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Remember, HIMSS is a marathon, not a sprint

At the risk of sounding too cliché, I’m going to say that HIMSS is a marathon, not a sprint. (Actually, I said it twice, if you count the headline.) And I’m exhausted already.

Planning for the annual madness, which starts this weekend here in Chicago, is almost as grueling as the conference itself, and I got a late start because I didn’t know until a couple weeks ago who I would be covering the event for. In case you were still wondering, I’m now a full-time staffer for MedCity News, so you can read my work there. In less than a week on the job, I’m already feeling a better vibe than I ever did with the last attempt at full-time work.

I have a feeling others are as exhausted as I am, or at least can empathize with all the scheduling that has to go into HIMSS  for a journalist. I need to find stories, but I also need to leave myself time to, you know, actually write the stories. We shall see if I succeed, because I feel overscheduled already.

How do I know it’s a common feeling? This semi-exasperated tweet I sent out a few days ago has gotten favorited a dozen times, which is just about a record for me.

 

The “1,400 of you, one of me” line has kind of become a mantra for me when dealing with people who are begging for a bit of my time. I did not violate my Rule #2 of HIMSS, which is never schedule back-to-back meetings in different locations. (Rule No. 1, of course, is wear comfortable shoes.)

I just hope I can get all my work done, and that I can get a solid six hours of sleep a night next week, even though it’s a home game for me this year. I’m not terribly far from McCormick Place, but it’s a pain to get to from where I am on the North Side. It’s either an hour-plus on public transit, with one transfer, or $21 per day to park. I’d ride my bike down there, but you probably don’t want to see me in spandex. I still may do that on Saturday before most of you are in town. Be warned.

I probably won’t be blogging on this site during HIMSS, though I may have some multimedia to post at some point. If you want to read my coverage, head over to MedCity News. My HIMSS preview should be up by the time you get to town this weekend. And if you haven’t done so already, click on the above tweet and follow me on Twitter.

Welcome to Chicago.

 

April 9, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

I’m joining MedCity News

Three months after my ill-fated decision to take a job with Clinical Innovation + Technology (I never did get an explanation or even a returned call from that cowardly boss, but it probably was about money), I am taking another plunge. Starting next week, I will be a staff writer, covering health IT for MedCity News, just in time for the HIMSS conference the following week.

How do I know it will be different and that I won’t be cut loose after less than three weeks? MedCity has new ownership as of January, namely New York-based Breaking Media. (The press release is still up at the top of the home page.) Breaking Media, which operates online publications in a half-dozen industries other than healthcare, seems committed to growing MedCity, and won’t run out of money, as CI+T’s publisher apparently is; three other reporters were let go a few days before I was cut loose.

You may have noticed that I’ve been contributing commentary to MedCity once a week for the last month or so. That has been on a freelance basis, as is the piece that should appear over the weekend. I’m still winding down some other freelance work, so I won’t be able to dive right in and write a lot for MedCity starting Monday, but I should be cranking out a lot of stories by the time HIMSS rolls around.

And now I know what I’ll be doing during HIMSS, it’s time to get back to all the publicists I’ve shooed away for a month and piece my schedule together. I’ll have to have time to cover some of the pre-conference, keynote and educational sessions and then write about three stories a day, so I won’t be scheduling a whole lot of vendor meetings, but I’ll see what I can do. As I’ve said for a long time, I can either meet with a lot of companies at HIMSS or I could get my actual work done.

I’m excited about this new chapter and I’m ready for the challenge of covering my 14th consecutive HIMSS conference. Best of all, I can sleep in my own bed this time.

April 3, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

CMS publishes Stage 3 Meaningful Use proposal

The rumor I heard this morning was true. CMS has published its proposed rules for Stage 3 of Meaningful Use, once again waiting until late on a Friday to release a major document. Stage 3 will start no earlier than 2017.

Simultaneously, ONC released its proposed update to EHR certification regulations, to be known as the 2015 edition.

Both documents will appear in the Federal Register March 30, triggering a public comment period. CMS will take comments on the MU rule through May 29, while ONC will do so on the certification plan through June 30. Expect to see final rules before the end of the year.

From an HHS e-mail announcement:

Together, these proposed rules will give providers additional flexibility, make the program simpler and reduce burden, drive interoperability among electronic health records, and increase the focus on patient outcomes to improve care.

