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Remember, HIMSS is a marathon, not a sprint

At the risk of sounding too cliché, I’m going to say that HIMSS is a marathon, not a sprint. (Actually, I said it twice, if you count the headline.) And I’m exhausted already.

Planning for the annual madness, which starts this weekend here in Chicago, is almost as grueling as the conference itself, and I got a late start because I didn’t know until a couple weeks ago who I would be covering the event for. In case you were still wondering, I’m now a full-time staffer for MedCity News, so you can read my work there. In less than a week on the job, I’m already feeling a better vibe than I ever did with the last attempt at full-time work.

I have a feeling others are as exhausted as I am, or at least can empathize with all the scheduling that has to go into HIMSS  for a journalist. I need to find stories, but I also need to leave myself time to, you know, actually write the stories. We shall see if I succeed, because I feel overscheduled already.

How do I know it’s a common feeling? This semi-exasperated tweet I sent out a few days ago has gotten favorited a dozen times, which is just about a record for me.

 

The “1,400 of you, one of me” line has kind of become a mantra for me when dealing with people who are begging for a bit of my time. I did not violate my Rule #2 of HIMSS, which is never schedule back-to-back meetings in different locations. (Rule No. 1, of course, is wear comfortable shoes.)

I just hope I can get all my work done, and that I can get a solid six hours of sleep a night next week, even though it’s a home game for me this year. I’m not terribly far from McCormick Place, but it’s a pain to get to from where I am on the North Side. It’s either an hour-plus on public transit, with one transfer, or $21 per day to park. I’d ride my bike down there, but you probably don’t want to see me in spandex. I still may do that on Saturday before most of you are in town. Be warned.

I probably won’t be blogging on this site during HIMSS, though I may have some multimedia to post at some point. If you want to read my coverage, head over to MedCity News. My HIMSS preview should be up by the time you get to town this weekend. And if you haven’t done so already, click on the above tweet and follow me on Twitter.

Welcome to Chicago.

 

April 9, 2015 I Written By

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

So you want a meeting at HIMSS15?

HIMSS15 is less than a month away. The vendor requests for meetings of course have started coming in.

Every year I seem to do fewer and fewer, for several reasons. First off, they’re exhausting. The exhibit hall is huge. This year, it looks like exhibits will fill the entirety of the McCormick Place North Building (705,500 square feet of exhibit space) and South Building (840,000 square feet), and that doesn’t even count the meeting rooms or auditoriums for keynotes. The press room and many of the educational sessions are in the West Building, at least a 15-minute walk from the show floor.

HIMSS says to expect more than 1,200 vendors. I think that’s a conservative estimate, given that there were 1,300 last year and the number seems to grow every year. In any case, that’s a lot of vendors. Remarkably, even as the HIMSS conference has grown over the years, there is only one of me. I can maybe manage 10-12 vendor meetings during the entirety of the conference, so statistically, you have less than a 1 percent chance of snagging one of those spots.

Of course, the more meetings I schedule, the less time I have to do my actual work — you know, the reason why I go to HIMSS every year.

At this point, with my career in a bit of flux, I don’t know yet whom I will be covering HIMSS for. Until I know my assignments, it’s hard to schedule meetings. Please bear with me.

I notice others have recently expressed similar concerns about their own scheduling. For years, I’ve had a “Rule No. 1” for people attending HIMSS for the first time: Wear comfortable shoes. The people at HIMSS have caught on. “Don’t forget to wear your comfortable shoes!” reads the main Exhibition page on the HIMSS Conference site this year.

Joe Goedert at Health Data Management wrote a nice piece last month with “Tips for Meeting with Reporters at HIMSS15.” Among his advice: Give us the biggest news, not your entire media kit/life story; bring customers, not marketing managers; understand and respect our knowledge and get to the point rather than giving health IT reporters background on the HITECH Act; avoid buzzwords; and respect the reporter’s preference of meeting in either the press room or exhibit hall.

