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The Healthcare IT Guy

January-17-2012

8:00

This is the next post in my series of Do’s and Don’ts Healthcare IT. As we all know, some of our most important citizens live in rural settings, small cities, the countryside, or remote areas. These areas have smaller populations and less direct access to vital healthcare resources. In the past 15 years or so we’ve made some great strides in remotely accessible healthcare; these offerings, called telemedical tools, provide important clinical care at a distance. Here are some do’s and don’ts of telemedicine:

  • Do use commonly available web meeting and online video tools bring expert caregivers anywhere. WebEx, GotoMeeting, Adobe Connect, Skype, and a variety of other “web meeting” tools used mostly in professional office settings and remote sales pitches are wonderful tools to connect caregivers in populated communities to their rural patients. A simple $30 to $50 per month account on the physician side with almost no direct cost for the patient is an excellent way to engage with patients. These kinds of web meetings can happen securely either at the patient’s home or patients can be brought into satellite offices with high-quality telepresence. Then, instead of waiting for days or weeks for a health professional to travel to an area or patients having to take off many hours or entire days traveling to experts in big cities, care can be given almost immediately with less inconvenience. Don’t assume that kinds of web meeting solutions are HIPAA compliant out of the box; however, do realize they can be made HIPAA compliant with appropriate protections.
  • Do use medical devices for remote monitoring of in-home care improve clinical observations. While web meetings are great for basic primary care, it’s not perfect for elder care, long-term care, and other types of clinical requirements. There is a new class of devices that can put near-hospital-quality patient monitoring devices into patient homes and “beam” that data to monitoring centers that can watch for important events across many patients in different geographical areas. Toss in a nurse or other caregiver that can visit once a week or once a month to calibrate the devices and you can see how much more convenience patients can have and have their physicians, wherever they may be, have immediate access to their actual vitals and clinical status.
  • Don’t assume that medical device connectivity will be fast or easy to do on your own — you’ll need something like Qualcomm’s 2net platform. 2net is a trustable, Class I FDA-listed, standalone gateway with an embedded cellular component that sends clinical data truly “in the cloud” without requiring local internet connectivity. Medical data can be sent from devices in the same way that e-books can be read on Kindle devices – using 3G cellular, from mobile phones, and software APIs.
  • Don’t always send patients to labs; instead, take labs to patients with mobile imaging and lab specimen collections that allow remote reading and web-based report distribution. It’s difficult for many rural communities to have their own full diagnosticians but mobile imaging centers and lab specimen “kiosks” can do the X-rays, take pictures, and perform collections and then send the data electronically to large populated centers where they can be “read” and analyzed; the reports can be distributed via secure e-mail or other web-based applications to doctors in the rural areas or physicians remotely available and connected through web meeting or other similar tools.
  • Do try and make behavioral health, mental health, and related care made more accessible. Veterans of our foreign wars are coming home with many problems that can be easily diagnosed with proper access and many of the veterans live in rural communities; while primary care and specialty care is difficult to get in smaller population regions, behavioral and mental health is even harder to access. Telemedical assistance through online chat, Skype-like video conversations, and secure online messaging can provide quick relief.
  • Don’t leave patients on their own and encourage them to join online communities. Online community building tools allow populated city citizens to meld with their rural counterparts. Patients helping other patients is a terrific approach to extending care; sometimes what a patient needs is not necessarily a health professional but a curated session with fellow patients going through the same problems. Online, electronic, community tools such as PatientsLikeMe.com can connect geographic communities and bring them closer together without increasing costs or requiring anything more than a simple mobile phone or computer.

What do’s and don’ts would you add to a telemedicine strategy? Drop me a comment below.

January-13-2012

7:39

I recently wrote, in Do’s and Don’ts of hospital health IT, that you shouldn’t make long-term decisions on mobile app platforms like iOS and Android because the mobile world is still quite young and the war between Apple, Microsoft, and Google is nowhere near being resolved. A couple of readers, in the comments section (thanks Anne and DDS), asked me to elaborate mobile and mHealth strategy for healthcare professionals (HCPs) and hospitals.

A couple of the key points were:

  • (Anne) how can you avoid making long-term mobile decisions at this point?  After all, hospitals that don’t steer their doctors are going to be managing whatever technology the doctors invest in, aren’t they?
  • (DDS) the risk is that people will take this to mean that they shouldn’t move at all on mobile app platforms, and this would be a mistake. This is the perennial issue with health IT; if it’s not perfect, then wait.

The approach I recommend right now for mobile apps, if you’re developing them yourself, is to stay focused on HTML5 browser-based apps and not native apps. So, to answer Anne’s and DDS’s question specifically, no you shouldn’t wait to allow usage of mobile apps by anyone; but, if you’re looking to build your own apps and deploy them widely (not in simple experiments or pilots) then you shouldn’t write to iOS or Android or WP7 but instead use HTML5 frameworks like AppMobi and PhoneGap that give you almost the same functionality but protect you from the underlying platform wars. In the end, HTML5 will likely win and it’s cross-platform and quite functional for most common use cases. If you’re not developing the apps yourself and using third-party apps, then of course you must support the use of iOS native, Android native, and soon Windows native apps on your network.

So, from a general perspective you should embrace mHealth but do so in a strategic, not tactical manner. Here are the most critical questions to answer in a mHealth strategy — it’s not a simple one size fits all approach:

  • How will you allow doctors’ or patients’ own devices within your hospitals / organizations — simply by providing connectivity and wireless access on the production network or some other means?
  • How will you allow doctors’ own devices to connect to hospital IT systems?
  • How will you extend hospital IT systems via hospital-owned mobile devices?
  • How will you allow the hospital or organization to “prescribe” the use of apps to patients and track the usage of apps?
  • How will you approve or deny the use of certain apps that may not meet FDA regulations if they get close to MDDS or Class 1/2/3 devices?

