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May 26, 2020 News 4 Comments

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China’s continued use of its COVID-19 contact tracing phone app – which assigns users color codes that permit or deny them access to stores and public transportation — raises concerns that the government will make it an ongoing standard since features unrelated to COVID-19 are being added even as the pandemic’s impact wanes.

A Communist Party secretary says his city’s app should be an “intimate health guardian” that is “loved so much that you cannot bear to part with it.”

Officials in Hangzhou are considering using the app to assign a “personal health index” that is based on the user’s sleep, exercise, and smoking and drinking. Other cities are trying to keep users running the apps by giving them access to store coupons and the ability to schedule hospital visits.

Another region is using the app to assigned an “honesty health code” in which party officials will downgrade the user’s normal green code to yellow or red based on “whether your party spirit is healthy.”

Reader Comments

From Stayin’ Alive: “Re: returning to campus. At our place, there’s a generational gap. Younger leaders are pressing for more remote work with adequate monitoring. The older guard want butts back in seats, but can’t explain the why, other than that healthcare is unique. We’ve supported applications and other technology remotely for three months, but nobody can explain why that can’t be sustainable.” Management is always challenged to quantify the deliverables of most employees, whether they’re sitting in a cubicle or at their dining room table (and of course to justify their own existence as overseers). That’s why a lot of performance reviews end up being based on subservience, peer likeability, and creating the image of efficiency and expertise even when it doesn’t exist. Old-school managers were taught to use oppressive practices to make their least-productive employees behave themselves in the absence of willingness to terminate them, coupled with the feel-good idea that every employee should be treated the same. Everybody can point out the employees who contribute disproportionately and anchor the boat for everybody around them, so it’s crazy not to reward them with looser oversight, more self-direction, a few nice perks, and a more collegial interpersonal approach. It’s a lot easier to keep them than replace them.

From Home Office Space: “Re: working from home. What do you expect to see as the downside of that as a permanent arrangement?” The lack of ability to raise the knowledge level of less-experienced employees via face-to-face conversations, serendipitous break room encounters, and interpersonal dynamics. Another is the difficulty creating a culture as happens in all-travel consulting firms. It’s exactly the same as in online education – both are good for self-directed, experienced people or for relatively short terms, but not a good substitute for those who are trying to work their way up. It will be interesting to see how job promotions are doled out now that face time has been replaced by FaceTime.

From John: “Re: scam award emails. Here is another, the third I’ve received in a week, all from different organizations. Desperation?” This one came from International Forum on Advancements in Healthcare, which offers “the most-awaited healthcare conference” in Las Vegas in December. This is yet another offering from Prism Events, a think tank of diligent India-born workers who occupy a rented PO box in a rundown house in Wilmington, DE. The “manager of speaker outreach” who sent John an unsolicited email asking for his phone number (while not providing her own) says in her LinkedIn that her job is to sift through other LinkedIn profiles to create nominees for “Top 100 Leaders” and “Top 50 Companies.” A ton of folks have slapped this made-up award on their LinkedIn, which would be reason enough for me to not hire them even if I was otherwise inclined. I am always shocked at how many people – many of them light on education and upward job mobility – who will plaster all kinds of eye-rolling certifications, awards, and obviously inflated job descriptions on their LinkedIn.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Halo Health. The Cincinnati-based company’s cloud-based Halo Clinical Communication Platform (the company was formerly known as Doc Halo) reduces care delays and clinician burnout via unified clinical communication (secure messaging, VoIP calling, mobilization of critical alerts, and advanced clinical workflow that incorporates on-call scheduling). Real-time integration includes EHR, PBX, PACS, LIS, and middleware. Halo Health is offering urgent deployment of its secure messaging for COVID-19 efforts at no charge for up to six months and offers a best practices guide and webinar, with customer examples including anesthesia intubation, virtual care teams, clinical team mobilization, SNF messaging, and instant notification of test results. CEO and co-founder Jose Barreau, MD is board certified in internal medicine, hematology, and medical oncology and is passionate about addressing the need for clinicians to improve care through better communication, while co-founder and CFO Alessio Nasini is an industry long-timer with Merge Healthcare. Some of its customers are Atrium Health, Henry Ford Health System, and Trinity Health. Thanks to Halo Health for supporting HIStalk.

I found this new Halo Platform explainer video on YouTube.


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

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Insiders report that an unnamed private equity firm will acquire patient transfer management platform vendor Central Logic for more than $100 million. I interviewed President and CEO Angie Franks in late January.

ONC provides $1.1 million in funding to engage The Sequoia Project to continue as the Recognized Coordinating Entity for TEFCA for a second year.

Announcements and Implementations


A new KLAS report on clinical optimization services – which it defines as workflow refinement, application enhancement, and clinician training – places “2020 Best in KLAS” winner Chartis Group as #1, with both Chartis Group and Nordic also earning client nods for deep Epic expertise.


A UPMC cardiologist’s app that generates a post-visit summary using AI-extracted speech finds new use in telehealth visits, where patients are more likely to forget their session details due to technology and proximity distractions. Doctors use the Abridge service by calling the patient using an assigned phone number, after which the call is recorded and the medically relevant portions are transcribed and made available to the patient. Patients can use the app directly for in-person and telehealth visits. UPMC-owned Abridge plans to to send the information to the EHR in its next phase.


