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Heart Staple

April-1-2011

22:03

The P Wave P waves are caused by atrial depolarization. In normal sinus rhythm, the SA node acts as the pacemaker. The electrical impulse from the SA node spreads over the right and left atria to cause atrial depolarization. The P wave contour is usually smooth, entirely positive and of uniform size. The P wave duration is normally less than 0.12 sec and the amplitude is normally less than 0.25 mV. A negative P-wave can indicate depolarization arising from the AV node.

Note that the P wave corresponds to electrical impulses not mechanical atria contraction. Atrial contraction begins at about the middle of the P wave and continues during the PR segment. The PR Segment PR segment is the portion on the ECG wave from the end of the P wave to the beginning of the QRS complex, lasting about 0.1 seconds. The PR segment corresponds to the time between the end of atrial depolarization to the onset of ventricular depolarization. The PR segment is an isoelectric segment, that is, no wave or deflection is recorded. During the PR segment, the impulse travels from the AV node through the conducting tissue (bundle branches, and Purkinje fibers) towards the ventricles. Most of the delay in the PR segment occurs in the AV node. Although the PR segment is isoelectric, the atrial are actually contracting, filling the ventricles before ventricular systole.

The QRS Complex In normal sinus rhythm, each P wave is followed by a QRS complex. The QRS complex represents the time it takes for depolarization of the ventricles. The Q wave is not always present. The R wave is the point when half of the ventricular myocardium has been depolarized. The normal QRS duration range is from 0.04 sec to 0.12 sec measured from the initial deflection of the QRS from the isoelectric line to the end of the QRS complex.

Normal ventricular depolarization requires normal function of the right and left bundle branches. A block in either the right or left bundle branch delays depolarization of the ventricles, resulting in a prolonged QRS duration.

The ST Segment The ST segment represents the period from the end of ventricular depolarization to the beginning of ventricular repolarization. The ST segment lies between the end of the QRS complex and the initial deflection of the T-wave and is normally isoelectric. Although the ST segment is isoelectric, the ventricules are actually contracting.

The T Wave The T wave corresponds to the rapid ventricular repolarization. The wave is normally rounded and positive.

 

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May-1-2010

18:51

April-22-2010

10:17

Top 10 actions

Portable ECG MonitorEarth Day Canada president Jed Goldberg has identified his top 10 actions to make every day Earth Day.

1. Think before you act. Shopping has become a form of entertainment. While it can be difficult to avoid the seduction of advertising, Goldberg advises to think about what you need, not what you want, before you buy.

2. It’s all about conservation. Goldberg says we need to make the shift from being “consumers” to “prosumers” – producing consumers – to conserve energy and resources. Planting a garden is a great way to start.

3. Go vegetarian one day a week. Meat production has a huge environmental impact. Eating lower on the food chain just one day a week helps to conserve water, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve valuable farmland.

4. Rethink convenience. Goldberg says people do things because they perceive that it’s easier, but easy isn’t always what’s best. Doing things in an environmentally responsible way can ultimately end up being more convenient and much cheaper, too! One example, stop buying bottled water and use tap water instead.

5. Eat and shop locally. Most of our food travels thousands of kilometres to get to our dinner plates. Ditto for our clothing and other consumers goods. Supporting local businesses also helps to build strong local communities.

6. Vote with your dollar. Advertisers and producers are conscious of what consumers want says Goldberg. Take the time to express your opinion to store owners with your wallet and your voice.

7. Use active transportation. Whether it’s walking, cycling or rollerblading, when you use your body to get from A to B instead of a motorized vehicle, you not only get the benefit of improved fitness while reducing your environmental impact, but you get to experience your community.

8. Borrow, don’t buy. Consider renting, borrowing or sharing what you need.

9. Refashion your yard. Instead of trying to achieve the perfect, lawn, why not get rid of the lawn altogether. Plant native shrubs, wildflowers or a vegetable garden. You’ll use fewer resources and free yourself from the lawnmower, too!

10. Use your sphere of influence. Collectively we have a great influence over our politicians, says Goldberg. Engage your family, friends, coworkers and community.

More info at

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April-18-2010

23:59

Our pancreas is affected by diabetes – specifically, Type 2.Our body contains glucose found in the blood stream, which it gets from the sugar in food. Our body uses the glucose, but only when it goes into our blood cells and the insulin released by our pancreas converts it. Insulin production and utilization is difficult for someone who lives with Type 2 diabetes .There is a lot of glucose in the body, but your cells cannot locate them.

The American Diabetes Association has the duty of looking for information regarding this important medical condition. 23.6 million individuals living in America currently have diabetes, and because of this the country is seen as very unhealthy. Ninety percent of this figure has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes and the tendency to be overweight usually run in the family. If there is too much glucose in your body, it could result in serious internal organ damage and affect one’s nervous system.

Living with Diabetes

A life with Type 2 diabetes is best lived in a healthy way. Diabetics will find that healthy practices will have a huge effect on them. Simple actions like eating healthy food and exercising are considered as healthy practices. Keeping the levels of your glucose within the appropriate range ensures you stay away from health complications.

To check the levels of blood glucose in your body, you can do the common finger prick test. Physicians say that such a test is comparable to the HbA1c test when tracking the glucose fluctuations in your body. This HbA1c test works by determining how high your glucose levels are and by identifying the blood’s exact glycated hemoglobin percentage. According to results of the A1c tests, people who have diabetes maintain their levels at seven percent. A seven percent maintaining level of a1c, according to the CDC, can dramatically reduce the risks of this disease by around forty percent.

Too-Tight Controls

Many studies in the medical field show that if your a1c levels are below seven percent it could mean a bad thing. People who use insulin and people who have median a1c levels have a higher death risk, according to the Seattle Lancet and Swedish Medical Center’s studies. Other tests maintain that keeping your a1c level at seven percent is still on the healthy side. Accredited endocrinologist Matt Davies shares that seven percent is healthy but it is still important for physicians to consider a patient’s medical history before implementing treatment.

About the Author – Kristina Ridley writes for the bloodless glucose meter blog , her personal hobby blog focused on healthy eating and tips to measure blood glucose levels at home to help people understand early diabetes symptoms.

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April-6-2010

17:26

SmartOne ECG is a self-service consumer portable heart monitor for checking abnormal heart rhythms.

The device can safely measure electrical activities of the heart using one’s finger tips without the need for any trained technician.Upon placing thumbs on the sensor panel of the portable ecg machine,a digital output of the heart rhythm is displayed.If the reading displays any abnormal heart rhythm,it indicates the user the type of abnormal heart rhythm.Atrial fibrillation is an important risk factor for stroke.

According to the WHO,15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke. Of these, 5 million die and another 5 million are left permanently disabled, placing a burden on family and community.

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Christina's Considerations

January-18-2012

13:00

The Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Healthcare Executive includes an article I wrote for the Satisfying Your Customers column, titled Engaging Staff with Social Media.  In the article I describe how successful leaders will prepare for the shifts occurring in the healthcare workplace; including the push for efficiency and new generations.  I also include a few examples of where social media is contributing to a more effective workplace in hospitals. 

Social media technologies are tools that can help increase customer, physician and employee satisfaction. I hope you will take the time to read the article and share your thoughts.

Another blog post that includes a few great workplace examples is list of 20 hospitals with inspiring social media strategies

January-17-2012

17:41

I was interviewed for a recent article in Becker's Hospital Review that explores the common belief that older adults have more difficulty accepting and using technology.  It includes some great comments about "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" by the other interviewees.   

Speaking for myself, as a late Boomer, I can say that I certainly am a digital immigrant who has embraced technologies as I have found value to my work and life.  And, I believe that this applies to older adults in general.  There are differences in the generations and the oldest may need the most convincing and support, but it isn't that they can't incorporate technology into their daily life.

I remember older adults thinking it was a bit silly for people to carry around a cell phone.  But, once they began to realize value - they feel safer because they can call for help -- then older adults start using the technology just as anyone else.   If I'm correct, I also I believe this is how telephone adoption went.  It took a long time for it to catch on and for people to find value in the technology.  

Health IT is just one more advancement that needs to progress through the adoption cycle.

 

January-15-2012

15:28

I've posted on the subject of volunteersyoung people working in hospitals and those considering a career in healthcare administration, previously.  However, this last week, I've been specifically researching Candy Stripers, who are sometimes referred to as Junior Volunteers.

Candy-stripers
Candy Stripers at Doctors Memorial Hospital, FL

I'd love to here your thoughts or stories about the youngest of our hospital workforce!  If you prefer something more personal, send me an email: Christina {at} cthielst {dot} com

I'm thinking I should also start researching the Pink Ladies, too!

January-12-2012

7:43

The American College of Physicians has released an update to its Ethics Manual and new or expanded sections include, among others, confidentiality and electronic health records, health system catastrophes, boundaries and privacy, social media and online professionalism.  I really appreciate the manual and have pulled out a few key points based upon the topics I cover often on this blog.

  • Communication through email or other electronic means can supplement face-to-face encounters; however, it must be done under appropriate guidelines. Issuance of a prescription or other forms of treatment, based only on an online questionnaire or phone-based consultation, does not constitute an acceptable standard of care. (Exception: on-call situations) (pg 75)
  • Shifting principles guide the patient-physician relationship during catastrophes and physicians need to be prepared for decision making and the just delivery of healthcare. (pg 80)
  • Physicians who use online media, such as social networks, blogs, and video sites, should be aware of the potential to blur social and professional boundaries.  They therefore must be careful to extend standards for maintaining professional relationships and confidentiality from the the clinic to the online setting.  Physicians must remain cognizant of the privacy settings for secure messaging and recording of patient-physician interactions, as well as, online networks and media and should maintain a professional demeanor in accounts that could be viewed by patients or the public. (pg 81)

 

 All Changes to the Manual since the 2005 (fifth) edition

ACP Ethics Manual

January-11-2012

8:45

Healthcare-associated infection data on all hospitals in Califorinia has been released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).  This means anyone can see the nosocomial infection rates of their local hospital by unit.  But, I urge some caution among consumers with comparing rates of different hospitals and units. Instead, this data should be used to prepare questions and for a discussion with your physician or the hospital.  Hospitals may be interested in using this data to benchmark themselves against other hospitals.

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections that patients develop during the course of receiving healthcare treatment for other conditions. They can happen following treatment in healthcare facilities including hospitals as well as outpatient surgery centers, dialysis centers, long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and community clinics. They can also occur during the course of treatment at home. They can be caused by a wide variety of common and unusual bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

HAIs are the most common complication of hospital care, occurring in approximately one in every 20 patients. The following HAIs occurring in hospitalized patients are required to be reported to the CDPH by all California general acute care hospitals:

Data is also available on a couple of hospital practices that that contribute to a reduction in HAI rates and length-of-stay.

 

 

January-10-2012

12:53

I participated in this morning's Gartner Worldwide IT Spending Forecast.  Gartner, the technology research giant, brought together some wonderful speakers who shared information that I feel is important to healthcare -- especially at this moment in time.  The issues will have major revenue implications for vendors (perhaps leading to service changes) and could delay current and planned IT initiatives (EHR adoption, HIE, etc) of healthcare organizations.

The floods in Thailand in October of 2011 severely impacted fabrication facilities and this has lead to a shortage of hard drives. It is predicted that it will take at least until the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2012 for the industry to get back to meeting demand.  There is some uncertainty about this timeline.

This means:

  • There will be storage and server component shortages.  Storage will not be cheap and providers will need to be efficient.
  • Virtualization (the cloud) may be a more affordable option.
  • We can expect longer lead times for delivery, backlogs and double ordering of products.
  • We can expect an increase in costs over the short term (re-assess those budget projections you made last year)

One lesson that comes from this situation is to have multiple geographic locations for the manufacturing of components to help prevent business disasters like this one.  In this case all of our (the world's) eggs (hard drives) are manufactured in one basket (Thailand).

PC and software spending is down due to the downturn in the economy.  But, there was one bit of good news that I pulled from the discussion on software.  Spending on software (tools) for collaboration is increasing.  Companies are investing in technologies that will help them stay competitive and this means tools that will help their employees collaborate will reduce the need to bring on additional people. 

Now, I've been seeing this in other industries and have started to see it trickle into healthcare.  With health reform upon us, I hope my friends in the hospital start thinking a little more out of the box and how they too can leverage collaborative tools (aka social media) to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace.


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Crossover Healthcare

April-21-2011

1:58

Peeps – sorry for the radio silence. Will make it up to you with this: http://ht.ly/4EMV8


January-4-2011

16:18

Hew (hyū) v.

     

  1. To make or shape with or as if with an ax
  2. To cut down with an ax
  3.  

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” – Michaelangelo


An unfinished Michealangelo sculpture.

I just re-read this quote – I think it is a powerful metaphor for any innovator that is out there trying to change the world.They are the ones that can see the fully defined, fully articulated, and fully functional end product within the building blocks that others pass off as mere landscape material. I think this gift of vision – this ability to “see” what others cannot – and the doggedness to stick to the mindless chipping away until others can see it enough to give you the tools you need to finish it off.

We are privileged to be working on a HUGE project right now with a highly innovative company that sees the value of what we are doing and wants to be a part of changing health care. It has been fun to work with them to begin the process of “hewing” away and to literally see the game changing product we have always seen begin to take shape from the dust, the chipped stone, the dirty hands, and the bleeding fingers. The process of discovery and refinement is almost as fun as seeing how the end product will move people.


December-21-2010

23:29

I am on an email list of Bill DeMarco’s, a reputable industry insider who has written and consulted extensively in the physician group and medical management space. He recently sent me a note about several physician aggregation events in New Jersey.

For some reason it struck a nerve with me . . . which led me to fire off the response below:

Bill,

I thought we already saw this movie?

My question for you . . . besides banding together in some megagroup – what are these physicians doing to actual change the delivery of medicine? ACO is just the latest buzzword excuse to aggregate physicians under a new moniker and a supposed new model.

I am highly suspect that these physicians are doing anything to change the relationship with their patients, to use enabling technology to create team based care, or actually be accountable for the outcomes they produce. What systems are they using to tie themselves together? What financial alignment do they have? What measures are they using to demonstrate superior outcomes? What about the patient experience – 7 minute visits that push pills as the “treatment” won’t get it done in the future.

I think your closing statement, “Representatives from Summit and Optimus were unavailable for comment” says it all.

Am I seeing this the wrong way? Is there anything new about this model this time around? Am I getting old enough to see these things cycle through?

PS – and no, I don’t mean a wolf. The sheep get nervous and band together waiting to get pounced on by wolves.


December-15-2010

3:31

I don’t even think there is anything to say about this picture:

This is why our health care system as current constructed is a massive #FAIL. Obamacare does NOTHING to change this.

 


November-25-2010

15:52

Relevant (rĕl’ə-vənt)

1. Having to do with the matter at hand; to the point

I read with amusement Susanna Fox’s redux review about the relevance of Health 2.0 in general and in changing patient’s behavior specifically.  Here questions reveals her bias in a very limited definition of Health 2.0 that I attempted to abolish originally in some of my bantering with Matthew Holt. I always saw Health 2.0 as a “movement” that would not be defined so much by its technology but rather enabled by it. As an “enabler”, the technology can help people do new things in new ways but I never believed technology in and of itself  had the power to truly change health, health behaviors, or health care delivery in and of itself.

That is why my definition of health 2.0 was always more expansive and contemplated an entire “movement” to the next generation health care “system”. This new system must include new delivery models, new financing mechanism, and the new tools and technology that bring all of this together in a simple, efficient, and affordable way.  Clearly this next generation of care would include technology, the new tools, but until we had a new delivery system that is financed in a new way we are going to continue to have the same behaviors across the patient, physician, provider, and payor continuum.

So Susanna, I don’t think your version of Health 2.0 (Tools and Technology) do much to get us to the behavior change you seek. In fact, getting to the root of behavior change requires almost a religious experience. Interestingly enough, the health care industry provides plenty of “religious” experiences including passing close to death, unbelievably poor customer experiences that invoke deep passions (ie, the birth of ePatient Dave), and promise of a far better world than we currently enjoy. So while the tools and technology show us what is possible, health care delivery and health finance are the catechismal doctrines we must reform first that actually incent the behavioral change we all seek.

So is Health 2.0 Relevant?  I think it depends on your definition!


November-4-2010

2:25

Extirpating (ĕk’stər-pāt’) v.

  1. To pull up by the roots.
  2. To destroy totally; exterminate.
  3. To remove by surgery.

I recently took a great road trip with my two boys. We rented one of the new Kia Soul’s which my boys recognized from a very funny commercial developed to highlight its hipster (hamster?) vibe. The commercial reminded me of the old Hamburger A or Hamburger B commercials from Wendys back in the late 80′s wherein this ludicrous contrast is set up to demarcate the dichotomy between two distinct choices.

This modern reinvention of that age old contrast struck me because it is something that I deal with everyday in explaining Crossover Health to people. It all stems from a pervasive misconception about the term “Health Insurance”

Understanding the components parts of our modern conception of "Health Insurance" is the our first step toward meaningful reform.

