Free Healthcare IT Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Get all the latest Health IT updates from Neil Versel for FREE!

AHIMA board chair dies

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) announced this morning that board President and Chair Kathleen A. Frawley died Friday at the age of 63. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Here is the text of the AHIMA press release:

AHIMA Mourns Passing of Kathleen A. Frawley, AHIMA Board President/Chair

CHICAGO – July 1, 2013 – With profound sadness, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) announces the passing of Board President/Chair Kathleen A. Frawley, JD, MS, RHIA, FAHIMA on Friday, June 28.  Frawley, 63, also was a professor and chair of the health information technology program at DeVry University’s North Brunswick, N.J. campus.

“Kathleen had an inspiring and unwavering belief in the importance of health information management and how AHIMA members could lead the profession,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, FACHE, CAE, FAHIMA. “She touched the lives of so many of her colleagues in HIM, AHIMA members and her students. She will be missed by the entire AHIMA family.”

Angela Kennedy, EdD, MEd, MBA, RHIA, CPHQ, will serve as Board President/Chair effective immediately. Kennedy became President/Chair Elect in January, which was the same time Frawley began her one-year term.

“On behalf of the board and everyone at AHIMA, our thoughts are with Kathleen’s family during this difficult time,” Kennedy said. “Kathleen’s theme during her presidency was ‘dream big and believe.’ It is incumbent upon all of us at AHIMA to continue to move forward with the work and initiatives to advance the profession and the quality of care for patients everywhere as Kathleen would have wanted.”

For more than three decades, Frawley played an integral role at AHIMA. From 1992 to 2000, Frawley was AHIMA’s vice president of legislative and public policy services. The following year, she was a recipient of the AHIMA Distinguished Member Award. In 2011, she was the recipient of the New Jersey Health Information Management Association Distinguished Member Award.

As an educator, Frawley spent a great deal of time focused on the future of HIM education and making sure her students made the most of their opportunities. In a Journal of AHIMA Q and A from October 2012, Frawley said, “(one) of my projects is identifying and assisting students who are at risk of failing or dropping out of school. I did a presentation (on this) at the Assembly on Education and Faculty Development a couple of years ago; I want to identify barriers that prevent students from being successful.”

Frawley was particularly proud to serve as President/Chair during AHIMA’s 85th anniversary year. She inherited a love of history from her late father, and during her speech at the 2012 AHIMA Convention and Exhibit, she outlined how she always made it a point when she was at the AHIMA office to look at the pictures showcasing AHIMA’s founders and past CEOs. In fact, it was her idea to turn this wall of pictures into a mini-museum to celebrate AHIMA’s history.

Frawley, who spoke on health information privacy issues to a number of national outlets including Good Morning America, earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the College of Mount Saint Vincent. She received a master’s degree in health services administration from Wager College and a juris doctorate from New York Law School.

AHIMA will establish a scholarship in Frawley’s name to honor her contribution to the association as a staff member, board member and president, and long-time AHIMA member.

July 1, 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.

Condolences to some well-known people in health IT

It’s been a sad couple of weeks for at least four people I know in and around health IT, and I want to send personal condolences to them and their families.

On March 26, Dr. Mark Frisse, the Accenture Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University, lost his wife of 35 years, Catherine Loretta Walsh Frisse, who, according to an announcement posted on Dr. Frisse’s personal website, lost her battle with breast cancer after putting up a strong fight for two decades. Mrs. Frisse was a teacher, volunteer and philanthropist in the St. Louis area, as her husband and daughter both attended Washington University School of Medicine and the family still lived near St. Louis, despite Dr. Frisse’s Vanderbilt job. (I am a Wash U. alumnus myself, though that was for an undergrad degree, not at the prestigious med school.)

On March 29, Dr. Bill Hersh, chair of the Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University, lost his father-in-law, retired Chicago Tribune sports editor Cooper Rollow.

