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March 24, 2020 News 3 Comments

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CMS offers exceptions and extensions for Medicare quality programs, with MIPS and MSSP reporting deadlines extended from March 31 to April 30 and no 2021 penalties for clinicians who don’t submit data. Q4 data submissions for hospital and post-acute care programs are now optional.

Reader Comments


From Angry HIMSS Vendor: “Re: HIMSS20. I’m curious to know your thoughts and those of readers on the decision of HIMSS to not offer any refunds to vendors for booths, etc. Freeman is stating the same and many hotels have refused refunds on pre-paid rooms. HIMSS is doing a great deal of damage to their vendor relationships. As a result of this decision, we will not exhibit in Las Vegas.” My random thoughts, and readers are welcome to add theirs:

  • I doubt HIMSS has enough cash to offer exhibitor refunds. Their expenses start long before the conference and are irrecoverable, so it would be tough for them to eat that sunk cost, refund exhibitors, and then face another year before their main cash cow starts producing milk again.
  • It’s interesting that HIMSS invoked its force majeure contract clause in denying exhibitor refunds. It makes me wonder whether they have (and certainly should have had) that same clause in their own contracts with the convention center, Freeman, OnPeak, etc. to protect itself.
  • Many conferences learned the force majeure lesson after the SARS outbreak and added specific contractual language that included “commercial impracticability” instead of just “impossibility,” spelling out responsibilities in the event of travel restrictions, for example.
  • Some or maybe most cancelled conferences have refunded the registration fees of individual attendees. HIMSS instead issued a HIMSS21 credit, so those who aren’t interesting in attending that conference (or who can’t, for whatever reason) will lose their money.
  • The HIMSS conference will return to Orlando in 2022, which means HIMSS should have the leverage to insist on some kind of credit from those same Orlando hotels, the convention center, etc. It may be that such discussions are underway and maybe we will or won’t see adjustments to HIMSS22 charges as a result.
  • None of us know what kind of insurance HIMSS carries for conference-related risk and business interruption. However, a law review I read says that all four of the leading event cancellation policies now exclude coronavirus and contain no coverage for “enforced reduced attendance” that is related to flights and quarantines. However, HIMSS would have signed its policy long before the coronavirus threat, so it depends on the contractual language they use.
  • HIMSS is supposedly a member-centric non-profit, so it would be nice to see the financial picture of HIMSS20 after the dust has cleared, especially if it might get credits or refunds from its own suppliers.
  • HIMSS is within its legal rights to deny exhibitor refunds. The real question is how that decision will affect future conferences.
  • Despite the appeal of an online conference alternative and the commendably quickly created Virtual HIMSS20, most of the conference’s revenue is from the exhibit hall and most of its influence is due to networking, on-site partnership talks, vendor-customer meetings, and high-level agenda setting that just won’t work by staring at a screen. I’m not hearing much buzz about the virtual version, but then again its timing is unfortunately even worse than that of HIMSS20 since everybody is dealing with COVID-19.
  • Without the conference, what would remain of HIMSS would be a trade association, publishing, and marketing group with little to bind its diverse membership.

From Misplaced Priorities: “Re: HIMSS20. In times of crisis, you see the true character of organizations and individuals. HIMSS is showing their true character — no refunds (understandable) and no rollover of exhibitor fees (not even partial rollover), just a bland note about all of the ‘good’ they do. I will be shocked if this doesn’t end up having a huge impact on exhibition and attendance next year. They have shown what their priorities are, and those priorities don’t include the exhibitors who pay their bills.” MP had their credit card company reverse the charge, but that doesn’t always work.


From Major Force: “Re: HIMSS20. Keeping our $40K in booth fees with no credit for HIMSS21 even though the booth rates are increasing next year. We have thousands in hotel fees that we aren’t getting back even though HIMSS forced us to book through them. HIMSS thinks they are ‘critical to the industry,’ but there’s no way that we will exhibit in the same capacity going forward. They are leaning on vendors to bail them out. A survey is in order.” Obviously the HIMSS decision not to refund or credit any part of HIMSS20 exhibitor costs is riling folks everywhere. I have created a survey for HIMSS20 exhibitors and will publish the results.

From Aldonza: “Re: sponsoring your site. We’re spending more marketing dollars on online advertising now that tradeshows are effectively gone for the first half of the year, at least. Could you help us get started?” Yes. I’ve responded offline.

From Joe: “Re: the playlist you developed for a friend. Would you share that? Since working from home, I have more time to listen to background music now.” Spotify is the worst platform ever for user privacy because it shares everything publicly, including name and listening habits. I made a new account (hopefully minus my personal info) and recreated the playlist here. The playlist is personalized for its recipient and thus is a bit all over the place, but I’m sure I’ll make more and maybe share if anyone cares. In fact, here’s one I put together this afternoon with deeper and more mellow tracks – tell me if you hear something new you like since my day could use some brightening.


