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Monday Morning Update 9/1/14

August 30, 2014 News 4 Comments

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CMS basically kills the comatose Meaningful Use program by publishing a rule that leaves the 365-day attestation period for 2015 unchanged, meaning hospitals must be ready to start in the next four weeks. The rule, released late in the afternoon of a Friday holiday weekend, ignores widespread recommendations to allow providers to attest for any three-month quarter of the year. The only benefit to providers is that Stage 3 is moved back a year to January 2017 and an extension of time for using 2011 CEHRT. The program has gotten so complex that I’m not sure anyone really understands it. Leave a comment with your reaction to the new rule, assuming you even care.

Reader Comments

From DrM: “Re: Apple’s privacy policy change for HealthKit. This is actually broader than just selling data. It extends to providing HealthKit data to any third party for any purpose other than providing health and/or fitness services, and even then they must obtain user consent. This precludes many secondary use scenarios, possibly even ones that might be beneficial to the user. I’m guessing this change was driven by their discussions with large healthcare organizations who likely told them that if they allow others to monetize or reuse that data, they won’t be putting their patients’ data into HealthKit and wouldn’t ask their patients to do so, either. Apple has a number of other hurdles to overcome to make their technology work for healthcare, but this would have been a quick deal-breaker for many if not most organizations.”


From Frogger: “Re: Castlight Health. I’m M&A trained and Castlight was a loser from the get-go. The who’s who of investors, big-name healthcare people, and investment bankers involved were desperately trying to save their investment with a much-publicized marketing campaign of an IPO. However, many of my colleagues with healthcare investment backgrounds (including me) can’t figure out what’s so attractive. It will be sure to die if Todd Park gives it CPR like Healthcare.gov, which is still being propped up by taxpayer dollars. Left on its own, it would perish by Christmas and still have 15 million uninsured, which was the CBO projection even if it had gone according to plan.” I dug through SEC documents trying to figure out how many CSLT shares Todd owns or if he’s sold them, but couldn’t find his name anywhere other than on the list of the shareholders of Maria Health that morphed into Castlight. He wasn’t a company executive, just a co-founder, so maybe his shares are held under a corporate name. I would think he had to divest to work for the White House, but I don’t know for sure.


From The PACS Designer: “Re: Windows 9. The Microsoft Threshold project, now known as Windows 9, has been rumored to be moved forward from 2015 to a possible launch in late September. It will be interesting to see how it will be sold considering how many users are still on Windows XP.” Everybody knows that every other major version of Windows is bad, which obviously includes the terrible decisions made about the user interface of the poorly-adopted Windows 8, such as the default Metro tile interface even for non-touchscreen desktops, the bizarre Charms bar, and the unintuitively hidden red X to close an open window. Let’s hope Microsoft doesn’t break the streak by rushing out a partially baked Windows 9. Rumors suggest that a Win 9 upgrade will cost somewhere between nothing and $20. I’ll add this: I’m on Windows 8.1 and I like it a lot since updates made the non-tile display standard. I’ve had no problems at all, and even its native Bitlocker encryption works flawlessly and invisibly. Individual Win XP users should definitely get off that creaky platform, especially since Microsoft will supposedly offer a great deal to move to Windows 9.

Reader Comments about HIE Costs

From an HIE president: “We partnered with the state’s department of health for important services that include public health feeds for Meaningful Use. When providers are forced by regulation to use the HIE, there’s no charge for access. However, those services are subsidized by the all-in participant fees, which are on average less than one-tenth the number you mentioned. Yes, our HIE hopes to make our services so valuable that everyone will use them, but since we are governed by providers that both set and pay the fees, I wouldn’t consider it milking for profit. Certain vendors have been speaking negatively about HIEs for years, telling customers, ‘You don’t need them – just buy my [incredibly expensive] software.’”

From an EHR vendor: “One state we work in was territorial. We were told that practices had to submit data via the HIE instead of directly to the state. The HIE moved very slowly and the state demanded more upfront data cleanup by the EHR, such as changing ‘Road’ to ‘RD’ or whatever. I think the state was threatened by the HIE’s approach and wanted to punish someone for it. Then there was a problem that the HIE wouldn’t talk to the state about, so the state called us, then the HIE blamed their HIE platform vendor and the state, the state blamed us and our clients, and our clients blamed us, all while the vendor didn’t respond. That vendor finally fixed the problem without any explanation or apology.”