The challenge is that “Health Insurance” is a confused term which most people equate with both Health Care (care delivery) and Health Finance (how you pay for it). Our current employer based system (wherein your employer provides and in most cases pays for your insurance) as well as a third party insurance payment system (we have the insurance pay for us) creates all kinds of weird incentives but also results in no accountability in terms of cost, quality, or outcome. It is currently imploding before our eyes.

Our reaction, both opportunistic as well as obligatory, is to do something totally different by blowing up the current Health Insurance model and separating out Health Care from how you pay for it (Health Financing). We say that there is a better way to do BOTH – pay your physician directly for the care you need and then get smart about how you pay for it with the right insurance product. In fact, you should “self insure” with the highest deductible plan you can find and then take responsibility for your health for all the small stuff or hire someone to do that for you (like Crossover Personal Health Advisory Service). There is no reason to intermediate with a parasitic organizations that are taking your premium dollars and wasting it on overhead, fancy offices, mindless phone trees, and my all time favorite “this is not a bill” disinformation pamphlets.

As people begin to take this in (they always get how the practice model is a radically improvement), they immediately revert back to the combined “Health Insurance” concept.  Does Crossover Health want to replace my current “Health Insurance”? The answer is slightly nuanced, but a resounding YES!  I want to replace what you call “Health Insurance” with a direct “Health Care” product (Crossover Health) and a smarter Health Finance product (highest deductible you can get).

We believe there are large and significant opportunities to roll this into a single product that can be purchased by employers, families, and other organizations seeking fresh alternatives that can demonstrate not only trend bending improvements but trend busting outcomes.


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Medical Software Guides

January-16-2012

11:33

By Sheldon Needle

The real problem of an established medical practice moving into the realm of EHR is not the cost of the medical software package; it is not the training necessary for staff; and it is not security and backups.

The real problem of moving into EMR/EHR is the problem of unstructured medical data.

If you are involved in a new or relatively new practice, this is a no-brainer. Begin with a serious search to compare medical software vendors who are available to answer your questions honestly. It is not truly so difficult to get on a friendly medical screen to enter your patient’s blood pressure or lab test values. You can get used to that.

Neither is it difficult to take notes on a notebook that upload to the EHR system.

The real problem is taking your notes and dictation on a patient that go back 15 years and finding a way to get his possible symptoms, his worry about IBS, his headache history, and his worries over his children into a metrically available rendition that that does not take you or a member of your practices days to decipher. These notes are usually on dictation, hand written notes, and referral letters.

The concerns are many: this can take what feels to be forever, and the anxiety issues and unclear symptoms may not translate easily into metrics but may be critically important in future diagnoses.

There are two critical questions here:

  1. 1) Is it worth it? and
    2) If it is worth it, what to do to make this work efficiently?

In the long run, it doesn’t even matter if it is worth it. It will happen. Medicine as well as the rest of our cultural world, is becoming electronically-based whether we like it or not. But in the long run, it is worth it. Think of a patient going in to the hospital after a car accident, all by himself, and having all his data available to the admitting doctor in an instant: blood type, history, etc.

Think of a patient being referred to you, the specialist, and having all his patient history available in less than a minute. What a time saver! What insight!

Medical informatics has a number of methodologies it is using to translate unstructured data into useful and structured data.

Three basic methodologies exist to accomplish this:

  • String matching
  • Natural language processing for Medicine (NLP), which uses syntactic rules in extracting data from text documents
  • Concept-based indexing which uses data base codes to group and relate medical concepts

These methods will be refined, utilized, and integrated in some way into most decent medical vendor software packages over the next few years. For you the physician or practice manager, this may start to pay off in a while, but you still have to get from hand written records into the database.

The obvious way to proceed makes use of our culture idea of, “going forward”:

  1. Start with today’s records being input into the database electronically – this is the easy part.
  2. Then get help in moving 1 year of back data scanned and automated. Get someone technically savvy and talk to the support people whose EHR software you are considering about OCR (optical character recognition) software that may be available from vendors.
  3. Most vendors of decent repute will have voice recognition software incorporated into their total EHR solutions. Have them demonstrate how well it works in moving data into their files.

The real message to practitioners moving to electronic health records is, don’t look at the top of the mountain when you start climbing, just put one foot in front of the other. Delaying the climb will not get you anywhere, but starting the march will move faster than you think!

Source:

January-10-2012

14:26

Having recently spent time as an observer in a hospital setting, I was struck by the lack of intelligent planning and forethought made for doctors trying to move into an EMR / EHR environment.

Though I saw a well-known EHR panel on the computer screens within an ICU, and the EHR being used to record certain patient data, doctors were taking their notes in long-hand. Later on the same day I saw the same doctors transcribing their notes onto their computers. The doctors, doing double duty on note taking were not available to their patients because they were acting as secretaries.

When a large clinical environment is incorporating an EHR it has to be done in a modular way that does not impact productivity any more than it has to. The task is hard enough. If you are using an EHR to record point of care patient information, give your doctors a Notebook so they can take their notes electronically. In fact, insist on electronic note-taking. Incorporate change with some forethought to peoples’ time and effort.

This real-life observation just underscores the need to plan for transition to an EMR rather than throwing an institution into the chaos of change for its own sake, or for the sake of Meaningful Use incentive payments. As in all things, the old US Coast Guard motto holds true: Semper Paratus! Always be ready and prepared.

Most good EMR / EHR systems can offer medical clients some guidance as to best practices in incorporating EMR / EHR systems within their practices.

December-29-2011

12:20

By Sheldon Needle

The prospects for EHR in the coming year are exciting but more than a little daunting.  The issue is really how to find an EMR/EHR system that will organize and centralize the functions of your practice, without bankrupting you and throwing your staff and yourself into turmoil.

If you look at the websites for EMR vendors today, you can see that the functions they describe within their system –the integration of clinical records with practice management data, e-prescription, patient portals — could conceptually do wonderful things for you and for your patients in the way you handle their individual cases, but many of the details are still not working smoothly.

Here are some of the things to be aware of:

  1. If you are getting a client/server system, make sure your internet connection has the bandwidth to support the sheer number crunching your system will need.  Otherwise your system may well freeze up on you or move at the speed of molasses.
  2. If you are a small practice and getting SAAS software, hurray for you!  This could be just the right way to move towards EMR.  But beware of sticker shock.  The prices quoted to you on-line for monthly subscriptions to SAAS may well not mention additional fees you need to pay for licensing, installation, initial training.  Make sure everything is clearly stated in your contract.
  3. Think hard about how you are going to transition your current paper based system to digital records.  Who will do the scanning?  What will you do with your dictation?   The whole issue of free form data (things like scanned documents that need to be OCR’ed in order to get into the database, your dictated notes, etc.).  It is not enough to just get everything on paper scanned.If you can afford to get a service that does transitions like this for a reasonable fee, consider this as a viable strategy.  It may save you lots of headaches.
  4. Not everyone can necessarily get the benefit of “Meaningful Use” incentive payments right away.  It will depend on the nature of your practice, your specialty, your patient base, as well as how many Medicare or Medicaid patients you service, just to name a few variables. Do not let “Meaningful Use” be the only criterion you use in evaluating EMR software.
  5. Find a company that will do serious training for you and your staff, and will not nickel and dime you for every question you have for them as you move into the implementation and use phase.

Remember, always read the fine print and ask every question you need to. Know that EMR software decisions is a very competitive business. The vendors need you just as much as you need them!

December-23-2011

14:42

By Sheldon Needle

5010 is not only a date 3,000 years in the future: ANSI 5010 is the newest version of the HIPAA transaction standards regulating electronic transmission of medical and healthcare transactions. The existing standard is called 4010, and 4010 does not support ICD-10 coding.

The current coding standard for diagnosis and procedure coding is the ICD-9, and it has outlived its possibilities –it limits the number of new procedure and diagnostic codes that can be created.

This is how the CMS.gov (center for Medicare and Medicaid services, at: http://www.cms.gov) defines the ICD-10:

About ICD-10
ICD-10-CM/PCS (International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition, Clinical Modification/Procedure Coding System) consists of two parts:

  1. ICD-10-CM for diagnosis coding
  2. ICD-10-PCS for inpatient procedure coding

ICD-10-CM is for use in all U.S. health care settings. Diagnosis coding under ICD-10-CM uses 3 to 7 digits instead of the 3 to 5 digits used with ICD-9-CM, but the format of the code sets is similar.

ICD-10-PCS is for use in U.S. inpatient hospital settings only. ICD-10-PCS uses 7 alphanumeric digits instead of the 3 or 4 numeric digits used under ICD-9-CM procedure coding. Coding under ICD-10-PCS is much more specific and substantially different from ICD-9-CM procedure coding.

The transition to 5010 is supposed to happen by January 1, 2012. This means that electronic transmissions including claims, eligibility inquiries and remittance advices must be made in a 5010-compliant format. Healthcare providers, health plans and clearinghouses for transactions are all expected to upgrade their transmissions. Non-compliance may result in claims denied or slower payment.

Systems that are certified as ONC-ATCB for 2011/2012 are already 5010 compliant. If you are contemplating buying a system that is so certified, you do not have to worry about the software compliance, but you do need to educate your staff, including yourself, if you are the physician or the P.A., on what the differences between 4010 and 5010 mean to their everyday work.

If you are using old medical software that has not been updated, or are contemplating installing software that is not certified as ONC-ATCB for 2011/2012, you need to update to a newer version, or face delays and uncertainties in your billing and claims submission. In other words, do some serious upgrading, or else!

December-4-2011

8:47

By Sheldon Needle

November 30, 2011: Today HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced incentives to speed the adoption and use of health IT in the form of meaningful-use qualified EHR in doctors’ offices and hospitals nationwide, which will improve health care and create jobs nationwide.

The new administrative actions announced today, which will be made possible by provisions of the HITECH Act, will loosen requirements for doctors and other health care professionals to receive incentive payments for adopting and meaningfully using health IT.

“When doctors and hospitals use health IT, patients get better care and we save money,” said Secretary Sebelius.  “We’re making great progress, but we can’t wait to do more. Too many doctors and hospitals are still using the same record-keeping technology as Hippocrates. Today, we are making it easier for health care providers to use new technology to improve the health care system for all of us and create more jobs.”

The press release continues to state: “HHS also announced its intent to make it easier to adopt health IT.  Under the current requirements, eligible doctors and hospitals that begin participating in the Medicare EHR (electronic health record) Incentive Programs this year would have to meet new standards for the program in 2013.  If they did not participate in the program until 2012, they could wait to meet these new standards until 2014 and still be eligible for the same incentive payment. To encourage faster adoption, the Secretary announced that HHS intends to allow doctors and hospitals to adopt health IT this year, without meeting the new standards until 2014. Doctors who act quickly can also qualify for incentive payments in 2011 as well as 2012.”“ (The italics are ours.)

We need to understand what acting quickly means: buying in 2011? Incorporating EHR within the next month, so that meaningful use occurs in 2011? This is not yet clear.

HHS is redoubling its effort to reach out with information, education, and the possibility of incentive payments to doctors and hospitals and vendors about stepping up the pace of transitioning practices and HER software to meet standards of Meaningful Use. What Meaningful use means to the individual practice depends on size, degree of implementation of the EHR, and the nature of the client base (how many Medicare or Medicaid patients, for instance, figures into the formula of Meaningful Use.

The Obama Administration is working to create a nationwide network of 62 Regional Extension Centers, comprised of local nonprofits, to help eligible health care providers learn how to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and meaningfully use health IT.

See the HHS press release, at: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2011pres/11/20111130a.html to learn more.

Keep your eyes on the newspapers, government announcements and on this blog to learn about EMR and EHR news and updates.

November-21-2011

11:30

By Sheldon Needle

You know that your medical practice will have to bite the EMR bullet sooner or later (actually, sooner). The digital handwriting is on the tablet, isn’t it? So what is it stopping you from moving ahead at a planned pace rather than being forced into converting your medical practice to an EMR at the 11th hour?

Here are some of the most common obstacles people face in converting their practices to the use of electronic medical record software, and here are some strategies to deal with them or get the process going:

1. How will we migrate from paper to digital images? Conversion of paper medical records to digital format: If you have your eye on an EMR, learn how tolerant it is of varying formats: does it accept PDF files? JPG format? Ascii text files? Extracts from excel files?

Don’t bit off more than you can chew to begin. If you are practice with reams of folders full of paper files to convert, decide how many years back you need to go in getting your EMR up and running. Perhaps you can start with one year of files via EMR? Or perhaps you need to go much further back?

Look into the possibility of having a consultant specializing in data conversion take charge of your files. There are companies that specialize in just such medical data conversions. If you are really desperate, hire your responsible college students, make the specs clear, and pay her decently!!

2. How will we train everyone in such a new system? Training your self and your staff: Once you have chosen your EMR system, engage the company’s own training staff; that way, you are sure you are being oriented in the current system, using the right documentation. Before you chose your EMR, see what kind of training options the company offers. You might go for a short orientation up front, with a good help desk that is available 24/7. Check reliable Electronic medical records ratings to see which companies provide good in person and on the phone / online support

3. Do we have to set up all the hardware and maintain the software? I don’t think we can manage that. Consider a cloud-based EMR solution: If you are reluctant to invest in a server and commit to the upkeep of hardware and software, consider a Web-based EMR solution, in which you log onto an EMR that worries about security, and updates to hardware and software.

4. How can I compare products so that my practice knows what it is getting into? How much can I trust referrals from other practices? Don’t put all of your EMR decision eggs into one basket: While personal referral are extremely helpful and reassuring, not all are meaningful for your unique EMR practice situation. There are many good EMR products to choose from, and each has its strengths, and its weaknesses.

The right choice will depend as much on the nature of your medical practice and the answers to many questions: What is your medical specialty? How many employees do you have? How expensive is the EMR, per year? How much money can you dedicate to investing in your EMR annually? Can you integrate your medical billing software with your proposed new EMR? Can you afford to hire a dedicated IT employee? How comfortable you and the others in your practice are with using an electronic device as the main source of medical input to your system. These are just a few of the many questions you need to ask yourself.

Talk to people in other practices, yes; but learn to ask the right questions and compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Great EMR comparison tools are available to you at no charge, and they can educate you to ask the right questions and maintain a solid baseline for comparison when choosing an EMR.

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January-19-2012

20:10

It seems like everyone I talk to or interact with in the Health IT world is in full on HIMSS 12 preparation mode. I only attended my first HIMSS 2 years ago in Atlanta. So, I’m mostly a newbie at HIMSS. I sometimes long for the days when I just went to HIMSS with little real planning. I just went and enjoyed myself.

As you can imagine, HIMSS is a perfect place for me and my business. I’ve often told people that the core of my business is great content and advertisers. Turns out that every booth and every person at HIMSS is possibly both. For me, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. So, many exciting things to try (and you might even say you get sick after “eating” too many as the flavors all run together). To be quite honest, I love the entire experience. I was meant for the system overload that happens at HIMSS. I love large crowds of people and being overstimulated. I guess that’s why I love living in Las Vegas (which is also convenient for this year’s HIMSS).

HIMSS Attendee and Exhibitor Count
Enough about me. What can we expect at this fantastic affair called HIMSS 2012? Last year there were 30,000 attendees and I wouldn’t be surprised if this year it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 people attending HIMSS. During an #HITsm twitter chat about HIMSS, I said that there would be at least 1000 vendors exhibiting at HIMSS. If I remember right (I can’t find the tweet), one of the HIMSS staff corrected me and said there would be 1100 companies exhibiting at HIMSS this year.

What does all this mean? Well, as my mother always told me: You can’t do everything. I’d always look at her shaking my head saying, “You’re right….but I’m sure going to try.” I think this describes my approach to HIMSS as well. Although, each year I am getting more selective on what I spend my time doing.

Press at HIMSS
I’m sure that many reading this are wondering how they can get some coverage on the Healthcare Scene blog network at HIMSS. Considering the 40 or so emails from PR people that I have filed away already, I’m going to have to apply a pretty strict filter.

What then are my filters?

First, if you’re an EHR company, then I’m probably interested in connecting with you in some form. Although, if you’re an EHR company that’s just seen me and has nothing new to say, then I’ll probably pass at this HIMSS. To be honest, I could probably fill my entire schedule with just EHR companies considering how many EHR companies there are out there. Plus, I think I’m going to bring around my flip video and do an EHR series called “5 Questions with EHR Companies.” I’ll see how many EHR companies I can get to answer the same 5 questions.

However, an entire week of just EHR talk would be a little rough. Plus, I asked on Twitter if I should look at things outside of EHR and they all said I should. I’m a man for the people, so I must listen. How then could another healthcare IT company get me interested in meeting with them at HIMSS?

The best way to get me interested in talking with your company is to provide something that will be interesting, unique and insightful to my readers. Remember that my main goals are great content and advertising. If you provide me with great content that my readers will love, then I’ll love you and likely write about that content.

I didn’t realize this when I started blogging, but I’m not like a lot of journalists. I don’t go to any conference with stories in mind. I’m not digging around HIMSS to try and find an ACO story for example. Instead, every person that I talk to I’m trying to discover what stories are being told at HIMSS that are worth telling. I’m always happy when people help me find interesting stories.

