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Monday Morning Update 3/31/14

March 29, 2014 News 7 Comments

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The Washington Post reports that Maryland has such little hope that its $126 million health insurance exchange will ever work that it will be shut down permanently and replaced by Connecticut’s system. Nobody’s willing to talk about what the new system will cost, especially the politicians who botched the first one that crashed minutes after it was turned on. The only refreshing aspect about Maryland’s folly is that it was Noridian Healthcare Solutions that it had to fire instead of CGI and it’s also the first state to admit defeat and start over. Connecticut’s system was developed by Deloitte, which seems to be the only company that consistently delivered for those states that decided they couldn’t use the federal exchange.

Reader Comments


From Bruce Kee: “Re: patient privacy case. It’s a sticky situation.” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, while a county executive running for governor in 2010, received and shared information about a patient who was sexually assaulted at a county mental health facility as he and his political consultants tried to deflect criticism of four deaths that had occurred there. The attorney hired by the county explained in the draft response why the patient’s information should not be released to the newspaper, saying, “They and I are bound by laws and regulations governing, among other things, the confidentiality of certain information. What should we do? Should we disregard the rights of patients? The legal and ethical obligations imposed upon us? Please — please consult with someone familiar with the laws and regulations governing the disclosure of the information you seek.”  

From Vas DeFerence: “Re: cloud EHR vendors. A know of a practice that wants to switch systems ASAP, but can’t get their data even though their contract gives the practice ownership of it. The SaaS-based vendor won’t provide it or give the practice access, so the practice is actually thinking about manually printing out 80,000 charts to PDF. How are other practices and vendors dealing with SaaS-based database lock-in?” The obvious answer would be to sue the vendor, but that takes time and money the practice probably doesn’t have. The second would be to call the vendor out publicly and hope the possibility of negative publicity action heightens their data export enthusiasm. I’ll offer to be the intermediary if the practice wants to give me details on the record so I can get the company’s response. My pessimistic expectation is that the vendor doesn’t really know how to deliver on its promise and has little incentive to figure it out until the seat it occupies gets a bit hotter. Mass export capability should be part of certification given ONC’s push for interoperability, the practice’s equivalent of Blue Button that allows them to move to a new system without endangering patients by losing their information.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


The huge amount of taxpayer money spent on dysfunctional health insurance exchanges is more the fault of bureaucrats rather than of contractors such as CGI, poll respondents said 51 percent to 29. New poll to your right: have you seen personal benefit from an HIE as a patient / consumer? I understand that maybe you wouldn’t necessarily know, but even then that’s the marketing challenge of HIEs.

My latest grammar peeve: specifying times as “EST,” which is wrong through November 2. Just say “Eastern” or “ET” year-round if you don’t want to be bothered with the seasonal intricacies of “EDT.” The only “standard time” in the summer is in Arizona, which confusingly but sensibly doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time and therefore remains on MST all year.

Listening: ReVamp, operatic metal from the Netherlands featuring my favorite female singer, Floor Jansen (After Forever, Nightwish).

Upcoming Webinars

April 2 (Wednesday) 1:00 p.m. ET. A Landmark 12-Point Review of Population Health Management Companies. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP, Health Catalyst. Learn the 12 criteria that a health system should use to evaluate population health vendors and to plot its internal strategy, then see the results of grading seven top PHM vendors against these criteria. No single vendor can meet all PHM needs. The most important of the 12 criteria over the next three years will be precise patient registries, patient-provider attribution, and precise numerators in patient registries.

April 16 (Wednesday) 11:00 a.m. ET. Panel Discussion: Documents, EMRs, and Healthcare Processes. Sponsored by Levi, Ray & Shoup. Presenters: Charles Harris, senior technical lead, Duke University Health System; Ron Peel, technical advisor, LRS; and John Howerter, SVP of enterprise output management, LRS. IT department in hospitals implementing EMRs often overlook the role of document-driven workflows. Prescriptions, specimen labels, and discharge orders, and other critical documents must be reliably delivered with minimal impact on IT and clinical staff. This panel discussion will discuss the evolving use of documents in the “paperless/less-paper” environment.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

Morgan Stanley places Cerner on its list of 44 companies whose stock fundamentals make them attractive for being acquired. 


TrueVault, which offers a programming API allowing software developers to store and use patient information in a HIPAA-compliant manner, raises $2.5 million in seed funding. The Mountain View, CA-based company charges $0.01 per programming call to its service. 

Government and Politics


A consultant hired to review Vermont’s insurance exchange lists problems that include changing federal expectations, inexperienced consultants provided by CGI, and putting political cronies in charge. It’s a well done and easily understood report, although I suspect that engaging a consulting firm to evaluate even a successfully executed project would result in a similar list.

A proposed California referendum that would increase the state’s $250,000 limit on non-economic malpractice awards adds two unrelated items added to make it more enticing to voters based on focus group response: requiring stringent drug testing of hospital-based doctors and mandatory use of a doctor shopping database that is already available but that nobody uses because it’s clunky. The special interests will be out in force: trial lawyers love the prospect of higher awards that will encourage them to represent injured patients instead of just turning them down as not being worth the effort, hospitals say the change will cost billions, and the guy pushing the database nobody uses was upset that he got only $250,000 when a doctor-shopping drug abuser ran over and killed his two children.