If there is interest in this topic, I will expand on my list of Do’s and Don’ts — mHealth is a very complex topic and requires a good strategy. Just saying that you allow the use of mobile devices like smartphones in your hospital is not an mHealth strategy. :-)

January-10-2012

6:45

In case you haven’t seen it, MU attestations data is now available on Data.gov and it includes analyzable vendor statistics.

The data set merges information about the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs attestations with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, Certified Health IT Products List. This new dataset enables systematic analysis of the distribution of certified EHR vendors and products among those providers that have attested to meaningful use within the CMS EHR Incentive Programs. The data set can be analyzed by state, provider type, provider specialty, and practice setting.

The data set does not include dollar amounts or the difficulty of attestation (e.g. how many times it took to pass). I’ll try and find out if that data might be available in the future. It’s also unclear whether the provider counts were broken up into each line (meaning one provider per row) or if multiple providers were aggregated into lines (meaning multiple providers were grouped).

The dataset is available now on Data.gov at http://www.data.gov/raw/5486 and is worth checking out. Since the file has been downloaded over 75 times, it’s clear some of you already know about this so if you’ve done some analysis with it; if you’ve done any analysis or posted results please drop me a note below so that everyone can benefit.

January-8-2012

21:01

Last year I started a series of “Do’s and Dont’s” in hospital tech by focusing on wireless technologies. Folks asked a lot of questions about do’s and dont’s in other tech areas so here’s a list of more tips and tricks:

  • Do start implementing cloud-based services. Don’t think, though, that just because you are implementing cloud services that you will have less infrastructure or related work to do. Cloud services, especially in the SaaS realm, are “application-centric” solutions and as such the infrastructure requirements remain pretty substantial – especially the sophistication of the network infrastructure.
  • Do consider programmable and app-driven content management and document management systems as a core for their electronic health records instead of special-purpose EHR systems written decades ago. Don’t install new EHRs that don’t have robust document management capabilities. Do consider EHRs that can be easily integrated with document and content management systems like SharePoint or Alfresco.
  • Do go after virtualization for almost all apps – as soon as possible, make it so that no applications are sitting in physical servers. Don’t invest more in any apps that cannot easily be virtualized.
  • Do start looking at location-based asset tracking and app functionality; your equipment should be aware of where it’s physically sitting and be able to “find itself” and “track itself” using location-based awareness. Don’t invest heavily in systems that can not support location-based awareness (like potentially allow or disallow logins based on where someone is logging in from as well as enable / disable certain features in applications on where logins are occurring).
  • Do start implementing single sign on and common identity management with CCOW integration. Don’t invest in any systems that cannot meet common identity or SSO requirements.
  • Don’t make long-term decisions on mobile app platforms like iOS and Android because the mobile world is still quite young and the war between Apple, Microsoft, and Google is nowhere near being resolved. A platform that looks strong today may be weak tomorrow and become legacy quickly; however, HTML5 is not going anywhere and will be ultimate winner of the next 15 years just like HTML4 is the winner from 1995 to now. Do start investing in HTML 5 and CSS3 and away from HTML4. Don’t install any more apps that require IE6/7 or older browsers and don’t invest in systems that don’t have HTML5 in their roadmaps.
  • Don’t write applications on top of legacy EHR platforms; write applications with proper HL7 connectivity and platform independence. Most EHR platforms are using technologies that are either ancient or need to be replaced; by integrating deeply but remaining independent of their technologies you’ll get the best of both worlds.
  • Don’t buy any medical devices from vendors that don’t have a deep and thorough medical device to healthcare IT enterprise connectivity strategy. If a device doesn’t have wired or wireless TCP/IP access, doesn’t have data export or HL7 connectivity is not worth purchasing.
  • Don’t buy any thick-client applications that do not have thin-client “remote viewers” available.

January-2-2012

10:57

One of the most important activities you can undertake before you begin your EHR implementation journey is to standardize and simplify your processes to help prepare for automation. Unlike humans, which can handle diversity, computers hate variations. Before you begin your software selection process, get help from a practice consultant to reduce the number of appointment types you manage, reduce the number of different forms you use, ensure that your charting categories (“Labs”, “Notes”, etc.) don’t look different per patient type or physician, determine how you will manage medication lists and problem lists across the patient population, and deal with how you’ll manage paper in your digital world.

If you spend even just a few hours a week doing the prep-work before you buy any software, you will be better prepared in your selection process. Without some level of standardization your EHR implementation will either fail, be delayed, or have many unhappy users; the more you can standardize and simplify, the more likely you will have a successful outcome. A strong project manager with authority to make decisions will be the difference maker in the simplification process.

To help you with your workflow assessment and standardization efforts, check out the The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ.gov) Workflow Assessment for Health IT Toolkit. Even if you’ve done workflow assessments before, the toolkit is worth checking out.

December-24-2011

8:59

As most of my regular readers know, I work as a technology strategy advisor for several different government agencies; in that role I get to spend quality time with folks from NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology), what I consider one of the government’s most prominent think tanks. They’re doing yeoman’s work trying to get the massive federal government’s different agencies working in common directions and the technology folks I’ve met seem cognizant of the influence (good and bad) they have; they seem to try to wield that power as carefully as they know how. Since most of you are in the technology industry, albeit specific to healthcare, I recommend that you learn more about NIST and the role it plays – they can make your life easier because of the coordination and consensus building work they do for us all. I, for one, was thrilled when NIST was picked as the governing body for the MU certification criteria. These guys know what they’re doing and I wish they got more involved in driving healthcare standards.

A few years ago NIST came up with the first drafts of the seminal definitions of Cloud Computing; they ended up setting the stage for communicating complex technical concepts and helping making “Cloud” a household name. After 15 drafts, the 16th and final definition was published as The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing (NIST Special Publication 800-145) in September. It’s worth reading because it’s only a few pages and is understandable by the layperson. No computer science degree is required.

