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October 16, 2018 News 6 Comments

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Radiation oncology and software vendor Varian Medical acquires Finland-based Noona Healthcare, whose software captures patient-reported outcomes and supports symptom management.

Reader Comments

From Managing Director, Otium cum Dignitate: “Re: HIMSS Form 990. Here’s the latest from Guidestar.” I should have been more specific in saying that I couldn’t find what I assume should be the latest HIMSS Form 990. I saw this one, which covers the year ending 6/30/16. HIMSS should have filed one last year and is due to file another one this year, but they haven’t responded to my request. More interesting is the title used by this semi-retired reader, who says he just likes the title “Managing Director” and the Latin from Cicero translates to “leisure with dignity,” which is about as cool a goal as someone could set for themselves (although the occasional episode of leisure with dishonor might keep it interesting).


From No Mas: “Re: Athenahealth’s partnership with U of Toledo. The new product for academic medical centers was supposed to be complete by now, three years after you interviewed CMIO Bryan Hinch, MD. Maybe you can reach out for an update.” I’ve emailed Bryan to see what happened since our interview about the co-development of an inpatient EHR as University of Toledo Medical Center tried desperately to unload its problematic and expiration-dated McKesson systems.


From Robert D. Lafsky, MD: “Re: this article. I think a big reason there’s so much lately about physician ‘burnout’ is that medical training teaches you to ask ‘why’ about everything. Even if it’s wrong, there has to be a theory. But when the EMR came along, it urged doctors to not ask so many questions, just do what it says. It’s remarkable that it took this long for a major medical journal to run a piece on the theoretical basis for computerized medical information.”  The NEJM article reviews the need for ontologies (controlled, descriptive terminology that describes the semantic relationships among concepts) to overcome the limitations of incomplete, incorrect, or unsourced EHR data since those systems were designed for billing, thus having no convenient way to store behavioral phenotypes, environmental exposure, genomic sequencing data, and information collected from mobile health sensors. It notes that use of ontologies on huge data sets can discover association and even causation to create new diagnostic and therapeutic insight. The authors also suggest that clinician data entry is not a good use of their time and advocates instead collecting device information and patient-entered information electronically and greater use of speech recognition.

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I had another moment of music-driven cognitive dissonance in the senior citizen-filled grocery store the other day when in between sappy, buy-more-stuff music (Beach Boys, Pilot) was inserted “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” from the magnificent 1967 debut album of The Doors. I smugly felt rebellious as I noted no reaction from the older shoppers, but then I realized they were probably just suppressing the fist pumps since they were likely in their mid-20s peak rebellion years when the song charted 51 years ago. Mr. Mojo Risin’ himself would be 74 if he hadn’t broken on through to the other side at 27 in 1971. As I often say, nursing homes are now occupied by those who want to hear Pink Floyd rather than Lawrence Welk.


October 30 (Tuesday) 2:00 ET. “How One Pediatric CIN Aligned Culture, Technology and the Community to Transform Care.” Presenters: Lisa Henderson, executive director, Dayton Children’s Health Partners; Shehzad Saeed, MD, associate chief medical officer, Dayton Children’s Health Partners; Mason Beard, solutions strategy leader, Philips PHM; Gabe Orthous, value-based care consultant, Himformatics. Sponsor: Philips PHM. Dayton Children’s Health Partners, a pediatric clinically integrated network, will describe how it aligned its internal culture, technology partners, and the community around its goal of streamlining care delivery and improving outcomes. Presenters will describe how it recruited network members, negotiated value-based contracts, and implemented a data-driven care management process.

Previous webinars are on our YouTube channel. Contact Lorre for information.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Medicare Advantage insurer Devoted Health raises $300 million in a Series B round, increasing its total to $362 million. The founders are Todd Park (Athenahealth, Castlight Health, White House), his brother Ed Park (Athenahealth), and some VCs. Also on the team are former Athenahealth CTO Jeremy Delinsky and  former US Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil.


  • Oregon will integrate its prescription drug monitoring program database with EHRs and pharmacy systems using Appriss Health’s PMP Gateway.
  • Legacy Health (OR) goes live on Vynca for capturing, storing, and accessing advance care planning documents.



