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December 3, 2015 News 1 Comment

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Patient engagement technology vendor Welltok acquires consumer communications company Silverlink, also announcing $45 million in new funding to support a portion of the acquisition.

Reader Comments


From Sport Pepper CMIO: “Re: EHRs. This is an interesting article which highlights what many of us know already.” The article in The Journal of Bone & Joint Survey looks at the post-implementation gap in EHR satisfaction, where IT people and administrators are happy but clinicians aren’t. That’s not too surprising since those non-clinicians have the most influence on which systems are chosen and how they are implemented. The article hints and what I’ve always claimed – it’s not so much that clinicians hate the concept of EHRs, they realize that both internal and external non-clinicians employ them as a blunt instrument (sometimes with the best of intentions, at least based on their own agendas) to create and enforce new rules that deliver minimal patient value. Few people enjoy using technologies intended to control their behavior – that would be like a prisoner loving their ankle monitor.

From Zealous Zygote: “Re: news. I always get what I need from your site. As an educator, I also note that it is presented so I remember it well.” That’s my goal. I use these methods to hopefully make myself and everybody who reads what I write a little bit smarter about healthcare IT:

  • I choose only newsworthy stories that provide reader value. Curation takes probably 80 percent of the time I spend on each post as I wade through the mountains of poorly communicated junk. Unlike other sites, I have no fixed space to fill and I’m not paid per word, so I have no incentive to pad out a one-sentence story into 12 paragraphs that waste reader time.
  • I summarize each item as succinctly as possible and make it as highly readable as I can.
  • I add context where it provides value, whether that be a back story or my own opinion.
  • I use illustrations when they make sense (no stock photos, in other words).
  • I provide a link to a source when possible for those who want to read more.
  • I provide a cynical, sometimes sarcastic point of view that doesn’t otherwise get much airplay in the fizzy, self-congratulatory world of health IT.

From Beeper King: “Re: smartphone app for secure communications. We tried one vendor’s solution. The big issue was that you couldn’t shut the thing up when you were with a patient by pushing a button in your pocket like you do with a beeper — you had to take out the phone, open the app, and engage with it. Then you lost the reminder for later. Also, there was no way to turn on or off your call status or transfer to another within the app itself. You had to call a paging company number, follow a phone tree of commands, and, if you were transferring call to someone else, to remember their damned number. The hospitalists rejected the thing out of hand.” It sounds as though it was designed by technologists rather than clinicians. 

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

I received generous donations for my DonorsChoose project from Carla, Mike, Chris, and an anonymous reader totaling $1,650, to which I applied matching funds from both my anonymous vendor executive as well as private foundations to fund this rather amazing list of teacher grant requests in their entirety:

  • Math manipulatives for Ms. Brown’s elementary school special education resource room in Harper Woods, MI
  • A Chromebook and accessories for math instruction for Mrs. Shaw’s fourth grade class in Philadelphia, PA
  • Two Amazon Fire tablets for math and science self-study for Ms. Lacey’s elementary school class in Houston, TX
  • Five tablets for Mrs. Chavis-Ramirez’s elementary school science class in Houston, TX
  • An iPad Mini and programmable robot to create a Kids Coding Club for Ms. Carbo’s first grade class in Atlanta, GA
  • A STEM early learning kit for Mrs. Almiron’s kindergarten class in Port St. Lucie, FL
  • Four tablets and cases for math and science learning centers for the special education class (Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, etc.) of Ms. Munoz’s Grades 5-6 in Pasadena, TX
  • Five animation software and hardware kits to produce science movies in Ms. S’s elementary school class in Houston, TX
  • A 3D printer for the high school science class of Mr. Swedman in Keaau, HI
  • An anatomy model and learning kits for Ms. Wilson’s special needs class in Richmond, VA
  • Two Chromebooks for targeted math study in Mr. Colasacco’s sixth grade class in Brooklyn, NY
  • A programmable robot to create a makerspace in the school library and a learning club by Mr. Lincheck’s elementary school in Houston, TX
  • Two tablet keyboards for Mrs. C’s elementary school class in Houston, TX
  • Two Chromebooks for the high school physics class of Mr. Lewis in Houston, TX
  • 20 sets of headphones for the elementary school inclusion class of Mrs. Ortego in Lake Charles, LA
  • Seven sets of headphones and cables for computer learning in Mrs. Allen’s learning disabled class in Heath Springs, SC
  • Microbiology lab equipment for the four full (and waitlisted) classes of the first microbiology course ever offered by Ms. Westover’s high school in Norcross, GA
  • A science library for the elementary school class of Ms. B in San Bernardino, CA
  • 40 portfolio binders for the gifted class of Mrs. Perez in St. Petersburg, FL
  • A STEM bundle for the elementary school class of Mrs. Huynh in Houston, TX