Social Media at HIMSS 12
Speaking of finding stories. One of the most interesting ways I use to find stories and connect with people is through social media and in particular Twitter (see this post I did on EMR and HIPAA about Twitter). I guarantee you that Twitter usage at HIMSS 12 is going to be off the charts. There is going to literally be no way to keep up. I love the idea that Cari McLean had of the HIMSS Social Media Center summarizing the most important tweets during HIMSS. Granted, that’s an almost impossible task to ask anyone to do.

Of course, the HIMSS related hashtags will be another great way to filter through the various HIMSS related tweets that are happening. Here are some of the ones I’m sure I’ll be using:
#HIMSS12 — official hashtag for the event
#HSMC — HIMSS Social Media Center
#HITX0 — HIT X.0: Beyond the Edge specialty program
#LFTF12 — Leading from the Future specialty program
#eCollab12 — eCollaborative Forum
Here’s a bunch more HIMSS related social media hashtags you might want to consider:

HIMSS Social Media Center
If you love social media like I do, then you’re also going to love the HIMSS Social Media Center. They’re doing a number of Meet the Bloggers sessions again and I’ve been invited to participate in the Health IT Edition of Meet the Bloggers at HIMSS. I’m on the panel along with: Brian Ahier (Moderator) Health IT Evangelist, Mid-Columbia Medical Center, Jennifer Dennard, Social Marketing Director at Billian’s HealthDATA/Porter Research/HITR.com, Neil Versel, Freelance Journalist and Blogger, Carissa Caramanis O’Brien, Social Media Community and Content Director, Aetna. Should make for a pretty interesting conversation. Plus, you know I always like to mix it up a bit.

New Media Meetup at HIMSS
More details coming soon. We’ll have to work on Neil Versel’s idea of starting a Twitter storm to get Biz Stone to come to the HIMSS meetup.

Dates of HIMSS
Be sure to check the dates of HIMSS. As Neil Versel noted, it’s a little different days than it’s been in the past. I personally like these dates better than the other ones.

There you have it. I thought I’d do a short post on HIMSS and I guess I had a lot more to say. I’d love to hear if you’re going to HIMSS. If you know of any events, sessions, parties, announcements, technologies etc. that I should know about at HIMSS, let me know.

And the most exciting part of HIMSS…seeing old friends and making new friends. I can’t wait.

No related posts.


January-18-2012

14:28

One thing that I love about this industry is its willingness to collaborate, and I’m not just talking about collaborative care. I’m talking about healthcare IT’s propensity to brainstorm new ideas as the drop of a hat. Put two HIT folks – be they physician, vendor or blogger – in a room, and 20 minutes later you’re going to have a new idea related to care delivery, product development or possible partnership on your hands. It gets even more prolific when editorially minded marketing folks like me are added to the mix.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how even blogs can foster this sort of collaboration. Last month in “Finding an EMR Job Champion,” I chatted with Rich Wicker, HIMS Director at Shore Memorial Hospital in New Jersey, about how this industry can best align recent graduates of HIT certification programs with training and jobs. Some of you may have noticed several comments left on that post by Sean McPhillips, a man of many hats. He is currently an adjunct instructor at Cincinnati State – a community college in the HITECH College Consortia; project manager at the Kentucky Regional Extension Center; and creator of the HITECHWorkforce.com, a free resource to help students enter the HIT work environment.

In his comments, he advocates for a mentor-protégé program: “Students still need some more help finding jobs. What I think needs to happen is a “Mentor/Protégé” model. That is, pairing students with industry professionals who can mentor them into the industry. I’ve passively done that…to success. I think that will work.” He later followed up with the news that he hopes to work with HIMSS, which is developing a similar program, to get this model off the ground.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with McPhillips a bit more about his idea. I was eager to find out just how he plans to jumpstart it:

It seems as if you’ve been kicking this idea around for a while. How did it come about?
Being with the extension center, I’ve mentored a handful of people along the way, and I think there needs to be a more structured process so that students coming out of these [HITECH College Consortia] programs who want to be mentored have a place to go, they know how to get and stay engaged in the process. I think that there is with HIMSS, but I don’t think it’s really been tightly coupled with the workforce development program.

When I spoke with Helen Figge, Senior Director of Career Services at HIMSS, she was really excited to talk with me, and pointed me to HIMSS’ career development page to look around and see what they have out there. I’m thinking of how we can connect [what they’re already doing] into the workforce development program within the overall HITECH project structure, so that we can connect students who come out of these programs with their local HIMSS chapter, which could then pair them up with a mentor that’s in their region. That’s what’s really missing. That’s what’s really necessary to get people plugged into this profession – especially if they’re coming from outside of this profession.

HIMSS does not already have some sort of relationship with the college consortia?
They kind of do, but I don’t think it’s really tightly coupled. I think HIMSS recognizes this, so they’ve been developing their career development program. They’re near completion of a new, entry-level certification called the CSHIMS certification. That is something where you don’t need to have a whole lot of experience in health information technology, but you need to demonstrate some degree of knowledge in subject matter to obtain that certification. That might be a good way to help these students take the next step into the profession, when they’re looking to get a job. That could be part of the whole mentorship program concept.

Isn’t there a double-edged sword to it financially? Wouldn’t students have to become paying members of HIMSS, and then would they have to pay for certification? If they’re looking for jobs, finances might be tighter than usual.
That’s a great point. The question is, what are the costs associated with certification and becoming a member. There is a student membership discount. There’s a cost to certification, obviously, so these are things that are to be considered. That has not escaped me, so that’s going to be part of my brainstorming session. I’m going to meet up with them in Vegas when I go out to HIMSS.

One of the things I want to be able to do is make this attractive for people, particularly students, and if they have to lay out $500 or $1,000, and they’re already unemployed or they’re financially strapped, it becomes not just a double-edged sword, it becomes a disincentive.

I wonder if the vendors couldn’t get involved and offer scholarships.
It’s funny that you mention scholarships because that might be something the local HIMSS chapters can do. I know the Ohio HIMSS chapter used to do a $1,000 scholarship every year for students. So this might be something that the boards or the individual chapters could subsidize.

If you’re in the HITECH workforce development program, maybe HIMSS would be willing to waive membership for one year. That might be something they may be interested in doing.

This is part of the whole brainstorming session that I’m going to try to have over the next month or so. I’ll vet this through HIMSS over the next couple of weeks and hopefully we’ll come up with a good strategy by the end of February. And then we’ll start piloting it in the March timeframe.

I hope to run into McPhillips in Vegas to see how his chat with the HIMSS career development folks is coming along. It’s nice to know that one industry insider’s idea, and subsequent blog comments, might actually create job opportunity in the industry.

Related posts:

  1. Finding an EMR Job Champion
  2. Emdeon Gets in the Holiday Spirit with Donation of EHR Technology
  3. EMR Job Seekers Get Their Big Break


January-17-2012

12:22

I recently saw a tweet to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) list of “Top 12 Legislative Issues of 2012.” It’s an interesting look into issues that state legislatures will be dealing with in 2012. Plus, it makes an interesting observation at the outset that state budgets have been cut so much in past years that lawmakers won’t have to focus all of their initial energy on budget shortfalls.

Most of the list is not surprising with managing the state budget and jobs are at the top of the list. However, there are a couple healthcare and health IT related sections in their list of top government issues as well.

One of the issues is Medicaid: Efficiencies and quality. It talks about how the tough economy is making the Medicaid budgets in states a real challenge and many are looking for cost containing actions. Plus, it points to ACO type reimbursement based on patients’ health outcomes, medical homes and streamlining services. The ACO part was quite interesting to me. I wonder how much of an effect lack of Medicaid budget will push forward a new model of healthcare.

The disturbing part of the report comes in the “Health: Reform in the states, health care exchanges, technology and benefits. Here’s the section on health IT, the EHR incentive money and HIEs.

HEALTH INFORMATION EXCHANGE: One focus for state legislatures in 2012 will be how to move health care providers, especially those participating in the Medicaid program, toward the adoption of certified electronic health records (EHRs). Essentially, instead of having a different health record at each doctor or provider you visit, an EHR will serve as one file that all of your doctors can see. EHRs, once fully implemented, are expected to provide doctors and health professionals with easier access to patient histories and data, resulting in cost-savings and better health outcomes by removing costly errors and duplications in services.

I love how this basically assumes that by having widespread adoption of EHR software, that we’ll then have one patient record that each doctor you visit can see instead of having a different health record at every doctor. Of course, those of us in the EHR world know that this is a far cry from the reality of EHR software today. In most cases you can’t even share a patient record with someone using the same EHR software as you let alone sharing a patient record with a doctor who is using a different EHR.

The sad part is that whoever wrote these legislative issues must have realized that there was some issue with EHR software exchanging information, because then they wrote the following about the state HIE initiatives.

In addition, states are responsible for building and implementing health information exchanges (HIEs) where those EHRs can be accessed by health care providers. HIEs function like an online file cabinet where your medical record is securely stored, and can be accessed by any doctor or health care professional you visit. By mid-year 2012, every state should have Medicaid EHR Incentive programs in place and will be working toward building an HIE by late 2014 or early 2015 as required by deadlines attached to federal cooperative agreements.

So, wait. If EHR software has created one file where any doctor can access our patient record, then why do we need “an online file cabinet” for our medical records? We know the answer is that we need the online filing cabinet because EHR software isn’t connected and there isn’t one patient record. Each doctor maintains their own patient record and that’s not going to change any time soon.

The above quote also implies that every state is working towards an HIE program per the federal program. I must admit that I haven’t gone through every state, but is every state working on an HIE? I certainly know there are a lot of states working on some sort of HIE project, but I didn’t think that every state had funding for HIE. I guess maybe the question is whether there is any state that doesn’t have some sort of HIE program in the works.

Reading issues described like this, you can understand how government passes legislation with limited understanding. Based on this resource, EHR software creates one patient record. Wouldn’t that be nice if it were the case?

Related posts:

  1. How do ACOs Deal with Non-compliant Patient?
  2. Watching the Leaves Fall and EMRs Install in North Carolina
  3. What’s Next in Health Information Exchange (HIE)?


January-16-2012

10:06

EMR and EHR Readers, have you already started breaking your New Year Resolutions? I know I have. My New Year resolution was a very unambitious I will exercise at least every other day, and I couldn’t hold on to that for a week. However, all is not lost. Even if you’re falling short on fulfilling your resolutions, you can still make a compelling video on some kinds of health IT related resolutions and maybe walk away with a decent cash prize. Don’t know what I’m talking about?

The Office of National Coordinator on Health IT is hosting a health IT challenge. Participants need to create a short (upto 2 mins) in length video that covers:
a) what your health resolution for 2012 is
b) how you will use IT to fulfill your resolution and
c) how you maintain your resolution using health IT tools.

Here are some examples listed on the ONCHIT website:

I will set up an online personal health record for myself (or another family member) so I can have all of my health information conveniently stored in one place.

I will ask my doctor for a copy of my own health records — electronically if available — and help him or her to identify any important information that may be missing or need to be corrected.

I will find an online community that helps me figure out the best ways to manage my health condition (depression, cancer, diabetes, etc.)

I will use an electronic pedometer to help me track my physical activity and will try to take 10,000 steps per day.

I will find an app on my smartphone to help me track my food intake so I can lose 10 pounds by my high school reunion.

I will sign up for a text reminder program on my cell phone to help me stop smoking or remind me to take my medications on time.

Please note that these are just suggestions, not listed topics. In fact ONCHIT encourages you to get creative and create your own HIT resolutions.

Of course, being as it is 2012, and well into Web 2.0fication of our lives, it’s not enough to make resolutions about improving our health. If you want to participate in the ONCHIT challenege, you’ll have to find ways to incorporate health IT into your resolution. I’ve worked pretty much my whole adult life, barring some exceptions, in the IT industry. But even so, I believe that IT can only solve some classes of problems, so I’m a bit wary when developers and programmers bring their hey-I-can-create-an-app-for-that attitudes whenever they’re confronted with any problems. That said, I do think some aspects of health IT can be useful. And I’m excited to see what creative things people will come up with.

No related posts.


January-13-2012

12:40

Time for the next entry covering Shawn Riley’s list of 101 Tips to Make your EMR and EHR More Useful. I met someone at a conference who commented that they liked this series of posts. I hope you’re all enjoying the series as well. This is the second to last post in the series of EMR tips

10. Build performance dashboards, not just quality dashboards
Yes, Dashboards can work well for clinicians, but for support people as well. If you start measuring something and displaying the results of that measurement, then the measurement improves. Study after study has shown this.

9. Flexibility with physician devices is important, but you still need to standardize
I think this is a little bit of an evolving issue. However, it’s unreasonable to expect your IT staff to support every platform, every version, and every type of device out there. Tech innovation is moving way too fast and an attempt to go this route will lead to failure. Create some standards so you don’t have your IT staff spinning their wheels and cursing your name for a bad policy.

8. Do time studies
My gut reaction to this one is two fold. First, get the data. Don’t assume you know the data. Get as much data as possible and focusing on the time it takes to do things is one of the best places to get data since this is incredibly important for users. Second, don’t shy away from the truth. If your EHR software has doubled the time it takes to do something, don’t be afraid to find that out. It’s better to know that there’s a problem and try to fix it than to let the problem fester because you didn’t want to know the truth.

7. Make sure IT shadows the clinicians
I’d probably take this one step further. If your IT doesn’t want to shadow the clinician, then you might want to find other IT. There’s no way that IT can help to design the proper system for the clinicians if they don’t understand the daily processes that the clinician has to do. Clinicians need to be willing to let IT in on what they do as well. It takes two to Tango and this is certainly true when you’re talking about implementing an EHR. It’s not nearly as pretty if they aren’t dancing together.

6. Use predicative analytics
I’m definitely not an expert on predicative analytics and its application, so I’ll just give you Shawn’s summary:
Predictive analytics are old hat in most industries. However, health care hasn’t put PA in a real forefront of the clinical practice. If you want your physicians (especially in a ED / UC) to be able to prepare for trends due to environment or time, make sure to have PA built into your EMR and easily available for all providers.

If you want to see my analysis of the other 101 EMR and EHR tips, I’ll be updating this page with my 101 EMR and EHR tips analysis. So, click on that link to see the other EMR tips.

Related posts:

  1. 101 Tips to Make Your EMR and EHR More Useful – EHR Tips 81-85
  2. 101 Tips to Make Your EMR and EHR More Useful – EHR Tips 61-65
  3. 101 Tips to Make Your EMR and EHR More Useful – EHR Tips 41-45


January-12-2012

13:16

As most of you know, I’m attending the Digital Health Summit at CES this year. As happens at most conferences, it’s hard to blog about the happenings at the conference while attending the conference. Particularly with all the CES traffic issues (it’s a literal zoo) and the packed CES Press Room. Although, I must admit that I haven’t found too many things all that impressive. More on that later.

For today, I thought I’d give you a little picture view of what I call the Garden of Eden booth that United Health Group has at CES (click twice to see full size image):

They seriously have grass on the ground and a wood path through their booth. Plus, they have some of the only benches at CES (many really enjoyed those including myself). They’re also doing the pedometer promotion they did last year at CES and that they did at mHealth Summit, but this time you record your findings through the OptumizeMe app. I better win the iPad for all the walking I’m doing at CES. At least this time we’re not up against the exercise demo lady in the booth across from United Health Group. That was totally unfair (No, I’m not bitter).

Also, I’m surprised how few people know about SOPA. So I thought I’d do my small part to get the word out to more people. SOPA is an abomination that they’re trying to push through Congress. Here’s the tweet I sent out recently about it:

As you can see I’ve put the STOP SOPA badge on my Twitter icon and will be doing it on some other places, likely including the blog logo above. I’m good with legislation that actually works to stop copyright infringement, but SOPA does nothing to stop it and does a lot to really screw up the internet as we know it today. I hope others will join me in helping to stop SOPA. This weekend I’ll see if I can do a full post on why SOPA is bad if people are interested.

No related posts.


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April-26-2010

15:40
Over the last couple of weeks I have been running across various success and failure stories of EMR implementation in various settings, ranging from small practices to large hospital wide implementations. 

The number one factor in a successful EMR implementation from all the read reports have been due to physician/surgeon buy in.  Makes sense, after all these are end users of the applications and if you don't have anyone on the provider side vying for a successful workflow adaptation, there is no reason to implement an EMR.  Also, if you have an M.D. as your champion, won't the rest of the staff have to buy in for fear of replacement of someone who will?  I know in other occupations, what the boss says, goes.  The true is same in healthcare, no?

The next seemingly most important factor is the ability to customize the application in a way that will best benefit the providers.  This is absolutely a main component in the success factor of an EMR in my opinion.  Vendors have to do what they can to include everything in their system that a practice, clinic or hospital may use.

