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January 5, 2017 News 3 Comments

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The Advisory Board Company will restructure its healthcare business, laying off 220 employees and closing four offices. It will exit its businesses of care management workflow, nursing workforce and infection control analytics, and two niche consulting practices.

The company blames its November-December sales slowdown on the election, as health system customers paused to contemplate potential changes under the Trump administration.

ABCO shares didn’t react much on the news, but are down 26 percent in the past year, valuing the company at  $1.4 billion.

Specific products – such as Crimson platform or ABCO’s Clinovations consulting group – were not specifically mentioned. The company says the businesses they’re shedding generated $18 million in 2016 revenue vs. $14.5 million of expense, so they should interest potential acquirers if that’s the company’s plan.

Reader Comments


From Puffer: “Re: your Mr. H avatar. Get rid of the pipe.” Every year since I started writing HIStalk in 2003, a few folks who feel blessed with extra-special insight note (often with smugness) that a site about healthcare shouldn’t feature a smoking doctor (like I somehow didn’t notice the irony until a newbie clued me in). I specifically had the avatar designed with a pipe – right down to describing how I wanted the wafts of smoke to appear – as my version of a pirate’s Jolly Roger warning that this is not the usual health IT pablum written by corporate cheap-seaters. You would be surprised to see how many dignified executives have someone take their picture embracing my happily smoking doc standee at the HIMSS conference. 

From Stud IT Director: “Re: promotion. I’m 42 years old and have been IT director for nine years, seven under the CIO who was brought in not long after I was promoted. How do I know if I should stay or seek greener pastures?” My thoughts:

  • You already failed to be promoted when your boss was hired, so you may be permanently branded as mid-level management material better suited for a corner in the IT cube farm instead of Mahogany Row. Some places just don’t like promoting internal candidates for C-level jobs.
  • Are you the favored child among your peers? If not, forget it and move on.
  • Have you been given any indication that you’re next in line, or for that matter, that the CIO isn’t going to hang around for another 10 years as your window closes? Not many first-time CIOs are in their 50s.
  • Are you sure you’re qualified to be a CIO? If it hasn’t happened by 42, maybe it’s not in the cards or you’re being wasted in the wrong place. It’s common for IT directors to think they can do everything their CIO boss can do, but they miss the point that the most-valued skills aren’t the obvious ones. It’s not technology, but the ability to earn the trust and respect of peers, being able to take the big-picture view beyond bits and bytes, and leading a team). It’s more than checking boxes for education, experience, and results. Maybe your boss is an incompetent doofus,but if he or she is still holding the position, someone important must not think so and maybe you are missing something.
  • Are you willing to bet a lot on your abilities? If so, connect with a recruiter and groom yourself to be hired as a CIO, probably in a struggling hospital or godforsaken part of the country that’s less attractive to better-pedigreed candidates.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

HIStalkapalooza sign-ups are open. About 400 people have put their names in the “I want to come” hopper so far, many of whom provided a fun bonus in entering witty comments on their forms.

I’ve received around 150 responses to my annual reader survey, the results of which drive most of my agenda for the year. Weigh in here, which will also enter you in the running for a $50 Amazon gift card. I’ll deal with the creative tension cause by the usual polarizing results, such as the “I love rumors” vs. “I hate rumors” responses. I like that a couple of readers say that reading HIStalk is their guilty pleasure, although the “guilty” part means I won’t gain many readers via word of mouth.

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Mrs. S from Virginia says her second grade class is using the Osmo math and language apps we provided in funding her DonorsChoose grant request to learn in small groups and to compete as teams, with some students who were behind in math using the tool to catch up.

This week on HIStalk Practice: Private practice MDs in Massachusetts react to new HIE integration law. Duane Reade clinic closures point to market saturation. Kareo’s Lea Chatham explains the ways in which physician independence trumps hospital employment. EarlySense adds American Well consults to its consumer-facing remote-monitoring platform. Trade groups sound off on potential ACA repeal/reform. Carena’s Ralph Derrickson makes telemedicine predictions for 2017. Athenahealth shakes off its layoff doldrums. MDGuidelines’ Joe Guerriero sees steady sailing for the future of value-based care. CompuGroup Medical adds genomic decision-support tools to its EHRs. Drchrono’s Michael Nusimow outlines the ways in which MACRA will impact physician compliance in 2017.


January 18 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “Modernizing Quality Improvement Through Clinical Process Measurement.” Sponsored by LogicStream Health. Presenters: Peter Chang, MD, CMIO, Tampa General Hospital; Brita Hansen, MD, CHIO, Hennepin County Medical Center. The presenters will describe how they implemented successful quality governance programs, engaged with their health system stakeholders, and delivered actionable information to clinical leadership and front-line clinicians. Q&A will follow.

