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Google’s DeepMind Rolling Out Bitcoin-Like Health Record Tracking To Hospitals

Posted on May 8, 2017 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.

Blockchain technology is gradually becoming part of how we think about healthcare data. Even government entities like the ONC and FDA – typically not early adopters – are throwing their hat into the blockchain ring.

In fact, according to recent research by Deloitte, healthcare and life sciences companies are planning the most aggressive blockchain deployments of any industry. Thirty-five percent of Deloitte’s respondents told the consulting firm that they expected to put blockchain into production this year.

Many companies are tackling the practical uses of blockchain tech in healthcare. But to me, few are more interesting than Google’s DeepMind, a hot new AI firm based in the UK acquired by Google a few years ago.

DeepMind has already signed an agreement with a branch of Britain’s National Health Trust, under which it will access patient data in the development healthcare app named Streams. Now, it’s launching a new project in partnership with the NHS, in which it will use a new technology based on bitcoin to let hospitals, the NHS and over time, patients track what happens to personal health data.

The new technology, known as “Verifiable Data Audit,” will create a specialized digital ledger which automatically records every time someone touches patient data, according to British newspaper The Guardian.

In a blog entry, DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman notes that the system will track not only that the data was used, but also why. In addition, the ledger supporting the audit will be set to append-only, so once the system records an activity, that record can’t be erased.

The technology differs from existing blockchain models in some important ways, however. For one thing, unlike in other blockchain models, Verifiable Data Audit won’t rely on decentralized ledger verification of a broad set of participants. The developers have assumed that trusted institutions like hospitals can be relied on to verify ledger records.

Another way in which the new technology is different is that it doesn’t use a chain infrastructure. Instead, it’s using a mathematical function known as a Merkle tree. Every time the system adds an entry to the ledger, it generates a cryptographic hash summarizing not only that latest ledger entry, but also the previous ledger values.

DeepMind is also providing a dedicated online interface which participating hospitals can use to review the audit trail compiled by the system, in real-time. In the future, the company hopes to make automated queries which would “sound the alarm” if data appeared to be compromised.

Though DeepMind does expect to give patients direct oversight over how, where and why their data has been used, they don’t expect that to happen for some time, as it’s not yet clear how to secure such access. In the mean time, participating hospitals are getting a taste of the future, one in which patients will ultimate control access to their health data assets.

The B2B Vendors are Coming! The B2B Vendors are Coming!

Posted on March 10, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin is a true believer in #HealthIT, social media and empowered patients. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He currently leads the marketing efforts for @PatientPrompt, a Stericycle product. Colin’s Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung

It’s been a couple of weeks since the annual HIMSS conference wrapped up for 2017 and I’m just starting to emerge from the HIMSS-Haze of sleep deprivation. I doff my hat to those that recovered more quickly.

As usual there was too much to take in at HIMSS17. The keynotes were fantastic, the sessions educational and the exhibit hall had a buzz about it that was absent from last year’s event. Although the main take-away from HIMSS17 seems to be the emergence of Artificial Intelligence, I believe something else emerged from the event – something that may have far greater ramifications for HealthIT in the short term.

For me the big story at HIMSS17 was the arrival of mainstream IT companies. I have been going to HIMSS for 10 years now and I can honestly say this year was the first time that non-traditional healthcare IT vendors were a noticeable force. SAP, IBM (Watson), Intel, Google, Salesforce, Samsung and Microsoft were just a few of the B2B vendors who had large booths in the HIMSS17 exhibit hall.

Salesforce was particularly noteworthy. They made a big splash with their super-sized booth this year. It was easily five times the size of the one they had at HIMSS16 and featured a fun “cloud viewer” at its center along with a large theatre for demonstrations.

Salesforce, however, didn’t stop there. They also threw a HUGE party over at Pointe Orlando on Tuesday night. At one point, the party had a line of eager attendees that snaked out the front of the facility. Their party rivaled that of several large EHR vendors.

IBM was also back at HIMSS after an extended absence. Their “organic booth” was always busy with people curious to learn more about IBM Watson – particularly after the keynote given by CEO Ginni Rometty on Day 1.

So what does the arrival of mainstream B2B vendors mean for healthcare?

Consolidation. The EHR gold rush is over and yet companies like SAP and Salesforce are still electing to invest in healthcare. Why would they do that at a time when government incentive money has all but dried up? I believe it’s because they smell consolidation and optimization opportunities. These B2B players have large war chests and as HealthIT companies begin to struggle, they will be knights in shining armor waiting to swoop in.

More Consumer Technologies. One of the big trends in healthcare right now is consumerism. There is a drive by healthcare organizations to adopt consumer-centric technologies and workflows to service patients better. Patients are seeking providers that offer the conveniences that they are used to as consumers: online appointment booking, mobile chat, real-time price quotes, etc. Companies like Google, Samsung, IBM and Microsoft already have technologies that work well in the consumer world. With growing demand in healthcare it’s only natural that they are investing.

