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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.

HIMSS gossip

ORLANDO, Fla.—Two days of HIMSS14 have come and gone, and I’m not bouncing off the walls just yet. But I did bounce off the pavement Monday night when I tripped exiting a shuttle bus, and have some facial scrapes to show for it. You will see the evidence whenever Health Innovation Media gets around to posting a video interview I conducted Tuesday afternoon.

Health Innovation Media’s Gregg Masters and Dr. Pat Salber have been camped out near the HIMSS press room since Sunday with their video equipment, querying various newsmakers on various health IT topics, and occasionally having guest interviewers. As I walked out of the press room on my way to the exhibit hall, I said hello to former national health IT coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari, who looked like he was just hanging around, but was actually waiting to be interviewed. Masters and Salber asked me if I’d be interested in interviewing Mostashari right there on the spot with no preparation, and with just 15 minutes to get down to the show floor.

If you recall, I did a live interview—yes, streamed live on the Web—last year with Athenahealth honcho Jonathan Bush, beers in hand, for the Health Innovation Broadcast Consortium that Masters and Salber were involved in. (I don’t know the status of that project, as there’s nothing new on that site since last July.) So of course I said yes, and I think it went pretty well. Well, there were a couple of hiccups, as in me thinking we needed to wrap up earlier than we actually had to. And then there’s this:


Followed by this:


Yes, the Twitterverse catches everything.

Now about that facial injury. I think I just need to avoid Orlando. In 2011, the last time HIMSS met here, I needed six stitches above my right eye after I banged my face against the edge of the bathtub in my hotel room. As I arrived for the 2008 conference here, I turned on my phone after landing and got the message that my grandfather had passed away. Just for good measure, I passed through Orlando on my way back from Europe in 2009. As the flight pulled to the gate, the skies opened up with a violent summer thunderstorm, prompting the airport to close the ramp, preventing the ground crew from unloading bags for nearly an hour. I was stuck in the no-man’s land of U.S. Customs for that whole time, where cell phones are prohibited. It was not until I cleared security, took the airport tram to a different terminal, then hustled to the gate that I knew I would make my connecting flight. So yeah, it’s become a pattern.

Anyway, speaking of Jonathan Bush, he is not at HIMSS14 because he is on sabbatical to write a book and who knows what else? Well, here’s a clue. He was spotted at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, last week with his more famous brother, Billy, host of “Access Hollywood.” (Hat tip to HIStalk for showing this video at HIStalkapalooza Monday night.)

I also heard that Bush is considering a run for political office of some kind, perhaps because it’s, you know, the family business. Anyone care to confirm this?

I do know for a fact that at least one HIMSS attendee is actually seeking office. That would be Dr. Steven Daviss, CMIO of startup M3 Information, maker of a mental health screening app called My M3. Daviss is running for Democratic Central Committee in Baltimore this year. If he wins, he plans on seeking a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 2018, in part because he says there is only one other physician among the state legislature.

Daviss himself is on sabbatical from his job as chairman of psychiatry at the University of Maryland’s Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, Md.

February 25, 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.

Happy birthday, HITECH, and pre-HIMSS humor

Today is the fifth anniversary of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act being signed into law, which also means today is the fifth anniversary of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which was rolled into the $831 billion stimulus bill. HITECH introduced “meaningful use” into the lexicon, and for that, it has had a lasting effect.

Through the end of 2013, the program had paid out more than $19 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentives for EHR usage, and healthcare is still a mess. However, all of that money is for Stage 1, and the goal for the first stage was mostly to get technology in place. Stage 2, which is just getting started, is about interoperability and data capture, while Stage 3, which will not start before 2017, will be focused on actually improving outcomes. It is not until the third stage where we are supposed to see real gains in healthcare quality, though we should start seeing some efficiency improvements in Stage 2.

Penalties for not achieving Meaningful Use kick in next year, though that could change. According to Medscape, the new bill to repeal the much-reviled Medicare sustainable growth rate calls for bringing Meaningful Use, the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and Medicare’s value-based payment modifier under a proposed new program called the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). This program would eliminate Meaningful Use penalties after 2017, but would base incentives and penalties on more factors than just EHR usage.

