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September 29, 2020 News 1 Comment

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Universal Health Services begins recovering from a Sunday morning malware attack that locked computer and phone systems at 250 facilities, forcing some to close departments and divert patients.


An anonymous staffer reported seeing the phrase “shadow universe” on computer screens as the breach commenced, leading cybersecurity experts to assume that Ryuk ransomware was involved.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

I had to switch concierge doctors after mine closed his practice to take a drug industry job. Allow me to correct my own convenient but incorrect use of the term “concierge doctor,” which mine was not. A concierge practice still bills your insurance company and/or you personally — you are just snootily buying your way around the velvet rope at a cost of thousands of dollars per year. What I have is “direct primary care,” where you pay an average of $75 per month for anytime access to your family practice doctor via call or text, unlimited office visits or telehealth sessions, wellness exams, physicals, health maintenance, minor in-office treatments and surgical procedures, and often at-cost labs and prescriptions right in the office. Savings on routine lab work alone – paying the heavily discounted doctor’s cash price instead of your insurance’s deductible — can cover much of the entire year’s cost. I feel like a VIP when I have a minor, obvious health issue (pinkeye and a swollen toe being the most recent examples), I text a photo to my doctor on a weekend or holiday, and almost immediately I have a prescription waiting to pick up at the drugstore, with follow-up available if I need it. I keep my regular insurance, with the few hundred dollars per year DPC cost a modest luxury that lets me avoid the usual poor customer service. I expect quite a few physicians fail at DPC due to inadequate business skills (especially marketing), but otherwise small panel size, lack of insurer meddling, and freedom from bureaucracy makes it a great model for both doctor and patient when done right. Plus doctors can choose which patients they want to work with.


September 30 (Wednesday) 11 ET. “The Hidden Threat: New Research on Security Vulnerabilities and Privacy Gaps in Healthcare Apps.” Sponsors: Verimatrix, NowSecure. Presenters: Neal Michie, MEng, director of product management, Verimatrix; Brian Lawrence, direction of solution engineering, NowSecure. The presenters will present research on the security risk profile of 1,000 healthcare apps in managing patient privacy, how they compare to those in other industries, and where the biggest vulnerabilities lie. Attendees will learn how to make their healthcare apps more secure in managing protected health information.

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

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Defunct personal health record vendor Medlio notifies users that cancer reference lab NeoGenomics Laboratories has acquired some of its assets, but will sunset the patient-facing mobile app and health records download service. Medlio co-founder Lori Mehen took a full-time product manager job with NeoGenomics Laboratories early this year.


  • Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital (CA) will implement Ensocare’s Transition and Choice automated referral software.
  • The US Air Force selects NeuroFlow’s behavioral health integration technology, beginning with deployment to a division of Space Force.
  • Provider communications platform vendor Updox will integrate its systems with inpatient EHRs using technology from Redox.
  • CareSignal will white-label a conversational AI chatbot from QliqSoft to automate the traditional call center model of remote patient monitoring.



The Chartis Group promotes Roger Ray, MD to chief physician executive.


Mount Sinai technology commercialization spin-off Rx.Health names Richard Strobridge (Nextbridge Health) CEO.

Announcements and Implementations

LifeBridge Health implements Artifact Health’s mobile physician query software at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital and Grace Medical Center in Maryland.


West Tennessee Healthcare deploys Cedar’s patient engagement, messaging, and billing platform.

EMpower Emergency Physicians (AZ) and Integrated Care Physicians (FL) adopt RCM software and services from R1 RCM.


A new KLAS report on  oncology software finds Elekta as the leader in both medical and radiation oncology software, with Varian (slated for acquisition by Siemens Healthineers for $16 billion) coming in second. EHR vendors Cerner and Epic have seen significant adoption of their medical oncology software, but with functionality gaps and click-heavy, multiple ways to complete tasks that hurt usability and training. Medical oncology EHR vendor Flatiron Health, acquired by drug maker Roche for $2 billion in April 2018, placed in the middle of the pack with strong product design and support expertise that is dragged down by poor communication around enhancement requests, upgrades, and delayed support response. Varian leads in the tiny field of radiation therapy treatment planning, as more than half of Philips Pinnacle treatment planning software customers say they’re switching to a different vendor (presumably Varian) due to lack of development effort and failure to keep promises.

Best Buy-owned GreatCall releases the Lively Flip smartphone for seniors, which builds on the previous Jitterbug phone in adding Alexa voice services, a bigger screen and keyboard, a dedicated button for calling an urgent care provider, and 24/7 access to its telehealth service. The phone costs $100 plus a $35 activation fee, while monthly plans run $20 to $35 not counting unlimited text and talk, which adds $20. Best Buy acquired Great Call for $800 million in August 2018.

Government and Politics

HHS and ONC launch a program with the American Board of Family Medicine to measure the use and potential burdens of health IT by office-based physicians.