January 26 (Thursday) 1:00 ET. “Jump Start Your Care Coordination Program: 6 Strategies for Delivering Efficient, Effective Care.” Sponsored by Healthwise. Presenters: Jim Rogers, RN, RPSGT, director of healthcare solutions, Persistent Systems; Charlotte Brien, MBA, solutions consultant, Healthwise. This webinar will explain how to implement a patient-centered care coordination program that will increase quality as well as margins. It will provide real-world examples of how organizations used care coordination to decrease readmission rates, ED visits, and costs.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

McKesson and Change Healthcare announce that the new health IT company they’re creating will be called Change Healthcare, so decided after “a thorough strategic and creative review process.” 


Health benefits platform vendor Castlight Health will acquire competitor Jiff. Castlight President/COO John Doyle will become CEO of the new company, Jiff CEO Derek Newell will become president, and Castlight CEO Giovanni Colella will leave the executive suite but remain in the boardroom as executive chair. Jiff is a much smaller company with just $7 million in annual revenue vs. Castlight’s $102 million. Castlight shares dropped sharply on the announcement. They doubled on the company’s IPO day in March 2014,  but have dropped 89 percent since, valuing the company at $443 million.


Health data aggregation and analytics technology vendor Arcadia Healthcare Solutions receives a $30 million growth capital investment from Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, GE Ventures, and existing investors. I asked CEO Sean Carroll when I interviewed him in late 2015 where he wanted the company to be in five years:

We’re very dedicated to the notion that clinical data in particular — for the next five years and perhaps beyond — aggregated from electronic health record, is fundamental to an effective data strategy. A data strategy is fundamental to being successful in value-based care. We’re focused on that.  We certainly understand the necessity to deliver on the full outcome, but our focus will remain on solving this important and fundamental challenge that organizations have, which is, "I’ve made huge investments in my electronic health record strategy. I need the information out of all of them. I need it timely. I need to be able to then process it right it away in much broader ways, including looking at the full population that I serve. That’s the only way that I will be effective in executing in any sort of risk model."


A letter to shareholders from CTG says that the company’s mandate-fueled EHR work has slacked off, so it will move its focus to high-margin work in optimization, performance improvement, application management, and service desk and will focus its staffing offering on higher-margin work.


Athenahealth will double its Atlanta-based workforce to nearly 1,000 by next year in the Ponce City Market. Athenahealth was the first office tenant of the former Sears, Robuck and Co. regional headquarters that then served as City Hall East for 20 years. I’m fascinated by the list of tenants in the Central Food Hall.


Vancouver Island Health Authority selects Vocera’s smartphone solution for secure text messaging, voice communications, and alerts.

The Department of Defense chooses Vocera for wireless hospital communication in a $14 million contract, the company’s largest ever.


Medical Center Health System (TX) engages QuadraMed’s Professional MPI Clean-up Services in preparation for its Cerner go-live in the spring.


Piedmont Healthcare (GA) chooses patient-provider matching solutions from Kyruus.


Melissa Memorial Hospital (CO) chooses Athenahealth, presumably for ambulatory although the local paper’s recap doesn’t actually say. The chatty story says Cerner was the losing bidder and that annual costs for Athena will be $221,000.

J. D. McCarty Center (OK) chooses CPSI’s Evident EHR.



AHIMA installs Ann Chenoweth, MBA (3M Health Information Systems) as president and chair of its 2017 board.


Dave Miller, MHSA (HCCIO Consulting) joins Access Community Health Network (IL) as CIO.


Kelley House (Jackson & Coker) joins Culbert Healthcare Solutions regional sales VP.

Announcements and Implementations

Ingenious Med releases a value-priced edition of its system for organizations whose primary need involves charge capture.


CompuGroup Medical US will integrate real-time genomic decision support tools from ActX into its EHR.

Privacy and Security

From DataBreaches.net:

  • A single hacker has hijacked 3,500 unsecured MongoDB databases and is demanding around $200 to release them, one of them apparently belonging to Emory Healthcare.
  • Box.com changes its publicly shared folders after a security researcher finds that information contained in them is visible in Internet searches.
  • Creative ransomware authors add new features: (a) one variety decrypts the files of an infected user who passes the ransomware on to friends; (b) the Jigsaw malware deletes files every hour until the ransom is paid; and (c) Koovola restores encrypted files if the victim agrees to stop downloading unsafe files and reads two suggested ransomware articles.
  • New Hampshire’s health commissioner apologizes not only for breach that exposed the information of 15,000 people, but for upsetting relatives of deceased individuals who received breach notification letters addressed to them. I’m not sure there’s a good answer to this unless it’s possible to reliably cross-reference to Social Security death records. Or, do family members have a right to know anyway?



