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#HIMSS16 Day 0 – Exhibit Hall Tetris

Posted on February 29, 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.

Arriving the day before the craziness of HIMSS is an annual tradition for most vendors. The Saturday and Sunday before the main conference are the days when most of the booth building activity happens inside the HIMSS exhibit hall.

I have always enjoyed these pre-conference days at HIMSS. Being in the exhibit hall while booths are being constructed is like watching a life-sized game of Tetris. It’s fun to watch the army of tradespeople unpack crates and piece together complex booths while following instructions that look eerily like those you find with Lego building sets.

#HIMSS16 features move vendors than ever before. Over 1300 booths sprawl across multiple halls in the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas Nevada. With this many vendors, the aisle-ways were especially difficult to navigate during setup. It’s a testament to the skill of the forklift drivers that they managed to squeeze all the crates in and round the booth areas for setup.

HIMSS16 Exhibit Hall 1

As a marketer and engineer, I relish the opportunity to have a preview of the booths before the hall opens. Every year I find at least five or six booths of unique/fresh design that I add to my must-visit list.

This year was no exception.

HIMSS16 Philips Booth
The Philips booth (3416) looks very impressive this year with four floor-to-ceiling LED displays that look like the ones they use in Football stadiums. The booth itself is beautifully accented with a stunning chandelier in the center. I can’t wait to see it in action when the hall opens.

The CDW Healthcare (3606), SalesForce (10525) and Cerner (2032) booths are also intriguing. I’m particularly interested in the SalesForce booth – partly because of the design but mostly because I’m curious to see how their healthcare offering is shaping up.

If you see a cool or interesting booth over the next few days, I hope you’ll tweet out a notification or post something to the HIMSS16 mobile app.

Will the Disconnected Find Interoperability at HIMSS 2016? Five Scenarios for Action!

Posted on February 28, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Donald Voltz, MD.
Donald Voltz - Zoeticx

With the yearly bluster and promise of HIMSS, I still find there have been few strides in solving interoperability. Many speakers will extol the next big thing in healthcare system connectivity and large EHR vendors will swear their size fits all and with the wave of video demo, interoperability is declared cured.  Long live proprietary solutions, down with system integration and collaboration. Healthcare IT, reborn into the latest vendor initiative, costing billions of dollars and who knows how many thousands of lives.

Physicians’ satisfaction with electronic health record (EHR) systems has declined by nearly 30 percentage points over the last five years, according to a 2015 survey of 940 physicians conducted by the American Medical Association (AMA) and American EHR Partners. The survey found 34% of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their EHR systems, compared with 61% of respondents in a similar survey conducted five years ago.

Specifically, the survey found:

  • 42% of respondents described their EHR system’s ability to improve efficiency as difficult or very difficult;
  • 43% of respondents said they were still addressing productivity challenges related to their EHR system;
  • 54% of respondents said their EHR system increased total operating costs; and
  • 72% of respondents described their EHR system’s ability to decrease workload as difficult or very difficult.

Whether in the presidential election campaign or at HIMSS, outside of the convention center hype, our abilities are confined by real world facts.  Widespread implementation of EHRs have been driven by physician and hospital incentives from the HITECH Act with the laudable goals of improving quality, reducing costs, and engaging patients in their healthcare decisions. All of these goals are dependent on readily available access to patient information.

Whether the access is required by a health professional or a computers’ algorithm generating alerts concerning data, potential adverse events, medication interactions or routine health screenings, healthcare systems have been designed to connect various health data stores. The design and connection of various databases can become the limiting factor for patient safety, efficiency and user experiences in EHR systems.

Healthcare Evolving

Healthcare, and the increasing amount of data being collected to manage the individual as well as patient populations, is a complex and evolving specialty of medicine. The health information systems used to manage the flow of patient data adds additional complexity with no one system or implementation being the single best solution for any given physician or hospital. Even within the same EHR, implementation decisions impact how healthcare professional workflow and care delivery are restructured to meet the constraints and demands of these data systems.

Physicians and nurses have long uncovered the limitations and barriers EHR’s have brought to the trenches of clinical care. Cumbersome interfaces, limited choices for data entry and implementation decisions have increased clinical workloads and added numerous additional warnings which can lead to alert fatigue. Concerns have also been raised for patient safety when critical patient information cannot be located in a timely fashion.

Solving these challenges and developing expansive solutions to improve healthcare delivery, quality and efficiency depends on accessing and connecting data that resides in numerous, often disconnected health data systems located within a single office or spanning across geographically distributed care locations including patients’ homes. With changes in reimbursement from a pay for procedure to a pay for performance model, an understanding of technical solutions and their implementation impacts quality, finances, engagement and patient satisfaction.