Yesterday I was speaking to a senior executive in the EHR space and we had a great discussion on what healthcare providers are doing in terms of cloud computing and how to communicate these ideas to small practices as well as hospitals. It reminded me of the numerous similar conversations I’ve had with other senior executives we serve in the medical devices and other regulated IT sectors. In almost every conversation I can remember about this topic over the past couple of years, I had to remind people that NIST has already done the hard work and that we can, indeed, rely on them. Most of the time the senior executive was unaware of where the definitions came from so I figured I’d put together this quick advisory.

My strong recommendation to all senior healthcare executives is that we not come up with our own definitions for cloud components – instead, when communicating anything about the cloud we should instruct our customers about NIST’s definition and then tie our product offerings to those definitions. The essential characteristics, deployment models, and service models have already been established and we should use them. When we do that, customers know that we’re not trying to confuse them and that they have an independent way of verifying our cloud offerings as real or vapor.

Below I have copied/pasted from NIST 800-145 their key definitions. Imagine how many debates you would avert with technicians at clients when, during conversations with a client, you communicated some of the following information first, showed them how it was a “standard definition” and handed them a copy of the publication, and then mapped your offerings and discussions to the different areas. Your sales teams and the marketing teams would appreciate the clarity, too.

Note that you do not need to map every offering you have to every definition – just start mapping the obvious ones and then figure out how you can communicate the “gaps” as being not applicable to your products / services or if those gaps will be filled in the future as part of your roadmap. Treat these definitions as canonical but not inclusive – meaning that just because your SaaS offering doesn’t fit every essential characteristic doesn’t mean that you’re not “cloud” – it just means partially cloud.

If you’ve got questions about how to map your product offerings, drop me some comments and I’ll assist as best as I can.

Here are the key definitions from NIST 800-145, copied directly from the original source:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.

Essential Characteristics:

On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.

Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).

Resource pooling. The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, and network bandwidth.

Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.

Measured service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability1 at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.

Service Models:

Software as a Service (SaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure2. The applications are accessible from various client devices through either a thin client interface, such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email), or a program interface. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application configuration settings.

Platform as a Service (PaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools supported by the provider.3 The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications and possibly configuration settings for the application-hosting environment.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications; and possibly limited control of select networking components (e.g., host firewalls).

Deployment Models:

Private cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.

Community cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a specific community of consumers from organizations that have shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be owned, managed, and operated by one or more of the organizations in the community, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.

Public cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for open use by the general public. It may be owned, managed, and operated by a business, academic, or government organization, or some combination of them. It exists on the premises of the cloud provider.

Hybrid cloud. The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds).

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January-11-2012

15:02

Admittedly, our predictions for 2011 were modest. Most of those predictions were logical and did not take a whole lot of imagination to envision thus our success rate, 7 “hits”, 2 “toss-ups” and 2 “misses was quite high. And though are biggest accomplishment, predicting Blumenthal’s departure just a few short weeks before he actually announced such intentions is laudable, by and large these predictions just didn’t go far enough. So for 2012, rather than make simplistic predictions such as “analytics will be a high growth area” or “mHealth will create greater security concerns” or even “ACOs will begin to take hold” as none of these are all that thought provoking, we’ll go out on a limb with many of our predictions. Hopefully that limb won’t crack sending us crashing to the ground.

Without further adieu, here are our predictions:

Consumer/Patient Engagement – Not What it Seems
Despite the best efforts of the team at ONC to beat the consumer/patient engagement drum, providers by and large are still struggling with such basic issues of taking live their certified EHRs, making the transition to ICD-10, meeting physician demands to have everything served up on their new iPad and of course mapping out future strategies in anticipation of payment reform. Thus, we foresee consumer engagement remaining a tertiary issue in 2012. Just too many other pressing priorities at the moment. WebMD’s implosion on Jan. 10th may portend that this is not such a bad move – at least in the near term.

Bloom is Off the Rose, EHR Market Plateaus
Going out on a limb, we see 2012 as the year when we start talking of the post EHR-era. Yes, there will be plenty more EHR sales in the year to come but over 2012 we will also see EHR sales growth begin to plateau and level off by end of Q4’12. You heard it here first folks, it is time to collect your EHR winnings and seek new places to invest.

Finally, We’ll See Some Fairly Competent Tablet Apps from Legacy Vendors
Though physicians continue to adopt iPads at a rapid rate, they struggle to effectively use them in the hospitals to which they are affiliated simply because most hospital HIS cannot serve up an application effectively on an iPad. Sure, many have tried using Citrix as a stop-gap measure but this is just isn’t cutting it. In speaking to one CIO of a major IDN recently, he was so frustrated with his core EHR vendor’s slow pace of development that he is about ready to self-fund the development of an App for his physicians. Fear not CIOs and frustrated physicians, we have had the opportunity to see several alpha versions of iPad Apps that major EHR vendors are developing and they actually look pretty good. Look to Q2-Q3 ’12 for general availability release of these touch-screen native (mostly iPad-centric) Apps.

At Gunpoint, Direct Project Gains Traction
In 2011, the message came down from on high, or at least from the feds, that all State HIEs must include the use of Direct in their strategic plan. Pretty clear that this was politically motivated as to date, for the $500M plus we, as taxpayers are spending on these public HIEs, there is very little to show for it and we are now running headlong into an election year and this administration needs to show something, anything, in the way of success as it pertains to health information exchange. Sure Direct facilitates health information exchange (the verb), but so does a fax machine and frankly, Direct is only a modest step beyond faxing. Therefore, Direct will gain traction in these “forced” instances but we do not see it extending its reach into the much larger market of private, enterprise HIEs (does not sufficiently support care coordination, population health and analytics) and thus Direct’s overall impact in the market will be small and fade to nothing in three years time.