In a hospital system, this problem is very clear.  A hospital system has to be a nightmare to the specialists who use it.  Why would a provider want to sift through literally thousands of medications when they typically only prescribe certain ones for their patients.  This is where careful planning and delegating comes in.  The customer needs to understand that the hospital system is meant to meet the needs of all providers in the entire system.  It is recommended that each specialty department within the community appoint select staff to create a list of "Favorites" within the medications, procedures, diagnosis, orders etc. tabs.  This way, time will be saved when completing a patient visit.

In a smaller setting, I have to recommend going with a specialty specific vendor.  In doing this, the provider will have a more robust system specifically catered to their needs and will not include any additional data fields that they will never have a need for.  The specialty specific vendors are also more likely to already have certain reporting tools already preloaded in the system to generate specialty specific and relative reports, such as those required for Centers of Excellence.  Exemplo Medical (www.exemplomedical.com)  is one such company that develops specialty specific software.  For example, Exemplo's application for Breast Cancer, eMD for Breast Centers, is an application designed in conjunction with Breast Surgeons and staff that only shows pertinent workflows that a typical Breast Center or Practice may use.  The workflow includes specific data fields for patient visits, orders, medications, procedures and so on.  They even have a specific report that automatically generates a NQMBC report that is easily submitted to the National Consortium of Breast Centers for their COE compliance.

Of all the success stories these two themes: provider buy in and customization seem to be at the top of the list and perhaps the easiest to attain.  Some may disagree with that statement of being "easy to attain" however if a provider has been given a clearly painted picture of the benefits of EMR implementation, then it should be a no brainer on their end.  As for the customization...providers do your homework, there are wonderful systems out there that you will be amazed to find how easily adaptable they are to any practice.


December-16-2009

9:52
Two studies were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine this past Monday showing "The risk of cancer associated with popular CT scans appears to be greater than previously believed".

I originally read this article in the WSJ and they included a nifty graph showing the increase in CT scans over the years (1993-2006, and included projected 2007 numbers). I can't say I was shocked. Obviously there will be an increase, population increases year over year.

As expected, the American College of Radiology (ACR), released their own statement in response to the recent studies. The ACR statement was wonderfully put together and basically stated that if an imaging center abides by the standards put forth, then there should be no increased risk as the benefit of the scan outweighs the risk. Seems like common sense to me.

This is where I believe that patients need to take more responsibility for their own health by asking questions instead of just going along with whatever their physician says. After all, when you break it down, its a business that strives to make a profit. I am not putting down all clinicians who perform CTs, I am putting down the clinicians who abuse the system to make the money to pay for their fancy state-of-the-art equipment. Those machines come with a hefty price tag and the ROI must be met somehow. Some clinicians go about it the right way, others don't unfortunately. They are human after all.

Now for the other issue with this...clinicians have to protect themselves. If a patient comes in complaining of a mild condition that a CT may show, its up to the doc to determine the severity of the situation. This is a very fine line due to the liability involved. Unfortunately we live in a world of money hungry individuals who are willing to sue if their coffee if too hot. This is where the relationship of the physician and patient comes into play. There has to be a level of understanding and trust for the situation at hand.

Personally, I have a wonderful relationship with my GP and others specialists that I see because I feel comfortable with them. If you don't feel comfortable asking the hard questions with your provider, maybe its time to look into a different one. Good ones are out there, more good than bad fortunately for us. But it is up to us to sift through the population to find one that fits best. Unfortunately for doctors now a days, it is getting harder and harder to make money and that is unfortunate because I believe that some of the "good" docs may be susceptible to becoming more focused on business side rather than patient care, which I can't say I don't necessarily blame them, they have bills to pay too, big ones like student loans, salaries, mandatory EMR adoption etc.

Now for my cynical comment....I wonder which diagnostic test or treatment or whatever will be next to take some heat in order to cut healthcare costs? Keep in mind this is at the expense of the public who desperately wants change, but I have to ask, at what price? So far it has been more about money than human lives.



December-11-2009

11:43
The National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC) has just released their position statement regarding the recent mammography guideline changes:

“The National Consortium of Breast Center's Board of Trustees has given their consent to the following position statement reflecting their stand on the issue of mammographic screening, in response to the recommendations made by the US Preventive Services Task Force.

National Consortium of Breast Centers, Inc.

Position Statement regarding the Mammography Screening Recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)

The National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC), the largest national organization devoted to the inter-disciplinary care of breast disease, requests the USPSTF rescind their new position on mammography screening.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published a paper detailing model estimates of potential benefits and harms to women screened for breast cancer with mammography.1 They provided an updated USPSTF recommendation statement on screening for breast cancer for the general population that alters currently accepted guidelines for women over 40 years old.2

The NCBC opposes the new guidelines as written. We cite specific evidence that screening mammography leads to early detection which leads to improved survival.3 In every country starting population screening, mortality declines coincide with onset of screening, not systemic therapy. These USPSTF models are not based on sound data, namely different denominators in the “harms” vs. “benefits” groups leading to invalid comparisons. Recent data from randomized controlled trials reveal significant mortality reductions evident approximately five years after screening programs were initiated. The reductions in age-adjusted, disease specific mortality (30-40%) since 1990 define screening program benefits not seen in the prior six decades. In the United States, these mortality declines continue at a rate of approximately 2% per year. 4 This mortality improvement counts as a remarkable public health achievement.

In addition, the USPSTF panel (comprised almost exclusively of primary care physicians) did not include breast imaging specialists nor was it represented by any of the multiple other specialists who collaborate to optimize patient outcomes. These specialists include pathologists, surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, reconstructive surgeons, technologists, geneticists, nurse navigators, educators and others.

The NCBC does not understand the assumptions used by the USPSTF to value human life. We note the cited literature was selective and failed to acknowledge equally powerful and credible peer-reviewed literature, which supports currently accepted breast cancer screening guidelines.

We would also like to note that quality of life has a significant value, not just survival. It is well established that if we discontinue mammography for women in their 40’s, the cancers eventually detected will be larger, more likely need more aggressive surgery, more likely need chemotherapy and more likely lead to other significant socio-economic concerns.

The NCBC requests input into future guideline development and vows to work with government, scientists and industry to keep the process transparent and keep the focus on the patient. We recommend further efforts target screening, risk assessment, education and awareness regarding the implications of positive and negative screening findings. Funding for further research is imperative and supported by the controversy these articles have generated.

Finally, we note the USPSTF article states, “whether it will be practical or acceptable to change the existing U.S. practice of annual screening cannot be addressed by our models.”1 The NCBC agrees with this comment and finds their screening guideline suggestions unacceptable. The NCBC believes many women’s lives will be placed at risk if current screening guidelines are altered. We respectfully request the Task Force rescind their position on this specific women’s healthcare screening policy.

# # # #

About NCBC: The National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC) is the largest national organization devoted to the inter-disciplinary care of breast disease. In keeping with our mission, to promote excellence in breast care through a network of diverse professionals dedicated to the active exchange of ideas and resources including: 1) To serve as an informational resource and to provide support services to those rendering care to people with breast disease through educational programs, newsletters, a national directory, and patient forums; 2) To encourage professionals to concentrate and specialize in activities related to breast disease; 3) To encourage the development of programs and centers that address breast disease and promote breast health; 4) To facilitate collaborative research opportunities on issues of breast health; and 5) To develop a set of core measures to define, improve and sustain quality standards in comprehensive breast programs and centers.

References:

1. November 17th edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 151, Number 10, 738-747.

2. November 17th edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 151, Number 10, 716-726.

3. Tabar L, Vitak B, Chen HT et al. Beyond randomized controlled trials: organized mammographic screening substantially reduces breast cancer mortality. Cancer 2001; 91: 1724-1731.

4. American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts and Figures, 2009-2010.

All content and design © 2009 by the National Consortium of Breast Centers, Inc.”


As mentioned in the recent post, "Scrapping the Barrel to Support Health Reform", it seems like the current Health care reform plan is costing the nation a trillion dollars yet is taking away money from preventative care of deadly diseases, mainly its been cancer that has been hit the hardest.


The optimist in me at first said that with these changes, maybe techniques and other medical procedures will be forced to improve based on this change. I still believe this will be the case, but does one outweigh the other? The best approach would be to do both of course. Maintain the guidelines that have been proven effective through various published trials, and allocate ARRA funds to increase R&D of new treatments or improved quality of current techniques. Who knows, there may be money left over from the HITECH stimulus funds by ARRA if physicians are unable to collect the 44k in order adopt EMR.

Once improved procedures allow for a change in the guidelines, then the change is warranted. If not, guidelines should not be altered.

The National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC) is currently the largest national organization devoted to the care of Breast Disease. Through their quality measures program, the National Quality Measures for Breast Centers (NQMBC), breast care centers have the opportunity to collect and standardized data to the NCBC in hopes to improve clinical care of Breast Cancer Patients.



December-7-2009

12:57
As usual, its been a busy few weeks in the Health IT world and things continue to get shaken up with many recent announcements.

In a press release on 10/22/2009 the Certification Committee for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) announced that they are seeking candidates to serve as Trustees and Commissioners.

Another press release on 11/13/2009, announced that CCHIT's well known Chair, Mark Leavitt will be retiring in March of next year after 5 years of service.

Once the first press release came through on my feed, I thought it was only a matter of time before this happened. Changes need to be made by the CCHIT to gain acceptance by many skeptics. Then I received the second feed, an interesting decision made by Dr. Leavitt to announce his retirement, especially since the CCHIT has been under major scrutiny lately for being the sole certifier of EMR systems and carrying a rather large price tag, so large in fact that most of the smaller vendors are unable to afford the certification. I'm just not sure if leaving his organization now, especially announcing it, was the greatest business decision for the CCHIT.

The CCHIT has also been accused by it's critics for catering to the larger EMR vendors that also conveniently sit on their Board of Trustees and Commissioners.

I find it quite coincidental that after undergoing such a large amount of scrutiny for favoritism that the CCHIT is now holding interviews to replace some of it's Board Members. I know that you are probably thinking, damned if you do damned if you don't. Thats not where I'm headed. I want to give kudos to the CCHIT and Dr. Leavitt for their accomplishments in the past years as well as the realization, or wake up call, that changes need to be made their board, specifically the board member ratio, which I'm sure will be affected. The positions are open to members of physician practices and hospitals, payers, health care consumers, vendors, safety net providers, public health agencies, quality improvement organizations, clinical researchers, standards development and informatics experts and government agencies. I would imagine that the vendor to healthcare provider ratio will be severely affected.

As for Dr. Leavitt leaving, personally I don't think this is the greatest time the CCHIT during this critical time, especially when the certification business is open for business according to Health and Human Services. Who know's, maybe its a career move...he would be a perfect candidate to head up a start-up certifying company.

That brings me to my next topic, the Drummond Group may prove to be a worthy alternative. They had their own press release on 11/02/2009 that they will submit to become a certifying body. I haven't heard of any progress, but if anyone out there has heard anything, please let me know. For those of us who are new to the Drummond Group, they are a company specializing in interoperability testing. Rik Drummond, CEO of Drummond Group was quoted in the press release saying, "Drummond Group has been supporting Fortune 500 industries and government by certifying the transfer, identity and cybersecurity of their internet information flow over the last ten years. We have also done testing for the CDC, DEA and GSA. Certification of EHR is a natural extension of our testing program, and we believe we can provide great value for the medical community. We look forward to the publishing of the ONC requirements in the days ahead so we can get started."

There seems to be a lot of progress within the Certification realm. My only other questions and worries are targeted towards getting everything in place in time for physicians to get their reimbursements.



November-20-2009

10:41
What a past couple of days in the Healthcare realm. First of all, the Health Reform bill passed in the House with a price tag of $1 trillion. The money has to come from somewhere and it seems like it is coming down to the preventative care of women as for now. In other releases, separated by one day each, new guidelines came out for mammograms and pap smears. Another release just came out regarding a 5% tax on non-elective plastic surgery procedures.

I have to wonder who is influencing these recently altered guidelines and their research findings. I have my opinions on research...data can be manipulated to prove a desired point. I have to assume this is what is going on in these recent releases regarding the preventative care for serious cancers that specifically target women. For the past year I have heard more news to promote preventative care than ever before. Why? Because it saves lives and yes money too. So now, why are they changing these guidelines that promote a higher level preventative cancer? Has anyone thought that the numbers may be down because of the preventative measures that have been in place?

With a $1 trillion price tag, one has to wonder is its to free up funds to pass this bill. Unfortunately, these changes are going to be just the beginning I believe.

As for the elective plastic surgery procedures, in 2008 it was reported that $10.3 billion was spent on these procedures. People choose to get certain procedures to benefit their quality of life in some way, which can ultimately change certain mental conditions such as depression and anxiety which both play an enormous factor in the progression of other serious health factors. Not everyone who elects to get plastic surgery are the typical "trophy wife" getting a different nose every 5 years, its also those people that have little money to pay for a procedure to correct something that may have been caused by an accident for example. Now, these people who have to spend thousands of dollars, that may have had to scrape it together, are expected to spend 5% more. Is that fair to the little girl who was in a car accident and suffered injuries to her face that left her scarred for life without plastic surgery? This is just an example, but it is also a reality of how people are going to be affected by this health care reform push.

I believe something has to change in Healthcare, but at what cost? Certainly not time, after all the current administration is rushing this thing out without the proper time to think of how it will actually pan out in the future.

Its going to be an interesting couple of years to say the least.



October-19-2009

11:11
Since the inception of ARRA, there has been mixed emotions of whether or not throwing money at a situation will benefit the struggling incumbent health care system. Having only worked in Healthcare IT for a limited amount of time I believe I can shed some light on the subject from an outsider's perspective rather than a biased, perhaps jaded, insider's view.

First lets talk some basics. Approx $19.2 bill in incentives available to physicians who adopt a certified, meaningful use EMR system. This breaks down to around $44k/provider on up to $64k/provider depending on Medicaid/Medicare patient ratio (the more CMS customers, the higher stimulus awarded). Incentives start this 2010 and penalties start 2015.

The main debates have been lying in the "certified" and "meaningful use" or simply "MU" realms. Let's first talk about certification. The only certifying body to date is the CCHIT which was spawned off of HIMSS and even has a former HIMSS member as its leader. For those of you that are new to this area, the Certifying Commission on Health Information Technology (CCHIT) is a non-profit group based out of Chicago, near HIMSS HQ, that is comprised of different executives who have vested interest in the large EMR vendors...because they run and/or work for them. That is all I will rant about for this post on the CCHIT.

The next big issue, which needs to be radically simplified is MU. Every practice and specialty are different. Meaningful use may vary from specialty to specialty. This needs to be a simplistic model, not a complicated matrix that was originally released, for everyone to understand. There also has to be a lot of gray area as well in this definition to allow for proper payment if a practice is able to show that they use MU.

These 2 criteria, certification and MU, have yet to be decided on. Deadlines are set, but as we all know and have experienced, they may be moved again.

So back to the original question in the title, has the stimulus money caused a boom for HIT or has it been a bust thus far?

Certain areas of the HIT market has seen an increase due to the stimulus funds for HIT for sure, but on the same note, many HIT vendors have seen a lull in sales. Why, when there is at least 44k on the table and adoption needs to happen quickly in order to qualify for the 1st and biggest stimulus handout.

The stimulus money has put providers on a bit of a "wait and see" mentality. There are far too many providers who do not see the value of EMR. Should this stimulus money have been allocated differently? Should more money have went to education and research rather than purchase and implementation?

EMR is not a thing of the future. It is a technology that has been around and in use for over a decade. They have time over time proven effective, efficient and reliable. I am not going to go into detail because the case studies are out there. The only problems that I have seen are due to bad matches between vendor and customer, not the idea or technology itself.

Look at our world now, smartphones that allow us to answer emails while out of the office, telecommuting from home to save on overhead costs etc. Technology will continue to improve upon quality. Be it quality of care or quality of life.

EMR is a way to do both. The incentive from ARRA is there yes, but treat it as a bonus for adopting a new way of patient care and reporting to improve the overall quality of care and patient health for futures to come by adopting and embracing a sound technology that you may, or may not, get some extra cash from.



All
News and Views
MedTech and Devices

Laura O'Grady; PhD

December-28-2011

11:32

Recently I found some written instructions I had prepared several years ago to help my parents program their VCR. It took me three pages to write out the steps to record a program.  Where applicable each step included a hand drawn representation of the button the VCR (and/or the remote) to ensure clarity and understanding.

The first page explained how to bring up the menu to record a program in the future. The second provided further details and discussed potential troubleshooting strategies. The third included the final steps and introduced the steps for recording a program currently being viewed.  Even with these detailed instructions mistakes were made and recordings were missed. We will never know if the error was occurred in the programming stage or if show never actually aired.

I believe I also wrote out similar instructions for my grandmother. As she was even less inclined to adapt she opted to use her own technique. My grandmother would start recording a program hours in advance of its airing before leaving her home by putting the television on the desired channel and pressing the record button on the VCR. It may have required hours of rewinding but it worked for her. Since this time technology has evolved and we now “one touch” programming through the use of on-screen guides that list program dates and times. However, I’m pretty sure if my grandmother were alive today she would use her old system – start recording on the PVR when she went out rather than using the on-screen guide.

