still sucks less than GE’s.

An Australian hospital is in such dire financial straits that employees, feeling sorry for patients, are spending their own money to buy groceries, bandages, light bulbs, and computer paper.

Venture investing declined in 2008 for the first time since 2003. Green tech companies are hot; software vendors and Web start-ups are ice cold.

Archives of Internal Medicine Article
Clinical Information Technologies and Inpatient Outcomes

"Health info technology saves lives, costs" screams the Yahoo News article. Modern Healthcare fires out an e-mail news blast, claiming that "when computers replace paper, patient mortality rates drop 15% during hospitalization."

The headlines are misleading (as they often are to lure in readers). You need to interpret the article yourself.  It’s available online.

Here’s the conclusion, verbatim from the article: "Hospitals with automated notes and records, order entry, and clinical decision support had fewer complications, lower mortality rates, and lower costs."

Sounds promising. Even more so when the article talks about the researcher’s use of a survey tool that actually measures how much technology is being, not just how much has been bought (although that CITAT survey instrument itself isn’t available in this or the predecessor articles that I could find, which is odd since that’s a key part of interpreting the findings).

However, the study had compromises:

  • It covered only patients >50 years old and only four medical conditions.
  • It randomly surveyed physicians using an AMA file, asking them to respond and to include the hospital in which they provided most of their inpatient care, but it wasn’t clear whether they provided all that much inpatient care at all or whether they were the most prolific doctors at the hospitals being reviewed.
  • Since the doctors who responded drove the choice of hospitals, those hospitals studied were not typical: they were much larger and more of them were academic medical centers.
  • Outcomes were determined from claims data.
  • Some results were predictably erratic, such as the lack of correlation to length of stay and the conclusion that use of electronic notes and records increases the odds of heart failure complication.

Compared to studies that preceded it, this one’s pretty good, but it suffers from Most Wired-like conclusion-leaping (not in the article, but by those who try to turn it into a sound bite). Nothing suggests that technology use caused the improvement, only that it seemed to coincide with it. So, we know what we already knew or presumed: good hospitals are more likely to do many things (including deploy IT) better than bad ones.

Nothing in the article suggests that a given hospital will see its quality improve just because its starts using technology (in fact, that might have been an even more interesting study: take those same hospitals studied, identify those that recently implemented clinical systems, and compare their before-and-after numbers to see if anything changed).

The bottom line: it’s a pretty good study that has encouraging conclusions, even if they are iffy. IT won’t make bad hospitals good, but it can help make good ones a little better if it’s used right and along with other improvement measures. The article does not, however, suggest that IT is the can’t-miss answer to quality and cost problems.

E-mail me.

HERtalk by Inga

Consultants warn that as the economy worsens, more hospitals will lay off employed doctors or slash their pay. The US Department of Labor reports that 107 hospitals had mass layoffs (50+ employees) for the first 11 months of 2008.

Despite all the bad news of layoffs, many believe that healthcare still offers more stability than other sectors. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistic predicts 3 million new wage and salary jobs between 2006 and 2016, more than any other industry. In nursing, older students, men, and second career newcomers are joining the ranks.

In a paper entitled “Hospitals as Hotels,” researchers conclude that amenities such as good food, attentive staff, and pleasant surroundings may play an important role in hospital demand. “From the patient perspective, hospital quality therefore embodies amenities as well as clinical quality. We also find that a one-standard-deviation increase in amenities raises a hospital’s demand by 38.4 percent on average, whereas demand is substantially less responsive to clinical quality as measured by pneumonia mortality.” Sounds like the message is to buy nice furniture instead of improving care if you want to keep the beds full.


Turmoil at Tri-City Medical Center (CA) has employees wondering about the facility’s long-term stability. Last month, a new board majority placed the hospital’s top eight administrators on paid leave and brought in a temporary management team that opponents claim have no hospital experience.

An Ohio man sues a nightclub for $25,000 after a stripper’s shoe flies off during a tricky dance move, chipping a bone in his nose that will require surgery to fix. No word on whether her shoe was damaged, but I say shame on that stripper for risking her shoes.

