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Things change pretty fast in health IT, don’t they?

Yes, things do change pretty fast in health IT. I realized this over the past couple of weeks when I updated my database of contacts by scanning and categorizing about 300 business cards I’ve collected over the past 2½ years. (I really let things pile up this time. Now that my desk is reasonably clean, I hope I never do that again. I can claim extraordinary circumstances in 2012, but that only accounts for one year.)

What really struck me, in addition to the amount of time I let this slide, is the number of new categories I had to create in the database and the number I had to modify. My contacts go back to when I started covering healthcare in October 2000, and I’ve had a card scanner for at least 10 years. I had “PDA” and “ASP” as two of the choices until I changed them to “smartphone” and “SaaS” within the last couple of years.

Here are a few terms that are new in my database since I last did a thorough update, probably early in 2011:

  • accountable care
  • analytics (as opposed to data mining)
  • business incubator
  • remote monitoring

I also can’t believe I didn’t have CIO as a category until this month.

Some of the changes reflect a shift in what I’ve covered, but some terms are pretty new. Did you know what accountable care was prior to 2010? Were there many business incubators or accelerators in healthcare before Rock Health started up in 2011? I don’t know of any.

By the same token, when was the last time anyone talked about a PDA, an ASP or RHIO? Perhaps it’s just been a change in semantics, but the real change has been in the technology and the focus of healthcare executives. (Come to think of it, some of the tags on this blog are a bit out of date. I’ve been blogging since 2004. You get the picture.)

On another note, thanks to Healthcare Scene guru John Lynn, who hosts this blog for me, for, without my prompting, promoting the fact that I’m cycling 100 miles in an event called the Wrigley Field Road Tour on Sunday, Aug. 25, for the third year in a row. The ride supports an organization called World Bicycle Relief, which provides specially made bikes to remote villages in Africa so people who are otherwise without transportation can get to school and jobs. It also benefits Chicago Cubs Charities, which funds a number of youth programs in the Chicago area. (The ride’s co-founders are World Bicycle Relief founder F.K. Day, whose family owns bike component maker Sram, and Todd Ricketts, whose family controls the Cubs.)

Within the last two weeks, I suddenly got a surge of donations from people within the health IT community, and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know. If you’d like to help, here’s my fundraising page.

One unexpected donor was Todd Stein of healthcare PR firm Amendola Communications. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that he is fundraising to help offset medical expenses of a colleague whose 3-year-old son faces surgery for a brain tumor. From that page:

Kathy C., a friend and colleague (who has always been the first to help but the last to ask for help and so wants to remain anonymous) is a single mother of three children all under the age of 7. Her 3-year-old son “James” was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The surgery will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, Kathy has a $10,000 deductible on her health insurance plan and stands to pay out of pocket costs that are estimated at three times that amount. James is going in for the first of a series of surgeries this week and paying tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses is a hardship for anyone, especially a hard working single mother of three young children.

Please keep Kathy and James in your prayers and give whatever you can to support their urgent need. Just giving up a daily coffee for one week and giving that amount would make a world of difference.

And now, it’s just about 5 o’clock here in Chicago, so please enjoy your weekend.

 

 

August 16, 2013 I Written By

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

Patients with complex cases don’t want multiple provider portals, Rady CIO says

How about some real, original content for a change? Yeah, that’s why you started coming to my blog in the first place, isn’t it? You’re tired of nothing but video embeds from others and short, offbeat attempts at humor.

I recently interviewed Albert Oriol, CIO of Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, for a story that will appear elsewhere (read: a paying client) soon, but I had a lot of material I left out of that story. I get to use some of the rest here in a little experiment to see what it does to this site’s traffic.

Obviously, pediatric hospitals aren’t eligible for the Medicare side of meaningful use, which is why the threshold is lower for qualifying for Medicaid bonuses. Pediatricians and children’s hospitals only need to have 20 percent of their visits with Medicaid patients, compared to 3o percent for other providers. Rady meets that standard and already has attested to Stage 1.

Oriol, however, does not like the way the rules are written, calling some of them “well-intentioned mandates with unintended consequences.” For example, providers must offer portals for some of their patients – 10% in Stage 1, rising to 50% in Stage 2. But patients with complex conditions go to multiple providers, each of which may have unique portals. “It’s inconvenient for them to go to many different portals,” he says.

He also is frustrated with having to build reports knowing that many of the items will not apply to pediatric subspecialties. “It’s not the best use of resources,” Oriol says.

The two things at the top of mind for Oriol these days are telemedicine and advanced analytics. Rady is expanding its telemedicine program to support rural areas in Imperial County, a poor, isolated jurisdiction east of San Diego County along the Mexican border. He believes this will provide value and convenience to primary care physicians and patients alike.

