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April 9, 2020 News 2 Comments

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Nature magazine describes the spur-of-the-moment decision by a Johns Hopkins University first-year PhD candidate to create a global COVID-19 tracking dashboard for fellow researchers. He developed the site in a handful of hours.

The Johns Hopkins University and Medicine COVID-19 case tracking site is drawing over one billion page views each day for its near-real time display of data from WHO, CDC, and other authorities. 


Developer Ensheng Dong (second from left in the photo above) is a first-year graduate student in civil and systems engineering with a focus on disease epidemiology. He also holds MS degrees in statistics and geography. He used his experience building a geospatial mapping tool to track measles hotspots to create the coronavirus display.

Dong’s thesis advisor, who help create the dashboard, has told him that this year isn’t normal and that he should “prepare for a really boring second to fifth years.”

Reader Comments


From Down In Flames: “Re: Allscripts. Big layoffs this week.” Here’s some of what I’ve heard from the folks who emailed me. None of this is confirmed, just what they told me:

  • The company laid off 5% of employees across the board (some say it was more than that, perhaps 10%).
  • Salaries of high-earning employees were cut for six months: $100-150K (15%), $151-225K (20%), $226-325K (25%), more than $325K (30%).
  • Merit and promotion raises have been deferred until 2021.
  • All contractors have been dismissed.
  • An austerity travel ban that has been in place since early January is now being blamed on COVID-19.
  • Bonuses that were accrued in 2019 will be paid “sometime soon.”
  • Clients aren’t paying their bills due to lack of profitable elective surgeries.

From Allscripts Employee: “Re: Allscripts layoffs. Playing Titanic deck musical chairs continues, as even teams that are hitting goals are hit with reorgs every nine months that seem to be solely to allow executives to justify their existence. The C-suite will blame everything on COVID-19 instead of their many poor business decisions over the years (Practice Fusion, Avenel). They didn’t even warn employees, many of whom would have gladly left and found other jobs given the chance.” 

From PE Watcher: “Re: Allscripts. Paul Black is out of runway. The low share price has private equity circling to buy it cheap, then sell off the parts of the business like Veradigm that might attract a cash buyer.” MDRX shares are at $6.69, down 30% in the past 12 months and down 29% since Paul Black took over as CEO in December 2012 (versus the Nasdaq’s loss of 1% and gain of 162%, respectively). The company’s market cap is just over $1 billion.


From Exhibit Hall of Shame: “Re: HIMSS. Making a slight pivot.” An email from Hal Wolf that was forwarded to me says:

  • Exhibitors will be credited 25% of their total HIMSS20 payments, to be spread over HIMSS21 and HIMSS22 (15% and 10%, respectively).
  • Startup and University Row exhibitors will be credited their full payment, spread equally between the two future conferences.
  • Paid exhibitor and client booth badges can be used at HIMSS21.
  • Payments for optional events — such as the Universal Studio outing, awards gala, and CIO Forum — will be credited against optional events at HIMSS21.
  • Some hotels are giving refunds, some aren’t, and HIMSS is puzzled why some of them are telling people to contact HIMSS when it’s the hotel’s decision and cancellation policy that determines if refunds are offered.
  • HIMSS has cancelled employee raises and bonuses for this year.
  • HIMSS notes on its updated FAQ that it is considering changing its hotel deposit requirement through OnPeak to just one night.

From Accounts Prayable: “Re: HIMSS20. Another outrage — we just received an invoice for ads in the Show Daily handouts, poorly named in this case since they were not actually handed out.”


April 15 (Wednesday) 1 ET: “Scaling front-line COVID-19 response: virtual education, screening, triage, and patient navigation.” Sponsor: Orbita. Presenters: Lawrence “Rusty” Hofman, MD, medical director of digital health, Stanford Health Care; Kristi Ebong, MPH, MBA, SVP of corporate strategy, Orbita. The presenters will describe how chatbots can be quickly deployed to streamline individual navigation to the appropriate resources, administer automated virtual health checks for monitoring and managing specific populations, increase access to screening and triage for high-risk populations across multiple channels (web, voice, SMS, and analog phone), and reach individuals in multiple languages.

