Random thoughts

I’ve been behind the 8-ball for a couple of weeks. In addition to regular assignments, I picked up a new, temporary gig, which meant some early mornings writing the daily FierceHealthcare four times last week, as well as this week’s FierceHealthIT newsletter. If you anything about me, you know that mornings are not my friend.

For what it’s worth, here are the links to last week’s FierceHealthcare issues:
Friday, Jan. 19
Thursday, Jan. 18
Wednesday, Jan. 17
Tuesday, Jan. 16

The big news from last week was the announcement that a coalition led by Allscripts will offer free e-prescribing software to any U.S. physician through what’s being called the National E-Prescribing Patient Safety Initiative. This news caught a lot of people—notably competing e-Rx vendors and some privacy advocates—but it has the potential to light a spark under the healthcare industry. The next few weeks and months ought to be quite interesting.

This week, of course, we had the president’s annual State of the Union address. Here’s an excerpt from the official White House transcript:

My second proposal is to help the states that are coming up with innovative ways to cover the uninsured. States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. I have asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with Congress to take existing federal funds and use them to create “Affordable Choices” grants. These grants would give our nation’s governors more money and more flexibility to get private health insurance to those most in need.

There are many other ways that Congress can help. We need to expand Health Savings Accounts. (Applause.) We need to help small businesses through Association Health Plans. (Applause.) We need to reduce costs and medical errors with better information technology. (Applause.) We will encourage price transparency. And to protect good doctors from junk lawsuits, we passing medical liability reform. (Applause.) In all we do, we must remember that the best health care decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors. (Applause.)

This marks the fourth year in a row that President Bush mentioned health IT in the State of the Union, but I believe this was the first time the line actually drew applause. Does that mean that the new, Democratic-controlled Congress will take action this year? I’ve learned not to hold my breath over anything discussed in Washington, particularly when there is divided government.

Since the speech last night, many a TV pundit has pointed out that Bush said nothing about reconstruction of the Gulf Coast. So I will.

We’re just about a month away from the annual HIMSS conference, and the estimated 25,000 attendees should bring a much-needed infusion of dollars to New Orleans.

This will be my second trip to the area since Hurricane Katrina. As many people know, I toured Louisiana and Mississippi last July to report on the rebuilding of healthcare there. One of the best stories I wrote was for Inside Healthcare Computing, a newsletter with tightly controlled circulation among CIOs and other hospital IT types, so it didn’t get noticed as much as I had hoped. Fortunately, I have permission to re-print the story. Click here.

And finally, A column in the Sacramento Bee by a University of California, Davis, physician questions the value of an EMR, citing lack of interoperability and the potential for fraud. On the latter point, HHS just closed a public comment period on proposed anti-fraud standards for electronic records, so that’s being addressed. As for interoperability, well…