Time Capsule: For Employees in Uncarpeted Areas, Hide Technology Complexity Like McDonald’s Does

September 30, 2011 Time Capsule No Comments

I wrote weekly editorials for a boutique industry newsletter for several years, anxious for both audience and income. I learned a lot about coming up with ideas for the weekly grind, trying to be simultaneously opinionated and entertaining in a few hundred words, and not sleeping much because I was working all the time. They’re fun to read as a look back at what was important then (and often still important now).

I wrote this piece in September 2006

For Employees in Uncarpeted Areas, Hide Technology Complexity Like McDonald’s Does
By Mr. HIStalk


A recent state survey found that El Camino Hospital’s medication error rate nearly tripled after implementation of a supposedly safer, closed-loop type of information technology for medication orders. El Camino, widely recognized as a hospital technology pioneer going back to the 1970s, suffered an embarrassing setback as onsite investigators found actively occurring medication errors that were unknown to the hospital.

Major implementations like CPOE expose serious flaws in an organization’s ability to manage change, to communicate, and to educate — those soft skills often scorned by take-charge caregivers and logical IT types. If El Camino can have problems like these, so can just about any other hospital.

Medical errors, including technology-induced ones, have gotten so bad that some hospitals are actually advising patients to bring along a friend to protect them from staff mistakes. I can’t imagine any other business throwing in the towel and admitting defeat to customers. I’d have just two words for a restaurant waiter who suggests I watch the cook to make sure he doesn’t poison me: “Check, please.“

Walk the uncarpeted areas of the hospital on night shift, where clinicians get dumped because they’re new, working multiple jobs, or desperate to earn shift differential. The variation in practice is shocking to anyone who assumes that policies are consistently followed or that nurse executives speak knowledgably for those folks who toil in the appropriately named “graveyard shift,” where some of the most horrific mistakes are made by tired, under-supported clinicians left to their own devices by the A-team nine-to-fivers. Sometimes they don’t even get computer training because no one wants to come in at 3 in the morning.

Software and medical equipment isn’t designed with these people in mind. Our mental picture of a user is an intelligent, thoughtful person who sits in a quiet room and carefully reads all the screens, labels, and warnings we put in front of them. This paradigm works well in those hospital departments where knowledge management is the key responsibility: laboratory, radiology, and pharmacy, for example. Their employees embrace technology and use it willingly to boost productivity in performing repetitive tasks. The IT track record in those departments is outstanding.

Nurses and doctors don’t work in that world, however, so our efforts and computerizing their work has been spotty. They didn’t go into their professions because they love computers. Much of their work isn’t even all that logical, no easier to computerize than that of a teacher, artist, or mechanic. Rightly or wrongly, how they do things varies by individual or by area, making it highly unlikely that non-personalizable off-the-rack software, as a rigid enforcer of business rules, will ever be fully accepted by those who don’t follow the rules anyway.

For vendors, maybe simpler is better, hiding the complexity like a McDonald’s cash register, where pushing a button with a hamburger picture on it rings up a hamburger. For hospital leaders involved in IT, maybe it’s time to venture out “where the sun don’t shine” – the night shift, uncarpeted underworld of patient care where all of our IT horsepower often fails to protect our patients.

News 9/30/11

September 29, 2011 News 12 Comments

Top News

9-29-2011 8-24-53 PM

VA CIO Roger Baker says his organization will allow smart phones and tablets on its network starting Monday, with the first batch of 1,000 users swapping out their laptops or BlackBerries for devices running an unnamed OS (Apple). He also says he’d like the VA to develop an enterprise-wide apps store, with some of those apps coming from its recently announced open source EHR project.

Reader Comments

inga_small From Matt Holt: “Re: unsubstantiated. C’mon Inga, be nice, or at least reasonable. Keanu’s comment that Health 2.0 was super disorganized? I hear everything from my team — including the three people who didn’t like my write-up of their bios — and I never heard about an argument breaking out about an ad. No one wrote mentioned the fact that we’re the only health conference with more than 120 LIVE demos, that we had two big time health plan CEOs talking directly about technology, that we put the ONC head on stage with seven patients, or that we had 1500 people come – more than 50% up on 2011? Guess next time I’ll have to ask the 20-30 people telling me that Health 2.0 is the best conference they go to that they should e-mail you instead.” Thanks, Matt, for filling in the missing details, although we just ran what an attendee (and sponsor, apparently) sent us. Maybe I am just bummed I couldn’t have been there myself to experience it. Next year.

9-29-2011 3-49-17 PM

inga_small From High-Heeled: “Re: Error messages. In my role of helping physicians survive and thrive with EHR adoption, some are generally frustrated by the error messages their applications throw up. This is a new error message one of our doctors sent to me and told me it didn’t bother her at all!” Please tell your physician that wine makes me more tolerant as well.

mrh_small From Lou Reed: “Re: just good enough. Farzad Mostashari is urging the HIT Standards Committee to put out standards that are ‘good enough’ to get started on HIE. In my HIT experience, any link that is ‘just good enough’ handles the core data, but any data outside the norm (such as exceptions, outliers, etc.) gets trashed. Just look at what craziness the open text segments in HL7 cause. Providers will be spending thousands of man-hours trying to sort out this out as they trip over the myriad of exceptions that come up in health care cases. Although I am a firm believer in not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, there are times when that approach does not fit. This is one. Would he take his child on a plane that is ‘just good enough’?”

9-29-2011 7-50-48 PM

mrh_small From Sorbino: “Re: EHR. Check this KLAS report. Ever heard of PCC – Physician’s Computer Company?” I’ve heard of them, but I was never quite sure what they did (some kind of reseller, I figured). The PCC EHR, which is pediatrics specific, puts up monster KLAS scores. They’re pretty new on the report, though, and there’s often a honeymoon period before the scores start to slip as the company grows, expectations are raised, and an increasing number of users are surveyed. Still, it’s an impressive accomplishment. There’s something to be said for focusing on a particular market segment and excelling in it.

9-29-2011 8-12-47 PM

9-29-2011 8-16-23 PM

mrh_small From Just Tennille: “Re: SRS user group meeting. I always feel that I’m among friends there and came home energized. “ I can see where the “energized” part came from – check out the Red Bull and coffee bean chocolates bar. All that’s missing is caffeine IV bags. The SRS developers, lined up for intros and appearing uncomfortable in their seldom-worn and/or borrowed suits, look like they would love to change into nerdwear, ravage the caffeine stash, and sling some code. That’s what you want in a developer, which is why the glad-handing and photogenic sales guys become physically uncomfortable in their presence. I’ve never had an energy drink, but I’ve noticed recently how expensive they are in bars and stores, probably making them even more profitable to their manufacturers than wine or liquor since they don’t have to pay high federal alcohol taxes (Red Bull’s founder is worth $3 billion). I bet they were a hit at the user group meeting.

mrh_small From Meaningful User: “Re: NY Times on the UK’s HIT fiasco. Blumie toots a different horn now that he’s back using these poorly usable systems.” It’s a fun read, calling NPfIT “a slow-motion train wreck” and asking three experts on whether a similar disaster could befall HITECH, which costs even more than the hugely expensive NPfIT boondoggle. Former National Coordinator #1 David Brailer says the UK ran NPfIT as a giant procurement program, running all over clinicians in the process. Richard Alvarez of Canada Health Infoway says both the US and Canada are taking a different path than Britain in setting standards and outcomes, but not doing the actual implementation. Former National Coordinator #3 David Blumenthal echoed Brailer in saying it has to be a collaborative effort with clinician involvement. You docs who aren’t sold on even subsidized EMRs may have more power than you imagine, or at least Brailer thinks so: “The experience in Britain is a warning to us. The thing that brought them to their knees was the confrontation with doctors.”

9-29-2011 8-46-56 PM

mrh_small From CDMer: “Re: stolen tapes. Another day, another breach.” SAIC says computer backup tapes were stolen from the car of one of its employees on September 14, potentially exposing the detailed health information of 4.9 million military beneficiaries who received care, lab tests, or prescriptions in San Antonio area facilities such as Brooke Army Medical Center.

mrh_small From Dolphins Fan: “Re: loss of Minnesota PHI. When something like this happens, everyone always points out that it was against company policy. Every healthcare company on the face of the earth has a PHI policy and most have an encryption policy. Unfortunately, for many companies the goal is to put a policy in place to make people happy, but then they fail to enforce it. Execution of a policy, versus simply having a policy, is where you really see how important PHI protection is to a company.”

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

9-26-2011 4-07-28 PM

inga_small In case you have been too busy following season-ending baseball drama, tracking the latest presidential polls, or watching Dancing with the Stars, here are a few highlights from HIStalk Practice over the last week: Dr. Gregg mulls over Abe Lincoln and HIT innovation. Electronic medical reminders improve care in elderly patients. Younger docs are not necessarily better at EHR than their older peers. MED3OOO serves up education, networking, and fun at its annual user conference. eClinicalWorks sells swag for charity at their national user conference this weekend in Phoenix.  If you have not been a HIStalk Practice regular in the past, I have good news: we are still accepting new subscribers. Thanks for reading.

9-29-2011 7-56-12 PM

mrh_small Welcome to Executive Search Recruiting, supporting HIStalk as a Platinum Sponsor. The Cornelius, NC-based ESR is a boutique search firm (no, they don’t find boutiques, they recruit executives and sales talent) that works with providers, payers, vendors, and consulting forms to bring on partners, principals, directors, sales executives, and consultants, to name a few of the positions they can help with. They’ve worked with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, so there’s a 100% chance that they’ve helped an organization similarly sized to yours, offering customized fee structures that include flat fee per hire, retained searches, contract work, and an interesting (low) hourly fee share for billable consultants. The company’s employees average 15 years’ of healthcare experience in executive search, so they know where to find the really good people (hire a bad one on your own and the value proposition becomes clearer.) On the other side of the jobs table, if you’re a high performer looking for an opportunity, check out their current openings and get in touch with Don Calhoun. Thanks to Executive Search Recruiting for supporting HIStalk.

mrh_small Everybody likes big and/or round numbers, so here are some for HIStalk. E-mail subscribers: 7,546. Likes on Facebook: 1,595. Mr. H connections on LinkedIn: 920. Dann’s Fan Club members on LinkedIn: 1,857. Number of unique readers: 21,350. Number of visits since 2003: 4.56 million. You will make the small round number (zero) of HIStalk full-time employees happy by increasing those numbers where you can. Thanks.

mrh_small On the Jobs Board: Implementation Project Manager, Epic and Cerner Resources, Director – Product Demonstration Specialists. On Healthcare IT Jobs: HL7 Interface Analyst, Director, Clinical Applications, IT Technical / Product Support Specialist, Epic Consultant Manager.

mrh_small If you were toiling away in HIT prior to 1980 and want to reconnect with old pals at HIMSS, sign up so Vince can e-mail you details about a little get-together at the HIMSS conference. One reader is hoping for Neil Pappalardo or Octo Barnett from Meditech to attend, but even if they don’t, quite a few interesting folks have already said they’re planning to be there.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

9-29-2011 4-50-43 PM

Greenway Medical announces that it is acquiring certain technology assets of CySolutions, a provider of clinical management and EHR solutions for FQHCs and community health centers. Greenway did not disclose the purchase price or the exact technologies it’s buying, but does indicate that CySolutions CEO Bill Young and other development staff members will join the company.

Prognosis Health Information Systems completes its acquisition of Creative Healthcare Systems, a provider of financial management and patient accounting systems.


9-29-2011 4-43-01 PM

Jeff Davis Hospital (GA), a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital, selects Healthland’s Centriq EHR.

9-29-2011 4-44-25 PM

Meadowlands Hospital and Medical Center (NJ) chooses PatientPoint’s patient engagement platform for care coordination and revenue cycle management.

9-29-2011 4-45-18 PM

Allegiance Health (MI) signs a three-year contract with TrustHCS for its ICD-10 education services and DNFB Assurance program.

Atlantic General Hospital (MD) contracts for Sunrise Clinical Manager from Allscripts. The hospital already uses Allscripts on the ambulatory side.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina will spend $15 million to subsidize the implementation of the Allscripts MyWay EHR for 750 North Carolina physicians, with 85% of the cost covered for eligible independent practices and 100% for free clinics, including training and support. BCBSNC will work with the NC Area Health Education Centers to help practices achieve Patient Centered Medical Home status and will also help providers connect to the North Carolina HIE. Allscripts will contribute an additional $8 million to the project.

St. Francis Hospital (CT) executes a three-year agreement with MED3OOO to provide RCM services for its 200 employed physicians.


Ryan A. Secan, MD, the former medical director of hospitalist programs at Lowell General Hospital Medical Group and Anna Jaques Hospital, joins MedAptus as chief medical officer.

9-29-2011 2-07-44 PM

T-System promotes Erin Estes from director of implementation services to VP and GM of performance solutions.

Announcements and Implementations

Cerner announces the Cerner Reference Lab Network, which requires one standard connection to communicate with all reference labs on the network.

9-29-2011 11-22-00 AM

Community Medical Centers (CA) goes live this week on Epic.

9-29-2011 7-36-25 PM 9-29-2011 7-37-25 PM

CareTech Solutions earns HDI Support Center Certification for its Service Desk IT help desk offering, which it says is the only hospital-specific help desk in the country. The company also just invested $1.5 million to reconfigure and remodel the operation. The press release casually mentions that it’s an “on-shore medical help desk,” meaning that when you call, you’re talking to someone in Troy, Michigan, United States of America.

Scottish charge master vendor Craneware announces financial tools designed for Critical Access Hospitals.

Government and Politics

HHS launches the Comprehensive Primary Care initiative, which will pay primary care practices $20 per beneficiary per month for providing better-coordinated care for Medicare patients. The program calls for participation from private and state insurance providers, requires providers to meet certain quality measures, and will eventually include a shared savings component for participants.

iSoft will provide its Enterprise Management hospital information system to create the Brunei Healthcare Information System, a government project with a goal of creating a single electronic record for every patient in Brunei.

Fujitsu prepares to sue the UK Department of Health for $1.1 billion, saying it’s owed that amount after pulling out of NPfIT in 2008.

Innovation and Research

9-29-2011 9-36-02 PM

A hospital in England explains its green IT efforts, which include moving to virtualized servers, replacing desktops with thin client devices, and implementing the NightWatchman power management solution that powers down idle PCs in non-critical areas.


inga_small An Atlanta medical practice’s IT specialist pleads guilty in federal court to intentionally accessing the protected computer of a competing perinatal medical practice. Using his home computer, Eric McNeal accessed the system of a former employer, downloaded patient data, then deleted all the patient information from the practice’s computer. He used the patient data to run a direct mail marketing campaign to benefit his new employer. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

mrh_small Weird News Andy elects not to steal second base in declaring, “I’m not touching this one.” A woman undergoing a swap-out of her breast implants wakes up after surgery to find herself with symmastia, also known as  “uniboob.” She said, “It looked like I had one big breast instead of two,” but the uniboob has since been successfully re-cleaved by another surgeon and the inevitable lawsuit has been settled.

inga_small National eHealth Collaborative seeks nominations for its board.

mrh_small Consumers in Australia complain about the pharmacy association’s plan to push a particular manufacturer’s nutritional supplements when patients pick up their prescriptions. The association’s computer system will remind the pharmacist to tell the patient that the supplements can help mitigate side effects of the prescribed drug. The association’s president is particularly proud of the computer reminders, calling them a “world first for IT-enabled, software-promoted pharmacy sector messages to facilitate targeted recommendations to patients.” The manufacturer’s CEO raised the most ire when she characterized the sales program as a “Coke and fries” upselling opportunity that will boost pharmacy profits. The president of the Australian Medical Association was unimpressed: “I think the evidence for Coke and fries is about the same as the evidence for these products.”

mrh_small A Denver-area agency ICU nurse is charged with identity theft and theft of medical records after Centura Health discovers he had accessed patient records inappropriately. The complaint against him says he used patient information to sign up for credit cards. His nursing license from another state had already been suspended in connection with a prescription fraud investigation.

9-29-2011 9-43-50 PM

mrh_small A St. Louis-based physician and geriatrician urges the US to emulate the healthcare system of France (#1 in the world vs. the US at #37) and its smart card system. which is really just a microchip ID card that contains no medical information and is required for every citizen over 16 years of age:

The most magnificent component of the French medical system is the "Carte Vitale." This looks like a credit card and is given to the physician by the patient. It is inserted into a computer allowing the physician to review the patient’s basic medical history and is also used for billing the patients visit to the government. The patient thus controls his or her own health records, maintaining privacy.

mrh_small A family practice physician in Canada, talking to a reporter about the loss of a PHI-containing memory stick from a local hospital, says patients of his own practice are not at risk. “My system is hard copy — paper, and it’s worked for me and many doctors in the city who still use it. It’s awfully hard to lose an entire filing cabinet.”

9-29-2011 9-55-10 PM

mrh_small Thomas Manning, the retiring head of Commonwealth Medicine (a consulting division of the University of Massachusetts Medical School,) will become the state’s highest paid retiree with an annual pension of $347,000 when he retires next year. The organization is under investigation for receiving no-bid Medicaid contracts from the state that cost $138 million per year, but says that’s not related to Manning’s retirement.

Sponsor Updates

  • Imprivata reports that the healthcare sector is the leading adopter of desktop virtualization technology, according to a recent cross-industry survey of 477 IT decision makers.
  • Wolters Kluwer Health announces that Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (GA) has selected its ProVation MD software for its GI departments.
  • Surgical Information Systems (SIS) becomes an Industry Supporter of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).
  • TeleTracking Technologies announces a free webinar series addressing patient throughput, overcrowding, RTLS asset management, performance improvement, and inter-hospital transfers.
  • The executive director of medical operations for Pocono Raceway (PA) discusses how emergency responders are using technology from T-System and Shareable Ink.
  • MobileMD introduces its 4DX Connected Health Record, an EHR application for small and family physicians that should be ONC-ATCB 2012 certified in Q4.
  • Capsule announces record growth, including the addition of over 90 facilities over the last six months.
  • iMDSoft adds Metropolitan Medical Services as a reseller of its MetaVision Suite.
  • Billian Publishing launches HITR.com, a HIT benchmarking and social networking community for providers and vendors. The free tool includes customer satisfaction scores for nearly 40 IT systems and 300 vendors.
  • CapSite releases a study of the RIS market and finds that 22% of hospitals have plans to buy a new RIS. Sixty-one percent of installed RIS systems are at least five years old.
  • HIT consulting firm Care Communications collaborates with Elsevier/MC Strategies to incorporate Elsevier’s ICD-10 transition tools into its ICD-10 readiness and implementation offerings.
  • Frost & Sullivan awards Awarepoint its RFID and RTLS Healthcare Competitive Strategy Leadership award.
  • For the twelfth consecutive year, CMS extends its use of McKesson’s InterQual Criteria for decision management.

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne


Web sites like Groupon offer discounts on a variety of products and services. A recent article notes that such discounts may be illegal where health care services are concerned. Because part of a patient’s payment is kept by the site, it could be interpreted as violating anti-kickback laws. The American Medical Association hasn’t taken a stand, but two medical boards in Oregon (dental and chiropractic) have banned the practice.

The National Labor Relations Board affirms the right of a physician to terminate an employee for bad-mouthing the practice via social media. However, if multiple employees are collectively complaining regarding legitimate issues, employees may be protected. Timing, audience, and composition are key determinants of whether the speech is protected or not. Better dust off those policies and procedures and make sure social media use is addressed at your practice or hospital.

US District Judge Marcia Cooke has blocked enforcement of a Florida law that restricts physician questions about patient ownership of firearms. For those of you customizing EHR content and intake forms to remove these questions, you’re off the hook.

Accenture is chosen to head efforts to build a national Personal Health Record system in Australia. Orion Health and Oracle are also on the team. The system will include both patient and provider portals.

I maintain admitting privileges at a community hospital that is just now preparing to implement CPOE. I received a hilarious memo from them this week which contained so much worthless consultant-speak that I could have won a round of “Buzzword Bingo” without missing a beat. My favorite part was the discussion of a “cross-functional team dedicated to surveying spaces throughout the facility for process utilization.” I think this is fancy-talk for, “We have to figure out where we’re going to stick all these blasted workstations.” Broom closets, beware!

Sixteen organizations (including vendors, consultants, and advocacy groups) come together to form the Accountable Care Community of Practice. In their own words: “The overriding goal of the CoP is to help enable rapid, effective and efficient adoption and use of Health Information Technology (HIT) by providers implementing new care models in support of accountable care.” In addition to Webinars, they will hold regional forums in Minneapolis, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin.