On a lighter note, MMRGlobal, the controversial PHR vendor that has been aggressive in defending its many patents but that also has, like every other vendor of untethered PHRs, had trouble landing many customers, has signed on actress and cancer survivor Fran Drescher as a spokesperson. There’s a video on the company’s Facebook page, with a teaser to “Watch For MMRGlobal on TV!” Draw your own conclusions.

On an even lighter note, digital media producer Gregg Masters has started the #HIMSSPickupLines hashtag on Twitter. A few samples:



Have fun.

February 17, 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.

Surprising results in the HIT100 list

The third annual HIT100 list, ostensibly listing the 100 most influential Twitter accounts in health IT, has been published at Healthcare IT News, and I’m more surprised than flattered to be at No. 44, named 14 times by tweets carrying the #HIT100 hashtag. More accurately, I am in a five-way tie for No. 41, with the likes of: “social venture entrepreneur” Sherry Reynolds (9,000 Twitter followers); Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO and health IT rock star Dr. John Halamka (10,600 followers); health IT product strategist Lisa Crymes (2,200 followers); and pre-eminent health IT social media researcher Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet & American Life Project (13,800 followers).

That doesn’t seem right, does it?

It also doesn’t seem right that I’m ahead of: “E-Patient” Dave deBronkart; true digital health rock star Dr. Eric Topol; The Health Care Blog and Health 2.0 founder Matthew Holt; Chilmark Research’s John Moore, one of the most insightful analysts I’ve ever come across; KevinMD founder Dr. Kevin Pho (though he focuses on a lot more than just health IT); health economist and patient engagement guress Jane Sarasohn-Kahn; well-known EHR consultant Jim Tate; health IT policy expert Shahid Shah; and, coming in at 100 on the list, White House CTO and technology entrepreneur-in-residence Todd Park, who previously was CTO at HHS and co-founded Athenahealth.

It’s nice to be mentioned among and even above some of those names, and I thank those who voted for me. I also thank the more than 3,600 people who follow me on Twitter. But am I really more influential in health IT than any of the people I mentioned above? I doubt it.

What are your thoughts? Is there a better way of measuring influence than just counting the number of people who tweeted your name with the #HIT100 hashtag?

For the record, topping the list was Dr. Wen Dombrowski, who is about as active as they get when it comes to health IT social media. No arguments here, though I wouldn’t have objected either if Brian Ahier, Regina Holliday, Lionel Reichardt, Gregg Masters, Paul Sonnier (his Digital Health LinkedIn group just passed 19,000 members) or Keith Boone had been No. 1. A case also could be made for John Lynn, founder of the Healthcare Scene network, which hosts this blog.

And then, there’s this:

July 25, 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.

HIMSS12 sets record for tweets

The folks at HIMSS are claiming that the 2012 conference in Las Vegas a couple months ago set a world record for the most tweets at a health conference. (I’m checking to see who keeps such records.)

By the numbers, according to HIMSS:

  • The #HIMSS12 hashtag was used 28,434 times.
  • HIMSS12 averaged 167 tweets per hour.
  • HIMSS12 was mentioned 33,247 times in social media, more than double HIMSS11 (which itself was more than double HIMSS10).
  • The keynote by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone generated 7,595 tweets, beating out the 7,047 tweets from Dr. Farzad Mostashari’s keynote.

This infographic from HIMSS tells more of the story about the whole conference.


I am not surprised Brian Ahier and Regina Holliday had so much influence on social media at the conference. Ahier moderated the Meet the Bloggers panel I was on.

I was, however, surprised to the breakdown of mobile devices accessing the HIMSS conference’s mobile site. Apple with 70 percent sounds right, particularly when you consider how many iPads were in evidence, but I would have guessed Android would have more than 14 percent share because it’s so popular for smartphones and BlackBerry more than 2 percent because a lot of enterprises still use that platform. I guess I’m one of the few people left in health IT with a BlackBerry.

UPDATE, Friday, April 27: It was healthcare social media consulting firm Symplur that tracked the tweets and announced the record. There’s more data here, though my head starts spinning when someone discusses stuff like slopes of equations.

April 26, 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.

