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Coverage from HIMSS

I have a mountain of material from last week’s HIMSS conference, but no time to write anything here because I have been cranking out the stories for Health-IT World News and for the British e-zine E-Health Insider. I have to pay the bills, ya know.

Please do take a look at those publications if you have not before.

Check this space later for a lengthy posting of my finds and observations of HIMSS, including info on several other blogs I have come across recently. Some of the links appear in the column at the right.

One quick note: I am approaching 1,000 page views since I started tracking hits in September. Thanks for your support.

February 21, 2005 I Written By

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

Cynicism?

DALLAS—Is it me, or is the health IT community, save the eternally optimistic vendors, becoming increasingly cynical about electronic health records and interoperability?

Dave Garets, the CEO of HIMSS Analytics, described himself as a cynic in presenting some recent HIMSS research showing a stagnation in in spending IT within healthcare provider organizations. He talked about buzzkills of several “next big things” from recent years, including CPOE, the Tablet PC, natural language processing and direct electronic data interchange. None so far has lived up to previous expectations.

As I sit here in a HIMSS session, taking advantage of the wireless connectivity (something that really has taken off), former Health Level Seven chair Wes Rishel has just said, “I’ve been taking a survey here this year about the most hyped thing and two people out of every three said interoperability.”

On Thursday, Dr. David Brailer will go over some of the broad themes from the recent federal request for information regarding the proposed National Health Information Network. Perhaps his talk will shed some light on industry views of what is feasible and what is mere hype.

I invite your comments.

February 15, 2005 I Written By

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

Moving forward, slowly

DALLAS—I’m taking every opportunity at the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems physician IT symposium, a pre-conference program at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society meeting here, to discuss my view that there is a disconnect between healthcare quality advocates and technology gurus.

As I mentioned in a recent post, while HIMSS is convening in Dallas this week, the healthcare division of the American Society for Quality also is meeting—in New Orleans. The December conference of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement had a minuscule IT presence.

I’m now receiving word, however, that some people do get it.

A number of people here at the physician symposium report that about 10 physicians held a roundtable discussion at the recent World Health Care Congress in Washington
with national health IT czar David Brailer, M.D., and spoke about quality-related issues. If anyone has details, please do e-mail me.

On Feb. 1, the National Quality Forum, headed by Ken Kizer, M.D., announced plans to establish a healthcare technology section for its members to address the role of technology in quality improvement. The new section will have a seat on the NQF’s board.

“Although we recognize that technology by itself is not a panacea for healthcare quality improvement, it is clear that greater—and better—use of technology is part of the solution of the quality problem,” Kizer said in a press release.

Kizer has a history of marrying technology and quality; he is a former under secretary for health in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

February 13, 2005 I Written By

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

A step backwards

My health insurance this year (or at least until my COBRA benefits run out) switched to Aetna from Cigna. Benefits and co-pays, including the three-tiered drug formulary, basically are the same, and my regular internist is in both PPO networks. Both use mail-order pharmacies for maintenance medications and both require paper forms for initial prescriptions (though refills can be ordered online).

I placed my first drug order with Aetna Thursday.

The Aetna and Cigna order forms are pretty similar, with one glaring exception. While the Aetna form has the standard check boxes for patients to list allergies and chronic conditions, it does not ask about other medications. There was no place to list the fact that I take the formerly prescription-only but now over-the-counter Claritin-D for hay fever, nor could I mention that I’m still taking anti-malarial pills for 12 more days because I recently returned from West Africa. I had to go with doxycycline, which must be taken for 28 days after leaving a malarious area, because of a potential drug-drug interaction I might have had if I had taken the more potent Lariam (mefloquine).

For that matter, nowhere on the order form could I even mention the hay fever, as there was no “other” category for allergies. I wrote it in anyway.

The place that prescribed the doxycycline, Northwestern Memorial Hospital‘s travel immunization clinic, had online interaction checking to go with its computerized order entry. I’m sure Aetna’s pharmacists run all the checks, too, but they can’t check what they don’t know. A less-informed patient, e.g., someone who does not write about patient safety for a living, might not think to provide such information.

It boggles the mind to think about how many serious drug interactions might occur because a major pharmacy operation doesn’t ask about OTC and herbal remedies.

February 3, 2005 I Written By

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