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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.

When you talk health reform, don’t forget quality and IT, in that order

In my previous post, I was perhaps a bit too critical of Maggie Mahar in her hosting of last week’s Health Wonk Review. I noted that there was not a word about health IT in that rundown, but that’s not her fault. A host can only include what’s submitted, and apparently nobody, myself included, who contributed to HWR bothered to submit a blog post about health IT this time around.

But I continue to be troubled by this fixation so many journalists, pundits, commentators, politicians and average citizens have on health insurance coverage, not actual care. I blame most of the former for the confusion among the populace. People within healthcare know that you can’t talk about reform without including the serious problems of quality and patient safety, and people within reform know that IT must be part of the discussion even if they don’t always say so.

I would like to draw your attention to a story of mine that appeared on InformationWeek Healthcare this morning, about a report on care integration from the esteemed Lucian Leape Institute. The report itself did not say a lot about IT, but the luminaries on the committee that produced the paper are aware of the importance.

I was lucky enough to interview retired Kaiser Permanente CEO David M. Lawrence, M.D., who told me there has been “little attention” paid to the importance of a solid IT infrastructure in improving care coordination and integration. “What you now have is too much data for the typical doctor to sift through,” Lawrence told me.

That’s exactly the message Lawrence L. Weed, M.D., has been trying to spread for half a century, as I’ve mentioned before. And that’s pretty much how longtime patient safety advocate Donald M. Berwick, M.D. — also a member of the Lucian Leape Institute committee that wrote the report — feels. Berwick hasn’t always advocated in favor of health IT in his writings and speeches, but he has told me in interviews that the recommended interventions in his 100,000 Lives Campaign and 5 Million Lives Campaign are more or less unsustainable in a paper world.

Isn’t about time more people understand that widespread health reform is impossible without attention to quality and that widespread quality and process improvements are impossible without properly implemented IT?



October 29, 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.

A dubious honor from Health Wonk Review

For the very first time, I captured the top spot on the biweekly Health Wonk Review blog carnival, this time hosted by Dr. Jaan Sidorov of the Disease Management Care Blog. Unfortunately, I had to endure my dad’s untimely death after a miserable hospital experience in order to write the piece in question. But if it brings more traffic to that post and, more importantly, more awareness of multiple system atrophy (MSA) and the problem of poorly coordinated care and broken processes in hospitals, I’ll take it.

Since you’re here primarily for health IT, I’ll point you to a couple of relevant items that Sidorov summarizes. In a post actually written back in February, Martin Gaynor, chairman of the Health Care Cost Institute, discusses the organization on the Wing of Zock (the name is explained here) blog. The institute is aggregating claims information from the likes of Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealthcare and CMS to provide researchers with rich data sets related to healthcare costs and utilization.

“At its most basic, HCCI was formed because a better understanding of health spending can improve the quality of care and save money. If we generate information that makes a difference, then we will be a success,” Gaynor says.

Also, consultant Joanna Relth makes it known on the Healthcare Talent Transformation blog that she is no fan of ICD-10. “I’m sure that the intent of making this massive change to the codes is to improve the accuracy of diagnosis coding so providers will bill more accurately and insurance companies will pay providers and insureds in a more timely fashion. Seriously?? Did anyone ask a learning professional about how large a list is reasonable and at what point does the number of data points become impossible to follow?” she wonders in what comes off a little as an anti-government screed.

But I prefer to end this post on a happy note. In the comment section, Relth links to a video from EHR vendor Nuesoft Technologies that parodies Jay-Z’s “99 Problems.” Enjoy.

May 25, 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.

Why healthcare is so troubled, and what consumers are doing about it

Consumerism hasn’t completely caught on in healthcare, but it has gained a bit of a toehold. Consider these two slides shown Monday at the Healthcare Unbound conference in San Diego:

Look at the bottom of each slide, starting with the second one. According to GreatCall, maker of the Jitterbug phone for seniors, 35 percent of consumers plan to buy “wellness electronics” in the next year. That’s great news and a great opportunity for people in health IT to make sure such devices connect to larger networks to data collected will be usable.

In the upper slide, Kaiser Permanente cites numbers showing one reason why healthcare is in such a crisis. Again, look at the bottom. Just 2 percent of current residents in internal medicine will end up in primary care. That’s not exactly reassuring in the face of a projected shortage of 40,000 family practice physicians by 2020. Thus, connected devices will gain in importance as an adjunct to primary care for the purpose of disease management.

Really, it could be our only hope.

July 12, 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.

Big health systems to promote connectivity

Geisinger Health System, Group Health Cooperative, Intermountain Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente and the Mayo Clinic will join together to promote sharing of electronic health data as part of a new organization called the Care Connectivity Consortium. The formal launch is set for 9 a.m. EDT Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, and the event will be webcast here.

According to a media advisory, the Care Connectivity Consortium is “a historic interoperability collaboration among five of the nation’s leading health systems to securely share electronic health information and best practices.” Executives from the organizations will be on hand to “will discuss the goals of the consortium, how sharing electronic health data supports high quality, patient-centered care, and the possibility of sharing electronic data in a secure environment.”

It sounds intriguing, but the five participants don’t have much geographic overlap, save for Kaiser’s reciprocal care agreement with Group Health in the Seattle area. Don’t expect any overnight miracles.

That aside, I’d really like to know the standards they’ll be using for data sharing. If they pick something that’s unformatted text, à la Blue Button, this initiative might be doomed to failure.

UPDATE 12:30 p.m. CDT: A publicist for the consortium tells me that the health systems will be following NHIN protocols for data sharing.

April 4, 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.