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

Announcements and Implementations


NYC Health + Hospitals extends its Epic system to the field hospital set up for COVID-19 patients at the Javits Center in Manhattan.


Experian Health offers free access to a list of payer policy alerts related to COVID-19 and telehealth to help providers avoid payment delays.

Blessing Health System (IL) implements CareSignal’s COVID Companion educational text-messaging program for patients.


Hyland Healthcare develops an enterprise version of its PACSgear server software for imaging capture and exchange.


EMPI vendor Verato offers Telehealth Identity Bridge, which links a patient’s EHR and telehealth visits to give clinicians a full clinical history. The company offers health systems and health plans free use through the end of the year.

Government and Politics


President Trump appoints VA Chief of Staff Pamela Powers to the additional role of deputy secretary, making her the top authority over the VA’s EHR modernization project. She takes over from James Byrne, who was fired in February for purportedly clashing with members of the leadership team. Powers is a US Air Force Academy graduate, holds masters degrees in military leadership and organizational management, and is a retired Air Force colonel and cyber communications officer. 


CliniComp secures a $430 million contract to maintain parts of the DoD’s clinical information system while it migrates to Cerner. The San Diego-based health IT company previously sued the VA to protest its no-bid selection of Cerner and then sued Cerner for patent violations.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie assures Congress that parts of the VA’s shift to Cerner remain on schedule, including development of the VA-DOD Joint Health Care Exchange and other interfaces, infrastructure upgrades, clinical workflow design, and integrated testing. The transition to Cerner’s scheduling system will be delayed.


A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report that was commissioned by the White House warns that no evidence exists to suggest that coronavirus spread will mimic flu by tapering off in the summer, noting that coronavirus is running rampant in countries that already have high heat and humidity. The authors conclude that the potential absence of seasonality, along with global lack of immunity to coronavirus, make it unwise to count on those factors in developing strategies.

HHS tells a House panel that the federal government’s supply of personal protective equipment is depleted and states will receive no more. The federal government has distributed 11.7 million N95 masks versus the 3.5 billion the administration had said were needed, while just under 8,000 ventilators were sent out. HHS employees say the allocation was based on population, not state requests, which has led to shortages that required states to lend equipment to each other.

The federal government asks its health officials to track COVID-19 deaths by race after several states report that disproportionately high percentages of African Americans are dying. Every one of St. Louis’s 12 COVID-19 deaths were African Americans, although the significance of that finding will require looking at the presence of chronic disease and social determinants of health.

A Black Book survey finds that nursing homes are underreporting COVID-19 cases because of lack of technology, heavy use of agency and per-diem workers, and lack of ability for long-term care providers to find out which other facilities have cared for COVID-19 patients. Hospitals are discharging COVID-19 patients into long-term and subacute care without having test results and 96% of nursing home respondents say that they no longer believe that their facility is the best place for housing elderly, susceptible people.

Executives at Detroit Medical Center’s Sinai-Grace Hospital (MI) send ED nurses home after they refuse to work because of understaffing. Two nurses were covering 26 patients, 10 of whom were on ventilators, and seven night shift nurses are covering up to 100 patients versus the proper staffing of 21 nurses per shift . After ordering the nurses off campus, the hospital held day shift nurses over to cover for them, extending their shift to 24 hours.


Nearly 100 residents of a California nursing home that has been hard it by COVID-19 are evacuated after employees fail to show up for work for the second straight day. Officials say that 34 residents and 16 employees have tested positive for coronavirus.

