You’ve no doubt hear about the kickback scandal involving CareFusion and Charles R. Denham, MD, founder of the Texas Medical Institute of Technology (TMIT). I wrote a piece about it in the context of Meaningful Use for Healthcare IT News this month, since Denham co-chaired the steering committee of the National Quality Forum’s Safe Practices for Better Healthcare program during the time CareFusion allegedly paid Denham $11.6 million to promote its products.
CMS, of course, has, to date, based Meaningful Use quality measures on NQF recommendations.
Denham has become a pariah of sorts in patient-safety circles since the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $40.1 million settlement with CareFusion in January. Yet, believe it or not, TMIT is still in business. The organization’s Web site is functional; in fact, the “about” page prominently features a video with Denham. And the TMIT Twitter account is activem, promoting a webinar as recently as yesterday.
The TMIT High Performance webinar with Perry Bechtle begins in 15 minutes! Join now! http://t.co/rvuNDRI8td Password: Webinar1
— TMIT (@TMIT1) April 17, 2014
Perry Bechtle, D.O., is a neuroanesthesiologist at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and a former U.S. Navy flight surgeon. I want to believe that his credentials are impeccable, but it’s hard to take TMIT seriously these days in the absence of a major house-cleaning. Interestingly, the last academic article Denham wrote before the scandal broke was in the December 2013 issue of the Journal of Patient Safety. It’s entitled, “Safe Use of Electronic Health Records and Health Information Technology Systems: Trust But Verify,” and co-authors include heavyweights such as David Classen, M.D., and David Bates, M.D.
How are we supposed to trust an organization that itself was wrapped up in such a serious breach of trust?
Yesterday, Grand Rounds, a San Francisco-based startup that makes an “outcomes management platform” for large employer groups, introduced Office Visits, an online service that helps consumers find “quality” physicians close to home. I’ve long been skeptical of any claims of healthcare quality or any listing of “best” physicians or hospitals, so I invited Grand Rounds co-founder and CEO Owen Tripp on for a podcast to explain what his company is doing.
He told me that a proprietary algorithm helps Grand Rounds “recommend with confidence” the top physicians among the 520,000 medical specialists the company graded nationwide, based on numerous publicly available data sources and some self-reporting. Of those more than half a million specialists, only about 30,000 meet the company’s criteria for recommendation, which shows, at the very least, that Grand Rounds is highly selective.
Based on this interview, I think the product has a lot of potential. It’s nice to see ratings based on outcomes data and not squishy criteria like “he is a great doctor,” as parodied in The Onion this week (“Physician Shoots Off A Few Adderall Prescriptions To Improve Yelp Rating”).
At about 18:30, the conversation reminds me of another recent podcast, with University of Rochester neurologist Dr. Ray Dorsey. It turns out that Dorsey is among the 1,000 or so medical advisors to Grand Rounds.
Podcast details: Interview with Owen Tripp, co-founder and CEO of Grand Rounds. MP3, stereo, 128 kbps, 23.8 MB, running time 26:04.
1:00 “Safety” vs. good outcomes
2:20 “Downright terrifying” facts about choosing doctors
4:15 Story behind Grand Rounds
5:30 Algorithm for measuring physician quality that he says has shown about a 40 percent lower rate of mortality on common cardiac procedures
7:10 Data sources, including some self-reporting
8:35 Care coordination services Grand Rounds provides for patients
9:50 Why the direct-to-consumer market is so difficult in healthcare
12:00 Care teams
14:00 Availability and scope of service
16:15 When patients should travel for care and when they should not
18:15 Elements of telemedicine
19:35 Importance of asynchronous communication
21:45 Target market and why he sees the $200 fee as a bargain for patients
23:35 Managing patient records and other data
24:35 Company goals
In case you haven’t seen the official announcements or caught my tweets, later this month I will be moderating a panel at the Mid-America Healthcare Venture Forum, an event being put on by MedCity News, April 22-23 at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Chicago.
The panel is called “Opportunities (and Challenges) in Digital Health. Per the official description: “Digital health — and its business models — are coming of age. Promising young companies are integrating into healthcare and, in some cases, beginning to find exit partners. But that’s also meant new scrutiny from everyone from investors to the FDA. Learn about the challenges, opportunities and promising new markets in digital health.”