Also, Sheila Teasdale, retired editor of the journal Informatics in Primary Care and a former chair of the International Medical Informatics Association’s Primary Care Working Group, is mourning the loss of her father. J.D. Kleinke, who helped found Healthgrades and Solucient and now is a healthcare business strategist, economist, author and columnist, is doing the same for his mother.

Please join me in expressing sympathy for their recent losses.

April 5, 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.

Mark Versel, 1944-2012

My father passed away late last Friday night from a most insidious disease called multiple system atrophy (MSA). It’s a rare, progressive, neurodegenerative condition that presents itself with symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease, but it is far more aggressive and debilitating. Essentially, muscles stop working until the disease kills you. In my dad’s case, he ultimately lost the ability to breathe.

Nobody knows the cause of MSA and there is no cure. There really aren’t even any effective treatments. You can only treat the symptoms with medications designed for Parkinson’s to address muscle stiffness, balance and such, and with physical and speech therapy, but that’s like standing in front a speeding train with a stop sign. It’s a futile battle.

My dad never had any real health issues other than sciatica until he was diagnosed with what was thought to be Parkinson’s less than five years ago (MSA didn’t really come into the picture until maybe a year and a half ago). He ate well, exercised somewhat regularly and generally took pretty good care of himself before the disease came along. Now he’s dead at the relatively young age of 68 after an excruciatingly fast decline that kept him hospitalized for his final month.

He fought the disease valiantly and courageously, but he never got the chance to retire. He was forced to stop working because he was physically unable to continue. He never even got to come home to die. The end came so fast that we didn’t get past the first hospice discussion.

As sad as it is to lose my dad in the way that I did, I want something positive to come out of his ordeal. He was selfless, kind and generous in life, and my family intends to carry on his legacy in some way that we haven’t had time to figure out just yet. I want to use his memory and my little corner of the Internet to help educate people about MSA and about patient safety.

What does patient safety have to do with this, you ask? My dad had pretty terrible care at a poorly run community hospital near his home for more than three weeks before he was transferred to the wonderful Georgetown University Hospital in Washington for what turned out to be his final days. The contrast was striking.

The community hospital was a place of inadequate communication, broken processes, obsolete workflows, neglect and harm. My dad came in with what turned out to be a urinary-tract infection. They treated that with antibiotics, but he developed pneumonia in a matter of days—a condition a doctor admitted he had acquired in the hospital. So he was transferred to intensive care, where the hospital could make a lot more money despite being responsible for the complication. (Perverse incentives rule in American healthcare.) My dad was a Medicare beneficiary, so you and I, as taxpayers, get ripped off by the incompetence.

Meanwhile, the clinicians there, who had been trained to treat the acute symptoms, neglected the MSA for more than a week, even taking him off his regular meds for several days, during which time my dad’s muscles continued to stiffen. Physical therapy was essential to prevent further atrophy. The order went in for him to receive physical and occupational therapy at least three times a week, but the PT and OT were nowhere to be found for a week or more.

Meds that had been ordered didn’t get delivered. One night while I was there, a perky medical assistant or tech or someone of that ilk burst into the room announcing it was time for an AccuCheck test, and nearly went through with taking a small blood sample before I stepped in to ask what was going on. She explained that it was a test for blood sugar (who would know what AccuCheck was if they didn’t have diabetes or some familiarity with the healthcare industry?) only after I enquired, but I stopped her to tell her that my dad did not have diabetes. Because of the MSA, he had difficulty speaking and would not have been able to stop someone acting so quickly. It turned out that the tech had gone to the wrong room. The hospital did require clinicians to scan bar codes before administering tests and meds, but who knows if the system really worked?

Later that evening, the nurse nearly gave my dad an eye drop that had not been ordered. The proper instructions were to administer an ophthalmic drug orally, but only if he had excess saliva. The nurse didn’t see that part of the note, despite the fact that the ICU had a partial EHR (Cerner, for those of you keeping score at home) with electronic medication lists.

The infectious disease specialist at the community hospital was not even familiar with MSA — and he didn’t bother to tell us that for three weeks. It should be his professional duty to call in an experienced neurologist or consult with my dad’s personal physician.