PEPID announces the delivery of the National Drug Code (NDC) database to health IT systems. I’m not a fan of using NDC information for drugs, as it introduces a certain “clutter factor” depending on how vendors utilize it. Although highly specific, NDC codes for a given dose of a particular drug differ based on what kind of packaging holds the drug. As a front-line clinician, I personally don’t care if the pharmacy has 500-tablet stock bottles or 100-capsule stock bottles or which manufacturer it comes from. And don’t forget that generic drugs can have dozens of different NDC codes for the same medication.


I thought of Inga when I came across this business mentioned on a friend’s Facebook page. If it was in my home town, they would definitely get my business. It would also be an excellent name for a woman-owned software consulting firm. Now why didn’t I think of that? I could have probably expensed a number of sassy shoes as a business / advertising expense.



Mr. H, Inga, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg.

News 9/28/11

September 27, 2011 News 4 Comments

Top News

mrh_small Two Minnesota hospitals start notifying 16,000 patients that their medical information was contained on a laptop that was stolen. The hospitals blame subcontractor Accretive Health, whose employee left the laptop in a locked car outside a restaurant. The company did not give a reason that its employee had PHI on a personal laptop that was, contrary to company policy, not encrypted.

Reader Comments

9-27-2011 3-24-51 PM

inga_small From Keanu “Re: Health 2.0 conference. It might be bigger this year, but so far it’s super disorganized (and has been during the lead-up.) I’ve spoken to multiple vendors and sponsors they’ve managed to upset (including us.) I just witnessed a big argument about an ad gone wrong. Signage is lacking and has misspellings. We’ll see how the actual show goes.” Keanu sent a follow-up email, saying the first full day of the show was “semi-organized anarchy,” though better than the initial setup day.

inga_small From Jackie Dan “Re: Health 2.0. It’s sort of an interesting meeting and a cross between a mini-HIMSS and a VC startup competition. Everyone is trying to prove they’ve got the next ‘disruptive business model.’ A couple of interesting trends here though, like the whole Dr Chrono/Practice Fusion freemium thing. An insider at Practice Fusion told me that their paying customers are pretty much negligible compared to their purported 100k+ users, although, he still seemed ‘confident’ that they would survive/make money on ad revenue.” I have my own theories on the freebie EMRs and suspect Practice Fusion’s Research Center makes a nice impact to the bottom line.

inga_small From Doctor Who “Re: HIStalk resilience. FYI, you guys have significant sway these days. My profile in the Health 2.0 program makes direct reference to a post I made after HIMSS. HIStalk seems to have staying power. BTW, in addition to tons of people vying for money, the Health 2.0 conference is inspiring with some really cool and smart ideas out there. And the reception even included an open bar with Inga-like drinks (coco-tinis, nikita margaritas.)” Glad for the vote of confidence on HIStalk, as I kind of like this gig. HIStalk is over eight years old, so it’s been around for awhile. Bummed I missed the drinks. Next year, Matt.

9-27-2011 7-31-31 PM

mrh_small From Fred Norris: “Re: HIMSS webinar. Got this in e-mail today. Doesn’t HIMSS charge hospitals a bunch to be members so they can benefit from their neutral, unbiased education services? Are they offering equal time to GE, Cerner, Epic, etc.? How can HIMSS claim to run a vendor-neutral annual conference (you have to swear that to be a presenter) and then run this marketing seminar? I’m sure they’re charging Siemens a fortune, so will they lower our annual dues proportionately, or are they just in it for the money like all vendors?” I raised a fuss when HIMSS started shilling its infomercials, but nobody seemed to share my indignation (or maybe they were just not surprised enough to care given the ever-blurring line between HIMSS and other vendors). Like a TV station during election season, HIMSS will indeed offer equal time to all other vendors – at an equal price. I do resent HIMSS passing sales pitches off as education, but that horse left the barn long ago and all you can do is try not to step in the part that’s left.

9-27-2011 9-35-06 PM

mrh_small From NeverEnuf: “Re: Jackson. I thought you’d like this article on executive pay not being sufficient!” The new CEO of financially desperate Jackson Health System (FL), himself a former banker and city manager, gets some heat from the local paper by hiring two $500K executives who also have no hospital administration experience, one an accountant and the other a former IBMer. The CEO says the whole management team is paid well below market rates, which is definitely the case since he himself makes “only” $590K for trying to turn around the ultra screwed up Miami public hospital. That sounds plenty fair for a county official, but you know how hospitals are.

mrh_small From Viggo: “Re: Thanks for looking over our Web page. I appreciate the favor.” I get quite a few requests for one thing or another: making an introduction, giving an opinion about a potential employer, offering thoughts on a vendor or product. I politely turn quite a few (maybe most) of those down since I don’t have much free time and it gets overwhelming at times (not to mention that much of the time, I’m just as clueless as the requestor and don’t want to just throw something out there implying otherwise.) My decision tree looks like this: (a) is the requestor a friend of HIStalk in some way – a sponsor, a guest article submitter, an interview subject? (b) if not, have I exchanged e-mails with them previously? (I save all my outbound e-mails, so I can tell); (c) is the requestor at least superficially supportive of HIStalk, like by being in the HIStalk Fan Club on LinkedIn or a friend in Facebook? I’ll do whatever I can to support people who support me, but I get more requests than I can handle as an after-work hobbyist (for example, I’m still writing after a crappy and long day at work that was followed by four hours of HIStalk work; my pager is going off; I won’t get to bed for another hour; and six hours later, I’ll the cycle start over again. If you’re waiting on e-mail from me, that’s why.)

mrh_small From DDLT-AAGL: “Re: Epic. Having Epic installed at all necessarily gives you full access to the server-side code (which is not much use without Epic’s internal-only set of tools for navigating it.) Client (Hyperspace) code is effectively a black box to customers except where APIs are specifically created for custom forms, etc. Numerous server-side programming points allow predefined access at various code entry points — usually this is limited to simple code such as customized text output for a field, etc. But you can do a lot in theory. They draw an absolute line at customers editing any Epic-released code. Pure custom code is (reluctantly) tolerated (as it cannot be prevented by virtue of how Cache works) but discouraged and unsupported.”

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

9-27-2011 3-11-28 PM

PatientKeeper lands $1.5 million of a planned $3 million debt financing round from a group of nine backers.

9-27-2011 3-12-20 PM

CareCloud, a provider of cloud-based PM, EHR, and RCM solutions for physicians, raises $20 million in Series A funding, led by Intel Capital and Norwest Venture Partners.

greenway logo

Greenway Medical Technologies amends its $100 million IPO, noting that it intends to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange using the symbol “GWAY.”

9-27-2011 3-15-09 PM

9-27-2011 3-17-13 PM

Telehealth provider Tunstall Healthcare Group will acquire American Medical Alert Corp, a provider of  remote health monitoring and communication services, for $82.3 million.


9-27-2011 3-18-54 PM

HHS awards SAIC a contract to provide full life-cycle operations, maintenance, and enhancement services for its HRSA Data Warehouse. The maximum contract value is $15 million over five years.

9-27-2011 3-22-07 PM

The Health Information Network of Arizona (HINAz) partners with  Axoloti Corp (OptumInsight) to create a statewide HIE.

The state of Alaska hires Cognosante to conduct evaluation, technical assistance, and consulting services for the state’s HIE system.

9-27-2011 9-37-33 PM

Health Partners of Philadelphia selects MyHealthDIRECT’s Web-based scheduling solution.

Select Data chooses Emdeon’s RCM solutions for its home health customers.

9-27-2011 9-40-16 PM

Allegiance Health (MI) chooses TrustHCS to provide ICD-10 training and coding services.

The VA awards HP Enterprise Services a $10.4 million contract to provide a WiFi based RTLS to the VA hospital in Ann Arbor, MI.


Kony Solutions appoints Sriram Ramanathan (IBM) as chief technology officer.

Announcements and Implementations

Three Illinois-based health systems and two physician clinics join forces to establish the Lincoln Land HIE, which will utilize Medicity’s exchange technology.

9-27-2011 2-52-51 PM

Onslow Memorial Hospital (NC) will activate the second phase of its Meditech implementation next month with the go-live of clinical documentation by  non-physician users. Physician online documentation will start in April 2012.

9-27-2011 2-52-10 PM

The hospital authority for Memorial Hospital (GA) approves the $747,125 purchase of an integrated PM/EHR system for physician practices.

9-27-2011 2-51-05 PM

Floyd Valley Hospital (IA) begins its $500,000 EMR conversion to Meditech’s Client/Server release.

The American Hospital Association extends its third consecutive, three-year exclusive endorsement of Hyland Software’s OnBase solution as the ECM solution of choice.

Transcend Services releases a front-end speech technology and transcription platform that incorporates template-based documentation tools from its newly acquired Salar division.

MidSouth eHealth Alliance goes live on ICA’s CareAlign 1.0 HIE platform at 16 facilities.

3M Health Information Systems announces the release of its 3M 360 Encompass System, which unites coding, documentation improvement, and performance monitoring by providing auto-suggested codes and real-time clinical documentation improvement prompts.

9-27-2011 7-56-30 PM

NoMoreClipboard.com announces cc:me, a new addition to its personal health record service that allows patients to send and receive medical information electronically via the Continuity of Care Document format. They’re most famous for concocting (along with Medical Informatics Engineering) the Extormity fake EMR vendor. A quote from that brilliant spoof:

Generating a return on an investment first requires an investment. The heftier the investment, the more substantial the return could potentially be if there is, in fact, a measurable return. The Extormity EMR Software Suite is built on a proprietary software model renowned for its complexity. This proprietary platform and all of its components must be procured and implemented as a complete package we call the Extormity Bundle (which describes both our comprehensive package and its associated cost) … Planning for this additional infrastructure can be provided by the Extormity Strategic Consulting unit, with implementation provided by the Extormity Solutions and Services Business Unit. These Extormity business units operate in silos, ensuring that you receive and pay for duplicated services.

9-27-2011 8-23-36 PM

mrh_small In Australia, Garner defends a report it prepared for Queensland Health in which health officials requested (and obtained) changes that critics say favored the selection of Cerner for a $180 million statewide EMR project. Gartner highlighted the fact that it considered Cerner the only vendor of a “Generation Three” product (on a five-generation scale, which QH’s ehealth program director wrote is equivalent to “a HIMMS scale of 5”) that is up and running in Australia. Both parties said the change was intended only to call out information already contained in the report, which provided Cerner with no advantage. It doesn’t seem the slightest bit fishy to me, but I’m not looking at it through political goggles like some of the torch-wavers down there.

Government and Politics

mrh_small In the UK, ministers are considering offering US-based NPfIT contractor CSC another chance (and more money) to get iSoft’s Lorenzo up and running even though individual hospital trusts aren’t all that interesting in trying to implement Lorenzo and NPfIT is being shut down. The newspaper article called CSC “one of the worst-performing IT contractors” for being paid billions of pounds for trying, generally unsuccessfully, to implement Lorenzo, which helped seal NPfIT’s fate. 


9-27-2011 12-51-50 PM

Health 2.0 and Walgreens name Team mHealthCoach the winner of the Walgreens Health GuideChallenge and award mHealthCoach a $25,000 cash prize. mHealthCoach developed a tablet-based application that that displays data retrieved from multiple health and social media sources.

9-27-2011 9-42-05 PM

An open source advocate whose medical condition required an implantable defibrillator wants vendors of similar devices to make the source code of their proprietary software available for third party inspection, citing occasional medical device recalls. She admits that even as a programmer she wouldn’t have a clue what she was looking at or wouldn’t have any option other than getting the device or not, but adds, “I don’t want to rely on Medtronics for something as essential as my heart.”


More frequent physician-patient encounters may lead to quicker control of Type 2 diabetes measurements and improve outcomes, according to a study that reviewed the EMR of almost 30,000 patients.

9-27-2011 3-10-34 PM

inga_small I knew my Starbucks made me happy: an Archives in Internal Medicine report finds that depression risk in women decreases as caffeinated coffee consumption increases.

inga_small Most health organizations are underprepared to protect patient privacy and secure data, with over half of health organizations reporting at least one privacy and security issue over the past two years. The most frequently reported violations came from internal sources improperly using PHI.

mrh_small An interesting Slate article says the highest-paid doctors are the most likely to lose their cushy gigs to automation. Examples cited: technology allows faster reads of Pap smears and mammograms; technology can eliminate the need to get a second radiologist to check a mammogram; and surgical robots help surgeons work faster and allow them to work remotely. A fun quote:

By definition, specialists focus on narrow slices of medicine. They spend their days worrying over a single region of the body, and the most specialized doctors will dedicate themselves to just one or two types of procedures. Robots, too, are great specialists. They excel at doing one thing repeatedly, and when they focus, they can achieve near perfection. At some point—and probably faster than we expect—they won’t need any human supervision at all. There’s a message here for people far beyond medicine: If you do a single thing—and especially if there’s a lot of money in that single thing—you should put a Welcome, Robots! doormat outside your office. They’re coming for you.

Here’s Vince’s latest, Part II on IHC. Have I said I love reading these? You can add to the historical archive by e-mailing Vince.

9-27-2011 8-44-57 PM

Marty Gettman, a director at McKesson Provider Technologies in Atlanta working on the CareBridge Services Team, died September 15. He was 49. Condolences can be left here.

mrh_small A 23-year-old traveling nurse covering for striking and locked-out RNs at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center (CA) kills a cancer patient by accidentally running nutritional supplement through an IV line instead of a stomach tube. Another contract nurse says the 500 replacement RNs were “thrown in” amidst “complete chaos” with only a brief orientation, not that orientation is needed to avoid making a colossal mistake like this by overriding all the safety precautions (like tubing that doesn’t fit the wrong kind of port).  

Sponsor Updates

9-27-2011 8-09-44 PM

  • Merge Healthcare will incorporate Fovia Medical’s High Definition Volume Rendering (HDVR) across its entire PACS platform. Also announced by the company: speakers at its October 4-7 user group meeting in Chicago include Mayor Rahm Emanuel and HHS CTO Todd Park.
  • T-System Inc. honors Ashtabula County Medical Center (OH), Mason General Hospital (WA), Montrose Memorial Hospital (CO), Osceola Regional Medical Center (FL), and PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center (WA) with National Awards for Emergency Department Excellence.
  • Iatric Systems’ Patient Discharge Instructions earns Surescripts certification.
  • Business Day with Terry Bradshaw will feature The Huntzinger Management Group on the Fox Business Network on October 1.
  • Ron Jones, an OptumInsight SVP, encourages CFOs to make the ICD-10 transition a priority in a guest blog post. The company also announces that 30 hospitals will implement its coding solution.
  • dbMotion’s Elizabeth S. Willett discusses whether providers should develop an internal connectivity platform or join an externally driven HIE.
  • Brad Hawkins, MEDSEEK’s VP of clinical experience, will participate  in this week’s North Carolina Healthcare Information & Communications Alliance Conference and Exhibition.
  • Physicians with Kiddie West Pediatric Center (OH) secure stimulus funds using MED3OOO’s InteGreat EHR.
  • PatientKeeper presents its Customer Innovation Award for 2011 to Clinical Practice Management Plan (NY) for its extensive and innovative use of PatientKeeper Charge Capture.
  • Vocera names William Zerella (Force10 Networks) as CFO and Linda Esperance (MarketTools) as the company’s first VP of human resources.
  • Orthopaedic Associates of Wausau (WI) will replace its existing EMR with SRS.
  • Memorial Hospital & Health System (IN) subscribes to the CapSite Hospital Purchasing Database.
  • McKesson Specialty Health introduces its Innovative Practice Services to help oncology practices improve their financial health through the use of business, technology, and clinical tools.


Mr. H, Inga, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg.

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 9/26/11

September 26, 2011 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment

Last week I talked about the recent government proposal to allow patients direct access to their laboratory results. A certain Mild-Mannered Reporter responded to my call for information from the laboratory vendor side and his remarks are worth sharing:

As an IT manager in a commercial lab that services a state where test results may not be released directly to the patient without specific instructions from the ordering provider, we are just now beginning to think about how we will deal with this new requirement. Our entire Laboratory Information System (LIS) is designed to be provider / client oriented, so modifying our lab result delivery processes will not be a trivial effort.

As I read through the rules as written, a number of concerns pop into my head and refuse to leave:

  • Many of our lab results are not patient-centric. As there is no universal patient ID and each of our ordering providers may identify a patient differently, we may have a difficult time locating all of Mary Smith’s results.
  • How far back do we need to go? There are CAP retention requirements that we abide by, but not everything is kept online forever.
  • We have no idea of what the demand will be. A hundred per day or two per month?
  • How will we be required to deliver the results? Your comment about utilizing an electronic portal makes sense, but the current wording seems to indicate that it is up to the patient to define how he/she wishes it to be delivered:

Processing a request for a test report, either manually or electronically, would require completion of the following steps: (1) Receipt of the request from the patient; (2) authentication of the identification of the patient; (3) retrieval of test reports; (4) verification of how and where the patient wants the test report to be delivered and provision of the report by mail, fax, e-mail or other electronic means; and (5) documentation of test report issuance.” [Federal Register: September 14, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 178)] page 56722

Interesting in this wording that encryption is not mentioned when specifying e-mail. Looks like more opportunities for labs and others to accidentally violate HIPAA/HITECH by accidentally disclosing to the wrong party.

I suspect that he lion’s share of the costs will be creating new delivery systems, researching the results, and authenticating the patient. None of these costs can be passed on to the patient — only postage and media costs.

We have always run our business to serve the patients, our physician clients, and our insurance payors. It is a delicate balance to keep everyone happy, but if our clients want us to somehow manage a delay result release and the patients demand immediate access, we may be in the proverbial rock and a hard place predicament.

Now I know that there are a number of states that already require that patients have access to their lab results, so I know that this is all doable, but we need to do a lot of planning to meet this new requirement. For now, I think that we will wait for the final rule before making any major changes.

I should also add that for me, this is not really an issue. My primary care doc publishes the important lab values with his comments on a patient portal for me to see. It works just fine because we have a deal – I don’t try to practice medicine and he doesn’t come down to the lab and tell me how to run my shop.


I’ve always been a fan of The Simpsons, and hopefully some of you are familiar with Lisa’s mentor, jazz musician Bleeding Gums Murphy. (I’m a bit disturbed, though, that when I did a Bing search for ‘image bleeding gums murphy’ it also brought up a photo of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.)

Hopefully each one of us has had at least one person in his or her life to fulfill that mentor role. I was lucky enough to have my own Bleeding Gums Murphy for more than two decades. He passed away this weekend, and this is the first time I’ve experienced the relatively new cultural phenomenon of grieving via Facebook. A lot of people think of Facebook as a frivolous time-waster (sometimes I don’t disagree) and many cursed it mightily this week for changing too quickly for our liking. But there’s no doubt that social media have the power to bring people together.

We don’t always have the luxury of having our mentors physically close to us, but it’s been heartening over the last few days to know that when my BlackBerry dings there’s a really good chance it’s going to be someone posting a memory to his Wall. Another friend who studied with him said it best: “I will celebrate his life in memory and mourn only those who never met him.”

In the words of Carole King:

When the Jazzman’s testifyin’ a faithless man believes
He can sing you into paradise or bring you to your knees
It’s a gospel kind of feelin’, a touch of Georgia slide
A song of pure revival and a style that’s sanctified.

Monday Morning Update 9/26/11

September 24, 2011 News 13 Comments

9-23-2011 7-32-33 PM

From My Little Pony: “Re: Epic. They’re recruiting programmers from Hong Kong.” The job posting says Epic is looking for Hong Kong software developers, with paid relocation to Verona. Epic will have a recruiting team in Hong Kong in November. I found the list of solutions the noobs might be working on interesting: genomics and proteomics, telemedicine, creating software that adapts to the individual user, developing next-generation user interfaces, and adding gesture recognition. Epic always resists the idea of outsiders setting usability standards that vendors would be required to follow, but it sounds as though the company has something potentially big in the works. Another version of the same ad is aimed at developers from Singapore.

From Gluteus Max: “Re: Epic being perceived as ACO ready. Epic is good at storing and presenting data, but it’s not good at doing useful things with it. If the ‘Epic Octopus’ business model theory is correct, that’s very much by design. Analytics and data sharing are two of the most important features ACOs will need, so it’s difficult to believe Epic is ‘close to ACO-ready.’” Unverified.

From Verona Notes: “Re: Epic. Now has 266 customers, up from 224 last year and 190 two years ago. Future vision shows Epic is listening to usability criticism, such as software that understands the physician-patient conversation and readies documentation and orders. Unsurprising stock tip: IBM servers dominate competition in internal Epic tests. Amazing logistics for so many people, but starting late=disrespect.” Unverified. There’s that usability thing cropping up again.

From Bea Fragilis: “Re: Epic. To what extent are Epic-certified people allowed to make changes to local hospital code? My sense is that those changes must be minor, documented, and controlled from Verona.” I’ve heard that Epic will let responsible customers change source code and will even provide them with programming standards and documentation to help, although they don’t encourage everybody to start hacking around. I’m interested in that answer as well, not to mention how the customer gets access to the source code (or the extent to which application behavior can be controlled through external hooks).

