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So you want a meeting at HIMSS15?

HIMSS15 is less than a month away. The vendor requests for meetings of course have started coming in.

Every year I seem to do fewer and fewer, for several reasons. First off, they’re exhausting. The exhibit hall is huge. This year, it looks like exhibits will fill the entirety of the McCormick Place North Building (705,500 square feet of exhibit space) and South Building (840,000 square feet), and that doesn’t even count the meeting rooms or auditoriums for keynotes. The press room and many of the educational sessions are in the West Building, at least a 15-minute walk from the show floor.

HIMSS says to expect more than 1,200 vendors. I think that’s a conservative estimate, given that there were 1,300 last year and the number seems to grow every year. In any case, that’s a lot of vendors. Remarkably, even as the HIMSS conference has grown over the years, there is only one of me. I can maybe manage 10-12 vendor meetings during the entirety of the conference, so statistically, you have less than a 1 percent chance of snagging one of those spots.

Of course, the more meetings I schedule, the less time I have to do my actual work — you know, the reason why I go to HIMSS every year.

At this point, with my career in a bit of flux, I don’t know yet whom I will be covering HIMSS for. Until I know my assignments, it’s hard to schedule meetings. Please bear with me.

I notice others have recently expressed similar concerns about their own scheduling. For years, I’ve had a “Rule No. 1” for people attending HIMSS for the first time: Wear comfortable shoes. The people at HIMSS have caught on. “Don’t forget to wear your comfortable shoes!” reads the main Exhibition page on the HIMSS Conference site this year.

Joe Goedert at Health Data Management wrote a nice piece last month with “Tips for Meeting with Reporters at HIMSS15.” Among his advice: Give us the biggest news, not your entire media kit/life story; bring customers, not marketing managers; understand and respect our knowledge and get to the point rather than giving health IT reporters background on the HITECH Act; avoid buzzwords; and respect the reporter’s preference of meeting in either the press room or exhibit hall.

Personally, I hate the exhibit hall. It takes forever to get anywhere, and I don’t need to be stopped every 50 feet for a carnival barker or “booth babe” to ask me to enter to win an iPad in exchange for adding my business card to a marketing list. I’m not your target customer.

I would add to Joe’s list the fact that there is a lot more to HIMSS than just the “show.” There are more than 300 educational sessions, many of which are better uses of my time than a product update. It’s astounding how many vendor reps I speak to each year who haven’t left the exhibit hall all week.

Hopefully I’ll have the coverage question resolved in the next week or two. As for the other issues, well, that’s up to you.

March 13, 2015 I Written By

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

DrChrono and Sermo, what are you thinking?

Free, mobile ambulatory EHR developer DrChrono made a minor ripple of news this week, claiming to be the first vendor to release an EHR for the new Apple iOS 7. But that’s not why I’m writing this post. I’m calling out DrChrono co-founder and COO Daniel Kivatinos for this tweet:

I was quick to respond on Twitter.  

Indeed, the HITECH Act and Meaningful Use are about the Triple Aim of producing safer care, improving population health and lowering overall healthcare costs. The incentive money isn’t supposed to make physicians rich or even cover the cost of the typical EHR. (Yes, “free” EHRs have costs in terms of changing physician workflows and interfacing with practice management systems, and the advertising may cause patients to lose trust in their doctors, as John Lynn seems to have found with Practice Fusion.) Frankly, I don’t want to go to a doctor who views Meaningful Use as “cashing in.” That’s not “meaningful” in the spirit of the incentive program.

I’m making a big deal out of this because this is not the first time DrChrono has made misleading and hyperbolic statements. As I wrote a couple years ago, the company claimed its patient check-in app was “groundbreaking,” despite a lot of evidence to the contrary. The same post also had a video from DrChrono in which the vendor explained to physicians how they could qualify for Meaningful Use “tax breaks.” The incentive payments aren’t tax breaks. In fact, the money counts as taxable income.

The video is still up on YouTube, and it’s been viewed more than 57,000 times. That’s 57,000 times people have heard a patently false statement. DrChrono, stop misleading clients or you won’t have any clients left to mislead.

