Free Healthcare IT Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Get all the latest Health IT updates from Neil Versel for FREE!

Things change pretty fast in health IT, don’t they?

Yes, things do change pretty fast in health IT. I realized this over the past couple of weeks when I updated my database of contacts by scanning and categorizing about 300 business cards I’ve collected over the past 2½ years. (I really let things pile up this time. Now that my desk is reasonably clean, I hope I never do that again. I can claim extraordinary circumstances in 2012, but that only accounts for one year.)

What really struck me, in addition to the amount of time I let this slide, is the number of new categories I had to create in the database and the number I had to modify. My contacts go back to when I started covering healthcare in October 2000, and I’ve had a card scanner for at least 10 years. I had “PDA” and “ASP” as two of the choices until I changed them to “smartphone” and “SaaS” within the last couple of years.

Here are a few terms that are new in my database since I last did a thorough update, probably early in 2011:

  • accountable care
  • analytics (as opposed to data mining)
  • business incubator
  • remote monitoring

I also can’t believe I didn’t have CIO as a category until this month.

Some of the changes reflect a shift in what I’ve covered, but some terms are pretty new. Did you know what accountable care was prior to 2010? Were there many business incubators or accelerators in healthcare before Rock Health started up in 2011? I don’t know of any.

By the same token, when was the last time anyone talked about a PDA, an ASP or RHIO? Perhaps it’s just been a change in semantics, but the real change has been in the technology and the focus of healthcare executives. (Come to think of it, some of the tags on this blog are a bit out of date. I’ve been blogging since 2004. You get the picture.)

On another note, thanks to Healthcare Scene guru John Lynn, who hosts this blog for me, for, without my prompting, promoting the fact that I’m cycling 100 miles in an event called the Wrigley Field Road Tour on Sunday, Aug. 25, for the third year in a row. The ride supports an organization called World Bicycle Relief, which provides specially made bikes to remote villages in Africa so people who are otherwise without transportation can get to school and jobs. It also benefits Chicago Cubs Charities, which funds a number of youth programs in the Chicago area. (The ride’s co-founders are World Bicycle Relief founder F.K. Day, whose family owns bike component maker Sram, and Todd Ricketts, whose family controls the Cubs.)

Within the last two weeks, I suddenly got a surge of donations from people within the health IT community, and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know. If you’d like to help, here’s my fundraising page.

One unexpected donor was Todd Stein of healthcare PR firm Amendola Communications. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that he is fundraising to help offset medical expenses of a colleague whose 3-year-old son faces surgery for a brain tumor. From that page:

Kathy C., a friend and colleague (who has always been the first to help but the last to ask for help and so wants to remain anonymous) is a single mother of three children all under the age of 7. Her 3-year-old son “James” was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The surgery will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, Kathy has a $10,000 deductible on her health insurance plan and stands to pay out of pocket costs that are estimated at three times that amount. James is going in for the first of a series of surgeries this week and paying tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses is a hardship for anyone, especially a hard working single mother of three young children.

Please keep Kathy and James in your prayers and give whatever you can to support their urgent need. Just giving up a daily coffee for one week and giving that amount would make a world of difference.

And now, it’s just about 5 o’clock here in Chicago, so please enjoy your weekend.



August 16, 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.

Comprehensive coverage of WTN Media’s Digital Health Conference

As you may know from at least one of my earlier posts, I was in Madison, Wis., last month for a great little health IT event called the Digital Health Conference, a production of the Wisconsin Technology Network and the affiliated WTN Media. In fact, WTN Media hired me to cover the conference for them, so I did, pretty comprehensively. In fact, I wrote eight stories over the last couple of weeks, seven of which have been published:

I still have an overview story that should go up this week.

Why do I say it’s a great little conference? The list of speakers was impressive for a meeting of its size, with about 200 attendees for the two-day main conference and 150 for a pre-conference day about startups and entrepreneurship.

Since it is practically in the backyard of Epic Systems, CEO Judy Faulkner is a fixture at this annual event, and this time she also sent the company’s vendor liaison. Informatics and process improvement guru Dr. Barry Chaiken came in from Boston to chair the conference and native Wisconsinite Judy Murphy, now deputy national coordinator for programs and policy at ONC, returned from Washington. Kaiser Permanente was represented, as was Gulfport (Miss.) Memorial Hospital. IBM’s chief medical scientist for care delivery systems, Dr. Marty Kohn, flew in from the West Coast, while Patient Privacy Rights Foundation founder Dr. Deborah Peel, made the trip from another great college town, Austin, Texas. (Too bad Peel and Faulkner weren’t part of the same session to discuss data control. That alone would be worth the price of admission.)

July 2, 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.

New ‘CMIO’ stories

The long-awaited second issue of CMIO is out, and now it’s going to a regular, bimonthly publishing schedule. I tell you this because I have two feature stories in this issue, including the cover story on health information exchange.