March 25 (Wednesday) 1 ET: “Streamlining Your Surgical Workflows for Better Financial Outcomes.” Sponsor: Intelligent Medical Objects. Presenters: David Bocanegra, RN, nurse informaticist, IMO; Alex Dawson, product manager, IMO. Health systems that struggle with coordinating operating rooms and scheduling surgeries can increase their profitability with tools that allow for optimal reimbursement. This webinar will identify practices to optimize OR workflows and provider reimbursement, discuss how changes to perioperative management of procedures can support increased profitability, and explore factors that can impede perioperative workflow practices.

March 26 (Thursday) 12:30 ET. “How to Use Automation to Reduce ‘My EHR is Slow’ Complaints.” Sponsor: Goliath Technologies. A common challenge is that a clinician is ready to work, but their technology is not. EHRs can be slow, logins not working, or printers and scanners are offline. Troubleshooting these end user tickets quickly is nearly impossible, especially in complex environments that might include Citrix or VMware Horizon. This webinar will present real-world examples of how leading health systems are using purpose-built technology with embedded automation and intelligence to proactively anticipate, troubleshoot, and prevent end user performance issue across their IT infrastructure and EHRs.

Previous webinars are on our YouTube channel. Contact Lorre to present your own.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


The HCI Group will hire 500-600 people in the next few days to staff its telephone triage service for hospitals, where it takes COVID-19 related calls from consumers and directs them to the appropriate local resource.

Thoma Bravo calls off discussions of selling Imprivata for up to $2 billion, citing market volatility. The private equity firm paid $544 million for the healthcare security vendor in September 2016 and was looking for an EBITDA multiple of up to 20-plus on Imprivata’s $100 million in revenue.

Announcements and Implementations


CareSignal offers hospitals free use of its no-app, text message-based COVID-19 education and support program, which sends daily CDC recommendations and updates to those who subscribe via text message. OSF Healthcare is an early user.

Redox and 14 digital health companies waive subscription fees through June for their COVID-19 related technologies.

Impact Advisors posts COVID-19 related best practices from the front line, as gleaned from its customers.


I’m interested in how COVID-19 deaths are being counted, especially given the common comorbidities and those patients who die outside of a hospital. I assume that health systems that use Epic or Cerner are documenting their inpatient deaths consistently and can produce accurate numbers, but I don’t necessarily trust government-sponsored groups to summarize and publish them accurately since they seem overly focused on avoiding public panic. We are probably also undercounting unrelated deaths that were due to capacity issues, like heart attack, trauma, and stroke patients who aren’t treated quickly by hospitals whose ICUs are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.


Doctors from a state-of-the-art hospital in wealthy Bergamo, Italy say that solutions are needed for the entire population, not just for hospitals and their inpatients. They say the world hasn’t noticed that their outbreak is out of control, with overwhelmed hospitals and caregivers, lack of ventilators and personal protective equipment, lowered standards of care, restricting ICU beds for the patients most likely to survive, ignoring other critical patients, and having case counts exploding in prisons. They also note that hospitals might be the biggest COVID-19 carrier in infecting patients and employees. They recommend:

  • Using home care and mobile clinics to free hospital beds and keep those who are infected away from others.
  • Delivering oxygen therapy, pulse oximeters, and food to those who are mildly ill and can convalesce at home.
  • Setting up broad surveillance that uses telemedicine instruments to reserve hospitals for the most serious cases.
  • Protecting caregivers with adequate protective equipment.
  • Dedicating contained hospital areas to COVID-19 patients.
  • Maintaining lockdown, as China will probably see new outbreaks with its premature relaxation of restrictive measures in trying to restart its economy.


Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network will study how coronavirus spreads by delivering test kits to homes and picking up the completed test for laboratory delivery. The Gates Foundation-backed program is based on a previous Seattle flu study.


In Spain, the local government turns a Madrid ice rink into a temporary morgue as the country’s death toll soars to 2,200 and public cemeteries stop accepting bodies because employees don’t have protective gear. The Spanish military found several care homes that had been abandoned with dead and dying residents inside, vowing to take action against those who are responsible. 

India’s government imposes a 21-day lockdown on its 1.3 billion citizens with “a total ban on venturing out of your homes.”

Initial optimism over what seemed to be a leveling off of COVID-19 in Italy yesterday was dashed Tuesday as the country reported 5,200 new cases, 743 new deaths, and a crude case mortality rate of 9.8%.


Apple adds CDC’s COVID-19 screening questionnaire to Siri, invoked by saying, “Siri, do I have coronavirus?”


Project N95 is launched to coordinate hospital mask, gown, and ventilator needs with global manufacturer capacity.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD says New York’s epidemic curve won’t peak for another 3-4 weeks and it is sparing nobody except perhaps those under 20. He urges the federal government to get billions of dollars in economic assistance to hospitals and to stop talking about a quick end to social distancing while the virus still rages. New York’s cases have overtaken all of Iran’s and he expects New Orleans and Florida to follow because of their lax mitigation steps.

