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Medical Device Vendors Will Inevitably Build Wearables

Posted on May 21, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

As we’ve reported in the past, hospitals are throwing their weight behind the use of wearables at a growing clip. Perhaps the most recent major deal connecting hospital EMRs with wearables data came late last month, when Cedars-Sinai Medical Center announced that it would be running Apple’s HealthKit platform. Cedars-Sinai, one of many leading hospitals piloting this technology, is building an architecture that will ultimately tie 80,000 patients to its Epic system via HealthKit.

But it’s not just software vendors that are jumping into the wearables data market with both feet. No, as important as the marriage of Epic and HealthKit will be to the future of wearables data, the increasing participation of medical device giants in this market is perhaps even more so.

Sure, when fitness bands and health tracking smartphone apps first came onto the market, they were created by smaller firms with a vision, such as the inventors who scored so impressively when they crowdfunded the Pebble smartwatch.  (As is now legendary, Pebble scooped up more than $20M in Kickstarter funding despite shooting for only $500,000.)

The time is coming rapidly, however, when hospitals and doctors will want medical-grade data from monitoring devices. Fairly or not, I’ve heard many a clinician dismiss the current generation of wearables — smartwatches, health apps and fitness monitoring bands alike — as little more than toys.  In other words, while many hospitals are willing to pilot-test HealthKit and other tools that gather wearables data, eventually that data will have to be gathered by sophisticated tools to meet the clinical demands over the long-term.

Thus, it’s no surprise that medical device manufacturing giants like Philips are positioning themselves to leapfrog over existing wearables makers. Why else would Jeroen Tas, CEO of Philips’ healthcare informatics solutions, make a big point of citing the healthcare benefits of wearables over time?

In a recent interview, Tas told the Times of India that the use of wearables combined with cloud-based monitoring approaches are cutting hospital admissions and care costs sharply. In one case, Tas noted, digital monitoring of heart failure patients by six Dutch hospitals over a four-year period led to a 57% cut in the number of nursing days, 52% decrease in hospital admissions and an average 26% savings in cost of care per patient.

In an effort to foster similar results for other hospitals, Philips is building an open digital platform capable of linking to a wide range of wearables, feeds doctors information on their patients, connects patients, relatives and doctors and enables high-end analytics.  That puts it in competition, to one degree or another, with Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung, Google and Apple, just for starters.

But that’s not the fun part.  When things will get really interesting  is when Philips, and fellow giants GE Healthcare and Siemens, start creating devices that doctors and hospitals will see as delivering medical grade data, offering secure data transmission and integrating intelligently with data produced by other hospital medical devices.

While it’s hard to imagine Apple moving in that direction, Siemens must do so, and it will, without a doubt. I look forward to the transformation of the whole wearables “thing” from some high-end experimentation to a firmly-welded approach built by medical device leaders. When Siemens and its colleagues admit that they have to own this market, everything about digital health and remote monitoring will change.

Do Hospital #HIT Leaders Need Business Coaches?

Posted on May 4, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Though they don’t always cop to it, a goodly number of senior business leaders pay very good money — I’ve heard quotes as high as $10,000 a year — for the help of an executive coach. Part high-end consultant, part amateur therapist, executive coaches help VPs and C-suite execs make better decisions by giving them an unvarnished view of their current situation and the inspiration to carry out their most ambitious plans.

This may have something in common with bringing on a partner like, say, Deloitte, but it’s decidedly different. While executive coaches may have worked in a bigshot consulting firm like PwC, their relationship is decidedly with the individual, and a trusted one at that.  The process of executive coaching sounds like a very useful one. (I’ll probably try it someday — when I have $10,000 to spare!)

The thing is, while I could be missing something, I’ve never heard so much as a hint that senior HIT executives are retaining executive coaches. It makes me wonder whether CtOs and VPs of IT still define their job largely by technical skills rather than their capacity for making strategic decisions with hospital- or system-wide implications.