Also from the “what were they thinking?” department, physician social network Sermo marked the start of the NFL season this month with the launch of the “Pro Football Injury Challenge.” I know this because I received this e-mail:

Sermo injury challenge

Yes, I know I’m not a doctor. Sermo sent a follow-up a few days later saying that I received the invitation in error. But actual physicians still are competing against each other in kind of a fantasy football injury pool. Do you find this as tasteless as I do?


September 20, 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.

Health Wonk Review: October Surprise edition

The newest installment of Health Wonk Review is up, courtesy of David Williams at the Health Business Blog, and my recent post about politicians perpetuating the myth that the U.S. has the “best healthcare in the world” is featured prominently. If you’re looking for anything else even vaguely related to health IT in this edition of HWR, you might be disappointed, but Williams offers a nice sampling of opinions on other topics that arose during the first presidential debate last week as well as a few ideas that could be considered part of overall health reform.

Speaking of health reform and politics, this morning I received a plea to donate money to the Romney campaign from the nutbars over at Docs4PatientCare. As a rule, I do not give money to any political candidates or to PACs because I want to maintain as much objectivity as possible for someone who occasionally calls people “nutbars.” Why do I say this about D4PC? A year and a half ago, I wrote this:

D4PC contacted me last fall with links to a series of videos, including one from group representative Scott Barbour, M.D. According to the original pitch to me, “Utilizing quotes from Dr. Berwick, Dr. Barbour exposed that, ‘He is not interested in better health care. He is only concerned about implementing his socialist agenda.’”

In another video, Docs4PatientCare Vice President Fred Shessel, M.D., said of Berwick, “This is a man who has made a career out of socializing medicine and rationing care for the very young, the very old and the very sick. It is a backdoor power grab. It is dragging our country down the road to socialism and we should resist it.”

I responded to this pitch with a short question: “Berwick isn’t interested in better care? Do you know anything about his work at IHI?” I never got a response. Docs4PatientCare seemingly was trying to hoodwink media that don’t know any better and/or care more about politics than facts.

Today’s pitch, from Michael Koriwchak, M.D., who calls himself the HIT expert of the group, said, “ObamaCare came along with its promise to destroy our health care system.” I would love to know who made that promise, and why anyone thinks we have such a great “system” now. (Prominent Republican Mike Leavitt, HHS secretary in the Bush administration, has often said we do not have a healthcare “system,” but rather a poorly run, inefficient, dangerous healthcare “sector.”)

“Every dollar you give brings us a step closer to victory in November and the opportunity to replace ObamaCare with doctor-driven improvements to our health care system,” Koriwchak adds. Do we really want “doctor-driven” improvements when physicians won’t admit that they make far more mistakes than any advanced nation should tolerate? I want data-driven improvements.

“The voices of physicians who care for patients every day are now heard in Washington. This may be the last opportunity for you to take back control of your health care. Do you want your health care decisions to be made by you and your doctor, or by an indifferent bureaucrat in Washington?” Koriwchak concludes.

With all due respect, that argument has been beaten to death for years. No bureaucrat in Washington is going to be making care decisions any more than a bean counter at a private insurer does. And patients can’t “take back” control of their care because they don’t have much control now as long as defenders of the status quo in the medical establishment won’t let patients see their own health records and act like physicians are infallible.

Koriwchak kills the little credibility he has left by saying he has “participated in conversations” with several members of Congress and includes the nutty Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who famously formed her views against the HPV vaccine based on what some random woman told her after a debate last year during the GOP primary season.

“She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. The mother was crying when she came up to me last night. I didn’t know who she was before the debate. This is the very real concern and people have to draw their own conclusions,” Bachmann said, without offering a shred of scientific evidence. But if you repeat a lie often enough, people start to believe it. Right, Dr. Koriwchak?

October 12, 2012 I Written By

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

TEDMED to healthcare press: pay up

I had hoped to be in Washington next week to cover the TEDMED conference, but apparently I am either not important enough or don’t have enough money.