Personally, I hate the exhibit hall. It takes forever to get anywhere, and I don’t need to be stopped every 50 feet for a carnival barker or “booth babe” to ask me to enter to win an iPad in exchange for adding my business card to a marketing list. I’m not your target customer.

I would add to Joe’s list the fact that there is a lot more to HIMSS than just the “show.” There are more than 300 educational sessions, many of which are better uses of my time than a product update. It’s astounding how many vendor reps I speak to each year who haven’t left the exhibit hall all week.

Hopefully I’ll have the coverage question resolved in the next week or two. As for the other issues, well, that’s up to you.

March 13, 2015 I Written By

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

The most news I’ve ever gotten out of Meditech

If you think Epic Systems, which doesn’t issue press releases and infrequently shares much with the press, is tough for the media, you should try Meditech. I’ve never gotten a response from anyone there and never written any actual news about the company. Until now.

Today, this tweet appeared:

 

So there you have it: Meditech is at a conference in Ireland today. That’s the most news I’ve ever had on that EHR vendor.

November 19, 2014 I Written By

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

Glaser to focus on interoperability as Cerner SVP

A big question surrounding Cerner’s $1.3 billion acquisition of Siemens Health Services has been answered: John Glaser, head of the health IT division of Siemens AG, will join Cerner as a senior vice president, concentrating on  “driving technology and product strategies, interoperability and government policy development,” according to a post on the Cerner blog.

Glaser wrote about his experience at the recent Cerner Health Conference in Kansas City, Mo. “For me, the conference, its energy and vision of patient-centered care and health, cemented my decision to become part of the Cerner organization once the transition is effective,” he said.

“At CHC, the message that resounded most clearly was, “It’s all about the patient.” When our industry talks about the HITECH Act, the drive toward electronic health records (EHR), and about greater efficiency and effectiveness, it’s usually from the perspective of helping the clinician and the organization. But, in the end, those clinicians, those organizations and those of us in the industry, know that it is about the patient,” Glaser continued [emphasis in original].

As Cerner President Zane Burke told me a few weeks ago, the acquisition is still on track to close in late winter or early spring. Still unknown is the fate of other Siemens Health Services executives and thousands of employees.

November 18, 2014 I Written By

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

Podcast: Care Innovations CEO Sean Slovenski on his company’s Validation Institute

PALO ALTO, Calif. — I’m out here in the Bay Area, in part because Intel-GE Care Innovations invited me to be one of six judges of its first-ever “hackathon” this past weekend. (Full disclosure: Care Innovations paid my travel expenses, but placed no editorial demands on me.)

On Saturday, I sat down with CI CEO Sean Slovenski to discuss a number of issues in digital health and health reform, but I found myself most curious about CI’s new Validation Institute, launched in late June, which looks to bring some truth to some outrageous claims made by entrepreneurs in the untamed world of digital health, telehealth and population health management. I turned on the voice recorder, and this short podcast is the result.

(Sorry for the bit of background noise. We both live in the Midwest, and just had to do this outside on a gorgeous California morning.)

Podcast details: Interview with Sean Slovenski, CEO of Intel-GE Care Innovations, on the company’s new Validation Institute. MP3, stereo, 192 kbps,  9.2 MB. Running time 6:38

September 22, 2014 I Written By

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

Podcast: Greenway Health CEO Tee Green on interoperability, consumerism and more

Health IT vendor Greenway Health recently finished its rollout of a cloud-based EHR to all 8,200 Walgreens stores in the U.S. When I was offered the chance to interview CEO Wyche T. “Tee” Green III about this, I decided to take it a step further.

In all my years of covering health IT, I’ve never met nor even spoken to Green, so I figured a podcast was in order. After all, I had written a piece for Health Data Management earlier this year about how pharmacies are reshaping themselves as true healthcare companies. (This interview also comes in the wake of CVS Caremark ending its sale of tobacco products and changing its name to CVS Health.)

I also had a lot of questions about interoperability issues in health IT and the many criticisms that lately have been heaped on both EHR vendors for perceived usability problems and the federal Meaningful Use EHR incentive program. The timing couldn’t have been better.

