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February 6, 2020 News 3 Comments

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VA Secretary Robert Wilkie says the departure of Deputy Secretary James Byrne will not impact the department’s transition from VistA to Cerner, which is scheduled to begin in late March.

John Windom, executive director of the VA’s Office of EHR Modernization, and Melissa Glynn, assistant secretary for enterprise integration within the VA’s Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, will continue to oversee the day-to-day management of the project.

Wilkie fired his #2 executive Monday, reportedly due to White House frustration with how the VA has addressed the sexual assault complaint of a Navy veteran and staff member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, who says the event occurred in a VA medical center cafeteria.

Reader Comments

From Slurpee: “Re: HIMSS 2020 Most Influential Women in Health IT. Just announced.” HIMSS doesn’t say how it chose the six winners, all but one of whom work for for-profit companies. HIMSS says its own members and certificants get preference, and those who are chosen are also on the hook to contribute free content for HIMSS to use in its publications. I recognize the names of just two of the six, and searching HIStalk finds that two of them have been mentioned over many years. At least they hold responsible industry jobs instead of the usual underachieving tweeters who organizations choose them purely for their potential to provide free PR.

From Rewriting My Resume: “Re: VCU Health. Look on their website tomorrow for Epic job postings.” I see one job now, but I’m sure more are coming as Epic replaces a Cerner/IDX implementation of 15 years.


From Kiosk Guy: “Re: VA. They have issued an RFI for 4,200 kiosks. They have failed repeatedly on choosing ADA-accessible units thanks to a sweetheart deal (in my opinion) with Vecna. They seem to favor IPads, but it’s not clear if Vecna is in the running. My guess is that Leidos and Accenture get the deal with backstop from Cerner, while we get another non-accessible solution deployed en masse by a Federal agency.” The VA says it will replace 4,200 end-of-life Vecna VKiosk self-service kiosk devices and is looking for vendors to participate in pilots in the Spokane, WA and Columbus, OH areas. The document says the contractor must meet all ADA requirements, including following 508 standards and offering an audio mode alternative for veterans with disabilities. Required functions include a variety of authentication modes, health screening capability, vital signs capture, patient check-in, appointment reminders, integration with Cerner, digital document signing, patient intake analysis, and optional functions such as wayfinding, HIPAA form signing, and patient check-out and surveys. The VA says the device must support Lightning cables, which seems to indicate that only Apple hardware will be considered. The VA chose Vecna in 2009 and the company previously said it had installed 6,000 kiosks. The contract’s initial value was reported as $120 million and Vecna was awarded at least $30 million in add-ons (that I could find easily by Googling) since then.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


Thanks to those who have have completed my quick, once-yearly reader survey, even if only with hopes of winning a $50 Amazon gift card. Just about every HIStalk idea that I act on – some work out, some don’t – come from the results. I work alone without having any actual conversations about what I do and this is the only feedback I get.

Listening: She Drew the Gun, England-based mellow psych pop with big hooks, created by singer-songwriter Laura Roach. Also: Cherry Glazerr, LA-based smart, poppy girl grunge. Videos of Shakira’s Super Bowl performance also sent me her way on Spotify for the first time in awhile, reminding how infectiously energetic the world music of the 43-year-old is, even if she does seem to lip sync a lot at big events.


None scheduled soon. Previous webinars are on our YouTube channel. Contact Lorre to present your own.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

San Francisco-based, General Catalyst-funded Commure exits stealth mode to launch a FHIR-compliant software developer platform for creating new cloud-based healthcare applications in a HIPAA-attested environment. Industry long-timer Brent Dover, most recently president at Health Catalyst through December 2018, is Commure’s CEO.


Verana Health raises $100 million and acquires data science company PYA Analytics. The company analyzes de-identified patient data from registries maintained by the American Academy of Neurology and American Academy of Ophthalmology (both of which have members on Verana’s board) and then sells the resulting insights to drug and medical device companies. Among its investors is Google-owned GV. The company has raised $138 million since 2015.


From the Cerner earnings call, following its Q4 report in which it beat Wall Street expectations for revenue and earning:

  • Chairman and CEO Brent Shafer expressed the company’s support for HHS’s proposed interoperability rules.
  • Revenue backlog was down 10% year over year due Adventist Health terminating its RevWorks contract, as well as implementation of an accounting standard that precludes counting a contract towards bookings if it contains a termination clause.
  • The company repeated its intention to pursue mergers and acquisitions.
  • Cerner’s strategic growth business (non-Millennium and outside the fee-for-service provider world) generated $520 million in 2019, a 22% growth year over year.
  • The company will move nearly all of its non-government HealtheIntent clients to Amazon Web Services in the first half of 2020.
  • Development of Cerner’s MyStation patient engagement solution will halt and clients will be referred to GetWellNetwork.
  • The VA contract will ramp its way up to $1 billion per year or more in annual revenue as work progresses under the 10-year, $10 billion contract.
  • The company does not expect to see any impact from the firing of VA Deputy Secretary James Byrne, who was ultimately responsible for the VA’s Cerner rollout.
  • Cerner expects to see “tons of opportunity” in selling providers the technology they need to work under Medicare Advantage and bundled payment models.
  • The company expects to leverage Amazon’s consumer competencies and has obtained visibility into Amazon projects such as Haven and PillPack.
  • Moving clients to AWS will have a small but incremental impact on cost savings, as Cerner spends $100 million on data center software alone and spends more money supporting clients who aren’t on current releases.
  • Cerner will move consultants from its acquired AbleVets government contracting firm to its VA project as they complete their open assignments, hoping to reduce the company’s third-party costs.