In 1988 Donald Norman wrote about this issue in “The Psychology of Everyday Design“. He made reference to digital watches and microwave ovens as well as VCRs as examples of devices that were difficult to operate. Yet they were supposed to be for an average person to use on a daily basis. Why were they so difficult to use? One theory suggests that the skill set required to design such devices doesn’t necessarily translate in a way that is evident to someone who does not have a similar background or training. What is apparent to one is not necessarily so to others. A lack of applying design principles (human-computer interaction) or examining how the device works in real use (e.g. usability testing) were provided as possible reasons. One resolution was to utilize technical writers, those skilled in interpreting complex electronic interfaces using plain language written material  Some things are made to be obvious or intuitive – you use the sharp edge of the knife to cut. Others have developed over time with common usage – it is universally understood that turning the knob is a necessary step in opening a door.

Human behaviour is like running water. It always finds the path of least resistance. But can we ‘afford’ this type of affordance in health care?

 

December-4-2011

21:36

In a previous post I presented an analysis of the tweets from the Health Care Social Media Canada (#hcsmca) Twitter community.  By using a network analysis tool (NodeXL) I was able to determine that two Twitter identities (@infoway and @jasonboies) were participating but perhaps not in a connected way. When community members are “off to the side” it may be an indication of lurking behaviour (reading messages but not posting). However, since tweets were present from these Twitter accounts this label may not be applicable. A similar concept, labeled “legitimate peripheral participation” (described more thoroughly here) in which novices engage in a community of learners in limited fashion may be a more accurate descriptor of the phenomenon captured in the data set. In order to understand the findings from this network analysis a more thoroughly examination of the tweets containing referenced to the two outliers was required. To facilitate this process I used a tool called ITCA (Internet Community Text Analyzer) developed by Dr.Anatoliy Gruzd at Dalhousie University.

Using the Excel spreadsheet created by NodeXL from the network analysis I exported it into .cvs format, which was then imported into the ITCA tool. The dates of the tweets included Thursday November 24th, Friday November 25th and Saturday November 26th. There were 953 unique messages and 243 posters in this sample. The top ten posters (Image 1) is essentially in alignment with the network analysis, which was ordered by eigenvector centrality. In other words importance is, in part, reflected by the number of tweets.

top ten posters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image 1: Top Ten Posters in #hcsmca Twitter community

The ‘local concepts’ (characters, words, terms and concepts) were extracted by looking for patterns frequently used in the data set. The ITCA tool revealed that there were 9812 unique terms. Image 2 shows the thirty most frequent terms and the number of times the term appear in the data set. The tag cloud formation shown in Image 2 also provides a visual representation of frequency (the larger the word the more times it appears). An individual term can be removed by clicking on the red X or explored further by clicking on its hypertext link, which reveals all instances by which has been tweeted.

top thirty terms extractor

 

 

 

 

Image 2: Top 30 Results of Local Concept Extractor (click to enlarge)

Using this tool I was able to search for the tweets associated with @Infoway. The results indicated that the two tweets were related to an upcoming HL7 (health level seven, a concept related to standardization in health information technology) certification. A hand search of the .cvs file indicated that one tweet on Friday November 25th, 2011 was directly from @infoway. The other was a re-tweet of this tweet by @alexanderberler on the same day. The second tweet was also recorded because @mentions were included in the data set obtained using NodeXL. Image 3 shows the @alexanderberler RT.

contents of infoway tweet

 

 

 

 

Image 3: @alexanderberler Re-tweet of @infoway tweet (click to enlarge)

A search of jasonboies revealed twelve tweets. Image 4 shows the total number of times in which tweets contained this Twitter identity in this data set.

search of jasonboies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image 4: Incidents of jasonboies

Tweets with jasonboies appear to have taken place from Friday November 25th (four in early evening UTC) to Saturday November 26th (eight in late evening UTC). This time frame is outside the weekly hcsmca tweet chat, which took place in the evening on Thursday November 24th (the weekly tweet chat is held every Wednesday at 1:00 pm EST except for the last week of the month in which it is held on Thursday evenings).

Based on this preliminary analysis it would appear as though connecting with other members of the hcsmca community is a phenomenon beyond just using the hashtag in your tweet. These findings may indicate that being engaged means participating with others in the real time chat.

Perhaps more importantly this analysis demonstrates the need to examine not only the pattern of tweets as yielded using network analysis tools but also to examine the content. In addition, these findings should be interpreted with the aid of survey data and interview findings obtained directly from members of hcsmca community. For example, a survey could determine which participants are tweeting as part of their work, which may affect which time of the day they use Twitter. Interviews would provide even richer detail allowing us to understand what exactly prompts someone to both tweet and re-tweet material in the hcsmca community.

Recommended reading

Daniel, B. K. (2010). Handbook of research on methods and techniques for studying virtual communities: paradigms and phenomena. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.

Feldman, R., & Sanger, J. (2007). The text mining handbook: advanced approaches in analyzing unstructured data. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

November-27-2011

17:03

In the ethnography, “Situated Learning” (Lave & Wenger, 1991) it was observed that learning a trade or profession such as a tailor or midwifery was best supported by engaging in this activity within the actual community in which it was taking place. In this context the learner, as an apprentice, can be exposed to others with varied skill levels within that particular job or trade from which they can learn. Initially they may engage in some limited tasks such as maintaining inventories of equipment or tools and ordering supplies. Over time and with more exposure to the task their role will evolve and increase in responsibility. For this to take place they must learn from others with more experience. Some members of this particular community may have expert status whereas others may be at more of an intermediary level. At the beginning those new to the community participate only on a peripheral level. As novices they have yet to learn the terms, concepts and practices that would allow them to engage in the profession in a meaningful way. For example, someone new to programming may subscribe to a mailing list or follow a newsgroup that discusses the computer language they want to learn. These groups are often composed of individuals with varying levels (novices, intermediaries, experts) of skill level forming what has been termed “communities of practice”. This legitimate peripheral participation or “lurking” is an acceptable and supported behaviour amongst many well established online communities. After reading the messages for a period of time novices may feel more comfortable and post questions of their own. This may lead to some form of debate amongst other participants in which new knowledge is co-created. Novices may contribute in other ways by sharing information related to issues they have already encountered. For example, the novice programmer may have been advised before participating in the message forum that using an integrated development environment (IDE) will aid their learning of how to program. Over time the community shares their experiences and members of all levels engage and learn from and with each other. This phenomena has been documented amongst mailing lists and newsgroups.

But what about the newer forms of social media such as Twitter?

Founded by social media expert and plain language writer Colleen Young (@colleen_young) the Health Care Social Media in Canada (hcsmca) Twitter-based community was designed as a means by which Canadians with an interest in social media within a health care context could exchange information. By posting tweets using the acronym, “hcsmca” those wanting to share and learn more about this topic area can follow the posts. Each week the community meets for a live tweet-up in which messages are exchanged in real time providing for a more conversational tone to the exchange. I have participated in this community almost since its inception. Over this time I have wondered about the types of connections that were being formed, what information is being shared and learned and how effective Twitter is as forms of information dissemination in this context.

To explore this further I examined the network relationships in the hcsmca community with NodeXL (http://nodexl.codeplex.com/). Using the import tool I limited the results to 100 people for this initial exploration. I requested edges (or connections) for each of these Twitter scenarios: “follows” relationship (an individual and their followers), “replies-to relationship in tweet” (a reply to an individual tweet), “mentions relationship in tweet” (a tweet that mentions a user) and a “tweet that is not a reply-to or mention” (a posted message or tweet). NodeXL calculates a variety of statistics related to network analysis. By using filters you can refine the resulting graph in form that provides meaning.

Image I provides one static representation of a many possible layouts of the results. The NodeXL tool allows for more dynamic views (e.g. colour coded relationships between users such as “follows”, “replies-to relationship in tweet” and depictions of the other metrics mentioned above). It also provides for the ability to re-position the location of each user. Image I (below) demonstrates one instance of these options.

Network relationships of hcsmca Twitter communityImage I: Network analysis of #hcsmca community – November 26th, 2011

To better view the relationships I limited the out degree (people with the most connections) to seven. I then arranged the display from left to right by eigenvector centrality (a measure of importance in the network). Community leader Colleen Young, who often moderates the weekly tweet chats is positioned at the far left as she has the highest eigenvector centrality in this group. @DoctorFullerton is next, @nursefriendly and @ehealthmusings follow and so on. What may be of most interest are the two outliers positioned on the far right: @infoway and @jasonboies. They were represented in the graph because they had an out degree value greater than seven. However, I am curious as to why they had no connections to the remaining members in this particular snapshot of the #hcsmca community tweets. Does this indicate some form of lurking? How can this behaviour be explained?

In order to understand this further a content analysis of the tweets will be conducted. In the next installment I will explore the contents of these tweets using Netlytic (http://netlytic.org/), an Internet Community Text Analyzer.

Reference

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge [England] ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Recommended Reading

Hansen, D. L., Schneiderman, B., & Smith, M. A. (2010).  Analyzing social media networks with NodeXL: insights from a connected world. Burlington, MA: Morgan Kaufmann.

Valente, T. W. (2010).  Social networks and health: models, methods, and applications. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Thanks to @marc_smith for his assistance.

November-10-2011

15:58

Accidents happen. Often when we are tired, overwhelmed with too much information and too much to do we make mistakes. Many of us work long hours, interacting with complex machinery and in noisy environments. Few of us, however, are required to work 36 or more hours in a row, with little or no sleep. Physicians do this on a regular basis and patient safety is at risk as a result.

Why does this happen? Many years ago I asked a senior staff physician who worked in a large metropolitan hospital this question. He told me there were three reasons: (1). A physician needs to learn how to make decisions no matter how they feel physically (2). We are short-staffed and (3). It was done to us before therefore it will also be done to those who come after us.  I’ve since heard another reason: the more hours you work the more opportunity you have to learn new things. I don’t know how effective this latter strategy is for physicians-in-training. Or whether it is used as a fear tactic. For example, someone might be told: “if you don’t treat enough cases of X you will not have enough knowledge to pass the board exam in your specialty”.

This clip (1:23 minutes) from the television show “ER” in which Dr. Elizabeth Corday explains at a weekly M&M (Morbidity and Mortality) meeting reasons why and ways in which the system could be changed.

Her concluding marks are quite poignant.  I don’t think the situation is much different now then it was when this show aired in 1998. Or when I asked a physician ten years previous to that. But I do think her point is valid. Who would want to fly in a plane in which an air traffic controller co-coordinating its take-off and landing had worked 36 hours in a row without sleep?

But I think the real question is whether you would want to fly in plane with a pilot who had worked 36 hours without sleep. However that would never happen. Pilots (and the airline industry) know that if they had people flying jets for many hours in a row they would likely make a mistake. The plane could crash and many lives would be lost. Including the pilot. Not quite the same scenario for a physician. Maybe the rules regarding work hours would change if their lives and not just those of the patient were also in danger. For this to be achieved we need more collaboration between everyone involved in providing care.

September-30-2011

15:04

A couple of great posts from other bloggers on the peer review process, journal publishing and the open access movement:

I’m excited that others are sharing their thoughts on this issue. I’ve written about this before (see “Access to peer reviewed journals“ ). Petermr’s piece specifically advocates for patients (among other groups) to have access to this information and uses the Human Rights code as a foundation to make the argument. Brilliant work!

It should be noted that JMIR has adopted two unique methods for open access publishing. The fast track fee provides the option of paying a fee for a three week turnaround. I believe the money is used to compensate the reviewers for their time. There is also an Open Peer Review Articles process, which allows JMIR users to review articles who have yet to undergo peer review. Abstracts for these articles are posted at the site so please take a look if you are interested in engaging in this process.

Update: Monday October 3rd, 2011

I recently found out about a repository, arXiv that has been used for pre-publication papers in the sciences since 1991. It was started in physics and later expanded to include other fields such as computer science, mathematics and astronomy. Although the papers posted are not peer reviewed moderators do review the submissions to ensure they are relevant topic-wise. We should consider this unique model to disseminate information when considering changes to the current system.

September-24-2011

19:19

Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long–Term Care Webchat Transcript: Ontario Liberal Party plan for health care

Tuesday September 20, 2011 8:00 pm

Note: This transcript is also available on Facebook. Each comment or question is followed by a time stamp indicating when it was posted. Inclusion of this transcript is for informational purposes only. No endorsement intended.

Ontario Liberal Party: Hello everyone and thank you for joining us tonight on Facebook. Tonight we’re joined by Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long–Term Care, to talk about the Ontario Liberal plan to keep building the healthiest province to grow up in and grow old in. 8:01

Deb Matthews: Welcome to tonight’s webchat! So glad you could all join us. Please start submitting your questions – we’ll try to get to as many as possible tonight but it probably won’t be possible to get them all. Looking forward to the conversation! 8:02

Comment From Guest:  Good evening Ms. Matthews, thank you for providing a forum to ask questions and open discussions for all Ontarians. 8:02

Comment From Philip: Can you confirm that, if re-elected, the Liberals will continue to support the First Link program and roll it out across the province? 8:03

Deb Matthews: Thanks for the First Link question. I can tell you that we enthusiastically support First Link! It’s making a real difference for people with Alzheimer’s and their families — and will continue to do so! 8:04

Comment From Jacquie Micallef:   Good Evening – The 8-week unpaid caregiver leave is a step in the right direction, however we (Alzheimer  Societies in Ontario) hear from caregivers that flexible respite is critical to their health and wellbeing. If re-elected, how will Liberals give caregivers the break from caregiving that they need? 8:05

Deb Matthews: The 8-week job guarantee for caregivers is an important part of our strategy to keep people home, where they want to be, as long as possible. i’m glad you support it, and i look forward to working with you to find other ways to support caregivers.8:06

Deb Matthews: As you know, tomorrow is World Alzheimer’s Day. I want to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to everyone committed to improving the lives of people with Alzheimer’s Disease. 8:07

Comment From Natrice Rese: Thank you for this chance to ask questions, can you elaborate more on the coming PSW Registry and how it will protect our elderly and vulnerable please, as their protection is paramount. 8:07

Comment From OntarioPSWAssoc: We would like to know what you plan on doing about the PSW issue in this province? 8:07

Comment From OntarioPSWAssoc: Minister Matthews; Societies most vulnerable are dependent upon PSWs everyday. How do you plan to standardize the PSW profession? 8:08

Deb Matthews: I’m very excited about the PSW registry, and I know PSWs are too! I’m also excited that we’re committed to 3 Million more hours of PSW homecare – three times the number of hours the NDP is committed to! 8:10

Comment From Paula Schuck: How will the McGuinty government meet the needs of the coming demographic shift. The sheer number of seniors that will be diagnosed with dementia and alzheimers as well as other health issues in the coming decades is staggering. What are we doing to meet this co 8:10

Comment From Paula Schuck: Families like ours have been sitting on a waitlist for special services at home for three years. What will be dine to clear up the wait-list?. No respite money right now for far too many struggling families. 8:11

Deb Matthews: Thanks for joining us, Paula! Embracing the demographic shift is exactly what we’re doing. There are many parts to our strategy, outlined to some degree in our Party platform, but the foundation is building community supports to allow people to stay home as long as possible, instead of moving to LTC before they need to. 8:13

Comment From Jacquie Micallef: Thank you so much for the recognition of World Alzheimer Day. This chat is very timely! 8:13

Deb Matthews: Another piece is that we’ll refocus a portion of our province’s research investments to support the prevention, treatment and possible cure of conditions such as Alzheimer’s and related dementias. 8:14

Comment From Patricia: I keep hearing about what the Conservatives will cut — and I am growing tired of this talk. Instead, I want to hear what you and the Liberals will build. 8:15

Deb Matthews: Our plan is to strengthen local decision making through the LHINs. We have seen great examples of how communities are working together to get better results for patients and better value for health care dollars. 8:16

Deb Matthews: No matter how good the bureaucrats in Toronto are, they’ll just never be able to pull communities together the way local decision-makers are. People in Thunder Bay will make better decisions about health care in  Thunder Bay than people in Toronto can! 8:17

Comment From Guest: What is the Liberal plan for Local Health Integration Networks, as compared to the Conservative plan to eliminate them, to reduce administrative health care costs and increase funds for direct care? 8:17

Comment From Patricia: LHINs? I’m not familiar with that. 8:18

Ontario Liberal Party:  “Local Health Integration Networks”: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/transformation/lhin/lhin_mn.html 8:19

Deb Matthews: Patricia, I urge you to take a look at our platform. We set out a challenge to make Ontario the healthiest  place in North America to grow up and grow old. Part of that is a goal to reduce child obesity by 20% in 5 years, and to develop an Active Aging Strategy. It’s time to focus on wellness!! 8:20

Ontario Liberal Party: The Ontario Liberal plan: http://www.ontarioliberal.ca/OurPlan/Platform.aspx 8:20

Comment From Ritika Goel: Hello Ms. Matthews. I’m representing an organization of young health providers concerned with the state of publicly-funded healthcare in Canada called Students for Medicare. We are interested in hearing how the Liberal party would put a stop to and prevent the further emergence of for-profit facilities in Ontario. 8:21

