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Monday Morning Update 8/17/20

August 16, 2020 News 15 Comments

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Health IT vendor TeleTracking refuses to answer the Senate Health Committee’s questions about its $10.2 million contract to develop a HHS COVID-19 hospitalization reporting database to replace one used by CDC.

TeleTracking says it signed an NDA that prohibits it from explaining to Congress how it collects and shares data, the nature of its proposal to HHS, and communication it may have had with the White House or other government officials.

The Pittsburgh-based company directed such inquiries to HHS, which has not responded to a June 3 inquiry from Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who asked why the government was creating what seemed to be a duplicate data collection system.

HHS CIO Jose Arrieta, who defended the contract and insisted that the work was bid competitively despite appearances that it was not, resigned Friday.

TeleTracking’s contract runs just five months, after which it can bill the government for an extension.

Reader Comments

From Concerned Exhibitor: “Re: HIMSS21. What are companies doing now that it has been moved to August? The contract says that if HIMSS21 cancels for any reason, HIMSS will keep 50% of exhibitor payments. Wondering if people will be attending, or will it be a vendor pool?” I’ll make that my weekly poll below, but based on the one I did a couple of weeks ago, nobody will decide anything until they can assess the pandemic situation.

From Minesweeper: “Re: HIMSS21. You should get them to sponsor the return of HIStalkapalooza – bet that would get people back in the mood to attend the conference!” I’ve never missed the headache and financial risk that was involved with throwing a party for everybody else for 10 years, so I’m happy to abrogate that responsibility.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


Two-thirds of poll respondents say they would not return to campus if so required by their employer, although skeptics might observe that respondent bravado might not evidence itself in a “get in here or you’re fired” scenario, possibly also noting that Epic employees who were (at that time) being forced back to campus for reasons they might not find adequate may have worked to get out the vote.

New poll to your right or here: Health system / provider employees: do you think you’ll attend HIMSS21? (assume COVID isn’t a factor by then). I realize that the unknowns are significant at this point, but I’m curious about those who have a pretty good idea of which way they’re leaning if pandemic issues are excluded. If the pandemic is still active, then it might just be exhibitors talking to cardboard cutouts.

Listening: new from Fantastic Negrito, the stage name for 52-year-old, Grammy-winning blues singer Xavier Dphrepaulezz (clearly the rebrand was justified). He had a rough upbringing and supported himself with various illegal activities over the years, but has turned into a thoughtful observer of society and the power of individuals to change it.


Welcome to new HIStalk Platinum Sponsor Capsule Technologies, which is upgrading from Gold. The Andover, MA company offers Medical Device Information Platform, which provides device integration, vital signs monitoring, and clinical surveillance solutions. It captures streaming clinical data from connected systems and transforms it into context-rich information for clinical documentation, alarm management, patient surveillance, decision support, predictive analytics, clinical research and more. The company’s 2,900 global clients use its platform to improve patient safety, simplify workflows, and raise satisfaction. The company recently announced its Ventilated Patient Surveillance workstation, launched at Yale New Haven Health System, that allows staff to monitor live streaming data from ventilators to minimize in-room exposure and PPE consumption for patients in temporary ICU rooms that don’t have hallway windows or easily-heard alarms. CEO Hemant Goel is an engineer by training with 30 years of healthcare IT leadership experience. Thanks to Capsule Technologies for supporting HIStalk.


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.

September 3 (Thursday) 2:00 ET. “How Does A Global Pandemic Reshape Health IT? A Panel Discussion.” Sponsor: Intelligent Medical Objects. Presenters: Rob Wallace, chief product officer, IMO; Andrew S. Kanter, MD, MPH, chief medical officer, IMO; Lori Kevin, VP of enterprise IT and security, IMO; Sahas Subramanian, MCA, enterprise architect, IMO. As COVID-19 continues to spread, regulation changes, code system updates, and an increased reliance on technology are making it hard to stay on top of the many ways the pandemic is altering health IT. What’s more, we’re confronting challenges that rely heavily on technological solutions – like accurate reporting tools or telehealth adaptations – and we need those solutions now. The panel of subject matter experts across the enterprise will share insights on how the global pandemic is reshaping the health IT world.