New York will begin testing whether people with an active COVID-19 infection can benefit from being injected with plasma from others who have recovered and developed antibodies, a World War I era influenza procedure known as “convalescent plasma.” Governor Andrew Cuomo also said that the state will try rigging ventilators to support two patients given its need for at least 30,000 more ventilators within 14 days and FEMA offering 400. He also says the state needs 140,000 beds for COVID-19 patients, for which it may resort to converting college dorms and hotels. New York State’s Tuesday morning report showed 26,000 cases, 3,200 people hospitalized, 756 ICU patients in ICU, and 210 deaths.

Liberty University (VA) President Jerry Falwell, Jr. welcomes up to 5,000 students to return to their dorms after spring break and orders faculty members to report to campus even though most classes have moved online. Falwell, who has downplayed coronavirus fears and speculated that it was created by North Korea, says students are safer being together on campus and that 99% are young and don’t have conditions that place them at risk. Virginia reports 290 confirmed cases and the Department of Health has urged residents to avoid public spaces, group gatherings, and use of public transportation.

President Trump says he wants to “open this country up” within two weeks, by April 12, noting that we don’t shut the country down for flu and automobile accidents that kill more people and promising on Twitter that people will practice social distancing and that “seniors will be watched over and protected & lovingly.”


Aledade CEO Farzad Mostashari, MD warns that independent primary care practices are struggling financially with appointment cancellations, quarantined employees, and uncertainty over payment for conducting virtual visits even as bailouts are being discussed for hospitals that are paid more for the same visit.

Privacy and Security

Hackers publish the patient information of 2,300 patients of a London medical research company that is working on clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine after the company refuses to pay a ransomware demand.



Consulting firm Mitre and several companies form the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, a data-driven effort to study community mitigation efforts, identifying people who have been exposed and need testing, and helping health systems manage staff, space, and supply chains. Participants include Amazon Web Services, Arcadia.io, Athenahealth, CommonWell, Epic, HCA, Intermountain Healthcare, LabCorp, Mayo Clinic, Microsoft, Salesforce, Rush University System for Health, and University of California Health System. The agree to participate for the benefit of the country, to share plans openly, and to work for free. Co-chairs are Mitre Chief Medical and Technology Officer Jay Schnitzer, MD, PhD and Mayo Clinic Platform President John Halamka, MD, MS.


UCSF launches a study in which emergency medical workers will wear Oura Rings to monitor their body temperature and other vital signs, with researchers hoping to be able to use their data to see if people who are infected with COVID-19 could be identified earlier to allow self-quarantine.

The hopefully hunkered down Weird News Andy wonders if the thieves made off with toilet paper, too. Wheeling Hospital (WV) reports that two boxes of N95 masks were stolen from its corporate health department.

Sponsor Updates

  • AdvancedMD publishes a new e-guide, “Making Telemedicine Seamless for Patients and Practices.”
  • Bright.md COVID-19 screening products help save thousands of provider hours during the pandemic crisis.
  • Diameter Health publishes a multi-part series on new ONC, CMS regulations.

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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Keep the music recommendations coming! You suggested NF and he ended up being my #2 artist of 2019 on Spotify.

  2. So I have been a member of HIMSS for 30 plus years. I have served on both HIMSS Chapter boards and I have served at the national level on the HIMSS board. That said, I am both ashamed and angered at the same time by the lack of genuine care HIMSS is showing the vendor community, membership, and contractors who staged to deliver the HIMSS 2020 conference.

    Over the last ten years, I have seen HIMSS transformed into the organization it is today. As such I decided last year to allow my membership to end. I heard that HIMSS was using the Nonprofit card as a means to justify their lack of compassion. Like so many providers, that is simply a tax filing tool for them to use to their advantage. HIMSS and its leadership are only interested in profitability and expanding their footprint. While I believe they do offer educational value, that value has been diminishing over the last few years as other organizations fill the space and provide more specialized education and information.

    Don’t get me wrong It’s always been understood that HIMSS was a vehicle for vendors to interact with prospects and clients. But they have aligned their focus on leveraging all HIMSS community members to realize the greatest revenue they can and by way of their recent investments they have continued to focus on media, conferences, and other marketing ventures, combined with their lucrative lobbying business. I believe that it is time for “reset” for HIMSS and even CHIME which I was also a member and also I’ve allowed my membership to lapse. The vendors provide the greatest percentage of revenue to HIMSS and they need to demand more. I believe this year provides vendors to determine if they are getting value out of HIMSS and I suggest they collaborate or work in a unified manner to make HIMSS serve them better. HIMSS needs you more than you need them.

    Just my thoughts from the balcony. I don’t skin in the game anymore and aren’t worried about HIMSS or CHIME or having the ability to attend any event. I’d tell them not to think that much about themselves. They are aren’t that important anymore.

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