Philips earns FDA’s 510(k) clearance for its wireless, wearable biosensor for measuring vital signs for patients who are in lower-acuity hospital rooms. The five-day disposable patch collects respiratory and heart rate every one minute and integrates with the company’s analytics software for early warning of deterioration, including in COVID-19 patients, where it reduces the use of PPE.


Premier Inc. and 15 of its member health systems acquire a minority stake in Prestige Ameritech, the US’s largest surgical face mask manufacturer. The company manufactures its products in Fort Worth, TX and sells only to US customers. The US sources 80% of its masks from China and Southeast Asia, complicating the supply chain.

A pre-print study finds that coronavirus levels in a given city’s sewer sludge is highly correlated with the days-later COVID-19 epidemiological curve hospital admissions.

A CNN report concludes that “the world sacrificed its elderly in the race to protect hospitals” as nursing mortality home death rates are finally starting to surface. Countries in Europe are reporting that from one-third to more than half of their total COVID-19 deaths occurred among elderly residents of care homes as testing capacity was insufficient, national guidelines were lacking, and those facilities were given low priority for PPE and support for absent employees. Employees at a New York City state-run veteran nursing home defiantly publish a Memorial Day list of the nearly 50 of its 250 residents that died of COVID-19 in a four-week period through late April.


An interesting observation by former CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. The pandemic and its death toll are, for most of us, an abstract concept of someone else’s problem.

A JAMIA-published article finds that the biggest problem with local, state, and federal public health agencies using hospital data to manage the pandemic is that most of those agencies aren’t capable of receiving electronic data. I might point out, however, that the underlying data came from surveyed hospitals who rarely self-identify as interoperability obstructers.

Data from China, which has largely defeated coronavirus if their reported numbers are to believed, suggests that patterns of lower subway ridership and higher levels of online collaboration have persisted, suggesting that work is changing there.

The latest projection from the most accurate US COVID-19 prediction model says the current death toll will rise from today’s 100,000 to more than 200,000 by September 1, which I note is pretty close the 220,000 low-end number that was projected early in the pandemic by the Imperial College group to much skepticism. Photos from this past weekend of beaches and bars packed with non-mitigating celebrants should encourage bettors to choose the “over.” It’s also important to note that our antiquated and politically manipulated methods of counting at the state level mean the real death count is a lot higher than the official numbers. Meanwhile, Brazil’s daily COVID-19 death count exceeded that of the US for the first time this week, as the country reported 807 deaths in 24 hours versus 620 in the US.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott defends issuing a $295 million, 27-month contract – paid for by federal taxpayers – to a little-known company that will perform COVID-19 contact tracing. Salesforce tech firm MTX Group, which has 200 mostly India-based employees, refuses to provide details on the similar work it claims to be performing for several other states and was allowed to redact its own state contract before it was released to the press.



The New York Times reports that 20 large health systems received $5 billion in federal bailout grants even as they were sitting on $100 billion of stockpiled cash. The article highlights Providence Health System, which received $509 million from the fund that was intended to keep health systems solvent even though Providence invests in hedge funds, runs two venture capital funds, and works with private equity firms as it banks $1 billion in annual profit. The quickly designed bailout program assigned payouts that were based on Medicare payments for 2019, meaning most of the money went to big, profitable systems instead of struggling community hospitals that are quickly depleting their modest cash reserves. According to Health Care Institute President Niall Brennan, “If you ever hear a hospital complaining they don’t have enough money, see if they have a venture fund. If you’ve got play money, you’re fine.”

Sponsor Updates

  • Datica provides EHR integration for clinical surveillance company VigiLanz’s COVID Quick Start solution, available to hospitals for free for six months.
  • The Chartis Group develops the interactive Telehealth Adoption Tracker.

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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. KLAS: Is it me or does it seem odd to rank vendors based on such small sample sizes? n = 6 is not exactly a big sample when considering there are ‘000s of hospitals in the USA to award top spot. I suppose at least they front up to the fact by publishing sample sizes as opposed to most obtuse and ropey awards out there.

    • No it’s not you as I was wondering the exact same thing. An n=6 is hardly statistically relevant and extremely misleading. Why even publish such garbage?

  2. RE: …encourage bettors to choose the “over.”

    What web site can I go to to make this bet? or is Vegas now ‘open’ and when does the next perfectly disinfected, COVIT19 free flight leave?

    …and here’s another question, albeit a little morbid, but nobody seems to want to ask it.
    How many COVIT19 deaths are ‘acceptable’? Coumo says ‘not one’…but really isn’t that just politically correct but grossly unrealistic? 200,000 is probably too many, but is 100,000 ok?

    One of the reasons this pandemic is ‘out of control’ is sensationalism and over reacting on both sides of the issue. There are a few docs (Katz is one- see Bill Maher interview on YouTube) that seem to be realists about this, but unfortunately far too few.

  3. RE: The latest projection from the most accurate US COVID-19 prediction model

    I hate to say it, but I am old enough to remember when Walter Cronkite (and other broadcasters) would report the daily casualties from Vietnam. “US – 23; Viet Cong – 30”. My young mind would think “hey, we are winning”.

    But after awhile, it just went in one ear and out the other.

    As you stated Mr. H., “for most of us, an abstract concept of someone else’s problem.”

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