From MT Hammer: “Re: front-end speech recognition. A new study finds that it results in 800% more errors in patient reports compared to transcribed dictation.” The study, published in the American Journal of Roentgenology, finds that 23% of reports created with front-end speech recognition (i.e., you dictate into a microphone and your words immediately appear on the computer screen) contained at least one major error vs. only 4% of those created from standard dictation and human transcription. Overall, the error rate with speech recognition was eight times higher than with human transcription. Interestingly, speaker accents didn’t make much difference, but imaging modality was a predictor of error rates. I don’t have access to the full text of the article, so I would be interested in radiologist’s analysis (such as the significance of issues defined as errors, why the radiologist didn’t catch the mistakes on the screen when using speech recognition, etc.) Also keep in mind that this compared only two transcription options, with the third being back-end speech recognition like that of the former eScription (now Nuance), which I believe has much higher accuracy since it can consider context and history rather than just pronunciation (similar to what transcriptionists do).

9-23-2011 7-49-45 PM

From The PACS Designer: “Re: Windows 8 tour. Microsoft has revealed aspects of its new Windows 8 platform for developers to peruse. Windows 8 will be tightly integrated with a new Internet Explorer 10 using a next generation internet platform called HTML5.”  The problem with pre-iPhone cell phones is that they worked like tiny, underpowered PCs with crappy keyboards. I’m not sure we need the opposite problem – PCs that work like huge iPhones – especially since touch screens are extremely rare in PC-land and the point is lost anyway since you’re either sitting in front of a desktop keyboard or a laptop. My understanding is that Win 8 will have two user interfaces, one for mobile use and one for desktop. MSFT had better make sure not to screw up the latter in trying to pander to those who yearn for an iPhone clone as their primary device.

From King Coal: “Re: HIStalkapalooza. Which night? Looking forward to it with bated breath.” Don’t count on it just yet. The potential sponsor had some venue contracting issues and won’t have enough space  to handle the historically large turnout (and waitlist.) I may end up cancelling it for Las Vegas, leaving you to read your HISsies winners online instead of seeing Jonathan Bush’s one-man show crafted around them (and that I really will miss).

My Time Capsule this week from 2006: The VA Outperforms Private Hospitals in IT Vision and Resolve. An aliquot: “Like a tailor-made suit, VistA was developed to meet the VA’s needs, not those of a vendor’s ‘average’ hospital customer. Just as hospitals talked themselves into buying instead of building (helped along by vendors and risk-averse CIOs,) the industry’s darling turns out to be a homebrew job.”

9-23-2011 6-24-37 PM

Reporters and TV stations have gone crazy with their lazy, press release-sourced coverage of the prospect of turning healthcare encounters over to the Jeopardy-winning IBM Watson (most common lame headline: “The computer will see you now”) but readers here weren’t equally impressed with its announced use by WellPoint, with most saying IBM and WellPoint will get the benefit instead of patients and providers. New poll to your right: now that Sage Software has announced plans to sell its healthcare division to Vista Equity Partners, who will benefit most from that transaction?

I’ve enjoyed Vince’s HIStory series immensely, to the point that I suggested that the pre-1980 industry pioneers get together at the HIMSS conference to reminisce (and knowing some of those folks, perhaps tipple a tad). Shelly Dorenfest, Bob Pagnotta, John DiPierro, and David Pomerance are a few of those who have said they’ll be there. If you know them, you should be there, too. Drop your e-mail info on this form and Vince will be in touch. Think of it as a 30+ year class reunion of the College of HIT Hard Knocks.

This week’s e-mail from Kaiser boss George Halvorson talks up the company’s newly won Davies Award win, also mentioning that Kaiser hospitals make up 35 of the 60 HIMSS EMRAM Stage 7 hospitals and that the remaining KP hospitals are all Stage 6. And despite early reports of HealthConnect availability problems, he says KP has won six awards from the Uptime Institute, the only healthcare organization to ever win (although as a counterpoint, that’s data center uptime, and plenty of ways exist to knock users off systems even though the server is chugging along). He also mentions some employee-recommended technology projects that have been funded by KP’s internal innovation fund: an automatic glycemic calculator, a hospital capacity prediction tool, and an SMS appointment reminder system.

Weird News Andy finds this story about hospital drug shortages and the resultant third-party profiteering scary. I’ll elaborate from experience to scare him more. Even if you ignore the possibility of obtaining counterfeit or impure drugs when forced to buy from secondary channels, the patient safety risks with drug shortages are considerable. Product packaging and sometimes concentrations differ from what nurses and doctors are used to, greatly increasing the chance of wrong drug / wrong dose errors. Sometimes the backup drug is therapeutically similar but chemically inequivalent, meaning doctors are forced to use a drug that wasn’t their first choice and one they may not be all that familiar with, making it more likely that something will go wrong. Shortages come and go all the time, so information systems can’t be kept current to steer prescribers to the one currently being used, sometimes requiring IT workarounds that neuter electronic protections such as dose and allergy checking. Those drugs may have similar active ingredients that are still different enough to trigger unexpected drug allergies and drug-drug interactions. My analogy is always this: suppose you’re about to have open heart surgery, but the drugs your surgeon always uses are on shortage, meaning the surgeon will have to compromise with a less-desirable drug that they’ve rarely or never used. You’d be mad at someone for letting that situation occur. The problem here is that everyone involved claims to be innocent and powerless.

On WNA’s slightly lighter side (it involves death, so it’s still not all that light), he captions this story as “Spinal Tap’s drummer?” Coroners in Ireland review the death of a man whose body was found burned in his sitting room, with no damage to the floor on which it rested, no evidence of foul play, and no signs of the source of the flame.  They conclude that he died of spontaneous combustion. A retired pathology professor ruled out divine intervention, saying, “I think if the heavens were striking in cases of spontaneous combustion, then there would be a lot more cases.”

9-25-2011 8-39-48 AM

A good article covers the high cost of children’s hospitals, with the Nemours Children’s Hospital (opening next year) in Orlando leading it off. The 95-bed hospital, being built in a city that already has two large and notable children’s hospitals, will cost $400 million ($4.2 million per bed) and was approved by the state only after the well-funded Nemours called in some political favors. Mentioned about high-profile children’s hospitals in general: lack of financial transparency, fast-rising costs accompanied by big executive paychecks and impressive construction projects, big financial war chests, and only tiny amounts of charity care provided. I can say from experience that those multi-million dollar children’s hospital CEOs have the ultimate weapon to keep the donor and political largesse flowing – feel-good happy ending stories of miraculous medical work accompanied by fuzzy-focus, intentionally heart-tugging pictures of adorable babies and toddlers. Your hospital will lose every time if your particular medical miracles involve less Hollywood-like episodic interventions on behalf of elderly patients, the chronically and incurably ill, psychiatric patients, and that particularly colorful stratum of society that shows up in the ED full of street drugs, hostile microbes, and intentionally inflicted wounds.

Don Berwick says CMS administrator is the best job he’s ever had, but he’ll lose it on December 31 unless the Senate confirms him by then. No confirmation hearings have been scheduled.

9-24-2011 9-17-00 PM

The New York Times covers telepsychiatry, where patients receive counseling sessions via Skype or specialized Web apps like Breakthrough.com. Says a psychologist, “In three years, this will take off like a rocket. Everyone will have real-time audiovisual availability. There will be a group of true believers who will think that being in a room with a client is special and you can’t replicate that by remote involvement. But a lot of people, especially younger clinicians, will feel there is no basis for thinking this.”

An OB-GYN subpoenas Bellevue Medical Center (NY), demanding a list of every person who accessed the Internet from the hospital on a particular day in 1999. The doctor is trying to find the person who posted defamatory comments about her on a physician review site, claiming she has reason to believe it came from a particular NYU doctor. The hospital says it keeps access logs for only 30 days, but the doctor’s legal team found a computer forensics expert who claims he knows a sophisticated (and undoubtedly expensive) way to bring back 12-year-old records.

E-mail Mr. H.

HIStalk Interviews Michael O’Neil, CEO, GetWellNetwork

September 24, 2011 Interviews 2 Comments

Michael O’Neil, Jr. is founder and CEO of GetWellNetwork of Bethesda, MD.

9-23-2011 8-30-04 PM

Tell me about the company and about yourself.

GetWellNetwork is a company I started about 10 years ago after a personal cancer experience. We are really focused on one thing — helping hospitals engage their patients and families more effectively in their care. We truly believe that if we do that effectively, the outcomes will improve. This is a company focused on patient engagement. We’ve been doing it for a very long time.

Do you think patients want to be engaged or are they surprised that hospitals would treat them differently beyond just offering a TV in their room?

It really has been evolving pretty significantly over the time that we’ve been doing that. I think the tidal wave of information access for just general consumers — be it for a car you buy or a grocery store you shop in or the healthcare you receive — is so powerful now. To say it’s getting easy would be an overstatement, of course, but we are encouraged every day by how much patients are digging into the information that we provide and want to be involved in their care.

Most of the industry started as modest entertainment providers for antiquated hospital TV systems. How did you come up with the idea of taking the basic on-demand movies and Internet access product and turning it into a two-way communications and education medium?

We let the data dictate our direction. We did have that same core on-demand functionality early on in the company. We were watching the data come across. To be honest with you, the utilization was very low. Your question about do patients really want to be involved … early on, they really weren’t accessing the kind of information that we felt was important to them.

At that point, we were not integrated into the EMR and core systems. We didn’t proactively pull patients in — we let them come in themselves. We really began to change the game five years ago and created a workflow engine called Patient Pathways that lets us take triggers from existing systems and processes and invite the patient into the care process. It has changed radically the impact that we’re seeing.

From the hospital standpoint, the patient is a captive audience for education delivered directly to their rooms. Are hospitals finding that to be effective?

Yes, they are. All of the folks who read HIStalk and are part of this community are pretty bent on the fact that these hospital partners of ours are ferociously measuring whether or not any solution or process they try to implement is changing some of the measures of their care. For us, the measures that we look at are probably fairly natural ones. Does the patient’s perception of the care improve if they’re more involved? What do their HCAP scores look like? You know, pre and post-implementation of this kind of solution.

What do the quality metrics look like? The patients fall less because they’re more informed and involved and educated about the fact they’re at risk for fall. We are measuring data ferociously with our hospitals because they demand it and because we’re genuinely interested in whether or not this thing has efficacy. It’s been a really powerful last two or three years.

Are you seeing impact from healthcare hot topics like Meaningful Use, Accountable Care Organizations, and healthcare reform?

It has been such a powerful catalyst for our whole little industry segment. About a year and a half ago, KLAS picked up patient interactive as a segment, then Gartner picked it up. I would love for us to take credit for that, but we don’t.

We were yelling as loud as we could that patient engagement is a core strategy for performance improvement years ago. We found some incredible hospital provider leaders to take this thing on with a lot of risk. Over the last two years with all these things, Meaningful Use and value-based purchasing and accountable care, patient engagement has become front and center, something they have to do. It has been a great catalyst for us for sure.

Going back to the entertainment category, home TVs have turned into devices that handle everything from broadcast programming to video on-demand and Internet streaming. Is there a large penetration of systems like yours in hospitals, and for those hospitals that don’t have them, are patients disappointed at what’s available to them from their hospital bed for their five-day average stay compared to what they have at home?

Yes. What you just said is coming. The expectations of the consumer, the kind of technology and information access and empowerment in whatever they happen to be going through in a hospital course … there is increased demand to have the kind of access in any environment that consumers have at home or at work or at school. That is certainly is one thing that’s going on. Secondly, the technology to do the kind of things that we do. People expect it now. It’s certainly been a different ramp than it has been in the past.

Hospitals have finally started to take patient satisfaction more seriously. Are you seeing that drive your business?

They are. I applaud these hospital leaders. They’ve been pushing a rock up a very steep hill with wind blowing at their face for a long time. Transforming the patient experience that has been on people’s plates for a decade, but hasn’t always resulted in measured success.

Too often, this notion of patient-centered care was on a poster in a lobby, but there weren’t really solutions to hard wire the patient’s activation into the heart of the care process. That’s really what we’re after.

When we first started the company, the marketing folks at the hospital and the CEO would buy the solution and then throw it into the unit and hope that it would stick. Today, it’s completely different. It is the chief clinical officer, a CMO or a CNE alongside their technology counterpart the CIO, who are saying, “We’ve been charged to do performance improvement. We know patient engagement is an element of that. Let’s go find a solution to help do this in the organization.” It’s really changed 180 degrees for us.

Hospitals I’ve worked at looked at solutions like yours, but always decided they were a tactical “nice to have” that never bubbled to the top. Are hospitals finding that outcomes and the potential for process improvement make your product more strategic?

What you just said is exactly how we lived in this company for about four or five years. To see this kind of thing is to like it. It’s very visual. It’s very high-touch. It’s very patient friendly. We always joke in this company that we’ve never had a bad meeting. 

The fact is, we might have a great meeting and people like the stuff, but to your point, it would be number 12 on a list of 20 things to go invest time in and resources and money in. Too often, we would lose to no decision.

To your question directly, over the last 24-36 months, we are taking all the inbound requests for, “We have budgeted for a patient engagement solution. We look forward to having you come share the work you’re doing”  We lead every single time with, “You’re at 25, not three hospitals that are actually seeing a success. You won’t hear perfect, but you’ll hear that we’re moving the needle on these specific things we go attack.” That’s how we walk through it now.

The bad thing about your success is that you probably have more competitors than you had four or five years ago. What’s your message to tell prospects that your system is better than that of your competitors?

We are attracting competitors. We actually welcome that in one major respect. When we first started the company, we were competing with some of the traditional kinds of hospital TV companies. You asked the question earlier about that kind of functionality, and frankly, we really don’t care who the hospital buys their TVs from. It’s really not about that.

Today, more and more, we’re seeing competition from some of the large EMR companies who have seen this segment begin to grow and are coming at it as an appendage to the EHR and EMR. We’re more focused on how we compare and contrast ourselves with that approach. We feel pretty strongly that patient engagement is more important than just being an add-on to an EMR.

With the 10 years of data and experience and technology we have, we feel pretty confident walking into an environment and saying, “I know you’re going single source for lots of different solutions. When it comes to engaging your patients and families effectively in their care and working in partnership with your nurses, we think we’re doing the very best work in the world in that particular thing.”

Do you consider GetWellNetwork to be content provider or a technology provider?

We’re a technology provider. Most of our platform is based off this proprietary workflow engine. We have 273 live interfaces today across the country. We interface with bedside barcode systems and with RTLS systems and with EMRs and with the café cart in the lobby and the gift shops. We use all these other systems to trigger different events for that patient to engage and activate in. That’s really the technology that we have.

When it comes to content, we’re working with over 25 different content partners. We’ve aggregated tons of content, so that based on what we want the patient to engage in, we just need to make sure that we have the right content that we can put in front of them at the right time based on what the workflows are. It’s really more a technology company than it is a content company.

With the opportunities for education and hospital promotion and third-party ads, I would expect some natural interest in owning that content platform. Do you ever see that there would be a more exclusive partnership or an acquisition, either you acquiring or being acquired to actually control the content channel?

About three years, ago we spent a lot of time in R&D and decided to go attack a certain segment. We thought we could speed adoption by attacking a specific segment in a differentiated way. We did this in pediatrics.

One component of our four-component strategy was to exclusively partner with an organization to produce exclusive content for what we call GetWellTown. We partnered exclusively with KidsHealth, part of Nemours Foundation. They have subsequently produced a library of over 250 pediatric education titles for GetWellNetwork exclusively. It’s been a phenomenal partnership for them as well as for us.

I envision those kinds of things happening for us in different segments, to partner exclusively and/or acquire it if the right opportunity comes along.

GetWell@Home offers information via the Web, cable TV, and smart phones. There’s a lot of opportunity for non-hospital based chronic disease management. Do you think that’s a mechanism by which you’ll be able to get patients interested in managing their own health outside the hospital walls?

We do. I’ll tell you, it’s probably the most exciting thing going on here  on the development side right now.

We develop major new products in a task force model. Usually six or seven of our hospital partners are involved for about 18 months. Russ Branzell and the whole crew from Poudre Valley was heavily involved in our @Home task force. 

We recently launched with them at Medical Center of the Rockies and Poudre Valley Hospital. Our first patients haven been enrolled in GetWell@Home. They’ve done a powerful job in integrating the patient’s involvement, both from an acute standpoint at discharge and then following them home. Really inviting the patient to stay involved in the Poudre Valley Health System’s management of their care.

We never picture patients going to GetWellNetwork.com for their care. We are providing a platforms for those providers who have a trusting relationship to help patients navigate and keep them engaged throughout their journey. It’s been an incredible start this summer. We think this is going to be the most important thing the company’s done in the last five years.

In broadcast or cable TV, it costs a lot to run a specialized channel, but with satellite dishes, it costs very little. Do you see a point where the cost for a “channel” would be so low that you could add a channel specific to a diagnosis or a treatment, so that a diabetic patient could see The Diabetic Channel on GetWell@Home?

We’ve been thinking even more about that. We think not just about a specific channel on a certain diagnosis, but a specific channel for a specific patient.

We’re working a project right now. I can’t give you all the information, but you’ll be the first to know on HIStalk when you actually can announce it. We’re looking at not only using the Web, but also using cable TV delivery to be able to dynamically create personal video-on-demand TV channels for a patient to be able to track their health and to be involved. It will come in their living rooms even when they’re not on a computer.

We think the opportunity is so powerful to attack one of the biggest issues everyone knows, which is that transitions are just not handled very effectively for the patient or family. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just complicated, and we’re not doing a great job at that. We think we have an opportunity to engage people in a very unique way.

Do you think you’ll ever see the point where physicians can leave personal video messages for a patient or use your backbone as telemedicine virtual session platform?

The technology is available today to do that. The way it’s been started early on has been almost from the satisfaction standpoint right now, whereby we can make it very easy for a physician to have one more touch, if you will, with their patients or families. From a perception standpoint, the coordination of care is so, so powerful.

We definitely will move towards doing some more telehealth stuff down the line. We found right now that physicians, for the most part, aren’t yet ready to take that on. Technology won’t be the hurdle there. It really will be organizational readiness. I think it’s coming.

Where do you see the company’s future?

In two major directions. We spent the first eight years working inside the four walls of a hospital and inside the patient’s four- or five-day acute care stay. We see this as a true platform for patient engagement throughout their journey. We’re in the midst of building this platform that can really help providers in the accountable care model elevate the patient activation component of their strategy and really own the fact they can navigate people through them. 

In five years, we will be we will be working as much outside the walls of the building as we do inside.

The other thing that I think we’ll do pretty significantly is we have been asked about 12 or 15 times in the last year to consider doing some work internationally. We’ve held off on doing that just to make sure that we are fulfilling the promises that we’ve made here domestically. We seem to be getting a great handle around that now, so I think also in five years, we’ll be doing stuff around the globe, which we’re really excited about as well.

Any final thoughts?

What you guys do rocks. We read it all the time.  We can’t thank you for all the time and energy you spend doing what you do.

Time Capsule: The VA Outperforms Private Hospitals in IT Vision and Resolve

September 23, 2011 Time Capsule 1 Comment

I wrote weekly editorials for a boutique industry newsletter for several years, anxious for both audience and income. I learned a lot about coming up with ideas for the weekly grind, trying to be simultaneously opinionated and entertaining in a few hundred words, and not sleeping much because I was working all the time. They’re fun to read as a look back at what was important then (and often still important now).

I wrote this piece in September 2006.

The VA Outperforms Private Hospitals in IT Vision and Resolve
By Mr. HIStalk


If you work in a non-government hospital, here’s what your patients are reading in this week’s Time magazine: Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals are better than yours in satisfaction, quality, and technology. Their costs are going down while yours are skyrocketing. Elderly males treated in the VA system have a 40% less risk of death. You can only hope your ED patients don’t run out screaming to enlist in the military.

The article credits the VA’s advanced and fully-deployed information technologies, but commercial software vendors can’t gloat or take credit. The VA built the VistA system itself. It isn’t slick or technically impressive, but it works.

Like a tailor-made suit, VistA was developed to meet the VA’s needs, not those of a vendor’s “average” hospital customer. Just as hospitals talked themselves into buying instead of building (helped along by vendors and risk-averse CIOs,) the industry’s darling turns out to be a homebrew job.

The article pointed out the obvious: every hospital should match the VA in enterprise-wide longitudinal patient records and bedside bar-coding. Beyond that, though, is the implicit message that technology is a change enabler that requires significant process redesign to accomplish anything meaningful. Everybody hates to hear that because it moves the argument from “expensive” to “impossible in our culture.”