Moving from a closed and static framework to an open and dynamic one holds great potential while requiring an innovative look at how technology is used as a tool to connect the people, processes and data. Successful application and integration of technology will determine future healthcare success. Although the problems with healthcare data exchange have not been solved, numerous concepts have been proposed on how to solve these challenges.

Connecting the Disconnected

Currently, healthcare data flow is disconnected. Understanding the current and future needs of patients and healthcare professionals along with how we utilize the technology tools available to integrate data into a seamless stream can bring about an enhanced, high-quality, efficient care delivery model.  One successful integration example, middleware, has been used for years to integrate data in financial and retail organizations with its simple open technology.

One of the leaders in middleware integration is Zoeticx, a healthcare IT system integrator who integrates the data traffic and addresses, adding the missing components to connect, direct and act upon the healthcare data flow.  This technology helped one hospital struggling with the typical EHR interoperability plaguing most healthcare facilities connect multiple EHR systems.  In addition, the health-care facility used middleware to identify a new revenue stream from CMS reimbursements for patient wellness visits while also improving patient care.

Accessing patient information from EHR’s and other patient health data repositories is critical for patient care. The development of tools and strategies to enhance the patient experience, improve quality and innovation of the care delivery model requires an understanding of how data is accessed and shared.  Current EHR’s have employed numerous ways to extract patient data, each of which brings opportunities and challenges. Here are a few examples to ask about at HIMSS.

The Critical Care Team – Distributed Care

The critical care environment is a challenging one with numerous healthcare professionals teaming up to manage and care for patients. Delays in addressing critical issues, lab values or other studies can negatively impact these patients or lead to redundancy and inefficiencies which increase costs without impacting outcomes. Coordinating care between the various care team members can be a challenge.

The medical record and the nursing flow sheet had traditionally been the platform for communication and understanding the trajectory of care. With the incorporation of the electronic medical record, things have changed. EHR’s bring along new constraints in caring for critical patients while at the same time bring about potential to enhance care delivery through the improvement in communication and management of these patients.

Chronic Care Management

There is a growing prevalence of US adult patients who are managing two or more chronic medical conditions. Governmental and commercial insurance providers have embraced this trend by introducing chronic care management (CCM) programs in an effort to better manage these patients so as to limit costly hospital admissions and improve quality of life.

There are numerous barriers to engaging physicians and patients in the management of chronic health conditions. One of the findings from a recent survey of chronic care management by health plan was how improvement in coordination of care between multiple physicians and other healthcare professionals can positively impact the care received and improve utilization. With commercial and governmental incentives, development and implementation of CCM management tools that interface with EHR’s and connect patients and professionals can enhance care delivery in this expanding population of patients.

Care Transitions

Patients admitted to the hospital for scheduled procedures or the unexpected management of a medical issue are at risk of being readmitted for preventable issues that develop following discharge.  For aging patients with multiple chronic conditions, enhanced communication to limit misunderstandings, conflicts in disease management and compliance with medications are critical as they move from hospitals to intermediate care settings and ultimately back home. Management of these critical care transitions depend on communication of patient data, the meaning ascribed to this data by the primary care physician along with those who managed these patients in the hospital becomes a critical component in care quality, patient satisfaction and to address preventable readmissions.

Healthcare professionals have emerged to manage many aspects of patient care and are dependent on access to patient data which is often spread between EHR’s and other health data systems. Connecting and sharing this information plays a role in how these patients are managed. Development of clinical pathways that integrate and translate evidenced-based medicine into the care delivery model is a critical component to the management of care across transitions.

Patient data, treatment plans and monitoring approaches to chronic conditions and underlying risks must be integrated and communicated between patients and healthcare professionals. The complexity of healthcare and the distributed care-team model makes this more critical now than ever before. Understanding data flow between all members of the care team, including patients and their family, becomes key in the development of strategies to achieve high quality, cost effective and engaging solutions that ultimately impact outcomes.

The Annual Health Screen

Preventative care is an expanding area of medicine with the goal of trying to control US healthcare costs. In 2011, The Affordable Care Act established the Annual Wellness Visit for Medicare beneficiaries. The purpose of this initiative is to perform an annual health risk assessment and identify all of the healthcare professionals caring for a beneficiary. By identifying risks and care professionals, coordination of care and risk mitigation can be put in place.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is promoting this service in an effort to enhance patient care, reduce unexpected care and reduce healthcare costs. With an expansive list of healthcare professionals who can perform the Annual Wellness Visit, a critical component in implementing this service hinges on communication and the sharing of the information obtained. Understanding and connecting patients, professionals, and their health data into a unified, accessible system must be managed.