The proposed rules are one part of a larger effort across HHS to deliver better care, spend health dollars more wisely, and have healthier people and communities by working in three core areas: to improve the way providers are paid, improving the way care is delivered, and improving the way information is shared; to support transparency for consumers, health care providers, and researchers; and to strengthen decision-making.

“The flow of information is fundamental to achieving a health system that delivers better care, smarter spending, and healthier people. The steps we are taking today will help to create more transparency on cost and quality information, bring electronic health information to inform care and decision making, and support population health,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.

The Meaningful Use Stage 3 proposed rule issued by CMS specifies new criteria that eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals must meet to qualify for Medicaid EHR incentive payments (Medicare incentive payments end in 2016). The rule also proposes criteria that providers must meet to avoid Medicare payment adjustments (Medicaid has no payment adjustments) based on program performance beginning in payment year 2018.

The 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria proposed rule aligns with the path toward interoperability – the secure, efficient, and effective sharing and use of health information – identified in ONC’s draft shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap. The proposed rule builds on past editions of adopted health IT certification criteria, and includes new and updated IT functionality and provisions that support the EHR Incentive Programs care improvement, cost reduction, and patient safety across the health system.

The Stage 3 proposed rule’s scope is generally limited to the requirements and criteria for meaningful use in 2017 and subsequent years. CMS is considering additional changes to meaningful use beginning in 2015 through separate rulemaking.

Enjoy perusing the 301 pages of the Stage 3 proposal and 431 pages of the certification proposal this weekend!

March 20, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

New Media Meetup at HIMSS15 showcases Chicago icon

The New Media Meetup, now in its sixth year, has become a staple at the annual HIMSS conference. As a longtime resident of Chicago, I’m excited to tell you that this year’s event will be held at the legendary Gino’s East pizzeria, Tuesday, April 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. CDT.

As usual, your host will be John Lynn, founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network, of which Meaningful HIT News is a member. Here are the basics:

When: Tuesday 4/14 6:00-8:00 PM
Where: Gino’s East, 162 E. Superior St., Chicago, IL 60611 MAP
Who: Anyone who uses or is interested in New Media (Blogs, Twitter, Social Media, etc)
What: Food, Drinks, and Amazing People

Note: We have limited space for the event and so like in past years, we’ll have to close registration once we reach capacity.

Check out John’s blog post for more details, as well as information on the first-ever Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference he is hosting in Las Vegas May 7-8.

In case you were wondering, I still do not know who I will be covering HIMSS15 for, so I’m unable to schedule meetings yet. I expect to have at least a partial answer in the next week or so.

March 17, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

So you want a meeting at HIMSS15?

HIMSS15 is less than a month away. The vendor requests for meetings of course have started coming in.

Every year I seem to do fewer and fewer, for several reasons. First off, they’re exhausting. The exhibit hall is huge. This year, it looks like exhibits will fill the entirety of the McCormick Place North Building (705,500 square feet of exhibit space) and South Building (840,000 square feet), and that doesn’t even count the meeting rooms or auditoriums for keynotes. The press room and many of the educational sessions are in the West Building, at least a 15-minute walk from the show floor.

HIMSS says to expect more than 1,200 vendors. I think that’s a conservative estimate, given that there were 1,300 last year and the number seems to grow every year. In any case, that’s a lot of vendors. Remarkably, even as the HIMSS conference has grown over the years, there is only one of me. I can maybe manage 10-12 vendor meetings during the entirety of the conference, so statistically, you have less than a 1 percent chance of snagging one of those spots.

Of course, the more meetings I schedule, the less time I have to do my actual work — you know, the reason why I go to HIMSS every year.

At this point, with my career in a bit of flux, I don’t know yet whom I will be covering HIMSS for. Until I know my assignments, it’s hard to schedule meetings. Please bear with me.

I notice others have recently expressed similar concerns about their own scheduling. For years, I’ve had a “Rule No. 1″ for people attending HIMSS for the first time: Wear comfortable shoes. The people at HIMSS have caught on. “Don’t forget to wear your comfortable shoes!” reads the main Exhibition page on the HIMSS Conference site this year.

Joe Goedert at Health Data Management wrote a nice piece last month with “Tips for Meeting with Reporters at HIMSS15.” Among his advice: Give us the biggest news, not your entire media kit/life story; bring customers, not marketing managers; understand and respect our knowledge and get to the point rather than giving health IT reporters background on the HITECH Act; avoid buzzwords; and respect the reporter’s preference of meeting in either the press room or exhibit hall.