Podcast details: Interview with Greenway Health CEO Tee Green, recorded Sept. 8, 2014. MP3, mono, 128 kbps, 25.5 MB. Running time 27:51

1:00 Walgreens rollout and EHRs for “retail health”
3:20 Future expansion to Walgreens Healthcare Clinic locations
4:15 My own experience with lack of interoperability at a CVS MinuteClinic
5:30 Achieving EHR interoperability
7:30 Frustration with slow progress on Meaningful Use
10:30 Data liquidity
12:30 Update on CommonWell Health Alliance
14:25 Addressing criticisms that vendors are hindering interoperability
16:30 EHR usability
18:10 Greenway Marketplace app store
22:15 Patient engagement and slow start to Stage 2 Meaningful Use
24:10 Dealing with the rise of consumerism in healthcare

I’ve been kicking around in my mind the idea of hosting a regular podcast, perhaps as frequently as weekly. If so, what day of the week would you prefer to hear a new episode?

September 12, 2014 I Written By

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

Cerner to buy Siemens health IT business for $1.3B

The next round of health IT consolidation is on. Today, Cerner confirmed the rumor that had been swirling for a couple of weeks, that it will acquire Siemens Health Services, the health IT business of Siemens AG, for $1.3 billion in cash.

Cerner and Siemens also announced a strategic alliance to, according to the press release, ” jointly invest in innovative projects that integrate health IT with medical technologies for the purpose of enhancing workflows and improving clinical outcomes.” Each company will commit as much as $50 million to the alliance over the next three years, with an initial focus on integrating images and medical devices with EHR data in cardiology, Cerner says.

The device integration should come as no surprise. In healthcare, Siemens has always been, first and foremost, a medical device company. Health IT came later, by virtue of Siemens’ acquisition of Shared Medical Systems in 2000 for 2.1 billion. (Adjusting for inflation, that deal would cost $2.9 billion today, meaning that either Siemens overpaid in 2000 or the health IT assets lost more than half their value in the past 14 years.) Cerner has been selling medical devices for integration with its EHR products for several years, but nobody has confused Cerner for a device company. The two companies should complement each other well in this regard.

It’s no surprise that Siemens wanted out of the health IT business, either. Cerner and Epic have been dominating the enterprise EHR market in recent years, winning all kinds of replacement and upgrade business from health systems that previously had used Siemens, GE Healthcare, Meditech and Eclipsys technology.

Eclipsys, of course, merged with Allscripts in 2010, in a deal also worth $1.3 billion, and the combined company struggled to the point that the board forced out several top executives two years later. That was the last major acquisition in enterprise health IT until today. I don’t expect it to be the last, though I won’t predict anything other than that Epic will continue its strategy of growing organically and that many companies, particularly ambulatory vendors, will drop out rather than pursuing federal certification to the 2014 standards.

The market has been shaping up to be a battle between Cerner and Epic for a while, though the formation of the CommonWell Health Alliance a year and a half ago — now including Cerner, Allscripts, Athenahealth, Greenway Health, McKesson, Sunquest and CPSI — shows that Epic is everybody else’s No. 1 competitor.

Cerner and Siemens say the deal should close early next year.

 

August 5, 2014 I Written By

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

IBM acquiring Epic or Cerner? I dunno

The “unconfirmed rumor of a huge acquisition” that HIStalk (a.k.a. the National Inquirer of health IT) tweeted about on Wednesday apparently is that IBM was going to acquire Epic Systems. Mr. HIStalk on Thursday expressed some reservations.

 

 

So am I. The announcement was supposed to happen Friday morning, which is right now (10 am EDT as I write this). IBM is in the Eastern time zone and Epic is in the Central time zone; for that matter, Cerner also is on Central time, and when you think “huge” in health IT, really only Epic and Cerner come to mind. If there were to be an announcement not involving anyone on the west coast, it probably would have happened already.

