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New HIT news site: EHR Outlook

Rule No. 1 of blogging: post often enough to keep your audience. I seem to have broken that rule in the past eight days.

The problem is, I’ve been doing so much (paying) work for others that I have neglected this site. For example, I have a new gig as a contributor to a fairly new, blog-style news site, EHR Outlook, published by Access Intelligence of Rockville, Md. (which just happens to be my home town). I’ll be writing weekly for that site, which provides fairly basic EHR-related information and advice for physician practices, a return of sorts to my roots in healthcare journalism. My first post went up last week, and a second should get posted Monday.

I have a lot more to blog about, but for now, here’s another hilarious Xtranormal video about how all the mundane paperwork makes a physician more of a “real doctor” than a veterinarian:

 

July 30, 2011 I Written By

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

Someone else takes a swing at Silicon Valley hype

You may have heard that I’ve been a little harsh on the Silicon Valley crowd this week. Well, I’d like you to know that healthcare isn’t the only place where people are being sold unicorns and rainbows. This still could apply to just about any industry reliant on technology, so, pretty much any industry.

Besides, we all could use a little laugh for a Friday, no? (Yeah, the time stamp says it’s still Thursday, but the server is in Las Vegas. It’s already Friday here in Chicago. Chances are you won’t read this until Friday anyway. Happy weekend!)

P.S., I love Xtranormal. FWIW, I see the company is not based in Silicon Valley, or even the United States. It’s from Montreal.

 

July 21, 2011 I Written By

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

PHRs that don’t have the cachet of Microsoft and Google

In case you were still of the opinion that Google and Microsoft were the major players and groundbreaking pioneers of personal health records, here’s a partial list of other companies that have been at it for at least as long. I believe CapMed goes back as far as 1991. Some have been bought by larger firms, but many are still independent.

Clip and save, or pass on to your favorite tech journalist that got snookered by the Google PR machine.

Access Strategies

CapMed

ActiveHealth Management

MEDecision

HealthCapable

MyMedLab

NoMoreClipboard.com

Carefx

Good Health Network

iPHER

MedicalDrive.com

MediKeeper

Applied Research Works

In any case, I remain unconvinced that the direct-to-consumer, “untethered” model—no connection to an electronic medical record unless the patient sets it up that way (and really, can any EMR today be configured like that anyway)—can grab more than a small subset of data geeks as customers.

July 18, 2011 I Written By

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

Deep thought on medical information for a Friday

From HL7 International‘s Chuck Jaffe, M.D., at the AMDIS conference in Ojai, Calif., this morning:

July 15, 2011 I Written By

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

Anthem’s California plan turns to Google Maps to reduce ER costs

Remember back in February when I cut my face open at the HIMSS conference and needed medical assistance while 1,000 miles from home? I blogged then about how I used Google Maps to find an urgent care clinic close to the convention center instead of riding to a hospital emergency room in an ambulance? I’m guessing that course of action saved me at least $1,500, money that would have come out of my pocket because, as a self-employed individual, I was only able to qualify for an afford an insurance policy with a high deductible.

Though most Americans still aren’t engaged as consumers when they seek healthcare services, there are tens of millions of uninsured people and a smaller number of people like me with high-deductible plans that would face the same conundrum when they have a non-life-threatening condition: go for “traditional” ER care and pay through the nose, or take a few minutes to seek out lower-cost alternatives.

Now, insurers are trying to encourage the same kind of behavior, because they usually are the ones on the hook for high-dollar ambulance transport and emergency care, even if the condition isn’t a true emergency. Last week, Anthem Blue Cross in California announced a new program to encourage members to seek out non-emergency care—walk-in retail clinics and urgent care centers—when their regular physicians are not available.

“When your five-year-old is crying with a fever at 7 p.m. on a Friday because she has a sore throat or an ear ache, what do you do?” Anthem Medical Director Kurt Tamaru, M.D., said in a press release. “It’s important people know that they have options for less serious ailments other than an ER, such as retail health clinics and urgent care centers that provide quality care and cost them significantly less.”

According to Anthem Blue Cross, an ER charges an average of $641 treat strep throat, something that would cost about $70 at an urgent care center and just $27 at a retail health clinic. This does effect patients directly, too, because Anthem requires a $150 co-pay on average for a ER visit, but just $10 to $40 for care delivered at a walk-in clinic or urgent care center.

The technology driving this program? Google Maps and its brethren.