First CPT Codes for mHealth Apps Issued
mHealth Apps for care provisioning have not seen any significant adoption beyond pilot studies, studies which typically show some efficacy in their use. The big hang-up is a simple one, the risk to reward ratio for physicians to adopt and use mHealth Apps as part of the care process is too low. What might change that risk-reward ratio though is a CPT code whereby a physician actually gets paid to use, or have a patient use an App as part of the care process. WellDoc is one of the few mHealth App companies that is quite aggressive in moving the ball forward and we would not be too surprised if WellDoc did industry ground-breaking work to secure the first CPT codes for their diabetes management App.

Train has Left the Station as Supreme Court Rules on ACA
Though the Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is unlikely that their subsequent ruling will throw out all of ACA (they may prune it). More importantly, the move to value-based reimbursement models is already in full swing, which is something that will not be reversed. Whatever the Supreme Court rules, its impact will be minimal and the numerous changes we are seeing take place today (move to accountable care models, patient centered medical home, etc.) will continue as the train has already left the station.

Changing of the Guard as Dynamic Duo Departs
Last year we predicted the departure of ONC head, Dr. David Blumenthal. This year is an election year and it is expected that there will be a significant changing of the guard across the administration. We predict that the dynamic duo that is Aneesh Chopra, White House CTO and Todd Park, HHS CTO will both be leaving their posts by end of the year.

M&A Continues, but at far more Reasonable Valuations
Okay, yes we have had this prediction for three years running, but we just can’t help ourselves as we see far too many vendors in this market (some 300+ EHR vendors alone!) and some rationalization must enter at some point. We are seeing rationalization on valuations (e.g., no one was willing to pay what Thomson Reuters wanted for their healthcare business unit despite there being a sizable number of bidders) and this will create an opportunity for acceleration in M&A activity in 2012.

Floundering HITECH Initiatives Attract Political Spotlight
Yes, we are seeing some modest success and adoption of EHRs as a result of the HITECH Act but the preponderance of such success is at hospitals that first have had some form of EHR already in place and also have a lot to lose if proposed reimbursement cuts from CMS come to fruition at the end this multi-year march to certified EHR adoption and meaningful use. Yet, under the covers we are still not seeing wide-spread EHR adoption at the ambulatory level, especially among smaller practices, State HIE initiatives struggle to define what they’ll actually be when the grow-up, the Beacon programs have not reached the promise land, and the RECs, well we were never a big fan of these for obvious reasons we outlined previously. As this is an election year, healthcare and anything with the stamp of the Obama administration on it, will become fair game and dragged into the limelight. Get ready for healthcare to become the political piñata of 2012

HIE Vendors Stumble
By the end of 2012, the final awards for State HIEs will conclude and with it the evaporation of the $500M plus honey-pot that attracted so many vendors into this space. What’s next for these vendors? Some will stumble out of the market with little to show for their efforts. Others will work with their public clients to stand-up these public HIEs in order that they provide value to their respective communities, which will not be easy and lead to more stumbling. And of course HIE vendors who have traditionally been focused on public markets will reposition themselves for the private, enterprise market. Some of these vendors are now stumbling in this transition to the enterprise market (requires different sales resources and tactics, technology requirements, etc.). This will result in yet another shakeout in this niche industry sector. (Our forthcoming HIE Market Report will provide further details)

The funny thing about doing these predictions is that as one actually goes through the process of thinking about this market, which is currently going through nearly unprecedented change, one ponders so many other predictions that just end up on the cutting room floor. Some of those include:

Payers continue to struggle with exactly what they’ll offer on the State Health Insurance Exchange.

Pharma companies look to insert themselves directly into physician workflow, via HIT.

Despite rising cost share, consumers still struggle to make intelligent, informed decisions.

Telehealth gets some wind under its wings as big telecoms start aggressive lobbying efforts.

You get the idea, plenty of turmoil, no lack of potential trajectories in technology adoption and use within the healthcare sector and we here at Chilmark Research look forward to continuing to provide thoughtful insight on this ever evolving market in 2012.

So now it’s your turn. Are we on the mark with our predictions? Did we reach too far? Is there a particular prediction that you have which we totally missed? It is you, the community of readers that make this site far richer than we ever could do on our own and we look forward to your feedback.


December-23-2011

12:06

It is almost becoming the norm to say that it has been another tumultuous year in the healthcare IT market. Market consolidation, pushback on timelines, growing chorus from IT departments that enough is enough against the backdrop of the political circus in Washington and across the land as we prepare for the 2012 election year. If 2011, was a bit bumpy, believe we will see craters in the road to HIT enlightenment in 2012. But we’ll save that discussion for our future predictions for 2012 post, which we hope to get to next week. (Editor’s Note: Don’t hold your breath though, if the snow flakes are flying, we’ll be on the slopes next week.)

Today’s post takes a look back on 2011 by reviewing our predictions earlier in the year and assessing where we hit the mark, where we missed and if there is such a thing, where we came close. So without further adieu…

1. MU Initiatives Move to Tactical 
Hit This did come true as meaningful use, while still top of mind for the CIO, is not top of mind for others in the executive suite who are now looking at how to compete in the future as reimbursement models shift from fee-for-service to value-based contracts.

2. C-Suite Strategy Focuses on New Payment Models 
Hit An admittedly “softball” prediction, this was a natural fall-out of prediction numero uno. And yes, the consultants are making out like bandits as we predicted they would helping senior execs figure out their future competitive strategy.

3. RCM & Charge Capture Systems Require Overhaul 
Miss By and large, most vendors in this sector have not done a whole lot yet as they await to see how the market develops. With most healthcare organizations struggling to get the basics done (e.g., meet MU requirements, ICD-9 -> ICD-10, apply analytics, etc.) we are not seeing big demand from customers and subsequently, not a big push by vendors.