Video: ‘Meet the Bloggers’ panel from HIMSS12

As promised,  there is some video from the “Meet the Bloggers” panel I appeared on, and it comes to us from Dr. Chuck Webster of EHR Workflow Inc. and the EHR.BZ Report. (You may know him from his previous job as CMIO of EHR vendor EncounterPro, formerly known as JMJ Technologies.) Webster was there in the front row capturing parts of the session with a Bluetooth camera strapped to his hat.

The moderator is Brian Ahier and the panelist are, from left to right: Healthcare Scene boss and full-time healthcare blogger John Lynn; fellow Healthcare Scene contributor Jennifer Dennard (real job:  social marketing director at Billian’s HealthDATA/Porter Research/; myself; and Carissa Caramanis O’Brien of Aetna.

Here are the results, hopefully in chronological order:

For the record, I do not use Google+. I have an account, and some readers have added me to their circles, but I have not posted a single word there. Google’s terms of service—both old and new—essentially gives the Don’t Be Evil company the right to use my content in any way it sees fit. From “Your Content in our Services”:

Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

You can find more information about how Google uses and stores content in the privacy policy or additional terms for particular Services. If you submit feedback or suggestions about our Services, we may use your feedback or suggestions without obligation to you.

As someone who makes a living creating content, this scares me. Google effectively can steal and modify my content without compensation. No, thanks.

I also should give a belated shout-out to Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters, who hosted last week’s Health Wonk Review. My HIMSS12 wrap made the review of healthcare news from the blogosphere.


March 6, 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.

Let’s get Biz Stone to attend New Media Meetup at HIMSS12

As I first mentioned in August, John Lynn and I had the thought that it would be great if Twitter co-founder and HIMSS12 keynote speaker Biz Stone would show up at John’s 3rd annual New Media Meetup. Stone didn’t respond to our halfhearted attempt back then, but now the conference is less than two months away, and I have to imagine he will be making his plans soon, if he hasn’t done so already.

HIMSS social media guru Cari McLean also would love for Stone to meet and greet conference attendees at the HIMSS Social Media Center after his keynote on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 21, per her tweet in response to one of mine:

@ Agreed! We are hoping @ also stops by the #HIMSS12 #SM Center for a meet and greet post his morning keynote. ^CM #BizatHIMSS12

That means that now is the time to put social media to work to get Stone to make a couple of appearances. Stone’s Twitter handle is @Biz. Tweet away, using the hashtag #BizatHIMSS12 and perhaps add #hcsm (for healthcare social media). Blog about this effort. Post on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Plus. I may even make a YouTube video. Let’s impress Stone with the power of social media and get him to mingle with the masses in Las Vegas.


December 30, 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.

MGMA and CHIME coverage this week

This is going to be a busy week of conferences and travel. I’m currently in Las Vegas for the Medical Group Management Association‘s annual conference. Tuesday night, I fly to San Antonio for the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives‘ Fall CIO Forum.

If you want to keep up with my coverage, make sure you check InformationWeek Healthcare, MobiHealthNews and my Twitter feed. I’ll update the blog as time permits. No promises.

October 24, 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.

Health 2.0 by Twitter

Here’s my version of Short Attention Span Theater (which is pretty much what Twitter is anyway), of the recently concluded Health 2.0 Fall Conference, as I reported via Twitter. Note the juxtaposition between observation, commentary and snark.

Preconference sessions on Sunday:

Irony: RegisterPatient is on same #health2con panel as DrChrono after DrChrono called its pt history collector "groundbreaking." #mhealth
Neil Versel
RT @: Still waiting for a demo to blow me away or provide impressive insight on adoption rates at Doctors 2.0. #health2con #toosoon?
Neil Versel

Monday plenary sessions:

Following thoughtful keynote from @ boss Mark Smith, live launch of HealthTap at #health2con threatens to turn mtg into pep rally.
Neil Versel
This got someone from HealthTap to misinterpret what I had said:
So much enthusiasm on health! @ After keynote from @ Mark Smith, launch of #HealthTap at #health2con turns mtg into pep rally
To which I replied:
@ @ That was meant as a caution, not as approval. Too much enthusiasm and you lose sight of reality. #health2con
Neil Versel
(For the record, @CHCF is not the correct handle for the California HealthCare Foundation. It’s @CHCFnews.)

I also had an important question for HealthTap, one that so far has gone unanswered.

@ says 5k docs signed up. I wonder about liability from giving #medical advice online to #patients they don't know #health2con
Neil Versel

I retweeted/commented on many others’ tweets, too.

