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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.

Breaking: Allscripts fires Tullman, hires former Cerner exec Black as CEO

Allscripts Healthcare Solutions today gave into considerable investor pressure and fired CEO Glen Tullman. Former Cerner COO Paul M. Black has been named CEO. Lee Shapiro has been removed from his position as company president, but will stay on as a consultant to Black for as long as six months, the company says.

Allscripts also said that this decision ends the company’s “evaluation of strategic alternatives.” This means there will be no sale or merger.

Here is the text of the press release:

Glen Tullman Steps Down as CEO and Board Member
Board of Directors Concludes Evaluation of Strategic Alternatives

CHICAGO, Dec. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ – Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ:MDRX) today announced that it has named Paul M. Black as its President and Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately.  Mr. Black is the former Chief Operating Officer of Cerner Corporation and is currently an Allscripts board member.  He replaces Glen Tullman, who will step down from his positions as Chief Executive Officer and board member.  Lee Shapiro also will step down as President, effective immediately, and will serve as a consultant to Mr. Black for up to six months.  In addition, the Company announced that the Board has formally concluded its evaluation of strategic alternatives.

“We want to thank Glen Tullman for building Allscripts into one of the leaders in the evolving healthcare IT industry,” said Dennis Chookaszian, Allscripts Chairman of the Board. “Glen began at the Company in 1997 when it was unprofitable, turned Allscripts around and achieved record revenues and profits in 2011.  Along the way, Glen also grew the workforce to more than 7,000 employees. I also want to thank Lee Shapiro for his many important contributions to Allscripts, particularly with respect to our M&A strategy and international expansion.”

Commenting on the selection of Paul M. Black as President and CEO, Mr. Chookaszian said: “Paul possesses a unique blend of operational, healthcare and IT sector expertise, and we are pleased that he has agreed to lead the Company at this critical juncture. Paul’s deep domain expertise in healthcare technology, industry relationships, and understanding of Allscripts’ solutions and client base make him the ideal choice.  Together with our recently appointed Chief Financial Officer Rick Poulton, we are confident that we have a leadership team in place that can execute on our strategic initiatives, capitalize on the many global opportunities that lie ahead, and lead Allscripts through its next phase of growth.”

Commenting on the strategic alternatives process, Mr. Chookaszian stated: “The Board conducted a thorough and rigorous review of strategic alternatives.  The Board concluded, however, that the best course at this time is to develop Allscripts’ long-term potential under the direction of our new management team.”

Incoming Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Black said, “I look forward to building on the many successes achieved by the Allscripts team.  Without underestimating the challenges ahead, we have compelling open-platform solutions, an impressive global client base, and a very dedicated and talented team.  We will improve the execution of our strategic vision, deliver on our worldwide client commitments, and continue to innovate. Our focus will be on creating long-term value for our shareholders.”

Glen Tullman added, “It’s always been Allscripts’ goal to revolutionize healthcare and I am proud that Allscripts’ employees have moved this industry forward in both the US and abroad – enabling more people to access our healthcare systems, adding thousands of jobs, and developing an industry that will be one of the biggest

future growth engines of the U.S. economy. Allscripts’ team has shown great resilience and dedication, and I appreciate their hard work to build Allscripts into a leading provider of clinical software, connectivity and information solutions. I am confident that Allscripts is in good hands and has a bright future ahead.”

In addition to currently serving as an Allscripts board member, Mr. Black has served on the Board of The Truman Medical Centers for 12 years, most recently as Chairman, and as a director of Haemonetics Corporation (NYSE:HAE), a global healthcare company dedicated to providing innovative blood-management solutions.

Mr. Black spent more than 12 years with Cerner Corporation and retired as its Chief Operating Officer in 2007.  He helped build Cerner into a market leader in healthcare information technology solutions with more than $1.5 billion of annual revenues. For most of his career at Cerner, Mr. Black was Chief Sales Officer, playing an instrumental role in the company’s double-digit organic growth.  Prior to Cerner, Mr. Black was with IBM from 1982 to 1994, in a number of senior sales, marketing and professional services leadership positions. Since 2007, he has been a Senior Advisor with New Mountain Capital in New York and served as a Director with several New Mountain portfolio companies.  Mr. Black recently has served as an operating executive with Genstar Capital, responsible for expanding Genstar’s healthcare and software practices, with specific focus on healthcare technology.

He received a B.S. from Iowa State University and an MBA from the University of Iowa.

Conference Call

Allscripts will conduct a conference call tomorrow, Thursday, December 20, 2012, at 8:30 AM Eastern Time to discuss today’s announcement.   Investors can access the conference via the Internet at http://investor.allscripts.com.  Participants also may access the conference call by dialing (877) 303-0543 (toll free in the US) or (973) 935-8787 (international) and requesting Conference ID #83012880.

