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Palomar Health innovation officer Portale stepping down June 30

Late word from the West Coast on Thursday is that Orlando Portale, chief innovation officer of Palomar Health in San Diego County, Calif., for the past seven years, is leaving at the end of June.

According to a quick e-mail from Portale, “I’m going to focus on advising health technology companies, private equity firms and healthcare organizations.” He already has dabbled in some of those areas, helping Palomar start up Glassomics, which he calls the world’s first incubator for healthcare applications and technology that run on wearable computers, including Google Glass.

Qualcomm Life provided an operating grant to Glassomics, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Portale ends up at that San Diego-based venture. Then again, Portale has a deep résumé, including senior positions at the former Sun Microsystems, health insurer WellPoint and government IT contractor Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC).  I’m sure he will have plenty of opportunities coming his way in short order.

In an e-mail to Portale — and copied to executives and board members — Palomar CEO Michael Covert said: “I want to personally thank you for everything that you have done for Palomar Health. Your efforts have put us on the map in the world of innovation and technology. We had a vision of what we could be and you helped to make it a reality. I am forever in your debt. Please let me know if I can be of support or help to you in the future. … I wish you only the best. Let us stay in touch as your career moves forward.”

 

May 29, 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: MMRGlobal’s Bob Lorsch addresses the ‘patent troll’ issue

Two weeks ago, I picked apart a terribly misleading, ideologically steeped Fox News story that wrongly linked the initial failure of the healthcare.gov Affordable Care Act insurance exchange to the Meaningful Use EHR incentive program. Among my many criticisms was the reporter’s apparent confusion between an actual EHR and My Medical Records, the untethered PHR offered by MMRGlobal.

In that post, I said, “I haven’t seen a whole lot of evidence that MMRGlobal isn’t much more than a patent troll.”

Bob Lorsch, CEO of that company, posted in the comments that I should put my money where my mouth is and interview him. (I had interviewed Lorsch before, but never wrote a story because of my longstanding policy of not paying attention to untethered PHRs since none that I know of has gained any market traction, despite years of hype.)

As this podcast demonstrates, I took Lorsch up on his offer. It was at times contentious, in part because I challenged many of his statements in the Fox story and to me, and in part because he challenged some of mine.

He asked me a pointed question, whether I still thought he was a patent troll. Based on the fact that MMR actually earned patents on a product it actively markets and didn’t just purchase someone else’s patents for the point of suing others, it’s hard to conclude that he is a patent troll.

Investopedia defines patent troll as:

A derogatory term used to describe people or companies that misuse patents as a business strategy. A patent troll obtains the patents being sold at auctions by bankrupt companies attempting to liquidate their assets, or by doing just enough research to prove they had the idea first. They can then launch lawsuits against infringing companies, or simply hold the patent without planning to practise the idea in an attempt to keep other companies productivity at a standstill.

By that definition, MMR is not. I still don’t think an untethered PHR is a good business model, a belief supported by the fact that publicly traded MMR is a penny stock, currently trading at less than 3 cents per share. I have said that patient engagement, called for on a small scale by Meaningful Use Stage 2 rules, could change the landscape for PHRs—with a better chance in pediatrics than for adult populations—but it certainly will take a few years.

I stand by my original statement that the Fox News story did health IT a huge disservice by latching onto one problem and trying to tie it to an unrelated issue simply because it fits an ideological narrative. As for MMR, well, take a listen and then judge for yourself. It’s a long podcast, but I went through the trouble of breaking it down by discussion point so you can skip around as necessary.