Comment From StudentsforMedicare: Hello Ms. Mathews, Our organization is interested in knowing how the Liberal party will do to prevent and curb the proliferation of private, for-profit clinics in Ontario to uphold the Canada Health Act. 8:21

Comment From Dan Raza: A few months ago, the government passed a law prohibiting extra, out-of-pocket billing as a measure to prevent creeping privatization. On behalf of physicians that want to continue to practice in a pro-medicare system, thank you! What plans to do you have to enforce it? 8:23

Deb Matthews: Protecting universal health care in Ontario is a sacred trust, as far as I’m concerned. We’ve passed The Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act, and we’re enforcing it. Last year, we collected over $600,000 for patients who had paid illegal fees. Sad to say, both the NDP and PCs voted against the CFMA 8:24

Deb Matthews: Thanks Dan, Ritika and The Students for Medicare, for standing up for universal health care! 8:25

Ontario Liberal Party:  Thank you everyone for your questions. We are trying to get to as many of them as possible before 9:00. 8:27

Comment From Guest: Tim Hudak has promised to shut down eHealth Ontario. What are your plans for eHealth Ontario? 8:28

Deb Matthews: Anyone who works in health care knows that we need to continue to transform it unless we want to move to two-tier health care, which Ontario Libs certainly don’t!! A vital part of that transformation is moving forward with eHealth. We’ve now got about half of Ontarians with EHRs – shutting down eHealth would be just dumb! 8:29

Ontario Liberal Party: “EHRs”: electronic health records 8:31

Comment From Laura O’Grady: Then why do we rely on population-based research for decision making? (i.e. one study in Windsor, for example, informs the policy around screening for the whole province because it is considered “evidence-based”) 8:32

Deb Matthews:  Sustainability of universal health care requires reliance on evidence. The Excellent Care for All Act reinforces that principle. Of course, there will always be debates about how strong that evidence is, so we need to keep investing in better research. 8:33

Deb Matthews: I urge you all to participate in the Ontario Health Study! It will give us extraordinary data!!8:33

Ontario Liberal Party: https://ontariohealthstudy.ca 8:34

Comment From Don Seymour:  Deb, can you talk about how your will improve services for persons with mental illness? 8:35

Deb Matthews:  Thanks for joining us, Don! Our Mental Health and Addictions Strategy is already being implemented. It’s a 10 year strategy, starts with kids, and backed up by a $257M commitment in our last budget. 8:36

Deb Matthews: I was very disappointed that neither the PCs nor the NDP even mention mental health in their platforms. For us, it’s a high priority. 8:37

Comment From Natrice Rese: Can you tell us more about in home dr. visits? Many elderly and infirm, special needs in our population do not get seen by professionals when they have crisis 8:39

Deb Matthews: Bringing back House Calls is part of our strategy to help people stay home longer. It’s proving to be very popular with seniors and the families that support them. It’s more than just doctors, it will include nurses, OTs and other health care professionals. Also telemedicine and on-line support! 8:41

Deb Matthews: The Libs are the only party that is facing the demographic challenge seriously. Our health care system wasn’t designed for the demographic reality of tomorrow — we need to fix that! 8:43

Comment From Nicole: What about support for Community Health Centres? They service vulnerable and marginalized populations and provide great interdisciplinary service for the community….and are often undersupported in funding. 8:44

Deb Matthews: We are thrilled to have supported the greatest expansion of CHCs ever! We’re in the middle of doubling sites from 53 to 101. Delighted with the announcement of new CHCs just a few weeks ago! Also,  increased funding for CHCs by 108% — that’s $152M! 8:45

Comment From Nicole: That’s fantastic news! 8:48

Comment From J: Will you support OHIP to fund IVF procedures?8:49

Comment From Josee L: 1 in six couples suffer with infertility. My husband and I being included in that statistic. If elected, will you support IVF funding for Ontario families struggling with infertility?8:50

Comment From J: We also suffer from infertility. 8:50

Deb Matthews:  I know how important it is that we support Ontarians as they build their families. That’s why we established the Expert Panel on Adoption and Infertility. We’re moving on their recommendation re: educating both public and providers. And we’re watching the Quebec experience very carefully and doing the research in Ontario to be better able to make the decision here. At this time, we’re not moving with OHIP funding of IVF, but we’re not closing the door, either. 8:53

Comment From Zach: What role does preventative care play in the Liberal health care plan? 8:55

Deb Matthews:  Now that we’ve come such a long way in rebuilding our health care system – cut wait times in half, got 94%  of Ontarians with primary care, and rebuilding infrastructure – it’s possible to focus on prevention. We know that 1/4 of our health care spending is spent on preventable illness. So making Ontario the healthiest place in North America is our next goal!!8:59

Comment From Laura O’Grady: The system was designed for acute care. Now we have chronic complex disease. This should be part of  focus for change. 9:00

Deb Matthews:  You are so right! People with chronic, complex needs deserve special care.That’s why we’ll provide a Health Care Coordinator to facilitate care between specialists and family doctors, hospitals, and the community to assist seniors who’ve been hospitalized within the previous 12 months. 9:02

Deb Matthews: Thank you so much for all your questions and comments! I wish we had more time to get through everything. Please make health care an issue in this election and ask your local candidates to support  better health care for all! Hope you’ll all vote Liberal so we can do this again!! 9:03

Ontario Liberal Party: Thank you for joining us Deb.

If you don’t yet, make sure you follow her on twitter: @Deb_Matthews

We hope we’ll see you on Facebook again for our next webchat. Stay tuned for details in the next coming days.

Blog url: 
http://lauraogrady.ca
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MedTech and Devices

healthGAMERS

December-19-2011

16:05

Have you taken the challenge yet?  “What challenge?”, you ask. The Health 2.0 Developer Challenge or those on Challenge Post. These sites take advantage of the recent US initiative to make health databases available to the public.

Since 2010, both sites have hosted challenges sponsored by organizations, corporations, and the government. Some have monetary prizes, some just offer recognition. The goal is to bring software programmers, designers, and health care experts  together for rapid application development. There are two types of developer projects: 1) challenges, which overseas team collaboration to build specific requested tech solutions, and 2) code-a-thons.  Code-a-thons are typically one day or weekend events that spur teams to rapidly create new applications and tools to improve health care.

Health 2.0 and Challenge Post make it easy to form teams with their community boards and resources. Check out the wide array of challenges posted on their sites. Compare goals, deadlines and prizes. Make new contacts, enjoy the thrill of creativity, and the pride of helping find real solutions to health care issues. Several have December 31, 2011 deadlines, so check out the fun and competition, and register today!

http://www.Health2Challenge.org
http://www.Challenge.gov

October-31-2011

12:27

containers that ring, play music and send emails to remind people to take sixteen different medications when loaded only once in two or three months. Another medication lid glows when it is time to take a pill and then records the time the bottle is opened and the pill was taken.

Multiple pedometers and sensors track steps, galvanic skin response, brain waves, and pulse and are easily synched with smartphone apps that forward reports to your doctor.  Sensors can be placed in carpets, slippers, kitchen drawers and refrigerators to track movement of elders living alone. Reports can be sent to specified caregivers. One sensor tracks sleep patterns when placed in an arm band and then placed under your smartphone in the morning to sync and download and email the report. Airstrip Tech links doctors with EMTs in ambulances to follow monitors as the patient travels to the hospital. Two 5 minute Rapid Fire product demo sessions reviewed over 25 new products.

Several websites help patients track their medical information. Patients determine what they want to share and with whom.  Some are open source; some are created by private companies. Patient groups like ePatient Dave and Patients Like Me encourage sharing collective medical information to foster a faster learning curve to how to best treat patients and diseases in the US and abroad.

I had the distinct honor of speaking on a panel about game play.
My expertise comes from creating and consulting on multiple smartphone apps related to food and nutrition. Gamification was a hot topic in multiple sessions, mentioned frequently as a terrific means to engage and educate patients. Interesting to me was the fact that some telemedicine products and apps already include game play. This is mostly in the form of Q&A or true/false questions. To celebrate Breast Cancer Month in October, a colleague, Nadine Fisher, MS RD LD, and I created the Apple app Breast Cancer Care. We included five true/false games and one food photo match game.

Many of the products I saw at Connected Health are first generation this year.  One company rep said there were only a handful of tech vendors exhibiting last year. This year there were five exhibitor rows lining a hotel ballroom.  This business is exploding. I have seen the future of medicine, and it is exciting and often fun. Games are a great hope to advance the health of the world for patients, caregivers, and professionals.

Here’s a link to a blog post about the panel on which I spoke. I was the only RD on the program.

http://mobihealthnews.com/13977/add-health-to-games-or-games-to-health

October-3-2011

16:35

Games for Health Project originated in the United States in 2004.

Ben Sawyer was instrumental in its foundation and development into the force that it is today.  It’s annual meeting draws hundreds of global participants each year in Boston.

So it was exciting news this year when Games for Health announced a  European partner. It’s first meeting will be held in Amsterdam on October 24 and 25.  The central theme is: How games and simulations can improve health(care) and make it affordable. The program is dynamic includes topics on five core tracks:

Cognitive and emotional health
Participatory health
Exergaming, active gaming and fitness
Rehabilitation games
Medical/Education and training

So if you are looking for an excuse to visit Amsterdam, the Games for Health Europe conference is a must do.  It will be exciting to watch this innovative group develop and deliver fresh ideas and research on health games for the European health community.

Register today!
www.GamesforHealthEurope.org

September-12-2011

9:37

Nick Yee, PhD, a research scientist at the PARC (the Palo Alto Research Center) has published studies that show how people’s behaviors change when they use avatars. One study notes how players engage when offered tall, attractive avatars, versus shorter, less attractive ones. He suggests that people will exercise longer and better when offered fit looking avatars.

James Watt, PhD is a serious games researcher at the University of Connecticut. He explains that social interaction is relative to masked identity. Group communication is best when there is also social interaction. So how about creating an avatar-likeness with body movements that still provides anonymity? Microsoft Xbox recently released Avatar Kinect that scans participants and then creates a general look-alike avatar of themselves – including body movements.

Players might not mind sharing personal attributes with friends, but would players feel comfortable revealing their size, hair color, and mannerisms to strangers, too? This remains to be seen, as medical professionals brainstorm about health applications. Consider in-home avatar group therapy sessions, patient education classes, addiction support groups, or parent clubs. Now layer on a health gaming twist. How about a virtually engaging game of Nutrition Jeopardy? The possibilities are tremendous! What kind of avatar health games do you envision? This field is wide-open for development. Game on!

August-3-2011

11:19

Strong research is the foundation of the health professions, and health game development is no different.  When a person’s health is being manipulated, then people expect the method or product to be well researched before being recommended. After all, the physician’s oath is, “First, do no harm …”

From the start, early thought-leaders recognized that progress in this emerging industry needed to rely on health professional collaboration based on sound, scientific research to prove efficacy. This is what researchers call, “the scientific method.” Developers, designers, funders, and players want to see supportive data. Multiple colleges and universities have stepped up to take the task, and many privately funded developers eagerly share their methods and results to further the cause. Unfortunately, researchers publishing their results has been a problem. Traditional scholarly journals do not target video games for health — until now.

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc, publishers of scores of well-respected peer-reviewed scientific journals have announced plans to publish Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications this fall.  Games for Health will be a peer-reviewed journal and has a stellar editorial board line-up. The Liebert press release stated the journal would be published bi-monthly and would be “dedicated to the development, use, and applications of game technology for improving physical and mental health and well-being. The Journal breaks new ground as the first to address this emerging, widely-recognized, and increasingly adopted area of healthcare.”

The Games for Health journal and it’s accompanying online presence is a welcome home for the health video games community. For more information check out www.liebertpub.com

May-12-2011

16:15

Organized by the the IU School of Informatics at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), the 2nd annual Midwestern Conference on Health Games conference will be held in Indianapolis on October 28, 2011. Abstracts are being accepted now. The submission deadline is June 1. 2011. For more information please contact Vicki Daugherty at vdaugher@iupui.edu or 317-278-4123.

Blog url: 
http://www.healthgamers.com/
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MedTech and Devices

MTBC's Healthcare IT Blog

July-22-2009

21:29

President Obama speaks to the nation about healthcare reform (AP photo)

President Obama speaks to the nation about healthcare reform (AP photo)

Tonight, President Obama spoke to the nation about his plans for healthcare reform. He outlined how he plans to reform the current system and how he plans to pay for it including cutting over $100 billion worth of subsidies to insurance companies as part of Medicare.

Few key points:

  • Wants to create an independent group of doctors and experts to eliminate waste in Medicare on an annual basis. (Obama gave credit to the Republicans for coming up with this plan–”Medpac“)
  • 2/3rds of the costs will come from cutting waste from the current system.
  • 97-98% of uninsured would be covered by his plan.
  • Open to tax increases on families with a combined income of $1 million or individuals making $500k or more per year–”millionaire’s tax
  • Medicare beneficiaries would not see any decline in benefits. “Here’s the thing I want to emphasize,” he said “It is not going to reduce Medicare benefits. What it is going to do is change how the benefits are delivered, so they are more efficient.”
  • The public option will match up with what is available to congress. Read Matt Miller in the NYT today on this one. Miller doesn’t believe that this is a good measure.
  • Wants to free doctors to make decisions based on evidence based medicine, not fee schedules. “Doctors a lot of times are forced to make decisions based on the fee payment schedule right now.”

He also touched upon the need to increase health IT and move way a fee for service system to a team-based approach to deliver healthcare.

Full Video:

Full Text: Obama’s Remarks on Health Care

(without question/answer session)

Following is a text of the prepared remarks by President Obama before his White House news conference on Wednesday, as released by the White House.

Good evening. Before I take your questions, I want to talk for a few minutes about the progress we’re making on health insurance reform and where it fits into our broader economic strategy.

Six months ago, I took office amid the worst recession in half a century. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month and our financial system was on the verge of collapse.

As a result of the action we took in those first weeks, we have been able to pull our economy back from the brink. We took steps to stabilize our financial institutions and our housing market. And we passed a Recovery Act that has already saved jobs and created new ones; delivered billions in tax relief to families and small businesses; and extended unemployment insurance and health insurance to those who have been laid off.

Of course, we still have a long way to go. And the Recovery Act will continue to save and create more jobs over the next two years – just like it was designed to do. I realize this is little comfort to those Americans who are currently out of work, and I’ll be honest with you – new hiring is always one of the last things to bounce back after a recession.

And the fact is, even before this crisis hit, we had an economy that was creating a good deal of wealth for folks at the very top, but not a lot of good-paying jobs for the rest of America. It’s an economy that simply wasn’t ready to compete in the 21st century – one where we’ve been slow to invest in the clean energy technologies that have created new jobs and industries in other countries; where we’ve watched our graduation rates lag behind too much of the world; and where we spend much more on health care than any other nation but aren’t any healthier for it.

That is why I’ve said that even as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis, we must rebuild it stronger than before. And health insurance reform is central to that effort.

This is not just about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance. Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It’s about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive. And it’s about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

So let me be clear: if we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate we’re having right now.

I realize that with all the charges and criticisms being thrown around in Washington, many Americans may be wondering, “What’s in this for me? How does my family stand to benefit from health insurance reform?”

Tonight I want to answer those questions. Because even though Congress is still working through a few key issues, we already have agreement on the following areas:

If you already have health insurance, the reform we’re proposing will provide you with more security and more stability. It will keep government out of health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your insurance if you’re happy with it. It will prevent insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get too sick. It will give you the security of knowing that if you lose your job, move, or change your job, you will still be able to have coverage. It will limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay for your medical costs out of your own pocket. And it will cover preventive care like check-ups and mammograms that save lives and money.

If you don’t have health insurance, or are a small business looking to cover your employees, you’ll be able to choose a quality, affordable health plan through a health insurance exchange – a marketplace that promotes choice and competition Finally, no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.

I have also pledged that health insurance reform will not add to our deficit over the next decade – and I mean it. In the past eight years, we saw the enactment of two tax cuts, primarily for the wealthiest Americans, and a Medicare prescription program, none of which were paid for. This is partly why I inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit.

That will not happen with health insurance reform. It will be paid for. Already, we have estimated that two-thirds of the cost of reform can be paid for by reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs. This includes over one hundred billion dollars in unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare – subsidies that do nothing to improve care for our seniors. And I’m pleased that Congress has already embraced these proposals. While they are currently working through proposals to finance the remaining costs, I continue to insist that health reform not be paid for on the backs of middle-class families.

In addition to making sure that this plan doesn’t add to the deficit in the short-term, the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health care costs in the long run. Our proposals would change incentives so that doctors and nurses are free to give patients the best care, not just the most expensive care. That’s why the nation’s largest organizations representing doctors and nurses have embraced our plan.

We also want to create an independent group of doctors and medical experts who are empowered to eliminate waste and inefficiency in Medicare on an annual basis – a proposal that could save even more money and ensure the long-term financial health of Medicare. Overall, our proposals will improve the quality of care for our seniors and save them thousands of dollars on prescription drugs, which is why the AARP has endorsed our reform efforts.

