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Telehealth at the VA

If you only follow me via this blog, I’ve been incommunicado for some time. But I’ve been extraordinarily busy the last few weeks, churning out issues of FierceHealthIT, FierceMobileHealthcare and FierceEMR each Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. I’ve just returned from covering the Medical Group Management Association‘s annual conference in Denver and, just for good measure, did a piece for my favourite British health IT publication, E-Health Insider.

The E-Health Insider piece is an in-depth interview with Dr. Adam Darkins, chief consultant for care coordination and telehealth at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about the vast telehealth infrastructure and programs at the VA. Darkins is scheduled to speak remotely to an EHI conference in Birmingham, England, next month, which explains EHI’s interest in the story. I also happen to think it’s an article people here in the States will find worthwhile.

October 15, 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.

Google vs. Bin Laden?

How’s this for a headline? “Entrust my medical records to Google? I’d rather give them to Bin Laden.”

That was the headline accompanying a column in Tuesday’s London Daily Mail. Columnist Stephen Glover (no, not Steve-O of “Jackass” and “Dancing With The Stars” fame/infamy–and I only know his real name because his sister is an old friend of mine) is scared to death by the prospect of a company like Google storing medical records.

“People who deposited their medical records with Google would no doubt be given assurances that they would not be passed on to third parties. But Google would not go to the trouble and expense of storing such information unless it hoped to benefit from it in some way,” Glover writes.

“Here is a company which, through a variety of means, is building up a profile of each of us – or at any rate those of us who use computers. I understand, of course, that it has no over-arching intention of ordering or controlling our lives, and that the information it holds about us is used for its own commercial gain. But it would be absolutely the last company in the world to which I would entrust my medical records. I would far rather stick them in an envelope and send them to Osama Bin Laden or Vladimir Putin,” he continues.

Wow, I know I’ve been harsh on Google in the past, but never like that.

July 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.

Peter Murray named acting director of IMIA

The International Medical Informatics Association has named Peter J. Murray as acting executive director. The appointment follows the April 12 death of Executive Director Steven Heusing. (I posted an obituary for Heusing earlier this month.)

Murray, who had been serving as IMIA associate executive director for the last few months, also was the organization’s vice president for strategic planning. He is an independent health informatics and telematics consultant in Nocton, England. He holds a Ph.D. in nursing informatics and educational technology and teaches health informatics at both the University of Winchester (UK) and Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha, South Africa.

April 29, 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.

Mobile phones to the rescue

Australia 7 News reports that a British surgeon working amidst armed conflict in Congo saved the life of an injured teenager by performing an amputation procedure he had never done before. The surgeon got detailed instructions on the operation from a colleague back in the UK. Via text messaging.

Click here for the story.

December 3, 2008 I Written By

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

Greetings from MaRS

TORONTO—I’m here at the Medicine 2.0 Congress, a very international meeting put on by Dr. Gunther Eysenbach of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, a project of the University Health Network and the University of Toronto.

The meeting is in a place called the MaRS Centre, in the heart of what’s being called the Discovery District. It’s at the corner of College and University, right around the corner from several major hospitals, including Toronto General, Princess Margaret Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital.

According to the Web site: “MaRS is not an acronym. It was originally a file name and the words “Medical and Related Sciences” were later attributed to it. Since we promote the convergence of a full range of science and technology disciplines, we’ve dropped ‘Medical and Related Sciences’ from our name and we’re back to just ‘MaRS.'”

So here we are in the fourth paragraph and I haven’t said a word about the conference itself. You’re going to have to wait a bit longer. I’m humbled to say that I am going to be cross-posting this week with the world-renowned Health Care Blog. It just so happens that at least two other contributors to that site are here: John Sharp and Jen McCabe Gorman—and the latter also blogs in Dutch. Rod Ward made the trip from the UK and is posting to his Informaticopia blog, Maarten den Braber from Amsterdam is Twittering and Denise Silber, who flew in from Paris, also has a blog—en français.

The conference even has its own blog: http://medicine20.crowdvine.com. So I shall try to come up with something original.

OK, paragraph six and we’re finally getting down to business. Eysenbach opened the proceedings this morning with a discussion about what health 2.0 and medicine 2.0 really mean. I’ll just link to an article that appeared in Eysenbach’s Journal of Medical Internet Research earlier this year.

Don’t believe the hype? Peter Murray, the International Medical Informatics Association‘s VP for strategic planning, just put up a slide of this graphic:

Moving along, Eysenbach suggested that Google Health and HealthVault are not personal health records but “personal health applications” or platforms. That should make the marketing folks in Mountain View and Redmond very happy, since they keep denying that they offer PHRs.

Speaking of which, even though PHRs haven’t exactly captured the public’s imagination, Eysenbach said we are moving into the realm of PHR 2.0, where people should be able to disclose information within their own PHR to others to form communities around commonalities. A prime example, he said, is Patients Like Me.