Mrs. Kay from Wisconsin (near Epic, in fact) says that she and her elementary schoolers “love our Samsung tablet” that we provided via DonorsChoose that allows them to check out public library books electronically, some of which include audio files so the students can follow along. She says they use the tablet every day in reading block, adding, “I have truly seen a deeper love of reading from many of these students who we might think of as reluctant readers.”

The best reason to buy travel insurance for non-domestic trips is medical evacuation coverage that will pay to fly you back to a US hospital if you experience a medical catastrophe in a location with limited medical resources. I was thinking that someone should offer a US-only plan that will evacuate people with narrow-network insurance from the 99 percent of the country their policies don’t cover back to their home location to avoid otherwise likely financial ruin. An analysis finds that many 2016 plans do not have a maximum cap for out-of-network expenses they don’t cover, meaning a heart attack in another state is the patient’s financial responsibility at full list price. Of this I have zero doubt: medical bankruptcies are going to balloon in 2016 and many of the folks involved will be middle-class people with insurance they purchased through Healthcare.gov thinking it would protect their family just like employer-provide plans. The uproar will commence just in time to be a hotly debated topic in the 2016 presidential election. The only hope — and it’s a slight one — is that next year’s ACA enrollment will grow to reflect a more typical customer pool, i.e. healthy people will sign up and help pay for the unhealthy ones who quickly jumped on board last year.

This week on HIStalk Practice: Arizona’s Practice Transformation Institute leverages HIE capabilities. A physician’s propensity for EHR eye lock boils down to gender. Dr. Gregg gives thanks for HIT. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama begins covering telemedicine visits. Family physicians have trouble seeing the ROI of value-based payments. Two Point expands data-conversion services to providers. Physician awareness of prescription drug monitoring programs is surprisingly low. CVS Health EVP Andrew Sussman, MD discusses the company’s partnership with Epic and Health is Primary, plus plans for telemedicine.

This week on HIStalk Connect: Welltok raises $45 million in new funding and announces the acquisition of patient engagement vendor Silverlink for an undisclosed sum. GOQii raises a $13 million Series A to ramp up its personal wellness coach and activity tracker platform. Propeller Health signs a new R&D agreement with GSK to develop medication utilization sensors for its Ellipta dry-powder inhaler. Scripps Translational Science Institute will recruit 6,100 volunteers to wear a heart rate monitor for four months as part of a study designed to improve atrial fibrillation diagnosis in high-risk populations.


December 9 (Wednesday) 12 noon ET. “Population Health in 2016: Know How to Move Forward.” Sponsored by Athenahealth. Presenter: Michael Maus, VP of enterprise solutions, Athenahealth. ACOs need a population health solution that helps them manage costs, improve outcomes, and elevate the care experience. Athenahealth’s in-house expert will explain why relying on software along isn’t enough, how to tap into data from multiple vendors, and how providers can manage patient populations.

December 9 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “The Health Care Payment Evolution: Maximizing Value Through Technology.” Sponsored by Medicity. Presenter: Charles D. Kennedy, MD, chief population health officer, Healthagen. This presentation will provide a brief history of the ACO Pioneer and MSSP programs and will discuss current market trends and drivers and the federal government’s response to them. Learn what’s coming in the next generation of programs such as the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and the role technology plays in driving the evolution of a new healthcare marketplace.

