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Beth Israel Deaconess Launches Health Innovation Center

Posted on May 7, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

In yet another example of a health system bringing innovation home, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has launched an in-house center combining the feel of a startup incubator and the vast reach of a globally-known provider.

It’s not clear yet whether this emerging model will be more powerful than plain old incubators, but there are a lot of resources at play here. (It’s worth pointing out that only one of the factors that distinguish it is that the center will be based at a Harvard teaching hospital.}

The Health Technology Exploration Center will be led by John Halamka, MD, MS, chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess system. As the health systems press release rightly notes, Halamka already has his fingerprints on many important advances in health IT, including patient portals, unique web-based medical records, and advances in secure patient data exchange. It also notes that he has brought together collaborations with global HIT thought leaders such Google, Amazon, Apple and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Did we mention that the man is non-stop?)

The HTEC’s first focus areas will come as no surprise. They include helping patients manage their own health using mobile application; improving patient education and care through natural language interfaces; optimizing medical decision-making with dashboards and analytics; and enhancing patient/clinician communication using new devices and programs.

Though the press release doesn’t make a big thing of it, the website makes it clear that a lot of what its leaders would like to do haven’t been paid for just yet. However, the health system has already laid out its plans for when it gets enough contributions to support the program.

If the HTEC is fully funded, the system would make investments in faculty, staff and infrastructure that would help it take on local national and international partnerships. HTEC would also generate research intended to usher in breakthrough healthcare technology options.

I’d like to take a minute and say that not only is this great, it should be more commonplace than it is. Yes, few healthcare organizations have the clout and resources that a system affiliated with Harvard has, and that’s unlikely to change. But that doesn’t mean smaller facilities are out of the running.

What I’d like to see for virtually every facility to capture more of the value it creates during the process of everyday patient care. Given the extent to which healthcare data is shareable, recordable and integrable, providers don’t have to stop what they’re doing to amass data and expertise that benefit everyone in the profession. I believe it’s not only possible but necessary.

A Complete Patient Record and You

Posted on March 9, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Erin Wold, Account Based Marketing Program Manager at Hitachi Data Systems. You can follow Erin on Twitter: @ErinEWold
Erin Wold
So we have discussed the first steps to getting an enterprise imaging facility but what does this and a complete patient record mean for the average patient? If I were to stop someone walking down Las Vegas Blvd (I would shoot for the more sober hours) and ask them “Who owns your medical records?” I am sure I would get the same look and response over and over. The look of confusion and the response of “my doctor’s office?”  This is exactly what enterprise data sharing is set out to change.

A complete patient record for the patient means that a patient can go from their primary care physician to sub specialist without having to call ahead and have their records faxed over. It means that in the case of an emergency room visit they don’t have to worry about leaving with paperwork and getting it back to their primary care physician. It means their records follow them to whatever doctor they (or their insurance) choose.

For example, a couple weeks ago I won myself a trip to the emergency room after cutting a chunk out of my hand while slicing vegetables on a mandolin. (OUCH!) Not knowing my experience in healthcare IT, the resident, who came in first, was checking off all the boxes and asked “do you have a primary care physician?” In my pain ridden and snarky voice I responded “Why does it matter? Your computer can’t talk to hers anyway.” He got a chuckle and said I had a good point and then asked if I was in healthcare. But we have all been there. We have seen one physician only to turn around and have to tell the story all over again with the follow-up care physician because the records just aren’t there.

Not to mention I had pictures of the wound on my phone I had taken right after the incident. My follow-up physician asked that I send her these photos so she could take a look (because she didn’t have access to photos snapped in the ER). I asked her if she could put them into my patient record being my PCP? Her response, “no I don’t have a way to get them uploaded.” Similar to what Alex Towbin, MD, Director of Radiology Informatics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, said in his session at HIMSS16, he has multiple pics on his phone and there is nothing wrong security wise with that, but that’s not where the belong.

A complete patient record should include all medical data related to you. This includes images or all kinds whether an X-ray or photo snapped on an iPhone, textual reports (path, lab etc), and even larger data files including genome sequencing data, and digital breast tomosynthesis. I don’t think you would find one physician who would argue that any of your data is unimportant and can be left out.  In the wise words of John Halamaka, MD, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center the next time you ask why your patient record can’t be all in one and they (physicians or IT) respond because there is too much data to store, you should ask them “well how does Google do it then?”