Earlier this week, I requested press credentials for the event, the first one since Priceline founder Jay Walker bought TEDMED from Marc Hodosh. I went through Rogers & Cowan, the boutique PR agency Walker hired to represent TEDMED, and got a rather terse and surprising response:

Due to TEDMED’s press badge policy that is available at, (also see attached), we are unable to provide press badges to trade outlets due to space constraints, and freelancers/contributors must be on assignment from national outlets with broad circulation. For these reasons, I regret that we are unable to provide you with a badge.

The policy that was attached stated, in part: “Due to space limitations we regret that we cannot accommodate trade journals, third-party research organizations, research analysts at financial services companies, or producers of TV/film projects that lack confirmed theatrical or network TV distribution plans.”

The publicist closed the e-mail with a cheery “best regards.” I read that as PFO. In any case, it seemed like a bizarre way to treat the very media people who know this industry the best. Sure, TEDMED wants coverage from mainstream, national media, and the Hodosh version last year — really, just six months ago — was featured on CNN and ABC, among others. But last year’s version also got coverage from the likes of Medgadget — clearly a trade publication if not merely a blog— and an outlet called The Daily Transcript, which bills itself as “San Diego’s only information company reporting and providing hourly and daily business news.”

I asked this publicist why Medgadget was allowed in last fall and what TEDMED is trying to hide by shutting out the trade press. People who cover healthcare technology every day know what questions to ask. We can distinguish between real news and overblown hype. National TV networks will fawn over the technology and shiny gadgets without asking the questions that need to be asked. It seems to me that the new TEDMED management doesn’t want someone raining on their parade with a reality check.

The story got more intriguing when I received this follow-up response:

Medgadget is a returning media partner.

We invite [a publication I write for] to present a media partnership proposal for the 2013 conference once this year’s event wraps up. Our media partnership commitments are finalized about 4- 5 months prior to each year’s conference, FYI.

I wish we had room to provide every reporter who applies with a press badge/seat, but it is just not possible.

Very sorry again that we cannot register you this year.

What this means is that trade press are more than welcome if they pay to play, but someone simply looking to cover an event without paying up is out of luck.

As for the claim that space is at a premium, TEDMED will take place at the Kennedy Center Opera House, capacity 2,294. TEDMED says to expect about 1,000 attendees. That leaves, oh, nearly 1,300 seats that trade press can’t have, unless they’re willing to become a “media partner.”

Sure, there’s a space crunch. I hope all the “adventurous thinkers and doers” (TEDMED’s words) find room to stretch out in a half-empty hall. At least the pesky trade press won’t be there to report on how freaking smart and innovative they really are.


April 6, 2012 I Written By

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

How not to pitch me

As promised in my previous post, here is an example of a terribly misguided story pitch that I received last week. I can be rather mean to people who waste my time. Consider yourself warned (insert evil laugh here).

First, the pitch.

DECEMBER 7, 2011

SCA Urges Obama Administration to End Religious Discrimination Through Faith-Based Initiatives

CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA communications manager …….. 202-299-1091 ext. 205 or

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Secular Coalition for America stands with the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (CARD) in calling for a transparent review process in how the executive branch’s faith-based offices are handling religious discrimination claims in the hiring of government-funded positions by religious organizations.

The religious discrimination in hiring exemption for religious groups is allowed as part of a multibillion dollar federal program called the faith-based initiative, and it is now active in 14 federal agencies and departments including USDA, Commerce, Labor, HHS, HUD, Education, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, EPA, SBA, USAID, Corporation for National and Community Services, and DOJ. Today CARD sent a letter to each of these agencies, calling for a transparent review process  of how religious discrimination in hiring complaints are addressed.

“In almost 3 years, the Obama administration has done little to address the consequences of allowing religious organizations to discriminate in hiring with taxpayer dollars, “ said Amanda Knief, government relations manager for the Secular Coalition. “We are asking for these agencies and offices to show us how they are handling these cases.”

Within the faith-based initiative, religious organizations may accept taxpayer funds in order to provide government-contracted social services, such as a soup kitchen or foster care, and use those funds to hire only those who also practice the same faith, whether or not the job itself has any religious function. An otherwise qualified individual who applies to a faith-based organization for a job may be rejected solely because he or she practices the wrong religion or has no religion at all.