The VA didn’t go out and say, “Hey, let’s replace a couple of old systems with these we saw at HIMSS.” It didn’t hire a superstar CIO loaded with prejudices (positive or negative) formed by time spent elsewhere. It didn’t pander to making the “Most Wired” list. Earlier versions of VistA had been around for years before the VA mandated its full utilization. It took a strong, non-IT leader to drive home the mission to 200,000 employees. Information systems were involved, but it wasn’t an IT department project — not by a long sight.

Patients don’t care what tools you use. They care only about results. If your hospital is a good one, you’re probably already delivering fine care using whatever systems you have.

The bad news is for not-so-great hospitals — your IT checkbook can’t bail you out. Bad chefs don’t get better just by spending more on knives. Obvious, yes, but we seem to keep re-learning those lessons with big IT purchases that turn out to be a giant leap –sideways.

Technology’s failure to deliver isn’t usually a vendor or CIO problem, although it’s easy to make them targets. Once the software is up and running, it’s an organizational challenge, one often unfortunately dumped into the wrong laps. You can buy software as good or better than the VA’s, but your mileage will definitely vary.

Let’s give the VA its due. Against improbable odds, it managed to turn an underperforming government agency into an industry-beater, using a little bit of technology and a lot of vision and resolve. Miraculously, the VA did it while making both its patients and government bureaucrats happy. The VA has definitely raised the now-public bar for the rest of us.

News 9/23/11

September 22, 2011 News 10 Comments

Top News

9-22-2011 8-54-10 PM

mrh_small The British government says it will “urgently dismantle” the failed $18 billion NPfIT project in favor of locally controlled initiatives after a series of gloomy reports from government auditors, with the final report released Thursday concluding, “There can be no confidence that the programme has delivered or can be delivered as originally conceived.” NHS will keep only the parts that work (e-mail, the appointment system, PACS, and the communications infrastructure). They also admit that the cost of getting out of various big-dollar contracts will probably exceed the cost of just paying out the rest of the money specified in the vendor contracts. The co-director of a patient advocacy group summarizes, “Thank goodness politicians have decided to stop money being poured into a huge bottomless pit. Now we must pray that they don’t sanction pouring it into endless incompatible regional pits.”

Reader Comments

9-22-2011 6-58-43 PM

mrh_small From Steve Stifler: “Re: Epic UGM. Judy’s dreams of world domination are beginning to seem credible. Carl Dvorak was very clear that he doesn’t want videos of the meeting showing up in HIStalk and nobody wants Judy mad at them.” That’s Judy in costume above. Several readers sent over photos and links to unlisted YouTube videos from the meeting. I’ll be nice to Carl and Judy and not run them here, especially since they wouldn’t be all that interesting to anyone without an Epic connection anyway.

9-22-2011 7-48-30 PM

mrh_small From Graying CIO: “Re: Epic UGM. This image says more to me than any other about the power and scope of Epic. Buses for the user group meeting attendees snake into the distance next to a two-acre hole in the ground that will be a future 10,000+ seat auditorium, replacing the 6,000-seat one that is too small. Others were struck by the image as well – I saw at least five people whip out their phones and take the same picture. The interesting thing about the executive overview (two hours of insight opened by Judy Faulkner and closed by Carl Dvorak about Epic, the healthcare IT environment, and Epic product development) is that it was positive and Epic is clearly on a growth tear, but that ICD-10 and Meaningful Use have drawn all of the focus and attention for the past few years and will continue to do so. Epic is responding well, but Carl was very clear that these topics have interfered with innovation both within Epic and by its customers.”

9-22-2011 8-56-39 PM

mrh_small From CommunityHIZ: “Re: HP firing its CEO. I think this whole HP thing is a ruse orchestrated by Hammergren. This is kind of like Alabama thanking God for Mississippi every night before bed. With HP in shambles, nobody will focus their attention on Hammergren’s self-created mess at McKesson. (For those who don’t know, Hammergren serves on HP’s board).” More below, including my slightly critical evaluation of HP’s board (“the most inept board in America”) when they hired the guy not even a year ago.

9-22-2011 7-24-30 PM

mrh_small From NoNeedHere: “Re: Accretive Health lawsuit. Juicy details in the legal documents.” A summary from the proceedings: revenue cycle management vendor Accretive Health hired an SVP over revenue cycle operations at four hospitals even though he had basically zero revenue cycle experience. He was fired and sued the company claiming sexually and racially discriminatory conduct by a mid-level supervisor, while the company said his work was substandard and hospitals were complaining about him. The district court found for the company and the US Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in favor of Accretive on Wednesday. I’m blurring the names, although they’re in the public record if you really care.

mrh_small From Larry Leisure: “Re: Sage. Unloads healthcare division. What a mess over there. I’m running for athena as fast as I can.” Thanks to Larry for e-mailing me about the announcement this morning just a couple of minutes after it came out. He probably knows that I like scooping everybody, which I believe I did in getting out a quick news blast since I happened to be at my desk at the hospital at the time. I actually think the news is good for the healthcare group. Let’s be honest, Misys and Sage shared more than their British heritage, financial software focus, and US EMR company ownership – they were never really all that interested in the US healthcare market other than for its potential to boost their predictable but unsexy profits. You’ve got to be kidding me that Sage’s CEO is blaming HITECH and healthcare reform for messing up its PM/EMR cash cow, especially when the unit booked a not-too-shabby 13.5% profit margin in the latest financial report (maybe the healthcare management team could do OK if it weren’t for the transoceanic shackles.) I can only interpret his statement to mean that once customers got a taxpayer-funded incentive to increase their EMR investment, they took the opportunity to look elsewhere. If I were a Sage Healthcare employee or customer, I’d be clinking the champagne flutes that the Brits are turning tail and letting the historically successful Vista Equity Partners take over the franchise, even though it’s likely they’ll be doing some painful but necessary cost-cutting (you can do the math: they’re paying about 1.4 times revenue or 10x annual profit, so a margin boost is needed to justify the price.) Your thoughts (anonymous if you like) are welcome since I’m just a cheap-seater here. What’s good about this deal, what’s bad, and what should Vista do?

mrh_small From THB: “Re: McKesson vs. Epic. Are we back in court again for this? The issues the parties were asked to brief are: If separate entities each perform separate steps of a method claim, under what circumstances, if any, would either entity or any third party be liable for inducing infringement or for contributory infringement? See Fromson v. Advance Offset Plate, Inc., 720 F.2d 1565 (Fed. Cir. 1983).” This is the case in which McKesson sued Epic for infringing on its patent involving Web-based doctor-patient communication, such as for appointment and refill requests. The district court tossed that case out in April 2011, saying that McKesson couldn’t prove that Epic or any other single party performed all the steps in the claimed infringement by Epic’s MyChart.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

9-22-2011 9-24-41 AM

inga_small The latest good stuff from HIStalk Practice: athenahealth and meridianEMR update their Meaningful Use dashboards. Mitochon Systems blasts fellow free EHR vendor Practice Fusion for its “over-reaching claims.” A whopping 90% of physicians say they use at least one social media site for personal use. Julie McGovern shares insights on software upgrades, compassion, and expectations.  Speaking of expectations, I expect you to sign up for HIStalk Practice e-mail updates when you take a peek at these stories. And thanks for reading.

mrh_small Inga’s away schmoozing around at some conference, so the little red squares will be in scarce supply today. She will be back by the time you read this.

mrh_small Listening: Opeth, genre-bending progressive metal from Sweden. Not for everybody, but I like it.

mrh_small We like readers signing up for our e-mail blasts, connecting with us on Facebook and LinkedIn, sending us rumors, and supporting our sponsors. Since you are smart, we will trust you to take that subtle hint.

mrh_small On Healthcare IT Jobs: Epic Applications Systems Analyst – Ambulatory, Data Warehouse Architect, Business Intelligence Developer, Epic Beacon Consultant.

9-22-2011 6-18-16 PM

mrh_small Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor MedAssets of Alpharetta, GA. The company provides solutions for revenue cycle (patient access, charging coding, UM, billing, A/R management, etc.); supply chain management (contracting, sourcing, inventory management, distribution, A/P); resource management (decision support, performance analytics, process improvement, workforce solutions), and consulting services. Their elevator pitch is easy to understand – they will sustainably improve provider operating margins by 1.5% to 5%. Case studies on their site include Fletcher Allen Healthcare ($12 million in benefit from contract management improvements and  data-supported contract renegotiations), Cooper University Hospital (reduced A/R days from 60 to 37 and added $43 million to the bottom line), and Westchester Medical Center (identified $8.9 million in supply chain savings by using analytics to examine costs right down to the individual screws used in orthopedics). Note and appreciate their non-animated ad. Thanks to MedAssets for supporting the constantly clacking keyboards of HIStalk.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

mrh_small The bumbling HP board fires its equally bumbling CEO Leo Apotheker after 11 ugly months on the job, hiring former eBay CEO Meg Whitman to replace him. Apotheker, the third fired HP CEO in six years, gets a $25 million parting gift to go away. SAP canned him after only seven months before HP inexplicably brought him in on a golden throne, so he raked in dozens or maybe hundreds of millions in his total two-company CEO tenure total of 18 months. I said this when HP hired him in October 2010:

Speaking of SAP, HP and “The Most Inept Board in America” choose the former CEO of SAP to be HP’s next CEO. SAP fired the Germany-born Leo Apotheker after a disastrous seven months as CEO, although some say he was the scapegoat for a terrible company strategy that predated him. HP is paying him like he’s a star: $1.2 million in salary, incentives of 200-500% of that with $2.4 million guaranteed, $72 million in options, a $4 million signing bonus, and $4.6 million in moving expenses (that’s a lot of U-Hauls). I’ll go with the summary of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison: “I’m speechless. HP had several good internal candidates … but instead they pick a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job of running SAP.” Their pre-Hurd CEO pick was an ultra-expensive termination, too: HP’s value dropped in half after Carly Fiorina orchestrated the company’s merger with Compaq. She was let go in an ugly fight about the time the company admitted that it spied on the personal phone records of journalists and its own board members trying to find out who was leaking information about its strategy.


9-22-2011 2-53-57 PM

Ellenville Regional Hospital (NY) selects Craneware’s Chargemaster Toolkit-CAH solution to atuomate its charge master management process.

9-22-2011 2-52-00 PM

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center chooses MedQuist’s Speech Understanding and Natural Language Understanding platform from M*Modal for its ClinicStation EMR and RadStation radiology systems.

Swedish Medical Center (WA) signs for Microsoft Amalga for coordinating care and managing populations.

Announcements and Implementations

9-22-2011 2-03-53 PM

Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital (CA) will go live on the Prognosis ChartAccess EHR in January.

The Gorge Health Connect (OR) HIE creates a video that shows how it’s using the government’s Direct Project (via Medicity) to connect providers in a pilot project.

Vodafone signs a deal with NantWorks to develop mobile healthcare services. That’s the new name for the technology companies owned by Patrick Soon-Shiong, the physician and drug company founder whose $7 billion net worth earns him the #39 spot on the Forbes list of richest Americans.

Innovation and Research

A study published in Health Affairs finds that the Meaningful Use Stage 1 hospital CPOE threshold of 30% of orders probably won’t have much impact on heart-related Medicare deaths, but the proposed 60% Stage 2 threshold should be enough to move the outcomes needle.

David Bates will lead a team of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in using supercomputer-powered analysis of the hospital’s EMR data to look for complex correlations among patient characteristics, genetics, drug interactions, and outcomes of heart failure patients. They hope to create computer models that can help choose effective heart failure interventions.


9-22-2011 2-16-51 PM

Beacon Partners’ ACO Readiness Study finds that only 15% of healthcare organization respondents are “very familiar” with ACOs and 61% say they are “somewhat familiar.”

9-22-2011 2-23-23 PM

Speaking of ACOs, providers view Cerner and Epic as the vendors that are most ACO ready. 

St. Rose Hospital (CA) is cutting 10% of its workforce due to problems that include “complications involving a new McKesson computer system that went live in late June, the recession’s impact on the hospital’s fragile bottom line, and managed care contracting snafus, including a two-week period in July when ‘we were not able to get bills out,’ [CEO] Mahoney said.”

mrh_small Former National Coordinator David Blumenthal, now back at Harvard, talks up EMRs at a Boston event. He talked about his own long-ago personal experience with EMRs, although I’m never clear what kind of practice he had or whose EMR he used. Some of the docs in audience apparently made negative comments about time required to use the EMR. One said, “The computer is really like that third person in the room, and a 2-year-old at that. It’s hard to manage” Blumenthal urged patience, saying, “The current crop of products is not the crop we will have in five years. However, we will be just as unhappy with the crop we have in five years because our imaginations will soar ahead of reality.”

University Medical Center (NV) lost $70 million last year, but the CEO says he thinks next year’s move to electronic medical records will save money in the form of reduced labor costs and errors.

Sponsor Updates

  • Indiana University Health Bloomington and Paoli Hospital go live on McKesson’s Horizon Patient Folder electronic document management system.
  • Greenway Medical Technologies announces that its PrimeSuite EHR client, Alpine Urology, is the first practice to connect to CORHIO’s HIE. 
  • The Pittsburgh Technology Council awards TeleTracking Technologies its Tech Titan MVP award.
  • TeleTracking’s user conference will be held next month in San Diego.
  • MEDSEEK announces GA release of Quick Response Codes to facilitate the patient marketing programs of hospitals. 
  • Anesthesia Business Consultants and iMDSoft announce their partnership to offer a complete AIMS and anesthesia billing solution.
  • Joan Coner of maxIT Healthcare is recognized in Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide Edition for her 20+ years of contributions and achievements in healthcare consulting.
  • Orion Health announces receipt of ONC-ATCB 2011/2012 certification of its Clinical Portal V7.0.
  • Covisint releases a new whitepaper entitled Performance-Based Care for Accountable Care Organizations.
  • MediServe clarifies newly announced changes to Medicare Part C Advantage plans.
  • GE Healthcare will introduce an HIE in Australia. 
  • The Rothman Institute  (PA/NJ) selects the SRS EHR for its 100-provider, 14-location practice.
  • Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services engages OptumInsight for its HIE platform.
  • Central Penn Business Journal names MEDecision to its list of 100 Best Places to Work for the third straight year.
  • MD-IT announces the addition of Quality Transcription Services to its Medical Transcription Service Organization Associate program.

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne

Lots of folks are talking about the recent Department of Health and Human Services plan that would allow patients direct access to their laboratory test results. The proposed rule involves three HHS agencies: CMS, CDC, and the Office for Civil Rights.

Changes to the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) are required to allow this. Patients would be able to receive copies of their lab reports on request. When faced with patients receiving lab results directly (as opposed to receiving them from their physician or another health professional), many physicians react negatively.

The consumerization of healthcare has had profound impacts on how care is delivered. Patients are better able to participate as a member of the healthcare team, which is good. However, the potential impacts of releasing lab (or any other diagnostic testing) data directly to patients should not be overlooked.

These are not uncharted waters. Many health systems already release data directly to patients, often after a delay of a day or two to allow the ordering physician to review the results and contact the patient. Others release results only after the ordering provider has signed off, again presumably to allow a conversation with the patient where needed.

Physicians worry that direct release of lab data to patients (particularly without annotation) will generate a flurry of phone calls. Before I used an EHR, I would mail each patient a copy of their lab results with my notes / comments / care plan written directly on the results. It was efficient and made for clear documentation in the chart. The occasional “abnormal” result of no significant consequence was simply marked “OK,” and 99% of patients did well with this approach. Of course, there was always the occasional patient who would call wondering if their low chloride level (one point below cutoff) was a health concern, despite the “OK.”

Radiology reports are a little trickier. Narrative reports are sometimes less clear and informative, particularly if you deal with (as I have lately) a radiology group that refuses to definitively address what they see and instead dictates a jumble of “might be” and “can’t rule out,” punctuated by the always-present “clinical correlation needed.”

My health system releases both lab and radiology reports to the patient through a secure portal, but only after a time delay. Depending on the nature of the test, the delay is shorter or longer. For example, blood tests such as cholesterol levels are released after a day or two, but CT and MRI scans are held for seven days. This gives us time to contact patients about their situation before they see the results.

Since we’ve been doing this, I’ve had several patients who had significant concerns about what they’ve seen on their reports. Many patients, even after they’ve heard from the team about their results or changes to the care plan, head straight to Google to find out what all those big words mean. What they see sometimes leads to panic and fear.

When patients in this situation call, my recommendation is to add them on to the schedule same-day or as soon as possible. Unfortunately, talking about it on the phone lacks the face-to-face reassurance that patients often need. If they come in, I can pull up the films and we can review them together along with any Internet articles they’ve been reading. The visit is reimbursable and provides an additional opportunity for health counseling or disease management education.

It will be interesting to see how lab vendors decide to handle this. Most will probably go with online patient portals, I’d guess. Depending on how often your insurance carrier or provider changes lab vendors, this could lead to multiple places where patients have to access their data over time, assuming they decide to provide the information in an ongoing fashion vs. a one-time release.

Do you work for a laboratory provider? How is your organization planning to address this? E-mail me.



Mr. H, Inga, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg.

Sage Healthcare Sold to Vista Equity Partners

September 22, 2011 News 20 Comments


Sage Group PLC will sell its Sage Software Healthcare unit to private equity firm Vista Equity Partners for $320 million in cash, the British company announced this morning. The sale is expected to be completed in November.

Sage CEO Guy Berruyer said in a statement, “The sale of Sage Healthcare allows management in the North American region to focus on the considerable opportunities that exist within our core U.S. customer base.”

He was also quoted as saying, “When we bought this business, we could not have predicted that the Obama administration would change the market in the way it did. This business was contracting and it had moved away from our core strategy. Our North American business has been performing less well overall. Selling the healthcare business will allow our US team to concentrate on our business priorities again.”

Sage said it will take a loss of up to $108 million on the sale of the former Emdeon Practice Services, which it acquired for $565 million in August 2006. In the most recent six-month reporting period, the healthcare division earned profits of $15 million on revenue of $111 million.

Readers Write 9/21/11

September 21, 2011 Readers Write 11 Comments

Submit your article of up to 500 words in length, subject to editing for clarity and brevity (please note: I run only original articles that have not appeared on any Web site or in any publication and I can’t use anything that looks like a commercial pitch). I’ll use a phony name for you unless you tell me otherwise. Thanks for sharing!

EMR Usability and the Struggle to Improve Physician Adoption
By Todd Johnson

9-21-2011 4-22-51 PM

Now that Meaningful Use money is up for grabs, almost every US hospital is somewhere down the pathway to deploying at least a Stage 1-certified EMR. Once installed, the tab on many of these systems can run as high as nine figures. For that kind of coin, every user in every department should see their daily workflow improve dramatically. Yet industry-wide physician adoption of hospital EMR systems continues to fall short of expectations.

For many users, the source of frustration is the clinical documentation system they’re asked to use. In theory, these tools are designed to make physicians’ lives easier. But too many documentation systems compromise the usability of the EMR for its most important users.

Not surprisingly, physicians resist changing the way they work to use tools that don’t solve their daily challenges. They stick with familiar workflows – even cumbersome tools such as pen and paper – to capture the details of patient encounters. And they leave it to the hospital to figure out how to extract the data they need.

The net result: physicians end up engaging with the EMR as minimally as possible. Without timely and comprehensive involvement from a significant percentage of physicians, an EMR system cannot help hospitals achieve their clinical, financial and operational improvement goals.

Determining the “usability” of an EMR is less subjective than it sounds. Here’s how usability is defined in the HIMSS Guide to EHR Usability:

  • Usability is the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction with which specific users can achieve a specific set of tasks in a particular environment.
  • Efficiency is generally the speed with which users can complete their tasks. Which tasks and clinic processes must be most efficient for success? Can you establish targets for acceptable completion times of these tasks?
  • Effectiveness is the accuracy and completeness with which users can complete tasks. This includes how easy it is for the system to cause users to make errors. User errors can lead to inaccurate or incomplete patient records, can alter clinical decision-making, and can compromise patient safety.
  • User satisfaction is usually the first concept people think of in relation to “usability.” Satisfaction in the context of usability refers to the subjective satisfaction a user may have with a process or outcome.

Each of these components is measurable. Even user satisfaction, while highly subjective, can be measured through user queries. Yet even with an objective framework of EMR usability, physicians continue to suffer through documentation tools that often fail to meet any of these criteria.

Clinical documentation has become a victim of its own exploding popularity. Thanks to Meaningful Use and other technology-driven initiatives, the value of the data found in clinical notes has skyrocketed. Hospitals now have more incentive than ever to deploy systems that capture, aggregate and transfer data as efficiently as possible.

As the point of entry for a majority of patient information found in the EMR, electronic physician documentation has the added burden of converting notes into usable data. But too often, HIS solutions attempt to solve this problem by delivering electronic documentation that migrates all users to a single, inflexible workflow. Rather than accommodate multiple data entry methods and adapt to user preferences, physicians must instead learn to navigate drop-down menus, check boxes, and other pre-defined selections to complete their documentation.

