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Monday Morning Update 1/10/22

January 9, 2022 News 9 Comments

Top News

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Medical technology vendor Stryker will acquire clinical communication and workflow platform company Vocera Communications for $3 billion.

Stryker says the acquisition will help it “significantly accelerate our digital aspirations to improve the lives of caregivers and patients.”

Stryker got its start as a manufacturer of hospital beds like its competitor Hillrom, as both companies expanded into technology. Hillrom, which acquired Vocera competitor Voalte in early 2019 for $180 million, was acquired by Baxter International last month for $10.5 billion.

Shares of Vocera, which went public on the New York Stock Exchange in early 2012, had risen 55% in the year prior to the acquisition announcement. The company has 1,900 hospitals and healthcare facilities as customers. Its Smartbadge was named to Time’s list of the “100 Best Inventions of 2020.”


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

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Only a small percentage of poll respondents believe they are less effective when working from home. I would expect that some jobs that involve heads-down individual work (programming, writing, etc.) or remote contact (customer service and support) can be performed as well or better at home. I wonder, though, whether companies are being damaged in ways that aren’t yet obvious with the lack of culture-building personal contact, reduction of serendipitous hallway interactions, and having managers in charge whose forte is visually monitoring piecework production.

New poll to your right or here: What is your personal experience with COVID-19? I’m not sure it’s a relevant question since I’m pretty sure we will all have tested positive soon, but I’m curious.

Meanwhile, HIMSS still hasn’t announced any changes to its Right of Entry Protocols for HIMSS22 that may be required by Florida laws. The conference is just over 60 days away. Exhibitor count is at 603, lower than HIMSS21 although the number will likely increase as the conference draws closer. HIMSS21 had 14 booths of 2,000 or more square feet while the HIMSS22 floor plan is showing 32, so that’s a positive sign of increased exhibitor interest. The big question now, assuming that the conference won’t be cancelled because HIMSS can’t afford a skipped year, is whether COVID-drowning hospitals will allow their employees to attend a conference.

The number of friends and family members who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past few days is getting too hard for me to track, especially since it’s not the first go-round for some of them. Mrs. H went to a tiny-town Walgreens Thursday for hairspray or something and the clerk said they had already sold out of the 4,000 antigen tests they received that same morning, even with a purchase limit of four. PCR testing lines are impossibly long and results are taking 4-5 days to come back in many cases, rendering testing somewhere close to pointless. Home testing, no-testing, and other under-reporting probably means that we’re at 3 million or more cases per day, and many of those folks who will be sick and/or isolating (and/or spreading infection because they can’t afford to miss work) are critical workers and healthcare staff. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD estimates that up to 40% of Americans may end up becoming infected with Omicron, spreading the virus widely because their mild symptoms aren’t obviously COVID-19 and tests are too hard to get to verify. Let’s hope, probably unreasonably, that the supply chain for prescription drugs and medical supplies holds up since hospital beds and physician appointments are going to be scarce for a while.

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Webinars

January 13 (Thursday) 1 ET. “Cultivating gender equity in STEM.” Sponsor: Intelligent Medical Objects. Presenters: Laura Miller, CEO, TempDev; Amanda Heidemann, MD, CMIO, CMIO Services, LLC; Deidra Jackson, VP of IFP customer success, Bright Health; Sunita Tendulkar, VP of agile portfolio management, IMO. Despites strides that are being made, women make up only 27% of the STEM workforce. This panel discussion will cover mentorship, STEM education, pay gaps, and debunking stereotypes.

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


People

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Divurgent hires Joe Grinstead, MBA (Healthcare Triangle) as principal.

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Industry long-timer Amy Fuller-Heffernan (Verinovum) joins Interbit Data as VP of client strategy.

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Chris Apgar, president and CEO of security and privacy consulting firm Apgar & Associates, died last month at 60.


Announcements and Implementations

TriNetX announces Bring Your Own Model for applying machine learning capabilities to real-world research data.

