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Paul Ellwood recuperating from serious injury

In case you haven’t heard, Dr. Paul Ellwood, who coined the phrase, “health maintenance organization” and was a leading force in the early days of quality measurement, has suffered a serious accident. Writing at The Health Care Blog, Michael Millenson relays an e-mail that 82-year-old Ellwood survived “a 12-foot backward fall into a jagged confined space. Result at least 6 smashed cervical and thoracic vertebrae. [But] no paralysis! In a halo and off full duty for a while, but eager to rejoin the hunt.”

I’ve never met Ellwood, but I have had at least one lengthy phone conversation with him, so I guess that qualifies me to wish him a speedy recovery. Get well soon, Dr. Ellwood.

December 28, 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.

More commentary

Barack Obama doesn’t take office for nearly four more weeks, but already we’re seeing some pushback against his campaign proposal to ask for $50 billion over five years for health IT.

The federal checkbook, er, money-printing machine, has been busy of late. If the Wall Street and Detroit bailouts have shown anything so far, it’s that a billion dollars just ain’t what it used to be. There are some who are making the case that throwing more money at the healthcare problem might not be the wisest move.

Notably, Bill Yasnoff, M.D., Ph.D., had an op-ed published at BusinessWeek Online last Friday, in which he says electronic medical records must be part of any economic stimulus plan Obama introduces in 2009. Yasnoff pushes for his brainchild, the “health record bank” and calls for greater privacy protection than HIPAA currently affords.

The last point is not surprising, considering Yasnoff is allied with privacy guru Deborah Peel, M.D. For her part, Peel, founder of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, sent a letter to Congressional leaders this week complaining of the lack of regulation in recent health IT policy as well as accountability problems with the financial industry’s bailout.

Both Yasnoff and Peel suggest that any funding for health IT must include accountability measures and provisions to ensure sustainability.

C. Peter Waegemann, CEO of the Medical Records Institute also argues against simply throwing money at the problem. In an “HIT Status Report”, posted Dec. 9, cautions that nobody has yet proved that EMRs alone can save money.

“Cost savings can be achieved through a restructuring of healthcare, and EMRs may well be tools in the restructuring process, but they should not be perceived as the main tool or goal and we should not have such unrealistic expectations of them,” Waegemann writes. He also contends that recent federal efforts to promote health IT have failed.

Over at The Health Care Blog, Rick Peters, M.D., argues that the health IT industry is similar to the auto industry of the 1970s, and thus not suitable for a government “bailout.”

And from the Department of Negativity at Any Cost, the Cato Institute‘s Michael Cannon has a blog post entitled, “Blocking Obama’s Health Plan Is Key to the GOP’s Survival.” If so, we’re in for several more years of politics as usual.

December 26, 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.

Networking, socially

You may have noticed, since the Digital HealthCare & Productivity gig dried up for me a few weeks ago, I’ve been posting more often to this blog. The posts also have been reasonably short. I’m kind of experimenting to see what kind of traffic I get with regular posts.

Now here’s something to get people talking: A collection of Facebook groups for HIT and healthcare quality that I’ve come across recently. All these are open groups; I can’t get into the invitation-only ones anyway. This is by no means exhaustive.

In no particular order:

AMIA – American Medical Informatics Association
American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) 10×10
Asia Pacific Association for Medical Informatics (APAMI)
IMIA (International Medical Informatics Association)
AHIMA
Canadian Health Information Management Association (CHIMA)
Health Informatics
Health2.0–User Generated Healthcare
Health 2.0
Medicine 2.0
HIMSS
Evidence-based medicine
La Télémédecine mérite mieux. Telemedicine deserves a future.
Medbloggers
Medical Informatics
Empower Patients
Institute for Healthcare Improvement
Bioinformatica en Español

And because Dr. Bill Hersh of Oregon Health and Science University asked nicely, here’s the fan page for the OHSU-AMIA 10×10 Program.

Dr. Hersh also had a letter to the editor published in The Oregonian on Sunday, in which he promoted health IT as a job-creation engine for any economic stimulus that the new Congress might consider in 2009.

December 16, 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.

HIT advertising section in Friday’s Washington Post

There’s a special advertising pull-out section on healthcare IT running in Friday’s print edition of the Washington Post. How do I know this? Because I wrote the majority of it. I also helped with the questions posed to the “panel of experts.”

Normally I would not get involved in marketing communications, but I had pretty good editorial control over the message. I was instructed to interview representatives of the advertisers, whose quotes were to appear on the same page as their ads—normally a red flag for me—but I could add any additional information or interviews that I saw necessary. Furthermore, the advertisers did not have authority to review the copy prior to publication, so I was satisfied with the arrangements. I only had to answer to the publisher, Mediaplanet, a Swedish marketing firm with U.S. headquarters in New York. So overall, I was comfortable with the arrangements. Plus, it gets me in the Washington Post, even if it was through the back door.

For what it’s worth, you’ll note that the EMR story features a company that does not have CCHIT certification for its product. I’ll also admit that I didn’t address the security issues related to health IT.

Click here for a PDF of the section (1.2 MB). I understand it will not be available at WashingtonPost.com.

I Written By

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

Not going quietly

Just when you thought the Bush administration was counting its last days, I get a media advisory that says: “HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to Deliver Major Address on Protecting Privacy, Expanding the Use of Personal Health Records.”