Not all of the cost savings measures I just mentioned were contained in Congress’s draft legislation, but we are now seeing broad agreement thanks to the work that was done over the last few days. So even though we still have a few issues to work out, what’s remarkable at this point is not how far we have left to go – it’s how far we have already come.

I understand how easy it is for this town to become consumed in the game of politics – to turn every issue into running tally of who’s up and who’s down. I’ve heard that one Republican strategist told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it’s better politics to “go for the kill.” Another Republican Senator said that defeating health reform is about “breaking” me.

So let me be clear: This isn’t about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every Member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings. This is about the woman in Colorado who paid $700 a month to her insurance company only to find out that they wouldn’t pay a dime for her cancer treatment – who had to use up her retirement funds to save her own life. This is about the middle-class college graduate from Maryland whose health insurance expired when he changed jobs, and woke up from emergency surgery with $10,000 in debt. This is about every family, every business, and every taxpayer who continues to shoulder the burden of a problem that Washington has failed to solve for decades.

This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait for reform any longer. They are counting on us to get this done. They are looking to us for leadership. And we must not let them down. We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice, and provides coverage that every American can count on. And we will do it this year. And with that, I’ll take your questions.

July-21-2009

15:28

The ONC policy committee on meaningful use has published an updated matrix on the subject. It can be found here.

July-15-2009

11:15

Someone in the GOP needs to learn how to use Microsoft Visio, or the Democrats need to come up with a better plan for improving our healthcare system.

Republicans immagination of Democratic Healthcare plan

Republicans imagination of the Democratic Healthcare plan

If you believe this nightmare chart created by Congressman Kevin Brady’s office (R-Texas 8th District), then you’ll need a PHD in obfuscation to figure out what the Democrats are planning. More likely, however, is that Brady is painting an overly bleak picture of what a government plan might look like.

Jokes aside, as this battle continues to play out, both sides are sticking to their guns; however, the Obama administration believes it has the trump card: 60 votes. Bloomberg News is reporting that “Obama Open to Partisan Vote on Health-Care Overhaul.”

We’ll follow how this plays out, and keep you apprised of any interesting happenings.

UPDATE July 22, 2009:

Corrected Visualization of the Democratic Healthcare plan

Corrected Visualization of the Democratic Healthcare plan (PDF)

A graphic designer, Robert Palmer, took it upon himself to “correct” the republican nightmare chart and made it significantly easier to understand. The updated chart, along with a PDF can be found on Mr. Palmer’s Flickr page. He also penned a note to Representative Boehner:

Dear Rep. Boehner,

Recently, you released a chart purportedly describing the organization of the House Democrats’ health plan. I think Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree that the problem is very complicated, no matter how you visualize it.

By releasing your chart, instead of meaningfully educating the public, you willfully obfuscated an already complicated proposal. There is no simple proposal to solve this problem. You instead chose to shout “12! 16! 37! 9! 24!” while we were trying to count something.

So, to try and do my duty both to the country and to information design (a profession and skill you have loudly shat upon), I have taken it upon myself to untangle your delightful chart. A few notes:

- I have removed the label referring to “federal website guidelines” as those are not a specific requirement of the Health and Human Services department. They are part of the U.S. Code. I should know: I have to follow them.

- I have relabeled the “Veterans Administration” to the “Department of Veterans’ Affairs.” The name change took effect in 1989.

- In the one change I made specifically for clarity, I omitted the line connecting the IRS and Health and Human Services department labeled “Individual Tax Return Information.”

In the future, please remember that you have a duty to inform the public, and not willfully confuse your constituents.

Sincerely,

Robert Palmer
Resident,
California 53rd District

July-1-2009

23:11

The Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) has responded to the Office of the National Coordinator’s recently released Meaningful Use matrix [pdf]–and responded with a vengeance.

The bottom line: “CCHIT recommends that meaningful use measures be either simplified for 2011, or postponed until 2013.”

CCHIT Annotations to the ONC's Meaningful Use Matrix [PDF]

CCHIT Annotations to the ONC's Meaningful Use Matrix (PDF)


Its recommendation was formed by comparing the CCHIT 2008 criteria against the meaningful use matrix prepared by the National Coordinator’s Workgroup on Meaningful Use and finding that while many of the 22 proposed objectives are fully supported by the current certification, at least 8 have minor to major gaps with the CCHIT 08 criteria.

Why Postpone?

The commission argues that “the lag between a decision to invest in EHR technology and its full, meaningful use in a provider organization is 1 to 2 years at best, and more typically, 3 to 5 years,” and for this reason it recommends postponing the 2011 measures until 2013. It isn’t that some EHRs do not currently meet the standards drafted for 2011 (MTBC’s EMR does), it’s that CCHIT criteria does not currently cover or test for all of the proposed 2011 measures. Additionally, CCHIT does not believe that the marketplace is fully ready to support some of the reporting standards outlined in the draft.

CCHIT has prepared an annotated response to the ONC’s matrix which highlights the actual points in contention for 2011. CCHIT’s letter to the ONC further clarifies CCHIT position on the topic.

As always, we will continue to cover this story as new developments arise and as key shareholders continue to weigh in with comments and responses.

Why don’t you let us know what you think? Should the 2011 measures be postponed until 2013?

June-26-2009

18:04

When you buy a car, the manufacturer usually offers some kind of warranty on your purchase e.g. bumper-to-bumper coverage for 50,000 miles or 5 years, whichever comes first. Or coverage for 100,000 miles for the power train and 50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper. Some are now offering oil changes for life, free car washes, dry cleaning, or the salesman will pick up your kids from soccer practice if you make a purchase now.  Ok, maybe they won’t pick up your kids, but you will please! buy now?

Francois de Brantes

Francois de Brantes

Francois de Brantes, a nationally known advocate of health care quality, is hoping to bring warranties to healthcare. He and a few associates penned an article in Health Affairs describing the benefits of a new payment model for physicians which may inspire physicians to improve patient outcomes by putting their skin (and money) in the game.

The warranties which de Brantes proposes–Prometheus Payment as he’s called it–flip the current medical billing payment model on its ear. Prometheus Payment offers set fees to providers for recommended services, treatments and procedures. However, unlike the current system where all fees are covered by third-party payers, the provider now becomes a party in the payment process by assuming fiduciary responsibility for outcomes–should patients develop an avoidable outcome, providers become responsible for half the costs. The warranty is based on the costs of these avoidable outcomes and is risk adjusted for elderly or frail patients.

de Brantes and his co-authors explain that “the warranty concept has filtered into the self-pay portion of health care, such as corrective eye surgery, general cosmetic surgery, and dental care, which are often based on a global fee that includes any necessary rework by the provider. But it has taken much longer for warranties to appear in the third-party payer system.” They argue that with this global-fee model, overall costs in the healthcare can be reduced while improving outcomes for patients by making (and paying) the provider for any expenses before, during, and after the procedure.

The abstract to the Health Affairs article reads:

How health care providers get paid has implications for the delivery of care and cost control; the topic is especially important during an economic downturn with persistent growth in health spending. Adding “warranties” to care is an innovation that transfers risk to providers, because payment includes allowances for defects. How do such warranties affect patient care and bottom lines? We examine a proposed payment model to illustrate the role of warranties in health care and their potential impact on providers’ behavior and profitability. We conclude that warranties could motivate providers to improve quality and could increase their profit margins.

I find two points interesting.

  1. He named it Prometheus Payment. In Greek mythology Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals–Zeus repaid him by tying him to a large rock and having an eagle eat his liver every day only to have it grow back and be eaten again the next day. Are the insurance companies Zeus? Are the payments the fire? Who is stealing from whom? Do physicians even want this kind of fire?
  2. This plan was developed with the support of the Commonwealth Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a similar plan is already in practice at the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. These are not exactly small operations.

This whole idea adds a new wrinkle to medical billing. As your billing service, we’d not only be incentivized to help you collect more money but also provide you tools to provide better patient care. Great news for you, we have a CCHIT-certified EMR which provides just the tools you need. Find out more here.

We will keep you posted if this model crops up at any payers near you.

Read more about Prometheus Payment:

June-22-2009

17:57

On June 16 the Workgroup on Meaningful Use presented its recommendations on the definition of Meaningful Use. They prepared a preamble describing their overall path to this definition and a matrix to organize their recommendations for each year. For those who have been under a rock for the past 6 months, “meaningful use” is the defining measure by which the incentive payments included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will be determined.

With this working definition, vendors, physicians, and hospitals can better plan for implementation and delivery of technology and services to achieve the measurable goals outlined by the Workgroup.

HITECH Act Incentives as outlined by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

HITECH Act Incentives as outlined by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

Meaningful Use for Whom?

First it is important to note that “meaningful use” will have different meanings for hospitals and for groups in private practice. The preamble states “some features and capabilities will be recommended as required in an ambulatory setting before similar functions are expected to be widely used in the hospital.” This means that proving “meaningful use” will be a more rigorous exercise for private practices than it is for hospitals. However, private practices have a broader range of options and lower barriers of entry (cost, availability of technology, shorter implementation time frames, etc) when it comes to implementing technologies which can deliver “meaningful use.”

The Details

Let’s go over some of the measures which are planned for 2011 and look at some examples of each item. More details for each of the items below can be found in the matrix. John Halamka, MD of the CareGroup Health System of Harvard Medical School and the chairman of the US Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP) said in Healthcare IT News that this matrix still needs to be populated with the most up to date standards and an implementation guide. These details will help vendors and physicians alike ensure that their software meets these measures. Expect this in July.

Each of the items below has associated metrics which will need to be reported to verify meaningful use; for example, one of the objectives calls for reminders to patients for preventive/follow-up care. In order to prove meaningful use, the EMR application must be able to provide a reporting of the percentage of patients over 50 with annual colorectal screening. Keep in mind that each of the items below has an associated measure (found in the matrix) which will require reporting to an authorized agency.

Items marked with a Yes! indicate that the MTBC EMR helps your practice meet or exceeds these measures.

  1. Improve quality, safety, efficiency, and reduce health disparities.
    1. Use CPOE (computerized physician order entry) for all order types including medications. Yes!
    2. Drug-drug, drug-allergy, drug-formulary checks. Yes!
    3. Maintain an update-to-date problem list. Yes!
    4. Generate and transmit electronic prescriptions. Yes!
    5. Record vital signs including height, weight, blood pressure. Yes!
    6. Generate list of patients by condition to use for quality improvement. Yes!
    7. Patient reminders for preventive/follow-up care. Yes!
  2. Engage patients and families
    1. Provide patients with access to clinical information (lab results, problem list, medications, etc.). Under development! Yes! A bit more information has filtered through on this point. It has to be “electronic” access i.e CD, flash drive, etc and not necessarily web-based access. We have this functionality and we are also working on web-based access to patient information which can be pushed through the EMR. (updated 7/1)
    2. Provide access to patient specific educational resources. Yes!
    3. Provide patients with clinical summaries for each encounter. Yes!
  3. Improve care coordination
    1. Exchange key clinical information among providers (problems, medications, allergies, test results). Yes!
    2. Perform medication reconciliation at relevant encounters. Yes!
  4. Improve population and public health
    1. Submit electronic data to immunization registries. Yes!
  5. Ensure adequate privacy and security protections for personal health information
    1. Compliance with HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules and state laws. Yes!
    2. Compliance with fair data sharing practices. Yes!

What Now?

Now that you know the definition of Meaningful Use what should you do now? The answer is simple: get an EMR. Ok it is not that simple, but you will be happy to know that you have plenty of options in the marketplace. Dr. Halamka writes, “Hospitals and Clinician offices now know what is expected for 2011, so the time is now to begin your software implementations.” Never before have there been so many EMRs which provide such a high level of functionality and interoperability. Today’s major differentiators are not function, but price and service.

MTBC Can Help

MTBC’s CCHIT certified EMR (free to MTBC medical billing clients) can help your practice meet the goals of 2011. Click here to find out more about MTBC’s unified medical billing and practice managagement services.

However, if “free” is not your bag, you have plenty of other options beginning at the $1,000 range and your imagination as the only limit. Vendors have become very creative in their pricing with new options emerging such as monthly subscriptions, charges for each fax sent from the EMR, hosting fees for web-based applications, fees for technical support by email, server replacement plans (a la replacement plans sold by big box stores), 50¢ per 100MB of storage, and many others.

MTBC’s EMR rivals those of its competitors because it is implemented, supported, and updated completely free of charge of its premium medical billing clients. To find out more about how MTBC’s EMR can help you meet the goals of Meaningful Use, request a demo today and, if you are not currently an MTBC billing client, find out how you can download a free trial.

Watch this space for more information regarding meaningful use and its impact on the healthcare IT.

All
Influential
MedTech and Devices

The Medical Quack

January-19-2012

18:25

Ahem….what do we say about privacy and data selling…bingo it appears as if you read through the entire article why else would this type of data be shared with Wall Street Investors to make a market for selling some new analytic algorithms.  Now get this the investors got to see this “private” information that a patient can’t even get access to see.  This reminds me of ePatientDave, “give me my damn data” and this is a total abuse here as the data is not being used for better care but for “better money”.  image

Now this also says something about access to revenue cycling too, payers and integrators might want to visit this scenario and make sure that it stays on a server for one and what levels of access will be granted.  Now this gets worse as the types of information and patients were related to mental health, HIV, Parkinson's and more.  How many investors glazed over these records?  Accretive gets paid on the revenue boost is provides.  There are a lot of these types of 3rd parties around in healthcare and here’s another one used by Blue Cross who had some bad algorithms.

Med Solutions and Blue Cross Caught On the Stress Test Denial Algorithm (video)

Actually when it comes down to payer disputes you wonder did the hospital bill erroneously on purpose or did they get some bad algorithms and a bunch of promises?  If I were one of these patients, court might be on my mind and I would want to know what investors on Wall Street potentially or did see my data!  On their website they talk about bringing increased discipline to the revenue cycle so is that the revenue cycle on Wall Street? 

Bad Algorithms in Healthcare Payment Systems and Risk Assessments–Did the Hospital Bill Fraudulently or Were They Sold Formulas That Did Not Conform

Well Fargo just dumped one of these types of companies recently and remember the big data breach at Stanford, also the fault of a 3rd party, so with history being built here who wants to trust a 3rd party today if you don’t have to as patient records end up on the web and in the hands of investors on the street.  The 3rd party folks are the algorithm makers though that promise better profits and use of money.  This whole scenario though is kind of sad as they were supposed to be helping a couple non profits boost their revenue but the hospitals probably had no clue on the methodologies like showing patients records was in the plan. 

HealthSmart Holdings Inc. Purchases Third Party Medical Administration Business From Wells Fargo Insurance Services

“The screen shot also includes numeric scores to predict the “complexity” of the patient and the probability of an inpatient hospitalization, and a box to describe the “frailty” of the patient.”

Tine to start licensing and taxing those data sellers and have a federal disclosure site so we all know what’s going on, beginning to make more sense every day!  The link below will describe a bit of this brainstorm.  BD

The Alternative Millionaire’s Tax–License and Tax Big Corporations Who Mine and Sell Taxpayer Data They Get for Free From the Internet-Phase One to Restore Middle Class With Transparency, Disclosure and Money 

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has filed a lawsuit against a debt collector accused of failing to protect the confidential information of 23,500 hospital patients after a company laptop was stolen from a rental car parked in the Seven Corners are of Minneapolis.

The lawsuit filed Thursday alleges Accretive Health, Inc., a debt collection agency that is part of a New York private equity fund conglomerate, failed to protect the confidentiality of patient health care records and failing to disclose its involvement in their health care.

Last July, Accretive lost a laptop computer containing unencrypted health data of about 23,500 patients of two Minnesota hospital systems -- Fairview Health Services and North Memorial Health Care.

Under both contracts, Accretive controls and directs the work of hospital employees and “infuses” its own employees into the staffs of the hospitals. Accretive gets base compensation and incentive pay for helping the hospitals boost revenue or cut costs.

“The debt collector found a way to essentially monetize portions of the revenue and health care delivery systems of some nonprofit hospitals for Wall Street investors, without the knowledge or consent of patients who have the right to know how their information is being used and to have it kept confidential,” Swanson said.

The state seeks an order requiring Accretive to fully disclose to patients:

  1. What information it has about Minnesota patients
  2. What information it has lost about Minnesota patients
  3. Where and to whom it has sent information about Minnesota patients
  4. The purposes for which it amasses and uses information about Minnesota patients.
http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/stolen-laptop-debt-collector-lawsuit-jan-19-2012


January-19-2012

17:00

One more the mergers and acquisitions speak out again on how health insurance companies have diversified their portfolios and are no longer “just an insurance company” with numerous subsidiaries both in the Health IT area and even others in what you might consider “unrelated” businesses.  Here’s one example below with a diversified interest with a new division created to distribute hearing aids and offer incentives for those in certain areas of the us to sign up for insurance plans.  I sometimes wonder how other insurers view this? 

