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August 4, 2020 News 16 Comments

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Siemens Healthineers will acquire radiation oncology technology vendor Varian Medical Systems for $16.4 billion.

Varian’s software offerings include treatment planning, treatment delivery, QA, image sharing, patient-reported outcomes, and the Aria oncology information system.

Reader Comments

From Spoofer: “Re: LinkedIn. It’s turning into Facebook now that Microsoft owns it.” I steer clear of LinkedIn except when looking up someone’s title or job history for the “People” section, but I have noticed that is becoming a home for folks (many of them salespeople) who believe themselves to be inspirational or instructional. It’s also drawing in users who litter it Facebook-like with personal musings, political commentary, and of course endless pitches for their employer or themselves.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


Tyson Foods offered a $10 match for each $1 donated for specific Donors Choose projects, so I put my Anonymous Vendor Executive’s money to work in fully paying for these requests, most of which involve the rapid transition to remote learning. Donors Choose also sent me a note observing that this is the eighth consecutive year that HIStalk readers have supported classrooms, funding 631 projects that have impacted more than 50,000 students. I’ve already heard from several of these teachers:

  • A camcorder for virtual learning and an air purifier for Coach H’s high school class in Sebastopol, MS.
  • Online materials and lessons for Ms. D’s middle school class in Fort Smith, AR.
  • A GoPro camera for virtual physical education and dance classes for Coach K’s elementary school class in Fort Smith, AR.
  • Five Amazon Fire tablets and cases to replace the book corner activity that was cancelled because of COVID for the elementary school class of Ms. C in Nebo, KY.
  • Two Chromebooks for Ms. P’s elementary school class in Forest, MS.
  • Two Chromebooks for Ms. W’s elementary school class in Forest, MS.
  • Classroom library supplies, organizers, clipboards, pads, pencils, cushions, earbuds, and file folders (which are no longer allowed to be shared) for the elementary school class of Ms. B in Omaha, NE, who is a second-year teacher.
  • 30 headphones for Ms. S’s elementary school class in Vicksbug, MS.
  • Bean bag chairs, dry erase boards, pencils, gloves, Play-Doh, balance balls,fidget toys, lanyards, pillows, charts, learning resources, and a long list of supplies for the elementary school class of Ms. R in Omaha, NE, who is a first-year teacher.
  • 60 social emotional learning lesson books for Ms. S in Madisonville, KY, who is an elementary school counselor.
  • An IPad, tripod, and tablet mount for the elementary school class of Ms. C in Lake, MS, who will create an online library of instructional videos for absent students or if the school closes due to COVID.
  • A yearbook camera and all supplies for Mr. G’s middle school yearbook club of gifted and talented students in Madisonville, KY.
  • Two IPads and a webcam to teach virtual learners at Ms. G’s elementary school class in Forest, MS.
  • Supplies for at-home learners of Ms. D’s second grade class in Portland, ME.
  • Math materials for Ms. P’s elementary school class in Sterling Heights, MI.
  • 30 sets of headphones and 20 water bottles to allow Ms. J’s first grade school class in Chicago, IL to practice healthy behaviors.
  • Digital and online learning resources for Mr. V’s high school class in Lake, MS.


August 19 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. “A New Approach to Normalizing Data.” Sponsor: Intelligent Medical Objects. Presenters: Rajiv Haravu, senior product manager, IMO; Denise Stoermer, product manager, IMO. Healthcare organizations manage an ever-increasing abundance of information from multiple systems, but problems with quality, accuracy, and completeness can make analysis unreliable for quality improvement and population health initiatives. The presenters will describe how IMO Precision Normalize improves clinical, quality, and financial decision-making by standardizing inconsistent diagnosis, procedure, medication, and lab data from diverse systems into common, clinically validated terminology.

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

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement services vendor Centauri Health Solutions acquires Applied Revenue Analytics, which offers business intelligence solutions.


  • The US Department of State medical health units will implement Allscripts TouchWorks and FollowMyHeath, with the company serving as a subcontractor to MicroHealth. MicroHealth co-founder and CEO Frank Tucker served as a physician assistant, platoon leader, preventive medicine officer, and healthcare administrator for the US Army, CTO for Tricare, deputy CIO for the US Army Office of the Surgeon General, and an adjunct professor for several universities including the bioinformatics program of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He has earned three master’s degrees (including in Physician Assistant Studies) and a doctorate of health science. The State Department chose the company for a $250 million project to manage the PHI of overseas government employees in 2019.