4. Mergers & Acquisitions Continue Unabated
Hit Another “gimme” of sorts for we had this prediction in 2010 and it was a “hit” and need only look at this market with its some odd 300+ EHRs to choose from, everyone wanting to call themselves at HIE vendor (last we checked, HIMSS listed some 189 HIE vendors alone), countless other HIT solutions to see that this market is far from mature. But arguably the biggest news in 2011 was Microsoft’s capitulation that despite the billion dollar plus investment, it wasn’t cut out or the clinical market and dumping its HIT assets into a new joint venture with GE. What we are also seeing is some rationality return as valuations have moderated. This may have led to Thomson Reuters’ recent decision to not sell-off its healthcare division – no one was willing to pay the high price tag they had on this property.

5. Federally Funded State Initiatives Struggle
Toss-up There has been some progress and there are those that would vehemently argue that Beacon Communities, RECs and state HIEs are moving ahead briskly. But then again, we do get some disturbing reports that all is not progressing as once envisioned, one might even go so far as to say some of these programs are beyond just struggling, but clearly going off the tracks. We’ll reserve judgment until we see clear evidence of such pending disasters, which will likely be prevalent, but highly distributed.

6. Changing of the Guard at ONC
Hit Not long after we posted our 2011 predictions, Blumenthal announced his resignation from ONC. We could not have been more prophetic if we tried.

7. Physicians will continue to go Ga-Ga over the iPad and the fast-following touchscreen tablets much to the chagrin of CIOs.
Hit Enabling physicians access to health information systems via their hand-held mobile devices, including touch-screen tablets is still a struggle for most organizations. At first, IT departments turned to Citrix as stop-gap measure, but the UX was far from ideal. In our recent research we found many an IT department still struggling to address this issue. mobile enablement of physicians is a top priority.

8. Apps Proliferate: Consumer-facing First, Private Practice Second, Enterprises Dead Last
Hit In hindsight, another admittedly easy prediction to make. What may be a more interesting prediction is when will mHealth Apps really become a truly viable market? Does the profitable exit of iTriage/Healthagen, which was picked up by Aetna portend such? By our standards, no. Go back to our recent post from the mHealth Summit for more in-depth analysis.

9. The Poor Man’s (doctor’s) HIE Takes Hold
Miss We thought that the Direct Project would quickly take hold and see rapid adoption among smaller physician practices and those organizations looking to “connect the last mile” to small affiliated practices in their network. Not happening yet though the current administration is doing its best to push this technology by requiring all state designated entities that are standing up statewide HIEs to include Direct in the strategic operating plan.

10. Analytics & Business Intelligence Perceived as Nirvana 
Hit, kind of… 
In retrospect, not even sure this was really a prediction but simply more of a statement as to where healthcare organizations are headed with their HIT investments. We have a long ways to go, though there is certainly no lack of vendors that now are touting some form of analytics capabilities. Our advice, tread carefully as most solutions today are half-baked.

11) The Buzz at HIMSS’11? Everything ACO! 
Miss 
While some vendors were discussing ACO enablement at the 2011 HIMSS, the vast majority were not with the key focus continuing to be meeting Meaningful Use requirements. As mentioned in previous prediction, we see MU as a tactical issue with the strategic issue being: How do we leverage IT infrastructure to support communities of care? Maybe at HIMSS’12 we’ll see more discussion of this issue, but we’re not holding our breath.

This may have been our best year yet with our predictions having only 3 clear misses out of 11 predictions made. Granted, some of those predictions were not exactly the most profound or shall we say big stretches, but we do take some satisfaction in really nailing a few.

And while we intend to provide our own 2012 predictions, no time like the present to begin the process. So we ask you dear reader, what is your 2-3 top predictions for 2012? Will Todd Park stay on at HHS? Will forced budget cuts decimate HITECH? Will the Supreme Court’s ruling on ACA have any impact on HIT spend by either payers or providers? Will mHealth Apps such as WellDoc’s for diabetic care finally receive a CBT code thereby accelerating adoption of such tools?  We look forward to your input.

And of course we wish everyone a Joyous holiday season and wish you and yours continued good health in the new year to come.

Home for Christmas by Thomas Kinkade


December-9-2011

16:37

As many readers know, Chilmark Research has been a strong proponent of mHealth for several years. Despite this enthusiasm, we sometimes come away from a conference, such as this week’s mHealth Summit, with the feeling that the only ones making a living with mHealth are conference organizers. Maybe it was the format of this particular conference – too many presentations that were not well vetted for relevance and content. Maybe it was the lack of exhibitors – where is the rest of the legacy HIT market who are all claiming to be bringing mHealth solutions to market? Maybe it was hearing too many mHealth vendors with weak value propositions asking the Feds to step in and jump start this market. Or maybe it was the over reliance on government presentations and an ill-fated alliance with HIMSS, who sponsored less than visionary sessions. Hard to point to any single thing that contributed to this ho hum feeling, so let’s just chalk it up to all the above.

That being said, however, the mHealth Summit, now in its third year, is the best conference one can attend in the US if one wants to get the global pulse on all things mHealth.

From its humble beginnings where the first conference was quickly over-subscribed and held in a small DC amphitheater, this year’s event drew over 3,000 attendees to the massive Gaylord Resort outside of Washington DC for three days of countless sessions running concurrently covering every aspect of mHealth one could imagine. While most sessions were structured as panels with several short presentations, one was thankful that presentations were indeed short for few had substance. But nearly every session had one stellar presentation that kept one hopeful. Those were the gems of this event and like any event, the networking that occurs in the halls.

And then there were those sessions that took a close look at mHealth adoption in developing countries. This is the current market for mHealth (albeit almost all nonprofit) for these countries have real health needs having to deliver healthcare to a highly distributed and often rural population with too few doctors and lack a robust land-line network (no Internet cafes here folks). But what they do have are cell phones – lots of them and they are not tied to legacy systems and associated processes. Even among some of the poorest countries, the rapid adoption of cellphones by the populace is staggering (e.g., India alone now represents 20% of all cellphones in use worldwide). Combine the need with very little in the way of legacy HIT infrastructure and the ubiquitous nature of cellphones and you have a ripe opportunity to redefine care delivery models. Look overseas to these developing countries for the real future of mHealth for this is where best practices in mHealth-enabled care delivery will likely develop and later be adopted in more developed countries, US included.