From an EHR vendor: “I have really not found an HIE with a sustainable business model.  They inherently believe they are providing value and believe that providers should line up and pay for it.  I have not found that to be the case.  We are finding more success in purpose-driven connections that generally bypass HIEs, partially due to their limitations in dealing with sensitive data and consents.”

From a hospital CIO: “The point of being held hostage is longstanding. I tried to make the point to the state HIE leaders that if you want to charge my organization, you need to do something I can’t do or do it more effectively. I had already automated interfaces to reference labs and e-prescribing, items the HIE was trying to sell me as added value. I told them they should remove my need to maintain never-ending state reporting changes in return for getting my ADT information, but they couldn’t seem to grasp the concept. They saw the health system’s participation in an HIE as an obligation.”

From a hospital: “The state HIE has told us repeatedly we need to pay full participation costs when we only need to send immunization data. This would have been around $675K annually. We have refused since there’s no reciprocal benefit to us. I know several of the state’s largest health systems are united with us in refusing to pay. The way to statewide HIE connectivity is through regional HIE collaboration.”

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


A third of poll respondents say their provider organizations are taking new security steps after the Community Health Systems breach. New poll to your right or here: how much impact will drug chains such as Walgreens and CVS have on healthcare in the future?

The HIStalk site had some malware added via SQL injection Friday afternoon. Sucuri, my excellent malware monitoring and remediation service, detected and removed it quickly, but it takes quite a while for the online services (especially Google Safe Search) to catch up and stop showing the “blocked” warning. It’s surprisingly challenging to keep the hackers out, even with a dedicated, hardened server with updated software. HIStalk, for example, has had 31,000 malicious access attempts blocked by yet another tool I use. After this incident, I’ve one more layer of security, a virtual proxy firewall that blocks several kinds of attacks.


The silver lining of the malware problem is that I found a great secure password management tool: LastPass. It will detect and store your Web-based passwords as you log in (encrypted on the web) and give a single-click access to any of them across multiple devices, including the iPhone. I updated my sites with new, complex passwords that I don’t have to remember – I only need to recall the master password that opens the LastPass web page in Firefox. You can even create a shared folder to share passwords with family members with real-time updates. It’s free, amazingly, and the premium version with extended mobile support is only $12 per year. It will change your life.


My idea for the HIMSS conference: Chicago’s not Black Rock City, but let’s go Burning Man and erect a giant figure of The Man (maybe he could look like Steve Lieber) that will be ceremoniously burned Wednesday night as a clothing-optional emotional purging of the week’s triumphs and frustrations. Then on Thursday, The Temple (the exhibit hall) can be immolated as the 15 people who stick around until then cheer.

Last Week’s Most Interesting News

  • Apple updates its privacy policy to prohibit health app developers from selling user data.
  • The Department of Defense issues the RFP for its $11 billion EHR project.
  • The VA issues an RFP for a new patient scheduling system.
  • Premier announces that it will acquire supply chain technology vendor Aperek.
  • The White House confirms that Todd Park will transition from US CTO to a West Coast-based advisory role, where he will recruit technology talent for government work.
  • Oregon files a lawsuit against Oracle over its mothballed $240 million health insurance exchange.


September 4 (Thursday) 2:00 p.m. ET. MU2 Veterans Speak Out: Implementing Direct Secure Messaging for Success. Presented by DataMotion. Moderator: Mr. HIStalk. Panelists: Darby Buroker, executive director of health information exchange, Steward Health Care; Anne Lara, EdD, RN, CIO, Union Hospital of Cecil County, MD; Andy Nieto, health IT strategist, DataMotion; Mat Osmanski, senior application analyst, Steward Health Care; Bill Winn, PhD, Meaningful Use service line executive, Navin, Haffty & Associates. Panelists will discuss the strategy and tactics of meeting the transitions of care requirements for MU2, including assembling the team, implementing Direct Secure Messaging, getting providers on board, and reporting results.