HIMSS launches a new certification to its stable, Certified Professional in Digital Health Transformation Strategy. The cost is $1,299 plus a renewal fee. I would question whether someone passing the exam will suddenly find themselves more employable or whether the market really needs HIMSS to sort out the lesser-competent players in it, but I always underestimate the yearning of insecure industry folks to add new letters to their walls, business cards, and LinkedIn profiles. For them, HIMSS also offers CAHIMS (associate in healthcare information and management systems) and CPHIMS (professional in healthcare information and management systems). All require healthcare IT experience, so candidates must have been boldly working without certification for employers who didn’t seem to mind.

A study finds that in-hospital mortality at the former Lutheran Medical Center (NY) declined from 2.6% to 1.9% after it was acquired by NYU Langone Health and the hospital saw improvements in central line infections, catheter-associated UTIs, and patient recommendations. Three of the five post-acquisition focus areas were related to IT – implementing Epic, using real-time analytics and dashboards, and implementing EHR-embedded clinical decision support.


Government and Politics

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ONC releases final technical specifications for Project USA, which hopes to standardize the representation of patient addresses to support identity matching.


Other

A.O. Fox Hospital (NY) becomes the latest hospital to make local news for failing to pay its employees accurately because of the Kronos payroll system ransomware downtime. Most affected hospitals are paying hourly employees the same amounts as on their last system-issued paycheck in early December, meaning they aren’t being paid accurately for overtime, holiday pay, or COVID-19 coverage and instead are being promised that their money will be sent retroactively once Kronos comes back up (or, even less positively, that employees whose early December hours exceeded those afterward will need to return the overpayment).

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HHS reports that 18% of available US hospital beds were being occupied by COVID-19 patients this weekend as the COVID curve resists flattening (thank goodness for our US profit-driven overbedding). Brown School of Public Health Dean Ashish Jha, MD, MPH warns that the US healthcare system is in even more trouble than is obvious, as 1 million Americans could need hospitalization for COVID-19 over the next 4-6 weeks, far exceeding aggregate hospital capacity (note also that average length of stay times a million admissions is an unfathomable number of patient days, not to mention that hospital beds don’t sit on a grid so that total supply can meet local needs). The New York Times says that hospitals are being bombarded with punishing patient loads as they operate short-staffed because of employees who have quit or who have COVID-19 themselves.


Sponsor Updates

  • Availity partners with PriorAuthNow to deliver timely prior authorization services.
  • The Consulting Report includes Nordic CEO Jim Costanzo on its list of “Top 50 Consulting Firm CEOs of 2021.”
  • Olive appoints Credit Karma executive Nichole Mustard to its board.

Blog Posts


Contacts

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Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. “I wonder, though, whether companies are being damaged in ways that aren’t yet obvious with the lack of culture-building personal contact, reduction of serendipitous hallway interactions, and having managers in charge whose forte is visually monitoring piecework production.”

    Seems like this is what nearly all “old school” management is repeating.

    It’s 2022. “Hallway interaction” happens via Teams, Slack, and other random interactions that didn’t exist even five years ago.

    Culture is built via action and example, and always has been – not dreary in-person meetings reciting corporate values.

    If you can’t manage without physically being able to walk to someone’s workspace to check up on your employees, you probably weren’t an effective manager.

    I may be biased as an under-40 executive, but the atmosphere and culture at a work from home-optional company has been way better than the billion dollar company that preached culture every day that I left a few years back when they couldn’t adapt.

    • A position that suggests “remote work excels in all aspects” does sound biased. As a remote worker that may never go back, I’d say there are clear disadvantages.

      Slack is a very poor substitute for hallways and water coolers. Social engagement between peers outside of a work context is very hard to nurture in a remote setting. Anecdotally, onboarding employees feel this keenly in spite of having formalized mentorship, small teams, and oversight. The fact that slacking is typically an action you opt into and running into people in the hallway is more universal, employees with slack-shyness are at a disadvantage. Management at my remote-first company has always considered our bi-yearly in-person company meetings as vital, and the inability to that in the last year has proven their point. A company colleague and I living in the same city decided to rent a private office together, and I’m sure it comes as no surprise that in spite of the fact that our roles almost never interact professionally, he is the colleague I’m closest to by far.