Redefining the EMR

Posted on March 7, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Erin Wold, Account Based Marketing Program Manager at Hitachi Data Systems. You can follow Erin on Twitter: @ErinEWold
Erin Wold
Walking through the HIMSS 2016 exhibit hall, booth after booth I see interoperability this and interoperability that. So I decided to stop and ask the vendors, “When you say interoperability, what do you mean?” Answer after answer I heard, “We integrate with the EMR and other vendors to provide data into the patient record.” When asked to clarify what types of data, the majority mentioned all types of textual data. Never once did anyone respond with images of any sort. I actually got the response of “Why would enterprise imaging be at HIMSS?” when I asked “What about enterprise imaging?”

Here ladies and gentlemen lies our problem. When going to HIMSS vendors and attendees alike aren’t thinking of enterprise imaging for the most part. When you search for sessions, very few pop up when searching for imaging. This year’s HIMSS has seen a few more familiar faces from the imaging scene which is extremely exciting for the future of healthcare and patient engagement.

I was able to sit in on multiple imaging sessions and was lucky enough to go to one that was actually about enterprise imaging but neither were titled or tagged that way in the program. All great sessions with very informative information on why enterprise imaging is a must. It is not only easier for the point of care physician to access the patient record but it will increase patient care and reduce time between study and treatment.

As we move into the era where telemedicine is becoming a reality and anyone can receive care at their corner Walgreens, enterprise imaging is crucial to patient care. How do we get there?  How do we get the EHR gurus to work with the imaging gurus. After sitting through a session led by Alex Towbin, MD, Director of Radiology Informatics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital; I see how it needs to start.

It started right then and there after he said we must redefine EMR.  We as vendors and providers have defined the EMR as a repository for textual data. We have done ourselves a disservice and we now have to reverse it. The EMR should be a central location where the patients care team can enter ALL data that has been collected on that patient. In essence it should be more like your teenage cousin’s Facebook page where they put everything than your Myspace page from 10 years ago where nothing has been uploaded because you can’t remember the password to gain access.

I was shocked when John Hamlaka, MD, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, presented that only 50% of pediatric scans are read by the correct sub-specialist. This is in part due to the referring physician, the radiologist and the sub specialist lacking a way to share these scans and therefore the sub-specialist never knew it existed. Enterprise Imaging makes way for this to happen. Other risks that arise because of a lack of enterprise imaging: double exposure to radiation, misdiagnoses, crucial lapse in time between scan and start of treatment, and an incomplete patient record.

A step in the right direction was taken this year at HIMSS by aligning with SIIM or the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine and hosting dual sessions as well as a meet-up at the HIMSS Spot. Eighteen months ago they created a coalition of innovative members from both organizations. Moving forward it will take leaders from medical societies: HIMSS, SIIM, RSNA, ACR,  etc. Redefining  is only the beginning. While it seems like a long, hard road ahead we have to start somewhere.

Data Blocking and other Loch Ness Monsters at #HIMSS16

Posted on March 2, 2016 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 speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

A torrent of tweets was unleashed on Day 2 of #HIMSS16. According to Symplur, almost 30,000 tweets were sent with the #HIMSS16 hashtag yesterday.

One tweet was particularly memorable:

The quote comes from John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who was discussing the controversial act of information blocking – where vendors proactively block the sharing of information health information. John Lynn posted a fantastic summary of information blocking here.

That tweet stuck with me and for the rest of Day 2 at #HIMSS16 I was on the lookout for Loch Ness Monsters – things that get discussed, but are almost never seen.

Loch Ness Monster #2 – Interoperability

A close cousin to information blocking – interoperability has been a popular topic again this year at HIMSS. Many vendors are touting new APIs and tools that help make data exchange easier. The HHS even unveiled plans for several initiatives to pave the way for easier information sharing. However, like in previous years, there is a lot of talk, but very little action when it comes to interoperability.

There is frankly very little financial incentive for vendors and institutions to be open with their data. So until the economics change, interoperability will remain a Loch Ness Monster.