That is not to say they are no advances occurring here in the US. One of the keynote speakers, cardiologist Eric Topol, gave several live demos during his talk of the mHealth tools he is already using including stating that he has not used a stethoscope in two years, instead preferring to use mobisante’s ultrasound wand and iPhone App.  Then there was our conversation with WellDoc’s CTO who informed us that they are currently being deployed at a number of institutions and hope to have a host of CPT codes that doctors can bill against in late 2012. And there was the small start-up we spoke with who has done the hard work of first identifying what the value proposition is for all stakeholders in a community (payers, providers and consumers) and then developed an extremely compelling solution (think analytics & automated quality reporting, tied to reimbursement, tied to consumer engagement) that has a lot of promise in a market where physicians’ pay will increasingly be based on outcomes and ability to meet pre-defined quality metrics

Therein lies arguably the biggest take-away from the mHealth Summit. As one individual put it, ‘There was a bit of whining about getting the government to force large corporations to form strategic partnerships with smaller organizations.” But what these start-ups really need is to simply focus on addressing the age old question: ‘What’s in it for me?’ These companies need to stop the whining and do their homework defining the value proposition for not just the consumer, or just the doctor, but think more broadly of the impact their solution may have on the delivery of care, and how each stakeholder may benefit. Unfortunately, as these conference clearly showed, the mHealth market is still heavy on hype and little on substance.

Addendum:
For a slightly different take, check out the post by VC firm Psilos’ Managing Partner Lisa Suennen’s. Well worth the read. And more recently, Charles Huang, formerly of Spark Capital, provides his own view of the mHealth Summit, including a a call that once and for all, we need to kill the term mHealth.

Also, the image used for this story was taken by Joel Selanikio, CEO & co-founder of DataDyne.org an organization focusing on mobile data collection, particularly, the App EpiSurveyor. Thanks Joel. 


December-8-2011

15:32

Today, GE and Microsoft announced a joint venture (JV) that will lead to the formation of a new company (NewCo) targeting the clinical healthcare market sector. The NewCo will be located near Microsoft HQ in Redmond, WA, start with roughly 700 employees and combine the remaining Microsoft clinical products, Amalga UIS and the former Sentillion products Vergence and expreSSO with GE’s eHealth and Qualibria suite. NewCo’s new CEO will be GE’s Michael Simpson, who has been heading up the combined Qualibria-eHealth group since earlier this year after a re-org at GE. Along with this announcement, Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group (HSG) leader, Peter Neupert stated that he’ll be retiring.

Combine the above announcement with Microsoft’s long anticipated sale of Amalga HIS, which went to Orion Health in October, and you are left with Microsoft completely pulling out of the clinical market. Sure, they’ll claim to be still in healthcare by directly selling their horizontal products (e.g., SharePoint, MS Office, various server products, etc.) into this sector and having a stake in this JV, but it is also exceedingly clear that Microsoft will no longer have any direct involvement in this market, that will be left to GE. That being said, Microsoft did state that they’ll hang onto HealthVault, but even here, that is more likely a by-product of no one wanting to take on HealthVault rather than Microsoft’s strong desire to continue to try and build a viable, revenue generating entity out of it. Do not be too surprised if, in a year’s time, HealthVault falls to the wayside much like Google Health did this year.

During our briefing call with Microsoft and GE we learned the following:

Core to NewCo’s objectives is to leverage the joint assets of Microsoft and GE to build out an entirely new platform that will focus on four key areas to begin with:

  • Clinical surveillance to identify such things as infection outbreaks within an acute care facility before they run rampent.
  • Population health management to facilitate care management processes, which is a productization of work GE has been doing with Geisinger as part of the Keystone Beacon program.
  • Reduce hospital readmissions by leveraging analytics to identify patients at risk and initiate appropriate interventions.
  • Facilitate transitions in care, which like reducing hospital readmissions, is something that is on the mind of every senior healthcare executive we talk to.

These four target areas are nothing new or inspirational as just about every vendor we talk to has some program in place or under development to address these four areas as well. The product roadmap does not have much hitting the market until 2014.

Financial terms were not disclosed but our guess is that Microsoft contributed IP and the development team behind these products. In return, they will receive some sort of royalty stake in future sales. GE will lead the new organization, contribute its Qualibria/eHealth IP and GE sales and marketing will take the product(s) to market. Thus, most sales and marketing folks and other support staff in Microsoft’s former Health Solutions Group are being shown the door, which is unfortunate as we head into the holidays.

A couple of things come across as a bit ironic. First, Microsoft executives time and again stated that they knew what they were getting into when they entered this vertical and that it would take patience to build a viable presence. So much for patience. Second, Microsoft sold off the Amalga HIS product as many a potential HIT partner was wary of partnering with Microsoft as long as Microsoft had under ownership an EHR. Now what does Microsoft do, it joins in partnership with a struggling HIT vendor in the acute care market. Will any of the other major or even second tier HIT vendors partner up with the GE/MSFT NewCo – don’t bet on it.

The announcement also raises more than a few questions such as:

What becomes of Microsoft’s existing HIE contracts, particularly the one they pulled all the stops out to win, the Chicago HIE which is now under development?

What becomes of Microsoft’s recently announced relationship with Orion Health? Will Orion now be partnering with NewCo, which is essentially GE?  GE, with its own HIE solutions targeting enterprise accounts, is a direct competitor to Orion.

What becomes of HealthVault Community Connect, which combined Amalga with HealthVault and SharePoint? Is this now a dead product or will NewCo simply use the Centricity patient portal?

