Kodak selling, Micromedex buying and teens forging Vicodin scripts

I just got a series of press releases about a broad corporate restructuring at Eastman Kodak Co., strongly suggesting that the company’s Health Group is on the block.

An excerpt:

“‘Our stated corporate goal is to be among the top three in each of the businesses in which we compete,’ [Kodak Chairman and CEO Antonio M.] Perez said. ‘While the Health Group is enjoying strong organic growth in elements of its digital portfolio, such as digital capture solutions and healthcare information solutions, we have been observing for some time consolidation in this industry. Given our valuable assets and the changing market landscape, we feel that now is the time to investigate strategic alternatives.'”

Though Kodak has been in medical imaging and radiology information systems for many years, it just got involved in enterprise-wide health IT in early 2005. So much for that.

This news comes just two days after Thomson Micromedex confirmed reports that it has reached an agreement to acquire mobile healthcare software vendor MercuryMD. Terms still have not been announced.

In other recent news:

The National Alliance for Health Information Technology has concluded that the healthcare industry must convince the public that electronic records are important before tackling the technical challenge of electronically identifying and connecting patients. According to a statement, “Armed with this information, consumers will be more likely to understand the role of patient identification in realizing that value rather than constituting a threat to confidentiality of medical records.”

In yet another setback to the effort to computerize healthcare, a HealthDay story from Wednesday is headlined, “Hospital Computer Keyboards May Spread Danger. They’re a reservoir for bacteria that staff could pass to patients, study finds.” See if that doesn’t end up scaring away a hospital CEO or two.

Last week, however, health IT officially became a campaign issue in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race. The Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Tom Reilly, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the state’s highest office, says that IT is critical in the wake of the new Massachusetts law mandating health insurance for all residents. Reilly is calling for greater use of EHRs and computerized order entry to improve healthcare quality and save money. Read the story here.

Here in Illinois, a front-page story in the Chicago Tribune reported how a 17-year-old recovering heroin and crack addict was able to forge numerous presecriptions for Vicodin, and got the scripts filled as many as 30 times, without being questioned by pharmacists. We’re talking about a minor obtaining a Schedule II narcotic, no questions asked!

The part of the story that got me was this paragraph: “Though you need to show a photo ID to buy cold medicine in Illinois, addictive medications can be obtained with nothing more than an easily faked prescription slip. Pharmacists aren’t legally obligated to verify an order is genuine, and tamper-proof prescription pads, a security measure used in other states, are not required here.”

I showed the story to executives from e-prescribing vendors ZixCorp. and Allscripts. Both had pretty much the same reaction as I did: Vigilance from pharmacists notwithstanding, secure electronic prescribing with real-time authentication and eligibility and formulary checking would prevent this.