I also wrote a feature on “meaningful use” of health IT. That, of course, is the standard for qualifying for federal EHR subsidies starting in 2011.

September 24, 2009 I Written By

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

Oh really?

There’s a new venture in Buffalo, N.Y., billing itself as the “first national, electronic healthcare transaction network in the United States.”

The press release for the HealthTransaction Network says: “The initiative, under development for sixteen months since its announcement, is aimed at uninsured or underinsured individuals, who can’t afford coverage for even primary medical care. The goal is to enable them to get wellness services so they can prevent more serious conditions.”

OK, it’s a noble concept, but is it really national? The announcement makes it seem like it’s confined to Western New York state.

“The long-awaited program, started by electronic-transaction entrepreneur Joseph Wolfson, came to life last week with the launch of low-cost basic services at community health-care facilities, a new technologically advanced identification card, and an electronic transaction network to facilitate transactions between consumers and healthcare providers,” the release says. Again, these are some good ideas that can help transform care and save money for everyone involved. But a truly national network for electronic health transactions? It couldn’t be that simple, could it?

February 18, 2009 I Written By

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

I don’t usually do this, but …

I’m experimenting with different kinds of posts. Here’s one I don’t often do: personnel announcements.

Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives has taken the “interim” tag off Michael O’Rourke, naming him senior VP and CIO of the 77-hospital organization. O’Rourke, 56, had been interim CIO since August 2007. He previously led IT operations at Triad Hospitals, which became part of Community Health Systems in July 2007.

Also, health information exchange vendor Axolotl created a dedicated development team to assist the New York State Department of Health and the New York eHealth Collaborative in the building of the proposed Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY).

Sean Smith, developer of Axolotl’s Information Health Exchange (IHE) prototypes, will head the four-person team. Also named to the team was health information exchange expert Justin Pun. Axolotl did not identify the other SHIN-NY developers, but said that the team will report to Director of Application Development Lin Wan, Ph.D.

February 10, 2009 I Written By

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

Catching up

I’m slowly recovering from a tragic last few days, in which the Chicago Cubs, the best team in the National League this season, failed to show up for their three playoff games. I was among the more than 42,000–a number that surely had to violate some section of the fire code–jammed into Wrigley Field for Game 2 on Thursday night to watch a stinker for the ages. I suppose this doesn’t hurt as much as 2003, but maybe it will when it sinks in.

Alas, life goes on, and so does the backlog in my inbox. Baseball season may be nearing a close in Chicago (the White Sox are on the brink, but still alive), but the never-ending political season still has a month to go. It was brought to my attention recently that Hollywood may have anticipated the McCain-Obama matchup in a 2006 episode of The West Wing. The debate between Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) even strikes a familiar chord.

A discussion of healthcare policy starts around 3:20.

Back in the real world, I’ve seen a bunch of commentaries of late on the health IT policies of the Obama and McCain campaigns, in part because I had to write summaries for both the Physician Office Technology Report of Part B News and for my British client, E-Health Insider. The most interesting analysis I’ve seen so far is from David Merritt, a longtime aide to Newt Gingrich who also is advising the McCain campaign. Despite this built-in bias, Merritt actually gives a mostly unbiased assessment of the plans. Mostly.

If you want to know more, check out the Kaiser Family Foundation’s health issues comparison tool on 15 areas of health policy, including IT.

I still think both candidates are really lacking in specificity when it comes to health IT. I am anxious to hear further details, though I don’t really expect to hear much before the actual election. More likely, the details will come when the new president names his secretary of Health and Human Services, and perhaps not until the full healthcare policy teams are in place.

Moving on, there’s a new professional certification program in health information exchange. It’s from the same people who developed programs to designate certified professionals in health information technology and certified professionals in electronic health records. I wrote about that in November 2004 and got one very pointed comment how certification courses like this were “a joke” because they convey a hoity-toity title after just a few days of training. Just like then, however, program has some highly respected names on its advisory board. Anyone know if this sort of thing is worth it?

While we’re talking about professional credentials, here’s a link to the newly redesigned EMR site (even though it defaults to a .net site). Now I have just set myself up for everyone with an IT-related Web site to demand a link. I’ve been good at ignoring e-mails in the past, and I can do it in the future.

I didn’t submit anything to the most recent Health Wonk Review, but host David Shafrin of the Healthcare Economist blog examines groups in need of bail-outs.

I figured it would be much ado about nothing when HIMSS circulated a letter it sent to Reps. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and Dave Camp (R-Mich.) about the proposed “Health-e Information Technology Act of 2008.” Just a few weeks ago, I expressed my frustration with new legislation that stands almost zero chance of passing.