Standards. Maybe I’m just being optimistic, but when companies like TSYS (a very large financial transaction processor) show up at HIMSS for the first time, one can only hope that standards and interoperability will soon follow. After all, if cut-throat banks can agree on a common way to share information with each other, surely the same can happen in healthcare.

Cognitive Computing. Google, IBM, Microsoft and Intel have all made big bets on cognitive computing. I’m willing to bet that their investments in this area dwarf anything that a HealthIT company has made – including Epic and Cerner. IBM and Microsoft in particular have been aggressively seeking partners to work with them on health applications for Artificial Intelligence. Just ahead of HIMSS17, Microsoft and UPMC Enterprises announced that they would be working together to “create new products aimed at transforming care delivery”.

I’m very excited by the arrival of these B2B technology vendors. I think it signals the start of a maturation phase in the HealthIT industry, one in which consolidation and collaboration break down legacy silos. At the very least, traditional HealthIT companies like Cerner, Epic, athenahealth and NextGen will now have to step up their game in order to fend off these large, well-funded entrants.

Exciting times!

Cleveland Clinic Works To Eliminate Tech Redundancies

Posted on March 1, 2017 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.

The Cleveland Clinic has relied on its EMR for quite some time. In fact, it adopted Epic in the 1990s, long before most healthcare organizations were ready to make a bet on EMRs. Today, decades later, the Epic EMR is the “central data hub” for the medical center and is central to both its clinical and operational efforts, according to William Morris, MD, the Clinic’s associate chief information officer.

But Morris, who spoke about the Clinic’s health IT with Health Data Management, also knows its limitations. In an interview with the magazine’s Greg Slabodkin, he notes that while the EMR may be necessary, it isn’t sufficient. The Epic EMR is “just a digital repository,” he told Slabodkin. “Ultimately, it’s what you do with the technology in your ecosystem.”

These days, IT leaders at the Clinic are working to streamline the layers of additional technology which have accreted on top of the EMR over the years. “As an early adopter of Epic, we have accumulated quite a bit of what I’ll call technical debt,” said Doug Smith, interim chief information officer. “What I mean by that is multiple enhancements, bolt-ons, or revisions to the core application. We have to unburden ourselves of that.”

It’s not that Clinic leaders are unhappy with their EMR. In fact, they’re finding ways to tap its power to improve care. For example, to better leverage its EMR data, the Cleveland Clinic has developed data-driven “risk scores” designed to let doctors know if patients need intervention. The models, developed by the Clinic’s Quantitative Health Sciences group, offer outcome risk calculators for several conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

(By the way, if predictive analytics interest you, you might want to check out our coverage of such efforts at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, which is developing a platform to predict which patients might develop congestive heart failure and care for patients already diagnosed with the condition more effectively. I’ve also taken a look at a related product being developed by Google’s DeepMind, an app named Streams which will ping clinicians if a patient needs extra attention.)

Ultimately, though, the organization hopes to simplify its larger health IT infrastructure substantially, to the point where 85% of the HIT functionality comes from the core Epic system. This includes keeping a wary eye on Epic upgrades, and implementing new features selectively. “When you take an upgrade in Epic, they are always turning on more features and functions,” Smith notes. “Most are optional.”

Not only will such improvements streamline IT operations, they will make clinicians more efficient, Smith says. “They are adopting standard workflows that also exist in many other organizations—and, we’re more efficient in supporting it because we don’t take as long to validate or support an upgrade.”

As an aside, I’m interested to read that Epic is tossing more features at Cleveland Clinic than it cares to adopt. I wonder if those are what engineers think customers want, or what they’re demanding today?

Department of Defense (DOD) and Open Source EHR

Posted on February 25, 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.

I was intrigued by a report by the Center for New American Security that was covered in this article on HealthcareDive. In the report, they make a good case for why the Department of Defense (DOD) should select an open source EHR solution as opposed to a commercial solution. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“I think the commercial systems are very good at what they do,” Ondra said. However, “they are not ideally designed for efficiency and enhancement of care delivery, and I think the DOD can do better with an open source system both in the near-term, and more importantly in the long-term, because of the type of innovation and creativity that can more quickly come into these systems.”

Reports like this make a pretty good case for open source. Plus, I love that it also pointed out that commercial EHR vendors were built on the back of the fee for service model which doesn’t matter to the DOD. It was also interesting to think about the DOD’s selection of an open source EHR system as an investment in other hospitals since the money they spend on an open source EHR could help to catalyze the ongoing development of a free open source EHR solution.

While these arguments make a lot of sense, it seems that the DOD has decided not to go with an open source EHR solution and instead is opting for a commercial alternative. In this article (Thanks Paul) the DOD has narrowed the list of contenders for the $11 Billion DOD EHR contract (DHMSM) to just: CSC/HP/Allscripts, Leidos/Accenture/Cerner, and IBM/Epic who “fall within the competitive range.” They reported that PwC/Google/GDIT/DSS/Medsphere and Intersystems did not fall within the competitive range.

