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July 9, 2016 News 6 Comments

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In what should be the death blow to lab processor and Silicon Valley technology wannabe Theranos, CMS bans CEO Elizabeth Holmes from any clinical laboratory ownership or involvement for two years and shuts Theranos off from receiving further payments from Medicare and Medicaid.

Theranos proved its incompetence even in its response to CMS’s warning letter: the company sent CMS five password-protected flash drives containing supporting information that was so screwed up that CMS couldn’t figure it out, with reports for the same accession number spread over multiple drives, information on the drives that didn’t match the contents of an accompanying paper binder, and random fax coversheets that were not associated with patient test reports (would you really want your specimens processed by a company that can’t keep documents straight?)

The company’s response to CMS’s death sentence inexplicably says it will keep Holmes as CEO, but hints that it might pivot away from the specimen processing business, possibly believing it can license its technology. That Theranos movie Jennifer Lawrence has signed up to do will either never be finished or it will hit theaters long after anyone still cares.


Meanwhile, pathology informaticist  Bruce Friedman, MD of Lab Soft News raises a good question: the American Association for Clinical Chemistry couldn’t resist giving Elizabeth Holmes stage time to promote her dying enterprise at their annual meeting that starts July 31, but shouldn’t they be even more embarrassed now that she’s been banned from the industry in which all of those actual experts work and maybe think about rescinding their questionable offer? She’s an even worse choice than some of the awful ones HIMSS has made (Dennis Quaid comes to mind). I’m starting my campaign to bring Martin Shkreli to the HIMSS stage.

Reader Comments

From Captain Ron: “Re: Epic’s search for a data visualization suite. Microsoft PowerBI, Qlik, and Tableau were in the running. After doing bake-offs, Epic decided to choose none of the above. They will support customers on any BI product they choose. Guess it’s up to the customers to build content for themselves against Clarity and Caboodle.” Unverified. 


From Neo Vespers: “Re: Glenwood Systems, Waterbury, CT. I’m a consultant looking for users of its GlaceEMR – my client is having problems and I can’t find other users.” I’ve never heard of the company or product, but perhaps someone will jump in.


From DJ D-Deadly: “Re: Politico’s e-Health News. They called you are a dirt-disher!” I resent smug attempts at cleverness in dismissing what I do as being National Enquirer-like simply because I report rumors that usually turn out to be partly or fully accurate, especially when sites make that observation even while running something they read on HIStalk and thus calling into question their entire thesis. I consider it a wash since they described me as “oracular,” which I plan to use in casual conversation every now and then. They also linked to HIStalk, unlike most of the time when reporters simply regurgitate what they’ve read here in passing it off as their original reporting.

From The PACS Designer: “Re: AI versus RI. Here in mid-2016 we’re on the cusp of a huge change in how healthcare is practiced. While artificial intelligence (AI) has been championed for decades as a solution to improved learning, healthcare will be moving toward real intelligence through the greater use of ICD-10. With the more specificity, the last year under ICD-10 Clinical Modifications (CM) has given practitioners some experience with this new format. Now on October 1 this year here in the US, we’ll begin to see the benefits of real intelligence or (RI) using ICD-10 Procedure Codes (PCS). Eric Topol from Scripps has an article highlighting where we are going with changes in healthcare through increased levels of patient engagements.” 

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


McKesson’s planned sale of its EIS business that includes Paragon will benefit Cerner the most, poll respondents say. However, nearly as many expect Meditech to gain ground from the sale. BP opines that McKesson made a mess of its acquisitions by sucking the energy out of them, noting particularly that the company spent $500 million developing Horizon Enterprise Revenue Management only to shut it down in favor of small-hospital Paragon. He or she blames offshore-onshore waffling, scope creep, cost, and competing internal projects that left provider executives disappointed and many McKesson employees bitter after never-ending waves of restructuring. Perhaps Kd’s wry comment is the most insightful – McKesson will benefit most because it’s dumping a cash sinkhole that it doesn’t really care about anyway.

New poll to your right or here: do HIPAA fines and settlements broadly increase privacy and security?

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Mrs. S from Georgia says her students are using the iPad and quiz contest software we provided in funding her DonorsChoose grant request to reinforce their math skills by competing with each other.

