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Monday Morning Update 8/24/09

August 22, 2009 News 10 Comments

Former VA CIO’s assistant named by OIG for paying unapproved bonuses
Cleveland Clinic wants a new technology-enabled revenue stream
Government’s “Connect” tool to be modified to allow Medicaid data exchange


From Brian Wagner: “Re: Mount Sinai Biden visit. They actually did hold a conference call for reporters and other interested members of the public just minutes after the meeting in Chicago wrapped up. Unfortunately, all the reporters wanted to ask about meaningful use and certification, not about the $1.2 billion in extraordinarily essential infrastructure funding that will be going to regional extension centers and state grants. Read the application materials for the government. The documents are actually really interesting in laying out their vision.” Good information – there’s a lot of detail there. I’m smelling opportunity – the average Regional Center grant will be $8.5 million, with a range of $1 to $30 million. You have to be a nonprofit, but that’s easy to set up (think HIMSS will get involved somehow?) If you’re a shaky vendor or struggling consulting firm, you could fill out the paperwork and see if you win the lottery. I might want to throw in with you. Brian’s with eHealth Initative, by the way.

From @hightechattorney: “Re: Lance Armstrong is getting on the health IT bandwagon. ‘While everyone’s trying to fix the healthcare system in the USA, let’s make all medical records electronic. It is nearly 2010 after all.’ Posted on Twitter today by Lance after finishing a stage at the tour of Ireland.” Did you ever notice that Twitter postings sound eerily like those SNL sketches in which Larry King blurts out stream-of-consciousness non-sequiturs? And since Lance is shining his considerable expertise on healthcare IT, I’ll reciprocate by providing my expert opinion on his field: let’s replace bicycles and people who are paid astronomical sums to ride them with modern technology like motorcycles or cars. It is nearly 2010, after all. See how easy it is to opine confidently about something you don’t understand?

From Mr. RIS: “Re: Sunquest radiology information system. It seems they’ve sunsetted it. They let go all the development, support, and the one final domain expert on Friday. Clock is on to see who picks up this business.” Unverified, but we’ll ask. I can see it both ways: I liked the product as a long-ago customer, but it’s a little outside their core business. UPDATE: Not true, according to Sunquest. “The Radiology Information System is, and will continue to be, an important part of Sunquest’s diagnostic information solution portfolio. No one was let go Friday, in fact, we are actively recruiting to fill open positions.”

Listening: Radio Paradise, live, human-hosted streaming radio recommended by a reader. Lots of bands I’ve recommended are on the playlist: Silversun Pickups, Tori Amos, Peter Gabriel, Heather Nova, Leonard Cohen, and The Pixies. Like college radio, it’s a bizarre segue of music that sounds like it was randomly chosen by a wasted DJ: just now, it was Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther Theme followed by Pink Floyd’s Time from Dark Side of the Moon (maybe the next song will be Get the Party Started by Pink, continuing the color theme).

Consulting firm and HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Virtelligence is in the ten-company hunt to be named National Minority Small Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Administration. It’s on the Healthcare Informatics Top 100 list as well.

Inga connected with the CEO of the HIE vendor that people are gossiping about. He said he’s anxious to be interviewed, so we sent some questions Monday, some of them probing (why do we keep getting an answering machine on the 24-hour support line, what’s up with the company’s credit reports, etc.) Nothing heard so far.

The nonprofit Digital Pathology Association announces its formation and its first meeting, September 13-15 in San Diego. I got the notice from Sunquest, a DPA founding sponsor. Personally, I’m sorry that HIMSS outgrew San Diego since it’s a great conference town.

UCSD signs an agreement with a technical school in India to build a 300-bed hospital there.


WTAE in Pittsburgh covers the Health Buddy home monitoring system, which comes as a small appliance that sends information to a Web application. It has a long list of health management programs: CHF with various complications, anticoagulation, CHF, diabetes, etc. It has a USB and infrared connection to medical devices. A simulated demo is here. It’s by Bosch, the spark plug people.