The inescapable reality is that HIT execs have long outgrown supergeek status and are increasingly a key part of their healthcare organization’s future. So if they’re open for growth, HIT leaders may very well want to test out the executive coaching model, particularly in working out the following:

  • ACO development:  While the ACO contracting and development process may be led by other departments, health IT leaders have the power to make or break these agreements by how they support then. A VP of business development may spearhead such efforts, but it’s the health IT exec who will make or break how effectively the ACO handles population health support, risk management, data analytics and more.
  • Managing digital health: I hardly need to remind HIT execs of this, but the most important directives as to how to work with digital health tools aren’t going to come from the CEO down, but from the CIO or VP up. With the healthcare industry just beginning to grasp the value app-laden smartphones and tablets, smart watches, sensor-laden clothing, telemedicine and other rapidly emerging  technologies can bring, it’s the health IT exec who must lead the charge. And that means knowing how to solve critical business problems that extend well beyond IT’s boundaries.
  • EMR transformation: As hard as you’ve worked on implementing and tuning your EMR, it’d be nice to think you could stick a fork in it and consider it done.  But EMRs are having new demands placed on them seemingly every day, including integration of massive volumes of wearables and other patient-generated data; number-crunching and making sense of population health data; connecting revenue cycle management functions with EMRs and much more.  Deciding how to handle this spectrum of issues is the job of a business/tech thinker, not solely an IT guru.

Look, I’m not suggesting that the executive coaching is for everyone, health IT executives included. But I do believe that the right kind of executive coaching relationship could help HIT leaders to make a smoother transition into the even more critical role they are inheriting today. And anything that supports that transition is probably worth a shot.

Big Data Cartoon for Healthcare – Fun Friday

Posted on May 1, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Does this resonate with any of you? Do you have a bunch of big data in your hospitals that you’ve been collecting and you’re not sure what you’re doing with all that data?

I once heard Dana Sellers from Encore Health Resources ask the question, “What could we do with just the meaningful use data?” I think framing the use of data in that way is quite interesting.

Healthcare Analytics is Everything and Nothing

Posted on January 13, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Healthcare Analytics has been the buzzed word ever since last year’s HIMSS. It’s been included in pretty much every healthcare IT company imaginable. I was talking to an EHR consulting company today and I asked if they were moving into some sort of analytics offering. As we discussed the idea further, we realized that they’re not really going into healthcare analytics specifically, but that many of the projects they see as the future of healthcare IT involve analytics.

As I think over this discussion, it’s easy for me to see how healthcare analytics is involved in everything, but that the term itself means nothing.

If I dive a little deeper into this subject it reminds me of a video interview I watched last night with a popular venture capitalist. At one point in the conversation he casually said, “Once again it goes back to the data. I guess it all goes back to the data, because we think data is at the core of the future of everything we’re investing in.”

While this comment didn’t necessarily apply to healthcare, it very could have been about healthcare. The future of healthcare is about the data. It’s about how an organization leverages data to improve the care they provide a patient. EHR was just the first step in making much of the healthcare data digital. However, this new wave of wearables and health sensors is bringing another form of data to healthcare. Genomics is bringing another wave of data to healthcare. Watson is reading through all the medical studies and making that data useful and actionable for a doctor.

It’s easy for me to say that the future of healthcare is going to be dependent on data. It’s at the core of everything that we will do. Going full circle, healthcare analytics is one way of describing how you take the data and make it useful. So, it makes sense that however you look at the future of healthcare IT, you probably have some sort of healthcare analytics involved in what you’re doing. It’s all about how you slice the data.

The Impact of AI and Robots on Healthcare

Posted on December 30, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As we end 2014, it seemed appropriate to post a little bit of mental floss for those of us who are trying to consider where all of this technology in healthcare is headed. Luckily, Twitter provides a lot of mental floss and these two tweets will give you a lot to consider when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), robots, and the mixture of related technologies. We can’t see it now, but 10 years from now we’ll be just as disrupted as we were 6 years ago when the iPhone was introduced.

Here are two tweets that will hopefully help you to reframe your thinking:

What do you think all of this means for the future of healthcare?

When Would It Make Sense to Share Your Healthcare Data Findings?