I can’t decide if I’m comforted or horrified that even as the headlines get worse and the potential demise of our democracy seems to be creeping ever closer, disengaged citizens who are isolated from the real world by a self-created fantasy aura of phone geegaws are now obsessed with Pokemon Go. Want to fiddle while Rome burns? There’s an app for that.

Last Week’s Most Interesting News

  • England’s NHS scraps its plans for a national database of EHR-extracted patient information after review committees criticizes its opt-out and consent policies.
  • A Congressionally-established review committee recommends that the VA replace its old software systems – including VistA – with commercial products.
  • NIH awards $55 million in grants for the recruitment of 1 million Americans for the long-term study of their personally collected data and gives Scripps Translational Sciences Institute a five-year, $120 million grant to develop apps, sensors, and processes for recruiting the “citizen scientists.”
  • Catholic Health Care Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia pays $650,000 to settle HIPAA charges from the 2014 theft of a company-issued iPhone that contained the information of 412 patients, the first time a business associate has been charged with HIPAA violations.
  • ONC announces its intention to measure national interoperability progress by using the responses to to existing AHA and CDC hospital surveys.
  • A security firm’s tests find that hospitals are not always keeping the PCs and servers that control biomedical equipment current with operating system and antivirus updates, creating a digital soft spot for hackers.


July 13 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “Why Risk It? Readmissions Before They Happen.” Sponsored by Medicity. Presenter: Adam Bell, RN, senior clinical consultant, Medicity. Readmissions generate a staggering $41.3 billion in additional hospital costs each year, and many occur for reasons that could have been avoided. Without a clear way to proactively identify admitted patients with the highest risk of readmission, hospitals face major revenue losses and CMS penalties. Join this webinar to discover how to unlock the potential of patient data with intelligence to predict which admitted patients are at high risk for readmission.

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



HHS promotes acting CIO Beth Anne Killoran to the permanent position, noting that her IT experience with the Department of Homeland Security gives her strong cybersecurity capabilities.

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NHS England names Keith McNeil as chief clinical information officer and Will Smart as CIO. McNeil, who is a physician, resigned as CEO of Addenbrooke’s Hospital last year just before Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (which includes Addenbrooke’s and The Rosie Hospital) was placed on “special measures” for a number of patient care problems; he was also CEO when the Regulator Monitor investigated the trust’s financial challenges following its $300 million Epic rollout. Smart was CIO at Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, which is a Cerner shop.


Genetic testing IT systems vendor NextGxDx names Rob Metcalf (Digital Reasoning) as CEO. He replaces founder Mark Harris, PhD, who will take a demotion to chief innovation officer.

Government and Politics

The Department of Defense gives Cerner another no-bid contract for hosting its MHS Genesis EHR project, raising the project’s hosting costs from $50 million over 10 years to $74 million through the end of 2017. DoD says the extra cost won’t affect the overall $4.3 billion project budget. The Pentagon seems annoyed by the higher cost and says it may recompete the hosting contract next year. 


I’m questioning the quality of Wired’s breezy reporting in claiming that medical records are a “hot commodity” on the Dark Web, or as it dramatically intones, “the hidden recesses of the Internet” (accompanied by unrelated pictures lifted from Flickr users). They might well be a hot commodity as has been amply reported elsewhere, but this story adds nothing to the discussion. The reporter didn’t uncover a single new fact in simply reciting uncredited headlines from elsewhere and taking as gospel what some IBM guy told her about the Dark Web. She makes the puzzling assertion that hackers intentionally delete patient allergies from their medical record, which I’ve never heard of. She claims that doctors “are reluctant to use dual-factor authentication” without citing any source. She finishes by rambling off topic about steps patients can take to protect their information: don’t email information forms, make sure someone is standing by the fax machine if you fax something (does anyone really do that?), and ask why providers need your Social Security number. The overripe headline is like a movie trailer that baits movie-goers with the best scenes in ringing up their ticket purchase without delivering anything in return once they’ve settled into their seats. It’s pretty scary to see the low standard to which journalism is held these days, where desperate tricks to lure temporary eyeballs somehow continue convincing clueless advertisers to underwrite dumbed-down work.