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

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

Starboard Value, the activist investor whose purchase of just 1.2% of Cerner shares convinced the company to give it four board seats in April 2019, reduces its CERN holdings to 2.6 million shares, about 0.8% of the outstanding shares, worth less than $200 million. CERN shares have gone up 16% since the day Cerner capitulated, although the Nasdaq has moved up 38% in the same timeframe.



Karen Mellin (Swisslog) joins Harris Computer as EVP.

Announcements and Implementations


India Prime Minister Narendra Modi announces the National Digital Health Mission, in which all citizens will be issue a health ID card that links to a hospital-stored record of doctor visits, prescriptions, and tests. The voluntary program’s six systems include HealthID, DigiDoctor, Health Facility Registry, Personal Health Records, E-Pharmacy, and Telemedicine, of which all but the last two are already running. The government will issue specifications to allow companies to develop FHIR-connected solutions for the system. 

Government and Politics


HHS CIO Jose Arrieta resigned unexpectedly Friday night after 16 months on the job, saying he wants to spend time with his kids. It was the first CIO job for Arrieta, whose background was technology contracting.

Also resigning Friday were CDC’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, political appointees who had been accused by the White House of being insufficient loyal. They are forming a consulting firm.


The US death count ran past the 160,000 mark this weekend in 5.3 million cases.


COVID Tracking Project says Texas testing numbers are out of whack, with the number of tests dropping by 50% over a 10-day period followed by a record number of new tests on August 13 even as cases didn’t decline much. State-level data does not match that of the five countries with the highest volume of testing to date. The project reviewed the state’s data file and speculate that a state system upgrade to an electronic lab reporting system caused some tests to be uncounted in mishandling “pending assignment” tests. Questionable numbers from Texas are skewing national data because of the state’s size and significant COVID-19 outbreak.


FDA issues emergency use authorization for the SalivaDirect COVID-19 rapid diagnostic test that was developed by the Yale School of Public Health. The test offers major supply chain benefits since samples can be collected in any sterile container, it does not require a RNA extraction kit that is prone to shortages, and it can use a variety of common reagents and instruments. It also does not require use of a long nasal swab for sample collection. Yale will provided the test as an open source protocol to anyone who wants to manufacture it. Material cost is about $1 to $4 and results take just three hours. The NBA has been using the test since June.

Researchers prove that N95 masks can be cleaned for re-use by using multi-cookers such as the Instant Pot, which inactivated 99.9% of virus in a 50-minute dry heat cycle without pressure. Filtration capability was not affected after 20 cleanings.


Google Cloud extends free access to its COVID-19 public datasets through September 15, 2021.

CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD warns that public health will be jeopardized in the fall if Americans don’t start wearing masks, distancing, and improving the 50% flu shot rate to 65%. Otherwise, he says the combination of COVID-19 and flu could overwhelm some health systems.

Trials of promising antibody drugs to treat COVID-19 are being delayed by hospitals that are reassigning researchers to patient care roles as well as patients who are reluctant to participate. Companies that hoped to start shipping antibody doses by September are now looking toward the end of the year. Delayed test results are excluding prospective study patients because the drugs must be started within a few days of symptom onset. Hospitals also express concern about giving researchers on-campus space and bringing infected patients to campus for their infusions. Patients are passing in some cases because they assume they’ll get better on their own and don’t want to bother with participating if they might get a placebo anyway.

A CDC survey finds that 31% of unpaid caregivers for adults and 22% of essential workers considered suicide in previous 30 days.


Revenue cycle company R1 RCM is apparently hit by a ransomware attack.


Epic notifies employees that it will immediately consolidate its training, implementation, QA, and technical communications under an application services division.


Cerner-sponsored Life Aid, which was launched in March to address veteran and first responder suicide, will be featured in a Discovery Channel special on August 30.

Bizarre: cosmetic surgeons are being overwhelmed with patients have who noticed sags and droopy eyes on their Zoom calls and want to trade their Botox for the scalpel. Some patients have realized that distancing and face masks are ideal for hiding post-op bruises and swelling. One 62-year-old woman spent $20,000 on a tummy tuck and breast job, rationalizing that she isn’t spending money on gas and shopping. Demand is also up for liposuction to address pandemic-driven weight gain.