Observations from the video of the Sebelius “paperless hospital” Omaha visit: (a) the nurse educator showing her the tablet PC gets in a couple of unintentional plugs for the C5 computer and Pyxis (b) Sebelius looks kind of snotty to me, never smiling except when she uncorks a tiny one when talking directly to the camera at the end, even looking distinctly uncomfortable while pretending to comfort a patient during the photo op; and (c) I have to decide whether I’m annoyed that the guy talking about industrial engineers referred to “processEEZ” instead of “processESS”, which always makes me think that somebody’s “puttin’ on airs”, as Southerners say. I Googled to see what they are using at the hospital’s parent, Alegent, and it looks like Soarian and NextGen on the inpatient and ambulatory side, respectively. If Siemens wasn’t so darned cold and stodgy, they would be all over this. They should hire me to be their obnoxious yet anxious to please online presence since theirs is about as inviting as a Berlin winter.

The VA’s IT department is the weekend’s top story, and not in a good way: the OIG says the former executive assistant of former VA CIO Bob Howard “acted as if she was given a blank checkbook” in paying “unusual and often absurd” bonuses totalling $24 million over two years (including $60K to herself plus $140K in tuition benefits to family members and friends). The VA also paid $37,000 in travel costs for a woman that Howard admits having screwed around with. Howard, you may recall, was the Bush political appointee and former government contractor executive who demanded complete control over all of the VA’s $2 billion IT program and decided it should dump its acclaimed VistA software in favor of buying commercial applications. His two-year VA legacy will apparently be as uninspiring as most of the people Bush appointed, consisting of disastrous security breaches, floundering IT projects, ill-advised attempts to dump the most successful EMR in history, and cheating on his wife. That’s a shame for a two-tour Vietnam vet and retired major general who should have known and done better for the veterans he was hired to serve.

Philippine hospitals lag in EMR adoption because of the cost of software, but one medical center bucks the trend by using an open source system.

The State of Virginia finally names a CIO to replace the one it fired after he suggested not paying Northrop Grumman’s big privatization contract because it was doing a crappy job even while asking for more money than was agreed on. In what is surely a bad sign, Northrop Grumman praises the new guy.

Best Buy looks interested in getting into the wireless health device business with Microsoft (I missed the announcement, but this guy didn’t).

My most recent survey results: 90% of you think more EMR vendors will increase their promises of future EMR certification and/or Meaningful Use compliance. New poll to your right: is your employer using the Skype VoIP service for any official purpose?

I see the AHA’s for-profit shill AHA Solutions is still out there “endorsing” products and selling services to vendors. There ought to be a law: nonprofits should not be allowed to affiliate with for-profit organizations (hello, AMA?)

Speaking of for-profit nonprofits, UPMC is the frontrunner to get a taxpayer-and-GE funded $830 million vaccine factory. UPMC’s CEO, who made $4.5 million last year, has already gotten face time with Joe Biden, Kathleen Sebelius, and the free-spending Homeland Security people to make his case.


Like Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo’s search engine is accused of violating federal and state laws by accepting advertising by illegal drug vendors posing as legitimate online pharmacies. Seems silly to me; they can’t possibly check the good character of everybody who wants to run a text ad. If that’s the expectation, say goodbye to Craigslist, which in the few times I’ve tried to use it, seems to be about 90% shady. In the mean time, I see that the DEA is taking out its own Google ads tied to drug keywords.

I’ve tried to use Facebook lately and it was mildly interesting to connect with people I went to high school with (most of whom I don’t even remember, to be honest), but it’s getting as annoying as Twitter. Reason: people keep wasting time with online crap like FarmVille, pointless online tests, and “Which WKRP Personality are You?” results that clutter up the page. Americans seem uniquely suited to taking potentially useful technology (TV, cell phones, the Internet) and dumbing it down to the lowest possible level of triteness. Most of the Twitter followers I’ve gotten lately are porn sites and companies urged by their marketing people to attempt hipness. I thought lame blogs (is that redundant?) were as low as we could go, but Twitter makes the typical cheese sandwich blog look like War and Peace.

