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Kodak news on the way

Nearly eight months after Eastman Kodak Co. said it was studying “strategic alternatives” for its Health Group, we finally get something vaguely resembling news on that topic: expect an announcement no later than Feb. 8.

From a Kodak press release:

ROCHESTER, N.Y., Dec. 27 – Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE:EK) today provided details on its previously announced annual strategy meeting with investors scheduled for February 8, 2007 in New York City, and its planned fourth quarter 2006 earnings announcement.

Kodak also indicated that it is making significant progress in completing its study of strategic alternatives for its Health Group, as well as final preparations for launch of its inkjet initiative. The company expects to make public announcements on both programs in early 2007.

“Our intention to meaningfully participate in the inkjet market and our decision to define a new strategic direction for our Health Group are understandably of interest to our investors, and I am mindful of our commitment to provide updates on both of these initiatives by the end of this year,” said Antonio M. Perez, Kodak Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “We are pleased with our progress to date and we fully expect to make definitive announcements on both of these important business initiatives on or before February 8.

“As we proceed through the exploration of strategic alternatives for our Health Group, the interests of our customers and employees are of primary focus. As always, we will continue to meet the needs of our customers in the same high-quality fashion that they have come to expect from Kodak,” said Perez.

Reading through the Corporatespeak, that means roughly, “We haven’t forgotten about this.” That’s slightly hard to believe, based on Kodak’s displays at recent vendor expos, which suggested business as usual. Hardly reassuring for potential customers, which probably is why the Health Group went on the block in the first place.

December 27, 2006 I Written By

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

Cleaning out the inbox

I’ve let quite a lot of e-mails pile up the last few weeks, and a few I even had to rescue from Gmail’s spam filter.

In catching up with all the messages, I’ve learned a lot.

For one thing, payer-side software vendor MEDecison (MEDE) went public Dec. 13 at $10 a share, down from previously announced ranges of $14 to $16 and then $11.50 to $13.50. The price fluctuated between $9.04 and $10.24 on the first day of trading on the Nasdaq), but has come back either to or slightly above the $10 IPO level every day until Thursday, when it closed at $9.89 (on extremely low volume). Track the historical prices here, then check out this less-than-glowing assessment from the Motley Fool.

MEDecision certainly seems to be doing better than Merge Healthcare, which adjourned its annual shareholders’ meeting Monday in Milwaukee for lack of a quorum. The company plans on trying again on Dec. 28. I’ve been getting this company’s press releases for a long time, but have never written about Merge before. All I know is that the company was in bankruptcy, is now out, and has combined Merge eFilm, Cedara Software and eMed Technologies into two units, called Merge Healthcare and Merge eMed. They apparently are big in imaging but not in other areas of health IT, and seem to have some Canadian management because the stock is traded on both the Nasdaq (MRGE) and the Toronto Stock Exchange (MRG). Should I be paying attention or not?

Just in time for Christmas (ok, not really, it was published in September), comes a book with the cheery title, “Medicare Meets Mephistopheles,” from Cato Institute scholar David A. Hyman. The Libertarian think tank’s Web site describes the tome thusly: “Medicare’s devilish details demonstrate its success at encouraging the Seven Deadly Sins — Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony and Lust — and at undermining the virtues of thrift and honesty.” Former CMS boss Tom Scully has said Medicare is a price-fixing operation, but I don’t believe he ever went all Faustian on us. Personally, I’m curious how Medicare inspires lust. Oh wait, here it is: “Medicare makes Democrats lust for socialized medicine, while its imperviousness to reform makes Republicans angrier and angrier.”

Further to the left on the political spectrum, Joe Trippi, the brains behind the Howard Dean Internet fundraising juggernaut, has joined the Archimedes Movement , the organization founded by former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, M.D., to push progressive (but not single-payer) approaches to healthcare reform. Health IT types may remember Kitzhaber’s inspiring and highly persuasive speeches at the 2006 HIMSS conference last February and the eHealth Initiative’s Health IT Summit in September. Whether his ideas gain any traction in Washington is another story for another day.

(Notice how I avoided saying “conservative” and “liberal” in talking about Cato and Archimedes. I’d never make it as a pundit.)

Also lost in the e-mail pile was the announcement that John Menzer, U.S. vice chairman of Wal-Mart Stores, has been named to the American Health Information Community. And the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology, which became an independent, nonprofit organization last month, announced that it has received federal authorization and funding to expand ambulatory EHR certification into various medical specialties, as expected.

And finally, here are some results of a survey of readers of the daily e-mail “SmartBrief” from America’s Health Insurance Plans. (I had a bunch of these to catch up with in the last few days.)

