NEW ORLEANS—I made my debut for the new Health Innovation Broadcast Consortium last night with a live webcast interview with Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush. As usual, I didn’t need to prepare much for the interview because Bush almost interviews himself, so I just decided to wing it. Also as usual, we kept it light, as each of us had a beer in our hand, since we were at the House of Blues in the French Quarter, where Athenahealth had its annual HIMSS party. (This year featured a jazz funeral marking the “death of software.”) But we did discuss some topics actually relevant to health IT, including meaningful use and Athenahealth’s recent acquisition of Epocrates. Enjoy.
The video from the Dell Healthcare Think Tank dinner at HIMSS12 last week, which I participated in, is now available. It’s long, but if you’re into health IT policy and healthcare reform, it probably is worth your time.
As has become custom, I carved out some time at HIMSS to interview Jonathan Bush, the always outspoken and insightful CEO of athenahealth. This time, instead of meeting in some sterile conference room, we got together just before the start of athenahealth’s annual HIMSS party, which happened to be at Ghostbar at the top of the Palms hotel in Las Vegas.
The setting, on the balcony of the 55th floor, tied into the company’s embrace of the cloud. The staff of both the bar and of athenahealth did a great job finding a single spotlight on the balcony, overlooking the bright lights of the Strip. Yeah, there’s a shadow on Bush’s face and you can hear the wind at times, but I think it adds to rather than disrupts the vibe.
As usual, we joke around a lot, but we also get into some serious discussions about ICD-10, meaningful use, health IT innovation and even my involvement with Health eVillages, a subject that came up because athenahealth has a health IT charity effort of its own in India. (Speaking of HealtheVillages, co-founder Donato Trumato is presenting a case study at HIMSS Thursday morning. It’s at 9:45 a.m. PST in Marco Polo 803 on the first floor of the Venetian. I’ll probably be waiting for the media availability of Dr. Farzad Mostashari at that time. Something about meaningful use Stage 2.)
Other locales may get more press in this industry, but the Chicago area has a surprisingly strong community of health IT vendors.
It is well known that Allscripts is headquartered at the Merchandise Mart. GE Healthcare, while based just outside Milwaukee, maintains a large IT center in northwest suburban Barrington, Ill. CDW, based in Vernon Hills, Ill., runs its healthcare division from a downtown Chicago office. Numerous smaller vendors dot the area, too. And then there is Merge Healthcare, a medium-sized firm that historically has specialized in software for medical imaging.
Last week, I visited Merge’s home office in the Aon Center, an iconic skyscraper previously known as the Amoco Building and, before that, the Standard Oil Building. There, CEO Jeff Surges gave me a history of the company and talked about changes in the company and in the health IT field in general. Then, I turned on my video camera so Surges, sporting an orange necktie, could explain why Merge has adopted orange as its company color.
Following my interview with the CEO, Gilbert Gagné, also wearing an orange tie, gave me a demo of Merge iConnect Access, an image viewing system than works through any Web browser. I got the iPad portion of the demo on video, too.
I shot this in 720p high definition, but only uploaded it at 360p to save time. Let me know if you want HD so the iPad screen appears a little sharper.
Sidorov wonders if “meaningful use” of EHRs isn’t designed for a PC-centric world, even though tablets and cloud computing have started to assert themselves:
It’s too early to assess the implications of this generational shift away from the PC for the Feds’ efforts to digitalize the practice of medicine. The provider community is still coming to grips with information technology and meaningful use” (MU). Hopefully EHRs won’t share the fate of ”shovel ready” and clean energy loan guarantees.
Upon review, the MU criteria may still ultimately apply, but the shift away from PCs may require some changes in how they are implemented.
I’m sure policymakers who are writing future MU rules are aware of this sea change, but the federal government moves slowly, and one never knows what will happen when lobbyists get involved. HIPAA privacy and security rules, first drafted during the Clinton administration, were practically obsolete by the time they took effect halfway through Bush’s first term.
As long as there have been EMRs, there have been vendors selling aggregated, de-identified data. And there have been people worried about privacy.
That issue came up last week AHIMA Legal EHR Summit right here in Chicago, during a session exploring issues related to data ownership and stewardship in the era of cloud computing. (I’ll have a more complete rundown of the session Monday in InformationWeek Healthcare.)
Near the start of the panel, Daniel Orenstein, senior VP and general counsel of Athenahealth tried to put any lingering questions to rest right away. “I think data monetization is kind of a red herring,” Nussbaum said of people who criticize vendors for selling sensitive patient information. According to Nussbaum, de-identified data no longer includes any protected health information as defined by HIPAA, and only has value in the aggregate.
What he didn’t mention—and what nobody on the panel or in the audience brought up— is the possibility that data that supposedly were de-identified could be re-identified to a reasonable degree of precision. I’ve heard this for years, but I don’t know if anyone’s actually re-identified patient data outside of academia. Is this a real threat, or is Nussbaum right about it being a red herring?