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June 17, 2021 News 7 Comments

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Digital health developer platform vendor Zus Health, founded by former Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush, raises $34 million in a Series A funding round.

The company apparently abruptly changed its name from Zeus Health, which I noted a couple of weeks ago is already in use by a medical device investment company.

The press release explains that Zus is “pronounced Zoos like the father of Athena” although it declines to use the actual word “Zeus.”

Six of the company’s eight executives spent time at Athenahealth.

A lengthy Zus testimonial is provided by the CTO of Firefly Health, whose executive chairman is Jonathan Bush.

Reader Comments

From End Gamer: “Re: Cerner. I think we ex-Cerner executives have a fair bit of insight due to our deep network and rapid information exchange. The company’s first failure was the drag on leadership when Neal was sick – an interim CEO should have been named within six months. In the subsequent CEO search, at least two candidates turned the job down before Brent arrived. The Board absolutely dropped the ball here. As to the future, I don’t think it matters who gets the job. The ship has taken on too much water and Epic is beating the daylights out of Cerner in the US (and soon overseas). The all-in bet on Federal programs has committed Cerner’s IP org to the detriment of the client base. I would expect that someone that wants to get big in healthcare could buy the company, but regardless, the Cerner that we were part of is gone, as are its traditions, its passion, and its potential.” I would opine that one thing that Cerner did right with Brent’s hiring was attempting to diversify into new areas – such as data sales and new federal business – in recognizing that the Epic juggernaut was going to be hard to stop, especially as Cerner was losing clients because of its revenue cycle fumbling. I haven’t seen product line revenue and contribution breakouts, so I don’t know if Cerner is still mostly an EHR vendor or its growth has significantly shifted to areas where Epic doesn’t compete.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests

HIStalk sponsors who are exhibiting at or attending HIMSS21 – tell me about your participation by July 23 and I’ll include your company in my HIMSS guide.


June 24 (Thursday) 2 ET: “Peer-to-Peer Panel: Creating a Better Healthcare Experience in the Post-Pandemic Era.” Sponsor: Avtex. Presenters: Mike Pietig, VP of healthcare, Avtex; Matt Durski, director of healthcare patient and member experience, Avtex; Patrick Tuttle, COO, Delta Dental of Kansas; Chad Thorpe, care ambassador, DispatchHealth. The live panel will review the findings of a May 2021 survey about which factors are most important to patients and members who are interacting with healthcare organizations. The panel will provide actionable strategies to improve patient and member engagement and retention, recover revenue, and implement solutions that reduce friction across multiple channels to prioritize care and outreach.

June 30 (Wednesday) 1 ET. “From quantity to quality: The new frontier for clinical data.” Sponsor: Intelligent Medical Objects. Presenters: Dale Sanders, chief strategy officer, IMO; John Lee, MD, CMIO, Allegheny Health Network. EHRs generate more healthcare data than ever, but that data is of low quality for secondary uses such as population health, precision medicine, and pandemic management, and its collection burdens clinicians as data entry clerks. The presenters will review ways to reduce clinician EHR burden; describe the importance of standardized, harmonious data; suggest why quality measures strategy needs to be changed; and make the case that clinical data collection as a whole should be re-evaluated.

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

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

The Wall Street Journal says that Apple’s health ambitions mostly haven’t panned out, although the article’s sources don’t seem solid. Apple planned to develop its own primary care service that would be powered by wearables data, but has since returned to its focus on selling hardware, particularly the Apple Watch. Insiders question the quality of the data generated by its clinics to guide product development, including the HealthHabit health coaching app, which has delivered poor user engagement among Apple employer testers. Company executives say data shows that HealthHabit improves blood pressure in 91% of its hypertensive users, while competing programs Hello Heart and Livongo deliver in the 30% improvement range, leading insiders to worry that Apple’s results are being overstated based on faulty data.

Google Health reportedly reduces headcount by at least 20% in a reorganization in which 170 employees have been moved to the Fitbit and Search product teams.

KHN reports that publicly traded hospital chain HCA is turning many of its hospitals into trauma centers, taking advantage of the ability to bill ED patients an “activation fees” of up to $50,000 each time the trauma team is assembled, sometimes when a routine ED visit is all that was needed. One man’s arm gash was billed at $52,000 instead of a reasonable $3,500. HCA’s activation fee in Idaho is $29,000 versus the state average non-HCA activation charge of $2,500.


  • Aspen Valley Hospital will implement Epic as the board approves the $15.4 million expense to replace Meditech. The 25-bed hospital’s previous agreement with University of Colorado Health for a Community Connect fell through, but it says that Epic no longer requires rural hospitals to partner with a larger health system.
  • Community Health Network will implement advance care planning document sharing from Vynca.



Virtual reality clinical training vendor Health Scholars hires Scott Johnson (CirrusMD) as CEO.


Gregg Shibata (Echo Health Ventures) joins Quil as VP of payer market development.


IdentifyIOT hires Jeff Powell as VP of healthcare sales.


Shannon Freiermuth (DrFirst) joins Change Healthcare as VP of strategic clients.


Industry long-timer John Goodrow, MBA (S&P Consultants) died Monday at 51.

Announcements and Implementations

Vyne Medical launches the cloud-based Refyne platform, whose initial capability is electronically transmitting supporting provider documentation in CMS’s Electronic Submission of Medical Documentation and Electronic Medical Documentation Request initiatives.

People who received COVID-19 vaccine from Walmart or Sam’s Club will be provided with a digital copy of their record using Health Pass by Clear.


Major Health Partners (IN) goes live with Meditech Expanse Patient Care as an early adopter.