December 15 (Tuesday) 1:00 ET. “CPSI’s Takeover of Healthland.” Sponsored by HIStalk. Presenters: Frank Poggio, CEO, The Kelzon Group; Vince Ciotti, principal, H.I.S. Professionals. Frank and Vince are back with their brutally honest (and often humorous) opinions about the acquisition. They will review industry precedents (such as Cerner-Siemens), the possible fate of each Healthland product, the available alternatives, and steps Healthland customers should take now. Their previous webinar that covered Cerner’s takeover of Siemens has drawn nearly 7,000 views and this one promises to be equally informative and entertaining.

December 16 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “A Sepsis Solution: Reducing Mortality by 50 Percent Using Advanced Decision Support.” Sponsored by Wolters Kluwer Health. Presenter: Stephen Claypool, MD, medical director of innovation lab and VP of clinical development and informatics for clinical software solutions, Wolters Kluwer Health. Sepsis claims 258,000 lives and costs $20 billion annually in the US, but early identification and treatment remains elusive, emphasizing the need for intelligent, prompt, and patient-specific clinical decision support. Huntsville Hospital reduced sepsis mortality by 53 percent and related readmissions by 30 percent using real-time surveillance of EHR data and evidence-based decision support to generate highly sensitive and specific alerts.

December 16 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “Need for Integrated Data Enhancement and Analytics – Unifying Management of Healthcare Business Processes.” Sponsored by CitiusTech. Presenters: Jeffrey Springer, VP of product management, CitiusTech; John Gonsalves, VP of healthcare provider market, CitiusTech. Providers are driving consumer-centric care with guided analytic solutions that answer specific questions, but each new tool adds complexity. It’s also important to tap real-time data from sources such as social platforms, mobile apps, and wearables to support delivery of personalized and proactive care. This webinar will discuss key use cases that drive patient outcomes, the need for consolidated analytics to realize value-based care, scenarios to maximize efficiency, and an overview of CitiusTech’s integrated healthcare data enhancement and analytics platform.

Contact Lorre for webinar services. Past webinars are on our HIStalk webinars YouTube channel.

Here’s the recording of Wednesday’s VMware-sponsored webinar, “The Patient Is In, But the Doctor is Out: How Metro Health Enabled Information Decision-Making with Remote Access to PHI” by Josh Wilda, VP of IT at Metro Health (MI).

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


A Washington Post investigation finds that the Department of Defense questioned the lab technology of Theranos in 2012, passing on its fingerstick methods. CEO Elizabeth Holmes asked four-star Marine General James Mattis, who later joined the company’s board, to dispel the DoD’s “blatantly false information.” Mattis pushed hard to have Theranos tested in Afghanistan, drawing a Marine Corps caution that he needed to stop personally pitching the company.


Seamless Medical Systems, which offers a mobile device check-in app for medical practices, closes a $2.5 million investment.



Baystate Health (MA) chooses Imprivata Cortext for secure communications.


Community Health Systems will offer $39 virtual doctor visits to patients in the communities where its 198 hospitals are located. It will use American Well’s telehealth platform.


Broward Health (FL) chooses Cerner HealtheIntent for population health management.

The UK Defence Medical Services chooses CGI to provide an integrated EHR for its 400 sites, which will be based on the PCS system from EMIS Health. CGI will host the system and manage its help desk.

For-profit Manipal Hospitals (India) chooses IBM’s Watson for Oncology for its 15 hospitals.



MedSys Group names P.J. deRijke (Warbird Consulting Partners) as VP of client relations.


Fairfield Medical Center (OH) names Alan Greenslade (Greenslade Consulting) as CIO.


Hal Wolf (McKinsey & Company) joins The Chartis Group as director.


Private equity investor Bruce Cerullo, formerly chairman and CEO of Vitalize Consulting Solutions that was sold to SAIC/Leidos in 2011, joins Nordic Consulting as chairman and CEO. He replaces Mark Bakken, who left the company in March 2014 to start an early stage venture capital fund.