Personalized Health

The landscape of patient health data is expanding. Personalized health and wellness trackers, genetic variants influencing risks for chronic conditions and pharmacogenetics, are all revealing new biologic pathways that will impact how care is delivered in the future. Systematically integrating these disparate pieces of data is becoming critical to translate individual disease risk and treatment recommendations. Emerging uses of personalized data will impact how we store, access and use this data for personalized diagnosis and management of disease.

Solving the technical challenge of accessing the data, development of decision-support tools and visually displaying the results to physicians and patients who will ultimately act upon the findings is being actively developed. How these new technologies are integrating into clinical medicine will impact their use and the engagement of all those involved. Exploring the potential ways to integrate emerging technologies into current EHR’s becomes critical to the future of healthcare delivery.

The process of healthcare delivery, use of data to drive decisions and employing various technological tools have become interdependent components that hold great potential for impacting quality of care. Gaining an understanding of the clinical needs, designing processes that meet these patient needs while incorporating evidence-based decision support has become a critical component of healthcare delivery. Understanding the current thinking, available technology and emerging solutions to the challenges we face with data flow and communication is the first step to developing innovative and impactful solutions.

Step up at HIMSS and ask the presenter how they plan to address these needs. Then reach out to the authors at or for a reality check.

About Donald Voltz, MD
Donald Voltz, MD, Aultman Hospital, Department of Anesthesiology, Medical Director of the Main Operating Room, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology, Case Western Reserve University and Northeast Ohio Medical University.

Board-certified in anesthesiology and clinical informatics, Dr. Voltz is a researcher, medical educator, and entrepreneur. With more than 15 years of experience in healthcare, Dr. Voltz has been involved with many facets of medicine. He has performed basic science and clinical research and has experience in the translation of ideas into viable medical systems and devices.

Expecting Evolutionary, Not Revolutionary at #HIMSS16

Posted on February 26, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and 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 most of you know, I’m deep in the weeds of planning for the HIMSS 2016 Annual conference. Actually, at this point on the Friday before HIMSS, I’m more or less planned. Now I’m just sitting here and wondering what things I might have missed. With that said, I’ve been preparing for this live video interview with the Samsung CMO which starts in 30 minutes (it’s recorded in case you miss the live discussion) and so I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to see at HIMSS. As someone who follows the changes in healthcare technology every day, I’m expecting lots of evolutionary changes and very little revolutionary.

As I think about it, I’m trying to imagine what someone could announce that would be revolutionary. That includes thinking back to past HIMSS to what announcements really revolutionized the industry. I can only think of two announcements that come close. The first announcement was when the meaningful use regulations were dropped right before the ONC session at HIMSS. Few people would argue that meaningful use has not revolutionized healthcare IT. Certainly many people would argue that it’s been a revolution that’s damaged the industry. Regardless of whether you see meaningful use as positive or negative, it’s changed so many things about healthcare IT.

The second announcement that stands out in my mind was the CommonWell health alliance. I’m a little careful to suggest that it was a revolutionary announcement because years later interoperability is still something that happens for a few days at the HIMSS Interoperability showcase and then a few point implementations, but isn’t really a reality for most. However, CommonWell was a pretty interesting step forward to have so many competing EHR companies on stage together to talk about working together. Of course, it was also notable that Epic wasn’t on stage with them. This year I’ve seen a number of other EHR vendors join CommonWell (still no Epic yet), so we’ll see if years later it finally bears the fruits of what they were talking about when they announced the effort.

The other problem with the idea that we’ll see something revolutionary at HIMSS 2016 is that revolutions take time. Revolutionary technology or approaches don’t just happen based on an announcement at a conference. That’s true even if the conference is the largest healthcare IT conference in the world. Maybe you could see the inkling of the start of the revolution, but then you’re gazing into a crystal ball.

The second problem for me personally is that I see and communicate with so many of these companies throughout the year. In just the last 6 months I’ve seen a lot of the HIMSS 2016 companies at various events like CES, RSNA, MGMA, AHIMA, etc. With that familiarity everything starts to settle into an evolution of visions and not something revolutionary.

Of course, I always love to be surprised. Maybe someone will come out with something revolutionary that changes my perspective. However, given the culture of healthcare and it’s ability to suppress revolutionary ideas, I’ll be happy to see all the amazing evolution in technology at HIMSS. Plus, the very best revolutionary ideas are often just multiple evolutionary ideas combined together in a nice package.

Health IT Jobs Data Yields A Few Surprises

Posted on February 25, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

After taking a look at a pre-release copy of a new report chronicling trends in the healthcare IT staffing world (The full report will be released during HIMSS), I’ve realized that many of my assumptions about the health IT workforce are wrong.  The report, from specialist technology recruitment firm Greythorn, offers a useful look at just who makes up the healthcare IT workforce and how they prefer to work, but just as importantly, how health organizations are treating them.