Hyland acquires Learning Machine, which offers blockchain-powered document and content authentication.

Waud Capital Partners commits $150 million to pursue health IT opportunities in working with former MatrixCare CEO John Daamgard, whose sold the company to ResMed for $750 million in 2018. He was previously COO of Mediware, which was taken private by Thoma Bravo in 2012 (then sold to TPG Capital in 2017 and renamed to WellSky in 2018). Waud’s portfolio includes specialty EHR/PM solutions such as ChiroTouch.

CompuGroup Medical pays $250 million to acquire several Cerner products that are marketed in Germany and Spain — Medico, Soarian Integrated Care, Selene, and Soarian Health Archive. Readers had correctly reported that those businesses were up for sale.



  • El Camino Health (CA) will use Conversa Health’s conversational AI chat program to monitor patients with respiratory conditions to reduce COPD-related readmissions.
  • OU Medicine and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center sign a five-year, $200 million contract with Epic.



Sheri Ribeiro (Allina Health) joins Cottage Health as VP/CIO.

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PerfectServe names Steffan Haithcox (Tabula Health) as chief marketing officer and Nazir Rostom (GetWellNetwork) as CFO and promotes Jeff Brown to COO and Mary Hatcher to SVP of product development.

Announcements and Implementations


Vanderbilt University Medical Center creates the Vanderbilt Clinical Informatics Center, which will collaborate with care teams, clinical quality, and risk management departments to spread innovation and research and optimize its use of Epic. Vanderbilt clinical decision support director and biomedical informatics professor Adam Wright, PhD will direct the center.


Allegheny Health Network (PA) implements CarePort Health’s care coordination and notification software.

Government and Politics


Nearly 60 health systems sign a letter opposing HHS’s proposed interoperability rules, as urged by Epic CEO Judy Faulkner. Those CEOs signing include those of UW Health, West Virginia University Health System, SSM Health, Catholic Health, Guthrie, Mary Washington Healthcare, Mercy Health Services, Beth Israel Lahey Health, NYU Langone Health, PeaceHealth, and Piedmont Healthcare. Good reporting by CNBC’s Chrissy Farr.


Federal authorities indict Reinaldo and Jean Wilson, husband-and-wife owners of telemedicine companies Advantage Choice Care and Tele Medcare, for their roles in an illegal kickback scheme that swindled Medicare out of $56 million. The couple allegedly orchestrated a ring of providers that ordered medically unnecessary orthotic braces for Medicare patients.


An American Medical Association survey  — of unknown quality since methodology was not stated and most practicing doctors aren’t AMA members (UPDATE: a reader found the methodology and it looks good, even re-surveying the same doctors who participated in 2016) — finds that:

  • Physician participation in virtual visits has doubled to 28% of respondents since the 2016 survey.
  • Use of mobile apps and sensors to monitor chronic disease patients rose to 22% and patient engagement tool adoption rose to 32% (those numbers don’t seem reasonable to me, especially when the patient monitoring definition includes automatically triggering alerts). 
  • 37% of doctors say they use clinical decision support, meaning that two-thirds of them don’t (the survey defined this as highlighting significant changes in patient data). 
  • 58% of doctors say they give patients digital access to lab results, appointment reminders, refills, and appointments (they offer a portal that may or may not be used by patients, in other words).

Sponsor Updates

  • Glytec congratulates a dozen clients on receiving five-star ratings from CMS.
  • Healthcare Growth Partners publishes its “Health IT January 2020 Insights.”
  • Medicomp Systems will work with clinical text structuring company Emtelligent to develop new solutions that will support efficient clinical workflows and improve usability.
  • The Chartis Group names Chelsea Wyatt (The HCI Group) a principal in its I&T Practice.
  • Meditech selects MedPower to deliver Meditech Expanse training to customers in the UK, Ireland, South Afrida, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East.

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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Re: “Good” reporting by CNBC’s Chrissy Farr.

    Good reporting would be mentioning that Epic is the only EHR vendor who currently actually allows patients to connect any app of their choice to the available FHIR API (which I think is based on the USCDI data set). It is a fluffy piece with surface-only reporting, similar to the Healthcare IT rags Mr H. likes to mention from time to time.

    BTW, apparently no one noticed that the original report from CNBC made no mention of the attachments that, according to the letter itself, accompanied the message.

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