Personally, I hate the exhibit hall. It takes forever to get anywhere, and I don’t need to be stopped every 50 feet for a carnival barker or “booth babe” to ask me to enter to win an iPad in exchange for adding my business card to a marketing list. I’m not your target customer.

I would add to Joe’s list the fact that there is a lot more to HIMSS than just the “show.” There are more than 300 educational sessions, many of which are better uses of my time than a product update. It’s astounding how many vendor reps I speak to each year who haven’t left the exhibit hall all week.

Hopefully I’ll have the coverage question resolved in the next week or two. As for the other issues, well, that’s up to you.

March 13, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

MGMA hires physician, bestselling author as CEO

The Medical Group Management Association has filled the leadership void created when Susan Turney, M.D., left in July, hiring Halee S. Fischer-Wright, M.D., as its new president and CEO. She will start March 23.

According to Englewood, Colo.-based MGMA, Fischer-Wright, a longtime physician executive,  is CMO of St. Anthony North Health Campus, a Centura Health System facility in Westminster, Colo. She previously was president of Rose Medical Group, a large, Denver-based management services organization. Fischer-Wright also was one of three authors of  Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, a 2011 book that spent time on the New York Times bestseller list.

“Dr. Fischer-Wright’s unique expertise and experience from working in both clinical and administrative roles will be critical in helping MGMA members prepare for value based payments and leverage the full clinical and operational power of their practices to enhance patient care in their practices and position them for this success,” MGMA board Chair Debra J. Wiggs said in a press release.

 

February 20, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Back at it

Well, that didn’t last long. My full-time job ended abruptly today, less than three weeks after I started. So here I am back to freelancing and blogging. Any leads would be appreciated. Meantime, stay tuned for new content.

 

February 19, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Health eVillages update: Expanding a rural hospital in Kenya

As you may know, I am a member of the advisory board of Health eVillages. Every so often, the organization does something extraordinary, and I want to share one of those moments here. Actually, I want to share two.

In December, Health eVillages Founder Donato Tramuto, CEO of Physicians Interactive, won a tremendous honor, a 2014 RFK Ripple of Hope Award, from the newly renamed Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization. (The other three honorees were three nobodies named Robert De Niro, Tony Bennett and Hillary Clinton.)

Today, Health eVillages released this bit of news:

Health eVillages Raises Funds to Expand Rural Hospital in Kenya

New wing will help Lwala Community Alliance (LCA) to further reduce infant and maternal mortality rates

READING, MA – (January 27, 2015) -Health eVillages, a program of the not-for-profit Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization and Physicians Interactive, announced today that construction has started on a new wing to expand the first hospital in Lwala, Kenya, as well as housing for clinicians and their families.

The announcement, made by Health eVillages Founder Donato Tramuto, builds on the success of a partnership with Lwala Community Alliance (LCA), a local health and development organization.

“In just four years, the early infant mortality rate has been cut almost by half in our area,” said James Nardella, LCA’s Executive Director. “With the help of partners like Health eVillages, skilled delivery rates have rapidly increased. In 2010, only 26% of births were attended by a trained nurse. That has risen to 96% with the wonderful assistance of Health eVillages.”

He continued, “The expansion of our maternal health facilities and housing for our clinicians and their families will immediately improve the outcomes for more Lwala mothers and their babies, while creating local employment opportunities for Kenyan nurses and other clinical professionals for years to come.”

The rapid expansion was made possible by the success of Health eVillages’ partnerships and the financial support of nearly 100 private donors, including Physicians Interactive.

When it is completed, the 1,500-square-foot wing will add 12 beds to the rural hospital, two exam rooms for outpatient visits, full separation of the well-child visit area from sick-patient areas, and separate men’s and women’s in-patient wards. The wing will also offer new laboratory space with specialized rooms for blood drawing, sterilization and microbiology, as well as a new space for HIV client counseling.

Health eVillages also is adding eight housing units with more than 6,000 square feet of living space, so LCA’s clinical staff can be immediately available on-site during emergency care situations.

The majority of the caregivers at the hospital are with the LCA, a Health eVillages partner whose mission is to advance the health and well-being of people living in the rural region in Western Kenya. Founded by Milton and Fred Ochieng’, US-trained physicians who are natives of Lwala, the Alliance’s first major project was the completion of the Erastus Ochieng’ Memorial Lwala Community Hospital. Initially conceived as a facility to treat HIV/AIDS patients, over time the hospital has expanded to include multiple public health services, including services to pregnant women.