Leavitt is keynoting the Fifth Annual Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) Forum on Monday morning in Washington. According to the advisory, “Secretary Leavitt is expected to announce principles and resources to address privacy and the exchange of electronic health information.”

I won’t be there, but Monday’s keynote will be Webcast starting at 8:30 a.m. EST, as will the closing plenary on Tuesday at noon EST.

December 14, 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 Wonk Review, time to cut my hair?

The latest Health Wonk Review is up at the e-CareManagement blog of Joe Friday, a.k.a. Vince Kuraitis. His “Just the Facts, Ma’am” Edition of the Review is hot on the trail of a suspect, namely the U.S. healthcare system, wanted for disorderly conduct.

My contribution falls into the category of “The Usual Suspects and Hippies.” I need to consult my attorney, but I believe I am absolved of any deviant behavior that may or may not have been committed before I was born in 1970.
Peace.

December 10, 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.

Daschle’s looking better already

From Paragraph 93 of the federal criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich unsealed this morning:

On November 5, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with Deputy Governor A regarding positions that ROD BLAGOJEVICH might be able to obtain in exchange for the soon-to-be vacated Senate seat. Among the potential positions discussed were Secretary of Health and Human Services and various ambassadorships.

Paragraph 98 alleges:

On November 7, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Advisor A about the Senate seat. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he is willing to “trade” the Senate seat to Senate Candidate 1 in exchange for the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services in the President-elect’s cabinet.

That’s right, Blagojevich allegedly saw himself as the right person to fix America’s healthcare woes. Well, there is a precedent for Midwestern governors taking over HHS—Wisconsin’s Tommy Thompson—but it seems so far like President-elect Barack Obama made a wise choice in picking Tom Daschle over Captain Hairdo. Particularly in light of this gem from Paragraph 101(c):

ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that the consultants (Advisor B and another consultant are believed to be on the call at that time) are telling him that he has to “suck it up” for two years and do nothing and give this “motherfucker [the President-elect] his senator. Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him.”

Ah, the joys of Chicago politics!

December 9, 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.

Gates Foundation to fund global informatics training

The American Medical Informatics Association will announce Monday that it has received a $1.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote health informatics and biomedical education and training worldwide, particularly in developing countries.

This will be the first project of a new program called 20/20, in which the International Medical Informatics Association and its regional affiliates, including AMIA, will attempt to train 20,000 informatics professionals globally by 2020. This is an outgrowth of the AMIA 10×10 program to train 10,000 people in informatics in the U.S. by 2010. IMIA and its partners will discuss details of 20/20 this week at the Wellcome Trust in London.

AMIA will use the Gates Foundation money to develop “scaleable” approaches to e-health education, including a replicable blueprint for training informatics leaders, including physicians, medical records professionals, computer scientists and medical librarians.

“We envision the program will train leaders in low-resource nations by linking them and their institutions to partner institutions affiliated with AMIA to build capacity for managing and improving high-quality, low-cost healthcare in the less-developed economies,” AMIA explains in a statement. AMIA President and CEO Don Detmer, M.D., says this element of 20/20 is aimed at career informaticians “so there won’t be a brain drain.”

Other elements of 20/20 will include individual and degree-track courses at colleges and universities—similar to existing 10×10 curriculum—and skills training, not necessarily specific to medical informatics. “We’re also looking at ways of creating seminars and executive training for people to advocate for this in their home countries,” Detmer says.

Detmer, who is retiring at the end of the year, says the skills training will happen in “bits and bites” to help build incremental capacity in the global e-health workforce. Some planning in this area has been supported by the Rockefeller Foundation as part of a $500,000 grant the charity gave to AMIA to lead one of the Making the eHealth Connection conferences last summer in Bellagio, Italy.

The 20/20 program is chaired by N.T. Cheung, head of IT for the Hong Kong Hospital Authority. Other confirmed or likely participating organizations include the European Federation for Medical Informatics, the Asia Pacific Association for Medical Informatics and the Health Informatics Society of Australia.

December 7, 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.

Mobile phones to the rescue

Australia 7 News reports that a British surgeon working amidst armed conflict in Congo saved the life of an injured teenager by performing an amputation procedure he had never done before. The surgeon got detailed instructions on the operation from a colleague back in the UK. Via text messaging.

Click here for the story.

December 3, 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.

Mobile phones for HIV/AIDS treatment

In honor of World AIDS Day, I’m linking to a post on the MobileActive.org blog about treating HIV/AIDS patients via mobile phones. The post discusses two programs to engage patients with “virtual call centers,” text messages and, eventually, home testing services, particularly in South Africa, which has the world’s highest population of HIV-positive residents.

(Thanks to Dr. Enoch Choi for alerting me to this post.)

I’ve covered mobile health in the developing world several times on this blog and elsewhere, notably from one week of the the Making the eHealth Connection conferences in Italy last summer, and subsequent follow-up coverage. See “The Davos of health IT?” and “Desmond Tutu Presents e-Health Call to Action.”

Those who attend the 25th annual TEPR conference in February should expect to hear a progress report on a project to promote health information interoperability in the U.S. by cell phone. The Medical Records Institute, the group behind TEPR, also is pushing mobile technology in healthcare through the Center for Cell Phone Applications in Healthcare.

Looking ahead, I’m hoping to get a closer look at mobile technology for HIV treatment at MedInfo2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. But that’s a long way off. The HIV epidemic is not going to wait.

December 1, 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.