An interesting article in The Economist ponders whether artificial intelligence can “crack biology” and thus help treat or cure disease. A snip:

Pharmaceutical companies are finding it increasingly difficult to make headway in their search for novel products. The conventional approach is to screen large numbers of molecules for signs of pertinent biological effect, and then winnow away the dross in a series of more and more expensive tests and trials, in the hope of coming up with a golden nugget at the end. This way of doing things is, however, declining in productivity and rising in cost … The trouble is that too much new information is being produced to be turned quickly into understanding … This is where AI comes in. Not only can it “ingest” everything from papers to molecular structures to genomic sequences to images, it can also learn, make connections and form hypotheses. It can, in weeks, elucidate salient links and offer new ideas that would take lifetimes of human endeavor to come up with. It can also weigh up the evidence for its hypotheses in an even-handed manner. In this it is unlike human beings, who become unreasonably attached to their own theories and pursue them doggedly.

The health-related products honored with the CES conference’s Innovation Award are:


Aipoly Vision — tells blind people what their phone camera is pointed at.


EyeQue – home vision testing from which eyeglasses can be ordered.


K’Track G – real-time blood glucose monitoring using a skin sensor-powered, wrist-worn device.


ReSound ENZ02 – a hearing aid whose attributes can be changed from an iPhone.


This article seems to be shocked and appalled that a drug company’s “senior management pressured employees to convince customers to order its key medicine in order to meet financial targets.” Isn’t that what senior management and salespeople are supposed to do? The fact that it’s healthcare is, from a business standpoint, irrelevant. It is surprising to me that people expect profit-driven businesses (drug companies, physician practices, medical device vendors, insurers, supposedly non-profit hospitals, etc.) to voluntarily behave differently only because their particular widget involves sick people. People do what they’re paid to do and our healthcare system richly rewards profit-maximizing behavior.


Here are some interesting thoughts by Pamela Wible, MD.


I’m thinking of the healthcare possibilities of the wearable passenger medallion that Carnival Cruise Line is rolling out. The quarter-sized, credit card-linked sensor – carried in a pocket or worn like jewelry – provides touch-free credit for buying high-margin onboard products, opens cabin doors on approach, is tied into the new high-tech casino system. identifies passengers to iPad-carrying waiters and other staff who can then then address them by name, and allows users to tailor their on-board experience to their interests. Carnival will install 7,000 sensors per ship that allow apparently allow it to track passenger movements. It would be pretty cool if a sensor loaded with healthcare and preference information were used to reduce the depersonalization that occurs in healthcare settings. 


The Houston paper notes that Ron DePinho, MD, president of “financially ailing” MD Anderson Cancer Center, has been awarded a $208,000 bonus for the year, boosting his total 2016 compensation to $2 million even as the medical center lost $110 million in the last quarter alone. Commendably, he’s donating his bonus back to the institution. One element of his performance review was implementation of Epic, which MDACC says has hurt its short-term bottom line. This is our health system conundrum – executives take a PR beating if their hospital (a) loses a lot of money, or (b) makes a lot of money, with whatever else the institution accomplishes playing secondary importance (maybe because they pay CEOs so much). Meanwhile. MDACC announces that it will lay off up to 900 employees immediately in trying to stop its bleeding.

Sponsor Updates

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  • KLAS rates Health Catalyst the highest among early “preliminary data” population health companies in its new population health management report.

Blog Posts


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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Re the Carnival Cruise Line medallions, those seem very similar to the “magic bands” available at Disney World. You can open your hotel room with them, pay for food, merchandise, and Disney employees can take pictures of you that get automatically sent to your online account (if you have one).

  2. Regarding Stud IT Director; this is great advice. If you can be a CIO, you should be NOW. If you wait much longer, the brand of mid-manager will be nearly permanent. I was 36 when I became a CIO the first time and remain one today (of course, not all at the same place). Many, maybe most do not arrive at a CIO job by promotion. Sure, it can happen, however, there are so many variables to consider (timing, raw skill, standing with the organization, etc.) that you’re usually better off seeking the job elsewhere and trading on your preparation for it. It also helps to have consulting work and project management work in your pedigree. In addition, are you masters level educated? If not, you should strongly consider that as in many C level jobs, it is required. Finally, find a mentor – a practicing CIO that can help you with this planning and transition. I did not have one and that was a mistake!

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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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