Announcements and Implementations


Catalyze announces Redpoint, a set of EHR integration tools for digital health vendors that includes pre-configured scripts, EHR connectivity tools, and workflow components.


Health station vendor Higi will use Validic’s digital health platform to capture real-time consumer biometric information as part of its patient monitoring and wellness programs. Chicago-based Higi was founded by Chicago Sun-Times Founder Michael Ferro of Merrick Ventures,former chairman of Merge Healthcare. He’s credited with saving Merge in 2008, with the company’s $1 billion acquisition by IBM putting around $200 million in his pocket in return for his $15 million investment. 


Quality improvement, cost containment, and clinical content technology vendor LogicStream Health graduates from the accelerator program of TreeHouse Health, the first of its portfolio companies to achieve all transition milestones. The Minneapolis-based company was co-founded by a pharmacist and a physician and counts Texas Health Resources among its customers. 


HIMSS announces its Value Score measure of the value of healthcare IT, which I assume it will sell since the announcement didn’t indicate otherwise and its self description seems ambitious (although one might quibble at the inconsistent use of the essential Oxford comma in the announcement’s first sentence and spelling KPIs as KPI’s in the accompanying graphic):

HIMSS is a global voice, advisor and thought leader of health transformation through health IT with a unique breadth and depth of expertise and capabilities to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health, healthcare and care outcomes. HIMSS designs and leverages key data assets, predictive models and tools to advise global leaders, stakeholders and influencers of best practices in health IT, so they have the right information at the point of decision.


Zynx Health announces integration between its ZynxOrder evidence-based order set development system and Epic inpatient.

Government and Politics


CMS analysis finds that US healthcare spending jumped 5.3 percent in 2014 after years of low growth, which it says is primarily due to expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act and increased drug spending. The $3 trillion in annual expense represents 17.5 percent of GDP and $9,523 per person. The increased rate of growth is still less than before the Affordable Care Act, which the White House touts as evidence that ACA is insuring more Americans without large cost growth increases. Critics point out that the modest spending increase may be masked by insured Americans who are being forced to pay ever-higher deductibles or who avoid seeking care they can’t afford even with insurance. Somehow hospitals evaded being named as being significantly responsible for higher healthcare costs. I maintain that if you want to see who is most responsible for high US healthcare costs, follow the money and check the 1040 tax forms of the individuals involved – you’ll see a lot of drug company executives, hospital administrators, high-powered surgeons, insurance company suits, and healthcare vendor executives who became millionaires (even in working for a supposedly non-profit organization) from the mess that is our healthcare system.

Privacy and Security


Centegra Health System (IL) exposes the information of 3,000 patients when the mailing equipment of contractor MedAssets was misconfigured to send two statements per envelope instead of one, with each patient receiving their own statement plus one from another patient.


Cottage Health System (CA) notifies 11,000 patients that an incorrectly configured server exposed their records to Google searches at the end of October. The problem was discovered by a cybersecurity firm hired to perform a security audit, which I suppose means the engagement’s ROI was substantial. Or maybe not – the cost of the breach response and any resulting fines or lawsuit awards might be the same regardless of who found the problem or whether it actually exposed any information.


MIT non-profit spinoff institute MIT Hacking Medicine will publish in the next few weeks a “best apps” list and consumer reviews of digital health tools. It says expert reviews are important because most apps have few downloads and reviews and don’t use good design practices. The institute’s co-directors are students: Tatyana Gubin is studying mechanical engineering at MIT with a focus on medical devices, while Christopher Lee is a Harvard-MIT PhD student and co-founder of a company that developed a disposable drug reconstitution system.



Several patient advocacy groups launch Partners for Better Care, which seeks manageable out-of-pocket costs, cost transparency, adequate provider networks, reasonable healthcare costs, and equitable access to drug therapies. That last item justifiably raises a red flag given that the group’s initial funding came from drug maker Novo Nordisk, which took heat for jacking up the price of its Levemir insulin almost exactly in tandem with that of competitor Lantus to over $300 per vial, leading to questions about whether the brand name drug marketplace is really competitive. Shareholders of  Denmark-based Novo Nordisk probably like Levemir’s pricing a lot more than the patients who use  it – the company’s stock is up 22 percent in the past year and 161 percent in the last five, giving the company a market value of $145 billion. I couldn’t find a listing of the officers or board members for Partners for Better Care except that the announcement referenced without detail its executive director, Mary Richards, who I assume isn’t the WJM Minneapolis beret-tossing one.

