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Podcast: Dave Garets

NEW ORLEANS—Since time of the essence this week, I’m keeping this post short.

This is a fairly short, off-the-cuff interview with Dave Garets, president and CEO of HIMSS Analytics, kind of a teaser for Garets’ “Riffing on the Issues” session on Tuesday with Partners HealthCare CIO John Glaser at the annual HIMSS conference.

Of note, HIMSS Analytics is announing Tuesday that it is expanding its research of hospital IT capabilities into Canada, but you heard it here first. But that’s not all you’ll get out of this podcast. Garets gives his take on the state of the health IT industry, circa February 2007.

If I had more time, I’d include a detailed description of the contents of this podcast, but since I have deadlines to meet tonight, I’m going to pass. Click here to listen.

More recordings to come later this week.

Podcast details: Interview with HIMSS Analytics CEO Dave Garets. MP3, mono, 64 kbps, 5.9 mb, running time 12:56.

February 26, 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.

Let’s be candid

BILOXI, Miss.—I was about to post a rant about the PR reps still bugging me about setting up HIMSS meetings just a couple of days before the conference starts, as if I have time left on my schedule to sneak in a couple of hours of sleep, much less write my stories (you know, the stuff that pays for my trip). Then I got an e-mail from open-source software guru Fred Trotter (and yes, I know he doesn’t care for the phrase, “open source”) that he won an auction over at HISTalk to have a chat with Jonathan Bush, the very outspoken and usually highly entertaining CEO of athenahealth. That got me to thinking that I’ve got a theme to blog about: candid chat about health IT.

Trotter asked me—and probably some other bloggers—to link to this post on LinuxMedNews, where he asks readers to suggest questions to pose to Bush. OK, consider it done.

FYI, the Bush bio that Trotter cites is accurate. Athenahealth boss Jonathan S. Bush is indeed a first cousin of the president. (His father, Jonathan J. Bush, is the brother of former President George H.W. Bush). One thing that’s not there is that Bush also is the brother of Billy Bush, co-anchor of celebrity dish-fest “Access Hollywood” and host of the new reality show, “Grease: You’re the One That I Want.” I believe Jonathan Bush also went to high school with Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who, in case you were unaware, is a member of a pretty high-profile family with Democratic leanings.

None of those facts, of course, have any effect on the ability to run a healthcare software company, other than better access to well-heeled investors than most entrepreneurs. I’m not going to suggest any questions for Trotter to ask (OK, fine, he can have Bush call his brother to report the latest on Britney Spears’ meltdown if he wants) because I’m going to one-up Trotter. I’m putting a microphone in front of Bush for a podcast we’re going to record during HIMSS next week. So there!

I can’t give you a firm date for posting the podcast because it’s not the only one I have scheduled. Indeed, my schedule is beyond full at this point. But does that stop the PR people from e-mailing and calling even today to see if I want to meet with their clients? It’s almost as if they believe that what they’re selling is the most important thing going on at the world’s largest health IT conference.

And what earth-shattering news are they trying to sell me on as story fodder? OCR technology. A new vice president at a staffing company. And the pièce de résistance: an Israeli HMO with no U.S. customers cutting a deal with the government of Bulgaria. (Call me when an Israeli company sells something to the Iranian government.)

A voice mail I got about the Bulgaria story one ended with, “Have a good show.” Bad idea.

Yes, the vendor exhibition is a “show.” It’s a big show. It’s a great selling opportunity for the exhibitors and a veritable smorgasbord for anyone shopping for IT. The problem is, I ain’t shopping. For me, the annual HIMSS confab is not a show, but a conference. If I wanted a show, I’d go catch Julio Iglesias tonight and tomorrow at the rebuilt Beau Rivage casino a few miles down the beach from here.

OK, that’s a stretch. I’m actually waiting for the official announcement that The Police will play two dates at Wrigley Field this summer.

I do meet with vendors, this year more than last. I try to stay on top of trends and innovations in the marketplace. But I get my best stories from the users and thought leaders. You know, the speakers and session presenters. I love some of the pre-conference symposia for that very reason. That’s why I make it a rule not to schedule vendor meetings while the educational sessions are going on. I’m planning on cutting out of a vendor luncheon a few minutes early so as not to miss an early-afternoon presentation.

There’s also a good reason why I came down to the Gulf Coast today to follow up on some of the reporting I did last summer on the rebuilding of healthcare infrastructure after Hurricane Katrina. (Mea culpa: I never did put together the podcast I promised. I learned the hard way that editing audio is time-consuming, plus, the recordings weren’t all that great.)

As a bonus, I wasn’t home to receive the “have a good show” call. And it was 80 degrees when I left New Orleans this afternoon for the two-hour drive to Biloxi. It was not 80 degrees when I left my apartment in Chicago at 6:30 this morning. (What am I doing in Biloxi? Chasing stories others are not.)

But I digress.

Last year, I posted some other advice for PR representatives. OK, so it’s actually another unvarnished rant, on the overuse of essentially meaningless buzzwords in press releases. I have to say bravo to this year’s crop of press releases for being more descriptive.

Just so nobody gets the idea I scorn all things PR, here’s some good advice from Schwartz Communications about pitching journalists for HIMSS. Read these tips, learn them, use them.