I’ll be interested to hear Medsphere’s take on this since every report I’ve ever read has Medsphere and their open source Vista solution as much less expensive than the commercial alternatives (Epic, Cerner, Eclipsys). So, I can’t imagine that the Medsphere bid was so much more than the others. Unless the consultants are charging through the nose for it. Or maybe the open source Vista option wasn’t “in the competitive range” because it was too cheap. Wouldn’t that be hilarious to consider. Hopefully the government isn’t that stupid, but…

I don’t claim to have any clue on how these $11 billion government contract bids work. I’m just a casual observer from the sideline. It seems like 3 companies remain in the ring. I guess the Google juice wasn’t enough for the PwC/Medsphere bid.

Google Joins PwC and Open Source Vista EHR Team in DoD EHR Bid

Posted on January 16, 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.

Chris Paton posted an interesting bit of news about Google joining forces with PwC, DSS, Inc, Medsphere, Medicasoft, and General Dynamics Information Technology. Here’s an excerpt from what Chris posted:

PwC and Google recently announced a joint business relationship where the two organizations will team together to help companies accelerate their journey to and build trust in the cloud. The combined advantage of PwC and Google teaming together on the DORHS proposal – along with commercial EHR vendors DSS, Inc. and Medsphere Systems Corporation, MedicaSoft, and systems integrator General Dynamics Information Technology — offers the DoD a distinctive, reliable and secure open source EHR solution with innovative, user-friendly operations. In addition, DORHS’ flexibility will help prevent the federal government from being locked into a single technology, avoiding “vendor lock” and “innovation lag” which can occur with proprietary EHR and technology companies.

With $11+ billion at stake in the DoD EHR project, it’s not surprising that companies are trying everything they can to make their bid the most attractive out there. Although, I’m not sure how much Google really brings to the table as far as technical expertise with Vista. Seems more like a PR move than a decision to bring on specific expertise.

I’m also interested to see if open source EHR vendors based on Vista really have much of a chance against Epic, Cerner and Allscripts (and their government contractor partners). I try not to predict government decisions, but it would be quite the coup for a Vista based EHR bid to win.

Make Consumers Want Their PHR

Posted on June 7, 2012 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.

This week, Microsoft announced that it was launching a new PHR product in cooperation with the AARP.  The AARP Health Record which will be connected with Microsoft HealthVault, is free to AARP members.  Yay! Uh, well, maybe not so exciting.

Honestly, most of what it’s offering is a big  yawn from where I sit. I admit it would be pretty neat if the elderly started using connected health applications to monitor their chronic conditions and work more closely with doctors. And the ability to import your prescription list from your pharmacy is a nice time saver.  But basically, this appears to reinvent a wheel nobody wants on their car in the first place.

I’ve been watching employers, tech companies and providers do their little dance on the catwalk for several years, and in almost every case, the PHR doesn’t really engage anybody.  (I confess to being mildly interested in using the PHR my insurance company offers, but the very fact that I write this blog makes me different than most consumers.)

If you want to get people excited about using a PHR, you’ve got to offer them some payback. You’ve got to give them something they want in exchange for becoming a health data clerk:

*  Reward them directly:  Why not send consumers a small but smart gift when they’ve used the PHR a certain number of times?   A small card and a free cup of cafeteria coffee can work wonders.

* Give them what they want:  By this point, patients should be able to log on and make appointments, check lab results and the like.  Predicate their using the good stuff on their having shared the basic info needed to get started with their PHR.

* Market the heck out of it:  When Kaiser Permanente launched a portal/PHR a few years ago, it spent millions blanketing the airwaves, local TV, mailboxes and other media promoting its benefits. This worked, after long and patient efforts.  If the info you need from the PHR is that important, follow KP’s example.

I’ve been screaming about how little good PHR efforts were, including MS and Google’s, for as long as the term has existed. Maybe this one will be different somehow?  Perhaps, but I wouldn’t bet my last pocket change on it.

Hospital IT System Support Phone Number Search

Posted on March 20, 2012 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.

Today I was cruising my stats logs for Hospital EMR and EHR (as I always do since I’m a stats addict) and I came upon a search that was sent here that really struck me: “microsoft amalga phone number”. That’s right, someone was searching online to get the phone number for Amalga. I’m sure there are much odder searches out there, but why in the world would someone be searching online for the phone number of Amalga?

Think about it for a minute. If someone wants to buy Amalga, don’t you think they’d search for the Amalga website and there will be plenty of opportunities for you to enter your info to get a sales person to call you. In fact, I just did a search for Amalga, found their website and they have a big Contact Us button.

This leads me to believe that it’s possibly someone who wants a support number for Amalga. Are we really to the point that in order to get support for a hospital IT system, that we Google (or maybe they used Bing) for the phone number? You’d think there would be much better support for this than an online search to find a phone number for support.

Either way, I found it to be an odd search. Maybe it’s something completely different. At least I can hope that those hospital IT users have better support options than an online search.