Sponsor Updates

  • CI Security publishes its “2020 H1 US Healthcare Data Breach Report.”
  • OpenText reports fourth quarter and fiscal year 2020 financial results.
  • PerfectServe announces bidirectional integration between its clinical communication platform and Nuance’s PowerConnect Actionable Findings solution within the radiologist’s Nuance PowerScribe reporting workflow.
  • Relatient adds virtual waiting room capabilities to its patient engagement platform to meet the need for contactless and remote patient arrivals.
  • CNBC’s Mad Money features SailPoint CEO Mark McClain.
  • Spirion wins 2020 Tech Ascension Awards for Best SecOps and Best Compliance Solutions.
  • TriNetX opens registration for the virtual TriNetX Summit September 22-23.

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Currently there are "15 comments" on this Article:

  1. With regard to the flu, note that the various actions we have taken in Australia – particularly around infection prevention in aged care homes – have hammered flu. It’s barely a thing this year, and we’re right at the traditional peak now

  2. I’ve negotiated a fair number of government contracts, at different levels, and have always understood that everything is in the public record due to the Freedom of Information Act. I think I’d be laughed at if I insisted on a NDA — if I had to guess, it’s DHS that told TeleTracking to claim they have an ironclad NDA (the Trump administration is against transparency).

  3. The latest deep purple album is outstanding! Listened to it all! The drummer is fantastic and Jon Lord replacement true to his original sound. Also, I have followed fantastic negrito for a few years. Amazing voice and sound. Thx for tips on both!

  4. It takes a lot of gravitas to leave a CIO job after 16 months and still claim you had a meaningful impact.

    • fedhealthit notes he invoked blockchain (procurement), making the US the 2nd country in the world to invoke such tech. Seems Mr. Arrieta may not fit a “good for nothing at best, counterproductive as usual” narrative.
      Personally, I suppose whiling-away for years to invoke face-plant performance has less appeal than someone who got things done in months.

      • Is this comment sarcastic? Yeah he was involved in procurement in that he procured some fat contracts for his buddy at teletracking. I don’t think stuffing politically connected pockets is what people mean when they say “get things done”.

        • uh, you’re uncomfortably dissembling. You should write the government, by being the only one who knows what’s “really” happening, the gov will certainly value you appropriately.

  5. It’s something how Epic’s internal departmental moves are now local headline news. Ooh, big change! Must be a controversy or conspiracy in there somewhere! On the heels off the remote work fight! Let’s run it at 6!

    Come on.

    • Epic is Madison/Dane County’s second largest employer. Big internal re-orgs often involve layoffs in some way which affect local economies. This story could also be interesting to readers of the first story about how Epic’s management is kooky and employees are fed up. Those are the kind of snippets a typical newspaper runs in their local section. Then it gets reblogged by a industry specific news aggregator run by a guy who lives in the local area. None of that seems sensational or preposterous, just a couple of journalists/news people doing their jobs.

      • I don’t actually live in the Madison area — I originally planned to change my LinkedIn location every few weeks to some weird place just for fun, but laziness and apathy changed that plan. I’ve updated my profile with my new, temporary virtual location of Pahrump, Nevada. Call me up if you’re in town.

    • Epic doesn’t make these kind of broad changes very often, so I wouldn’t say it’s surprising that this is getting covered. Interesting that QA got broken off into application services but R&D didn’t; not sure what that will mean (if anything) in the long run. Hopefully this isn’t an attempt to distribute more of the implementation-style work to other roles without addressing the pay disparity between a tech comm/QA person and an implementer.

  6. Re: “get in here or you’re fired”

    It will be interesting given the lack of case law just how willing employers are going to be in taking on the liability of forcing return to the office mandates should someone get sick and die of COVID-19. I doubt any vendor or employer of any kind will want to deal with that litigation.

    • I though the gov was working up non-liability rules to avoid employee and customer lawsuits. Which may not be good if workers lack alternative to being steeped in a national Covid soup.
      Then again, business owners without liability protection would have trouble being an ongoing concern after workers congregate in a pandemic.
      Interesting to say the least… (considering lawyer-morbidity would make for a fragmented legal argument on either or both sides of liability actions).

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