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News 3/18/15

March 17, 2015 News 11 Comments

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Seattle-area Premera Blue Cross discovers that hackers have had access to the demographic, clinical, and claims information of 11 million people going back to May 2014. The FBI is investigating. The organization describes the attack using the mandatory adjective “sophisticated” that hints at a higher level of corporate competence than the incident suggests.  

Reader Comments


From EMRAMfan: “Re: Radboud University Medical Center. It is the first in the Netherlands and the third in Europe to achieve HIMSS Stage 7.” They use Epic, I believe.

From Questionable Content: “Re: LinkedIn discussion email (aka ‘spam’). Of the 13 article headlines, ONE has a title that isn’t a question. I’m not sure when media coverage of the healthcare industry ceased to be researched articles that took a position and became this regurgitated series of questions with no value added whatsoever, but it’s painful. This is why I read HIStalk.” Titling an article with a question is lazy, especially when the article fails to answer the question it asks (which is almost always). It’s a combination of lazy readers as well as lazy writers – someone must be reading this drivel, which is probably due to social media-shortened attention spans. If an article doesn’t tell me something I truly needed to know, it wasted my time and I’ll hold a grudge. I also avoid opinion pieces written by people whose lack of relevant credentials suggests that they should be reading rather than writing.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Surescripts. The company backs up its tagline of “How Healthcare Gets Connected” by connecting 900,000 providers (including 95 percent of pharmacies and 400 hospitals) and 270 million patients. Its network processes 7 billion transactions and a billion electronic prescriptions each year, integrating with 700 EHRs. It’s also one of just 105 US companies with ISO 27001 security, the highest level possible. Surescripts offers automated clinical messaging, CompletEPA EHR-integrated electronic prior authorization, electronic prescribing (including controlled substances), immunization registry reporting, aggregated medication histories from pharmacy and claims data, and a patient portal with secure messaging. Thanks to Surescripts for supporting HIStalk.

I found this Surescripts overview video on YouTube.


Our HIMSS conference patient scholarship winners have finally lined up their Chicago housing. FormFast has graciously volunteered to donate a hotel room (and a very nice one at that) so that our winner from France won’t have to couch surf as she was planning. Medicity also provided a room as I mentioned earlier. The five ladies are getting a lot of attention from vendors wanting their time and asked my advice, which was this: keep companies at arm’s length during the conference since it’s easy to be swayed and I don’t want them to lose their activist fire. Their job is to be somewhere between inquisitive and politely disruptive in representing the interests of patients. They came up with the #HIStalking hashtag if you want to follow their activities on Twitter.

We’re wrapping up our HIMSS guide, but only a fraction of sponsors have submitted their information (booth number, giveaways, events, etc.) Once it’s done, it’s done, so this is your last chance (until HIMSS16, anyway) to contact Jenn to get listed if your company sponsors HIStalk.


March 31 (Tuesday) 1:00 ET. “Best Practices for Increasing Patient Collections.” Sponsored by MedData. Presenter: Jason Bird, director of client operations, MedData. Healthcare is perhaps the last major industry where the consumer does not generally have access to what they owe and how they can pay for their services. Collecting from patients is estimated to cost up to four times more than collecting from payers and patient pay responsibility is projected to climb to 50 percent of the healthcare dollar by the end of the decade. Learn how creating a consumer-focused culture, one that emphasizes patient satisfaction over collections, can streamline your revenue cycle process and directly impact your bottom line. 

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Health Catalyst raises $70 million in an oversubscribed Series D round, increasing its funding total to $170 million and valuing the company at over $500 million. An IPO seems inevitable.


Diabetes management app vendor Glooko raises $16.5 million in a Series B round.

A federal judge allows a proposed class action lawsuit to proceed against Epocrates for failing to disclose change in its drug company advertising contracts. The lawsuit claims that Epocrates, which was acquired by Athenahealth for $300 million in 2013, tried to boost its doctor alerting business after its IPO by implementing a “use it or lose it” policy that forced drug companies to buy new sponsored alerts in the hopes of propping up sagging revenue.


Meditech files its 2014 annual report, with full-year revenue down 11 percent and profit down 7 percent. Service revenue increased, but product revenue took a 26 percent dive. Revenue and net income slid back to 2010 levels. Neil Pappalardo owns 42.7 percent of the company, which values his stake at around $700 million.  