Podcast: Panel discussion on mobile healthcare

Nearly two months ago, I was honored to be a participant in the closing panel session at the mHealth Initiative’s 2nd mHealth Networking Conference in San Diego. I happened to record the audio of that session directly off the sound board. I present that recording here.

Other participants on the panel, which addressed hype vs. reality in mobile healthcare, were: C. Peter Waegemann, mHealth Initiative founder; John Mattison, M.D., CMIO of Kaiser Permanente; and Paulanne Balch, M.D., physician lead for KP Health Connect messaging.

You should know my gravelly, hesitating voice by now. The man with the German accent is Waegemann and the other male voice is Mattison’s. Obviously, the female voice belongs to Balch, though mHealth Initiative President Claudia Tessier makes a couple of appearances.

Podcast details: Panel discussion from mHealth Initiative 2nd Networking Conference on hype vs. reality, featuring Neil Versel, Peter Waegemann, Paulanne Balch, M.D., and John Mattison, M.D. Recorded Sept. 9, 2010. MP3, stereo, 128 kbps, 77.6 MB, running time 1:21:26.

0:00 Intro (Waegemann)
0:45 Hype around untethered PHRs (Versel)
2:40 PHRs and projections for future (Mattison)
5:50 Why there’s hype (Versel)
7:15 Consumer perspective on connectivity (Balch)
8:15 “Mind-blowing” applications in m-health (Waegemann)
8:50 iPhone replacing the stethoscope (Versel)
9:45 M-health as the “horseless carriage” (Balch)
10:25 What problem m-health addresses and what’s missing (Mattison)
12:10 Power of text messaging (Versel)
12:55 Patients texting during exams (Balch)
13:35 Audience question: What’s next after m-health
13:55 M-health is an enabler (Waegemann)
15:15 Too much unfiltered information (Mattison)
16:55 Movement to a knowledge-based society (Waegemann)
18:00 Machine-data interactions, escalated to experts as needed (Mattison)
19:00 Vision of personalized shopping experiences to choose healthy food (Balch)
19:45 Evolution of information sharing in healthcare (Waegemann)
21:40 How computers have changed teaching to focus on heuristics (Mattison)
23:15 Understanding context (Versel)
24:10 How m-health will change health information management (Waegemann)
24:35 The evolution of transcription and HIM (Claudia Tessier)
26:30 Changes in how information is collected (Balch, Mattison)
27:30 What you can’t find on the Internet (Mattison)
28:15 Audience comment: The future will favor those who can integrate information
28:55 Different types of information processing (Mattison)
29:30 Audience question: Where does consumer trust come from in healthcare?
31:25 Loss of collegiality due to EHRs and text messaging (Mattison)
33:45 Trusted entities (Mattison)
35:40 Generational differences in trust of doctors (Versel)
37:40 Lessons from early adopters (Balch)
39:25 Migration away from direct social contact (Mattison)
41:00 Systems for patients to describe their conditions (Waegemann)
41:50 Clinical Document Architecture to handle structured and unstructured data (Mattison)
44:35 Gaming for better health (Balch/Mattison)
45:50 Audience question: How much leadership does Kaiser show in this area?
46:30 Aneesh Chopra’s visit to KP’s Garfield Center (Mattison)
48:20 Can other organizations close the digital divide? (Waegemann/Mattison)
49:45 Kaiser looking at open-source technology (Mattison)
50:25 Power of text messaging and social networking (Balch)
50:50 Encouraging healthy behavior through information (Waegemann)
51:40 Embracing basic mobile technologies (Versel)
53:25 Mobile is changing economics of healthcare (Mattison)
54:30 Consumers equating more care with better care (Versel)
55:30 Technology vs. cultural attitudes (Mattison)
56:15 Audience comment: Fee-for-service model needs to change
56:40 Kaiser vs. fee-for-service model (Mattison)
58:20 Audience question: What is boundary between health/fitness and clinical/therapeutic apps?
59:25 Standards for evidence-based medicine (Mattison)
1:02:15 Audience question: How do you accelerate cycle time for discovery?
1:02:35 EHR as an observational, enrollment and tracking tool (Mattison)
1:04:00 Consumers will drive app acceptance (Balch)
1:04:20 User interfaces (Waegemann)
1:04:55 No comment (Mattison)
1:05:10 Audience question: Will mobile widen digital divide between healthcare and “enemies” of population health?
1:07:05 Who is custodian of individual data? (Mattison)
1:08:20 Knowing consumer preferences (Balch)
1:08:40 Wish list for m-health (all panelists and some audience members)
1:20:10 “Journey” of mobile health (Waegemann)

October 29, 2010 I Written By

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

Mainstream Media watch, part 200 and counting

Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune had a feature story in the main news section about health IT. With health IT drawing $19.2 billion from the federal stimulus legislation, stories are popping up all over the mainstream media of late.

What struck me, though, is that the reporter went to a medical practice in Vero Beach, Fla., and talked to consultants and experts all over the country, when there’s so much health IT activity and expertise right here in the Chicago area. Notably, NorthShore University Health System in suburban Evanston is the only organization not named Kaiser Permanente to reach Stage 7 on the HIMSS Analytics EMR Adoption Model scale.

To his credit, though, reporter Noam Levey did quote New York City Assistant Health Commissioner Farzad Mostashari, M.D., a rising star in health IT circles.

Also, I recently read a March 3 New York Times story about pharmaceutical-related conflicts of interest among Harvard Medical School faculty. My immediate reaction was that this nothing unique to Harvard, and the story doesn’t even get into the growing controversy about another cash stream flowing from medical device makers.

It also got me thinking that we’ll start to see donations pick up from healthcare software companies once the economic stimulus kicks in. I wonder if the big academic health systems have ethics rules regarding gifts from IT vendors?

March 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.