UnitedHealthCare Throws in Free Hearing Aids for Those Who Enroll In AARP Medicare Advantage, HMO & POS Plans in Miami-Dade County From Their New Subsidiary

Here’s another example of what one might consider a business outside of what we might normally consider a related business with low incoming housing investments in New Mexico.  One thing to keep in mind today is all the aggregated data that flows and the algorithms and SQL statements that bring some of this together.  Data is big business. 

United Healthcare Gets in The Low Income Housing Business With Partnership to Finance Housing Projects in New Mexico

Just a couple weeks ago we read about the investment with mobile health and again we venture down into the data business here again as the Optum division which has many subsidiaries has a huge focus on data, and part of the renamed group was the old “Ingenix” company that has consulted and provided data services for years and last year settled their case with the AMA with short paying providers for out of network services. 

United Healthcare Partners With Mobile Health Tech Firms–Investment for Data? Check Out All Privacy Statements Today Regarding Privacy, What Little is Left for Consumers

This kind of brings me around again to what I call the “Alternative Millionaire’s Tax” with companies that buy and sell data and this seems to be a good place for a mention here as the Optum Division has been making money for years with aggregating and selling prescription and other data. With big profits as such we certainly could entertain a license and tax situation for those making billions on the data selling business.  As a short comparison from another Healthcare company, Walgreens has estimated their data selling business to be valued at just under $800 million, so again something to give some thought to as hospitals, providers, and patients struggle to afford medical care today.

The Alternative Millionaire’s Tax–License and Tax Big Corporations Who Mine and Sell Taxpayer Data They Get for Free From the Internet-Phase One to Restore Middle Class With Transparency, Disclosure and Money

Another good article to read about the over sell and naïve and gullible nature of the US with both government and consumers, read what Nanex has to say as they are the folks that monitor and study rogue algorithms in the stock market and look for indicators of the “next flash crash”.  A couple paragraphs are below and will the SEC be suckered in to this huge expense of programmers who want to make big dollars writing code convince a naïve and gullible SEC?  It’s all over the place with digital illiteracy, steroid marketing and algorithms for huge profits only and they have teeth.  At a certain point in time we might need to REALLY think about the value of some of the data we analyze today and the cost and this is worth a mention as this is the big growth area for United, algorithms and software analytics via consulting services.  It is also worth a note that United last year hired the former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota for their general counsel. 

Below is one example of the algorithm/software business as the company created a clearinghouse business and collaborated with an medical records company to integrate the services with Epic and of course this means more data revenue for the company and puts a bit of stress on other smaller existing clearinghouse businesses in the US as well. 

OptumInsight (A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of United HealthCare Optum Division) Creates Medical Clearinghouse Integrated With Epic Practice Management Software-Subsidiary Watch

One more thing too is let’s not forget that they also own a bank with over $1 billion on deposit with health savings accounts and I would guess this also leaves them open to lend money on monies held here and somewhat compete with other banks.  As you can read in the quote below the funds are largely generated by employers, in other words large US corporations so they seem to go hand in hand, right? 

UnitedHealth Group Owns a Bank With Deposits Surpassing a Billion – OptumHealth Bank FDIC Insured

“OptumHealth offers three types of HSAs, as well as tax-advantaged health care savings and spending accounts, debit-card services, benefits administration services, and payment products. About three-quarters of the bank’s 1.6 million accounts are employer-generated, while the other quarter are individual accounts.”

There’s also the Chinese investment the company bought early in 2010.

UnitedHealth subsidiary (Ingenix Subsidiary I3) Acquires ChinaGate – Working to Sell Chinese Products Globally

If you were to stop and look you might also notice one more subsidiary that can consult with biotech and device companies to introduce new products to the FDA and you know when you think about it they might just have a subsidiary to handle the entire process from FDA approval all the way down to provider reimbursement too.

United Healthcare (Optum) Owns A Consulting Firm for FDA Drug and Device Approvals, Clinical Trials–CanReg - Subsidiary Watch

One other related item too is the purchase of physicians groups which is growing and the acquisition of Monarch in Orange County is one big example of buying a huge managed care group.

United Healthcare To Buy Huge Chunk of Orange County, California Managed Care Business with the Purchase of Monarch Healthcare–Subsidiary Watch

Again, in summary with such large profits and a lot coming from the data end of the business, this looks like one company where licensing and taxing the data sold for huge profits could fit and there are many more as Hedge Funds, Facebook and tons of other companies are cashing in royally and this all leads to bottom line profits for running algorithms on servers 24/7 that you can’t see, touch or talk to as far as the consumer is concerned, but automated algorithms for data mining and selling are yielding huge profits for corporate USA while as consumers we are becoming “data chasers” to fix a lot of the flawed data that is out there today.  It’s a good idea today to read up and see how the corporate USA scene has changed tremendously due to the huge array of mergers and acquisitions as companies are not the same ones they were 2 to 3 years ago by any means.  BD   

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) today reported fourth quarter and full year 2011 results, highlighted by strong enrollment and revenue growth in each of UnitedHealthcare’s benefits businesses and strong revenue growth at all Optum business units. Full year and fourth quarter 2011 net earnings were $4.73 per share and $1.17 per share, respectively. Cash flows from operations were $7 billion in 2011.

The Company continues to estimate 2012 revenues in the range of $107 billion to $108 billion and net earnings in the range of $4.55 to $4.75 per share.

http://www.thestreet.com/story/11379523/1/unitedhealth-group-reports-2011-results-highlighted-by-strong-and-consistent-revenue-growth.html


January-19-2012

3:27

Is there money in those algos?  This story might answer that.  Why would this employee who was a contracted programmer take this code?  It’s worth money and if you read often enough you know I discuss those algos and software is nothing more than a group of algorithms, words of Bill Gates.  image

A co-worker said the employee said the accused confused he lost the drive containing the code and get this, it’s the software (aka algorithms) that cost $10 million to develop to track the billions of dollars  that the US government dispenses “daily” to government agencies..these are some pretty commanding algorithms…so the programmer apparently took the code and who knows where it would go next?  A lot of government code is open source but don’t think that is the case here…what’s the next security breach to occur?  BD 

Bo Zhang, 32, of Queens, New York, worked as a contract programmer at the bank. He was accused of illegally copying software to an external hard drive, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. district court in Manhattan.

Authorities said the software, owned by the U.S. Treasury Department, cost about $9.5 million to develop.

A New York Fed spokesman said in a statement that the bank immediately investigated the suspected breach when it was uncovered and promptly referred the matter to authorities.

Zhang told investigators he took the code "for private use and in order to ensure that it was available to him in the event that he lost his job," the complaint said.

The code, called the Government-wide Accounting and Reporting Program (GWA), was developed to help track the billions of dollars the United States government transfers daily. The GWA provides federal agencies with a statement of their account balance, the complaint said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/19/us-nyfed-theft-idUSTRE80H27L20120119?feedType=RSS&feedName=technologyNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed:+reuters/technologyNews+%28News+/+US+/+Technology%29


January-18-2012

18:06

This is kind of an alarming incident but when you read further it does not stop the treatment process and the secondary outbursts are surgically removed.  This affects about half of those treated to be on alert, but not all of those develop the secondary skin cancer, only about a quarter of the 50% risk group. 

This sounds like a big step in recognizing undesired side effect with oncology treatments.  BD 

image

Press Release:

Drug Used to Treat Melanoma with One Mutation Sets off a Cascade that Results in a Different Type of Skin Cancer in Cells with Another Mutation

Patients with metastatic melanoma taking the recently approved drug vemurafenib (Zelboraf®) responded well to the twice daily pill, but some of them developed a different, secondary skin cancer.

Now, researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, working with investigators from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, Roche and Plexxikon, have elucidated the mechanism by which vemurafenib excels at fighting melanoma but also allows for the development of skin squamous cell carcinomas. image

The very action by which the pill works, blocking the mutated BRAF protein in melanoma cells, sets off a cellular cascade in other skin cells if they have another pre-disposing cancer mutation and ultimately accelerates the secondary skin cancers, said Dr. Antoni Ribas, co-senior author of the paper and a professor of hematology/oncology.

About 50 percent of patients who get melanoma have the BRAF mutation and can be treated with vemurafenib, Ribas said. Of those, a fourth of the patients develop skin squamous cell carcinomas. The squamous cell carcinomas were removed surgically, and vemurafenib was not discontinued for this side effect.

“We wondered why it was that we were treating and getting the melanoma to shrink, but another skin cancer was developing,” said Ribas, who studies melanoma at the Jonsson Cancer Center. “We looked at what was likely making them grow and we discovered that the drug was making pre-existing cells with a RAS mutation grow into skin squamous cell cancers.”

The 18-month study appears in the Jan. 19, 2012 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The combined research team performed a molecular analysis to identify the oncogenic mutations in the squamous cell lesions of patients treated with the BRAF inhibitor. Among 21 tumor samples studied, 13 had RAS mutations. In a different set of 14 samples, eight had RAS mutations, Ribas said.

“Our data indicate that RAS mutations are present in about 60 percent of cases in patients who develop skin squamous cell cancers while treated with vemurafenib,” Ribas said. “This RAS mutation is likely caused by prior skin damage from sun exposure, and what vemurafenib does is accelerate the appearance of these skin squamous cell cancers, as opposed to being the cause of the mutation that starts these cancers.”

Ribas’ group found that blocking the non-mutated BRAF in cells with mutated RAS caused them to send signals around BRAF that induced the growth of the squamous cell cancers.

The discovery of the squamous cell cancer mechanism has led to strategies to inhibit both the BRAF mutation with vemurafenib and block the cellular cascade with a different drug, a MEK inhibitor, before it initiates the secondary skin cancers, said co-senior author Professor Richard Marais from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who developed the animal model for the study.

“By understanding the mechanism by which these squamous cell cancers develop, we have been able to devise a strategy to prevent the second tumors without blocking the beneficial effects of the BRAF drugs,” Marais said. “This may allow many more patients to benefit from these important drugs.”

Ribas said that this is one of the very few times that oncologists understand molecularly why a side effect to cancer treatment is happening.

“The side effect in this case is caused by how the drug works in a different cellular setting,” he said. “In one case it inhibits cancer growth, and in another it makes the malignant cells grow faster.”

Studies currently are under way testing BRAF and MEK inhibitors in combination in patients with metastatic melanoma, Ribas said.

“Our data provide a molecular mechanism for the clinical toxicity of a targeted oncogene inhibitor that apparently contradicts the intended effects,” the study states.

The study was supported by Roche, Plexxikon, the Seaver Institute, the Louise Belley and Richard Schnarr Fund, the Fred L. Hartley Family Foundation, the Wesley Coyle Memorial Fund, the Ruby Family Foundation, the Albert Stroberg and Betsy Patterson Fund, the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation and the Caltech-UCLA Joint Center for Translational Medicine.

UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2011, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named among the top 10 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for 11 of the last 12 years. For more information on the Jonsson Cancer Center, visit our website at http://www.cancer.ucla.edu.


January-18-2012

14:11

Jon goes back to Foxconn-revisited…in his usual style and he says we need to make our factories look more like those in China.  Workers live in dormitories and don’t know each other, cuts down on commuting and friendship.  image

Workers are finding ways of improving their conditions, hotlines with trying to stop suicide and put nets around buildings to catch jumpers…I think we remember this from a year ago and he says in the US we call this “treating the symptoms”.

“It’s me, Siri, in your pants pocket working on giving you testicular cancer”…If it works for those factories, electronics would cost more..modern work fare…a game to the rescue…this is great humor but there are somethings I does make one ponder…there’s just one level and this is it…(the middle class) as algorithms are marketed and designed and sold to consumers.

He shows the work of the algorithms in place for sure in a humorous way.  Why are health insurance companies getting into the low income housing business though?  I hope this is not a Foxconn plan to create communities with jobs that pay little and have medical care on campus?  What is up with this? 

United Healthcare Gets in The Low Income Housing Business With Partnership to Finance Housing Projects in New Mexico

The same company owns a subsidiary that will basically give you a free hearing aid made in China if you sign up for their health insurance…more below…and the subsidiary they built to distribute and coming to Walmart soon as I understand…

UnitedHealthCare Throws in Free Hearing Aids for Those Who Enroll In AARP Medicare Advantage, HMO & POS Plans in Miami-Dade County From Their New Subsidiary

He moves on to the next part, a game that has one level…hmmm…we another insurance company banking on this too…data to sell?  Will this make you healthy?  I prefer real knowledge.

Aetna To Offer Online Game Social Game For Personal Wellness- Joins Humana As They Have An Online Game Called FamScape

I just ask is there where we are headed with mining and selling data today and big corporations taking over our day to day decisions?   The more information they have to judge and discriminate, the ability to control and humiliate the middle class grows. 

Consumers Lose More Privacy With New CoreLogic Credit Reporting–”Score” Marketed For Insurers and Employers To Gain Information-California Prohibits Potential Employers – From Using As Jan 1 - Killer Algorithms Part 8

At any rate with the use of algorithms today that have teeth and the amount of flawed data out there, are we going in this direction?  I put this out for an awareness and perhaps to generate some though processes.  I like technology and the good things it brings but am not oblivious  to how it can also be abused as well and a NYU professor says it even better than me, read and listen up. 

“Numbers Don’t Lie, But People Do”–Radio Interview from Charles Siefe–Journalists Take Note, He Addresses How Marketing And Bogus Statistics Are Sources of Problems That Mislead the Public & Government

I sure hope Richard Cordray understands math and the power of the algorithms when used both in an intuitive and good manner and the reality of those who design for pure profit that hurts consumers.  You can see, smell or touch them, but they are running on server 24/7 every day making like impacting decisions, crafted by some of the smartest programmers and developers that the money on Wall Street can buy.   

President Appoints Richard Cordray as New Consumer Financial Protection Chief - Hope He Knows And Understands Correcting Flawed Math and Formulas To Battle the “Financial Attack of Killer Algorithms” On Consumers With Banks and Corporate USA

Another good article to read about the over sell and naïve and gullible nature of the US with both government and consumers, read what Nanex has to say as they are the folks that monitor and study rogue algorithms in the stock market and look for indicators of the “next flash crash”.  A couple paragraphs are below and will the SEC be suckered in to this huge expense of programmers who want to make big dollars writing code convince a naïve and gullible SEC?  It’s all over the place with digital illiteracy, steroid marketing and algorithms for huge profits only and they have teeth.  BD 

“Wall street hires the best software developers money can buy. They write clever algorithms. These algorithms will only get more clever as time goes on. Which means they will always be changing. Now, writing software to detect what other imagesoftware is doing is 100 times more difficult. Which in the software world means 100 times more expensive. Which means hiring people that do not exist, since Wall Street already snapped up the best, and you need the best times 100 (you can't make it up in quantity and just get 100 times more wizards, because many will have poor social skills, and you need these people to communicate).”

“You see the folly of trying to regulate the markets in real-time? Real-time raises the cost exponentially times a million. To a level that all the kings in the world couldn't afford. It would be one thing to track in real-time, things that had known behavior. Like your checking account being overdrawn. Maybe credit card fraud in the making (which, by-the-way, hasn't been perfected yet, despite lots of money and time thrown at the problem).

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-january-16-2012/fear-factory


January-18-2012

2:34

To go back a little bit in time the chip was also set up to communicate with personal health records like Healthvault.  The latest development on the chip was the ability to communicate real time glucose readings.  The FDA has approved the product and the HealthLink software. 

PositiveID Corporation's Health Link Personal Health Record – First PHR to Communicate Real-Time Blood Sugar Readings for Diabetics and Their Caregivers/Physicians

In addition, Medcomp who makes vascular access catheters  will use the chip in vascular ports for identifying the port in a patient for proper medication dispensing. As it read here though the use with Medcomp still needs to secure FDA approval.  This chip keeps coming back around with many lives.  BD  

DELRAY BEACH, Fla., Jan 17, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- VeriTeQ Acquisition Corporation ("VeriTeQ" or "Company"), a marketer of implantable, radio frequency identification ("RFID") technologies for patient identification and sensor applications, announced today it has acquired the VeriChip implantable microchip and related technologies, and Health Link personal health record from PositiveID Corporation. VeriTeQ is majority owned and led by Scott R. Silverman, former Chairman and CEO of PositiveID and VeriChip Corporation. PositiveID has retained an ownership interest in VeriTeQ.

VeriTeQ will focus on three main areas: patient identification and personal health record (PHR) access through the VeriChip implantable microchip and Health Link web-based PHR; implantable sensor applications; and identification of medical devices within the body. VeriTeQ will also focus on identification and sensor applications for animals. image

VeriTeQ's acquisition also includes the rights to a Development and Supply Agreement with Medical Components, Inc. ("Medcomp"), a leading manufacturer of vascular access catheters. Under the terms of the agreement, Medcomp will embed the VeriChip microchip in its vascular ports to facilitate identification of the port in a patient and proper medication dispensing.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/veriteq-acquisition-corporation-acquires-implantable-fda-cleared-verichip-technology-and-health-link-personal-health-record-from-positiveid-corporation-2012-01-17


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