Podcast details: Interview with Bob Lorsch, CEO of MMRGlobal, recorded Oct. 18, 2013. MP3, mono, 128 bps, 49.5 MB, running time 54:07

2:03        About My Medical Records
3:26        Why he believes his product is better than traditional EHRs
5:00        My skepticism of untethered PHRs
6:28        Lorsch’s interview with HIStalk from February
6:40        MMR’s user base
8:00        Why he thinks MMR could facilitate health information exchange
9:40        Health information exchanges vs. health insurance exchanges
10:15     Patient-centered HIE as an alternative to multiple patient portals
12:20     Physician trust of patient-supplied data, and other workflow issues
15:05     Emergency use case
15:50     How MMR is different from other PHRs
16:32     “Last mile” of connectivity
18:17     His assertion in Fox story that patients lose control of health information and privacy under ACA, despite HIPAA
24:15     MMR carries cyber liability insurance
25:00     Scope of MMR’s patents
26:45     “Likely” infringement of patents
27:45     Lawsuits and licensing
29:30     Patent troll?
31:10     Negotiations with WebMD and others
33:00     MMR’s reputation
35:00     “We build and sell what we have intellectual property rights to.”
36:25     Other vendors ignoring patients?
36:50     Standardization in health IT
38:38     MMR’s low stock price
39:20     Patient engagement boosting PHR use?
42:00     Interest from WellPoint
42:48     Payers building trust with PHRs
44:18     Other features of MMR’s PHR
46:45     Segmentation of sensitive parts of medical records
49:08     Putting me on the spot
50:35     His objective in asserting patent rights
51:15     MMR’s issue with Walgreens
52:25     Revenue sharing vs. licensing

October 31, 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.

Anthem’s California plan turns to Google Maps to reduce ER costs

Remember back in February when I cut my face open at the HIMSS conference and needed medical assistance while 1,000 miles from home? I blogged then about how I used Google Maps to find an urgent care clinic close to the convention center instead of riding to a hospital emergency room in an ambulance? I’m guessing that course of action saved me at least $1,500, money that would have come out of my pocket because, as a self-employed individual, I was only able to qualify for an afford an insurance policy with a high deductible.

Though most Americans still aren’t engaged as consumers when they seek healthcare services, there are tens of millions of uninsured people and a smaller number of people like me with high-deductible plans that would face the same conundrum when they have a non-life-threatening condition: go for “traditional” ER care and pay through the nose, or take a few minutes to seek out lower-cost alternatives.

Now, insurers are trying to encourage the same kind of behavior, because they usually are the ones on the hook for high-dollar ambulance transport and emergency care, even if the condition isn’t a true emergency. Last week, Anthem Blue Cross in California announced a new program to encourage members to seek out non-emergency care—walk-in retail clinics and urgent care centers—when their regular physicians are not available.

“When your five-year-old is crying with a fever at 7 p.m. on a Friday because she has a sore throat or an ear ache, what do you do?” Anthem Medical Director Kurt Tamaru, M.D., said in a press release. “It’s important people know that they have options for less serious ailments other than an ER, such as retail health clinics and urgent care centers that provide quality care and cost them significantly less.”

According to Anthem Blue Cross, an ER charges an average of $641 treat strep throat, something that would cost about $70 at an urgent care center and just $27 at a retail health clinic. This does effect patients directly, too, because Anthem requires a $150 co-pay on average for a ER visit, but just $10 to $40 for care delivered at a walk-in clinic or urgent care center.

The technology driving this program? Google Maps and its brethren.

Just go to Google, Yahoo or Bing and type in “Anthem and urgent care,” and you will be directed to an Anthem educational site (or visit the site directly at http://www.anthem.com/ca/eralt). There, you will find a Google map showing ER alternatives within Anthem’s California network.

Members can sign up for educational e-mails explaining the types of conditions that don’t usually require emergency care, and the potential costs savings by seeking an alternative. Anthem also will make automated phone calls to members who recently had a costly ER visit that could have been avoided.

Anthem cited a study that proved the efficacy of such as an approach. Hopefully, the statistics are accurate and Anthem has success with its program. It worked for me because a lot of money was on the line. Likewise, Anthem members now face higher out-of-pocket expenses if they choose the expensive option rather than the right option. And all it takes is a simple, proven piece of technology called Google Maps.

 

July 15, 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.

FierceHealthIT

Just a quick note: I’m the guest host, as it were, of FierceHealthIT this week. I wasn’t sure until it was too late if I was supposed to write a commentary, so I didn’t, but four of the top five story summaries this week carry my byline:

The one I didn’t write, “Top P4P hospitals to score $7m in bonuses from CMS,” ran in the daily FierceHealthcare last Thursday.

June 23, 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.