The US Navy selects Carestream’s PACS for its 1,000-bed USNS Mercy hospital ship.


Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (NY) selects Versus RTLS to improve patient flow at its urgent care center, extending its implementation beyond the initial two outpatient clinics.


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Recondo Technology hires Alicia Hanson (MedAssets) as SVP of business development, Jamie Oakes (Adreima) as RVP of sales, and Kevin Kenny (Allscripts) as VP of strategic sales/east.

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In-home medical assessment vendor CenseoHealth moves Executive Chairman Kevin McNamara to CEO and names David Brailer (Health Evolution Partners, an investor in the company) as board chair.


Geisinger Health System’s XG Health performance improvement company names Marcy Stoots, DNP, RN (EHR Transformation Associates) as general manager of EHR apps.


Indiana HIE promotes John Kansky to president and CEO, a role he has held in an interim capacity since June 2014.

Announcements and Implementations


Labor and delivery software vendor PeriGen joins the CommonWell Health Alliance.


CHIME pre-launches a National Patient ID Challenge, offering a $1 million prize for a solution that increases patient ID matching from 80 to 100 percent. It will be interesting to see how CHIME puts together a million dollars (from vendors, I’d have to guess) and who owns the winning solution.

Government and Politics


A WEDI survey finds that a third of respondents haven’t heard of Blue Button, but the survey methodology is shaky: (a) it drew only 274 responses and the method of recruiting respondents wasn’t specified, which I assume means it was an online, self-selecting survey; and (b) nearly half of the respondents were technology vendors or from “other” categories beyond government and providers, which makes you wonder why they responded at all or why their responses were used (most likely answer: because throwing those responses out would have left a ridiculously small sample). I don’t understand the point of asking non-providers how their PHRs work or whether they’re using Direct. I see other sites writing decisive articles with headlines such as “Blue Button Awareness, Personal Health Record Usage Grows” and  “Blue Button protocol for easy EHR transfers fails to gain traction,” but rest assured neither conflicting conclusion can be drawn from this skimpy and poorly collect data. Let’s hope the federal government doesn’t actually use this report for anything (or pay WEDI for producing it).


HHS’s Office of Inspector General publishes its annual “Compendium of Unimplemented Recommendations,” listing the top 25 cost and quality items OIG has recommended that HHS has ignored. The two IT-related items are to improve the Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System and to get ONC and CMS to collaborate on addressing EHR fraud vulnerabilities.

New York’s RHIOs ask for $45 million in the state’s 2015-2016 budget.

An analysis of around 100 health insurance plans offer to New Yorkers via Healthcare.gov finds that nearly none of them offer out-of-network coverage. The report blames the unintended consequences of a 1992 state law that required insurance companies to cover anyone who wanted insurance regardless of their health but didn’t require individuals to buy insurance, sticking insurance companies with the cost of treating a high proportion of chronically ill patients.


The Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions convened a hearing Tuesday titled “America’s Health IT Transformation: Translating the Promise of Electronic Health Records Into Better Care.” AHIMA President Angela Kennedy gave a personal account of how lack of interoperability makes it harder to care for her children. Epic Director of Interoperability Peter DeVault, pictured above, testified that the company charges $2.35 per patient per year to send data to non-Epic systems. He said Epic declined to join CommonWell because it would have cost millions of dollars and the company was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which Epic took as meaning that CommonWell had something to hide (like planning to sell data, he gave as an example) and the “lack of transparency didn’t sit right with us.” Instead, Epic connects to Healtheway’s Carequality connectivity network and urges CommonWell to join it. Cerner issued a statement in response to DeVault’s comments: “Today’s rhetoric is a slap in the face to many parties working to advance interoperability. It was discouraging to hear more potshots and false statements when it’s clear there is real work to be done. We’re committed to CommonWell as a practical, market-led way to achieve meaningful interoperability.”

The House is finalizing a permanent SGR Medicare payment fix at a cost of $200 billion over 10 years, with taxpayers paying $140 billion and high-income seniors paying $60 billion in new Medicare costs.


CMS releases its physician referral data sets.

A Brookings Institution report says the Meaningful Use program should be refocused on value and outcomes rather than specific technology requirements and that ONC should take a more active role in creating interoperability standards. 

Privacy and Security


Microsoft will offer enterprise-grade biometric security (fingerprint, eye, or face) in Windows 10. What it won’t offer in Windows 10: Internet Explorer, which will finally be killed off in favor of a newly written and so far unnamed browser shown in the prototype above.