In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama promised to restore anti-discrimination protections and end policies put in place by the George W. Bush Administration that permit the federal government to subsidize employment discrimination on the basis of religion. More than two years later, this issue has not been adequately addressed and the administration states it will make determinations on religious discrimination on a “case-by-case” basis without offering specifics about how individual cases will be addressed.

In July, Knief pressed President Obama at a town hall meeting about his failed campaign promise to end employment discrimination by faith-based organizations that accept taxpayer funding.

“Religious freedom is an individual right—it does not belong to an organization,” Knief said. “These groups that choose to use religious discrimination in hiring and other ways are imposing their ideology on others which means it cannot be defined as freedom.”

In particular, the CARD letter sent today calls for general transparency in the review process – including information on the cases previously or currently under review under this mechanism– as well as an explanation of review standards and protocols.

In 2007, the last year for which comprehensive numbers are available, $2.2 billion in federal grants were awarded to faith-based organizations by 11 federal agencies. That is about 11 percent of the $20.4 billion in federal grants that were awarded. By allowing these organizations to operate with tax dollars outside the federal guidelines that secular organizations are held to, the government is subsidizing religious discrimination.

“Religious and secular nonprofit groups should be treated the same under the law,” Knief said. “Taxpayer dollars should not be used to endorse any kind of discrimination.”

The Secular Coalition for America is a 501 c(4) organization that serves as the national lobby for atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic Americans. Composed of ten diverse member organizations, SCA works to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. For more information, please visit


And now, here is the e-mail thread that followed.

On Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 8:44 AM, Neil Versel <> wrote:

What exactly is the IT angle here?
From: Lauren Anderson Youngblood <>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2011 10:28:17 -0500
Subject: Re: SCA to Obama Administration: End Religious Discrimination Through Faith-Based Initiatives

Hi Neil,

The list is populated based on the things you’ve written about in the past– perhaps you’ve written about a government administration that was named in the press release?

We apologize for any confusion or inaccuracies. If you wouldn’t mind forwarding the press release to the appropriate person on your team, we would be very grateful.

On Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 10:58 AM, Neil Versel <> wrote:
I don’t have a team. Do your homework. You clearly have no idea what I cover.
From: Lauren Anderson Youngblood <>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2011 11:10:17 -0500
Subject: Re: SCA to Obama Administration: End Religious Discrimination Through Faith-Based Initiatives

As I mentioned in my last email, this list is not compiled by me personally. If you’d like to be removed, there is a link at the bottom of the original email you received.

Have a nice day!

On Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 11:11 AM, Neil Versel <> wrote:
So it’s on me to remove myself? Oh for f— sake!
From: Lauren Anderson Youngblood <>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2011 11:15:27 -0500
Subject: Re: SCA to Obama Administration: End Religious Discrimination Through Faith-Based Initiatives

I’m sorry this is frustrating to you. Let me explain: Meltwater is a company that compiles lists of journalists based on what they cover. When you go to send out a press release, you tell them what you’re looking for and it compiles a list based on the terms you input and sends it. You probably were placed on the list due to something you mentioned in an article, and it make the mistake of thinking it’s something you cover on an ongoing basis.

I wouldn’t worry about removing yourself per se– this seems to be a mistake, but chances are, other lists they compile have been fine and that’s why you’ve never had this problem before.

On Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 11:17 AM, Neil Versel <> wrote:
And you’re too damn lazy to verify. Frankly, it’s insulting that you’ve never read a word I’ve written.
From: Lauren Anderson Youngblood <>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2011 11:20:54 -0500
Subject: Re: SCA to Obama Administration: End Religious Discrimination Through Faith-Based Initiatives

There are thousands of people on each list. You may be upset, but it’s inappropriate and unprofessional for you to sling personal insults at me. If you want to be removed from the list, you know who to contact, please don’t email me again. Have a nice day. Goodbye.

These aren’t personal insults. They are professional insults, thank you very much. I criticized her work, not her character. In any case, I hate those media directories that lazy PR people rely on to target their pitches, and I do find it insulting when someone pitches me without ever having read a word I’ve written.

In the words of a certain lazy PR person, have a nice day. Goodbye. :)

December 13, 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.