Just go to Google, Yahoo or Bing and type in “Anthem and urgent care,” and you will be directed to an Anthem educational site (or visit the site directly at http://www.anthem.com/ca/eralt). There, you will find a Google map showing ER alternatives within Anthem’s California network.

Members can sign up for educational e-mails explaining the types of conditions that don’t usually require emergency care, and the potential costs savings by seeking an alternative. Anthem also will make automated phone calls to members who recently had a costly ER visit that could have been avoided.

Anthem cited a study that proved the efficacy of such as an approach. Hopefully, the statistics are accurate and Anthem has success with its program. It worked for me because a lot of money was on the line. Likewise, Anthem members now face higher out-of-pocket expenses if they choose the expensive option rather than the right option. And all it takes is a simple, proven piece of technology called Google Maps.

 

I Written By

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

Why healthcare is so troubled, and what consumers are doing about it

Consumerism hasn’t completely caught on in healthcare, but it has gained a bit of a toehold. Consider these two slides shown Monday at the Healthcare Unbound conference in San Diego:

Look at the bottom of each slide, starting with the second one. According to GreatCall, maker of the Jitterbug phone for seniors, 35 percent of consumers plan to buy “wellness electronics” in the next year. That’s great news and a great opportunity for people in health IT to make sure such devices connect to larger networks to data collected will be usable.

In the upper slide, Kaiser Permanente cites numbers showing one reason why healthcare is in such a crisis. Again, look at the bottom. Just 2 percent of current residents in internal medicine will end up in primary care. That’s not exactly reassuring in the face of a projected shortage of 40,000 family practice physicians by 2020. Thus, connected devices will gain in importance as an adjunct to primary care for the purpose of disease management.

Really, it could be our only hope.

July 12, 2011 I Written By

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

Wisconsin HIE veteran Turney to replace Jessee as MGMA CEO

The Medical Group Management Association today named Susan Turney, M.D., as its new president and CEO, effective in September. Longtime chief William F. Jessee, M.D., is retiring after 12 years on the job.

Like Jessee, Turney is an advocate of health information technology. She has been CEO and executive vice president of the Wisconsin Medical Society since 2004. There, she founded and chaired the Wisconsin Statewide Health Information Network (WISHIN) co-founded the Wisconsin Health Information Organization. Tunney was MGMA board chair in 2005-06.

Read more here.

July 11, 2011 I Written By

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

CMIOs wanted in the UK

I’m getting ready to head west for, among other things, the annual AMDIS Physician-Computer Connection in Ojai, Calif., a high-level gathering of chief medical information officers. After years of fighting for a seat at the table, CMIOs now are being held up as a model, at least overseas.

Specifically, my friends at E-Health Insider in the UK have embarked on a mission to have every NHS hospital hire a chief clinical information officer, the British equivalent of the CMIO. Read more about the British perspective on the American CMIO here.

July 10, 2011 I Written By

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

Imagine Cup participants show smartphone malaria diagnosis app

About three months ago, I wrote about the Imagine Cup, an annual student technology competition sponsored by Microsoft, in a commentary for MobiHealthNews. I mentioned a winning project in the U.S. competition, a smartphone-based imaging system that can help diagnose malaria in far-flung corners of the globe.

Today, the creators of that system and a few other Imagine Cup participants are in New York for the international finals. A few of the students appeared with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on CNN’s American Morning early Friday. CNN said the malaria app is 94 percent accurate, better than the traditional field test for malaria.

Another project, Harmonicare, incorporates a tablet computer to add a musical aspect to the “blowing” test used to help patients regain respiratory function while recovering from pneumonia.

Watch the video and see for yourself:

 

July 8, 2011 I Written By

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

An American conquers France

For the Fourth of July, how about a little story of an American conquering France, with a health IT spin?

Smith College in Amherst, Mass., is still an all-female school, so, needless to say, I did not go there. But a graduate I  know showed me the most recent issue of the alumnae magazine, Smith Alumnae Quarterly. There, on the cover of the Summer 2011 edition is a familiar face, Paris-based health IT consultant Denise Silber, a 1974 graduate.

You may recall, I did a podcast with Silber in 2007. We talked about health IT initiatives in Europe in general and in France in particular, and compared progress there to that in the U.S. Since that time, though, Silber has brought the health/medicine 2.0 movement to Europe, in the form of the Doctors 2.0 and You conference. I also learned through the Smith article that Silber in April was admitted to the French Legion of Honor, an order founded by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte, apparently becoming only the second Smith grad to be so recognized. The first was Julia Child.

How cool is that?

July 4, 2011 I Written By

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