A one-size-fits-all approach to documentation is shortsighted for two reasons. First, “narrative” shouldn’t be a dirty word in the electronic documentation workflow. A comprehensive patient record is much easier to achieve through a blend of structured and unstructured data input. Certain types of notes, such as H&Ps, benefit from the physician’s ability to capture all details of the patient encounter in his or her own words. Elements with repetitive values, such as lab results and vitals, benefit from structured input – even better if these values automatically carry forward daily.

Second and more important, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we’re asking physicians to alter a very important – and very personal – part of their jobs by asking them to use new clinical documentation solutions. Workflow flexibility is crucial to achieving user satisfaction. Narrative-based capture methods such as dictation remain popular because they’re easy to use. Forcing users to modify their behavior and abandon familiar workflows – to “document to the system” – is a recipe for continued lackluster physician engagement with the EMR.

Ultimately, a truly user-friendly advanced electronic clinical documentation system should empower users to document however they’re comfortable without compromising speed, accuracy, data availability, and overall productivity. The specialized technology solutions are in place to make that possible.

Modern speech recognition and transcription systems can convert dictated narrative to structured data. Universal interoperability standards such as HL7 Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) enable that data to integrate seamlessly into the EMR, regardless of which best-of-breed physician documentation solution you’re using.

The only way to know we’re achieving the right balance of structure and narrative is to let the end users guide the design of the finished product. By achieving high rates of physician adoption, hospital CIOs and other stakeholders can finally focus attention on other priorities.

Todd Johnson is president and co-founder of Salar of Baltimore, MD.

Is ONCHIT About to Chase the Clouds Away?
By Frank Poggio

9-21-2011 4-30-42 PM

My sincere apologies to Chuck Mangione. For our younger readers, Chuck is a great French horn jazz musician from the 70s. His signature song was Chase the Clouds Away. Now back to ONCHIT.

Cloud computing is the latest systems deployment panacea. In the recent past, it was referred to as SaaS (Software as a Service), and before that, remote hosting. The word ‘cloud’ clearly has a better visual impact. Cloud computing runs all your data and applications at a remote facility, giving the user many advantages such as built-in redundancy, reduced capital investment, effortless backups, better integration with many other Web services, and faster and simpler delivery of updates and fixes.

One of the core elements of the ONCHIT certification process and the Meaningful Use attestation requirements is that a provider must run certified software. The certification must tie back to a vendor’s specific version and build. Directives from two of the current ATCBs state:

CCHIT: If you modify or update your CCHIT Certified product in a manner that carries a significant risk of affecting compliance, you must follow this procedure. Before marketing the modified or updated product as CCHIT Certified, you must apply for re-testing of the product to verify continued compliance with all published criteria and Test Scripts.

Drummond: If changes are made to the Drummond Certified EHR product, you must submit to Drummond Group an attestation indicating the changes that were made, the reasons for those changes, and a statement from your development team as to whether these changes do or do not affect your previous certification and other such information and supporting documentation that would be necessary to properly assess the potential effects the new version would have on previously certified capabilities.

If you sell and install a certified full EHR or EHR module, you must at minimum notify the ATCB with each new version or build so that your previous certification gets inherited to your new update or release, preferably before you send it out to your client base.

Turnkey system vendors (do they really fly above the Cloud?) would send out two or three updates during the year, with perhaps one being a major release. If there was an emergency fix needed for a specific client, they might send that out separately. Clearly the update notice to the ATCB should happen before you would send the fix out, but in an emergency situation if the impact was to only one or a few clients, you could send it out just to them and notify and re-certify later.

The same would be true for any special enhancements. Say a new customer requires a specific enhancement as part of a new install contract. For the period your client is running the enhanced software, that version or build would not be deemed certified. This means they could not use your package to attest to MU. But it’s only one client, and if you are a best-of-breed or niche vendor, it may not matter to that client since they might be able to cover the MU criteria with other vendor-certified products. A good example is with the ONCHIT demographic criteria. This requirement could be covered by several EHR modules.

Lastly and most importantly, the assumption is that your updates or fixes do not impact any certification criteria. At this time, how ‘no significant impact’ is defined and determined is left to our imagination, but starting next year it will be a question that must be tackled by the ONCHIT AA surveillance auditors.

Meanwhile, back in the Cloud, it gets little more complicated. As noted before, one of the real advantages of the SaaS approach is that the user never has to load updates. They are handled centrally. One load and all clients are running the new code. Back to our example where a new client contracts for a special enhancement or a fix is needed — you code them, load them, and go. Everybody has access to the new enhancement and everybody is now running a non-certified system. Ouch!

The simple solution, of course, is to make your new customer wait for a full version release, or in the case of a fix, require a workaround until you get re-certified. Either way, ONCHIT has succeeded in turning the clock back to those Neanderthal days of legacy and turnkey system releases.

Cloud vendors who are ONCHIT certified will really need to rethink that load-and-go approach.

Frank L. Poggio is president of The Kelzon Group.

Interoperability? But of Course!
By Cheryl Whitaker, MD

9-21-2011 4-42-19 PM

An HIStalk reader, Rusty Weiss, recently wrote about interoperability (Is Healthcare Interoperability Possible With a Conflicted Federal Committee?, 9/14/11.)

I am not writing to comment on the appointment of Epic’s Judy Faulkner to the Health Information Technology Policy Committee. I am writing to endorse the concept of interoperability. 

In his article, Weiss states, “Democrats, Republicans, and industry experts alike recognize the importance of interoperability.”

Amen. It’s logical that we move to a model in which health information systems talk with each other. I concur that by “tapping into ‘big data,’ there will be opportunity to learn more from existing information – and to make healthcare more effective and less expensive.”

Weiss also states, “By allowing patients to carry their health information across provider lines as easily as we want them to carry their health insurance across state lines, we will empower patients. In fact, one of the stated goals written into the Recovery Act was the development of ‘software that improves interoperability and connectivity among health information systems.”

Weiss goes on to quote Otech president Herman Oosterwijk,  who says, “The entire industry is 15 years behind in interoperability compared with PACS systems.”

PACS solutions were early in the landscape of healthcare’s adoption of electronic information exchange. However, let’s be clear. Diagnostic imaging is far from superior in the context of interoperability. Visit a doctor’s office and you’re likely to see a patient carrying his or her own images burned onto a CD. Ride in a ambulance with a trauma transfer and you’re likely to see a CD strapped to the patient or the stretcher. 

When it comes to exchange of diagnostic images, the inefficiencies are horrific. The room for error is frightening.

Weiss quotes Andrew Needleman, president of Claricode Inc., who says, “Due to the amount and complexity of data being transmitted between systems, even systems that attempt to be interoperable run into issues when they send data to other systems. For healthcare data, even the demographic data to determine if you are talking about the same patient is complex.” 

Consider the realities of diagnostic imaging: 

  • Healthcare organizations generate nearly 600 million diagnostic imaging procedures annually.
  • Based on a study of data from 1995 to 2007, the number of visits in which a CT scan was performed increased six-fold, from 2.7 million to 16.2 million, representing an annual growth rate of 16%.
  • One CT scan exposes a patient to the same amount of radiation as 100 chest x-rays.
  • $100 billion of annual healthcare costs are related to diagnostic imaging tests – but an estimated 35% ($35 billion) represents unnecessary costs for US patients and insurance providers.

PACS solutions facilitate electronic image management. But these are proprietary, closed systems that do not allow providers to easily share information between departments and entities, and also across "ologies." Exchanging images outside of a "system" is difficult if the two facilities have different PACS vendors.

To solve this challenge, some entities have added solutions to morph imaging studies so they can be viewed on a receiving system. Until recently, this has required the implementation of specialized hardware and software and costs that were not sustainable.

We continue to see patients carrying their images around on CDs. Yet according to a January 2011 article in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, Johns Hopkins researchers found that approximately 60% of respondents said most images provided by patients on digital media were unreadable or not importable.

With today’s movement toward ACOs and medical homes, new approaches are needed. An enterprise imaging strategy must focus on providing access to any type of image, anywhere, any time, by anyone – provider, referring physician, radiologist, patient, etc. – across the continuum of care. This vision goes beyond PACS to make image sharing truly interoperable and accessible in real time on any device, without having to load and support additional software and without complicated and unnecessary movement of data. Image-enabling the EHR is also critical.

Three components are required for the move to a truly interoperable imaging environment: a standardized vendor-neutral archive (VNA), an intelligent digital image communication in medicine (DICOM) gateway, and a universal viewer that can be accessed via an embedded link or a standalone portal that enables viewing of images on any browser-based electronic device.

This technology exists. An organization can readily start with just one of the components, then build toward a more robust enterprise solution. There is no wrong door for entry.

Today’s most progressive organizations are embracing enterprise imaging, saving time and money, reducing unnecessary radiation exposure, and improving quality of care.

Healthcare data is voluminous and complex. Regulatory demands seem daunting.  Other industries, however, have adapted to a multitude of “data pressures.” Banking, for example, has been successful with leveraging federated data models to enable cross-organizational transactions via ATMs. 

The time is now for healthcare to create exchanges that allow EMRs, HIEs, and PHRs to access content and results from any location without moving data. We should empower patients, providers, and payers to manage the total healthcare experience from computers, mobile devices, and new types of access points, including kiosks.

Cheryl Whitaker, MD is chief medical officer of Merge Healthcare of Chicago, IL.

News 9/21/11

September 20, 2011 News 4 Comments

Top News

9-20-2011 12-42-12 PM

Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, and UnitedHealthcare will pool five billion medical claims records in a data mining initiative to identify trends in cost, utilization, and intensity of care. Beginning in 2012, the not-for-profit Health Care Cost Institute will combine 11 years’ worth of records from the carriers, publish scorecards, and support analysis of aggregate trends to qualified researchers.

Reader Comments

mrh_small From Wilbur: “Re: Aventura. Did you already get this? You interviewed Howard Diamond for the HIStalk Innovator Showcase. Really neat company, people, and technology.” Denver-based Aventura HQ, which offers a clinician front end for EMRs and other systems, raises $13 million in its first round of institutional vendor funding. I profiled the company in late July. Wilbur isn’t a shill, by the way – he sent this non-anonymously and he has no vested interest in the company (nor do I.)

9-20-2011 10-27-25 PM

mrh_small From Elane Twofer: “Re: UPMC electronic medical records alteration. I’m puzzled why that is central to peer review. Mr. HIStalk, please provide some advice and your wonderful wisdom.” The trial begins in Pittsburgh of a lawsuit brought by a deceased patient’s family against UPMC Presbyterian (PA). The family claims that doctors caring for a 62-year-old inpatient failed to note in his electronic medical record that he would be difficult to intubate. He experienced respiratory distress, exacerbated by a nurse who inappropriately gave him a tranquilizer to calm him down, and doctors could not establish an airway. He died. The family’s attorney says UPMC’s EMR transaction records show that its head of quality assurance tried to add a red-letter “Dif Intub” warning to his EMR three days after he died. The hospital says the entry was for peer review purposes rather than to favorably falsify the records. I know this reader and I believe the hope is that I’ll expound against EMRs from this example, but I’ll take the opposite approach. I’ve been on various hospital committees (death, tissue and transfusion, etc.) and I’ve seen first hand paper charts that were falsified after the fact by doctors and nurses to cover their butts after making mistakes that harmed patients. It wasn’t hard to suspect they did it (the handwriting was clearly different, the change was present only on the original order and not the copy, etc.) but hard to prove. If the family is correct, UPMC’s own electronic records will provide the inarguable evidence. Score: EMR 1, paper 0. I’d like it even better if standards were in place that would physically protect all electronic documentation transactions from database-level changes, journaling every entry, change, and deletion as a permanent record that even IT uber geeks could not destroy.

mrh_small From Ludmila: “Re: NJ chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Apparently there’s about to be a blowup over its PCORE (Pediatric Council on Research and Education) section accepting money related to referring practices for HITECH, which it isn’t allowed to do as a 501(c)(3) corporation.” Unverified. I e-mailed the organization and received no response.

mrh_small From Sepulchre: “Re: Meaningful Use. Frequent reader, first time I’m posting a question. No one has been able to answer this. In getting your ‘certified’ system and achieving MU, what happens if the user decides to change vendors? During that kind of transition, you would expect your reporting on objectives could be impacted and you might not meet them for the year. Do you incur penalties from Medicare during that time? Seems like a great setup for vendors. Once you use them and achieve MU, you must keep using them to avoid penalties.” Hopefully my really expert readers will weigh in.

9-20-2011 9-02-32 PM

mrh_small From Reluctant Epic User: “Re: McKesson ad. Do you think they’re struggling in the large hospital market because their marketing department thinks people are still running Pocket PCs?” I like the irony of the “Better Technology” headline right beside some old and not-so-good technology, but their problems are more related to Horizon than what it runs on.

9-20-2011 9-08-37 PM

mrh_small From Space Ghost: “Re: newsletter. Writing headlines must be a tough job.” The mistake is especially notable since it came from Government Health IT, whose parent company has HIMSS (or HIMMS, if you prefer) as a majority owner. The correct spelling is obviously the first word of the article, so someone went out of their way to screw it up.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

Practice Fusion announces that it has received over $6 million in additional funding from several new investors, including Western Technology Investment (an early Facebook investor) and Scott Banister (Idealab, IronPort.)

9-20-2011 8-55-52 PM

EMR vendor SuccessEHS acquires the MediaDent practice management, electronic dental record, and dental imaging solution from MMD Systems. SuccessEHS will offer the integrated solution to Community Health Centers, including the 190 that are already its customers. 

Transcription vendor MedQuist raises guidance and announces a $25 million stock repurchase program following its recent acquisitions of M*Modal, All Type Medical Transcription Services, and JLG Medical Transcription Services.

9-20-2011 9-58-01 PM

India-based technology vendor Wipro says it’s looking to acquire US-based health and life sciences companies, especially those with analytics and mobility products and companies involved in revenue cycle management. Wipro also says it will benefit from ICD-10 conversions as US work is offshored to India and the Philippines.

9-20-2011 10-50-55 PM

mrh_small The Advisory Board Company launches its new logo and Web site, which emphasize its research work plus newer offerings that focus on technology applications and healthcare support. An interesting history of its logo over the years says it started as a drawing of the townhouse owned by the founder’s mother (the company’s first headquarters, in 1979), followed by the Jefferson Memorial-related logo that was used for 20+years, then finally the new version that’s based on a revolving bookstand designed by Thomas Jefferson to allow him to check multiple references at once, a prototype of the database (which also happens to look like the letter A.)

9-20-2011 10-38-49 PM

mrh_small I keep forgetting that The Advisory Board Company is publicly traded, so here’s how shares have done over the past couple of years compared to the S&P 500 (green) and Nasdaq (red). An ABCO share bought for around $25 two years ago would be worth over $60 today.


Meditech announces that family physician Steven Jones, MD will join the company to act as lead its EHR development efforts. He has served on the company’s Physician Advisory Committee.

9-20-2011 7-05-16 PM

MedAssets reports in an SEC filing that Neil Hunn, president of revenue cycle technology, is leaving the company to pursue “other career opportunities.” He joined the company in 2001, was promoted to RCT president in January 2011, and leaves with $570,000 in separation pay. Meanwhile, Greg Strobel (above) moves from president of the revenue cycle services business to president of the MedAssets RCM segment.

9-20-2011 7-23-50 PM

Bayhealth Medical Center (DE) names Lynn Gold as senior director of information services and telecommunications. She was previously with GE Healthcare.

Announcements and Implementations

9-20-2011 11-49-35 AM

OSF St. Francis Hospital (IL) goes live on Epic, replacing its eight-year-old GE/IDX system.

mrh_small University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics spent $6 million on a failed laboratory information system implementation, hospital officials reported to the state Tuesday. The hospital terminated the contract over performance issues with the unnamed vendor. I know its pathology department was replacing Cerner with SCC Soft Computer and was supposed to go live a few months ago, but I don’t know if that’s the system being de-installed.

Voalté will offer a mobile device management solution called Connect, which is based on the AirWatch enterprise-grade smartphone and mobile device security
and management platform.

mrh_small The local TV station covers the use of the PatientSecure palm vein scanning system for positive patient identification at Duke University Hospital (NC). The hospital enrolled 2,000 patients in the first six weeks and says patients who were antsy about having their fingerprints scanned (one can only imagine why) don’t mind the palm vein scan.

Ottawa Hospital, fresh off the deployment of 2,000 mobile devices including iPads, says the next step is to use business process modeling to understand the natural workflows of clinicians and to give them convenient information when and where they need it. A quote from SVP/CIO Dale Potter:

Mobility is here to stay. It’s tactical in a sense because it is a device that allows people to do their work differently. Physicians and other clinicians are falling back into workflows that are natural to the work they are doing. They were forced out of that workflow with the advent of technology 25 years ago when they would have to go somewhere to log on to a PC. They had almost forgotten that they used to do rounds at the bedside. Now it’s conceivable and practical for them to be able to do that. The patients feel a higher level of engagement because of the tools.

9-20-2011 9-25-42 PM

Ophthalmologists at a UK hospital work on OpenEyes, an open source ophthalmology EMR.

Government and Politics

HHS’s Text4Health Task Force issues recommendations to HHS regarding text messaging and mHealth apps: a) develop and host evidence-based health text message libraries and make them available to the general public; 2) develop further evidence on the effectiveness of health text messaging programs; and, 3) explore partnerships to create, implement, and disseminate health text messaging and mHealth programs. 

In Australia, Queensland Health is negotiating with Cerner for a $249 million (US) hospital clinical systems contract, with the opposing political party claiming that health officials changed an independent report to give Cerner an edge and that the technical information Cerner provided was inaccurate.

Senior executives and physicians from Ireland are visiting the VA this week to learn more about its VistA system.

mrh_small A newspaper article says patients are somewhere between surprised and offended at being asked for their ethnicity and race during physician visits, newly required by the Affordable Care Act. An ophthalmologist says many patients cross out the “race” question and one patient answered “the Boston Marathon.”

Innovation and Research

9-20-2011 9-40-50 PM

Researchers in Spain are working on a “garment-based patient biomonitoring platform,” or smart shirt, that will monitor vital signs and patient location.

9-20-2011 9-48-16 PM

mrh_small AHRQ offers guidelines for future and current EHR users on avoiding unintended consequences. Credit to Joe Conn of Modern Healthcare, whose article about this came up in an unrelated Google search I was doing.

9-20-2011 10-19-08 PM

Texas Heart Institute releases a free iPhone and Android app to train medical students in auscultation (listening to the heart). It was developed by James Wilson MD, director of cardiology education.


9-20-2011 8-42-23 PM

mrh_small I ran across this interesting (and free) tool. Chatter is like a private, secure, and hosted Facebook, a social network for businesses that allows co-workers to push out updates, share files, and solve problems. Signup for the hosted app requires only a company e-mail address, and the network is private to users within that domain. Clients are available for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Android, and the desktop. It’s owned by Salesforce.com.

An article on MIT’s Technology Review profiles speech recognition software in healthcare, specifically Nuance’s Clinical Language Understanding.


9-20-2011 9-35-54 AM

inga_small Posted on Twitter:  a picture of the opening session at Epic’s user group meeting. The poster notes, “This is a big auditorium!” Epic is expecting 11,500 attendees, including 6,500 customers, for the four-day event in Verona. Another tweet from a Stanford University physician: “35-45% US pop covered by Epic EMR, 2% of world pop covered, $92 billion in claims in 2010!”

9-20-2011 8-48-14 PM

9-20-2011 8-47-20 PM

9-20-2011 8-45-28 PM

mrh_small Here are more Epic UGM photos from a reader. Thanks for sending them over. Above is the lunch tent built for the conference. They’re offering horse carriage rides and bikes for exploring the back trails. The theme is “Once Upon a Time” and attendees were invited to attend Tuesday’s opening session in musical costume as Judy was to do (I’m thinking Ziggy Stardust drag or Insane Clown Posse makeup). Your updates and photos are encouraged.

9-20-2011 10-00-54 PM

The American Nurses Association signs on as partner in Care About Your Care, a healthcare wellness awareness initiative supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, AHRQ, and ONC.

9-20-2011 7-17-12 PM

inga_small In what are believed to be the harshest prison sentences ever for Medicare fraud, a federal judge orders 50-year and 35-year sentences to American Therapeutic co-owners Lawrence Duran and Marianella Valera. The company billed Medicare for over $205 million in claims over eight years for mental health services that were either not required or never provided to patients. They were ordered to pay $87.5 million in restitution.

mrh_small The Honolulu Police Department tries to figure out how to bring criminal charges against one of its officers for posting a hospital bed photo of a suspect on Facebook. The patient had been badly burned while trying to steal copper wire, giving the officer creative inspiration for the Facebook caption, “See when you like steal copper.”