Innovation and Research

In China, a health district and technology company jointly open the country’s first cloud hospital that connects 100 healthcare organizations and 226 “cloud doctors” who see patients in virtual diagnosis rooms and send prescriptions electronically to pharmacies.



Banks that were anxious to jump on the Apple Pay electronic payment system are now complaining about fraud rates that are 60 times higher than with traditional credit cards, mostly because Apple made it so simple to sign up for credit that thieves can easily use stolen credit card numbers without being caught. Apple Pay was ironically designed to reduce fraud by making it impossible to steal credit card numbers, but banks receive minimal customer information from Apple that would help them detect fraud and have been too scared of Apple to speak up.

Botswana is delivering broadband and telemedicine services to remote areas via unassigned TV band frequencies.


A study of questionable validity and applicability finds that hospitals with fewer readmissions have more user-voted stars on Facebook, with the authors concluding that social media ratings correlate with traditional hospital quality measures. The many sites that confuse correlation with causation should therefore urge all hospitals to enlist volunteers to rate them highly on Facebook to improve their readmission rates.


University of Pittsburgh, UPMC, and Carnegie Mellon University form the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance to perform research and to commercialize products.

Venture capitalist and Uber investor Bill Gurley says he’s passed on over 100 healthcare technology business plans because healthcare is driven by regulation and subsidies rather than market forces. “It’s asinine,” he says, adding that the government used HITECH money to interfere with the market’s low demand for EHRs.


A study finds that medical residents are underpaid (average salary: $47,000 per year) because they are willing to work for less for a prestigious hospital that has limited openings. Here’s a fun fact I didn’t know that’s timely given that Friday is national medical residency match day: the two men who developed algorithm that matches graduating medical students with residency programs based on their mutual interest won a Nobel Prize in economics for their program, which is also used to match kidney donors and to assign students to public schools. Doctors are also aware that the program underwent a complex modification in the 1990s to try to match married medical students to residency sites that would accept them together.

Coca Cola admits that it paid dietitians and bloggers to write posts recommending Coke as a healthy snack.

Bizarre: a New Jersey doctor charged with selling oxycodone prescriptions for up to $3,000 attempts to hire someone to burn down his office (and the incriminating records in it) in return for an oxycodone prescription.

Weird News Andy critiques a study finding that loneliness shortens life as much as obesity or smoking, with WNA analytically pondering, “What about lonely, drunk, fat smokers?” However, he then retracts his call for further research after reading a scientific study that concludes that we have too many scientific studies.

Sponsor Updates

  • The Indiana Hospital Association endorses Besler Consulting’s Transfer DRG Recovery Service for its members.
  • HealthMEDX CEO Pam Pure will present at this week’s NextGen Health Care Symposium on “Advancing Transitional Care”  in Indianapolis, IN. I couldn’t help but notice as I scrolled down the list of speakers that only three of the 26 are female, so bravo to Pam for being one of them.
  • Caradigm Provisioning earns certification for use with FairWarning’s Ready for Identity Management program.
  • A Forward Health Group video describes its work with Northwestern Medical Center.
  • PerfectServe posts “Real-time healthcare: Preventing the need for immediacy from eroding quality.” 
  • Zynx Health joins the NPSF Patient Safety Coalition.
  • ZeOmega posts “The Five Pillars of Population Health Management: Data Aggregation and Integration.”
  • The Chartis Group publishes “Local, Regional, and Beyond: Clarifying the Role of Academic Medical Centers.“
  • Divurgent and Sensato will host “Hacking Healthcare 2015” March 24-26 in Long Branch, NJ.
  • Culbert Healthcare Solutions will exhibit at AMGA 2015 Annual Conference March 24-26 in Las Vegas.
  • CommVault posts a blog about “Learning from Emailgate” and the challenges of information management.
  • CareSync CEO Travis Bond is interviewed in the Health Data Consortium’s latest blog.
  • Anthelio Healthcare Solutions CEO Asif Ahmad will be featured on Fox Business Network March 22 at 11:30 a.m. ET.
  • Bottomline Technologies will exhibit at Microsoft Convergence 2015 through March 19 in Atlanta.