On the analytics front, Rady is working on a demonstration project with California Children’s Services (CCS), a managed care program for children in the state’s MediCal system with certain diseases. “We’re going to bring in data from other providers,” Oriol says.

The hospital also is “taking a big step forward” in innovation and discovery by partnering with industry to research technology and the analytics of technology, according to Oriol.

 

April 28, 2013 I Written By

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

CNN highlights health apps, clinical intelligence

CNN hasn’t exactly shined of late with its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath, but the embattled news network got my attention by airing a segment on cutting-edge health IT over the weekend. (Actually, credit goes to Scott Anzel, CEO and co-founder of MDconnectME, one of the three companies featured in the short video.)

MDconnectME makes an app intended to keep people up to date with short, secure messages when their loved ones are in surgery. I actually wrote about Philadelphia-based MDconnectME for MobiHealthNews last fall, after clinicians at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York found that the app worked well for keeping frazzled family members up to date on patients transferred there when other Manhattan hospitals closed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Also included in this report are Flatiron Health, a clinical intelligence platform for cancer care that’s backed by Google Ventures and LabCorp., and Mango Health, an app supported by Rock Health to encourage medication compliance through a rewards program.

Watch the video here:

You also can see

April 22, 2013 I Written By

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

Guest podcast: Deborah Gordon of Network Health talks reform with Sivad Solutions

Last September, I was a guest on a podcast hosted by Todd Schnick and Charles Davis of Sivad Business Solutions. Afterwards, we decided to share content if and when it made sense. That hasn’t happened until now (actually last month — I’m just getting around to posting now).

Schnick and Davis interviewed Deborah Gordon, chief marketing officer of Network Health, a health insurer in Massachusetts, to discuss healthcare reform. I wouldn’t be posting this if it didn’t have a focus on real reform of health care, and not just insurance expansion, with a strong element of patient safety and attention to outcomes.


From Sivad:

An honor to welcome Deborah Gordon, the Chief Marketing Officer for Network Health. Debbie joins us to talk about one of the more innovative non-profit health plans one can find across the US. You can learn more about Network Health here, the number three health plan for Medicaid health plans.

Discussion topics included:

1. The challenges of serving a very diverse population and customer base, along with lower income customers as a result of income or job situation.

2. Network Health, and states like Massachusetts, have lead the nation in Medicaid health care. How can that trend, and how can the reforms found in Massachusetts, spread across the land?

3. The creation of the Health Insurance Exchange is the key to success…which brings competition and market forces to bear in health care. “It is like Expedia for health insurance…”

4. A focus on quality patient care going forward…

5. What are the challenges going forward, and how does the heated national debate impact the work they are doing.

6. The innovation that’s possible when market forces are at play… “Regulators spawning innovation…”

7. More technology is available and serving the health care markets, which is exciting. But, will access to that technology be accessible to the low income markets?

8. The e-discharge program…

9. The utilization of analytics…

10. Exposing more information to the consumer makes them better patients, healthier, and more compliant to health recommendations…

11. The patient should be the center of the health care system… not the doctor.

12. Debbie was recently named a 2013 USA Eisenhower Fellow, a prestigious fellowship which recognizes emerging leaders who are making momentous contributions to society. In 2013, she will travel to Singapore and Australia where she will explore how these countries have successfully established systems and supports that allow consumers to make good decisions about their health care. The goal is to gather insights and best practices that can be applied here in the U.S.

 

April 16, 2013 I Written By

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

Topol visits Colbert for a heart, ear exam

You asked for it, so here’s the video of Dr. Eric Topol on “The Colbert Report” from last night. Check out coverage by Jonah Comstock at MobiHealthNews.

 

 

Kudos to Stephen Colbert for asking the question about insurance companies mining personal data.

In case you missed it, here‘s the “Rock Center with Brian Williams” segment on Topol from January.

March 27, 2013 I Written By

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

Video: My interview with Phytel’s Steve Schelhammer from Health 2.0

Last fall, I conducted one of the “3 CEOs” interviews at the 2012 Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. For my interview, I drew Steve Schelhammer, CEO of Phytel, a population health management technology provider. Aside from a little technical glitch — one that got edited out of this clip — with Schelhammer’s earpiece microphone not working, I think this went very well. The most amazing part is that this was the first session of the morning and not only was I on time, I was awake and alert.

February 20, 2013 I Written By

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

Automation is good. Robocalls are bad.

I just got a robocall from my primary care physician’s office asking first if this was actually me — not that anyone would actually lie — and then if I had received a flu vaccine this season. Well, the practice itself administered the vaccine last month, so they should have known that the answer was yes. I did say yes to the interactive voice-response system and also provided the month, as asked.