Brown & Toland Physicians (CA) hires Anne Barr, MBA (Counterpoint Advisors Network) as CIO.


Tom Foley (Cerner) joins AMD Global Medicine as VP of growth.


Ellkay hires Marc Probst, MBA (Intermountain Healthcare) as CIO.


Leidos promotes Liz Porter, MBA to president of its health group.


Amwell hires Serkan Kutan (Haven) as CTO.


Raymie McFarland (Glytec) joins glycemic management software vendor Monarch Medical Technologies as president and CEO.

Announcements and Implementations

Surescripts announces two new network capabilities for specialty pharmacies, a Medications Gateway that gathers information from the patient’s EHR and electronic prior authorization.


PerfectServe announces GA of Patient and Family Communication, which delivers health updates to patients and caregivers; provides a virtual room with appointment reminders and mobile check-in; supports video visits; and provides a patient inreach module for responding to on-call patient needs with direct messaging and video. Development of the system was driven by customer feedback during COVID-19.


Vyne renames its dental practice data exchange systems that were formerly sold under the NEA nameplate (claims processing, electronic claims attachments, and encrypted email) as Vyne Dental.


Imprivata publishes a digital identity framework that offers health systems advice on creating an identity and access management strategy.

Black Book surveys find that lack of interoperability has detracted from COVID-19 care and that progress has stalled, partly due to CMS’s delayed enforcement of rules. Nearly all respondents say COVID-19 clinicians don’t get complete patient records and most say manual processes fall short in submitting pandemic information to public health agencies. Another survey of 324 COVID-diagnosed patients finds none of them had their full patient record available electronically when seen by their COVID treatment provider.

Canada’s Health Sciences North goes live on Agfa enterprise imaging at 15 sites.

North Carolina’s state HIE NC, HealthConnex, goes live on real-time event notification built on Audacious Inquiry’s Encounter Notification Service.



CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD tells a House coronavirus committee that CDC wasn’t involved in HHS’s decision to move COVID-19 hospitalization data from the CDC’s system to HHS Protect. He says he was told only after the decision was made and did not discuss it with Vice-President Pence or HHS Secretary Azar. Redfield says it was the right decision since the driving factor was the need to track remdesivir supplies.


“CBS This Morning” runs a news item about Epic employees who are worried about the company’s return to campus. CBS News obtained an Epic employee survey in which several hundred respondents (out of Epic’s 9,000+ employees, which CBS labels a “backlash”) expressed concerns. Epic sent an employee email Monday night saying it will bring in national experts to review its plan, also noting that 24 employees have tested positive for COVID-19, with none of those cases being attributed  to Epic. Epic will require its Wisconsin employees to return to campus on September 21.


Ellen MacKenzie, PhD, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says that COVID-19 is providing a lesson to “invest in public health or else” in failing to be prepared for the next crisis, concluding, “We cannot let the legacy of a public health crisis be the devaluing of public health itself.”

President Trump says that it is unreasonable to compare the US’s COVID-19 death rate per population to that of other countries with lower numbers, saying, “You have to go by the cases … we’re first, the best … you’re not reporting it correctly … because we do more tests, we have more cases … death is way down from where it was.” He concluded, “They are dying, that’s true. And it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control, as much as you can control it.”

New York City’s health commissioner Oxiris Barbot, MD resigns, saying Mayor Bill de Blasio has underused the department’s disease control expertise. A notable example was his reassignment of contact tracing responsibility to Health + Hospitals. She also created controversy in COVID’s early days by urging residents to visit restaurants and festivals as usual and said in a press conference that masks should be work only by those showing symptoms of infection. NYC Health + Hospitals Chief Population Officer Dave Chokshi, MD, MSc has already been chosen to replace her.

Rutgers University’s football program has 28 COVID-infected players and employees who have tested positive after several players attended an on-campus party. Meanwhile, 18 players and coaches of the Miami Marlins baseball team have tested positive and the team admits that it played a game on July 26 knowing at that time that four players had tested positive. Thirteen players and staff of the St. Louis Cardinals tested positive in the past week.