Turing Pharmacecuticals CEO Martin Shkreli says he was wrong to increase the price of old but critical drug Daraprim by 5,000 percent – he wishes he had increased the price even more. He says, “Our shareholders expect us to make as much money as possible … the idea that pharmaceuticals are exempt from capitalism is insane.” As I’ve said, Shkreli is a saint in finally showing the true colors of drug companies as cartoonishly evil villains rather than the dulcet-toned suits who pretend to exude concern for patients rather than profits. Their indefensible prices, especially here in the US, speak for themselves.

BIDMC CIO John Halamka, MD concludes in his year-end review that “ICD-10 benefited no one” and expresses his hope that the industry moves to bundled payments so that ICD won’t be needed for billing, replaced for analytics purposes by natural language processing translation of unstructured text into SNOMED-CT codes. He’s optimistic about 2016, as he indicated in my interview with him a couple of weeks ago, now that the “weights around our ankles (ICD-10, MU) are finally coming off.”

Weird News Andy would have headlined this story as, “I bet you’re stupid.” A man in China desperate to raise rent money takes a $1,200 bet that he wouldn’t swallow a five-inch saw blade and a five-inch nail. The good news is that he won the bet, but the bad news is that the evacuation of the hardware occurred surgically rather than naturally, with the medical costs exceeding his winnings.

Sponsor Updates

  • Sixteen Influence Health clients receive eHealth Leadership Awards.
  • Valence Health publishes “Helping Solve the US Healthcare Crisis: The Provider’s Guide to Building a Successful Plan.” The 292-page electronic book is available on their site or on Amazon.
  • An InterSystems survey of lab professionals in Australia finds that laboratory information systems aren’t equipped to deliver the desired cost savings and efficiencies.
  • LiveProcess exhibits at the National Healthcare Coalition Preparedness Conference through December 4 in San Diego.
  • Oneview Healthcare launches an internship competition. 
  • LogicStream Health is exhibiting at the IHI National Forum in Orlando, FL next week.
  • Pediatric Associates of Dallas reduces billing costs after implementing the PatientPay paperless payment solution.
  • Former L&D nurse and clinical analyst Darcy Dinneny discusses her experience with PeriGen’s PeriCalm solution.
  • Qpid Health will exhibit at the IHI National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care December 6-9 in Orlando.
  • Streamline Health will exhibit at the HIMSS Revenue Cycle Solutions Summit December 7-8 in Atlanta.

Blog Posts


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

More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.

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Reader Comments

  • Mr. HIStalk: The HIMSS Legacy Workgroup did this write-up of the history of HIMSS a few years back: http://www.himss.org/sites/him...
  • Numbers skeptic: re: "HIMSS62 in Baltimore".... anyone around who can tell us anything about that, or other very early HIMSS? Failing t...
  • HistalkGroupie: Most of the comments slant to the negative. One positive of a travel-heavy job is that you have a chance to meet health...
  • MA/MBA Grad: I have both an MBA and an MBA in Hospital & Health Administration. These were done together through a dual-dual prog...
  • richie: I don't think it's legal to whip a horse these days without mentioning blockchain. And I'd add "innovative", "interopera...
  • Publius: Your Bingo board is missing "Machine Learning"...
  • Ex-Epic: Re: MHA v. MBA I think if you are 100% down the health systems path, you could probably consider MHA or MBA (but woul...
  • The trip: I agree with you. I have an MHA but think an MBA with a concentration in healthcare is the way to go. My RN IT boss in t...
  • David Butler: I absolutely love this article! I'm fairly new to following HIStalk and Dr. Jayne (and the various portions of the site...
  • MiroslavB: Great insights - Thanks Ed !...

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