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Hyperbole doesn’t work in health IT

I’m still rather slammed with work, but I might as well take a few minutes to post on a Friday afternoon to call out someone else who’s pumping up the health IT hype beyond reasonable levels.

A publicist for UnitedHealth Group wanted me to attend yesterday and today’s New York eHealth Collaborative Digital Health Conference in New York City. Never mind the fact that I live in Chicago and the invite came in two days ago. To be fair, though, I was offered phone interviews. I declined based on the second paragraph in the e-mail:

This event is the first and only national summit dedicated specifically to advancing the role of health information technology (HIT). Hundreds of leading stakeholders and thought leaders from across the HIT space will gather under the same roof to discuss the latest technologies, achievements and challenges impacting the industry. HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park is the keynote speaker.

This is the first and only national summit dedicated specifically to advancing the role of health information technology, huh? Other than HIMSS, AHIMA, AMIA, AMDIS, CHIME, ANIA-CARING, iHT2, Health Connect Partners, HL7 and a few more, that is absolutely a true statement. Let’s not leave out the dearly departed TEPR, either.

I hope others didn’t fall for that ridiculous statement.

December 2, 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.

The Medical Records Institute is no more

Following a disappointing turnout at the 25th annual TEPR conference earlier this month, C. Peter Waegemann and Claudia Tessier are moving from the Medical Records Institute to the recently created mHealth Initiative, effectively ending the organization Waegemann founded in the mid-1980s.

“It is time to put our energy into the new and exciting field of cell phones in healthcare. This is where the action is. This is where the future is,” Waegemann says in a press release.

There was much speculation at the lightly attended TEPR that this might be the last year of the conference. Today’s announcement likely seals that fate. The mHealth Initiative will have meetings of its own, starting with a seminar and workshop March 31 in Boston.

Waegemann will serve as executive director of mHI and Tessier as president. Each has a new e-mail address: for Waegemann and for Tessier.

February 20, 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.

James Mault’s TEPR+ keynote

PALM SPRINGS, Calif.—Here’s a quick rundown of today’s keynote address at the TEPR+ conference from James Mault, M.D., director of new products and business development in the Microsoft Health Solutions Group:

He showed data suggesting that more than 90 percent of consumers favor some form of health IT, and framed that in the context of politics, noting that whenever 90 percent of people agree on something, elected officials pay attention. But healthcare organizations often do not. “Why is it that I can go online and see my Starbucks purchase from this morning on my credit card, but I can’t see my cholesterol [test results]?” Mault asked.

Mault reiterated Microsoft’s intention to introduce HealthVault outside the United States “not too long for now.” He did not give a time frame or any geographic clues, but said that Microsoft has had inquiries from with health systems globally, including in South America and Africa.

At least 10 of the Fortune 100 companies are in various stages of updating their human resources sites to link employee portals to HealthVault, according to Mault. Already, technology vendors to Microsoft’s own HR department must make their products compatible with HealthVault.

In showing how HealthVault is being used for telemedicine and mobile applications, Mault showed a slide that included images of Apple iPhones. Shocking perhaps? Mault told me that the Redmond Empire gets royalties for each iPhone sold because Apple links to Microsoft Exchange Server. Mault then whipped out his own iPhone.

Apparently, though, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is not so enthusiastic about the iPhone.

Granted, Ballmer gave this interview in January 2007. Microsoft signed the Exchange Server deal with Apple in March 2008.

February 3, 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.

Quick TEPR report

PALM SPRINGS, Calif.—I’m tired and ragged from finishing up something that could have a huge bearing on my future while also covering TEPR+. I now understand that the “plus” is because the conference has expanded its scope from “Towards an Electronic Patient Record” to include mobile health and interoperability. To this end, the Medical Records Institute formed a new 501(c)(3) called the mHealth Initiative, which is totally unrelated to the eHealth Initiative.