San Antonio Metro Health removes 619 COVID-19 cases from Sunday’s count after finding duplicate entries as it prepared to switch to a new contact tracing system. The agency says the data it receives from labs, hospitals, and doctors, as well as for people who have been tested in multiple locations, may contain misspellings, dates of birth, or different street abbreviations That can cause the same patient to be reported as multiple cases.

Delays in receiving COVID-19 testing results, caused by basic supply shortages and lack of a national strategy, are hampering the efforts of businesses and schools to reopen to employees and students who test negative. Delays of several days to weeks render the tests pointless.



The New York Times examines whether telemedicine is here to say, raising these points:

  • CMS’s coverage will end when the pandemic is no longer a declared public health emergency unless Congress passes legislation making it permanent.
  • Insurers haven’t yet committed to paying for telemedicine visits comparably to in-person ones and may view telemedicine as a way to pay less.
  • The cost and quality of telemedicine remains unproven for managing chronic conditions.
  • Many or most patients prefer or require in-person visits.
  • Insurers worry that telemedicine will increase visits without improving patient health, raising costs unnecessarily.
  • Telemedicine may provide justification for doctors to bill phone calls that weren’t charged before, such as providing lab results or advising a patient to come in to the office.

A federal judge denies the plaintiff’s request to move a privacy lawsuit against UPMC to state court. UPMC is accused of sharing patient data with third parties for marketing purposes without their consent. The judge says the the lawsuit was correctly sent to federal court because UPMC was participating in HITECH.


In Argentina, an apparent server configuration error exposes the information of 115,000 people who had applied for COVID-19 quarantine exemptions. Researchers found that they could use basic information that had been exposed (ID number, gender, and phone number) to email the “circulation permit” to any email address. The exposed database was almost immediately attacked – but not disabled – by a “Meow bot” that finds and destroys exposed online data, speculated to have been created by a vigilante security expert who was annoyed by administrators who fail to secure online databases.

Sponsor Updates

  • Bret Kinsella of Voicebot.ai hosts a podcast with Saykara founder and CEO Harjinder Sandh to talk about the company’s AI assistant for physicians.
  • CareSignal and Innovaccer will partner to offer their remote patient monitoring and population health data technologies, respectively.
  • ESolutions and Homecare Homebase collaborate to help home health agencies manage CMS Review Choice Demonstration.
  • The Voicebot Podcast features Saykara founder and CEO Harjinder Sandhu.
  • Surescripts earns Black Book’s #1 ranking in patient data exchange and interoperability.
  • Fortified Health Security publishes its “2020 Mid-Year Horizon Report” on the state of cybersecurity in healthcare.
  • QliqSoft incorporates Elsevier’s Interactive Patient Education with its Quincy chatbot and Virtual Visit software.

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Currently there are "16 comments" on this Article:

  1. Looks like Epic is now in the “it wasn’t our fault” stage of dealing with a problem.

    I think the survey was from a parents group, not all of Epic’s 9000 employees.

    Epic has also been removed managers who objected to their decision to bring everyone back to campus.

    • What does Epic culture produce? Here is a story from San Francisco General Hospital go live. Salesforce was having its annual customer meeting during this time. So very hotel within 20 miles of SF was booked at a high price. All these Epic employees who were working at SFGH had to find a hotel in San Ramon/Dublin/Pleasanton. I saw many of them grumbling- “what is salesforce? I have never heard of that.What do they do?”. Ask the folks at SFGH who were active.

  2. Siemens acquires Varian
    – great news for Varian shareholders
    – sad to see another technology company move to non-US ownership
    – will be interesting to see how things shake out when Siemens decides to “integrate” the business.

  3. Re: Epic’s return to campus to “save the culture”

    Well, one has to be willing to destroy the culture in order to save it, no?

    The culture of brooking no dissent, of lack of transparency in decision making, of retaliation against opposing views, of lack of trust that employees are capable of doing the right thing unless guided by a strong hand! I almost feel bad about Sverre Roang trying to defend the indefensible.

    Bill Gates used to say that early on in the life of Microsoft, he used to eyeball how many cars were in the parking lot when he left (which often used to be late in the evening/night) to get a sense of how hard his people were working. He later admitted that it was a rather naive and inaccurate way of measuring productivity. And that was 40 odd years ago!