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

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Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. Who do I call to collect my million from CHIME?
    Last month on HISTalk I told the world how to fix the unique patient ID problem.
    Congress passes a law reuiring a unique ID that a citizen can opt in or out of.

    Problem solved and not one line of new code required! Cha-ching!

  2. 1. Does CommonWell have an NDA? If so, is that just part of doing business or do Epic and others have reason to be skeptical?

    2. An important sentence in the middle of the NY Times Apple Pay article: “Some Apple supporters have sought to discredit Mr. Abraham based on his affiliation as an adviser to a company that is based on Apple’s main competitor, Android.” While there is a problem with the activation of already-stolen credit card numbers, Apple Pay has huge benefits. A) The transaction is more secure, leading to fewer stolen numbers in the future. B) Apple Pay and Google Wallet need to succeed before MCX retailers come online. MCX looks awful, with its QR codes and bank-only linking (no credit cards).

  3. I am confused as to why Epic would have a problem spending millions to be part of CommonWell. Didn’t the other organizations have to pay that as well? The private sector needs to cooperate or the government will mandate that everyone play nice and thwart innovation in the process with ominous regulations. Perhaps the Nondisclosure agreement allows the group to be safe and talk about what is going on in their solutions without fearing negative aspects of their products will be leaked out to the press or used against them during a sale.

  4. A key question that we need to ask until John Hammergren answer’s it publicly is whether Relay Health as Sole and Exclusive network provider to Common Well has a firm and public commitment to never sell patient data.

    Can John Hammergren (http://www.mckesson.com/about-mckesson/our-company/executive-officers/john-h-hammergren/) make a formal commitment that RelayHealth (a wholly owned subsidiary) absolutely and unequivocally commit to never sell patient data?

    Let’s pin this down once and for all.

    Everyone knows that CommonWell is a shell – it’s never going to have any data – won’t sell data. That’s never been the concern.

    The concern is that CommonWell is simply a shell to a money making endeavor of a very small number of very capitalistic firms who seek to make a fortune on health information exchange.

    Can John affirm that Relay Health will stop selling data and not sell it again in the future?

  5. I’m not sure the title “News 3/18/15” is better than a question. It gives the reader no idea if they should read it or not. What’s wrong with a question if the answers in the post? At least then they know up front if they care to read about that topic or not. Plus, if it’s a community site, then the community can help answer the question. On some sites, the comment section is as valuable as the post because of this very fact.

    As far as LinkedIn groups, it says “start a discussion”. It doesn’t say “Link to News” or “Share Your Reporting”. It’s a discussion group and so posting a question in a discussion group is encouraged by most groups. Of course, I can understand why many don’t want to discuss something. That’s another story.

  6. The question isn’t whether CommonWell sells data, the question is – Does Relay Health sell data?

    That has been a big part of Relay’s history and John Hammergren (McKesson / Relay) has been in earnings calls expressing excitement about commercializing CommonWell.

    Will John Hammergren come forward and commit that Relay Health will not sell data?

    Everyone knows CommonWell is just a 503c corp to front the discussions. What people don’t always understand is that CW has signed an exclusive contract with Relay to be the exchange network.

    How will Relay keep it’s data separate even if it promises not to sell.

    And, we need to listen for the fun nuanced words – like we won’t sell “identified” data. Relay needs to affirm it will never sell any data.

  7. There are factors beyond a single patient identifier that contribute to the difficulty in reaching 100% automated patient matching. Data entry errors at points of registration and a constant onslaught of changing patient information (e.g., old/new home addresses) add a level of complexity that complicates the 100% objective. I wonder if we can ever reach that level of accuracy.

  8. Re — as it relates to Epic and CommoWell — No one really knows what if any thing is being hidden in the details, but what really disappoints me is lets get on with it. If I am a patient and I need collaboration between parties to get well I really don’t care about trade secrets or cost.. BTW — leave your EGO in the private jet you travel in. Get these EMR guys in a room and don’t let them out till a decision for the common good is agreed, and no recanting.. I’ll bet Neal would be the fist to say lets meet, keep the lawyers the government whigs and anyone else other than the CEO’s out of the room. Put a patient in the room who is ill and let’s see the company say No we won’t collaborate.

  9. To Where’s Waldo: HIStalk ran a panel interview a while back where this question was asked and answered. Dr. David McCallie indicated that neither CommonWell nor their service provider (e.g., Relay Health) will ever sell the data. It’s in the contract terms.

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