Panelists include: Amy Len, director of Chicago-based accelerator Healthbox; Julie Kling, director of mobile health at Verizon Wireless; and Jack Young, who heads the Qualcomm Life Fund for Qualcomm Ventures. I’ll just be there to keep order, and, of course, to cast my usual, skeptical eye on the field and continue to wonder why investors are throwing so much money at me-too fitness trackers and countless direct-to-consumer products that don’t stand a chance in an industry where nearly everything is paid for by third parties. Or at least that’s my thought at the moment, until we have our conference call next week. :)
The session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 23, at 8:55 a.m. CDT. The hotel is located at 151 W. Adams St. in the heart of the Financial District. Years ago, I worked about two blocks west of there, so I know it’s about 40-45 minutes away from me by public transit, and I’m not a morning person. This could get interesting. (If any MedCity people are reading this, I’m kidding. I’ll be there on time. Hopefully.)
Our session follows a keynote from James Rogers, chairman of Mayo Clinic Ventures. After the panel is a break, then breakout sessions featuring presentations to investors from startups in digital health, medical devices and pharma/biotech. I hope I don’t prematurely burst anyone’s bubble with too much of a reality check. But, in honor of this week being the 25th anniversary of the release of the great Gen X satire, “Heathers,” I offer this quote from the movie: “Heather told me she teaches people ‘real life.’ She said, real life sucks losers dry.”
Wait, was that too cynical?Let me just say that the panel just got another thing to talk about today, as the FDA, FCC and ONC just released their proposed health IT regulatory strategy, as called for by the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA). To nobody’s surprise, they recommend a “risk-based framework” to regulation of health IT and digital health. Now to figure out if there are any details people should be concerned about…
In the meantime, you can register for the conference here.
While I’ve been busy writing a couple of stories on different topics, you’ve probably heard two pieces of news that will affect healthcare providers nationwide: the close of the first open enrollment period for Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges and the Congressional “fix” (read “Band-Aid”) to the Medicare sustainable growth rate that statutorily delays the ICD-10 compliance deadline for another year, until October 2015.
The White House yesterday reported that 7.1 million people had signed up for health insurance through healthcare.gov or state-run exchanges, barely exceeding the Congressional Budget Office’s projection of 7 million. Independent tracking site ACAsignups.net says it’s more like 7.08 million, but still just above the goal. That site also tallies the following sign-ups as a result of the ACA:
ACAsignups.net places the total range at 14.6 million – 22.1 million as of March 31, not counting the healthcare.gov numbers, though my math puts it at 15.38 million – 22.06 million. Add in the healthcare.gov sign-ups and you get about 22.5 million to nearly 29 million newly insured people. However — and this is a big however — we do not know how many of the beneficiaries are newly insured and how many were replacing previous coverage.
Personally, I bought a high-deductible, ACA-qualified health plan through an independent agent to replace a rather restrictive high-deductible plan that was grandfathered in, and should save about $70-$80 a month on premiums starting in May. The new insurer rejected me several years ago due to a pre-existing condition; the ACA assures that I can’t be denied for that reason anymore. I imagine there are millions in the same boat as I am.
The U.S. Census Bureau placed the number of uninsured for 2012 at about 48 million, or 15.7 percent of the population. (The same year, 198.8 million had private insurance.) Until we see new figures for uninsured Americans, we will still just have “gross” statistics, not a net figure to show if the insurance part of the ACA is working.
By the way, the ACA is about much more than insurance coverage, despite what the national media have focused on. I encourage you to read up on this before you say Obamacare is saving or ruining our country.
Now, as for the temporary SGR fix, the ICD-10 delay kind of came out of nowhere last week when it got slipped into the House version of the legislation, but the Senate adopted the same language — reportedly without debating ICD-10 at all — and President Obama today signed it into law. I’ve said before that ICD-10 and other transactional elements of healthcare stopped mattering to me as I watched my dad being mistreated in a hospital due to broken clinical processes in his last month of life. I still think this way. However, this sneaky move shows that the AMA, AHA and other groups more intent of protecting the status quo than fixing healthcare still have enormous sway in Washington.
It makes me wonder whether lobbyists haven’t already started pushing hard for Congress to delay the Medicare penalties for not achieving Meaningful Use that are due to kick in next year. Actually, I don’t wonder. I’m sure it’s happening.