I’m not a big David Brailer fan (I can’t put my finger on it, but he just seems kind of arrogant), but he’s good for sound bites that I agree with: “I’m still shocked that there is a business argument for electronic medical records because it kills the very thing that makes hospitals money. The way we pay for health care penalizes efficiency.” OK, I’m warming up to him.

Parkland Hospital starts eliminating 200 jobs, giving its EMR a bad name by crediting it for the cutbacks, “As we have rolled out more components of electronic medical records, more of those [clerical] functions have been replaced.”

The HIT Standards Committee recommends using either ICD-9 or SNOMED to meet 2011 EMR standards, but wants to incent providers to move to SNOMED by 2015.

An Epocrates survey of medical students has some interesting findings from tomorrow’s doctors. They like mobile devices, with 45% of them using an iPhone or Touch and 60% of the non-users saying they’ll buy one of those Apple products within a year. They give medical schools an A- (up from a B) exposing them to technology, with 84% saying they’ve had EMR exposure and 90% saying use of an EMR will influence their practice choice. Over 70% of them said the US healthcare system sucks and 90% say drug salespeople are scumbag liars (I’m paraphrasing, but accurately).

A former network administrator for a hospital in Australia pleads guilty to voyeurism, choosing the geek’s method of planting a video camera in hospital restroom.

We had a big go-live at my hospital recently, giving me a chance to ruminate (no pun intended) on the most important assignment: what’s on the war room food menu? My tips: (a) if you bring bagels, skip the stinky “everything” ones loaded with garlic since the room and the breath of the participants reek of it for hours; (b) don’t cheap out and make people buy their own drinks from the nearest soda machine and also buy about 10 to 1 diet since it always runs out fast; (c) nobody likes pasta salad because it’s oily and full of olives, so get potato salad or, even better, kettle chips; (d) pizza is the cheap and easy option because they deliver, but you don’t want a roomful of IT people stuffed with greasy cheese, pepperoni, and hot peppers to be stuck in an airless room for hours; and (e) you can never have too many kinds of cookies and candy, at least until the analysts freak out on a sugar high and then crash just as you need their full attention to fix some IT disaster. It’s an IT low point to be covering the night shift and subsisting on hardening bagels and weird sandwiches (vegetarian, bloody rare roast beef) that everybody has passed on throughout the day. Other war room disasters: setting up in an office building where the air conditioning shuts off automatically for the weekend, forgetting to bring a hub so everybody can plug their laptops in, and quickly running out of toilet tissue in the nearest restroom that usually goes unused over the weekend.


Cleveland Clinic’s “Chief Emerging Business Officer” says they’ll develop a new revenue stream by selling eICU services and possibly home health telemedicine. As another of those nonprofits that seem anxious to make money, they had a $246 million profit on their latest federal forms, run a bunch of for-profit subsidiaries, and paid several multi-million dollar salaries.

ONCHIT (I know they keep trying to call themselves ONC because they don’t like the sounded-out version of the acronym they chose, but I don’t care) will modify its Connect software to allow states to share their Medicaid information over the Nationwide Health Information Network.

Sloppy physician handwriting is blamed in a Florida hospital lawsuit in which a pregnant inpatient was mistakenly given the abortion-inducing drug alprostadil instead of the labor-slowing drug that was intended, causing her to deliver her two-months-premature baby in her bedpan.

HIMSS tries to drum up member support for having people run around Washington to bug the aides of politicians about using taxpayer money for healthcare IT (haven’t they done enough?). Its Policy Summit kicks off with a “PREP Rally” with a reception “to discuss your future Hill strategy”, which I’m pretty sure the average dues-paying HIMSS member doesn’t have. I notice the HIMSS recap of recent news carefully omits those involving CCHIT’s ongoing marginalization.

E-mail me.

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Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. Despite faithfully reading HISTalk, this is the first I’ve heard about gossip about an HIE vendor. Where can I find more details?

    The article about FOSS EMR in the Philippines doesn’t mention which FOSS EMR the hospital chose. Any idea?

    Loved the “dos and don’ts” of the war room. Besides AC going out, we work in a building where they now shut off the lights at night, so we had a small army of folks in a conference room Friday night with desk lamps. Ouch!