    Well, Bill G and Microsoft grew up! Seems like Judy and Epic haven’t.

    • Microsoft: “Be on the lookout for what is lost.”

      Satya Nadella apparently also thinks working in the office has distinct advantages.

      As for a campus of 10,000 gradually repopulating, why do people think local public health and medical establishments have not been involved? Even the University of Wisconsin 40,000+ campus is reopening on September 2nd:

      • Definition of what a company culture is is really in the mind of the beholder. What Judy believes and states that it is, is in fact perceived very differently by many, many, many others. But really, who cares? Epic has always been a “let them eat cake” kind of place when it comes to the staff, She knows perfectly well she can impose her will however she likes and the meager kicking up of dust will be gone by tomorrow. And very likely whatever staff decide to “vote with their feet” can be seen as a plus because they’ll be replaced the next day by cheaper ones who haven’t formed a sense of ethics or their own families yet. Total win.

      • No one said there aren’t benefits to working in the office. and Epic has given no indication that public health officials have been involved. Given Epic leaderships unshakeable belief in their own judgement, it’s likely that public health individuals haven’t been involved.
        UW has already lost 200 million at least from Covid refunds. Ask the faculty how they feel about returning to in office work and you hear about a leadership that cares more about dollars and politics than doing the right thing. Actually, that’s starting to sound like Epic…

        • Re: “Epic has given no indication that public health officials have been involved.”

          Good thing there are journalists who do their job:

          “We have been in contact with Epic about how to implement the required policies and best practices for business at their campus,” [health education coordinator for Public Health Madison and Dane County Christy] Vogt said


          • I’ve been in contact with my public health department too – just posted on their Facebook page and they liked my comment!
            When I say involved, I mean the public health officials tell an organization what to do, the organization does it and the organization let’s the public know they’ve done it. That’s what happens when youre a good corporate steward and a member of a community, not a billionaire’s personal playground.

          • Dane county’s recommendation is to facilitate remote work to the greatest extent possible. That means Epic is ignoring the recommendations from public health officials.

            “Limit staff and customers in offices, facilities, and stores. All businesses
            should, to the greatest extent possible, facilitate remote work and other
            measures that limit the number of individuals present at an office,
            facility, or store.”


  4. Re: Epic’s return to campus to “save the culture”

    Also, one of the things that these news organizations should do is to go and ask the CEOs, CMOs and head of Infectious Disease departments and ICUs of Epic’s customer hospitals if this is the right thing for Epic to do.

    Specially the ones serving Dane County since if there’s an exponential impact of 10,000 people returning to work on case numbers and hospitalizations, their staff will be impacted the most.

    But also ask Epic customers more widely – since those very leaders are telling businesses in their own communities to strive for work for home. How can they then support one of their biggest vendors just ignoring that very advice? Are they ok continuing to shove their millions to support it?

    • If I had to guess, I’d bet the view of most Epic client leaders outside of Dane County, WI is something like “huh, this seems unnecessary, but we’ve got enough on our own plates and as long as they aren’t coming here, then good luck with all that.”

  5. If Epic continues to insist on their current return to work strategy I bet they’ll be a lock for the “Stupidest Vendor Action” taken HISsie this year.

    At this point maybe that’s the end goal here… who knows‽

  6. Re: CBS Interview

    The gentleman being interviewed seemed like he was either horribly prepared, that his heart wasn’t supporting the plan, or that he was expecting it to be a whiffle ball interview like CBS did with them a few months ago and he couldn’t believe it when he found out it was time to play hardball.

    What I saw was someone doing an interview that someone else, someone far wealthier, should have had the moral courage to be doing instead. I wish I knew what it was about a few billion dollars that makes someone think a plan this unnecessary and dangerous to thousands of loyal employees is a good thing to do. It’s simply shameful that that same amount of money often also comes coupled with a lack of fortitude to explain oneself, instead hiding behind an underling.

    I’m concerned for the interviewee that they’ll catch some trouble for that performance, which is simply not fair. A poor defense of an abysmal plan isn’t great, but the actual problem is the abysmal plan. Who is to blame for the plan? And will that person please step forward and take the accountability they’d expect everyone else to take for failing on what should have been one of the easiest decisions of their life and turning it into a national embarrassment?

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