Sponsor Updates

9-20-2011 8-29-39 PM

  • A 12-member GetWellNetwork triathlon team led by CEO and Founder Michael O’Neil raised $36,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in The Nation’s Triathlon in Washington, DC on September 11, 2011. The team’s donations led all national participants as it honored the memory of Justin Thorton, who died of leukemia at 19 earlier this year.
  • 3M partners with Clinical Architecture to offer 3M Healthcare Data Architecture, a terminology-mapping interoperability and data standardization solution.
  • Iatric Systems adds a clinical quality measure component to its Meaningful Use Manager product and earns expanded ONC-ATCB certification.
  • CynergisTek and Diebold will partner to showcase their “Smart Hospital” security model at The Healthcare Facilities Symposium and Expo September 20-22.
  • Alan W. Portela, CEO of AirStrip Technologies Inc. will participate as a panelist at the AdvaMed 2011 MedTech Conference September 26-28.
  • API Healthcare partners with Role-Based Practice Solutions to track, manage, and develop professional role competencies.
  • Colette Weston of ADP AdvancedMD provides a 5010 transactions update based on progress by AdvancedMD and partner RelayHealth.
  • CaroMont Health (NC) selects RelayHealth to facilitate HIE among the hospital, employed physicians, and affiliated physicians.
  • Healthwise SVP Molly Mettler will moderate a panel discussing shared decision-making at the World Congress Leadership Summit September 22-23.
  • Highline Medical Center (WA) selects Wolters Kluwer Health’s ProVation Order Sets for its healthcare campuses and 20 clinics.
  • Prognosis HIS clients Parkview Hospital (TX), Stonewall Memorial Hospital (TX), and Throckmorton County Memorial Hospital (TX) qualify for MU incentive funds using the ChartAcess EHR.
  • Monongahela Valley Hospital signs a multi-year agreement to use Thomson Reuters Micromedex solutions for evidence-based clinical reference information.
  • EHR Scope reports that its free online service EMRConsultant.com has made over 5,000 referrals so far in 2011.
  • NYU Langone Medical Center establishes the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health, which will incorporate Epic’s EMR technology and palm scanning identification from PatientSecure.
  • Allscripts is named a finalist for the Chicago Innovation awards.


Mr. H, Inga, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg.

HIStalk Interviews John Gomez, CEO, JGo Labs

September 19, 2011 Interviews 9 Comments

John Gomez is CEO of JGo Labs.

9-19-2011 6-42-58 PM

We haven’t talked for some time. Let’s start out with the obvious question. Why did you leave Allscripts?

There isn’t really a deep dark reason I left. There really isn’t a juicy back story. After almost eight years, I didn’t feel I could make the impact I wanted to continue to make and my career was pretty much at a standstill. I realized that I was becoming stagnant and I am not the type of person who likes to be stagnant. As much as it pained me, I decided that it was time for me to leave and pursue other opportunities.

During my time at Allscripts and Eclipsys, I had a tremendous opportunity to learn and stretch my abilities. I built an international business that started as four people and was break-even from Day One. Today, that business unit is tracking to be valued at over $100 million. I got to oversee and run our business development groups, product marketing, product support, and services organizations. I was able to work with some really bright and passionate product development people who I am truly proud of. I also got a chance to introduce some awesome concepts and innovations to healthcare information technology.

I do miss the people, the clients, and the products, but I am ready to try something different from an intellectual standpoint.

Name some of the innovations.

We released the first App Store in HIT, allowing third parties to access to our products through APIs. We provided copies of database schema to clients, thereby allowing them to access their data without having to confront industry standard obstacles. We also pushed hard to have a well-understood object level API. We centralized security and auditing. We did a lot of work on mobility. We redrafted our UI to be far easier to use and more powerful. Lastly, we introduced personalized workbenches and physician mobility products.

This was a lot of work, but we added substantial value to the companies’ respective product lines and enhanced capabilities for our respective customers.

Do you think the merger of Allscripts and Eclipsys was a good idea?

Yes. Both companies had offsetting strengths and weaknesses. Allscripts was strong in ambulatory and weak in acute. Eclipsys was the opposite. From a philosophical perspective, it did and does make total sense. The companies’ products gaps overlapped well and I know that there is tremendous work being done to continue fusing their respective offerings.

Any lessons learned from the merger or your time at Allscripts/Eclipsys?

So many I have actually thought about writing a book about it, kind of like a guide for executive leaders.

The biggest lesson is be product led. It is all about the product at the end of the day. If you build great products without compromise, client satisfaction, employee morale, and loyalty as well as the profits will follow. If you just focus on the financials and making the numbers, you’re not going to really deliver over the long term.

Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Lee Iacocca, and Steve Denning all preached and proved that lesson, yet today way too many companies sell out to Wall Street and try to make a quarter happen rather than really standing strong and leading with their products and all the supporting infrastructure required to make that happen.

Think of it this way. If two companies met on the field of battle, all they would have is their products and their service and support teams. The victor would be the one with the strongest products, services, and support. All the other trappings are just that – trappings. Great products are the backbone of a great company.

What you would tell your replacement?

I don’t know the man, but from what I hear he is a good guy and has strong experience. My advice would be rather generic to anyone taking a role for an enterprise software company, not just my replacement at Allscripts.

First and foremost, learn the industry and lead. For him or anyone who wants to build great products in this industry — or any industry for that matter — I would tell them to learn the industry and challenges of the clients. Get on the ground and actively design your products. Don’t just delegate — lead the design and be part of the birthing experience.

Product managers are a good source of information, but ultimately the leaders of a company should be deciding on exactly how the product will function, wow, and thrill the clients. If you can’t log in, use, or install your products, move on to a new company and line of work. So my humble piece of advice: learn the industry and truly learn the products inside out.

Any other advice for Allscripts?

OK, I will add this, given my continued love of the entire Allscripts team. Stop telling people about your past and your car collection. No one cares and it just alienates you. Take the time to create a new chapter of shared experiences. You’re better off just asking others what they think and save the personal stories for a year from now when you have earned their trust and respect.

That said, I think my replacement, from what I know, is a great choice. He has overall been really well received and embraced. At the end of the day, people need to accept him as he is and for who he and give him a chance.

Allscripts filings indicated that you would be consulting for the company. What are you working on with them?

I think there is some confusion out there in regards to my relationship with Allscripts. The truth is that since my departure on May 31, I haven’t had any input into Allscripts products, strategy, or direction. There was some thought of me doing consulting for them, but we couldn’t come to terms.

Last time we talked, I quoted a reader who had called you "the Steve Jobs of HIT.” Now you and Steve have both resigned from the companies that defined much of your career to date.

I am truly no Steve Jobs and I doubt I could ever fill his shoes, or sandals as the case might be. I appreciate the compliment and understand the analogy, but honestly, I just love building great products. I truly believe that if you do great things, great things follow you. Love your teams, love your clients, and love your products. The rest will follow. The moment you realize you can’t love those around you and what you’re doing, it’s time to figure out a new path.

I would suspect that Steve has done most of what he has done out of love. That love translated to great products that changed lives and created fanatical followings and ultimately tons of margin and revenue. If there is any similarity between Jobs and me, it is that we are truly passionate about building great products people love to use and buy.

What are you up to now? A reader says he hears you and Jay Deady are returning to Allscripts.

I am not in talks of any kind with Allscripts to return. As far as Jay goes, he isn’t either, to the best of my knowledge. Jay and I do talk, and from what I can tell, he is loving life and leading an awesome company doing some rather great things for healthcare related to patient and resource tracking, called Awarepoint.

I started a small company called JGo Labs. Our mission is to build great leading edge products for HIT as well as in other industries. Our products focus on home healthcare. Specifically, gaming to start, predictive informatics and diagnostic decision support, and robotic aides. We also are taking all we know about building great products and working with some terrific companies in security and HIPAA compliance, mobility for healthcare, and some really interesting growth areas.

Given my passion for Apple, we are also working with a couple of hospitals on how to help them become more like Apple in terms of how they design their facilities, patient experiences, and workflows.

Any hints who you’re working with?

Sure, but I have to be a little cloak and dagger as we are bound by non-disclosure. Basically we have a series of companies reaching out to JGo Labs and asking us to help them build some really compelling products for HIT. By “build,” I mean design, strategize, evolve, and drive their ideas forward. We are very much like an IDEO or Dyson in regard to this, acting as a research lab and product design group for these companies.

At the moment, we are working on a very sleek and innovate HIPAA Compliance Appliance for one company, two very cool mobility platforms, a voice product, an AI-based documentation system, as well as some products related to workflow and process engineering. We are also in talks with the US Army regarding some advanced research that goes well beyond the current state of HIT offerings.

What about your own products? You’re a development guy.

JGo Labs is divided into two divisions. The Confab Group is doing consulting to other technology companies, their boards, and hospitals. The other division is The Manufactory, which we view as an old-world artisan studio where we craft our own products.

We are working on a very cool Xbox game for home healthcare using the Kinect technology from Microsoft. We are also working on developing technologies which bring concepts from outside healthcare to healthcare. Much of what we do is ask “what if.” For instance, “What if you could apply cross-sell and up-sell algorithms to helping clinicians?” or, “What if you could predict outcomes of a decision based on similar biological attributes and observations?”

It is very far-reaching and speculative in terms of our own products. But without risk, there is no reward.

I have no interest in continuing to work on EMR/EHR technologies as that is a crowded space with little growth. I really love the idea of working on those technologies that change the game on how we deliver healthcare. The stuff we are working on has huge potential returns and we are looking at it holistically in terms of assuring any product we release is a great experience for our clients.

We are actively working on these items today, but also trying to secure funding to accelerate their market entry. We won’t disclose our release dates, but we are trying to be as aggressive as possible. We would be happy to give you a sneak peek in the coming weeks.

What does Apple have to do with hospitals?

We started asking, “What would a hospital be if Apple designed the hospital and everything in it?” We are working with a couple of hospitals who are trying to improve their operations, margins, and patient/clinician experiences and trying to apply an Apple-esque approach.

For instance, collaboration is something that just doesn’t happen enough in hospitals. Not that it doesn’t take place, but it is cumbersome and disruptive. We are looking at a technology from a company called Blurts to see how micro-voice tags can be used to help drive better collaboration.

We are also looking at how people flow and interact with the healthcare experience and taking a lot of ideas from how Apple design’s their retail stores to route patient traffic, greet people, and interact with them and move them through the institution faster, thereby providing better returns for the hospital and overall higher quality outcomes across multiple metrics.

Your name came up with some kind of hacker convention. What was that about?

Defcon is one of the largest, if not largest, gathering of hackers in the world. I was asked to present on how to hack healthcare systems. I ended up presenting on how to hack not only your basic networks, but how you could change a diagnosis in an MRI or CT scanner or how you could literally kill a patient by hacking a medical device or rules engine. It isn’t that hard to do, and in this world of cyber-terrorism, I think that this is a serious exposure for hospitals.

Privacy regulations are not enough when you can literally alter data used by clinicians to make life or death decisions. If you compromise healthcare and shake people’s confidence in a doctor’s ability to safely treat patients, then follow that with a biological attack, even a small one, a terrorist would have one seriously successful attack.

What’s the value in telling hackers how to hack?

We aren’t showing anyone the specifics or teaching people how to do what we outline, just alerting people that it is possible. My hope and goal is to work with the Department of Homeland Security to help get ahead of this problem and help healthcare organizations address this issue. It is one of the reasons we are working with people like Corey Tobin, head of the Healthcare Solutions Group at Trustwave, on a really compelling compliance and security offering specific to healthcare that is ground breaking.

You implied that the EMR/EHR market is stagnant. Is everybody who assumes it’s the hottest thing going wrong?

It is a hot market, but that doesn’t make it a growth space. Growth is about developing products that create 20%-30% growth for a company year over year. Fundamentally, the EMR or EHR market isn’t going to yield that return or won’t long term. Eventually will be rather flat, or companies will need to expand to overseas markets, which most are not positioned to attack.

Let’s face it, we aren’t building a ton of new hospitals every year where you can go schlep your products or suddenly seeing tens of thousands of doctors every year looking for a new system. Given those factors, at least here in the US, and the fact that you have a hugely dominant vendor like Epic, well it isn’t really the place where you are going to see a lot of growth. There will be some growth and companies in these sectors will probably post some good numbers, but it isn’t going to be dramatic. You will see a bunch of services money from maintenance agreements, but I doubt anyone is announcing they are going after 1,000 new hospitals that just came into play.

What are your predictions for the healthcare IT market?

Analytics is going to be huge, but I don’t see any vendor today who really gets it. By “get it,” I mean that they are making it easy to integrate, don’t require millions of services hours, and that the system is intuitive and built on a platform that has the ability to meet future demands while providing just-in-time information.

Mobility is obviously hot. Regardless of what the old-timers think, it is going to be the future. Mobility apps will be hot, but are people willing to pay for them or are they part of the core offering from a vendor? I would heed vendors to figure that out. I see tremendous upside for niche vendors and would also see great opportunity for acquisitions of mobility vendors.

I think infrastructure will be hot. I mentioned security already, but also things like mobile device management and provisioning, medical device integration, disaster recovery, long-term storage and smart retrieval, and home healthcare and robotics.

Why home healthcare and robotics?

First, every human is a potential customer, so my bet is if you want to see awesome returns, you target home healthcare. Very few people are today, and those that are rarely get it. Secondly, it is a cool market that has a lot of need. I don’t think the PHR is the ticket to this market. I would focus on gaming and robotics. One is a mid-term deliverable and the other long-term. Both offer huge upsides to patients and clinicians, especially if integrated with mobility.

Somebody e-mailed me this week that you’re working on healthcare gaming, which surprised me.

I’ll explain briefly, because I am a little worried about having my idea stolen, especially by innovation-starved companies.

Overall, the concept is that you provide a means for people to have fun while getting treated. Take the negativity out of the experience. Make it convenient and clinically relevant.

I really want to talk more about this because it is so exciting and we are doing some great things, but I really can’t give more details.

At the mHealth Summit last year, Bill Gates said home health robotics was his prediction of the biggest growth area.

I really think that there is a tremendous upside for robotics in healthcare and we have not even scratched the surface. We are in talks with a company out of France that has designed a three-foot-tall, really cute robot. Cute is critical here, as we see the robot helping elders and special needs children at first, so the social attachment is really important.

The model is really compelling and the challenge is reducing manufacturing costs while expanding battery life. But I have no doubt that robotic aides and adjuncts will be commonplace in the long term, as there is no real daunting technology hurdle.

If you don’t like EHR as a hot sector, you probably hate revenue cycle.

People are going to upgrade their financial systems and evolve them, but I don’t think you are going to see a mass exodus to a bunch of new offerings. I think Athena is the Epic of financial systems and they will continue to see growth and grab market share. I think others will eventually level out, but I don’t think that suddenly someone will come out of the blue and own the market.

The reality is that people are trying to minimize churn and and not add to it with a huge rip-and-replace of their financial systems, putting the lifeblood of their organizations at stake without a seriously compelling reason.

Google bet wrong on PHRs.

The PHR is critical and offers tremendous benefits, but I think that the PHR as we know it is sad. A Web page that requires you to go somewhere and do something is silly in this day and age. Google’s idea wasn’t bad, it was just the wrong approach.

In today’s world, a PHR should be part of a mobile experience. You should be gather just-in-time information when the event occurs. If you feel dizzy, rate the dizziness now. You’re in pain, rate the pain now.

My point is that until there is a compelling PHR that is part of the patient’s experience at the time the experience occurs, the PHR as we know it has had its day and really isn’t the right model.

Maybe you should build one, not that the pioneers have had much encouraging success.

I would, actually. It could be fun. I see it as a space that needs to be totally rethought. Like I said, Google’s idea wasn’t bad, they just didn’t know what they were doing and were probably constrained by the need to tie it into the mother ship.

There is huge potential here, but you need to get off the Web and into the patients’ pocket. You also need to give the patient real value. Not having to repeat your meds to a doctor isn’t real value. If people think it is, they don’t understand value from a patient’s perspective.

What’s silly about the industry?

Complexity and lack of eating the low-hanging fruit.

We make things too damn complex. We spend too much time trying to please the clients and thereby make everything for everyone. As an industry, vendors need to learn what clients need, guide them to what is going to give the best return, and stop promising the world just to make the numbers. Be honest, deliver a great end-to-end experience, and loyalty and happiness will follow.

By lack of eating the low-hanging fruit, I mean that we as industry just don’t do the little and simple things that could provide huge upside. Look, I can send an appointment request from my iCal calendar app on my phone to someone across the world using Outlook. They get it and bam, it’s on their schedule. They accept, decline, or modify it, and I am updated seconds later. I know of no vendor who provides this out of the box. It is like 20-30 lines of code and it would be huge if, when you schedule your doctor’s appointment, it appears in your calendar.

Here is another one that is easy. Why can’t I integrate Facebook with my PHR? Why can’t a doctor send updates to his patient on Facebook via an EHR? Not PHI related, but general tips to his patient base, like, “Check your immunizations as we head into cold and flu season” or “I will be on vacation through end of month, for an emergency, contact…”

Why don’t most financial systems support PayPal for deductibles or online payment? There are just so many things that are commonplace across the world, yet in healthcare they just don’t exist.

Everybody says that, but nothing ever changes. Why?

Most executive leadership are sales guys who don’t understand products or product design or the state of technology. Same goes for product managers and designers. Most people I meet just don’t connect the dots, and it really isn’t that hard to do or that expensive.

Hell, to integrate Facebook, you need like 30 lines of code. I am sure people will freak at all this and say, “It’s much harder.” My advice is if you need to call someone in engineering to figure out if what I am saying is right, you shouldn’t be running a company. If your engineering is telling you it is massively hard, you’ve got big issues. It’s time healthcare started asking “what if?”

The inverse of that is “the shiny object” problem, where someone in a company sees a cool technical something or other and decides “man, that would be cool.” That is a big issue. Cool for the sake of cool is never a good idea. For instance, integration of instant messaging with a product seems like a good idea, but it’s not a great idea. The focus should be on integrating voice and video for collaboration anytime, anywhere, but somewhere along the line, someone in a company who sits at their desk all day thinks, “Why wouldn’t a doctor want instant messaging in their app? This would be so cool!” That is just stupid. It shows that the company doesn’t really understand the world of the clinician. IM might work for a billing clerk or office worker tied to their desk in a hospital, but not a clinician.

The point is, someone sees this shiny object, which is a cool technology for the most part, but has no real application to healthcare. Again, if an executive in a company — the CEO, COO, CFO — can’t distinguish between low-hanging fruit and shiny objects, they shouldn’t be running those companies. Investors should be very cautious, as should clients and prospects.

How should prospects or investors evaluate a vendor?

Everyone is an investor. I don’t care if you are a client, prospect, employee, or Wall Street investor. You are all investing. Start by really asking, “How is my money going to be used and how it is being applied by this company to get me a maximum return over the long term?” That means asking some not-so-obvious questions. How do you really decide on what goes into a product or not? Listening to our clients is not the right answer, and probably just a sales guy trying to make a sale.

How much training does your services team and support teams get per year on new products? If it isn’t 20-25% of their time, you are not dealing with a world-class company, just a company trying to make numbers. No way anyone is going to be really well skilled at implementing complicated HIT systems and not get a ton of training every year. I suggest you run for the hills or buckle in for a bumpy ride.

Show me the easy button. Take me through all the things that are going to make my life easy as a user of your products, a champion of your products, and investor in your products. Show me your roadmap and how you have made your deliverables in the past. Past does reflect the future, and you should ask how they deal with quality, make their dates, and keep their promises.

Ask to tour and speak to the development teams and support centers. Are they cool, excited, and work in really awesome environments? If not, well, sad people build sad products. Who is my dedicated account management team? If you are spending a ton of money with someone, you should be getting personal service. Heck, you get a cool concierge when you stay at a hotel for a weekend — you should get the same thing when your tossing several hundred thousand or millions to an HIT vendor and signing a multi-year contract at the very least, without paying a premium.

If you ever want to know how good a company is doing, check out the people working in accounts receivable. If they are totally stressed, working long hours, and ready to snap, it is a clear sign of unhappy clients. When you have to fight to get your money, there is always a reason.

Tell the vendor you want to be treated as an investor, not a damn partner. You really aren’t partners in all this — you as the client are an investor. You want the same accountability, diligence, openness, and hand-holding that public companies afford their investors. A company should never ever lose sight of the fact that their clients and prospects are not their partners — they are the lifeblood of their company and therefore should be treated like royalty.

I could go on and on, providing an insider’s view of selecting a HIT vendor. If people want, they can reach out to me and I would be happy to send them a list of questions and answers to look for and what that potentially could mean to them. No, I am not looking to charge them for it.

Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 9/19/11

September 19, 2011 Dr. Jayne 1 Comment

The American Medical Association recently released its 2010-2011 Health Care Trends Report, which includes a new chapter on science and technology. The report is produced by the AMA’s Council on Long Range Planning and Development and additional segments will be posted throughout the year. There were quite a few interesting factoids from the Science and Technology in Medicine section.

Various studies showed higher quality ratings for hospitals with EHR and CPOE. Regardless of whether people believe that EHRs improve patient care or not, the data is interesting (or at least seemed interesting at the time, with a nice glass of wine on a crisp fall evening.)

The count of health information exchanges is now at over 200.

The AMA has decided to play Dictionary and call out the difference between an EMR and EHR:

An EMR is the legal record that is created in hospitals and ambulatory environments that is the source of data for the EHR. At a minimum, EMR systems merely replicate the aspects of paper charting and may not be interoperable (even with other EMRs) outside of the originating institution. The term EHR implies a level of interoperability with other EMRs. EHRs are essentially EMRs with the capacity for greater electronic exchange; that is, they may be able to follow patients from practice to practice and allow for activities such as data exchange and messaging between physicians.

This is interesting, as many vendors use the terms interchangeably. I’m not sure the industry would agree with AMA’s definition.

MGMA information on EHR adoption was also included in the report. One element was a bit puzzling. Of practices surveyed, “slightly more than five percent used a document information management system to scan paper records and charts and to file those images electronically.”

Really? What are the rest of people doing with their paper? Even the best EHR doesn’t eliminate paper. There’s always something coming in from a non-electronic consultant, a school, or the ever-present transfer of records.

I can’t imagine that 95% of practices don’t have a way of handling that data in a chartless fashion. On the AAFP survey, a high number of responses had to be excluded because physicians didn’t know the name of their system or named a practice management system instead. I’m betting that respondents either don’t know that they use a document management system or that the question was worded in such a way as to exclude integrated imaging components.

CPOE, clinical decision support, and e-prescribing were also mentioned, but most of the data cited fall into the “old news” category. Much more interesting was the “barriers to health IT adoption” section, which cited cost concerns for small practices, information security, etc.

Work force planning notes a projected shortage of 50,000 health IT staffers needed to support EHR adoption over the next five years. CIOs worry that staffing issues may impair the ability to achieve Meaningful Use and other bonuses. CIOS are particularly concerned about the ability to hire staff with the right skill set to implement clinical applications.

From personal experience, this is all too true. I see too many groups (vendors, health systems, you name it) who believe that that hiring college grads with no healthcare experience, no IT experience, or frankly no experience at all is the answer.

The idea that you can plug someone into an implementation training program and have them successfully achieving physician and practice buy-in and true practice transformation in a matter of months is laughable. Teaching them how to work with difficult users and challenging systems is almost an art, not easily learned from books but finely honed over time.

Despite the interesting data points, I opted for a second glass of wine rather than more figures and footnotes. As southern heroine Scarlett O’Hara says,  “After all… tomorrow is another day.”


E-mail Dr. Jayne.

Monday Morning Update 9/19/11

September 17, 2011 News 5 Comments

From LongTimePharmacist: “Re: CPOE. A clever video done to YMCA. We all need some CPOE laughs now and then.” I like it. I always look for tiny glimpses of hospital reality: the nurse with charge stickers all over her top, the well-used Tabasco bottle on the table in the doctors’ lounge, and the drug shortage list taped to the pharmacy wall. The “everybody in the pool” finale is subtle and appropriate. They did a nice job.

9-17-2011 5-26-01 PM

From Cassie: “Re: hospital performance. The hospitals that have spent millions on EMRs and CPOE and have meaningfully mediocre outcomes to show for it.” A New York Times article contrasts hospitals on Joint Commission’s annual quality report (those who were 95% compliant with specific treatment standards) to reputation-based lists. Not even one of the hospitals listed on the US News & World Report Best Hospitals Honor Roll made the Joint Commission’s list, meaning tiny, no-name community hospitals and podunk VA hospitals beat Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, Mass General, and every hospital in New York City. That latter omission raised the ire of the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, who said healthcare is complicated and any one list can’t be definitive. Which is correct, but it still illustrates the obvious: big academic medical centers excel in some areas (eye-popping architecture, richly compensated superior diagnostic and surgical talent, and excellent teaching and research capabilities) and lag in others (patient satisfaction, getting meds administered on time and rooms cleaned on schedule, and delivering solid outcomes cost effectively). I’ve worked in both small community hospitals and large academic medical centers and have concluded that for the latter, it’s tough to scare employees into rule-following when mediocre professors get jobs for life under the tenure system, service employees are paid market-excessive salaries to assuage organizational social guilt, and almost nobody gets fired or laid off even when they deserve it.

From Burnt Umber: “Re: new Epic hospitals. [Hospital A] and [Hospital B] are going with Epic.” I contacted the CIOs at the unrelated hospitals, who responded quickly and cordially that they are close to making a decision. They asked that I not run anything just yet since their final negotiations might be messed up as a result (as one of the CIOs said, “I am a dedicated reader and I know the impact that this could have.”) Both offered to talk to me afterward about who they chose and why, which will be a far more compelling read than me just quickly blurting out their rumored choice. I’ll have more in a few weeks.

From The PACS Designer: “Re: innovative IT solutions. TPD salutes Texas Health Resources for being recognized by InformationWeek for developing an innovative IT solution by integrating an automated risk-assessment tool with its electronic records system to cut down on blood clots, which are a leading cause of hospital deaths. Other healthcare IT solutions from Christiana Care Health System, Lehigh Valley Health Networks, and Kaiser Permanente were also recognized for using IT to innovate healthcare processes.“

My Time Capsule editorial from 2006 for this week: Few Threats to Healthcare IT’s Big Three. I named the Big Three inpatient vendors that were leaving competitors in the dust, which just wasn’t said in polite company back then.  A sample: “I don’t see anyone catching up to these Big Three, with the possible exception of dark horse McKesson. GE Healthcare, Siemens, Eclipsys, Misys, and others may get an occasional full-system sale, but they’re mostly fighting over crumbs.”

Vince’s HIStory this week covers Intermountain Healthcare (IHC), Part I of a two-parter. E-mail Vince if you can help him out with fun facts about upcoming historical HIT footnotes AR Mediquest and JS Data.

9-17-2011 3-24-42 PM

Most respondents don’t expect HHS to verify Meaningful Use attestation claims all that closely. New poll to your right: who will benefit most from WellPoint’s use of IBM Watson technology?

Dr. Travis covers the use of mHealth by pharmacies and health systems on HIStalk Mobile. 

9-17-2011 5-18-46 PM

An article in The Verona Press says that Epic’s user group meeting this week will draw 6,500 guests, with a total attendance of 11,500 counting the company’s 5,000+ employees. It must be like having Woodstock in your tiny farm town. Pictures and reports are welcome. The rain and mid-60s high should give way to sunnier and slightly warmer weather for the conference.

Ten transcriptionists at a Washington hospital, unhappy that their jobs have been outsourced to Webmedx on short notice, want the option to take severance with benefits instead of accepting what they say is a pay cut to to work for Webmedx. The hospital says its contract with Webmedx (the transcription company that was bought in July by Nuance and announced here in June) will save it up to $2 million over five years. The other gripes of the transcriptionists: the jobs they were offered involve sitting in front of a monitor at home waiting for assignments to pop up on the screen when the cheaper offshore transcriptionists aren’t available; they don’t all have broadband connections; some of the work involves editing the output of speech recognition systems instead of transcription (which pays less); and they will be required to transcribe for other hospitals whose doctors and accents are unfamiliar to them. Being squeezed by cheap offshore labor on one side and sophisticated speech recognition systems on the other is not exactly a position of power. That’s a national problem, of course – compared to the old labor-intensive and technology-unaffected factory jobs of yesteryear, we just don’t need as many employees as we have people who need a job.

Last week was the HIMSS Policy Summit, where HIMSS coaches its members to pester Congress to keep spending taxpayer dollars on healthcare technology (aka “advocacy”). Part of their pitch, predictably, was to not derail the HITECH gravy train. Members were also the Charlie McCarthy to the HIMSS Edgar Bergen in asking Congress to support a national patient identifier. You might think that Congress would have more important matters to deal with (a country rapidly circling the drain), as should providers (high costs and lackluster results that are helping cause the aforementioned drain-circling).

9-17-2011 5-48-14 PM

UAB Health System (AL) names Jorge Alsip MD as its first CMIO. He was a consultant with Cerner.

Hardly shocking: big organizations that profit from the sale of cancer drugs urge the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to reject a Medicare change recommended by the Congressional Budget Office that would save $3 billion (or from their dollar-sign viewpoint, would be a “$3 billion cut to cancer care” that would result in “weakening the nation’s cancer system.”) Like they always say about healthcare – one person’s excessive costs is another person’s livelihood, with every suggestion for eliminating excessive costs triggering cries of wounded anguish from the livelihood side of the same equation.

A British hospital moves a patient’s medical history to another hospital using Patients Know Best, a patient controlled health records system in which the patient uses a Facebook Friend-like function to add new doctors to the clinical team.

9-17-2011 6-16-06 PM

Piedmont Healthcare (GA) will spend $180 million on new IT systems that I assume includes Epic, reported here as an unconfirmed rumor in July but bolstered by the presence of a bunch of Piedmont job listings for inpatient Epic people. They’ve been an Eclipsys/Allscripts client for quite some time.

Nine Rite Aid drugstores in Michigan roll out OptumHealth’s NowClinic, which allows people to conduct a 10-minute IM or webcam-based chat with a doctor 24 hours a day for $45, the outcome of which can be a prescription filled by Rite Aid. 

A North Dakota clinic opts out of a Blue Cross Blue Shield medical home program called MedQHome, saying it violates the HIPAA rights of patients by sharing their information with MDdatacor, a third-party consultant, without their permission. BCBS North Dakota insists that patient permission is not required.

University of Michigan Medical School will start a Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics Department.

E-mail Mr. H.

Time Capsule: Few Threats Seen to Healthcare IT’s ‘Big Three’

September 17, 2011 Time Capsule 1 Comment

I wrote weekly editorials for a boutique industry newsletter for several years, anxious for both audience and income. I learned a lot about coming up with ideas for the weekly grind, trying to be simultaneously opinionated and entertaining in a few hundred words, and not sleeping much because I was working all the time. They’re fun to read as a look back at what was important then (and often still important now).

I wrote this piece in August 2006.

Few Threats Seen to Healthcare IT’s ‘Big Three’
By Mr. HIStalk


Neither Phamis nor IDX sold very many LastWord / CareCast systems. Its mid-80s architecture wasn’t sexy. Only big hospitals scared to death of hardware-induced downtime could afford its Tandem hardware.

When GE bought IDX last year, the renamed Centricity Enterprise was to be its first-string offering, at least until co-development with Intermountain Healthcare yields a commercially viable product.

So far, GE’s luck seems to be all bad. I haven’t heard much about new sales. It was booted from the UK and shown the door at Stanford. And now, high-profile customer Sharp HealthCare is replacing it with an unnamed vendor’s system.

The industry has obviously consolidated dramatically over the past few years. I wouldn’t have guessed back in 1996 that the high flyers would be the little-known ambulatory system vendor Epic Systems, ambitious lab system vendor Cerner, and small-hospital dominator Meditech.

I don’t see anyone catching up to these Big Three, with the possible exception of dark horse McKesson. GE Healthcare, Siemens, Eclipsys, Misys, and others may get an occasional full-system sale, but they’re mostly fighting over crumbs.

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, I looked back to see what clues I might have picked up about these Big Three 10 years ago:

  • They built their own products instead of acquiring someone else’s.
  • They had a single product line and architecture (although both Cerner and Meditech were porting theirs to new platforms).
  • They touted integration over everything else.
  • They had broad offerings that could replace best-of-breed systems.
  • They sold benefits, not cutting edge technology.
  • They had competent clinical systems, not just administrative applications.
  • They kept their product functionally current.
  • They were led by their founder and, as a result, had a consistent company culture.
  • They stuck with their game plan, unswayed by trends or even customer demands.
  • They had only one business: healthcare IT.

Maybe the Big Three moniker is appropriate, reminiscent of the early Detroit days when Ford, GM, and Chrysler rose to dominance over a plethora of now-forgotten competitors. If someone like American Motors tried to horn in, the Big Three either waited for them to fail or just bought and buried them. The high barrier to entry protected them from competition, at least until they got lazy and let overseas companies eat their lunch.

I don’t see many threats to healthcare IT’s Big Three. Open source gets a lot of press, but little adoption so far. Self-development is all but dead in most hospitals. Few foreign competitors exist, as evidenced by the United Kingdom’s reliance on American vendors for Connecting for Health. The big-system vendor pool is shrinking, not growing.

Perhaps the biggest threat is a mature market, in which hospitals have little incentive to switch from one commoditized product to another, especially given limited funds. Even in that scenario, that’s when companies make big profits, milking a locked-in recurring revenue stream while spending little on research and development. Growth is replaced by high profits.

Perhaps the biggest loser in a Big Three scenario is hospitals, who will have few competitive choices with even less innovation than today. Car buying became a passionless checklist process once everything from Detroit started looking alike. Maybe those heart-pumping days of picking from an array of wildly different products offered by 10 potential vendors are over.

News 9/16/11

September 15, 2011 News 9 Comments

Top News

9-15-2011 9-52-55 PM

HIMSS announces its acquisition of for-profit so2say communications, a German healthcare IT news distribution company whose European publications include HealthTech Wire and the recently acquired British Journal of Healthcare Computing.

Reader Comments

9-15-2011 8-31-18 PM

mrh_small From No Surprise: “Re: Presbyterian, NM. Epic is in, McKesson loses another account. E-mail went out to employees Wednesday. Also, Lee Marley started as CIO in August, coming from Stanford.” Posted here as a rumor on August 15, but a solid one since I noticed that Presbyterian had Epic inpatient jobs posted on its site. Lee Marley’s LinkedIn profile verifies that she became SVP/CIO at Presbyterian in August after a couple of years as associate CIO at Stanford.  

mrh_small From Redial: “Re: [company name omitted]. Another shakeup: just days ago, [name omitted] has suddenly left as VP of business development following the sudden departure of [name omitted] in August. Senior VP [name omitted] has been moved to the side following the discovery of his romantic relationship with a subordinate. There have been other significant departments of key management personnel over the past 12 months. Something is definitely wrong at the top.” Interesting, although I’m sure the company won’t confirm most of that except by catapulting litigious lawyers in my direction if I name names. At least I can feel smug knowing who it is.

9-15-2011 8-44-21 PM

mrh_small From Ask Sam: “Re: HIPAA. Obviously they don’t know how to spell it.” They clearly need a new headline writer considering that healthcare is also spelled incorrectly (the article itself spells both words right, so there’s little excuse).

mrh_small From WhoBuyz: “Re: acquisition. Who could this be? The $300-500 million range sounds very large to go unnoticed.” Sources say huge India-based software and consulting firm Infosys is in discussions about buying a US “public services and healthcare space” firm for $450-500 million, with the unnamed company booking annual revenue of $300-500 million. Infosys has extensive healthcare offerings that include payor analytics, disease management, supply chain, wellness management, Meaningful Use optimization, data warehousing, and infrastructure services. UPDATE: according to several sources, the acquisition will be the healthcare business of Thomson Reuters,  at a price of up to $750 million.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

9-15-2011 10-05-06 PM

inga_small Recent tidbits from HIStalk Practice: the 2008 HISsie cartoon revisited. Telehealth saves money  in the treatment of chronically ill patients. US doctors earn more than physicians abroad. Dr. Gregg claims he is a Luddite and embraces his “onesy” status. Jonathan Bush rants about Meaningful Use attestation and his wish for his competitors’ “ethically-based suicide.” Doctors are down on AMA. World peace, a balanced budget, or better knowledge of the ambulatory HIT world are possible if you take 10 seconds to subscribe to HIStalk Practice’s e-mail updates.

mrh_small Listening: brand new from Wild Flag, all-female low-fi rockers from Portland, OR.

mrh_small Latest pet peeves: simplistic does not mean the same thing as simple (the former means recklessly oversimplifying complex concepts), nor does opportunistic mean taking advantage of opportunities (it means taking quick action that may be ethically questionable). Vendor CEOs misused both words recently in the national press, which would have cast a negative light on their companies except for the fact that their gaffe sailed right over the heads of the majority of people who didn’t know the difference.

Jobs on Healthcare IT Jobs: Expert MUMPS Developer, Epic MyChart Builder/Analyst, Senior Systems Analyst – Interfacing, Implementation and Account Manager.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

Medical billing and RIS software provider Zotec Partners merges with Medical Business Service, a provider of billing services for hospital-based practices.

Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman, commenting on a share price that is virtually unchanged from a year ago, says integration concerns with the former Eclipsys put MDRX in “the penalty box,” but growth is coming since the acquisition positioned the company well for the changes spurred by healthcare reform.

9-15-2011 9-34-22 PM

Shares in Merge Healthcare hit a 52-week high on Wednesday. Above is the one-year share price of MRGE (blue), the S&P 500 (green), and the Nasdaq (red). A year-ago investment would have earned a 151% profit ($2.77 vs. $6.95) if you sold Thursday.


 9-15-2011 6-37-47 PM

HIT services firm Gestalt Health appoints Charles Fazio, MD as CMIO. He was previously CMIO of Medica Health Plans.

 9-15-2011 6-15-47 PM

Availity names Kelly Heape Parsons CFO, SVP, and corporate secretary to replace retiring Margaret Gomez.

9-15-2011 1-51-00 PM 9-15-2011 1-50-20 PM

Billing service provider AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions hires John A. Roberts (InfoLogix) as chief financial and administrative officer and Michael Youmans (Concerro, McKesson) as SVP of sales and marketing.

Announcements and Implementations

9-15-2011 7-01-23 PM

Medsphere announces general availability of its latest version of OpenVista EHR, which includes an option for users to customize their views, dashboards, and workflows.

In Maine, Time Warner Cable launches Healthcare Solutions to connect providers and support home health monitoring by offering VPN service, managed security, and web conferencing.

9-15-2011 7-59-08 PM

The AMIA 2011 Annual Symposium will be held October 22-26 at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC. Keynotes include the director of NIH and Farzad Mostashari from ONC. AMIA is a lot more science-oriented than the HIMSS boat show – I looked through the list of sessions and didn’t see any duds, provided you’re of the informatics persuasion, anyway. Full registration is $835 for non-members if you sign up by October 6. Reports from there are welcome.

McKesson integrates its iKnowMed oncology EHR with its Lynx Mobile drug inventory management system, allowing meds to be prepared in advance of the patient’s visit.

9-15-2011 8-50-43 PM

Patient check-in company Phreesia announces an electronic Medicare Annual Wellness Visit Form that it claims saves providers 15 minutes per patient in complying with the new Medicare Part B entitlement.

West Texas RHIO wins an Outstanding Program Award from the Texas Rural Health Association. The four founding hospitals, all of them competitors, use the remotely hosted ChartAccess Comprehensive EHR from Prognosis Health Information Systems.

Dell Services Healthcare and Life Sciences wins a Project Management Office of the Year award for its 96% project success rate.

Smiths Medical announces its PharmGuard Anesthesia Software Service, which providers hospitals with a customized anesthesia drug library for their Medfusion 3500 syringe pumps.

Anthelio launches a 24×7 physician-staffed help desk to support hospital clinical systems rollouts. Other types of clinicians are also available to callers.

A CliniComp press release says that on September 11, 2001, its Essentris EMR used by Bellevue Hospital was the only inpatient one that kept running through the events of that day. I’m not sure: (a) if they’re talking about Bellevue only or all hospitals in Manhattan or New York; (b) how they know that; and (c) if using September 11 as a product pitch is in good taste. If you can get past those issues, the press release is a good read.

Athenahealth’s co-founders are mentioned as backers of startup Healthpoint Services, which offers “e-doctor clinics” in rural India. Athena COO Ed Park is a director. Villagers can get a telehealth consult in the office for 80 cents and diagnostic tests for $1, which the company says is affordable to the patients and break-even for it. Vital signs are taken in the office and sent to the physician and to the EMR. The company also offers a water service that gives families the ability to fill their jugs with clean water for $1.50 per month.


inga_small Hospital employees and their family members incur healthcare costs that are 13% higher than that of the general population; are 22% more likely to visit the ER; and are more often  diagnosed with chronic medical conditions. Any theories why?

Cook Children’s Medical Center (TX) opens a 106-bed, $51 million NICU with all private rooms, the largest in the country. They cite research showing that babies do better when light and temperature can be individually controlled and when family members don’t have to leave.

9-15-2011 9-26-42 PM

SAP will release a tablet-based EMR front end app by the end of October, according to this article.