      The atmosphere and culture may be better in a remote company, but correlation is not causation. In my personal experience between an billion dollar company and a remote company, confounding factors were that the remote-first company was younger, smaller, more modern, had a much smaller-and-easier-to-change product, and had a way more accessible-to-the-average-joe executive tier. Being remote may have positive impacts on culture directly also, as well as on equity. It may be harder to forge an old boys club when they can’t rendezvous at the golf course.

      I also appreciate more the culture I have at my company that happens to be remote than at a previous company that was in-office. Remote-first as standard is comparatively new so it’s pretty amazing how quickly it’s caught up as a value-delivering mechanism. But being in-person is a tool absent from the toolbox that I and many of my colleagues definitely feel the impact of.

      • I find that you don’t really get to know your co-workers, until you make space for some non-business interactions. Talk to them when there’s no corporate agenda, there’s no deadline, there’s no deliverable, and there’s no process. That’s when you learn about their interests and preferences, undiluted by their employer.

        That’s why I value a certain amount of water-cooler chat. The corporate communications tools? They always seem to have the spectre of the employer’s agenda looming over them, including the possibility of intrusive monitoring. Even if that monitoring really is “for quality control purposes”.

        What gives us common cause? Why do we bond as human beings? Where does the impetus to cooperate come from?

        As long as the answers to those questions keeps coming back to “you have to”, “your employer says so”, and “your paycheque requires it”, there is an element of compulsion involved. It also encourages a transactional environment. You are now a replaceable (and optional) cog in a machine. Good teamwork is not based upon these elements.

        The odd bit is that, rationally speaking, almost any corporate life involves being replaceable. You are certainly performing a bunch of activities for money. However if that is all that you are, it’s demoralizing and dehumanizing. Most people perform better if they are not slotted into transactional boxes.

  2. RE: I’m not sure it’s a relevant question since I’m pretty sure we will all have tested positive soon, but I’m curious.

    Might be interesting to run the poll again in a few weeks/months? I recently heard that it’s predicted that approximately 50% of people will test positive with the Omicron variant before all is said and done. Would have been curious to see your poll also ask about whether those who tested positive were vaccinated since the percentages seemed to mirror what we typically hear are the numbers of vaxxed vs. unvaxxed.

    • What difference does it make of ones vax status? The vaccine does not stop or prevent infection. I have tested positive for Covid twice, not vaccinated and both times it was the equivalent of a mild cold. Many friends of mine who are vaccinated have tested positive with varying degrees of illness.

      • Vaccination status affected whether people caught previous iterations of this disease. It sounds like it’s less relevant for Omicron. That would be useful to see, although (with no offense to Mr. H) these surveys are great for idle curiosity but don’t really answer questions like that.

        We shouldn’t confuse our personal anecdotes with real data. Whether we hear about people getting it is heavily biased. So that information can’t be meaningfully compiled into whether the vaccine affects infection.

  3. Re: COVID hospitalizations – a lot of the short staffing isn’t due to resignations – it’s due to terminations of unvaccinated staff. Pretty silly given this same staff willingly cared for all Covid patients when vaccines weren’t available.

    • Groups where I have seen reporting had about 1% departures for vaccine mandates. Which can make a difference but it’s unlikely to be “a lot” of the short staffing.

      If a clinician is far enough from the norms of modern medicine that they don’t believe in vaccines I don’t want them to be my first source of medical advice. Allergies and such still exist so I’m not absolutist on this point. But the difference in outcomes is pretty stark, especially now that it’s highly unlikely someone will be able to avoid infection in the long run.

  4. Chris Apgar was a valued colleague and the go to guy for all things HIPAA compliance in the greater Portland, OR area. His team will carry on his legacy. His sudden death has been a shock to the community.







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