Ambulatory physicians at  University of Michigan Health System weren’t any more satisfied with Epic than with the homegrown CareWeb it replaced, a two-year study finds, refuting the common belief that post-implementation physician satisfaction improves over time in a J-curve. Instead, most measures exhibited L-curve behavior where they dropped and stayed below baseline. Physician job satisfaction decreased after Epic went live and didn’t catch up in the 25 months afterward; a majority of the doctor respondents believed throughout the two years that Epic hadn’t improved patient safety over the old system; and the EHR’s positive contribution to physician job satisfaction dropped from 62 percent with CareWeb to 8 percent with Epic.

I’ve received several “vote for me” messages via people on LinkedIn and Twitter who desperately want to be named to the pointless HIT100 list of prolific tweeters. Are they really going to be proud of winning, sprinting breathlessly to update their resumes with a faux award and feeling good about their place in the universe for having won it by strong-arming their social media contacts to support them, which suggests that those folks probably wouldn’t have chosen them otherwise?

A Wall Street Journal report says anger is building among patients who are treated in an in-network hospital but who are stuck with non-covered bills from the hospital’s out-of-network specialists. Three-fourths of ACA-issued policies provide no out-of-network coverage at all except in emergencies, and since out-of-pocket maximums don’t apply to out-of-network charges, the patient faces unlimited costs at the non-discounted rates that nobody else pays. ED doctors complain that insurers have reduce their payments knowing they have to treat their patients anyway, while insurance companies say that ED docs reject in-network rates so they can charge whatever they want on out-of-network bills.

China launches a year-long campaign that urges angry patients and their families to refrain from attacking the employees of its overloaded hospitals.

Sponsor Updates

  • Valence Health will exhibit at the AHA Leadership Summit July 17-19 in San Diego.
  • Huron Consulting Group will present at the AHA Leadership Summit July 17-19 in San Diego.

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Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. The UMich data is flawed. Their old system was basically a CDR – the classic, lovable ATM of healthcare. Epic however was used to enforce paperless automation, CPOE and a raft of MU requirements.

    Flawed science.

  2. RE: Glenwood’s GlaceEMR, I’m happy to provide a list of names and addresses of providers who attested with this product. There are 241 unique providers who attested, many from Ohio. The sources are public data (MU Report, NPPES) plus the WPC Health Care Provider Taxonomy Code Set. Feel free to pass my email address on to Neo Vespers.

    OH 72
    KY 29
    CT 30
    NJ 28
    MD 19
    CA 10
    IL 9
    IN 7
    MA 5
    FL 4
    MI 5
    PA 4
    TN 4
    TX 5
    NH 2
    NY 2
    DE 1
    IA 1
    NC 1
    OK 1
    WA 1
    WI 1
    Total 241

    Allopathic & Osteopathic Physicians 208
    Chiropractic Providers 1
    Other Service Providers 20
    Pharmacy Service Providers 1
    Podiatric Medicine & Surgery Service Providers 6
    Student, Health Care 5
    Grand Total 241

  3. ” real intelligence or (RI) ”

    I’m sure that term will catch on real quick. Or at least until I bring out my Unreal Intelligence (UI) followed by the vastly superior Xtreme Intelligence (XI), and lastly Ludicrous Intelligence (LI) (TM Tesla).

  4. Re: “…hospital’s out-of-network specialists…”

    This should not be a thing. I’m just saying that patients should not be subjected to outrageous, left-field bills, despite their best efforts.

    I think that citizens with medical insurance should start to post notices with their insurers and health-care providers. Something along the lines of, “I do not approve of uninsured services and forbid their use. Any bills submitted contrary to these instructions will be returned as unapproved and rejected.”

    Sure, it’s fanciful. However it would be one way for citizens to regain some control over this situation. And for the record, companies do this all the time in relation to their spending. All expenses must conform to company purchasing policy and must be approved. All unapproved expenditures are therefore, invalid and will be rejected without right of appeal or recourse.

    Short of that, hospitals need to stop hiring out-of-network practitioners. No matter what the current excuses are for doing so.

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Reader Comments

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  • Mr. HIStalk: I agree for a class, where an ongoing relationship is important -- you'll be spending time with the instructor and fello...
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