AMEN! RT @: Need #healthIT solutions to be more geared toward real source of need in our population: the elderly #health2con
Neil Versel
RT @: stickK has users commit money toward their goal, spends it on their 'anti-charity' of choice if they don't meet #health2con
Paulo Machado
RT @: Love Mark Bertolini's comment that people should be able to fit healthcare into their lives & not other way around #health2con
Paulo Machado
RT @: RT @: Jim Hansen of Dossia: 85 year olds don't like sexy interfaces. Keep it simple #health2con
Mark Scrimshire

I found quite a bit of news and lack of news being announced on stage.

Aetna will have #mhealth app for #patients to make #physician appointments next spring. #health2con
Neil Versel
Pls don't tell me about another untethered #PHR. Nobody uses them. #healthIT #health2con #fail
Neil Versel

And don’t take kindly to vagueness about the word “solution.”

WTF is a solution? RT @: Or just solutions! RT @: Ppl dont want a PHR, they want tools 2 help solve health problems
Neil Versel
I hate hate hate the use of "solution" as a synonym for "product" or "service." #health2con #healthit
Neil Versel
Good health. MT @: WTF is a solution? RT @: Or just solutions! RT @: Ppl want tools 2 help solve health problems
Rachel Kalmar
@ @: ok! people want good health without having to invest time into it, that's the bottom line.
Rachel Kalmar
(I get the sense @grapealope is among the many Silicon Valley cheerleaders who came not to a conference but a pep rally. I bet the Kool-Aid tasted great.)

So true. RT @: How many social networks will people participate in? I find it hard to keep up with one. #health2con
Neil Versel
What about the unmentionable of the digital divide, that people who need help, can't afford the tools we are building apps for #health2con
Rachel de Sain

Then came the lamest presentation of them all, in a plenary session no less, a demo of an overly cutesy “life game” called Mindbloom. The presentation was accompanied by distracting sound effects of birds chirping the entire time, and the game itself featured a guide character called the “enlightening bug.” My impression?

More touchy-feely bs. Time for a group hug. #health2con
Neil Versel

Others weren’t so harsh, but at least had questions about the purpose and appeal.

Mindbloom interesting idea - just wondering how many people will take the time to manage this digital Tamagachi... #health2con
Paulo Machado
@ I say nobody. Too cutesy.
Neil Versel
Some will use - will have high drop off rate... RT @: @ I say nobody. Too cutesy.
Paulo Machado
@ Yeah, that sounds right.
Neil Versel

I later asked fellow realist John Moore of Chilmark Research this question:

@ Ready to join hands and sing Kumbaya yet? #health2con
Neil Versel

At least I wasn’t the only one worn out by having to separate the wheat from the chaff.

At odds with myself after a long day at #health2con. So much great stuff, but so much shiny hyped iVapor too. Let's make it REAL folks!

I did tone down my rhetoric a bit on Tuesday, though.

Lots of people seem to be gulping the #health2con Kool-aid. Is your enthusiasm realistic? As an objective observer, I'm seeing hits & misses
Neil Versel

OK, maybe only a bit, especially after Microsoft’s Mike Raymer said, “It was good to have two companies create a marketplace,” in reference to Microsoft’s HealthVault and the soon-to-be-departed Google Health.

#MSFT #HealthVault and #Google Health didn't create #PHR marketplace. CapMed started in 1991. #health2con
Neil Versel
GH didn't have any users. RT @: Love how Microsoft Health Vault has a welcome page to former Google Health users. #health2con
Neil Versel

I highlighted what I saw as good points:

RT @: Non invasive blood glucose monitor unveiled at #health2con in SF. very cool! Is it accurate?
Gregg Masters
Sona Mehring of CaringBridge: #Facebook is the 3rd largest country in the world. #health2con
Neil Versel

And I asked a question that I’d love to hear an answer to:

Deep Thought: Maybe there needs 2b differentiation between health 2.0 and fitness 2.0? #health2con #mhealth
Neil Versel

I would be less likely to tune out certain sessions if there were more related to healthcare and less to personal fitness and wellness. Of course, others have different viewpoints, which is why it might make more sense to separate the two into different conferences or at least different tracks.

September 30, 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.