Worst of all, my dad stopped breathing for a few seconds last week under questionable circumstances and was intubated, despite the fact that he had an advance directive on file specifically stating that he did not want to be intubated.

At Georgetown, we saw nothing but compassion and competence. Care was well coordinated. People talked to each other. Clinicians huddled together during shift changes to discuss all the patients on the ward. The medical director of the ICU, a pulmonologist, personally managed my dad’s case. The neurologists at this major teaching hospital had seen MSA before, but that didn’t stop them from talking with my dad’s personal physician. It was too late to save my dad’s life, but he died comfortably and with dignity at Georgetown, without the needless agony he endured at the other place.

I am now vowing to dedicate my own career to educating as many people about MSA as possible and about the danger of uncoordinated care and poorly designed workflows. Interestingly, one of the last stories I wrote before my father passed and before I took leave was a piece in InformationWeek about patient engagement. I love the mantra of the Society for Participatory Medicine that I mentioned in the story: “Nothing about me without me.”

Every patient should live by those words. And every healthcare facility should respect that concept.

Rest in peace, Dad. You have not died in vain.

UPDATE, April 2013: If you would like to make a donation to MSA support and research, please visit our family’s fundraising page, which is helping the Multiple System Atrophy Coalition. Thank you.

May 17, 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.

Healthcare journalist Janice Simmons, 1957-2011

It seems like there have been far too many untimely deaths of late. The most recent is a fellow healthcare journalist, Janice Simmons, who died suddenly last week at the age of 54. Here is an obituary from FierceEMR. She succeeded me as editor of that newsletter.

 

August 22, 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.

Bernadine Healy, 1944-2011

I’m rather shocked to hear tonight that Bernadine Healy, M.D., has died of a brain tumor.

Dr. Healy, who turned 67 on Thursday, was the first woman to head the National Institutes of Health (1991-93). She also served as president of the American Red Cross, was  dean of the Ohio State University College of Medicine and was health editor of US News and World Report. Dr. Healy, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist, was deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Policy under President Ronald Reagan. She was married to former Cleveland Clinic CEO Floyd Loop, M.D.

I met Dr. Healy once, after she spoke at the Medical Group Management Association‘s annual conference in 2003. For someone as busy as she was, she couldn’t have been more gracious. I lost my job just a couple of months not long after that conference, and was fishing around for freelance opportunities, so I called US News offices in Washington and left her a message. Wouldn’t you know, Dr. Healy called me back. She was more about setting the editorial direction of health stories in the magazine than day-to-day story decisions, but she did direct me to the proper editor there. Alas, my pitches ultimately were rejected, but thanks to Dr. Healy, I was able to open a dialogue with the person responsible for assigning freelance stories.

This news today came as a surprise, because I had no idea Dr. Healy had been sick. Rest in peace.

August 7, 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.

Founder of British interactive patient sites dies

The driving force behind popular British interactive patient sites HealthTalkOnline and YouthHealthTalk has died.

Dr. Ann McPherson, 65, died May 28 after a four-year struggle with pancreatic cancer. Dr. McPherson, a general practitioner at Oxford University, came up with the idea for a patient-experience site 15 years ago while fighting her own battle with breast cancer, E-Health Insider reports.

Dr. McPherson and Dr. Andrew Herxheimer, a former editor of the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, founded predecessor site DIPEx in 2001, long before the phrase “health 2.0″ gained acceptance. Their organization, the DIPEx Charity, divided the site into HealthTalkOnline for adults and YouthHealthTalk for teens, children and their families in 2008. Numerous British celebrities, including actor Hugh Grant and Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, have become public supporters of the charity.

She co-authored the 1987 book, Diary of a Teenage Health Freak, which has sold more than 1 million copies worldwide, according to an obituary in The Guardian. The book spawned a TV show in the U.K. in the early 1990s, and later, the still-active Teenage Health Freak Web site.

Dr. McPherson won the BMJ’s 2011 Healthcare Communicator of the Year award in April.

 

June 5, 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.