To collect its data, the recruiting company surveyed 430 U.S. IT professionals over Q4 2015. Greythorn focused on factors that define the healthcare pro’s work experience, including the demographics of the HIT workforce, length of tenure, hours in a typical work week, career motivation and reward/bonus trends.

More than one item in the report surprised me. For example, despite last year’s ups and downs, 84% of respondents reported feeling optimistic or extremely optimistic about healthcare IT, up from 78% the previous year.

Also, some of the demographics data caught me off guard:

  • 59% of respondents were female, while only 41% were male. I couldn’t dig up a stat on the overall makeup of the US HIT workforce, but my best guess is that it’s still male-dominated. So this was of note.
  • Also, 52% of respondents were between 43 and 60 years old, though another 24% of respondents were 25 to 34 years old. On level it makes sense, as health IT work takes specialized expertise that doesn’t come overnight, but it bucks the general IT image as a haven for young hopefuls.
  • I was also surprised to learn that only 40% of respondents were employed full time,  On the other hand, given that consultants and contractors can earn 50% to 100% more than full-timers (Greythorn’s data), it’s actually a pretty logical development.
  • Greythorn found that 43% of respondents were working 41 to 45 per week, not bad for a demanding professional position. On the other hand, 21% report working 46 to 50 hours, and 10% more than 60 hours.

The report also served up some interesting data regarding HIT hiring and staff headcount:

  • 39% of respondents said that they expected to increase headcount, perhaps signalling a move away from implementing big projects largely with contractors. On the other hand, 24% reported that they expected to cut headcount, so I could be off base.
  • On the flip side, only 9% said that they expected to see significant headcount losses, with 33% asserting that headcount would probably remain the same.

When it came to technical specializations, the results were fairly predictable. When asked which EMR system they knew best:

  • 55% of respondents named Epic
  • 19% named Cerner
  • 5% named Meditech
  • 3% named Allscripts and McKesson
  • 14% cited “other”

Finally, given that many of the survey respondents seem to cluster at the high end of experience levels, I was intrigued to note the wide spread in salaries, which ranged from less than $50K per year to to more than $160K. Some of the most interesting numbers, included the following:

  • 20% reported earning $50K to $69,999
  • 21% were earning $100K to $119,999
  • 6% reported earning more than $160K

To my way of thinking, it doesn’t make sense that 53% of  health IT pros  — many of whom reported being fairly senior, were making less than $100K per year.

Sure, health organizations’ budgets are stretched thin. But skimping on IT pay is likely to have a negative impact on recruitment and retention. As we cruise into 2016, let’s keep an eye on this problem. I doubt junior- to mid-level salaries will attract the hard-core HIT veterans needed to transform health IT over the coming years.

Note: Healthcare Scene helped promote this survey and Greythorn pays to post its healthcare IT jobs to our healthcare IT job board.

What’s Next in the World of Healthcare IT and EHR?

Posted on February 24, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and 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 the following video, Healthcare Scene sits down with Dana Sellers, CEO of Encore, a Quintiles Company. Dana is an expert in the world of healthcare IT and EHR and provides some amazing expertise on what’s happening in the industry. We talk about where healthcare IT is headed now that meaningful use has matured and healthcare CIOs are starting to look towards new areas of opportunity along with how they can make the most out of their previous EHR investments.

As we usually do with all of our Healthcare Scene interviews, we held an “After Party” session with a little more informal discussion about what’s happening in the healthcare IT industry. If you don’t watch anything else, skip to this section of the video when Dana tells a story about a CIO who showed the leadership needed to make healthcare interoperability a reality.

My Guide to #HIMSS16

Posted on February 23, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and 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 just looked over my HIMSS calendar and I have almost 50 events listed and I haven’t even finished scheduling my week. That’s going to make for a packed week at the mecca of healthcare IT conferences, the HIMSS Annual Conference. If you read this site, you’re probably already familiar with HIMSS and the annual conference that will bring together ~45,000 health IT professionals and ~1300 exhibitors. It’s massive and packed full of incredible people, technology, and experiences.

Each year, I post my schedule and guide to the HIMSS Annual Conference. This year is no different. I’m happy to share some of the places I’ll be at HIMSS and the topics and sessions that interest me. I hope that readers of this blog will join me at some of these events and come say hi. There’s nothing better than meeting someone who reads your blog.

I won’t go through each of the HIMSS 2016 keynotes in detail, but I’m excited to hear what Michael Dell and Peyton Manning say for their keynote addresses. I also enjoy a good “mental floss” keynote that I think Dr. Berger will provide. Most people will be gone for it, unless they’re staying to hear Peyton Manning talk that afternoon. It’s too bad since I always find it a refreshing end to an exhausting week.