HealthGrades releases (warning: PDF) its seventh annual Hospital Quality and Clinical Excellence study. Medicare patients treated at top-rated hospitals are 27% less likely to die there, on average, than at other hospitals.

The Association of Academic Health Centers calls for a revision of the HIPAA privacy rule following a study in which HIPAA was found to impede study recruitment and study diversity.

McKesson reports mixed financial results for its fiscal third quarter, losing $20 million because of the $493 million paid to settle AWP price fixing charges. Without that, EPS would have been $1.05 vs. $0.68 last year on slightly higher revenues. Technology Solutions grew but missed expectations due to contract signing delays in hospitals and physician practices. Cost cutting was the key to a pretty good quarter. The company raised its earnings outlook, running the stock up 12% on Tuesday.

MedAvant Healthcare Solutions appoints Troy Burns as CTO. He previously worked at Misys and Payerpath. MedAvant’s president Andrew Lawson is also a former Misys guy.

Philips Healthcare reports 9% sales growth in Q4, driven by sales in imaging systems, healthcare informatics, and customer services. Royal Philips as a whole ended the year with a $1.9 billion loss and will lay off 6,000 employees.

Scott Perra, the new president and CEO of Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare and Mohawk Valley Network (NY) claims the implementation of an EMR is his first priority. The health system is about 18 months into installing its $15 million clinical system (I believe Cerner).


In what the company calls a planned transition, Virtual Radiologic Corporation promotes President Rob Kill to CEO. Company co-founder Dr. Sean Casey will remain chairman of the board. The announcement coincides with the release of the company’s Q4 and full-year financials, which include a 24% jump in revenue for the year. Adjusted net income grew from $7.0 million to $9.7 million. The company also just signed its third internal client, this one in Saudi Arabia.

Griffin Hospital (CT) implements the Logical Ink electronic charting system in its new Center for Cancer Care.

Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital (NE) plans to adopt (hopefully they’ve signed a contract) Eclipsys clinical solutions.

The Outpatient Rehabilitation Center of Margaret Mary Community Hospital (IN) implements Chart Links therapy documentation and scheduling system for its 19 physical, occupational, and speech therapists.

PHR vendor MediKeeper announces the appointment of David Ashworth as CEO.

The Queen’s Health System (HI) renews its IT outsourcing contract with ACS. The new contract is valued at $26 million over three years and includes Queen’s Medical Center and its affiliates. ACS has been providing IT services to Queen’s since 2001.

BJC HealthCare (MO) signs a five-year agreement with CareTech Solutions. CareTech will provide BJC and its 11 affiliated hospitals a suite of Web products and services including CareWorks content management system and BoardNet communications portal.

I was amazed to learn there are now over 10,000 applications available for the iPhone. A cool new HIT tool just announced: Safe OR, which includes a 19-item surgical safety checklist A Surgical Safety Checklist to Reduce Morbidity and Mortality in a Global Population.

Picis CEO and Vice Chairman Todd Cozzens will chair the Business Office Improvement educational track at TEPR+ next week. I’m envious of anyone who gets to spend a few days in Palm Springs right now. If you’re attending, send us updates and impressions.

Medsphere announces the successful implementation of BCMA at all eight of West Virginia’s state network of acute, psychiatric, and long-term care hospitals.

athenahealth and the Illinois State Medical Society announce an agreement to offer special pricing on athenahealth’s PM solution to its 12,000 members. I also saw that athenahealth hit a 52-week high Monday, following Jonathan Bush’s appearance on CNBC’s “Mad Money” with Jim Kramer.

E-mail Inga.

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Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mr HISTalk, Your Agent may not be entirely on target – yet – but we do live in a world where Brigham & Women’s got into bed and owned many millions of Eclipsys stock, and now Partners is in a “relationship” with Siemens – John Glasser might have intel on how much money or stock changed hands in these.

    Also, Vanderbilt and McKesson – maybe between independent research studies, Bill Stead could find time to discuss the detailed financials behind that transaction and the ongoing financial relationship with McKesson. To round out the week you could contact someone at Intermountain for some detail on the GE relationship.