AAFP promotes Steven Waldren, MD, MS to VP/CMIO, where he will focus on the potential impact of AI and machine learning on family medicine and continue work on reducing EHR burden.

Announcements and Implementations


A KLAS report finds that two-thirds of health systems are just beginning to implement opioid stewardship programs, with the less-advanced ones considering best-of-breed technologies (such as drug dispensing systems that detect or prevent drug diversion) while more advanced health systems expect their EHR vendor to deliver tools to prevent and treat opioid misuse. Epic is the most-used of all technologies used in opioid stewardship programs, while Cerner is least-used.  Customers expect their EHR to integrate with prescription drug monitoring program databases, to offer opioid-specific clinical decision support and toolsets, and to include opioid stewardship capabilities in population health management.


This is smart approach: personal health record vendor HealthLynked publishes a plug-in that allows embedding its appointment-booking function in any of the 60 million websites that run WordPress. The screenshots suggest areas of needed improvement, however, since the dates run together and displaying appointment times down to the second seems silly.


A Reaction Data report says that only 15 percent of radiology departments still use dictation and transcription, with speech recognition dominating (although not growing) and 81 percent of respondents using Nuance and basically none of them thinking about switching to another vendor. Just over half of respondents say their speech recognition is integrated with PACS, but integration with RIS and EHR is much lower even though user satisfaction with the integration of all three is high.


Hospital grading organization Leapfrog Group will launch safety and quality surveys of the country’s 5,600 outpatient surgery centers, noting the need as evidenced by the Kaiser Health News/USA Today Network investigation that revealed poor oversight and substandard clinical practices. Let’s hope they call out the likely majority of those centers that refuse to participate (since until competitors start publicizing their good results, there’s no incentive). The organization issues grades for 2,000 US hospitals, just over one-third of the total.


A hospital in eastern China goes live with facial recognition check-in on a system developed by Alibaba’s healthcare group. Anyone with health insurance and a mobile payment account can register without their ID cards or phones once they have linked their accounts to the Alipay mobile payment app. The system’s 3-D cameras link to Alipay’s biometrics and the Ministry of Public Security’s photo database, which is also used by police to identify the faces of fugitives in large crowds. 

A Philips study finds that the US healthcare system captures a lot of data compared to other countries, but suffers from lack of a universal health record and low consumer satisfaction and trust.

Government and Politics


Telemedicine vendor HealthRight and its CEO Scott Roix plead guilty to healthcare fraud and fraudulent marketing of dietary supplements, skin creams, and testosterone that its doctors prescribed without realizing how massively the company was marking up the prices. A total of four men and seven compounding pharmacies were named in charges of running a billion-dollar telemedicine fraud scheme.


Another healthcare information challenge – a person’s genetic test results could change from “normal” to “abnormal” or vice versa based on new research findings, but nobody has thought about the challenges in contacting those patients or their doctors to let them know or to have them retested. A recent study found that of 1.45 million patients tested from 2006 to 2016, reclassification of mutations would have changed the reports of 60,000 of them.


UMass Memorial Health Care lays off 17 IT employees two weeks after going live with its $700 million Epic implementation. 


MIT will spend $1 billion to create an artificial intelligence college that will begin instruction in the fall of 2019. MIT says the intentionally used term “college” reinforces that the new organization will work across all five of its existing schools (architecture, engineering, humanities, management, and science) rather than being a school itself. It adds that the college will emphasize ethical guidelines of how AI can be used for human good.


Amazon posts job listings for data scientists with health benefits experience to work with partners – “including the new healthcare venture” – to create healthcare and population health management solutions. Most interesting is the responsibility to “leverage big data to explore and introduce areas of healthcare analytics and technologies” and preferred experience that includes working with claims, EHR, and patient-reported data. I have a strong feeling that if Amazon ever meets high expectations for healthcare disruption that this Atul Gawande-led group won’t be its weapon of choice – while the company will learn a lot about how healthcare works, the goal is to reduce its own costs, with no guarantee that those efforts will extend outside its four walls. The company’s real disruption opportunity likely lies elsewhere and that are more easily penetrated, such as in supply chain management.