Also, today is the 27th anniversary of one of the most memorable events of my childhood, not long before my 10th birthday: Team USA’s hockey victory over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. No, that was not the gold-medal game. The final victory came two days later vs. Finland. Rest in peace, Herb Brooks.

I digress again. It’s my blog and I’ll digress if I want to.

February 22, 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.

Quick update

It’s late, I’m tired, I’ve got a busy week ahead as I prepare for HIMSS and write several stories, but I wanted to draw your attention to the updated blogroll and associated links.

I’ve broken the blogroll into three categories now: Health IT/quality blogs from the U.S.; English-language blogs from outside the U.S.; and blogs in other languages. So far, the only other languages I have listed are Spanish and French—and one of the French blogs is written by an American expat in France. If anyone knows of any more interesting blogs I’m missing, please drop me a line.

I realize I’ve just opened myself up to bombardment from PR reps, just one week before the heaviest onslaught of the year, a.k.a. the annual HIMSS conference. The IBM HealthNex blog notwithstanding, I’m inclined to exclude most corporate blogs. It just so happened that I found that one a long time ago and see that it contains a great deal of useful information and is not merely a shill.

As for HIMSS, I’m actually flying down a few days early to do some follow-up reporting from my trip to the Gulf Coast last summer. Sure, the extra hotel nights will wipe out any savings on the airfare (and I am saving a lot by flying early), but at least I’ll have the chance to pursue some extra stories without the pressure of the typical HIMSS 12-hour work days.

I can’t promise a whole lot of blogging from New Orleans, but I do plan on recording several podcasts. I went shopping on eBay recently and I now have a reasonably good recording setup for up to three microphones. We’ll see how long it takes for me to get tired of carrying that stuff around all day. My money’s on a Tuesday burnout.

Lastly, don’t forget to register for the second-annual Meet the Bloggers, Sunday night in New Orleans.

February 18, 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.

Meet the Bloggers details

Here are the details for the second-annual Meet the Bloggers event:

Date: Sunday, Feb. 25
Time: 8 p.m. (after the HIMSS’07 opening reception)
Location: Mulate’s, 201 Julia St.. New Orleans (right across from the Morial Convention Center)
Admission: Free

This information comes from Shahid Shah’s blog.

Click here to see who’s already signed up, then click here to register for yourself. If it’s not terribly loud—a definite long-shot in the Big Easy—I might be recording a podcast.

Thanks to Shahid for hosting the posting, and to Tim Gee for making the arrangements and the graphics.

February 12, 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.

‘Isabel’ as a verb?

Will “Isabel” become a verb, much in the way “Google” has? A Fox News story from December on Isabel Healthcare, developer of a diagnostic decision support engine, suggested that it already has. The correspondent, Dr. Christine Dumas, says that clinicians in some hospitals routinely ask, “Did you Isabel this?”

Unfortunately, the 2-minute piece does not include an interview with anyone at Isabel, nor does it mention any other clinical decision support companies. (Insert “fair and balanced” joke here.) I’ll be speaking with the company at HIMSS in a couple of weeks.

A much more in-depth piece of TV reportage on healthcare quality comes from none other than Katie Couric. The CBS Evening News anchor interviewed safety guru Dr. Don Berwick in a report that aired last week. The link takes you to a print version of the story, but you’ll see the video player on the right-hand side of the screen. In the “Eye to Eye” segment, an online exclusive that follows the main story, Berwick talks about the need for computers and automation.

I talked to Berwick at his Institute for Healthcare Improvement‘s annual conference in December, shortly after Dr. Larry Weed’s stirring address, and Berwick said that the technology finally has gotten good enough for physicians to start taking seriously Weed’s call for electronic medical records and various forms of CDS. Weed, of course, has been advocating the need for computers in medicine since before I was born. I’m closing in on 37 now.

I Written By

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

Money matters

A post last month that listed the salary range for a job opening at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology resulted in a comment that the $109,808 to $165,200 salary won’t make anybody rich in the pricey Washington area. OK, fair enough. The job as deputy coordinator does not require a medical degree, but a physician with informatics training certainly could make a lot more money in the private sector. Case in point is this entry on the Physician Salaries USA blog from last week.

Good stuff, right? Well, if you read either For The Record or Health Executive, you would have known that chief medical information officers tend to be well-compensated for their high-level expertise and long hours. I mention these publications purely in a self-serving manner, as I wrote recent pieces on the role of the CMIO in each of these magazines. My Health Executive story is in the January 2007 issue. In the case of For The Record, check the Sept. 18, 2006 edition.

Now that I’ve dispensed with the gratuitous self-promotion, some other money-related news caught my eye last week: the $103.6 million in federal grants awarded to 27 state Medicaid programs. Nearly every project funded in this Medicaid Transformation Grants initiative is related to information technology. Connecticut will receive $5 million for e-prescribing and health information exchange. Hawaii has been granted nearly $3.2 million to implement an OpenVista ASP network. Michigan and Massachusetts each are getting several million dollars to automate vital records. For details on the grants, click here.

From what I can gather, this is the first large-scale, nationwide push for IT in Medicaid.

HHS says it will award an additional $46.4 million later this year to complete the $150 million program authorized by the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act. The solicitation has not gone out yet.

February 1, 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.