Loch Ness Monster #3 – Gender parity

The #HealthITChicks tweetup led by Jennifer Dennard of HISTalk highlighted the issue of gender inequality in healthcare IT. Dennard and a panel of three respected women leaders discussed the progress-made and the progress-yet-to-be made in terms of women being fully accepted as equals in the industry.

The panel pointed to the results of the annual HIMSS Leadership Survey which were revealed in a morning briefing. A key finding of the survey was gender-based pay inequality – “Evidence from the Compensation Survey, for example, suggest female health IT workers are being marginalized in this sector of the economy. Analyzed several different ways, women consistently earn less than their male counterparts. The findings also suggest females are under-represented in IT-related executive and senior management roles in the health sector.”

So apparently we talk a lot about women being equal, but the it’s simply not something that’s seen.

Loch Ness Monster #4 – Patients

HIMSS is by far the largest healthcare IT conference in North America. It attracts attendees from across the spectrum of healthcare. However, there is one stakeholder that is nearly absent – patients. Every vendor talks about including patients in the design of their products and how they consider themselves to be “patient centered” yet there are only a handful of patient advocates and e-Patients at the conference.

Progress has been made in the past few years in terms of patient scholarships, but more can be done to ensure that the voice of the patient is actually seen/heard at the annual HIMSS conference. It’s time for vendors and health institutions to step up.

Loch Ness Monster #5 – Stable WiFi

In the lunch lines, restroom lines and in the aisles of the Exhibit Hall, #HIMSS16 attendees were all asking each other if they knew of a good place to get a stable WiFi signal. To be fair, WiFi coverage this year has been much better than in years past, but there still plenty of people talking about “If you go over there by the window and just under the escalator you’ll get a strong signal”. On two occasions I want to the exact spot recommended by a fellow attendee – only to be disappointed with a single bar of signal strength. My hotspot has rarely seen this much activity in a single day.

What things have you HEARD at #HIMSS16 but have not actually SEEN?

Maybe It’s Time To Phase Out The Meaningful Use Program

Posted on December 29, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Since Stage 1 of the Meaningful Use incentive program kicked off in 2011, the level of health IT adoption has risen dramatically across the United States. As publicly-funded programs go, it’s had quite a ride.

A few years in, nearly 97% of U.S. hospitals had achieved Stage 1 or higher of the HIMSS EMR Adoption model (as of Q1 2015). And a plurality (roughly 57%) were at Stage 5 or higher.

Meanwhile, 83% of office-based doctors are now using EMRs, according to a recent report from ONC.  The percentage drops to 74% when counting only physicians using certified EMRs, but that’s still a very substantial increase over the 57% of office-based docs using EMRs in 2011.

Whether this progress was worth the $28.1 billion paid out (as of December 2014) is anyone’s guess, but clearly, the program had a huge impact. In fact, it’s hard to argue that MU payments helped to trigger a major change in how medicine is practiced.

That being said, some critics are floating the idea that it’s time to retire Meaningful Use, or at minimum, pull back its implementation dramatically. For example, HIT superstar John Halamka contends that Meaningful Use programs “have served their purpose.”

In his blog, Halamka — who serves as CIO of both the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center — suggests that Stage 3 of MU is little more than a multi-train pile-up (the following quote is long but deserves to be read in full):

 Stage 3 makes many of the same mistakes as Stage 2, trying to do too much too soon. It requires patient accessible Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) without specifying any standards.   It requires sending discharge e-prescriptions although pharmacies cannot widely support the cancel transaction that is essential to discharge medication management workflow.   It requires public health transactions but CMS has no authority to require public health authorities to standardize the way they receive data.

Clinicians cannot get through a 12 minute visit, enter the necessary Stage 3 data elements, reconcile problems/allergies/medications from multiple institutions, meet the demands of the  Stage 3 clinical quality measures, make eye contact with patients, and deliver safe medical care.

Having read the above, you won’t be surprised to learn that elsewhere, Halamka argues that Stage 3 of Meaningful Use should be dropped completely. Instead, he’d like to see the government offer merit-based rewards for positive outcomes and innovative approaches.