In any case, I’m told that IBM has been rather quiet with analysts of late. I actually haven’t been able to find the ages of Epic honchos Judy Faulkner and Carl Dvorak, but they’ve been at this for some 35 years. Cerner CEO Neal Patterson is 65 and has an ownership interest in the Sporting KC soccer team. He’s also been in the health IT business for 35 years.You’d think any or all of the three have to be thinking of retirement, or, in Patterson’s case, moving on to the hobby of running a pro sports franchise. Except that Faulkner seems to love what she does.

Cerner’s stock price has dipped a bit in the last couple of months, but it has risen by 259 percent in the past five years, according to Yahoo! Finance. It still seems as if the health IT business has plenty of room to grow, especially among the biggest players, who promise to be the biggest beneficiaries of consolidation on the lower end of the market.

Until I hear something more substantive, I am not buying the IBM-Epic rumor. IBM-Cerner seems a tad more likely, but I still need to hear more.

May 2, 2014 I Written By

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

Athenahealth-EHRA news significant only that it shakes up the status quo

By now, you’ve likely heard the news that Athenahealth has decided to quit the HIMSS EHR Association. As Athenahealth’s Dan Haley put it in a blog post: “At the end of the day, athenahealth left the EHRA because we never really belonged there in the first place. The EHRA was founded in 2004 by a group of EHR software vendors. Today, a decade into the age of cloud technology, the EHRA is still dominated and governed by a group of EHR software vendors.”

Athenahealth long has billed itself as a services company, not a software vendor, going so far as to hold a jazz funeral for the “death of software” at HIMSS13 in New Orleans. Athenahealth didn’t join the EHRA until 2011 anyway. It sounded like a bad fit.

I contacted Athenahealth, and was told that the company remains “fully committed” to the CommonWell Health Alliance, a coalition of health IT companies — also including Allscripts, Cerner, CPSI, Greenway Health, McKesson and Sunquest Information Systems — that came together for the stated purpose of “developing, deploying and promoting interoperability for the common good.” (There’s also the unstated purpose of fighting the dominance of Epic Systems.)

Athenahealth is staying on the interoperability path, but as is befitting the corporate culture, is going rogue when it comes to EHRs. It’s not the first time. It won’t be the last time, because it’s not like most of the other vendors/service providers, if for no other reason than CEO Jonathan Bush doesn’t fit the buttoned-down model of an executive. For that matter, neither did his co-founder, Todd Park, whom I often called an “anti-bureaucrat” during his time with the federal government. Park’s brother, Ed, is COO of Athenahealth, and also has unconventional tendencies.

I can relate to this mentality in a way. I quit the Association of Health Care Journalists years ago because it didn’t feel like a good fit for me. That group tried to include health IT in its programming, but it really was an organization for consumer and scientific reporters, not those of us in the business and trade press. Eight years later, I still don’t think the national media are doing such a great job covering health policy or explaining the nuances of this complicated industry. And, as I’ve said many times before about healthcare, the status quo is unacceptable.

 

April 23, 2014 I Written By

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

All my HIMSS coverage in one place

The last of my 10 MedCity News stories from HIMSS14 has been posted. It’s a nice mix of news, features, analysis and commentary. Here are links to all of them, in chronological order.
NantHealth launches Clinical Operating System – biggest of big data startups – with $1B (Feb. 25)

Body + biology + behavior: Intel exec explains how technology is making N=1 care possible (Feb. 26)

Tavenner: 2014 is your last chance for a hardship exemption for Meaningful Use 2 (Feb. 27)

HIMSS crowd skeptical of promise for flexibility on MU2 hardship requests (Feb. 27)

Google Glass startup expecting third healthcare client in less than 6 months (Feb. 27)

DeSalvo: True EHR interoperability – and a national HIE – is possible by 2017 (Feb. 28)

DeSalvo meets and greets – briefly – while Tavenner keeps her distance at HIMSS (March 3)

HIMSS Intelligent Hospital tracks patients, pills and clinicians in completely connected loop (March 5)

Interoperability Showcase uses car crash to show how connected data really can improve patient care (March 5)

Athenahealth’s first inpatient product isn’t quite an EHR, but a ‘Trojan horse’ into hospitals (March 10)

 

March 12, 2014 I Written By

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