As you can probably tell by the tenor of this piece, we’re not a big fan of this announcement and are disappointed that Microsoft has decided to fold-up its tent and retreat. Unlike the legacy HIT vendors in this market, Microsoft could lay the claim to some neutrality and potentially build-out an Amalga-based ecosystem platform. But business is often not kind to those that have an altruistic bent and in this case Microsoft simply made a clear-cut business decision to unleash an asset that was not meeting internal metrics despite what some believe may have been an investment in excess of $1B in the last 5 years to build-out HSG.

Once again, another company with grandiose plans to change healthcare has quietly walked away leaving this market to the incumbent HIT vendors. We also do not see strong prospects for the future build-out of a robust ecosystem of partners on the combined Amalga-Qualibria platform that NewCo proposes as there are too many competitive issues that just get in the way. We could be wrong on this one, but our guess is that NewCo is likely to struggle as much as Microsoft has in the past for relevance in this fractious HIT market.

Addendum:
Sean Nolan, chief architect for Microsoft HealthVault, provides his own view on this JV announcement. While his view differs from ours on the implications and future of this JV and HealthVault, one thing we do hope that Sean proves us wrong on, is the future success of HealthVault. We would love nothing more than to see it succeed but at this juncture, we remain pessimistic. 


November-28-2011

12:42

While it would be much better to give thanks prior to our (the US’s) big Thanksgiving holiday, sometimes things just get in the way as has been the case this fall. In fact, many things have gotten in the way – all good things, very good things, but gotten in the way nonetheless leaving you dear reader, far less to actually read from Chilmark Research. Truly wish that this was not the case , but alas, as a small but growing analyst firm, we are seeing our own challenges in scaling up Chilmark Research to meet demand. And yes, we are seriously looking into revamping some of our own internal processes to insure that we continue to deliver timely, relevant and cogent posts on HIT market trends.

Which brings us to our first pause to give thanks.

This fall has seen an explosion of activity for us, activity that has us juggling so many balls and somehow managing to keep them all in the air. That explosion of activity has come in the form of numerous client engagements that has provided Chilmark Research with an opportunity to further delve deeper into a number of healthcare sub-sectors including:

mHealth adoption of patient-provider engagement Apps. A larger report for the general market will be released in February.

Concierge Care: market drivers, key players and future forecast.

Aging-in-Place telehealth and remote sensing market opportunity assessment.

Strategy workshops with several clients helping them map out their HIT strategy.

Deep dive research on current and future state of imaging exchange to promote collaborative care processes, which has also resulted in our first time trip to RSNA.

For all of these clients and those we may have the opportunity to serve in the future, we wish to give thanks for these opportunities always teach us something new. At Chilmark Research we have an insatiable appetite for learning.

We also wish to give thanks to you, our readership for first inspiring us to write these posts through your comments, your inputs, your private emails to us. When first starting Chilmark Research, these posts were used for marketing, to build credibility in a market we knew little about. The process of writing these posts built readership, but more importantly, it forced us to do good research. You can’t build credibility with lame posts that are no more than a rehash of some press release or fail to take to task questionable moves by policy makers or vendors.

But now writing these posts is not so much about marketing for Chilmark Research. From those humble beginnings several years ago, we have built a substantial readership that includes quite a few extremely senior and influential HIT market movers and shakers. Also, based on the volume of inquiries we now receive for future engagements, it appears that Chilmark Research has indeed established a reputable brand in the HIT market. Therefore, we want our posts to be seen more as our way of contributing to the discussion, a discussion that will help others better adopt, deploy and use HIT to not only deliver better care, but to create a health system that is more responsive to and inclusive of the needs of patients and their loved ones.

Lastly, we wish to thank all of those who have helped us along the way. From the numerous clients who early on had faith in Chilmark Research and hired us on to provide specific research services to the countless educational mentors in the healthcare market who have taken us under their wing providing us sage advice along the way on the structure of what appears to be is a convoluted market. There are far too many to list here but they know who they are. Thank you once again for all of your assistance along this journey, we would have never gotten this far without you.


November-4-2011

15:51

Acquisition fever has set in and they’re dropping like flies, independent HIE vendors that is. Earlier today, Siemens announced its intent to acquire enterprise HIE vendor MobileMD. So in little over a year we have seen IBM snag Initiate, Axolotl fall into the hands of Ingenix/United Health Group (Ingenix is now known as OptumInsight), Medicity tie the knot with Aetna, Harris pick-up Dept of Defense clinician portal darling Carefx and Wellogic, a damsel in distress, being rescued by Alere. Elsevier also announce an intent to acquire dbMotion for a whooping $310M, but nothing came of that other than a substantiation of the rumor that dbMotion was being shopped.

That does not leave many small, independent HIE vendors that have some traction left in the market. Following is our list of such vendors and what might become of them:

4medica: A relative new comer to the HIE market, 4medica will be profiled for the first time in the upcoming HIE Market Trends Report which is scheduled for release in early 2012. 4medica is quite strong on lab information exchange. Future: 4medica still remains under the radar screen as it completes its platform to truly serve all HIE needs. Once that process is complete, the company is likely to gain increasing attention and will be acquired in 18-14 months.

Care Evolution: Privately owned and self-funded, founder has every intent to stay independent. As he has told us on more than one occasion, I’ve already made plenty of money and this is not about cashing out to the highest bidder. Future: Everyone has a price but this company may be one of the last to fall into the arms of another.

Certified Data Systems: Appliance (think small router with embedded HIE functionality) HIE vendor that has close, yet non-exclusive partnership with Cerner. Would not be surprised if they struck a similar deal with Epic as Epic struggles to connect to EHRs outside its system. Future: Fairly new to the HIE market but gaining traction. Will stay independent for next 12-18 months, after that, anyone’s guess.

dbMotion: One company already made a bid, but pulled back, thus pretty clear this company will be acquired, question is how much and we suspect it will be significantly less than what Elsevier was planning to pay. Future: If price is right, could be acquired at anytime.