    If Marshfield is proceeding to donate CatailsMD to the open source community, I would applaud them too. If however, they are simply positioning for something else, then they should be open in disclosing that as well.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with what they do, just seems a bit unsettling to realize what really is happening behind the scenes while they use the media to misdirect. Makes the whole site visit topic from last week seem sort of trivial in comparison.

    So, would Ministry release their contract details or confirm they have no other interest or potential benefit from the CatailsMD product or Marshfield relationship in any way? That would go a long way to help your readers (or maybe just the cynical ones like me) feel that all that glitters is in fact gold.

  2. The Big HIT companies will never connect the dots, but there is a relationship with millions of dollars of over the top marketing (remembering the HIMSS McKesson blue neon screen that would be overhwleming at Yankee Stadium corporate jets, lavish dinners) and layoffs.

    When you sign a single contract for $184 million as EPIC did recently, you have to wonder just what the ROI is for those hospitals, and what the HIT company does with revenue. Too little is put into support and product development. Too much is put into sales and marketing.

    Hospitals would be well advised to look at how Southern Ohio Medical Center, one of the hospitals listed in the top 100 best places to work, spends its HIT dollars. They may just be getting the best ROI in the nation of any hospital, carefully choosing vendors that provide reaonsable prices, great products, and great support.

  3. Is it any surprise of the conclusions of the paper “Hospitals as Hotels”. Patients cannot readily measure the hospital’s clinical superiority, since even statistics can be manipulated, and ad campaigns slanted.

    What patients can measure is how well they are treated. If the patient care is intimate, concerned, friendly, attentive patients notice. If the food is superior, patients notice. If the rooms are clean, modern, with attractive waiting rooms for family and friends, patients notice.

    Small surgical hospitals have picked up on this and are expanding rapidly in the areas they serve, often equipped with the nice furniture, wood grained laminate floors, visiting areas within patient rooms, and lcd big screen tvs. Does it improve patient care ?? Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt for patients to feel comfortable in nicer surroundings.

  4. “A former Kaiser Permanente employee in Los Angeles kills himself, his wife, and five children…” Would you please avoid reporting this kind of “news”? Let me propose something: you continue your insightful analysis and reporting of breaking news in the HIT industry, and leave the salacious, pointless stories about the tragic actions of mentally unstable people to CNN.com (which incidentally, is running the same story on their home page) Deal? 🙂

  5. James Hammer Says: “Too little is put into support and product development. Too much is put into sales and marketing.”

    So true. But here’s the sad part: They do it because it works.

  6. I would like to offer a suggestion. As the sluggish economy takes hold of the healthcare IT industry, it is very obvious that hospitals, vendors, consulting practices and all associated support organizations are feeling the pinch.

    A quick read of your posting today mentions on five occasions that various organizations are downsizing. Please don’t get caught up in the dire news reporting that dominates every major news channel these days. I would propose to you that it is no longer news worthy or interesting news if another company has a lay-off. I agree in better economic times this type of insight into a company’s fortunes or failures is helpful guidance to your readers.

    I woiuld like to read your postings each week and leave better informed and current with the relevant news of the day in our industry and not sadden by the discoiuraging news that surrounds us.

    I admire your dedication and passion to your work and commend you on your work ethic and commitment to this blog.

  7. James Hammer Says: “Too little is put into support and product development. Too much is put into sales and marketing.”

    I don’t think EPIC spends any money on Sales and Marketing – Have you ever seen 1 Epic AD? and I don’t think they have sales people…McKesson Does.

  8. I doubt that Epic has ever signed a contract for $186M. That’s not money to Epic, that’s money that buys PCs, servers, data center space, staff, telecom, blah blah blah. A small part of that goes to Epic. Stop misleading people.

    Quit the grandstanding with the numbers!

  9. Mr. HISTalk – did you censor my post on Partners, Brigham, Vanderbilt and Marshfield?

    Many non profits spin of profits. Also, check out what the AMA is doing with their for profit spin off of a company to sell identified datasets from member clinics. One worth looking at.

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