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December 23, 2021 News 4 Comments

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Medical software vendor CompuGroup Medical was hit by a ransomware attack on Saturday that has affected its network and telephone support systems. The company is setting up emergency telephone numbers and email addresses for customers.


Reader Comments

From Historian: “Re: Oracle acquiring Cerner. Acquisitions like this don’t usually work out well for health IT customers.” Very true, especially if the acquirer is new to healthcare and states upfront that its primary motivation of the acquisition is to increase growth. Extra negative points since Oracle seems to think that what Cerner needs to finisher higher than #2 in a three-horse race is bolted-on, market-lagging technologies such as its voice assistant. Oracle also may underestimate the challenges that lurk underneath its glib statement that it will magically increase non-US sales of Cerner products. The clinking of milkshake toasts must be echoing throughout the Verona cornfields, with the only other delighted parties being Cerner shareholders and the heirs of Neal Patterson, who are stacking their cash with fingers stuck in ears to avoid hearing him rolling over in his grave.


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Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

The EU’s regulator approves Microsoft’s acquisition of Nuance, which it says raises no anti-competitive concerns.


Sales

  • MUSC Health will implement Sectra’s enterprise imaging solution in a subscription model that covers its main campus, several satellite locations, and all affiliated regional hospitals in South Carolina.

Announcements and Implementations

Vyne Dental announces enhancements to its Trellis revenue cycle and communications platform.


Government and Politics

FDA issues draft guidance on using digital health technologies for remote data acquisition in clinical studies.


Other

The co-founder of the COVID Tracking Project says in The Atlantic that the US is about go temporarily blind in the Omicron variant fight because the folks who collect and report testing results take holiday periods off. Cases will appear to be dropping sharply over the next several days due to underreporting, then will skyrocket in the first several weeks of 2022 as the data backlog is cleared (or as infection rages, or both – it won’t be possible to tell). The only data that is likely to be accurate is HHS’s hospitalization figures, which are more of a record of interventions gone wrong than an early warning system. I think hospital admissions and deaths will become the only relevant numbers since case counts and positivity mean little when nearly everybody is going to become infected and the tools that can blunt the infection’s damage become more important.

An interesting aspect of the ransomware downtime of Ultimate Kronos Group’s cloud-based payroll system. Health systems that can’t access hourly pay records are being forced to issue employee paychecks in the same amount as a weeks-ago pay period. That means that not only will they have to claw back any overpayment right after Christmas (assuming the system is restored soon); they have to deal with newly hired employees, people who received bonuses or overtime in the pay period that is used; and W-2s will potentially be affected by paycheck adjustments.

The New York Times says Pediatrix and its parent company Mednax are earning millions of dollars each year by showing up at the bedside of a newborn’s mother and offering to administer expensive hearing tests, which the mother assumes is covered by the hospital stay. Pediatrix – which also offers pediatric intensive care, pediatric surgery, and obstetric services – is administering the hearing tests to nearly 1 million babies per year. Aetna sued the companies three years ago for inflating charges by more than $50 million but eventually settled, although Mednax admitted in court that it destroyed emails in which it pestered its doctors to upcode procedures. Pediatrix sponsored a successful campaign to pass state laws requiring hearing tests for newborns, then started doing a test that costs several hundred dollars instead of the previous $50. Patients have complained about the surprise bills, with at least one hospital warning expectant parents that the company may not be an approved provider under their insurance and that the company balance-bills patients for what insurance doesn’t cover.


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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. The newborn hearing test is interesting. In the mental health world, a recent addition to the “tests that sound impressive and cost $$$” is QBtest. They are very careful on their sales calls not to imply that it’s diagnostic for ADHD but the rest of their comments lead the listener to infer that it’s a great way to establish a diagnosis when the history and exam are unclear. Also, you can generate a lot of money by signing up with them. They also emphasize that it can be used to track response to stimulants, again giving just enough hints so listeners will infer that a stimulant response will help validate an ADHD diagnosis.

    Even if QBtest does reliably measure inattention, reaction times, or similar features, these are all nonspecific. Plus, the vast majority of people will be able to focus better with a stimulant (hence the popularity of coffee).

    Their marketing materials note that it’s “FDA cleared”, which people assume indicates that the FDA has found it to be effective but which is different from “FDA approved.” Actual evidence is minimal but at least one small study (with different numbers of subjects in the treatment arms) showed unimpressive results.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7100366/
    Nevertheless, as long as folks can make a few bucks, why worry…

    On the other hand, as a Cerner user, there seems plenty to worry about in the recent Oracle acquisition.

    https://www.worldhistory.org/delphi/ notes that “Perhaps the most famous consultant of the Delphic oracle was Croesus, the fabulously rich King of Lydia who, faced with a war against the Persians, asked the oracle’s advice. The oracle stated that if Croesus went to war then a great empire would surely fall. Reassured by this, the Lydian king took on the mighty Cyrus. However, the Lydians were routed at Sardis and it was the Lydian empire which fell, a lesson that the oracle could easily be misinterpreted by the unwise or over-confident.”

    All in all, it seems wise to listen carefully, read between the lines, and beware of Oracles and consultants. Also, to avoid Greek letters (like Omicron) bearing “gifts”, mask up (N95 or comparable) and stay vaccinated. Enjoy the holidays!

    • True! But be careful what you wish for. With this acquisition, Epic is the dominant player in the market (some might say the only player now) and some of their monopolistic practices (related to customers, competition and employees) could come under far greater scrutiny.

      • I truly believe Epic is the best solution in the market. My only concern is that Epic is most innovative when responding to Cerner development. I’m worried a one horse race will slow down the pace of improvement. Meditech just isn’t a strong enough threat to spur Epic on to greatness. We need more competition to prevent stagnation.







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