The mHealth Initiative is headed by MRI vice president Claudia Tessier, former executive director of a previous MRI project called the Mobile Health Care Alliance (MoHCA). The new organization, which will pick up the activities of the MRI’s Center for Cell Phone Applications in Healthcare (C-PAHC), has a workshop planned for March 31 and its first annual conference set for Dec. 9-10. Both events will take place in Boston. Additional workshops will be scheduled for June and September.

Other than the added focus on mobile health, there really is nothing “plus” about this, the 25th edition of TEPR. The organizers tell me that about 750 people have registered, down from 1,200 at last year’s meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and from a peak of just under 3,000 five years ago. I can’t say that I saw 750 people here, though. I would be surprised if there were more than a couple of hundred people present at the opening session this morning, and the exhibit hall contains just four rows of booths.

Obviously the economy has had a huge bearing on attendance at all kinds of events in recent months, but the decision to meet in a sunny desert resort town may have backfired. After the HIMSS moved its conference to April from February to avoid the brutal Chicago winter weather, the MRI grabbed the open time slot for TEPR instead of waiting until May. But MRI president Peter Waegemann tells me he heard from many people whose bosses vetoed the idea of sending them to Palm Springs at a time when so many others were losing their jobs. Perhaps if TEPR were back in Dallas or Baltimore this year?

I’ll have more later on some actual content from the meeting, including a fascinating proposal from Keas founder Adam Bosworth, late of Google and Microsoft. And, no, I don’t know what Keas actually does. Bosworth plans to announce something in the next month or two.

February 2, 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.

It’s awards season

We’ve heard the winners or nominees for the Oscars, Golden Globes the SAG Awards and others in the last couple of weeks. Now it’s time for some health IT awards.

HIMSS recently announced its full list of 2008 award winners. Some, like the Davies Award recipients, had been made public earlier:

Industry Service Awards
CHIME-HIMSS John E. Gall Jr. CIO of the Year Award
Patricia Skarulis, VP and CIO, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Nursing Informatics Leadership Award
Rosemary Kennedy, R.N., MBA
Chief nursing informatics officer, Siemens Medical Solutions

Physician IT Leadership Award
Brian R. Jacobs, M.D.
CMIO and executive director, Center for Pediatric Informatics, Children’s National Medical Center

ACCE-HIMSS Excellence in Clinical Engineering/IT Synergies Award
Todd H. Cooper

SHS-HIMSS Excellence in Healthcare Management Engineering/Process Improvement Award
Lawrence E. Dux

Davies Awards of Excellence
Public Health Award of Excellence
• Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority, Cherokee, N.C.
• New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Trenton, N.J.

Ambulatory Care Award of Excellence
• Cardiology Consultants of Philadelphia
• Oklahoma Arthritis Center, Edmond, Okla.
• Palm Beach Obstetrics & Gynecology, Lake Worth, Fla.

Community Health Organization Award of Excellence
• Columbia Basin Health Association, Othello, Wash.
• Community Health Access Network, Newmarket, N.H.
• New York Children’s Health Project, New York City
• White River Rural Health Center, Augusta, Ark.

Organizational Award of Excellence
• Eastern Maine Medical Center, Bangor, Maine

Publication Award
Books of the Year Award
“Developing a Data Warehouse for the Healthcare Enterprise”
By Bryan Bergeron, M.D.

“Keys to EMR Success: Selecting and Implementing an Electronic Medical Record”
By Ronald Sterling, CPA, MBA

Service Awards
Distinguished Fellows Service Award
Robin S. Raiford, R.N.

Outstanding Special Interest Group Member Award
Feliciano Yu, M.D.