Government and Politics


ONC publishes the Version 1.0 draft of the Project US@ Technical Specification, which hopes to create a unified specification for patient addresses that can also support patient record matching. The comment period will open soon. It is a surprisingly complex issue given the country’s language diversity, the imprecision of some addresses outside of urban areas, and the need to accommodate the different standards of Puerto Rico and the military.

A Defense Department MHS Genesis roundtable lists care improvements enabled by its Cerner implementation – real-time clinical decision support for newborns, improved tracking of service member health between duty station transfers, a reduction in visits for prescription management, and enhancing recruit readiness. The military says that the system improves care by standardizing workflows and processes.


A Mayo Clinic study finds no association between COVID-19 vaccination and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. Researchers used Nference’s AI software to review real-world evidence from several hundred thousand vaccinated patients, including lab results, unstructured clinical notes, and structured health records. Mayo and Nference launched Anumana in April 2021 to commercialize ECG analysis algorithms.

As just about everybody predicted, hospitals are declining to publish their insurer-negotiated prices as required by a federal law that took effect January 1, instead opting to pay the paltry $300 per day fine for failing to do so. Whoever came up with that fine amount must not have ever looked at a health system’s revenue.

An AMA Board of Trustees report finds that the top five EHRs don’t display drug ads, but it warns that such advertising should not be allowed at all in EHRs and electronic prescribing systems, citing abuses by Allscripts-owned Practice Fusion. The AMA House of Delegates changed its policy to require direct-to-prescriber EHR advertising to comply wiith AMA’s direct-to-consumer advertising guidelines. The policy also prohibits displaying brand name products first in drug lookups and encourages displaying the generic product first.

Sponsor Updates

  • Premier recognizes Atrium Health with its Alliance Excellence Award for saving $100 million in supply chain costs and $140 million in clinical optimization savings using the PremierConnect cloud-based performance improvement platform.
  • EClinicalWorks releases a new video, “EClinicalMessenger: Improving Healthcare Through Better Communications.”
  • Arcadia announces that its Arcadia Analytics platform earned the highest ratings in the inaugural Cybersecurity Preparedness Evaluation from KLAS and Censinet.
  • West Monroe expands its leadership team and promotes eight employees to partners.
  • First Databank will exhibit at the NCPDP Annual Technology & Business Conference June 29-30 in Scottsdale.
  • Halo Health publishes a new case study, “Improving Efficiency, Secure Communication at Thomas Hospital, Infirmary Health.”
  • Imprivata receives a 2021 Fortress Cyber Security Award in the authentication and identity category from Business Intelligence Group.
  • Infor will host its Inforum customer even November 9-11 in Las Vegas.

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Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. Thanks for publishing the article about price transparency. I found the prices published by a health system I currently have a billing dispute with. Will be interesting to see what they say when I ask them why my insurance company’s payment was insufficient for the services they provided when it is 4x the minimum negotiated charge.

    • @Bob

      There’s a difference between having a high stock price because you are doing a stellar job as an independent operator vs. having a high stock price because there are rumors you are about to be acquired by a larger tech firm. I have absolutely zero knowledge or involvement in anything about this situation and don’t work with Cerner (nor any potential acquirer) in any capacity. This comment has no knowledge about which of the two scenarios I mentioned apply here, but I can say that various social media platforms have been a bit ablaze about this very possibility recently. I’ve read these rumors in multiple places. Any retail investors or stock traders reading about these rumours are no doubt acting on that information by buying, and that could be one potential explanation for the recent stock gains.

  2. RE: Epic no longer requires rural hospitals to partner with a larger health system.

    Translation: It’s a saturated market and Epic is going after every opportunity regardless of size.

    Between the lines: If Epic wants to keep growing (and JF may not) it needs to get into other markets in a big way. However, in a high tech business ‘no growth’ is usually the start of a long slow demise.

    Either way, it will be interesting over the next few years.

    • Judy has always tried to sell into the community hospital market.they tried that thing with Phillips like 15 years ago, then they tried to go it alone after it fell apart, then in the last five years they’ve had “sonnet” which is like an Epic system without some features targeted at small hospitals. Then I think most recently they tried the same thing Cerner does where they put all the tiny customers on the same instance and the only isolation is at the app level. Most of the problem isn’t technology, it’s their business model that doesn’t work well for that space.
      But I agree on the Cerner thing. In this histalk post there are two independent hospitals that Epic and Meditech won. Cerner should have had those on lock since they are the only market where Cerner has competitive advantage.

      • I think Epic had it right with having the large health systems ‘sell’ (recommend/require/support) the small facil to install /support Epic systems. But that strategy may have run its course or not generated enough revenue. So they are trying to sell direct to remaining free standing /non affiliated facilities. But that is a low margin business since smaller facilities require just as much complexity /admin support as large ones. They may be less medically complex, but they have all the same regulatory, documentation and administrative requirements. While they have a less tech knowledge staff with lower budgets and hence need more hand holding at lower price point.

        From my experience ‘Mercedes’ vendors that try to sell ‘Fiats’ rarely work out, which is another reason they need to find another ‘mother lode’…or forgo growth.

        • I suspect community connect adoption also slowed because
          1. The audience realized that from a technical perspective, it was a half-butted solution on Epic’s part.
          2. From a customer experience perspective, it was so so much worse than implementing Epic directly because the parent organization provided poor service.

          My wild guess is that community connect has penetrated 1/8 of its potential market. In a lot of ways epic has the same issue Meditech has: employees that work there effectively have about 1 year of experience. That year is repeated over and over- they’ve never experienced another company. It works great if you want to be really effective at doing the same thing you’ve done for the past 30 years. Not so great for when something needs to change or adapt.

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