In your opinion, which of the following developments was the most significant in 2006?
51% — New Medicare drug benefit program
19% — Consumer-directed plans
13% — Efforts to cover the uninsured
11% — Electronic health care initiatives
6% — Walk-in clinics in retail settings

What health care technology issue will take center stage in 2007?
55% — Electronic health records
19% — Personal health records
11% — E-prescribing
9% — Online visits
6% — Telemedicine

What will generate the most attention from policy-makers in 2007?
47% — Universal health care
24% — Medicare
17% — Health care information technology
5% — Medicaid
4% — Privacy-related legislation
3% — Other

Lastly, I’ve had the great fortune in the last week and a half to interview or chat with four giants in patient safety and/or IT, namely Drs. Don Berwick, Larry Weed, Lucian Leape and Ron Pion (and people wonder why I attend so many conferences). I’ve written a couple of stories already, here and here. Look forward to some interesting stuff in the new year.

December 21, 2006 I Written By

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

Podcast: HealthTrain Manifesto for the age of blogging

From the Department of Better Late than Never comes this podcast, recorded two weeks ago, in advance of the first-ever Healthcare Blogging Summit, which was held Dec. 11 in Washington, D.C. But thanks to my crazy schedule, this interview was not posted until Dec. 15 in a Florida hotel room. Most of the information is still relevant. Promise.

In this interview, Dmitriy Kruglyak, creator of the Medical Blog Network, a healthcare-focused publication in a blog format, talks with me about the growth of blogging in healthcare and explains his current project, the HealthTrain Manifesto. Essentially, it’s a statement of integrity guidelines for the highly unstructured world of grass-roots healthcare media.

Podcast details: Dmitriy Kruglyak, creator of the Medical Blog Network and HealthTrain Manifesto. MP3, mono, 64 kbps, 15.6 MB, running time 34:11.

0:50 Explanation of the Medical Blog Network
2:35 Healthcare Blogging Summit
3:40 Blogging’s effect on consumers and on healthcare organizations
5:20 The changing dynamics of information dissemination
5:51 Grass-roots transparency and how to respond to it
6:36 Speakers at the summit
8:47 Harnessing the power of the Web and new concepts on the Internet
11:25 Growth of individuals publishing information online
12:52 Power of blogging in other industries
13:45 Transformation of the role of traditional media
14:28 Blogging’s growth in healthcare
16:50 Evolution of the Internet in healthcare
18:37 HealthTrain Manifesto
19:21 Roots of it in ClueTrain Manifesto (late 1990s) for conversational media
20:51 How healthcare is different from other subject matter
22:13 HON Code and other earlier e-health standards more for top-down media
23:05 Holes that HealthTrain attempts to fill
24:21 Credibility of health information
25:10 The 18 concepts of the HealthTrain Manifesto
27:19 Survey of healthcare bloggers re: anonymity
29:48 More on how healthcare organizations should operate in new era of transparency
30:47 Support for HealthTrain Manifesto
33:00 Where to read manifesto and list of supporters

December 15, 2006 I Written By

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

Podcast: Sage Software

A new name on the healthcare scene is Sage Software, which entered the market in September with its $565 million purchase of Emdeon Practice Services from Emdeon Corp. Who is Sage Software and what are the company’s plans for the Intergy brand name? At last week’s Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago, I sat down with Paul Stinson, Sage’s senior vice president of healthcare, to find out.

Audio quality isn’t the best because a lot of ambient noise made its way into the interview booths in the press room, but I don’t think it’s worse than listening to AM radio.

Podcast details: Interview with Paul Stinson, senior vice president of healthcare for Sage Software, Nov. 27, 2006. MP3, 64kbps, 11.6 MB, running time 25:23.

0:40 Background on acquisition and on Sage
1:30 Sage’s history in accounting software
2:40 Intergy’s history in radiology and imaging
3:35 Sage’s market share
4:00 View of radiology market as part of bigger healthcare picture
5:30 Growth potential in EHR and size of customer base
6:37 Target market
8:00 Division of product line between Intergy and Medware
9:24 Assessment of market for smallest practices
11:45 Effect of Stark exemption on the market
13:37 Effect of CCHIT certification on the market
15:24 Evolution of market in next two years
17:25 Continuing relationship with WebMD
18:16 Growing interest in PHRs and providing information to patients
19:08 Physicians warming to sharing scheduling information online
20:55 Online communication with patients and e-prescribing
22:53 Patient safety improvements and malpractice insurance rates
23:40 Privacy and security issues

December 8, 2006 I Written By

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