Chapter Leader of the Year Award
Barry T. Ross

Lifetime Member Award
• John R. Freeman, Ph.D.
• Barbara Gerhardt
• Robert Kowalski
• Frank C. Overfelt

Board of Directors Service Award
• Margaret Amatayakul
• Victoria M. Bradley, R.N.
• Steven J. Fox, J.D.
• John T. Hansmann
• John C. Wade

John A. Page Outstanding Service Award
Ned Simpson

Leadership Award
• Randy McCleese
• Charles Parker
• Barry T. Ross

Chapter Innovations Award
Runners Up
• Arizona Chapter – Small Chapter
• Tennessee Chapter – Large Chapter

Grand Prize
• Iowa Chapter – Small Chapter
• Southern California Chapter – Large Chapter

HIMSS will recognize the 50 winners (yes, 50) on Saturday, April 4, at the Fairmont Chicago hotel. That’s quite a swanky joint. The only wedding I’ve attended there was black tie.

This week, we’ll find out the winners of the TEPR Awards. I’ll be on site in Palm Springs, Calif., to bring you news from this conference. Meantime, here are the finalists:

Personal Health Record Systems
• CapMed Personal Health Management Suite by CapMed
• Doctations by Doctations Inc.
• myHealtheVet by Department of Veterans Affairs

Hot Products, recognizing innovative products that bring the most benefits or positive change to healthcare.
• Doctations by Doctations Inc.
• iChart EMR by Caretools
• PrivacyLayer, RecruitSource and TrialsFinder by Private Access
• TapChart by ImageTrend

The finalists are making their presentations to judges and conference attendees this morning at the Wyndham Palm Springs Hotel. The winners will be announced Monday morning during the TEPR opening session.

You will notice that the TEPR Awards are down to just two categories. Everything seems to be shrinking. The conference, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, actually is called TEPR+ this year, which may end up being a little ironic. I’m in Palm Springs now, and every indication I’ve gotten so far is that this conference is going to be the smallest TEPR in years.

The latest news is that we’re being asked to enter the conference via the Wyndham rather than main doors of the Palm Springs Convention Center. Perhaps this means that there is construction going on at the convention center, or has TEPR has downsized to the point that it only needs the hotel’s conference center? I’m on my way over there shortly for the pre-conference seminars to find out for myself.

Blame the economy, sure, but interest in and attendance at TEPR has been steadily declining since peaking in 2004 when David Brailer, M.D., gave his first public speech after being named national coordinator for health IT. This time around, most of the vendor meeting requests I have gotten have come from what could be called ancillary service providers, not vendors of core EMR systems. It’s gone back forth in the past, but this year, the Medical Records Institute is emphasizing the TEPR acronym on its own, not the full name, Towards an Electronic Patient Record (or some other variant, such as Towards the Electronic Patient Record or Toward an Electronic Patient Record).

I may have more on this later.

February 1, 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.

Podcast: TEPR Cell Phone Project

The just-completed Towards an Electronic Patient Record (TEPR) conference featured the unveiling of the TEPR Cell Phone Project, an eight-month effort to study and prove the efficacy of the mobile phone as a hub of interoperability in healthcare. (You can read my Digital HealthCare & Productivity story about the project here.)

The Medical Records Institute, which puts on TEPR, is partnering with AllOne Health Group, a Wilkes-Barre, Pa.-based health and wellness services provider, to conduct this test of bottom-up, consumer-controlled health information exchange. The study begins June 1, and results will be released at TEPR 2009 next February.

During Monday’s TEPR Cell Phone Project press conference, I peppered AllOne executives with some tough questions about their plans, and was not shy about voicing my skepticism about personal health records. In a rare show of tact on my part, I did so without offending anyone. In fact, Frank Avignone, director of business and sales development for AllOne Health subsidiary AllOne Mobile, agreed to join me the following day to record this podcast.

Podcast details: Interview with Frank Avignone, director of business and sales development, AllOne Mobile Health, about the TEPR Cell Phone Interoperability Project. Recorded May 20, 2008. MP3, mono, 64 kbps, 10.8 MB. Running time 23:37.