Apparently the response did strike a raw nerve with some people, including open-source advocate Fred Trotter, who accused HIMSS of being little more than a lobby group for vendors of proprietary systems. HIMSS subsequently published a “fact sheet” about its views on the Stark-Camp bill, including this statement: “HIMSS actively supports the industry’s exploration and utilization of open source software as one avenue for information technology solutions within the healthcare industry.”

Just how significant is this mini-spat anyway?

October 5, 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.


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.

Podcast: Dr. David Brailer on his new venture and progress in health IT

SAN FRANCISCO—Dr. David Brailer is a very popular man these days. Having $700 million of Other People’s Money to invest, as his company Health Evolution Partners does, tends to do that. At the Health 2.0 Conference today, it took an hour and 15 minutes for him to fend off the suitors and finally sit down with me for this brief but lively podcast about his new venture and about the current state of health information technology in America. I think it was worth the wait.

(Everyone else is blogging this event live. I can’t keep up, so thought I’d try something different.)

Podcast details: Interview with Dr. David Brailer on Health Evolution Partners and progress in health IT. MP3, mono, 64 kbps, 4.5 MB. Running time 9:53.

0:34 Investment strategy
1:05 Surprise since he started the fund
1:40 About the company
2:25 Why he’s not looking at biotechnology
2:55 Health 2.0
3:35 Investing through venture partners
3:45 Assessment of national health IT adoption
4:35 Health IT hasn’t become politicized
5:05 Tough issues still unsettled
6:13 RHIOs
6:50 Shakeout in health IT (and interruption from siren outside the window)
7:50 Advice to people involved in RHIOs
8:08 Personal health records and consumerism

September 20, 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.

MedInfo coverage

After a week of pressing deadlines and erratic sleep courtesy of the worst case of jet lag I’ve ever encountered, I’ve finally collected my thoughts and my wits, and am ready to post a few things from MedInfo 2007 and related conferences.

I thought I’d start by posting links to some of the stories I’ve written from my trip to Australia. I have a couple of podcasts to post as well, plus some more writing to do, but here’s something. I was the only full-time journalist from either North America or Europe at MedInfo, so I’m using that to my advantage. (If there’s any editor out there still interested in coverage, I’m listening. I have nearly 500 poster presentations to draw on, to give you an idea of the breadth of material available.)

From Digital HealthCare & Productivity

“Optimism Marks Opening of the MedInfo 2007” (Aug. 21)
My report of the keynote address by Sir Muir Gray, NHS director of clinical knowledge.

“A Tale of RHIO Success” (Aug. 21)
I travel all the way to Australia to report on Winona Health in Minnesota.

“Kolodner Says U.S. Will Reach Pres. Bush’s 2014 EHR Goal” (Aug. 28)
My coverage of Dr. Robert Kolodner’s keynote address to MedInfo, with snippets from the interview he gave me.

“Shortage of Health-IT Workers Is Limiting Progress” (Aug. 28)
News of a collaboration between the International Medical Informatics Association and the World Health Organization, based on my interview with officials of both organizations and their presentations to MedInfo.

“Grappling with the Softer Side of Health-IT” (Sept. 5)
This is another exclusive: my coverage of the ITHC 2007: the Third International Conference on Information Technology in Health Care: Socio-technical
, a small, focused meeting held in Sydney a week after MedInfo.

“Reporter’s Notebook: From the Land Down Under” (Sept. 5)
Exactly what it sounds like.

From E-Health Insider and EHealth Europe

“IMIA and WHO to ‘revitalise relationships'” (Aug. 23)
Another take, in more depth, of the IMIA-WHO collaboraton.

“Wireless solutions simplify communication” (Aug. 31)
I look at creative applications of wireless technology in Denmark and Austria.

September 9, 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.

My dirty mind

When I first saw a news brief today about a statewide database for medical records in New York, I had to laugh. There was something about the name: Health Information Exchange of New York.

I thought there might be a reason that the state name came at the end, like perhaps to form an acronym. Then I realized that the initials, HIENY, might be pronounced as “hiney.” Talk about setting yourself up to be the butt of jokes (pun strongly intended)!

To my disappointment, I clicked on the link to the actual news story the brief came from and learned that the exchange is known as HIXNY.

Anyhoo …

Yet another health IT bill destined for inaction was introduced in Congress today, but at least this one seems to have some thought behind it. The proposed Independent Health Record Trust Act, from Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), calls for a national network of “trusts” to manage patient-owned health data.

“This forward-looking plan would utilize market forces to drive the creation of a fully interoperable, nationwide HIT network, while also taking additional steps to protect the privacy of sensitive medical information,” Moore said in a press release.

For those of you keeping score at home, Moore and Ryan had sponsored the Independent Health Record Bank Act in the last Congress, a bill that of course went nowhere. Perhaps there is greater political will this year. Perhaps not.

And speaking of National Health Information Network initiatives, there seems to be some opposition among RHIO leaders to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology‘s NHIN contracting procedures, as this letter illustrates.

July 11, 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.