Experts warn that US COVID-19 testing remains constrained and is not growing rapidly even as the number of cases skyrockets, leaving the only option as continued mass social distancing rather than identifying and quarantining those who are infected. A Nature review finds that universities that offer certified COVID-19 testing are not operating at full capacity because of lack of contracts between providers, incompatible EHRs, the FDA’s requirement that labs hold a CLIA certificate, and a lack of federal leadership. A director of UC Berkeley’s genomics institute offered hospitals a free alternative to the state health department tests – which had a backlog of 57,000 – but explains, “I show up in a magic ship with 20,000 free kits and CLIA and everything, and the major hospitals say, go away, we cannot interface with you.” Sutter Health turned down at least one academic provider of COVID-19 tests because no electronic interface exists and it wants to expand its own testing capacity. Boston Medical Center agreed to use tests from Boston University School of Medicine only after a bioinformatics graduate student wrote a script to connect orders and results to its EHR.


With numerous protective measures still in place, the City of Wuhan, China reopens to outbound travel after a nearly three-month lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Amazon Web Services will partner with the Yale School of Public Health to offer 30 hours of online training to people interested in becoming volunteer health workers. The course will teach them how to work at drive-through COVID-19 testing sites, support homebound patients over the phone, and record vital signs in pop-up triage facilities.


University of California, Irvine designs and creates 5,000 3D-printed face masks for UCI Medical Center.  Their low cost allows them to be discarded between patients as requested by clinicians.



UC San Diego Health physicians pilot an internally developed machine learning algorithm that enables radiologists to better screen for pneumonia on chest X-rays, which can also turn up potential COVID-19 cases.


UW Medicine launches the DoD-funded HIPPOCRATIC app-based research project, which will use health and wellness data from 25,000 volunteers to inform the development of predictive analytics ahead of future outbreaks. Researchers also hope to better understand the feasibility of using a smartphone-based screening tool instead of drive-through screening and testing sites.

American Association of Nurse Practitioners cancels its annual conference in New Orleans, offering full refunds to registrants and exhibitors. AANP is cancelling all the hotel rooms in its block (it does not use OnPeak or other housing service) and will not charge the one-night deposit.

“If you want to recruit fake doctors, we’re ready. We can help hand you stuff.” Past and present TV doctors come together to thank healthcare workers on World Health Day.

Sponsor Updates

  • Microsoft publishes a case study titled “SyTrue offers AI-based healthcare solution at no charge to public health organizations to help them fight COVID-19.”
  • The Tampa Bay Business Journal honors Greenway Health SVP Karen Mulroe as one of its 2020 Top Corporate Counsel honorees.
  • Healthcare Growth Partners publishes “Health IT March 2020 Insights.”
  • Esse Health expands its use of CareSignal software to include a COVID-19 text-messaging program for patients.
  • PMD announces record adoption of its telemedicine platform in March.
  • Collective Medical’s product offerings meet new CMS ADT notifications conditions of participation.

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. While it is popular, and perhaps but not completely deserved, to bash Allscripts, COVID is undoubtedly impacting new sales and providers’ ability to pay the ongoing support bills.
    With provider revenue dropping across the country and major expense reductions announced, it is time for our vendor community to step up and give us a break on those ongoing expenses. I’d like to see a 25-50% reduction for the duration of the crisis – a minimum 3 months. How about it, Partners?

  2. This current Allscripts employee can tell you that COVID-19 is not the blame for the existing financial woes of Allscripts. They have been struggling for several years and last year really put the company cling on the cake for them. I agree that COVID-19 is not helping their situation but it is highly likely that what transpired last week was going to happen regardless. Multiple poor business decisions are the main reason Allscripts is in their current situation. Quite honestly, Allscripts deserves the bashing they are getting.

    I agree that it would be nice it for the IT vendors (and others) to give the provider community a break on the provider expenses. I see most respectable, financially secure vendors working with the providers over the next few months until things normalize. However, vendors that are experiencing their own financial issues may have a hard time doing that. Bottom line, you can’t get blood from a turnip. We are going to have to all work together to move beyond this catastrophe. It is going to take much longer to recover than it did for us to get into this mess. CEOs and other top level executives from all business sectors are going to have to take a financial hit. Everyone is going to have to tighten their belt. This will be a true test of the survival of the fittest. Will be interesting to see which hospital groups, providers and provider groups, as well as IT vendors will come out on the other end of this event.

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