Each year of HIMSS, they create some sort of innovation section of the conference. Sometimes this includes conference sessions. Other times it includes an exhibit hall area. This year they have both in what they are calling HX360. I heard Shahid Shah mention today that the great thing about HX360 companies is that these companies are often doing something pretty unique. Unlike some other HIMSS vendors, you don’t usually know 20 other companies doing the same thing when you’re talking to HX360 companies.

There’s also a great luncheon keynote for HX360 that includes Mitt Romney and Michael Leavitt (Former HHS Secretary and Governor of Utah). I like them because they’re connected enough to Washington to have tremendous insight, but far enough removed that they can actually speak frankly about what’s happening. The one problem with HX360 is that it requires a separate registration. So, we’ll see how much of it I get to see. I might have to live vicariously through other people’s tweets on the #HX360 hashtag.

Now for some very specific conference sessions, meetups, and events:

#HITMC Meetup – What has become a bit of an annual tradition, Shahid and I will be holding a meetup with members of the healthcare IT marketing and PR community and the broader healthcare social media community as well. The official title of the session is Marketing to Customers in an Uncertain Healthcare IT Marketplace and it’s happening Monday, Feb 29 from 3:00-3:45 at the HIMSS spot. Join us for an open and engaging discussion with the community.

#HealthITChicks Meetup – I’ve been so impressed with the efforts Jennifer Dennard has put together to bring together the #HealthITChicks group. What an amazing community that’s formed. This community of women (and men) are some of the best and brightest in healthcare IT. They’re doing a meetup on Tuesday, March 1 from 10-10:45 at the HIMSS Spot. Check out the full list of speakers, and don’t be surprised when you see the caliber of people who attend this meetup.

@MandiBPro Tweetup – At 2 PM on Tuesday March 1st, Mandi Bishop (better known as @mandibpro) and Dr. Joseph Kim (@DrJosephKim) are doing a tweetup at the Dell booth #4416 where they’ll be talking “Can the Right Data at the Right Place and Right Time Make a Difference?” Should be a lively discussion since if you know Mandi, you know how much she loves data. Is there anything better at HIMSS than talking to someone who’s passionate about a topic?

DataMotion Video Interview – I’m excited to take part in a number of video interviews with the team from DataMotion at booth #12144. One of those interviews will be with DataMotion advisory board member Peter Tippett, MD, PhD. He’s a great advisor for a company like DataMotion that focuses on secure data delivery and communication solutions in healthcare. I look forward to hearing what else they’re talking about at HIMSS16.

Sutter Health Video Interview at SAP – Shahid Shah will be interviewing Souvik Das from Sutter Health at the SAP booth #5828. They’ll be talking about SAP’s HANA being used for analytics and data aggregation for managing an ACO shared savings program. Given ACOs current track record, I’m interested to hear how their ACO has done. Shahid’s interviews are always must see for me thanks to his personal “No BS” rule.

#HIMSS16 Social Media Ambassador Meetup – Bring 20 of the most active social media people at HIMSS into one session and that’s what you’ll have at the Social Media Ambassador meetup. No, this session isn’t just for social media ambassadors. Everyone is welcome to come and interact with this group of social media ninjas. Just be ready to take a selfie.

New Media Meetup – I can’t believe this will be the 7th annual New Media Meetup at HIMSS. I’m biased since I organize the event (which is technically not affiliated with HIMSS), but it’s an amazing experience to be with so many amazing healthcare social media people in one room. Be sure to register if you want to come. A big thank to you to Stericycle Communication Solutions for sponsoring the New Media Meetup.

ONC’s Meaningful Use Session – ONC has a whole schedule of sessions at HIMSS. The one that stood out to me was this MU session called “Understanding the 2015 Edition: Meaningful Use & Other Use Cases.” This session is being held in the Sands Expo, Palazzo B and Elise Sweeney Anthony, J.D., Acting Director, Office of Policy, and Michael Lipinski, J.D., Division Director for Federal Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Policy are presenting. This felt like a real practical session where I could learn something as opposed to many government sessions where they use vague generalities that don’t better my life.

Patient Engagement: No Diamond Ring Required – On the last day of HIMSS I always try and sneak in a session or two while everyone is mostly gone. There are often some nice gems of sessions and you don’t have to fight for seats. This year I’m looking at this patient engagement session by the leaders of the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum. I’ve heard good things about the work they’re doing, so I’d like to learn more.