September 11 (Thursday) 1:00 p.m.ET. Electronic Health Record Divorce Rates on the Rise — The Four Factors that Predict Long-term Success. Presented by The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company. Presenters: Heather Haugen, PhD, CEO and managing director, The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company; Bill Rieger, CIO, Flagler Hospital, St. Augustine, FL. Many users are considering divorcing their EHR as dissatisfaction increases. Many are spending 90 percent of their time and resources on the wedding  (the go-live) instead of the long-term commitment to new workflows, communication, education, and care outcomes (the marriage). Hear more about the findings of research published in “Beyond Implementation: A Prescription for Lasting EMR Adoption” about EHR adoption and success factors.  Registrants get a free electronic or paper copy of the book.

Announcements and Implementations

Philips announces the monitoring cost for its free Lifeline app for seniors — just $13.95 per month with no contract required. That seems like a good deal for independent elderly folks as long as they have a smartphone and keep it handy at all times.

Government and Politics

CMS’s Open Payments system is not only late going live, it also will exclude an estimated one-third of total payments drug and device manufacturers pay to doctors. CMS says physicians who are paid via contract research organization haven’t had time to verify the validity of their data, so it will be withheld from the September 30 go-live. System proponent Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wasn’t happy with the news, saying, “CMS has had more than four years to figure everything out. It’s disappointing and irresponsible that so many basic questions are unresolved at this late stage.” CMS was supposed to release its rules for the system that reports payments for research, consulting, and gifts in December 2011, but didn’t get them out until February 2013. Adding to the site’s problems, CMS says the system’s operation will be interrupted at times from August 30 to September 5.

Vermont, which fired its health insurance exchange contractor CGI and brought it Optum to review the project, gets a black eye when Optum concludes that the state’s project ownership was lax and CGI didn’t feel accountable.



A ED doctor develops a smartphone app that can objectively measure whether a patient is experiencing genuine alcohol withdrawal. The patient simply holds the smartphone for 20 seconds, after which the doctor can tell if they’re faking it to get prescriptions. One of its developers is working on an app that objectively measure the redness of a patient’s face to determine whether rashes are getting better or worse. Of all the dopey medical apps out there, these seem like great ideas.



AMIA will convene an invited group this week on “Harnessing Next-Generation Informatics for Personalizing Medicine.” I wouldn’t have named AMIA as the best organization to work on tailoring treatments to genomics and discovering the correlation between physiology and diseases and treatments, but at least they are looking ahead.

In Ireland, a large hospital’s laboratory will need to reinterpret and possibly redraw hundreds of blood tests when on of its systems crashes several times in August.


Executives of four private health systems that control 80 percent of the Phoenix, AZ market question whether taxpayers should pay around $1.4 billion to replace Maricopa Medical Center and other county health facilities. The executives say there’s no need to expand a tax district hospital when most patients are treated as outpatients and the existing systems have more than enough capacity. I’ll admit the building looks awful, as does most early 1970s architecture, where a lot of hospitals are trapped in time due to the sudden influx of Medicare money.

Siemens posted this pretty cool time lapse video of a trade show setup. I was in the HIMSS exhibit hall on setup days earlier this year and it was a madhouse of fast-moving motorized equipment, setup workers, employees in blue jeans, and mountains of shipping containers.


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

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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Would someone please explain to me if meaningful use has had any meaningful quantifiable benefit, other than giving the Congress and Potus a (false) sense of security that they were accountable stewards of the public’s dollars?

  2. The Maricopa Medical Center building was built in the 1960’s, so it’s heading towards 60 years old. The other Hospitals in the area don’t want the public funding to pay for it – but they won’t want the patients that are being treated either. They can’t have it both ways.

  3. Oh please. HisTalk, old fellow! You are usually thoughtful and fact based in your commentary, but this time, you’ve missed the mark on both points: a) ONC didn’t publish the regulation, CMS did. Big diff. When shooting arrows, aim for the right target. Say HHS if you must. b) comatose? Nearly all hospitals and over half of physicians are now using EHRs. Perfect? No. Comatose? Far from it.

    [From Mr H] My mind was thinking CMS, but my fingers betrayed me by typing ONC. They have since been harmonized as I fixed my mistake.

  4. Hey– love the LastPass tip. I was just thinking about just this thing–with one twist: I need the family management tool, so my wife and I can keep the co-management of our household in synch. They bury this feature a bit, but I found it.

    $12 and some time spent in set up instead of cat videos! my life will be better.
    Thanks again.

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