While Halamka’s arguments make a lot of sense, another group of people want to address the fact that the Meaningful Use program incentives have never been available to most mental health providers. As readers may know, mental health facilities such as psychiatric hospitals and substance abuse treatment facilities currently aren’t eligible for Medicaid and Medicare MU incentives. Also, front-line mental health professionals such as psychologists and licensed social workers are not included in the current definition of “eligible professionals.”

A bill progressing through the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 2646 (“Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015”) proposes to add clinical psychologists to the list of eligible professionals, and psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, residential or outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities to the list of eligible providers. While I’m not suggesting that Meaningful Use as currently structured is the only way to address the mental health industry’s HIT needs, those needs shouldn’t be forgotten. In fact, John would argue that not being involved in meaningful use might be the best thing that happened to mental health EHR.

I’d agree that eliminating — or at minimum transforming — the existing Meaningful Use program may be a good idea. Better to try something new than drag providers through a wasteful, painful rout.

Two Competing Challenges: Integration and Innovation

Posted on February 23, 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.

In my other post about BIDMC’s webOMR acquisition by Athenahealth, I found this old post from John Halamka about the best of breed healthcare IT application approach and the all in one integrated EHR approach. In that post, I was really struck by the way John Halamka describes the challenge of balancing innovation and integration:

Innovation:

Epic eases the burden of demand management. Every day, clinicians ask me for innovations because they know our self-built, cloud hosted, mobile friendly core clinical systems are limited only by our imagination. Further, they know that we integrate department specific niche applications very well, so best of breed or best of suite is still a possibility. Demand for automation is infinite but supply is always limited. My governance committees balance requests with scope, time, and resources. It takes a great deal of effort and political capital. With Epic, demand is more easily managed by noting that desired features and functions depend on Epic’s release schedule. It’s not under IT control.

Integration:

Most significantly, the industry pendulum has swung from best of breed/deep clinical functionality to the need for integration. Certainly Epic has many features and overall is a good product. It has few competitors, although Meditech and Cerner may provide a lower total cost of ownership which can be a deciding factor for some customers. There are niche products that provide superior features for a department or specific workflow. However, many hospital senior managers see that Accountable Care/global capitated risk depends upon maintaining continuous wellness not treating episodic illness, so a fully integrated record for all aspects of a patient care at all sites seems desirable. In my experience, hospitals are now willing to give up functionality so that they can achieve the integration they believe is needed for care management and population health.

These comments also say something significant about IT governance as well. It’s a challenging balance. Although, it also illustrates why a well done EHR API is so powerful. It allows a large organization to have deep integration into an EHR while not having to sacrifice the ability to innovate. Too bad APIs are Hard and so many EHR vendors haven’t executed on them. We’ll see if FHIR can get us at least part of the way there.

How do you approach innovation and integration in your hospital? What’s the right balance?

BIDMC’s Internal EHR and A Possible Epic Future

Posted on February 11, 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.

One of the surprising reactions for me in the announcement of Athenahealth’s acquisition of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s (BIDMC) in house webOMR platform was by John Halamka. As I mention in the linked article, it really isn’t a pure software acquisition as much as it is Athenahealth going to school to learn about the inpatient EHR space. However, John Halamka’s reaction to this announcement is really interesting.

As I read through all of the coverage of the announcement, John Halamka seems to have shifted gears from their current in house EHR approach to now considering a switch to some other external EHR vendor. This is very interesting given this blog post by John Halamka back in 2013. Here’s an excerpt from it:

Beth Israel Deaconess builds and buys systems. I continue to believe that clinicians building core components of EHRs for clinicians using a cloud-hosted, thin client, mobile friendly, highly interoperable approach offers lower cost, faster innovation, and strategic advantage to BIDMC. We may be the last shop in healthcare building our own software and it’s one of those unique aspects of our culture that makes BIDMC so appealing.

The next few years will be interesting to watch. Will a competitor to Epic emerge with agile, cloud hosted, thin client features such as Athenahealth? Will Epic’s total cost of ownership become an issue for struggling hospitals? Will the fact that Epic uses Visual Basic and has been slow to adopt mobile and web-based approaches provide to be a liability?