Like I said, I have almost 50 appointments on my calendar (including a party or two), so this is just a small sample of sessions, meetups and events that others are welcome to attend. I’ll also be doing a video interview with Jon Melling from Pivot Point Consulting which should be a lot of fun. I’ll be talking with the people from HIPAA One to see how their efforts to automate HIPAA compliance is going along with their partnerships with many EHR vendors. I’m also interested to learn about what large companies like Oracle and Samsung are doing in healthcare. I think they’ll both have much larger presences than past years.

Plus, I always like to block out some free time on the exhibit floor so I can see if ClinicSpectrum will be attracting attention with balloons and jewelry again and hopefully I can make some time to enjoy Greythorn’s foot massages (I’m sure to need it). Given there are ~1300 exhibitors vying for your attention, you never know the serendipitous connection and interaction that can occur just by strolling through the HIMSS exhibit hall. Yes, be sure to plan ahead to get the most out of HIMSS, but include in that plan some time to explore the unknown (Yes, that includes the exhibit booths downstairs at the Sands Convention Center).

Just writing this up has me excited and tired. I can’t wait for the fun to begin next week at HIMSS in Las Vegas! I’ll be doing 2 different blabs leading up to HIMSS and one blab after HIMSS, so be sure to check those out too and join our conversation about the HIMSS experience.

Bonus Tip: As a local Las Vegas resident, I feel it my responsibility to share some local insights into Las Vegas experiences you might not expect to find in Las Vegas. Here’s what I suggested to one person who asked me for some unique Las Vegas experiences that were a little more kitschy/fun than you can normally find on the strip:

Sounds like you need to check out the new Downtown Las Vegas that we call Fremont East. I’d start with some time at the Downtown Container Park. It has kitschy/fun experiences and live music written all over it. They also play live music on the weekends and have a mix of stores, restaurants and bars that make for a fun experience. The fire breathing preying mantis at the entrance just adds to the fun along with the 2 story slide.

You can grab some great bbq from Big Ern’s at the container park, or head over to La Comida (mexican) or Le Thai which are both very popular. Afterwards, you can grab a drink at Downtown Cocktail Room (intentionally hard to find, but it’s right on Las Vegas Boulevard and there’s a black door with no handle and just one small sign above the entrance. It’s kind of speak easy style). After that you can head over to the Gold Spike for some games, music, and fun. They rotate live music and DJs.

It will be something you totally don’t expect from Las Vegas, but sounds like it will be right up your alley. The other night you should do something more traditional Las Vegas and grab any of the Cirque du Soleil shows (except for the Criss Angel one). They’re not cheap, but they’re awesome.

If you want a surprisingly incredible performance check out Terry Fator. For outdoor fun, rent a car and drive out to Red Rock.

Ransomware Crisis Demands Provider Cooperation

Posted on February 22, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

A few days ago, the sadly-predictable news broke that a U.S. hospital had been hit with a ransomware attack. Initial reports were that hackers demanded that Hollywood (CA) Presbyterian Medical Center pay $3.4M in bitcoins to regain access to its data. The hospital refused, and began working with paper to meet its patients’ needs. However, it was later reported that the $3.4 million number was wrong and the hospital was only asked to pay $17,000. The hospital chose to pay the ransom and got data access back.  But the mere fact that Hollywood Presbyterian got off relatively easily shouldn’t blind us to the growing ransomware threat, nor the steps we need to take to address this crisis.

Now, before I ramble on about what I think should be done, please bear in mind that I’m an HIT analyst and writer, not a network engineer. So the modest proposal is coming from a non-technical person, but I do believe that it has some merit as an idea. Hopefully readers will continue to improve, debate, and educate us on the merits and challenges of the idea in the comments.

Here’s my proposal. Whereas:

* Hospitals can’t afford to have their data randomly locked any more than airlines can afford to have their engines do so, AND

* Nobody wants to voluntarily create a ransomware market that grows steadily stronger as hospitals pay up, SO

I suggest we find a new way for hospitals to cover each others’ back. The idea would be to make it more or less impossible for hackers to capture all of another hospital’s data.

Here’s where I get hazy, so follow me — and criticize me, please — but what if every hospital had a few sister hospitals which held part of the day’s data backup?  I can see attackers shimmying through every currently available connection at a single institution, but would all five be vulnerable if they only connected in the event a data lockout at hospital A?

Even if such a peer to peer architecture would work, I’m not sure it would be practical. After all, it’s one thing to download an illegal software copy via P2P and quite another to help restore a terabyte or more of data.

Also, it certainly hasn’t escaped me that there are serious competitive concerns involved in setting up such arrangements, though those could certainly be mitigated by the fact that no sister hospital would have a complete data set for Hospital A.

Even if this idea is utter garbage, however, I believe we’ve reached a point where if we’re going to fight ransomeware, some form of deep industry cooperation is necessary. Let’s not wait for patients to be harmed or die due to data lock-out.