Sponsor Updates

9-15-2011 8-21-55 PM

  • Software Testing Solutions shared its booth with an animal rescue organization at the Sunquest Users Group meeting this summer, giving attendees a chance to pet three rescued puppies. All were adopted during the conference and STS matched attendee donations made to the rescue organization. This is the second year STS has promoted the organization in its booth, raising over $4,000 and placing 10 dogs in homes.
  • The Axolotl-powered Idaho Health Data Exchange adds St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and Pathologists’ Regional Laboratory to its network.
  • Practice Management Associates (VA) selects the ADP AdvancedMD PM for RCM services.
  • Citrus Valley Health Partners (CA) and MidMichigan Health (MI) select Allscripts Community Record, powered by dbMotion, and will underwrite and host Allscripts EHR for their affiliated physicians.
  • OptumInsight names Ray Ambay, MD (Tampa Institute for Plastic Surgery), James A. Haley, MD (Veterans Hospital, Tampa), David Rossman, MD (Mass General Imaging), and Susan Strate, MD (clinical and anatomic pathologist) to its physician advisory board.
  • DIVURGENT is participating in next week’s Epic UGM 2011 and is sponsoring a presentation by Bert Reese, CIO of Sentara Healthcare.
  • e-MDs and Delmarva Foundation of the District of Columbia offer free assistance to DC-area e-MDs users wanting to take advantage of PQRS incentives.
  • Allscripts, HP, Keane, and NCR are recognized by the InformationWeek 500 2011 list of top technology innovators.
  • Kony Solutions shares findings from its Mobile Marketing and Commerce Study, including the observation that 40% of organizations believe the biggest challenge to their mobile strategy is developing applications across multiple operating systems and devices.
  • Jersey Health Connect selects RelayHealth to provide HIE technology.
  • Imprivata and PhoneFactor announce a partnership to provide phone-based authentication services to caregivers.
  • GetWellNetwork’s Team in Training completed in the Nation’s Triathlon to Benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and raised $36,000.
  • CareTech Solutions is promoting its CareWorks CMS Plug-In modules at this week’s SHSMD in Phoenix.
  • MyHealthDIRECT CEO Jay Mason will speak at the Health IT Summit in New York September 20-21.
  • CynergisTek CEO Mac McMillan expresses criticism of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan for 2011-2015 in an information security article.
  • MobileMD will participate in next week’s joint New Jersey and Delaware HIMSS Conference and Interoperability Demonstration in Atlantic City.

EPtalk by Dr. Jayne

I always enjoy hearing what readers have to say. I was double delighted to find that Daniela Mahoney’s piece on CPOE also included a recipe for profiteroles with coffee ice cream. Sounds like a good project for a quiet fall night (if fall ever arrives). She mentioned upcoming thoughts on adoption and organizational culture – I hope there are recipes included.

The Healthcare Billing and Management Association began its Fall Annual Conference yesterday. Due to horribly slashed budgets in clinical IT areas, which pretty much canceled my ability to attend any meetings this year, I have to live vicariously through colleagues and friends. In the first of these reports from the field, Bianca Biller reports:

HBMA Fall Conference in Vegas, baby. Held at the Bellagio, but actually the overflow accommodations are quite fine. Staying at your fave haunt Vdara Hotel & Spa, right in the midst of CItyCenter. Over 50 new members/attendees to the Fall Conference. Played Vendor Bingo for a chance at $1,425 jackpot tomorrow evening. Best giveaway was from Gateway EDI — decks of cards and gaming instructions. Quite creative for the Vegas venue.

Started the meeting with “Hot Topics in Compliance,” but only billing geeks/nerds would be excited about this session. Good reality check reviewing HIPAA + HITECH, 5010, ICD-10, 2012 Proposed Physician Fee Schedule cuts – all specialties. And let’s not forget the proposed SGR of 29.5% cuts for 2012 along with Medicare revalidation! Is anyone thinking about our patients in all of this? It’s a great day to be in the billing business!

P. S. Only 72 days until 5010!

Despite her feelings on compliance, I’m glad Bianca is my billing geek because she definitely gets the job done. And somehow, she succeeded in NOT getting her conference budget slashed. Maybe I need her to teach me the wicked ways.

MGMA reports that 70% of practices are looking into becoming Patient Centered Medical Homes and more than 20% are already accredited by a national organization. The top five challenges:

  • Care coordination agreements with referral physicians
  • Financing the transition
  • Care coordination for high-risk patients
  • Modifying or adopting an EHR to support PCMH
  • Projecting financial impact of transition to PCMH

9-15-2011 6-49-32 PM

Clinical note of the week: several studies, one of which was published in May’s Journal of Strength Conditioning Research, show that low-fat chocolate milk helps athletes recover from training, especially if you add an Oreo cookie (a favorite of billing software developers, from what I understand.) That’s data I can work with.

MSN has recommendations that should be required reading for many an e-mail user. I’ve seen some e-mail signatures lately that are doozies. For most tech industry players (Voalte excepted), hot pink isn’t a strong corporate branding strategy. Political quotes are definitely a no-no, as are annoying or flashing fonts. The next-to-last paragraph had me laughing:

At public relations group Outside media, Sammi Johnson says she and her colleagues put quotes from fictitious “Saturday Night Live” inspirational writer Jack Handy in their quotes. One employee’s signature is, “Contrary to what most people say the most dangerous animal in the world is not the lion or the tiger or even elephant. It’s a shark riding on an elephant’s back, just trampling and eating everything they see.”

At this point, I’m going to take my Oreo cookies and my glass of milk (alas, not chocolate) and run.


“To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kind of scary. I’ve wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.”



Mr. H, Inga, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg.

Readers Write 9/14/11

September 14, 2011 Readers Write 39 Comments

Submit your article of up to 500 words in length, subject to editing for clarity and brevity (please note: I run only original articles that have not appeared on any Web site or in any publication and I can’t use anything that looks like a commercial pitch). I’ll use a phony name for you unless you tell me otherwise. Thanks for sharing!

Is Healthcare Interoperability Possible With a Conflicted Federal Committee?
By Rusty Weiss

9-14-2011 7-22-21 PM

Interoperability – the ability of health information systems in different organizations to “talk” with each other – is crucial to the future of healthcare. By tapping into “big data” to learn more from existing information, we will make healthcare more effective and less expensive. By allowing patients to carry their health information across provider lines as easily as we want them to carry their health insurance across state lines, we will empower patients. In fact, one of the stated goals written into the Recovery Act was the development of “software that improves interoperability and connectivity among health information systems.”

But one politically connected left-wing company, Epic Systems, could destroy this healthcare progress.

With over $19 billion in stimulus money being dedicated to health IT, the selection of members to occupy the Health Information Technology Policy Committee was a crucial one for the Obama administration. And a platform of interoperability isn’t exclusive to the Obama camp. Democrats, Republicans, and industry experts alike recognize the importance of interoperability.

So why, despite their public support for interoperability, did the administration appoint to the HHS board Epic Systems CEO Judy Faulkner, who opposes the broad consensus position on interoperability?

As Lachlan Markey pointed out in the Washington Examiner, “Epic employees are massive Democratic donors.”

Unfortunately, those political donations may have caused the administration to overlook things like Faulkner’s 2009 comments to Bloomberg News claiming that sharing electronic health records (EHR) “doesn’t work when you mix and match vendors.” She added, “It has to be one system, or it can be dangerous for patients.”

Tariq Chaudhry, a consultant for American Soft Solutions Corp. says, “Judith Faulkner’s version of interoperability reveals a clear effort to establish (a) monopoly for Epic.”

He also believes that after working with Epic for a couple of years, there is little to indicate that their software is unique in the industry.

“I have not seen anything specific to Epic, not found elsewhere that could set (them) apart from other competing EHR/EMR systems,” Chaudhry explains.

In fairness, the entire industry is, according to Otech President Herman Oosterwijk, “15 years behind in interoperability compared with PACS systems”. PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) is a technology that allows medical images and reports to be stored and transferred electronically.

Oosterwijk, who has worked with the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the US Department of Defense, believes that “none of the EHR systems are truly open.” He adds, “I can connect a PACS workstation to pretty much any PACS system and query and retrieve images. Compare this with an EMR where we, at best, can get a HL7 feed and/or CDA summary documents out.”

Andrew Needleman, president of Claricode Inc., acknowledges difficulty with the implementation of interoperable EHR systems.

“Due to the amount and complexity of data being transmitted between systems, even systems that attempt to be interoperable run into issues when they send data to other systems.”

Expanding on the complexity problem, Needleman says:

“For healthcare data, even the demographic data to determine if you are talking about the same patient is complex. Then, you add things like medications with dosages, different forms, such as capsules, liquid suspensions for injections, tablets, inhalers, etc. And then you need to include observations, doctor’s orders, lab requests and results, admissions and discharges, billing information, vital signs, etc.”

“Despite the existing standards,” he says, “It’s not an easy task.”

Rob Quinn, a partner at APP Design, a software development company, says the office of Health and Human Services “is trying hard to get vendors to communicate via standards,” though he doubts many health IT companies like Epic will comply.

“There’s simply too much money to be made in locking in their clients,” Quinn admits.

In the end, Needleman isn’t sure if the appointment of Faulkner crosses ethics boundaries, but says a conflict of interest may be unavoidable.

“I think that it would be extremely difficult to appoint someone who was knowledgeable enough about the industry, was willing to serve, and didn’t have an interest in the outcome of the regulations.”

Needleman has a point about the difficulty of finding somebody without any conflict of interest. But it seems like the administration, at a minimum, should have appointed somebody whose business was not antithetical to an interoperable future. Unfortunately, as an iWatchNews investigation pointed out in Politico, the administration has appointed hundreds of big donors to “plum government jobs and advisory posts …”

The appointment of Faulkner poses a significant challenge for the Obama administration. Her opposition to interoperability creates difficulty for the advancement of the health IT industry. The market should decide whether the Epic Systems approach to health IT should be rewarded or deprecated, but – in the interests of interoperability and political integrity – HHS should immediately ask Judy Faulkner to step down from her role on the HHS Health IT Policy Committee.

Rusty Weiss is a freelance journalist focusing on the conservative movement and its political agenda.

Is Meaningful Use Enough When Disaster Strikes?
By Eric Mueller

9-14-2011 7-10-54 PM

Within the last 12 months, natural disasters have taught the health IT community the necessity of preparation. We’ve seen tsunamis threaten nuclear disaster; tornados wipe out entire communities and hospitals; earthquakes damage national monuments; and hurricanes effect remote coastal towns. In the wake of Hurricane Irene’s flooding and billions in damage, I truly wonder what we can learn from this experience in an effort to make the next disaster … less of a disaster.

When I think of disasters, I think of recovery. In health IT, how do we clean up and recover from the unexpected? How do we recoup data, tests, records, history, systems, schedules, hardware, software, and all the technical things that make our facilities run? Katrina occurred six years ago, yet some areas of New Orleans are still cleaning up. Virginians can tell you all about the unexpected now that they’ve experienced an earthquake in their back yard.

And who can forget the tragic images of Joplin, Missouri, where St. John’s Regional Medical Center stood directly in the path of the monster EF-5 tornado? Thankfully, St. John’s had just switched to an electronic medical record system, though it reportedly sustained some permanent paper record loss. We’ve already heard reports of IT-related problems stemming from Irene with offsite centers and backup generators failing along with general logistical and access issues. Unfortunately, after the dust settles, we’ll likely hear of communication outages, lost patient records, and failed technology – a story that is become a bit too familiar.

Having learned from past disasters, many large facilities have business continuity plans in place to restore their operations quickly. They have online data storage backups and cloud-based hosting facilities to mitigate minimal interruption and risk. But what about those that don’t? Many physicians and hospitals across the country continue to lack capital and access to advance to technology typically afforded to large hospitals. Many find it challenging to meet the noble intentions of Meaningful Use, which is designed to do just that. Reach the communities that don’t have the funds or access.

Long-timers in health IT know that implementation and adoption of new technology can be S-L-O-W. So when exactly is the appropriate time to hold ourselves and our vendors to a higher standard of safety, data recovery, and connectivity over finances? What measures do we enact to safeguard our IT investment before a catastrophic event strikes? Moreover and most importantly, how do we help those caregivers in need RIGHT NOW of information technology?

For example, cloud technologies are words that scare us. We think liability and compliance obstacles instead of opportunity and solutions. Flexibility is paramount. Many organizations are in critical risk positions because archaic and poorly funded IT processes and architecture are wrapped around one very inflexible platform. In allowing the unknown to stop us from proactively seeking out sustainable solutions, will we allow history to repeat itself the next time a natural disaster crosses our path?

Creating flexible and efficient solutions provides the foundation for innovation and problem solving. Remember, if your vendor doesn’t play well with others, Mother Nature will force you to figure this out. Patients rely on the entire continuum of healthcare to do one thing – deliver great care. Doctors, nurses, and administrators can’t deliver great care without depending on their arsenal of tools and technology in their greatest time of need. Let’s challenge ourselves to be innovative and redefine Meaningful Use in ways to help all providers regardless of size and limits, both at work and in our communities. I believe it’s worth the effort.

Eric Mueller is president of WPC Services of Seattle, WA.

Is It Only CPOE, or Is There More?
By Daniela Mahoney, RN

9-14-2011 7-08-20 PM

We’ve got to think about what is ahead of us more holistically. CPOE is no longer a standalone project. If there is one common denominator amongst any size hospital that is embarking on this journey, it is the fact that the effort is considerably underestimated. Unless you have directly experienced projects of such magnitude, it is natural to treat and plan for this project as you would for any other.

What makes CPOE so different? It is often a multi-year process, especially for larger organizations. It has clear beginning, but not an end. It impacts every operational aspect of a hospital’s business. Above all, it leads to significant clinical transformation efforts that are not welcomed by providers and clinical staff.

Adding to the complexity of delivering CPOE within the Meaningful Use timeline is that all of the clinical components targeted for Stage 1 interrelate. We have two significant integration points: (a) the integration of the CPOE application with the appropriate modules and technologies (lab, radiology, pharmacy, documentation, ED, medication reconciliation, discharge instructions, etc.) and, (b) integration of clinical workflows. The latter is more challenging.

The easier question that organizations should ask is not what CPOE impacts in a hospital, but what it does not impact. That answer is by far shorter. To drive successful CPOE implementation, we know that the leaders have to be involved to “pave” the road and set direction.

To achieve Meaningful Use Stage 1, a cadre of leaders — including the CEO — need a working knowledge of the requirements and organizational changes necessary to succeed. An IT strategic plan aligned with the vision of the organization should be in place at the time Meaningful Use projects are executed. For successful organizations, their strategic plan is centered on the patient and how to maximize clinical performance, the need for increased transparency, pay for performance, provider engagement, and building and expanding business intelligence capabilities, to name a few. This calls for resources, innovative technologies, and infrastructure, as well as a strong leadership team that is able to drive such a vision.

The CIO’s role in the execution of the vision is essential. To successfully attain these goals, the infrastructure must support all these clinical and revenue-generating applications and the new tools that optimize the care delivery process. Someone made the analogy that the infrastructure is like a garden — cultivate it and it will produce expected results, but ignore it and the weeds will take over. As we plan the budgets for these initiatives, although we lead with saying that these are clinical applications and we need to focus on clinicians, we cannot minimize the importance of reliable infrastructure.

In the big scheme of things, what does CPOE impact? Putting it simply, it will impact everything that a provider order does today. Moreover, if what happens today is not functioning at the most optimum levels, then CPOE will accentuate all inefficiencies, resulting in potential barriers towards its adoption. Even processes such as the timely assignment of the appropriate provider to a case will impact CPOE, as any delays or inaccurate information will cause disruptions in communication, delays in care, inaccurate physician performance reporting, billing, etc.

Another critical factor is the fluency of clinical processes related to patient flow, especially at the points of entry through ED or PAT/surgery. As an example, take the efforts of trying to integrate CPOE with a disparate ED system while fine-tuning the medication reconciliation processes. In most cases, the result is a mixture of new processes that could still place patients at risks, unhappy providers if they have to use multiple systems, and budget overruns. Time is a precious commodity – neither the patients nor providers want to waste it.

How do we plan for CPOE? It is by beginning with the end in mind and creating a patient-centric implementation. CPOE has to be safe, should optimize our clinical performance, and improve organizational efficiency. It is complex, but we can simplify it by always asking the question: will the patient and provider/clinicians benefit from it? If the answer is yes, then we are on the right track.

9-14-2011 7-04-37 PM

I mapped a visual diagram on how to think about the Meaningful Use components in parallel with what is happening to a patient when admitted to the hospital. This will provide a reference of thinking about what we do in a different way.

9-14-2011 7-06-04 PM

And of course, I did not forget about another delicious recipe you could try as we are approaching the end of the summer. I know this has nothing to do with CPOE other than finding a way to relax after a long day at work. And next time, we will talk more about provider adoption, organizational culture, and how to look for that value proposition.

Daniela Mahoney RN is vice president of Healthcare Innovative Solutions of Seville, OH, A Beacon Partners Company.

PHR: the Unicorn of HIT
By Ryan Parker

The Personal Health Record (PHR), in theory, is one of the best ideas in healthcare. Not only in terms of value (think of Facebook and Twitter’s skyrocketing valuations), but also in terms of patient care. As a depository of information, medical records would be easily accessible by patient and provider alike, with medications, procedures, and diagnoses always being accurate and up to date.

Unfortunately, the PHR is the unicorn of healthcare IT.

There have been some valiant efforts, but everyone seems to miss the key reasons why this fantastical PHR will remain just that, a fantasy.

  1. PHR interoperability would be an issue. For a viable PHR, it would need to link with every practice and hospital, not only to ensure that providers can view information, but to also make sure that patient data is recorded properly. However, a direct EMR/PHR link would be costly and resource heavy. It would essentially be more effective to create a national HIE (which I won’t get started on why that will never happen). Since we all know that is not an option for the near future, the best option would be to give patients the responsibility of filling out the information themselves. This brings me to my next point …
  2. People don’t want to take the time to fill out a PHR. Unless they are made to, most people won’t take the time to find a PHR online and then take the necessary time to fill out all of the information accurately to really make it a worthwhile source of information. In order for this to work, you would need almost a social networking/PHR option that draws people in and then allows them to fill out their medical information, essentially a “Facebook for your health.” However …
  3. There will never be a “Facebook for your health.” I’ve heard this idea thrown around quite a bit, and again, it would only work in theory. Most people only use one social networking site. Although Google+ has seen some initial success, I think it will soon bow down to the Facebook beast. The only way we can guarantee a majority of the population has access and comes into daily contact with a PHR would be for Facebook to add a PHR section, which leads to my final point …
  4. Facebook will never step into the healthcare arena. Sorry, folks, it is just not going to happen. Facebook is fun, exciting, and laid back. Unless you feel reviewing friends’ home medication list and procedure history is really something that most people would enjoy doing (and if you do, I think you might be in the minority on that one) venturing into healthcare IT would be an extreme departure from Facebook’s prior success strategy.

I, for one, am interested in seeing what the next few years bring in terms of PHR strategy. I think there is an option out there that will work, but it definitely has not been created yet.

Ryan Parker is implementation practice director of Preceptor Consulting Corporation of Fort Myers, FL.

Subscribe to Updates



Text Ads

Report News and Rumors

No title

Anonymous online form
Rumor line: 801.HIT.NEWS



Founding Sponsors


Platinum Sponsors































































Gold Sponsors















Reader Comments

  • Annon: 100% agree, this is vaporware, they are not doing anything remotely close to interoperability. Not the only ones though,...
  • Brian Too: Wait... I thought that any voids in the brain automatically filled up with cerebro-spinal fluid? Wouldn't an air void c...
  • Ophelia: Where are you seeing the 97% MIPS claim? I'm aware of their claimed 97% attestation rate for MU, but I haven't seen anyt...
  • Sue Powell: Re: "airhead". Maybe Q04.9 Congenital malformation of brain, unspecified or G93.9 Disorder of brain, unspecified? #notac...
  • Not Mr. Bush: It is very interesting that they claim to be able to guarantee something that is so dependent on physician behavior....
  • Debtor: Athena has a long history of supporting MU and PQRS attestation. It wouldn’t surprise me if they have insight into the...
  • Frank Discussion: Cerner--the best Visual Basic 5 application our tax dollars can buy! Then there's CCL (*vomits into nearest trashcan)...
  • Stormy MU: Hi, Does anyone have any feedback on athena's claim of 97% MIPs success rate? How can they publish that when 2017 at...
  • HypocritOath: This post was all over the place, but I can't help but notice some huge inconsistencies in your stance here. In one ...
  • HIT Girl: Holmes swindles people out of millions, pays a fine (with the swindled money?!), and is sent to CEO-timeout for a few ye...

RSS Industry Events

  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.

Sponsor Quick Links