A replay of the call will be available two hours after the conclusion of the call, for a period of four weeks, at http://www.allscripts.com or by calling (855) 859-2056 or (404) 537-3406 – Conference ID #83012880.

About Allscripts

Allscripts (NASDAQ: MDRX) delivers the insights that healthcare providers require to generate world-class outcomes. The company’s Electronic Health Record, practice management and other clinical, revenue cycle, connectivity and information solutions create a Connected Community of Health™ for physicians, hospitals and post-acute organizations.  To learn more about Allscripts, please visit www.allscripts.com, Twitter, YouTube and It Takes A Community: The Allscripts Blog.

 

Full disclosure: I serve on the advisory board of Health eVillages with Tullman. I have had no contact with him regarding his fate at Allscripts or the company’s recent troubles.

 

December 19, 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.

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.

Podcast: HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber previews HIMSS12

I’m about to head to the airport for my flight to Las Vegas and HIMSS12. As has become customary before each year’s HIMSS conference, I sat down with H. Stephen Lieber, CEO of HIMSS, this past week to discuss the state of health IT and what to expect at the big event.

The timing of this interview was interesting. We spoke Wednesday morning at the new HIMSS office in downtown Chicago, one day after CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner told a gathering of American Medical Association leaders that federal officials were re-examining the Oct. 1, 2013, deadline for adopting ICD-10 coding, and one day before HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made it official that there would be a delay.

Also one day after this interview, HIMSS announced that it has taken over the mHealth Summit from the Foundation of the National Institutes of Health. While Lieber talked extensively about mobile healthcare, he gave no hint that this news was coming.

Meanwhile, the whole health IT universe had been expecting HHS to release its proposed rules for Stage 2 of “meaningful use” of electronic health records this past week. That didn’t happen. Monday is a federal holiday, so I don’t think we will hear anything until at least Tuesday, which, coincidentally, happens to be the first day of the HIMSS conference. As if we don’t have enough to keep us occupied in the next few days.

The recording is a little fuzzy. I’m not really sure what created the echo and the background noise, since we were in a dedicated interview room, one of the nice features at the new HIMSS digs. Radio interference perhaps? That happened to me a couple years ago in the old HIMSS office on East Ohio Street. Just pretend you’re listening on AM radio or something.

Podcast details: Interview with HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber, February 15, 2012. MP3, stereo, 128 kbps, 31.9 MB, running time 34:51.

1:00 Logistics of HIMSS12 in Las Vegas after the venue change
2:00 Why the Venetian-Palazzo-Sands might work better than the Las Vegas Convention Center
2:55 Why the conference starts on Tuesday this year
3:25 Massive scale of the conference
5:25 Return of Cerner and Meditech and some first-time exhibitors
7:45 mHIMSS and HIT X.0
10:15 Twitter co-founder Biz Stone keynoting and the state of social media in healthcare
12:00 Accountable care and realignment of incentives
14:15 What might be in proposed rule for Stage 2 of meaningful use
17:20 Preview of HIMSS survey of hospital readiness for meaningful use
20:30 ICD-10 readiness
25:00 Greater public awareness of health IT but continuing difficulties in communicating the finer points of healthcare reform
27:50 Mobile healthcare
31:25 The growing importance of clinical analytics

February 18, 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.

Surrealism at HIMSS

CHICAGO—This picture is on display at the HIMSS conference booth of OpenVista developer Medsphere Systems.

Cerner doesn’t seem to be making many friends here by deciding to skip the exhibition, but still.

April 6, 2009 I Written By

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

Meditech to skip HIMSS

I may be a week behind on this, but I just saw a Feb. 6 announcement that Medical Information Technology, better known as MEDITECH, has decided to pull out of April’s HIMSS conference.

According to the company:

Participating in the annual HIMSS conference has proven to be beneficial to MEDITECH and LSS through the years, as we have been able to renew acquaintances, attract new customers, and showcase new product offerings there. Nonetheless, the current economic climate mandates we pay particular attention to spending resources wisely this year. Just as we encourage customers to make HCIS selections based on value, we too must carefully evaluate our expenses and focus on priorities. For this reason, MEDITECH and LSS will not attend the HIMSS conference this year. Instead we will use communication channels such as our extensive program of regional events, annual workshops, Webex demonstrations, and meditech.com to share information. Using this approach, we will be able to continue sharing information on key topics, control our expenses, and minimize everyone’s costs.

Howard Messing
President and COO, MEDITECH

This comes just days after HIMSS itself touted record pre-registration for the annual conference, despite the terrible economy and the unpredictability of Chicago weather in early April.

This makes MEDITECH the second major vendor to pull out of HIMSS’09. It was widely reported around last year’s conference that Cerner would not have its usual mammoth booth in the HIMSS exhibit hall this time around. I’ve not heard of any reversal of this decision.

February 14, 2009 I Written By

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