Check out C-Span video of the doc fix/ICD-10 delay being approved by voice vote, suspending the House’s own rules and skipping the recorded vote that would indicate who voted yes and no. The “no” votes sounded louder than the “yes” votes to me but the Chair gets to decide, not to mention that voice votes require legislators to be physically present, which isn’t common, and are usually used only for non-controversial issues for which support is nearly unanimous. The voice vote means the two-thirds majority wasn’t required, leading experts to say that both parties feared it wouldn’t pass otherwise by the April 1 deadline, the day after Monday’s Senate vote. Since the one-sentence ICD-10 delay got tacked on for some reason, it also passed without any kind of discussion or thoughtful process. An example of the political motivations comes from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who explained her support as, “The Republicans will say this is because of the Affordable Care Act, and I just don’t want to give them another opportunity to misrepresent what this is about.” Democrats want the SGR repealed, but Republicans say they haven’t offered a proposal on how the country will pay for it, leading in the regular “patches” that have prevented what would have been $160 billion in taxpayer savings over the past 10 years as the law requires.


HHS releases a security risk assessment tool for small to medium physician practices. It’s available for the desktop, iPad, or as Word documents.

Innovation and Research


Doctors in the Netherlands save the life of a 22-year-old woman by replacing most of her skull with a plastic one they created using 3-D printer. It’s refreshing that among all of the wildly overhyped technologies, 3-D printing has come out of nowhere and is solving big problems cost effectively.



I thought this subject line of the promotional email from Next Wave Connect described either late-breaking news or fresh emanations from their in-house psychic related to Monday’s scheduled Senate vote (who also irrationally capitalized “Delayed”). Nope, it was just “click here’ bait for people who require assistance in comprehending what a one-year delay would mean to them (is it really that hard to figure out?)


Northern Berkshire Healthcare (MA), which operates 36-bed, 129-year-old North Adams Regional Hospital and its affiliates (visiting nurse service, hospice, and three practices) files Chapter 7 bankruptcy and shuts down the hospital due to declining revenue. The state’s attorney general, who is from the same town, has announced an investigation of the hospital’s board. Protestors showed up at the empty building, seemingly more interested in the loss of union jobs than any immediate danger to public health triggered by closing a facility short on patients. A court ordered competitor Berkshire Medical Center to take over the ED on Friday, but shortages of supplies and staff led it to delay the ED re-opening until Monday. The CEO of the state hospital association summarized the situation as, “Changes are taking place both in how care is paid for, and also how care is delivered. Not all hospitals will continue to operate as they used to. Possible solutions for this could include redefining what a hospital is to maintain basic services for a community, or cross-subsidization within a larger health system.” He didn’t mention the more Darwinian solution that needs to be on the table given healthcare costs: if you’re not providing a service the market demands or someone else is doing it better, shut down.


I saw a few mysteriously belated tweets about a 2013 Accenture study (complete with the usual cartoonish infographs for people too busy to actually read words) of what patients expect of drug companies, which concluded that: (a) patients want to hear directly from drug companies, preferably as they begin taking a new drug; (b) they want free stuff, like discounts or rewards; (c) two-thirds are willing to trade their personal information to get the aforementioned free stuff. The conclusion is that pharma has not met expectations for more actively engaging with its customers. What’s wrong with the study: (a) it was an online survey that is by definition skewed toward heavy online users who don’t have anything better to do than fill out surveys; (b) Accenture didn’t include the actual survey questions, which I expect were heavily suggestive of demonstrating unmet demand since Accenture sells consulting services to drug companies panicking that their Facebook page isn’t clever enough; (c) it didn’t compare non-online communication options (telephone or mail, for example) but instead just asked respondents to choose from several online technologies;  and (d) surveyed consumers almost always express an interest in something that’s free that they end up ignoring completely when it’s actually made available in response to questionable survey results (see: personal health records). My unscientific conclusion of what consumers want from drug companies: (a) discounts; (b) notice of any new information about the drugs they take; and (c) follow-up information about use, side effects, warnings, etc. a few weeks after starting a new chronic medication. They don’t want drug companies bugging them on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, March 30 is National Doctor’s Day, which means that hospitalists and ED docs will be about the only ones who get thanked directly since their peers won’t be working.

A Financial Times article warns that the concept of “big data” has consultants, entrepreneurs, and governments drooling, but Google Flu Trends is a good example of putting too much faith in easily collected data of unknown meaning. Everybody focuses on correlation rather than causation — just because people with the flu Google the word “flu” more often doesn’t mean that everyone who Googles “flu” has it. It also points out a common misperception: bigger data sets of uncertain selection bias aren’t as predictive as smaller data sets that are free of sampling bias, with an example being the prediction that Landon would convincingly defeat Roosevelt for President in 1936, which was based on 2.4 million mailed survey responses that turned out to be wildly wrong compared to 3,000-respondent survey that was more carefully designed. The article concludes that giant databases have people clamoring for information that statistical methods can’t always deliver.


Two ED registrars at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center (NY) are arrested for selling information from electronic patient files to rehab centers and personal injury attorneys, with one patient receiving a call from an ambulance-chasing lawyer while still sitting in the ED.

The founder of sexually transmitted disease testing app Hula says he won’t change the company’s name despite protests from Hawaiians, but he now understands the cultural insensitivity of company marketing materials that refer to “getting lei’d.”


Mr. H, Inga, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg, Lt. Dan, Dr. Travis, Lorre.

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect


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Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. The vote postponing ICD-10…what a sad joke….Politicians at “work”.
    And you are absolutely right Mr. HIStalk – to my ears – the Nay sayers were louder.
    The whole circus looks and sounds like the Soviets to me…

  2. @MrH, not nearly as vexing as the superfluous ‘s’ tacked onto ‘saving’ to give ‘Daylight SavingS time’. ugh.

  3. The vendor not willing to give the practice access to their own data should be called out. I agree that mass export capability should be part of certification. It’s quite a problem.

  4. And I thought I was the only one peeved about the misuse of EST . . . To add to Aloha’s comment and your original one, while Hawaii and Arizona do not observe daylight saving time, the Navajo Nation does. So when you’re traveling through Arizona and cross onto the Navajo rez, clocks change during this time of year.

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Reader Comments

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

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