Access to Encrypted iPhones – The Apple Encryption Debate

Posted on February 19, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The tech world is in a frenzy over the letter Apple’s CEO Tim Cook sent to the FBI in response to a request for Apple to create essentially a backdoor to be able to access the San Bernardino terrorists iPhone. It’s a messy and a complex situation which puts government against industry and privacy advocates against security advocates. Tim Cook in his letter is right that “this moment calls for public discussion.”

My favorite venture capitalist blogger, Fred Wilson, summed it up best for me when he said this in response to Tim Cook’s assertion that the contents of your iPhone are none of Apple’s business:

That is not an open and shut case to me.

Of course I’d like the contents of my iPhone to be out of reach of everyone other than me. But if that means the contents of the iPhones of child pornographers, sex slaverunners, narco gangsters, terrorists, and a host of other bad people are “none of our business” then that gives me pause.

I don’t think we can have it both ways. We have to choose one way or the other.

I think this is also complicated by the fact that Apple had unlocked phones previously. Albert Wenger expresses my fears around this subject:

We cannot and should not be living in digital fortresses any more than we are living in physical fortresses at home. Our homes are safe from thieves and from government not because they couldn’t get in if they wanted to but because the law and its enforcement prevents them from doing so. All we have to do is minimal physical security (lock the doors when you are out).

Please repeat after me: Surveillance is a political and legal problem, not a technical problem.

This quote is particularly interesting to me since this weekend when my family and I were away on a trip for President’s Day weekend, someone broke into our house (Side Note: We’re all fine and they realized once they got in that we didn’t have anything valuable to take. We mostly just had to deal with a broken door).

I feel similar to my favorite VC who said “I am struggling with this issue this morning, and I imagine many others are too.”

Turning to the healthcare perspective, privacy and security of health information is so important. It’s literally the intimate details of your life. I’ve heard some argue that Apple creating a way for the FBI to access this one phone would mean that all of our health information on iPhones would be at great risk of being compromised. I think that’s an exaggeration of what’s happening, but I understand the slippery slope argument.

What’s interesting is that none of us want our healthcare data to be compromised. However, if we were in a coma and the life saving information was on our iPhone, we’d love for someone to have a way to access that information. I’ve seen startup companies who’ve built that ability into the iPhone home screen for just this purpose.

I guess I’m torn on the issue. Privacy is important, but so is security. This weekend I’m going to be chewing on “We cannot and should not be living in digital fortresses any more than we are living in physical fortresses at home.” The problem with this concept is that fortresses are something we can plan and build. The other solutions are much more complex.

Managing People Is the Hardest Part of an Organization

Posted on February 18, 2016 I Written By

The following is a post by Vishal Gandhi, CEO of ClinicSpectrum as part of the Cost Effective Healthcare Workflow Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with him on Twitter @ClinicSpectrum and @csvishal2222.
Vishal Gandhi
When managing a healthcare organization, the hardest part for most leaders is managing the people involved in the practice. This shouldn’t be a surprise since “getting the right people on the bus” has always been the challenge of any successful business. Making sure you hire the right people and then ensuring those people are working at maximum efficiency often determines the success of your organization.

While we can’t quite ask Siri to take care of managing our staff for us, technology solutions can help us better manage the process of hiring the right people and managing staff productivity.

Let’s first talk about the process most healthcare organizations use to hire and on-board new staff. The reality is that the majority don’t have a well defined process. Some well organized managers do have a consistent hiring and on-boarding process, but most are just trying to keep their head above water as they bring on new people. This inconsistency can lead to hiring the wrong person and possibly even major legal consequences.

By implementing an HR management solution like we created with HRMSpectrum, it forces your organization to put some structure into your hiring process. All applicants participate in the same application process. The system allows the applicant to schedule the interview themselves. It even supports telephone, video, or in-person interviews. Could you do this with a mix of spreadsheets and other technology? Absolutely, but it can get messy very quickly. However, regardless of what technology you use, spending the time to create a well defined process is enormously valuable.

Plus, a proper HR management solution supports not only the application and interview process, but also tracks the employee as they get on-boarded with the organization. This can include such features as document signing, employee training and evaluation, employee clocking and attendance management, and performance appraisals and incentives to name a few. All of this ensures consistency and uniformity in the hiring and on-boarding process.

Once you’ve hired the right people and on-boarded them into the organization, how do you ensure that your employees are working productively? In healthcare, we know how productive a doctor is being since we can see how many patients he has on his schedule. With a productivity solution like our ProductivitySpectrum you can easily track and manage the rest of your employees’ productivity. That includes things like benchmarking and performance analysis, but also includes important time clock functionality as well. Any productivity solution you use should also prevent time spent on non-productive web browsing and social interaction online.