I realize it is good to make sure that patients get the  recommended preventive care and that it may be impossible for staff in a small practice to call every last patient, but robocalls are awfully impersonal. If the system had actually been connected to the practice’s EHR, I wouldn’t have needed to get the call in the first place. Or maybe someone forgot to enter the vaccination into the record? In either case, the process is imperfect.

Yes, it’s a small deal, but how many imperfect processes are there in medicine? Little things have a way of adding up.

December 11, 2012 I Written By

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

MedAssurant is now Inovalon. Does Inova Health know?

Healthcare data analytics company MedAssurant today announced that it has changed its name to Inovalon. From the press release:

Inovalon is a newly coined term created by combining innovation, value, and action. Within the name are also key elements of the words nova and valor. ‘Innovation’ is not just a patented formula, but a signature form. It is built in causal sequence on three principles: Insight, Intervention, and Impact. ‘Nova’ conjures images of great energy and passion bursting forth, intensity of light, and a source of life. ‘Value’ is a cornerstone of the Company’s offerings and a commitment to its clients. ‘Valor’ conveys bold determination and integrity. And ‘On’ communicates a strong call to action.

OK, that’s a mouthful, and some branding consultant probably got paid handsomely to come up with that.

Thing is, Inovalon is based in Bowie, Md., near Washington, D.C. Right there in the same metro area, in Falls Church, Va., is integrated delivery network Inova Health System. (My educated guess is that the “nova” part comes from the fact that Inova is in Northern Virginia, often referred to as NoVa.) Will we find confusion in the marketplace? Worse, will Inovalon soon be getting a call from Inova’s lawyers?

 

June 5, 2012 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 dubious honor from Health Wonk Review

For the very first time, I captured the top spot on the biweekly Health Wonk Review blog carnival, this time hosted by Dr. Jaan Sidorov of the Disease Management Care Blog. Unfortunately, I had to endure my dad’s untimely death after a miserable hospital experience in order to write the piece in question. But if it brings more traffic to that post and, more importantly, more awareness of multiple system atrophy (MSA) and the problem of poorly coordinated care and broken processes in hospitals, I’ll take it.

Since you’re here primarily for health IT, I’ll point you to a couple of relevant items that Sidorov summarizes. In a post actually written back in February, Martin Gaynor, chairman of the Health Care Cost Institute, discusses the organization on the Wing of Zock (the name is explained here) blog. The institute is aggregating claims information from the likes of Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealthcare and CMS to provide researchers with rich data sets related to healthcare costs and utilization.

“At its most basic, HCCI was formed because a better understanding of health spending can improve the quality of care and save money. If we generate information that makes a difference, then we will be a success,” Gaynor says.

Also, consultant Joanna Relth makes it known on the Healthcare Talent Transformation blog that she is no fan of ICD-10. “I’m sure that the intent of making this massive change to the codes is to improve the accuracy of diagnosis coding so providers will bill more accurately and insurance companies will pay providers and insureds in a more timely fashion. Seriously?? Did anyone ask a learning professional about how large a list is reasonable and at what point does the number of data points become impossible to follow?” she wonders in what comes off a little as an anti-government screed.

But I prefer to end this post on a happy note. In the comment section, Relth links to a video from EHR vendor Nuesoft Technologies that parodies Jay-Z’s “99 Problems.” Enjoy.

May 25, 2012 I Written By

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

HIMSS12 notes

I’ve just returned home from HIMSS12. As usual, it was a grueling week, made more grueling by the fact that I arrived a day earlier than usual. But I do have to say that this was the least stressful HIMSS I have been to in years.

Maybe it’s because the conference layout within the massive Venetian-Palazzo-Sands Expo complex was surprisingly compact for my purposes, and I didn’t have to do as much walking as normal. Maybe it was because I only set foot on the show floor once, thanks, in part, to the announcement of the Stage 2 “meaningful use” proposed rules on Wednesday, which caused me to cancel one vendor meeting (in the exhibit hall) and cut another one (in the media interview room) short so I could knock out my story for InformationWeek. Or maybe it’s because I spent too much time in the casinos. Let’s go with the first two, OK?

HIMSS12 broke all kinds of records, drawing 37,032 attendees, beating last year’s former record of 31,500 by nearly 18 percent. The final exhibitor count was 1,123, also the most ever. After I tweeted the attendance figure, at least one person thought this rapid growth was an indication that the conference was “jumping the shark”:

jumping the shark? RT @: #HIMSS12 draws record 37,032 attendees, crushing last year's mark of 31,500. http://t.co/Mw1TDYSA #HealthIT
@apearson
Aaron Pearson

I have thought in recent years than HIMSS may be becoming too big for its own good. This time around, I heard mixed reviews.