Posted on November 21, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

During a recent visit with Stoltenberg Consulting, we had a really interesting discussion about the future of innovation in healthcare. I think we all saw the potential that healthcare data findings can do to improve healthcare. I believe we’re sitting on top of amazing untapped potential in healthcare data that’s going to start being mined over the next few years.

With this in mind, I asked the questions, “Will hospitals and health systems share their data findings? How will we share the data findings?

I think these are extremely important questions as we enter the new world of healthcare discovery and I don’t think the old methods of published journal articles is going to get us to where we want to go. Think about how hard it is to go through the process of getting a journal article published and then the time it takes for the journal article to diffuse through the healthcare system.

Many people fear that health systems won’t want to share their healthcare data findings thanks to competitive concerns. While this may be true in some specific cases, I’ve found the opposite to be the case in healthcare organizations. When they find something that benefits their patients or health system, they are happy to share it with everyone. I think it’s something about the nature of healthcare that makes us want to improve the lives of everyone versus bowing to competitive pressures.

While I think that many want to share their healthcare data findings, the reality is that most of the healthcare data findings aren’t shared. I think that many health systems discover something in their data, but they don’t have an easy way to share it with the broader healthcare community. The choice isn’t to deliberately not share the findings, but they don’t have the time to share it.

We need to find a way to solve this problem. I think social media will play one small part in this type of sharing, but it’s only one element. We need a platform in healthcare that simplifies the sharing of healthcare data discoveries. If it’s not dead simple for a healthcare professional to share their discoveries, it doesn’t make sense for them to do it.

Given the lack of a healthcare discovery platform, this presents a great opportunity for companies like the aforementioned Stoltenberg Consulting to package up these discoveries in easier to consume packages. I’m not sure that this is a terrible model either.

In a simplistic view, one hospital could share their health data discoveries online and another hospital could replicate it. However, the process is rarely that simple and often requires a bit more work to make the results a reality. This is where it makes sense for an outside company to bring the full package of services and software to make the discovery a simple reality for a hospital. The hospitals I know often want to buy the full stack solution. They don’t have the bandwidth to recreate the solution themselves.

Regardless of how it happens, I hope we can find better ways to diffuse healthcare innovations and discoveries across all of healthcare.

Healthcare Analytics

Posted on February 21, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Each week, the #HITsm community does a Twitter chat. This week it was hosted by @ahier and was focused on the topics of analytics. It was good timing considering we’re going to be innundated with healthcare analytics discussions at HIMSS 2014. Here is a look at the questions asked during the chat:
T1: What true models for analytics and data driven healthcare actually exist?

T2: Who’s going to win the analytics market battle: EHR vendors or the analytics specialty vendors?

T3: Should certification for analytics and clinical data warehouses be included in meaningful use?

T4: What are the concerns and benefits around marrying clinical, claims, and consumer retail purchasing data?

You can find the full transcript of the chat here. For those not wanting to read the whole chat, here are some tweets of mine I think you’ll find interesting:

I think this gives you a pretty good view into what I think about healthcare analytics. I’d love to hear yours.

Big Data, Predictive Analytics Priorities For Healthcare Organizations

Posted on August 16, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Leveraging big data and healthcare analytics are key initiatives for C-suite healthcare executives, but barriers to making progress still remain, according to an item in iHealthBeat.

According to a survey by the eHealth Initiative and the College of Health Information Management Executives, about 80 percent of CIOs and other C-suite healthcare executives see big data and predictive analytics use as important goals for their organizations, iHealthBeat reports.

But it won’t come easy. In fact, 84 percent of respondents said that implementing these strategies and tools are a challenge for their organization. And only 45 percent said they had a plan in place to manage the growing volume of electronic data.

The survey, which questioned 102 executives in May and June, found that 90 percent of respondents used analytics for quality improvement, 90 percent used analytics for revenue cycle management, and 66 percent used analytics for fraud prevention. Also, 82 percent of survey respondents said that population health management is important to their analytic strategy.

Meanwhile, 82 percent of those responding said that health information exchange is important, according to iHealthBeat.

As for data sources, administrative- and claims-based data were most used, at 77 percent and 75 percent respectively. Eighteen percent of respondents’ staff were trained to handle the data, and 16 percent used third-party organizations to overcome staff shortages for data analysis.