The LCA’s community health workers recruit and enroll women of reproductive age in Migori County through its Safe Babies program to participate in the entire continuum of prenatal, maternal, neonatal and child healthcare services. Health eVillages currently helps fund prenatal and postnatal immunizations as part of the program. It also provides mobile handheld devices (from Physicians Interactive) to the LCA’s 80+ community health workers and the hospital’s clinical staff, as they work to improve primary and preventive healthcare throughout the region.

“It is incredibly gratifying to watch this successful facility grow, knowing that the additional space will give more babies in Lwala a healthy start to life, which every mother in the world wants for her child,” said Tramuto, who is also the Chairman and CEO of Physicians Interactive and the recipient of the 2014 RFK Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award. “It is a testament to the LCA’s hard-working caregivers that the demand for their services is only increasing as families throughout Migori County witness the significant decline in infant and maternity mortality rates in their community.”

About Health eVillages

Health eVillages, a program of the not-for-profit Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization and Physicians Interactive, provides state-of-the-art mobile health technology including medical reference and clinical decision-support resources to medical professionals in the most challenging clinical environments around the world. For more information about Health eVillages, please visit http://www.healthevillages.org/. 

About Physicians Interactive

Headquartered in Reading, MA, PI aspires to use the power of worldwide networks of healthcare professionals and life sciences companies, together, in ways that will change the practice and business of medicine for the better. PI’s value proposition is to offer the life science industry a low-cost, virtual, multichannel marketing approach that can be used to supplement currently promoted products, as well as non-promoted and orphaned products, that deliver benefits to physicians and patients. A key focus is providing services that fit into physicians’ and healthcare professionals’ daily workflow at the point-of-care, when they make diagnosis, treatment, and prescribing decisions. More information can be found at www.PhysiciansInteractive.com.

# # #

It’s more proof that mobile devices can have a positive effect on health pretty much anywhere in the world.

 

 

January 27, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

I’m joining TriMed Media’s Clinical Innovation + Technology

I have some big news to share with you this Friday afternoon. I have accepted an offer to become digital editor of Clinical Innovation+ Technology, a publication you may be familiar with. I’ll be responsible for the daily e-mail newsletter, among other things. It’s my first full-time job since the end of 2003.

Clinical Innovation + Technology is published by TriMed Media Group of Providence, R.I., which also publishes Health Imaging + IT, Cardiovascular Business, Healthcare Technology Management, Health CXO and the recently revived CMIO. (I freelanced for the first few issues of the original incarnation of CMIO, which later became Clinical Innovation & Technology.) This is a telecommuting job, so I will remain in Chicago.

Of course, this means I will have to give up most of my freelance work, in part because I won’t have the time and also because I don’t want to be in direct competition with my new employer. At least in the short term, I do intend to keep up this blog, since it never really was my primary outlet or source of income anyway, Lately, I haven’t been posting more than 2-3 times a month anyway, so you may not even notice much of a difference. Once I figure out my routine at the new job, I’ll decide on whether or not to continue this site.

I don’t know all the details yet on what kinds of things I’ll be focusing on, so please do not start inundating me with pitches. The last time I did multiple newsletters a week, I got burned out in no small part due to the volume of e-mail I received. Do note that “clinical” is the first name of the publication, and that TriMed has other titles devoted to the business side of things. That should be a clue as to what I’ll be interested in. As far as I know, there is no change to the staff of the print magazine.

January 23, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Cameras in operating rooms?

As you know, I’ve become rather obsessed with patient safety ever since I watched bad things happen to my dying father nearly three years ago, so I wanted to pass along a petition and gauge people’s opinions. Should cameras be mandatory in operating rooms? Some people think so. There’s obviously a growing movement in the U.S. to equip police officers with body cameras, in the name of protecting police and the public alike. There just might be a parallel for surgery teams and patients.

A petition went online late last month as Causes.com, calling on legislators to require OR cameras “to reduce harm, and learn from errors.” I learned about it from John James, founder of Patient Safety America. In an e-mail, James explained, “There are many reasons to do this: educational tool, improve performance of surgeons, document skills, have an unbiased record if an adverse occurs, and reduce misstatements in medical records.”
What do you think? Vote here, and if you are so inclined, leave a comment below.

January 12, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.