A jarringly moving obituary written by the parents of a 30-year-old mother who died of a drug overdose last week provides a sad reminder of the toll of drug addiction on families. Some excerpts (but you should read the whole thing):

It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. To some, Maddie was just a junkie — when they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them … During the past two years especially, her disease brought her to places of incredible darkness, and this darkness compounded on itself, as each unspeakable thing that happened to her and each horrible thing she did in the name of her disease exponentially increased her pain and shame. For 12 days this summer, she was home, and for most of that time she was sober. For those 12 wonderful days, full of swimming and Disney movies and family dinners, we believed as we always did that she would overcome her disease and make the life for herself we knew she deserved. We believed this until the moment she took her last breath. But her addiction stalked her and stole her once again. Though we would have paid any ransom to have her back, any price in the world, this disease would not let her go until she was gone.

If you are reading this with judgment, educate yourself about this disease, because that is what it is. It is not a choice or a weakness. And chances are very good that someone you know is struggling with it, and that person needs and deserves your empathy and support. If you work in one of the many institutions through which addicts often pass — rehabs, hospitals, jails, courts — and treat them with the compassion and respect they deserve, thank you. If instead you see a junkie or thief or liar in front of you rather than a human being in need of help, consider a new profession.

Bizarre: Sacramento police can’t figure out what charges to file against two high school students who handed out cookies at school that contained a secret ingredient – the cremation ashes of one of their grandparents.

Weird News Andy call’s “Rocky’s Revenge” as a New York State hunter dies of a brain disorder after eating the brain of a squirrel he shot. WNA says the incidence of the variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is high around Rochester, NY, which is a long way from Frostbite Falls, MN.

Sponsor Updates

  • AdvancedMD will exhibit at the American Medical Billing Association National Conference October 18-19 in Las Vegas.
  • CompuGroup Medical will exhibit at the Arizona MGMA Annual Conference October 17-19 in Chandler.
  • Collective Medical partners with the Kentucky Hospital Association.
  • Imprivata’s Mobile Device Access completes validation for use with select Zebra devices.
  • CoverMyMeds will exhibit at the CBI Real-Time Benefit Check and ePrior Authorization Summit October 17-18 in San Francisco.
  • CTG will exhibit at the 2018 Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit October 22-23 in Rogers.
  • Cumberland Consulting Group will exhibit at the CBI Value-Based Oncology Management Forum October 23-24 in Scottsdale, AZ.
  • Direct Consulting Associates will exhibit at the Western PA Healthcare Summit October 19 in Cranberry Township.
  • Dimensional Insight will exhibit at the Value-Based Care Summit October 17 in Boston.
  • DocuTap is accepting nominations for its student scholarship program.
  • Redox will host its Healthcare Interoperability Summit November 13-14 in Denver.

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Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. I really wish folks would stop referring to the US healthcare “system.” We have a healthcare industry, not a system (unless you’re talking about Medicare or the VA), with competing entities looking for market share. Competitors don’t share information. Also, with the emphasis on reimbursement, preventive care (and pharmaceutical cures vs. treatments) take a back seat.

    • I really really wish people would stop referring to healthcare as an industry, which suggests factories. System works fine for me.

    • I don’t generally go all the way to “healthcare industry”, but you make a fair point that I believe wholeheartedly on my darker days. I believe what the US has now is elements of several systems.
      As T.R. Reid described in “The Healing of America; A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care”:
      For Veterans and their families we’re Britain or Cuba. For those who receive health insurance through their employer we’re Germany or France. For people over 65 on Medicare, we’re Canada. For the percent of the population who have no health insurance, the United States is Cambodia.

  2. Of all the litany of things I have read on the opioid crisis, I have yet to see a contingent and thoughtful analysis on the underlying ‘why’ besides ones already well-discussed and how it fits into the larger issue of the notable increase in suicides and the overall decline in US average lifespan for 2 consecutive years.

    My sense is that it is the overall underlying condition and quality of life in rural and smaller towns (under 25k) but would to see some of the data points overlaid against a litany of other data economic and social data points including incarceration rates, disability and worker comp claims, etc.

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