0:54 Background on the company and its technology
2:00 Interoperability study
3:30 Metrics being measured
4:00 Convergence of Dossia, Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault, and the subtle differences
5:50 Technology behind AllOne Mobile Health
6:49 Phone requirements and registration process
8:25 Continuity of Care Record
8:50 Why consumers might accept this technology
10:25 Data input options
11:50 Provider access to data
12:37 Workflow considerations
14:10 Pragmatic approach to uptake
14:35 Logistics of the study
16:25 Study participants
17:30 Mobile phone carriers
19:30 ROI for end users
21:00 Marketing strategy
22:18 Study goals

May 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.

Another black eye for EHRs

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—Sitting in my hotel room the night before the end of TEPR, I just received an article from NextGov, a publication I had not been familiar with, but which seems to have a good amount of health IT coverage. (I might have to pitch some ideas of my own the editor.)

This particular story is alarmingly headlined: “Cyber criminals overseas steal U.S. electronic health records” According to the report, “medical records are a ‘platinum card’ for organized crime, which can rake in millions of dollars from false billings, said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum.”

Another source is quoted as saying stolen U.S. health data, including diagnoses, medical histories, prescriptions, insurance information and Social Security numbers, was found on a Russian-registered server in Malaysia.

Happy reading!

As for TEPR, the conference itself is really small, particularly when compared to the last time in Fort Lauderdale in 2004, when David Brailer delivered his first major speech as national health IT coordinator, and the opening session also included Bill “Dr. HIPAA” Braithwaite and the legendary Dr. Larry Weed.

This year’s conference has been truncated from four days to three, and Cerner and NextGen are among the vendors who are conspicuously absent from the trade show. In fact, Mark Anderson’s AC Group had a bigger booth than McKesson.

For that matter, Google not only was not here, the company held its own event on the opposite coast on Monday to launch Google Health.

However, the educational presentations I’ve been to have been very good, though the compressed schedule means that some time slots had two dozen concurrent sessions, so I missed a few I would have liked to have seen.

I recorded a new podcast here on Tuesday, and hope to have it up soon.

May 20, 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.

Out of hibernation

It’s been since March 29 that I’ve updated this blog. That was much longer than I had anticipated. I know it’s been too long when I start getting e-mails wondering what happened to me. Honestly, I didn’t realize this blog was that popular. Aw, shucks. I know some people have noticed that I haven’t been writing much lately for Digital HealthCare & Productivity either. I will have stories there next week, however.

As I mentioned nearly two months ago, I was buried in a huge assignment from Doctor’s Digest. I’m actually still working on some loose ends. I also took 10 much-needed days for a vacation in Italy. (Thanks, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn for your tips on Florence.)

What’s the occasion of this post? I have plenty of material saved up that will not make it into Doctor’s Digest, and I do plan on posting some of it here once the copy is finalized, likely sometime in June. For now, I choose to comment on next week’s TEPR Conference.

The sponsoring organization, the Medical Records Institute, is expecting just 2,000 people and little more than 100 exhibitors this year. That’s half what the conference drew at its peak three or four years ago. As of today, some of the invited speakers had not even been confirmed.

The spin I’m getting is that the number and quality of educational sessions have been increased. I’ll buy that one because last year featured presentations only from actual users, not vendor representatives.

Also, MRI is planning some special things for next year, the 25th edition of TEPR. First off, it will be Feb. 1-5, 2009, rather than the spring, on account of HIMSS ’09 being in April to accommodate the Chicago weather. (FYI, it was 48 degrees on the shores of Lake Michigan yesterday, May 12. Consider yourself warned.) I will be happy to go to Palm Springs, Calif., for a February TEPR next year.

Secondly, MRI is planning to pump up attendance next year by rolling back prices on registration and exhibit space to the level of the first conference in 1985.

A major focus of this year’s event is going to be the cell phone as a conduit for interoperability. The iPhone certainly is a big part of that. Somehow, I don’t expect Dr. James Mault of Microsoft to mention the iPhone during his TEPR keynote next Tuesday, however.