All delaying real reform of a broken industry does is prolong the agony, and ensure that millions more people will be affected by errors and neglect in institutions that are supposed to “do no harm.” The status quo is not acceptable.
This press release showed up my inbox on Tuesday:
eHealth Initiative Launches 2020 Roadmap Process
Framework to Change the Future of Nation’s Healthcare System
March 25, 2014, Washington, D.C. – The eHealth Initiative (eHI) announced the launch of the eHealth Initiative 2020 Roadmap, a public-private collaboration that will help guide the transformation of the nation’s healthcare system by 2020. With the help and support of a wide array of leading healthcare associations, organizations, and federal agencies, 2020 Roadmap will propose key policy recommendations to implement at a federal level and actions for the private sector to help transform healthcare.
“Health reform calls for transformation to a value-based interoperable system, but there is no direction on how to transition from our current work processes and systems. Clinicians, payers and providers are in dire need of leadership to help transform delivery systems and control cost,” said Jennifer Covich Bordenick, Chief Executive Officer of the eHealth Initiative. “The goal of our new initiative is to craft a multi-stakeholder solution that coordinates the efforts of both the public and private sector so that we can make this transition successfully.”
The 2020 Roadmap will be developed over the next six months through a series of surveys, webinars, executive roundtables, and events with key constituencies; the outcome will be a consensus on how to shape the future of our healthcare system. Individuals are welcome to complete surveys, participate in upcoming events, and provide general feedback. A new survey is currently being fielded to gather information from the industry.
The 2020 Roadmap will focus on recommendations that:
• Identify a sustainable glide path for meaningful use;
• Promote interoperable systems;
• Transform care delivery; and
• Balance innovation and privacy.
Several advisors representing different stakeholders are leading the 2020 Roadmap activities, including:
· John Glaser, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Health Services, Siemens (representing vendors)
· Sam Ho, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare, Chair eHI Board of Directors, (representing payers)
· Christopher Ross, MD, Chief Information Officer, Mayo Clinic (representing providers)
· Susan Turney, MD, Chief Executive Officer, Medical Group Management Association (representing clinicians)
· Micky Tripathi, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer, Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative (representing information exchanges)
· Joseph Touey, Senior Vice President, North American Pharmaceuticals, Information Technology, GlaxoSmithKline (representing pharmaceutical manufacturers)
“The impressive caliber of individuals leading our effort reflects the importance of the 2020 Roadmap,” said Jennifer Covich Bordenick. “We invite all organizations to participate in this important process and bring the best thinking to the table.”
About the eHealth Initiative: The eHealth Initiative (eHI) is a Washington D.C.-based, independent, non-profit organization whose mission is to drive improvements in the quality, safety, and efficiency of healthcare through information and information technology. eHI is the only national organization that represents all of the stakeholders in the healthcare industry. Working with its membership, eHI advocates for the use of health IT that is practical, sustainable and addresses stakeholder needs, particularly those of patients. www.ehidc.org .
What immediately jumped out at me was the list of advisors. I’m familiar with most of the names, and I am sure all are qualified to provide valuable input on how to promote interoperability and improve our nation’s broken healthcare infrastructure. But the notes on representation raise an important question: How come nobody is representing consumers?
It’s after hours as I read the press release and I post this commentary, but I’ve e-mailed the press contact to see if the eHealth Initiative has a good answer. I will report back as soon as I hear anything. In the meantime, consumer and patient advocacy groups should take Bordenick up on her offer to participate.
UPDATE, March 27, 11 am CDT: I’ve just received this response directly from Bordenick:
Please know that the news release just highlighted just a few of the individuals and groups that will be involved. We absolutely welcome the representation and involvement of patient and advocacy groups, and any stakeholder groups who want to participate— that is one of the reasons we put the announcement out, and asked people to fill in contact info in the survey. We are at the very start of this process, so now is definitely the time to get engaged. We currently work with National Partnership for Women and Families, Center Democracy & Technology, American Cancer Society, and have just started work with Smart Patients, and many others. We expect all of these groups to continue working with us, and many others to join in the process.
So there you have it. As I said in the original post, consumers and patient advocacy groups should take Bordenick up on the offer. It sounds like she would appreciate it.