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Breaking news: Daschle is HHS pick

The news today is that former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) will be President-elect Obama’s choice for secretary of Health and Human Services. Politico reports that Daschle was picked for his ability to work through the intricacies of the legislative process, something that is particularly helpful in the complicated world of healthcare reform.

Daschle’s definitely a partisan type, but he seems to have respect from both sides of the aisle, a trait that seemed to serve current HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, a former Utah governor, very well. One thing I do not know is if Daschle is as much of an IT advocate as self-described “techno-geek” Leavitt is. That said, I’m sure Daschle knows about Obama’s desire to seek $50 billion in federal money over five years to promote electronic health records. I’m also pretty sure Rob Kolodner will want a meeting with Daschle as soon as possible.

November 19, 2008 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 modest proposal

Medical informatics needs a rock star. Not a David Brailer-esque figure who could excite people in the technology sphere, but perhaps a Don Berwick type who can reach every level and constituency of healthcare, and even capture the imagination of the general public.

I had this thought yesterday during a highly engaging session at the American Medical Informatics Association‘s annual symposium in Washington, a session with the mouthful of a title, “Harnessing Mass Collaboration to Synthesize and Disseminate Successful CDS Implementation Practices.” In English, that means panelists were discussing the forthcoming “Improving Outcomes with Clinical Decision Support: An Implementer’s Guide” and related feedback mechanisms, including a wiki.

During the session, panelists discussed the difficulties they’ve had in getting clinical decision support integrated into EMR and quality-improvement projects, as well as into medical practice itself. One commenter from the audience, a Veterans Affairs doctor, noted that to too many people in healthcare, CDS sounds like an IT issue, not something related to quality.

To this, Dr. Bill Bria, chairman of the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems, said, “Our profession has really stumbled on this one.”

Then, AMIA CEO Dr. Don Detmer asked if the informatics community could identify perhaps the top five serious preventable outcomes and create “poster children” for quality improvement via CDS. He said much of the problem with low adoption of clinical IT is related to communications, though there are some scientific and technology issues as well.

I immediately thought of Berwick and his 5 Million Lives Campaign, a nationwide initiative to help prevent 5 million harmful incidents in healthcare from December 2006 to December 2008 by encouraging hospitals to commit to a series of proven interventions. This, of course, grew out of the 100,000 Lives Campaign, which Berwick’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement says successfully prevented more than 100,000 deaths in U.S. hospitals over a year and a half.

I was at Washington Hospital Center in D.C. just a week ago because my dad had surgery there. Everywhere I looked were signs reminding staff to take action to prevent errors and complications, particularly methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infections. At just about every turn in the hospital corridors, wards, waiting rooms and cafeteria were hand sanitizers.

I’m fairly certain this high level of awareness is directly related to the IHI campaign. In fact, my dad picked Washington Hospital Center over another hospital much closer to his suburban Maryland home because the other place had been in the news of late for its high rate of MRSA. Yes, the public is very aware of the danger of hospital-acquired infections, and Berwick has had a lot to do with raising the issue.

Healthcare needs someone similar to take the lead in communicating the benefits of clinical decision support to the masses. Does informatics have a rock star out there? It’s time to come forward.

November 13, 2008 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 sign of the times

I suppose it was bound to happen eventually, given the state of the economy, but one of my gigs is going away. Specifically, Cambridge Healthtech Institute is pulling the plug on Digital HealthCare & Productivity after two more issues. The company focuses more on life sciences, pharmaceutical research and biotechnology than on health IT, and I guess sales weren’t keeping up on the health IT side.

That means that after three or four years of regular assignments from Digital HealthCare & Productivity (formerly known as Health-IT World), I’m losing a big source of my income. Editors, consider this a solicitation. Yes, I’m going to contact some people directly, but it never hurts to put myself out there.

This blog barely produces any income, and was never meant to be my livelihood. In fact, I’ve thought of discontinuing it because I’ve been frustrated by so many people identifying me primarily as a blogger, not the experienced journalist that I am. For now, though, the blog stays. If nothing else, it’s good advertising for my “brand.”

November 6, 2008 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 2 point uh-oh

Health 2.0 naysayer Dmitriy Kruglyak has posted his most pointed criticism of the genre to date, calling out Matthew Holt et al for starting up a consultancy, Health 2.0 Advisors in what Dmitriy believes is opportunistic cashing in on others’ lack of a sustainable business model.

I’ll let others duke it out over the merits of health 2.0, but I’ll just say I was at the Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco two weeks ago and at the Medicine 2.0 Congress in Toronto two months ago. You’ll recall I blogged twice about the Toronto conference, on Sept. 4 and again on Sept. 11. This was not meant as a slight to the San Francisco crowd, just the reality of being on an 11-day, four-city trip while also facing deadlines for my actual paid gigs.

The Toronto conference was much more academic in nature, as the meeting even had published proceedings. The San Francisco one was more about real-world applications and the hunt for the elusive revenue-generating plan.

If you want a taste of the San Francisco conference, video production house ScribeMedia.org has just posted a highlight of the opening session, namely Dr. David Kibbe’s “Great American Health 2.0 Motorcycle Tour.”

The senior health IT advisor for the American Academy of Family Physicians travels the country on his Honda Goldwing—at least until the fuel pump gives out near Chattanooga, Tenn.—talking to people at TelaDoc, American Well, PatientsLikeMe, change:healthcare, Google Health, Healthline, MedHelp and Kosmix. He also drops in on New York Times columnist Tara Parker-Pope, who says she doesn’t like the term “health 2.0″ to talk about personal wellness and empowering patients, then visits with a new kind of medical practice called Hello Health and stops by a Tennessee MinuteClinic.

Watch the video here:

Yes, there’s a lot of good that can come from interactive health sites, but a lot of questions still to be asked about many of the ideas and companies. I leave you with one more video to help keep things in perspective:

Then again, it might take a nation of millions to hold back health 2.0. The jury is out.

November 5, 2008 I Written By

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