Speaking of Microsoft, this is the first time I’ve blogged on my new HP Pavilion notebook, running Windows Vista, and it’s really slow when I want to highlight blocks of text for hyperlinks. At least one other site I’ve used recently recomments the Mozilla Firefox browser for a Java application. I wonder if I’m having a similar problem here. Any thoughts?

May 13, 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 Kibbe on personal health information, medical homes, value in healthcare and more

This podcast pretty much covers the entire field. Dr. David Kibbe, senior advisor to the Center for Health Information Technology of the American Academy of Family Physicians, weighs in on health IT in primary care, consumerism, data standards, value-based healthcare purchasing and national IT policy, among many topics we cover in just over half an hour. We recorded this at the 2007 TEPR conference in Dallas last week.

Podcast details: Interview with Dr. David Kibbe at 2007 TEPR conference. MP3, mono, 64kbps, 16 MB, running time 35:09

0:40 Background on AAFP’s Center for Health IT and what he’s doing.
1:40 Personal health records and mobilization of personal health information
2:10 Continuity of Care Record
4:11 Continuity of Care Document and Clinical Document Architecture
5:25 CCR, PHRs and the Internet
6:20 Growth in CCR interest
7:00 PHRs based on XML
Google‘s healthcare plans
8:55 Reliability of health information on the Internet
10:00 Consumers having access to the same information as health professionals
Revolution Health
11:50 Web information and the physician/patient relationship
12:45 Higher expectations among patients
13:45 Consumerism and retail health clinics
15:00 AAFP’s involvement in retail clinics
16:28 Concept of the medical home
18:00 Health information and the elderly
19:12 Model of information homes in other service industries
20:20 Asynchronous communication to help manage patient care
20:46 Reimbursement problems with asynchronous care
21:20 Employers becoming more aware of value in healthcare
22:15 Advice to major healthcare purchasers
23:00 When major changes might happen
23:45 Framing the national debate
25:15 Stark exemption and primary care
26:57 AAFP advice to small practices on the Stark exemption
28:40 Awareness of Stark exemption
30:30 Awareness of the benefits of EHRs
31:42 Certification
33:57 Are products improving because of certification?

May 30, 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.


In the days and weeks leading up to last month’s HIMSS conference, several people, probably hoping to get on my crowded dance card, noted that I was one of the more “important” journalists who covers health IT and healthcare policy. Flattering perhaps, but not exactly true. To me, importance in media is measured by audience size and influence. Based on a couple of recent stories, I really don’t have that much.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week how the price of generic drugs can vary so greatly from pharmacy to pharmacy. The story caught the attention of people all over America, including that of David E. Williams and his Health Business Blog, so much so that it’s generated extra traffic to my own blog the last couple of days. Why? Because I had essentially the same story nearly two years ago, first with this blog post from June 23, 2005, then in a story that ran in the Chicago Sun-Times on Sept. 19, 2005.

Now, the Sun-Times is a major daily newspaper in the nation’s third-largest media market, but it just doesn’t have the readership numbers or the cachet among national policy-makers as does the Journal. Still, I take pride in knowing that I had the story way early—in the same manner Detroit’s WXYZ-TV must have taken pride in having the same story a couple of years before I did.

The same thing happened on a smaller scale two weeks ago, when Government Health IT reported on the demise of the Santa Barbara County Care Data Exchange. That grabbed the attention of most of the healthcare trades nationwide, which is fine, except that Inside Healthcare Computing reported the news on Sept. 16, 2006. The archives are locked for subscribers only, but take my word, it’s there.

I didn’t write the story, though I am a frequent contributor to that publication. No matter, the target audience is more the CIO than the CEO or policy wonk. And guess which group has more clout on a national level?

Then there’s the matter of lifting the ban on cell phones in hospitals, something that’s also suddenly become a hot topic not only in the U.S., but in Britain as well. For the record, the Mobile Healthcare Alliance—a group that actually no longer exists—first put out a report at the 2004 TEPR conference, saying that the risk of hospital-systems interference from cell phones is manageable. Read my coverage here.

March 19, 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.