Or alternatively, will BIDMC and Children’s hospital be the last academic medical centers in Eastern Massachusetts that have not replaced their entire application suite with Epic?

Based on John Halamka’s comments it seems that his belief might have changed or at least he’s considering the option that an in house system is not the right approach moving forward. No doubt Athenahealth is hoping that they’ll delay the decision a few years so they have a chance to compete for BIDMC’s business.

If you look at the rest of the blog post linked above, Halamka was making the case for Epic back in 2013. I think that clearly makes Epic the front runner for the BIDMC business at least from Halamka’s perspective. We’ll see how that plays out over time.

It seems like we’re nearing the end of the in house EHR hospital. Are there any others that still remain?

Athenahealth Going to Inpatient EHR School

Posted on February 4, 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.

In case you missed it, Athenahealth announced a collaboration with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the purchase of their webOMR platform. This comes on the heels of Athenahealth’s acquisition of RazorInsight’s inpatient EHR. Here’s a short video where Jonathan Bush and John Halamka talk about the acquisition:

When you dig into the details of the acquisition, you realize that Athenahealth isn’t going to sell the webOMR software. They’ve purchased the right to be able to copy what’s been built into that EHR software and no doubt bake it into the RazorInsights software. Plus, they’ll have the people at BIDMC providing feedback and guidance as Athenahealth builds out a full inpatient EHR platform that can compete with Epic and Cerner. Jonathan Bush makes it clear that it’s going to take a couple years to make this full vision come to pass, but he believes building it on the right technology will make all the difference as they go after the inpatient EHR market.

I have to admit that I think KLAS got it right when they said that this deal is really about Athenahealth going to inpatient EHR school:

No doubt this was also a way for Athenahealth to get into BIDMC in order to sell their ambulatory software. As part of the deal they’re starting the rollout of Athenahealth ambulatory EHR to a few of their clinics. It will be interesting to hear how that goes since it will say a lot about how the future BIDMC partnership will go for Athenahealth. No doubt, Athenahealth is going to throw all of its resources at the implementation to make sure they’re a success.

This move by Athenahealth is a big one and fraught with risk. It combines the complicated hospital environment with an existing software base and the acquisition of another software base as they integrate a third software base’s experience into a new platform for inpatient EHR. Yeah, nothing could go wrong with that mix. Of course, in a high stakes game of poker when there’s a lot of risk, there’s a lot of reward. Jonathan Bush and Athenahealth have pushed their chips all in. We’ll see the final card in about 2-3 years.

FHIR Adoption Needs Time to Mature

Posted on January 7, 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.

In John Halamka’s look at Health IT in 2014 he offered some really great insight into how regulators should look at standards and adoption of standards.

Here’s one section which talks about the lesson learned from meaningful use stage 2:

“Stage 2 was aspirational and a few of the provisions – Direct-based summary exchange and patient view/download/transmit required an ecosystem that does not yet exist. The goals were good but the standards were not yet mature based on the framework created by the Standards Committee.”

Then, he offers this money line about FHIR and how we should handle it:

“We need to be careful not to incorporate FHIR into any regulatory program until it has achieved an objective level of maturity/adoption”

There’s no doubt that FHIR is on Fire right now, but we need to be careful that it doesn’t just go down in flames. Throwing it into a regulatory program before it’s ready will just smother it and kill the progress that’s being made.

Video Interview with John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Posted on October 10, 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.

Today, I happened upon a really laid back interview by CXOTalk with John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a bunch of other things (see the list at the bottom of this post). John Halamka has been doing this for a long time (20 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) and so he has some interesting perspectives. Plus, he’s put himself out there all over the place including participation in the meaningful use committees.

Here are some great lines from the interview:
“There’s no problem that can’t be blamed on IT.”

“You should never go live based on a deadline. You go live when the product is ready or the people are ready to use the product.”

“If you go live too early, no one will ever forget. If you go live too late, no one will ever remember.”

Check out the full video for other interesting insights into healthcare IT and John Halamka:

John D. Halamka, MD, MS is Chief Information Officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Chief Information Officer and Dean for Technology at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network (NEHEN), CEO of MA-SHARE (the Regional Health Information Organization), Chair of the US Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP), and a practicing Emergency Physician.