HealthUnity: Small HIE vendor from the Pacific Northwest that made a big splash when with Microsoft (Amalga UIS) they won the big Chicago HIE contract. Future: With Microsoft cozying up close to Orion, HealthUnity will be looking hard for other partners and/or to be acquired. Will give them 12-18 months as an independent.

ICA: Another small HIE vendor that has had a few wins here and there but will come under increasing pressure from larger, better funded HIEs. Future: Likely to be acquired in next 6-12 months, maybe even earlier.

ICW: InterComponent Ware is a German HIT company and a sizable one at that with over 600 employees. To date, ICW has a very small presence in the US HIE market so an acquisition, if there were one, would have little impact.  Future: Their foreign ownership, size and interests in several health related markets make them an unlikely candidate for acquisition.

InterSystems: Arms dealer to all, InterSystems Cache and Ensemble are widely used in the market and the company has built upon these core technologies to get into HIE market. Future: Fiercely independent and senior team is basically the same since founding this company will remain independent.

Kryptiq: Having signed a strong partnership deal with Surescripts, Kryptiq is unlikely to be interested in any acquisitions talks. Future: Will remain independent for time being and if Surescripts’ Clinical Interoperability solution gains significant traction, Surescripts will likely acquire Kryptiq outright.

Orion Health: New Zealand-based, privately owned with good prospects in markets beyond America’s shores, this company will likely want to stay independent (future IPO) unless of course a very large software company (think IBM, Microsoft, Oracle etc.) gives them an offer they can’t refuse. Future: Will stay independent.

Getting back to the Siemens/MobileMD deal…

While we have not had an opportunity to talk with either Siemens or MobileMD (will provide follow-on update once we do) here are some quick take-aways:

Siemens has chosen to buy. This is unlike other EHR vendors who have either built their own HIE solution (athenahealth, eClinicalWorks, Epic, NextGen) or have partnered with others (Allscripts, Cerner, GE).

Existing partner doesn’t cut it. Siemens has an existing partnership with NextGen for ambulatory but NextGen’s HIE is a closed system. This prevented Siemens from being able to leverage this partnership to serve their client needs, which most often includes a multitude of EHRs in the ambulatory sector to interface with.

Lacked sufficient internal resources. By buying into the market, Siemens has signalled that it does not have the development resources to respond quickly enough to customer demand (not too surprising, Siemens has been struggling in the North American market for sometime). This also signals that they could not find the right partner outside of their NextGen relationship, which is a tad puzzling as we are quite sure they paid a premium for MobileMD.

Paid a premium. We estimated MobileMD sales in 2010 just shy of $8M in our 2011 HIE Market Report. HIE vendors are selling at a premium, even second tier ones such as MobileMD. Assuming industry average growth in 2011 (we peg it at 30%) that would give MobileMD sales of ~$10.5M for 2011. We put the final strike price for MobileMD at $95-110M.

Existing MobileMD customers relived. Unlike the acquisitions of Axolotl and Medicity, which both fell into the hands of payers, MobileMD is going to a fellow HIT vendor which must assuage the fears of more than a few MobileMD customers and prospects. Siemens intends to keep MobileMD whole, bringing on-board MobileMD’s president and founder, again contributing to continuity.

ADDENDUM: Please excuse our lack of posting on industry trends in a more frequent manner. Like many in the healthcare sector, Chilmark Research is struggling to keep up with demand and recruit top-notch resources. We seem to have hit our stride in this market, are receiving countless engagement inquiries and engaging in most of them. All good problems to have, but you dear reader are the one who ultimately suffers from our lack of posts. Thank you for your patience to date and know that we are doing our best to keep you informed with some of the best research and analysis of this critically important and meaningful market.


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http://chilmarkresearch.com/
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HL7 Standards » HL7 Blog

January-19-2012

18:10
Join us online Friday, Jan. 19 at 11 a.m., CT, for a “Special Edition” of our weekly #HITsm TweetChat. We asked the Colin Konschak, Shane Danaher and Phillip Felt from DIVURGENT, a national healthcare consultanting firm with offices in Dallas and Virginia Beach, Va., to join us for this week’s chat and to help develop [...]

January-19-2012

8:56
Already abandoned your New Year resolutions? We have a hard time changing our behavior. By now, approximately 60 percent of us have already abandoned our New Year resolutions. One study shows that 35 percent of those who made resolutions, never even started them. Not surprisingly, the most popular resolutions are health related — for weight [...]

January-18-2012

11:43
The IHE Connectathon event for 2012 was held in Chicago last week. Connectathon allows vendors from healthcare IT to test their ability to support IHE profiles, which are critical to standardizing communications across HIEs, ACOs, and across regions. Here are a few observations from my first-time participation at Connectathon: Industry Buy-in It was apparent from [...]

January-17-2012

13:31
As an author of a book focused on planning for Accountable Care Organizations, I’ve heard from all too many providers and consultants who believe the concept will never take off. Although I remain cautiously optimistic about this new care delivery model, I am very much looking forward to the results of the Pioneer ACO program. [...]

January-12-2012

13:03
Join us online Friday, Jan. 13 at 11 a.m., CT, for a “Special Edition” of our weekly #HITsm TweetChat. We collaborated with HIMSS (Heathcare Information and Management Systems Society) staff members to develop this week’s topics to help provide information to the Twitter community and to help build momentum for their upcoming 2012 annual conference, [...]

January-10-2012

9:15
The HL7 Standards team is proud to say that one year ago today, on January 10, 2010, the inaugural #HITsm TweetChat took place. We would like to send a big “Thank You” to the #HITsm Twitter community for helping make the chats so successful. View the transcript from the first #HITsm TweetChat. Exactly how much [...]
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