Despite execs’ enthusiasm for big data/predictive analytics use, however, significant obstacles remain to rolling out such programs, iHealthBeat reports.  According to a separate CIC Advisory survey, budget strain and lack of needed skills is delaying the use of analytics at many healthcare organizations.

According to that survey, building an enterprise analytics system is held back by the difficulty of integrating different analytic systems. Moreover, most organizations don’t have a dedicated analytics or business intelligence team, and many rely on outside analytics consultants.

All of that being said, it seems guaranteed that hospitals and other healthcare organizations will eventually find a way to leverage big data. Healthcare organizations expect to keep ramping up their spending on data discovery and predictive analytics in coming months and years, research suggests.

In the mean time, however, there’s a ton of work to do, staff to be hired and trained and integration to be done. It’s going to be an uphill battle.

Business Intelligence And The Smart EMR

Posted on July 26, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A new study by KLAS suggests that while providers are giving thought to business intelligence needs, they still haven’t honed in on favored vendors that they see as holding a leading position in healthcare. That may be, I’d suggest, because the industry is still waiting on EMRs that can offer the BI functionality they really need.

To look at the issue of BI in healthcare, KLAS interviewed execs at more than 70 hospitals and delivery systems with 200 or more beds.

When asked which BI vendors will stand out in the healthcare industry, 41 percent of respondents replied that they weren’t sure, according to a story in Health Data Management.

Of the other 59 percent who chose a vendor, IBM, SAP, Microsoft and Oracle came up as leaders in enterprise BI applications — but none of the above got more than 12 percent of the vote, HDM notes.

Vendors that did get a nod as standing out in healthcare-specific BI included Explorys, Health Catalyst, McKesson and Humedica (Optum). IBM and Microsoft were also singled out for healthcare use, but respondents noted that their products came with high price tags.

Meanwhile, QlikTech and Tableau Software were noted for their usability and data visualization tools though lacking in full BI toolsets, according to HDM.

While these stats are somewhat interesting on their own, they sidestep a very important issue:  when will EMRs evolve from transaction-based to intelligence-based systems?  After all, an intelligence-based EMR can do more to improve healthcare in context than freestanding BI systems.

As my colleague John Lynn notes, EMRs will ultimately need to leverage big data and support smart processes, becoming what he likes to call the “Smart EMR.”  These systems will integrate business intelligence natively rather than requiring a whole separate infrastructure to gather insights from the tsunami of patient data being generated today.

The reality, unfortunately, is that we’re a fairly long way away from having such Smart EMRs in place. Readers, how long to you think it will take before such a next-gen EMR hits the market?  And who do you think will be the first to market with such a system?

Survey: Confusion Slowing Meaningful Use Compliance

Posted on May 3, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

While Meaningful Use is likely to spur improvements in health IT, confusion over regulations — and the need to pursue other pressing HIT projects — are slowing down MU compliance, according to a new study.

The survey was conducted by Stoltenberg Consulting, which spoke with health IT managers, clinicians, HIT vendors and government agencies that attended this year’s HIMSS event.

Researchers asked which areas in which HIT will achieve the biggest improvements over the next 12 months.  The biggest group (35 percent) named Meaningful Use, while 19 percent said health information exchange, clinical integration and mobile health were due for the most growth.

When asked what might hold them back from meeting Meaningful Use requirements, 29 percent said confusion and/or ambiguity in the regulations were a challenge. Others named competing health IT projects (23 percent) and a lack of key resources such as funding, IT skills, talent and time (17 percent).

The survey also asked respondents what issues were likely to dominate HIT discussions this year.  Respondents favored health information exchange (62 percent), followed closely by mobile health (58 percent) and clinical analytics (54 percent).

As part of the survey, Stoltenberg also asked survey respondents which problems HIT executives would most likely attempt to solve with the help of a specialized IT consulting firm. The responses included ICD-10 (25 percent), Meaningful Use (25 percent), clinical and business intelligence (23 percent), cloud computing (21 percent) and CPOE/clinical systems implementation (20 percent).