Personally, like I said, it was less stressful than normal. It’s always good to catch up with old friends, particularly my media colleagues. This year, I also met up with a couple of friends from back home who happen to work for vendors. We kept the fun going all the way back to Chicago, since at least three other health IT reporters and a few others I know were on the same flight as me.

I also have to say I had a wonderful time on a “Meet the Bloggers” panel on Wednesday afternoon, where I joined Healthcare Scene capo John Lynn, fellow Healthcare Scene contributor Jennifer Dennard, Carissa Caramanis O’Brien of Aetna and moderator Brian Ahier for some lively dialogue about social media in health IT. I know that at least one audience member took some video, and I’ll link to that once it’s posted.

Later that evening, I saw nearly every one of the same people at Dell’s Healthcare Think Tank dinner, where I participated in a roundtable discussion about health IT with a bunch of supposed experts. It was streamed live, and I believe the video will be archived. Many of the participants, including myself, tweeted about it, using the hashtag #DoMoreHIT. I really am adamant about the public needing to be explained the difference between health insurance and healthcare.

Speaking about misunderstandings, I am in 100 percent agreement with something Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a.k.a. Seattle Mama Doc, said during an engaging presentation Monday at the HIMSS/CHIME CIO Forum. She made the astute observation that there needs to be better distinction between expertise and merely experience when it comes to celebrities being held up as “experts” in healthcare and medicine. Let’s just say that Swanson, as a pediatrician, is no fan of some of the things Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Mehmet Oz have told wide audiences.

There definitely were some people among the 37,000 who were not enamored with the cheerleading at HIMSS. There was talk around the press room that HHS really dropped the ball by not having the meaningful use Stage 2 proposal out a week earlier, before the conference started. In reality, blame the delay on the White House. Every federal rule-making has to be vetted by the bean counters and political operatives in the Office of Management and Budget, and it’s hard to tell how long the OMB review will take once an administrative agency, in this case, HHS, sends the text over.

I admit, I was wrong in expecting the plan to be out earlier, too. Instead, we got the news Wednesday morning and saw the text Thursday morning, forcing thousands of people to scramble to scour the proposed rules.

I know HIMSS had a team at the ready, who dropped everything to read the proposal and get a preliminary analysis out by the end of the day Thursday. Lots of consulting firms did the same. I’ll save some of the commentary I received for another post.

The wireless Internet in the Venetian’s meeting areas was truly terrible. Either that, or I need to replace my aging laptop. I’m thinking both.

I had no trouble getting my e-mail over the Wi-Fi network, but I really couldn’t do anything on the Web unless I was hard-wired to one of the limited number of Ethernet cords in the press room, and those workstations filled up fast. Bandwidth was particularly poor on Thursday, when I presume thousands of people were downloading the Stage 2 PDF. CMS officials said the Federal Register site crashed from the heavy demand, and I’m sure a lot of it came from inside the Venetian and the Sands Expo.

There didn’t seem to be enough attention paid to safety of EHRs, at least according to Dr. Scot Silverstein of the Health Care Renewal blog, who wrote this scathing critique of the sideshow the exhibit hall has become, making Las Vegas perhaps “fitting for people who gamble with people’s lives to make a buck.”

Personally, I thought ONC and CMS took the recent Institute of Medicine report on EHR-related adverse events pretty seriously. Plus, one of the IOM report authors, Dr. David Classen, presented about the study findings at the physician symposium on Monday and again during the main conference.

Mobile may also have gotten a bit of a short shrift, despite the recent launch of mHIMSS and last’s week’s news that HIMSS had taken over the mHealth Summit from the NIH Foundation. The mobile pavilion was relegated to the lower level of the Sands, the area with low ceilings and support pillars every 30 feet or so. (I called that hall “the dungeon.”) I have a feeling you will like Brian Dolan’s commentary in MobiHealthNews next week. I’m still figuring out what I will write for that publication, but I have to say I did hear some positive things about mobile health this week.

I still don’t know what GE and Microsoft are doing with Caradigm, their joint venture in healthcare connectivity and health information exchange that didn’t have a name until a couple of weeks ago. The name and the introductory reception they held Tuesday evening at HIMSS seemed a bit rushed, IMHO. The Web address the venture reserved, www.caradigm.com, currently redirects to a GE page. Other than the fact that Microsoft is shifting its Amalga assets to Caradigm, I’m at a loss.

Popular topics this year were the expected meaningful use and ICD-10, plus the buzzwords of the moment, business analytics and big data. I’d be happy I never hear the word “solution” as a synonym for “product” or “service” again. To me, that represents lazy marketing. Get yourself a thesaurus.

 

February 24, 2012 I Written By

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