  2. Regarding your 8/21 post about “should I disclose vendor non-disclosure terms”, you left out some big players such as GE, AlScripts etc.

    I wonder if AllScripts would have allowed the disclosure of this document, a Civil Complaint against them for selling my organization a non functional system that distracted doctors and could likely have led to adverse outcomes:


    Civil complaints are public, of course.

    I actually found out about this lawsuit, that then went to Federa Court, through an anonymous comment at HISTalk, not from my own organization (see http://histalk.blog-city.com/news_051607.htm ).

  3. “a Civil Complaint against them for selling my organization a non functional system that distracted doctors and could likely have led to adverse outcomes”

    Wow… can anyone say “tort reform”.

    Hey Doc Silverstein, you should lay off the coffee before someone sues you for your “potentially distracting” HIStalk posting habit that “could likely lead to adverse outcomes”

  4. Finally, something on HISTalk I have some experience with, war room food planning. Always keep the room STOCKED with a never ending flow of decent candy. That way when there’s a crisis you can almost always count on someone being in there to help you. Beware of the people who suggest fruit because they will almost always spin into a meltdown when everything isn’t perfect or done their way. They can never seem to just “roll with it” despite the number of apples they pretend to eat. Pizza is good because it can sit in a box for hours and people will still eat it. Can’t stand however the person who instead of addressing issues is taking personal pizza orders. I can’t get you to do the simplest of tasks at your desk but you’ll search every end of a hospital to find out what kind of pizza each and every person on the team likes. Make it all cheese and save hours of wasted time. That reminds me of a live where more time was spent organizing the homemade waffle station for the weekend live coverage then was spent on the actual work at hand. The waffles were delicious, the live, not so great…

  5. Anon writes:

    “Hey Doc Silverstein, you should lay off the coffee before someone sues you for your “potentially distracting” HIStalk posting habit that “could likely lead to adverse outcomes”

    Dear Anon,

    Your comment is stupid.

  6. Does the HIT vendor executive criticizing Doc Silverstein above understand the dangers of the HIT things he defends?

  7. “non functional system that distracted doctors and could likely have led to adverse outcomes:”

    If you actually read the complaint – the good doctor’s adverse outcome refers to the fact that he isn’t getting paid at the higher E&M code. The issue in the complaint is that the E&M coder was not working in the Touchworks application – a breach of trust and contract but certainly not impacting patient care.

    Non-functional system – I can buy, but please don’t cloak your outrage as impacting patient care which close to 100% of the people on this site think when you refer to “adverse outcomes”.

  8. Talk of the town,

    Do you recognize the arrogance in IT personnel telling physicians what does and does not distract them?

    It seems plaintiff’s attorneys will make short work of IT personnel when such attitudes are exhibited and profiled.

  9. Re: Talk of the Town:

    I should add that amid the implementation of a brand new EHR and its distractions, added clinician clerical tasks and work flow changes for clinicians, any defects are indeed distractions that can impact patient care.

    Here are other perhaps more obvious examples of distractions that can impact care:


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Reader Comments

  • Sam Lawrence: Except in this case, coding = medical billing, not development. Though the same warning may be true...
  • BeenThere: Partners will find the savings from their cuts of coders as fools gold. There are a lot of hidden costs running an outs...
  • JC: If there is not there can be. VistA has a reference lab interface that can create the manifests/labeling and such as we...
  • Tom Cornwell: Great stuff from Dr. Jayne as usual. One small typo, last sentence of second-to-last paragraph: should be 'who's' not 'w...
  • HIT Observer: What I find most interesting here, is people defending their common practices rather than truly taking this as invaluabl...
  • Bob: There's no incentive for the provider to spend time doing a price comparison for the patient. Nor is it a good use of th...
  • Peppermint Patty: Veteran - can you clarify what was "fake "? Was something made up (definition of fake) or did you disagree with Vapo...
  • Pat Wolfram: Such a refreshing article. Thanks -- there really can be a simpler version of an acute HIT implementation. But I do ...
  • Woodstock Generation: Bravo to HIStalk's Weekender recaps and other news/opinions. I read it first thing on Monday mornings..................
  • Veteran: #fakenews...

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