Anyway, there are 180 participants from 19 countries here, with a slant toward the academic side of medical informatics. In fact, there are proceedings of this conference that are freely available. There are some 67 poster presentations for me to peruse at some point.

More to come. If anything, I will lead in links per post.

September 4, 2008 I Written By

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

Global news

I’ve got some international items on the agenda today:

First off, did anyone catch the big “oops” in Australia this week that knocked out telecommunications services across the state of Queensland? Apparently, a backhoe at a construction site cut a cable that took phone lines down statewide, and a major backup system failed as well. The outage reportedly affected phone calls in and out of a number of regional hospitals, but what was not reported was whether any health IT infrastructure was affected. Perhaps that’s a problem in and of itself.

A couple of weeks ago, a health trust in Scotland had to declare a “data amnesty” to encourage employees to return a misplaced USB drive that reportedly contained the health records of 137 patients. Left unanswered is why the records were not secured before being transferred to the portable drive.

I hopefully will be reporting some international health IT news in a couple of weeks, as I’ve been invited to attend one week of the Rockefeller Foundation‘s “Making the eHealth Connection” conferences in Bellagio, Italy. Consider this a solicitation to editors looking for coverage of EHR and mobile-health issues in developing countries.

July 16, 2008 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 new gig!

Ladies and Gentlereaders,

I am proud to announce that I have a new gig. I am writing a monthly supplement to the weekly Part B News called Physician Office Technology Report. It’s published by Decision Health of Rockville, Md.

The title pretty much speaks for itself, and the audience is primarily physician practice managers, similar to my last full-time job at a publication that shall remain nameless because I don’t want them to have the publicity.

So yeah, there was a good reason why I was in Philadelphia last week for the Medical Group Management Association‘s annual conference and yet another reason why my blogging has been rather spotty of late.

The first issue of the Part B News Physician Office Technology Report came out this week. Look for it the first week of each month.

Speaking of conferences I’m covering, I will be at the American Medical Informatics Association confab here in Chicago next week. The last time I saw Don Detmer’s crew was in Australia for MedInfo in August. Let’s see, 17 hours of flying vs. 25 minutes on the bus. Discuss.

The AMIA meeting at the Sheraton overlaps with the AHIP Business Forum, which is at the Renaissance Chicago about five blocks away, so it’s unlikely I’ll spend much time with the health insurers.

I did go to the AHIP annual meeting in Las Vegas in June (much warmer than Chicago in November, or, for that matter, Chicago in October 1871), but I’m not sure how much I’d get out of next week’s meeting.

A poll question in an AHIP “SmartBrief” last week asked which of the following trends was most significant in 2007:

1. CMS ruling not to reimburse costs for preventable errors.
2. Expansion of walk-in clinics in retail health settings.
3. Efforts to provide more insurance options for young people.
4. Obesity epidemic continuing.

Notice that health IT didn’t register. It’s not a top-tier issue on the national healthcare scene at the moment, a point further driven home at another event I dropped in on last week: the 25th anniversary celebration for Health Affairs. There, representatives from nine or 10 presidential campaigns participated in a roundtable discussion of healthcare issues.

The way it sounded to me was: “Access. Cost. Access. Cost. Medicare reform. Access. Cost. Health savings accounts. Access. Cost. Access Cost.” John McCain’s representative did mention health IT and, at the very end, Barack Obama’s guy alluded to quality. And you wonder why national HIT legislation hasn’t gone anywhere?

Want another sign that physicians are lagging on the IT front? I’m going to scrape the very bottom of the barrel for some evidence contained in a spam e-mail. Yeah, I know.

Someone trying to sell physician mailing lists said there were 788,974 total licensed physicians in the U.S. That sounds about right. This particular outfit claimed to have e-mail addresses for 17,042 of them. That works out to about 2 percent. Even if you consider only the 600,000 or so practicing docs, you’re only taking about 3 percent.

OK, enough with the spam. Here’s a public service for some people I’ve worked with, either directly or indirectly: Job listings.

First, blogger Matthew Holt is looking for 2-3 unpaid interns for the next health 2.0 conference, scheduled for San Diego next March. He’s based in San Francisco, and I assume most of the work is too. (Maybe I shouldn’t mention that the current issue of another pub I contribute to, Inside Healthcare Computing, has a commentary headlined “Our Take: Health 2.0 Is Really Advertising 2.0.”)

Also, E-Health Media in the UK, publisher of E-Health Insider, is putting on a healthcare IT careers forum in London on Nov. 30.

If you go to the latter, bring me back some British pounds. They’re worth about $2.11 as of this writing. Heck, I’d settle for Canadian or Aussie dollars, euros, yen, whatever.

November 5, 2007 I Written By

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