There’s nothing more powerful in an organization than to reward your staff for the work they do. By tracking their productivity you can identify and reward high performing individuals in your organization. Yes, that also means you’re going to find lower performing individuals. However, by tracking productivity you have the hard data to illustrate and inspire a low performing individual to improve their performance. Performance evaluations based on data are better for everyone involved.

No doubt there’s a lot more to managing people in an organization than just using the right technology. However, technology can assist managers in both the hiring and productivity tracking process. It can provide uniformity and raw data to help a manager better manage their staff. What HR and productivity management solutions are you seeing and using in your organization? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

The Cost Effective Healthcare Workflow Series of blog posts is sponsored by ClinicSpectrum, a leading provider of workflow automation solutions for healthcare. ClinicSpectrum offers a full HR hiring and on-boarding solution called HRMSpectrum. For managing staff productivity check out ClinicSpectrum’s ProductivitySpectrum solution. Connect with Clinic Spectrum on social media: @ClinicSpectrum or at Booth 1270 at HIMSS 2016..

The New Healthcare Consumer – Engaging Patients through Technology – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on February 17, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sara Plampin, Instructional Writer from The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Sara Plampin - The Breakaway Group
When you get sick, where is the first place you turn for help? In today’s technology-driven world, most people look up their symptoms online before they even consider contacting their doctor. In fact, Pew Research has shown that almost 75 percent of patients use the internet as their first resource for questions about their health. And why not? Online, there’s no need to schedule appointments or spend time in the waiting room – the answers are available instantly.

As the healthcare industry becomes increasingly consumer-driven, technology is one of the critical factors patients consider when choosing a provider. You can use many different tools to increase patient engagement, including patient portals, mobile apps, wearable devices, and social media. Because healthcare consumers are actively involved in all of these areas, a savvy organization will use several different means to engage new and existing patients.

Patient portals and mobile apps
One of the most important things to consider when adopting new engagement technology is your patients’ needs and expectations. Simply setting up a mobile app or patient portal is not enough if it does not provide the information or functionality that the patient is seeking. A recent survey suggests most hospital mobile apps fail because they do not address patients’ top three desires: electronic prescription refills, appointment scheduling, and access to their medical record. Successful apps appeal to consumers because they give patients and their families more control over their health. For instance, if patients have access to their medical record through a patient portal or EHR app, they can make sure the information is up to date and inform the provider of any mistakes. Families of elderly patients can use apps to check up on their relative’s health and communicate with their caregivers. These technologies will become a deciding factor for patients seeking a new provider.

Health and fitness trackers
Health and fitness trackers are another great tool to increase patient engagement. While providers recognize the benefits of increased physical activity, they tend to have mixed feelings about the amount and quality of data these devices collect. However, wearables can be a valuable engagement tool simply for their ability to get patients actively thinking about their health. Calorie trackers and step counters are useful tools for patient education, helping patients learn to improve their health by making small changes in their daily routines. There are also trackers to help patients manage chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. These apps can help ease the burden of health management by providing reminders and suggestions to patients, while allowing providers to keep track of their patients’ health remotely.

Social media
Consumers increasingly expect their favorite brands to have an online presence where they can share their feedback, ask questions, and learn more about the company. Healthcare should embrace social media as a tool to connect with and educate their community. Providers can use it to remind patients of the importance of sticking to their medication schedule or publish videos explaining common procedures and treatments. If patients see an organization as a relatable and trustworthy source of information, they are more likely to approach them with health questions and concerns. Social media gives your organization the opportunity to communicate directly with patients and help them discover the appropriate channels for their feedback.

Unfortunately, sometimes EHRs and other technology can actually become a barrier to patient engagement. A study conducted by JAMA Internal Medicine showed that patients are less satisfied with their care when providers use computers during the patient visit. Providers and clinicians must find a way to harmonize patient care and computer documentation. One of the best ways to do this, as suggested by Dr. Melissa Lucarelli at Medical Economics, is to “address the elephant in the room” by showing the patient the EHR. Instead of a wall dividing provider and patient, the computer can become a link between them, facilitating valuable conversations and empowering the patient to take charge of their health. Most of all, patients will feel more trusting of their provider, who made them a partner in their care.

No matter what methods your organization chooses to increase patient engagement, HIMSS recommends that all changes go through the analysis-implementation-optimization model. It’s not enough to simply set up a patient portal; you need to analyze your organization’s and patients’ needs, implement the application accordingly, review how it is being used, and make improvements. Make sure both staff and patients receive the proper education they need to get value out of the new system. As with all technology, new patient engagement tools require time, effort, and careful planning to achieve adoption.

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.