Premera Blue Cross will pay the HHS Office for Civil Rights $6.85 million to settle potential HIPAA violations stemming from a 2015 data breach that affected 10.4 million members. An OCR investigation found the Pacific Northwest payer failed to implement risk management and audit controls and failed to conduct an enterprise-wide risk analysis.



Health systems are creating “one-stop shop” clinics for patients who have survived COVID but who are experiencing ongoing problems such as lung or heart damage, neurological issues, fatigue, and anxiety. The director of the Center for Post-COVID Care at Mount Sinai says that if even if less than 10% of infected patients experience long-term symptoms, that means 500,000 Americans will require medical care of unknown duration. He says half of the clinic’s patients have test results that show damage, while the other half have symptoms but inconclusive test results.

The White House will send 150 million Abbott BinaxNOW rapid coronavirus tests, purchased for $750 million, to states and other jurisdictions by the end of the year, with several million going out this week to be used for vulnerable populations such as nursing homes. The tests use a shallow nostril swab, require no special equipment, and give results in 15 minutes, so they can be used in medical practices and pharmacies. However, they are approved for use only in symptomatic people, must be administered within the first seven days of symptoms, and cannot be self-administered at home. Experts praised the news, but say 150 million tests is a drop in the bucket given their likely use and they still don’t solve the problem of assessing true prevalence. Public health officials also question how the results of the tests will be reported, particularly if administered outside the health system such as in schools.

The federal government has sent rapid COVID-19 test machines to 14,000 nursing homes since last month, but they come with a catch. The nursing homes must agree to test each employee and resident weekly and pay for their own supplies at $32 per test, meaning that even small facilities could be on the hook for thousands of dollars each week. They also report that manufacturer BD is back-ordered on testing supplies. Health departments haven’t figured out how to collect data from nursing home tests. Some facilities that have become frustrated by the cost and availability challenges of the BD tests are using state labs, but they don’t get results back for several days.



@Cascadia is right – the VaccineFinder website operated by Boston Children’s Hospital, CDC, Harvard Medical School, and HealthMap shows no locations offering flu vaccine anywhere, which I can personally contradict since I got my flu shot yesterday. At least some other vaccine searches seem to work, although the location list seems incomplete when it says no Walgreens in Chicago offers Tdap or shingles vaccine.

UnitedHealthcare and Anthem will end their virtual visit benefit Thursday, after which patients will once again pay co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles for virtual visits that are not related to COVID-19. Nobody knows how much patients will have to pay or how the cost of a telehealth visit compares to the co-pay for an office visit. Other insurers that had planned to end expanded telehealth coverage on September 30 have extended the program until the end of the year.

A Spok survey of 600 healthcare professionals finds an inability to communicate effectively, remote workers, and lack of or insufficient devices have been the biggest communication problems during COVID-19. H


Amazon announces a palm vein scanner that will let customers of in-person shops check out with a wave of the hand, which hopefully will reinvigorate the healthcare interest in that biometric technology that made perfect sense a few years ago to positively identify patients in a non-threatening way compared to fingerprints and retinal scans. HT Systems (PatientSecure, now owned by Imprivata) and Fujitsu (PalmSecure) were the healthcare players in palm vein scanning 10 years ago and I was a fan of the idea.

Not related to health IT, but fascinating and fun to watch, is this UK paramedic’s test of a 1,000-horsepower jet suit made by Gravity Industries for air ambulance response in the mountains of Cumbria. I pondered how much a private equity-owned ambulance or air flight service would charge for that trip in the US.

Sponsor Updates

  • Kyruus will host ATLAS, its Annual Thought Leadership on Access Symposium, virtually October 20-22.
  • CarePort Health wins the 2020 Tech Cares Award from TrustRadius.
  • CareSignal develops AI-powered predictive models to help providers and payers keep patients engaged with digital health programs.
  • Datica achieves top marks for interoperability solutions from Chilmark Research.
  • Everbridge announces that, in addition to Anthony Fauci, MD and Sanjay Gupta, MD, a former World Head of State will speak at its COVID-19 R2R: The Road to Recovery virtual leadership summit October 14-15.
  • Audacious Inquiry founder and CEO Chris Brandt joins University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center’s Board of Operations.
  • Arcadia publishes a new case study, “CareMount ACO Uses Arcadia Analytics to Build a Narrow SNF Network and Reduce ALOS by 4 Days.”
  • MassChallenge features “A Look at How OSF Health Care Teamed with Startup CareSignal to Help Their COVID-19 Response.”
  • Ellkay sponsors the BCBS 2020 Virtual Summit through October 2.
  • Experity opens registration for its half-day Virtual User Experience October 15.
  • Black Book Market Research publishes, “Top Healthcare Human Resources Outsourcing Solutions Vendors.”

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Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Liked your comment about direct primary care vs concierge care. My primary care doc just joined MDVIP. $3K a year and all normal insurance costs including co-pays apply. I would do the DPC program you outlined in a second but am balking at this. Finding a new PCP is a total pain but I probably will choose to go that route.

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