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Origin Story: Paul M Black, CEO of Allscripts – Deep Roots and Optimism in Healthcare

Posted on May 24, 2018 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.

This is first in a new series of articles. Over the coming weeks and months I will be publishing the origin stories of interesting, inspiring people in healthcare. These men and women come from all walks of life. Some are titans in the industry, others are leading grass-roots efforts. All are making an impact on healthcare.

As a self-professed comic-book geek, I am fascinated by origin stories – the account or back-story that reveals how someone became who they are today. Origin stories add to the overall narrative and give reasons for a person’s intentions. Knowing someone’s origin stories can give clues to their future actions.

Kicking off this series is the origin story of Allscripts CEO Paul Black. Allscripts, based in Chicago, serves over 45,000 physician practices and 2,500 hospitals around the world with their EHR systems and other Healthcare IT solutions. The company has a rich history of mergers. Early on they merged with Misys and Eclipsys. More recently, the company has acquired McKesson’s Health IT business and Practice Fusion.

It is common knowledge that Mr. Black has a long history in healthcare. Prior to becoming CEO of Allscripts in December 2012, he spent 13 years as Chief Operating Office at Cerner (an Allscripts rival). He has also served as an advisor to healthcare companies through his work at New Mountain Capital and Genstar Capital.

What is not common knowledge is how far back Black’s history with healthcare actually goes. When he was just 5 years old, Black accidentally consumed weed poison that was in an unlabeled vial. Luckily his father, who was the Director of the Pharmacy Department at the local hospital took him to the VA emergency room right away. As a healthcare professional his father knew that the VA had just purchased an artificial kidney machine – the very device needed to treat this type of poisoning. Spoiler Alert: Black made a full recovery thanks to his father’s quick actions and the knowledgeable staff at the VA.

To understand how lucky Paul Black was, you have to remember that back then, there were no toxicologists, no poison control centers, no detailed chemical labels and very little knowledge of poison treatments. In fact, it wasn’t until 1953 that the first poison hotline was established in Chicago by Louis Gdalman R.Ph and Edward Press MD [source: Forging a Poison Prevention and Control System 2004].

Black’s poisoning incident led his father to establish an Iowa poisoning hotline so that people in his home state could find out what to do in a poisoning situation. His work eventually led to the creation of the Iowa Poison Information Control Center – an entity that is still saving lives today.

“My father was always working on ways to improve healthcare,” recalls Black. “He built a machine that would help ensure that the right medication would be administered to the right patient at the right time. It was basically a precursor to a Pyxis machine. He got involved in computers in the early stages and was always looking for ways to use systems (whether physical or software) to solve problems in healthcare.”

Clearly the apple did not fall far from the tree.

Early in his career, Black worked at IBM where he learned “a lot about systems, software and hardware.” But more importantly, it was his time at IBM that ignited his passion for healthcare.

“I just felt good whenever I worked with hospitals and healthcare clients,” explains Black. “It was clear that working with them had a direct impact on care and on individuals in their care.”

Black moved on from IBM and joined Cerner, then an up-and-coming healthcare systems maker. There, he progressed steadily through the ranks until ultimately becoming Chief Operating Officer in 2005. Black retired from Cerner in 2007 and served in a number of advisory/board positions until he was named CEO of Allscripts in 2012.

I asked Black why he chooses to stay in healthcare.

“It’s pretty simple actually. We aren’t done yet,” states Black. “My grandfather was born in 1888 and during his lifetime we went from horse-and-buggy on dirt roads to a full interstate system with fast cars and a railroad system with fast trains. We also went from having to read your news in a newspaper to wireless radio. He even saw us land on the moon. That was an incredible amount of progress for a single lifetime. I would argue that in my lifetime we are going to see a similar leap with just as many innovations, discoveries, and life saving technologies. That’s why I stay. Healthcare is going to be a fascinating industry for the next 20+ years. Plus there aren’t many industries where you get to help the people that save lives.”

Black went on to say that this is a time in healthcare when strong leadership will be required to ensure we make the right decisions for the benefit of the many vs the few. He pointed at genomic testing as an example. Even though the cost of sequencing continues to drop, access to this type of technology and access to clinicians knowledgeable on how to interpret the results is not universal.

Access to care is a cornerstone of Black’s vision of a perfect healthcare system, something I asked him to describe during our conversation: “My perfect healthcare future is one where everyone has access to healthcare, not just people of means. It’s one where a payment mechanism has been figured out whereby a certain level of access is guaranteed as is a certain level of prevention.”

Black went on to say that this vision is not as far fetched as it may first sound: “My view is that there is enough money already in the healthcare system today to make this happen. If you add the dollars spent by every single player in the healthcare industry – governments, employers, patients, etc – it’s more than enough. We are at 18% GDP. It’s just not being spent efficiently.”

To reach his vision, Black feels we need to build a healthcare system where: “We get the diagnosis right the first time, there is no delay in treatment and there is active involvement from patients in their health.” The latter being the toughest challenge – motivating the average person to exercise more, eat better and make healthier lifestyle choices.

“We have to make it cool to be healthy,” says Black. “In fact we need the healthy equivalent of the Marlboro Man, which I know is an ironic and strange thing to say. But back in the day, EVERYONE wanted to be the Marlboro Man. He was what young men aspired to be like. We need the healthy equivalent to help motivate people to be more engaged in health.”

It is not surprising that Black sees Allscripts playing a significant role in making healthcare more efficient and effective. “Allscripts definitely has a role to play,” explained Black. “We will play that role by staying relevant in the healthcare industry. We have our core EHR products, but we also have four other product lines that are actually EHR-agnostic. We have our population health platform, dbMotion. We have our post-acute system, Netsmart. We have our precision medicine platform, 2bPrecise. And finally we have our consumer platform, FollowMyHealth. We will continue to push aggressively in these markets through innovation and acquisition to provide our clients with the solutions THEY NEED to deliver better care to patients.”

Allscript’s latest acquisition certainly fits with this acquire-functionality-that-clients-want strategy. On May 18th, the company acquired HealthGrid – a communication platform that delivers reminders, alerts and educational materials to patients via phone, text, and other electronic means. This functionality will be rolled into Allscript’s FollowMyHealth product line.

“I feel it’s our duty and obligation to automate the healthcare ‘shop floor’,” declares Black. “The groundwork had been laid with EHRs, but now it’s time to streamline workflows and leverage the data within these systems. We need to reduce the ‘shouting’ in healthcare (too many alarms). We need to improve User Interfaces so systems are easier to use. We need to reduce the documentation requirements on clinicians so they can go back to taking care of patients vs being data entry clerks. Computers should work for us, not the other way around.”

Reflecting on Black’s origin story you can see the thread of hope and optimism woven throughout. From his first (and positive) encounter with the healthcare system when he was 5 years old to watching his father use computers/machinery to try and improve patient care to the positive feelings he had while working with hospital clients at IBM – every experience brought him closer and closer to healthcare until he became part of the industry through his position at Cerner.

It gives me hope that an industry leader like Paul Black is optimistic about the future of healthcare. It’s exciting to learn that he is not just saying the right words, he is putting energy and investment behind them. It will be interesting to see how Allscripts will continue to “remain relevant” and be agile in the years ahead.

The Commodity EMR, EMR Adoption and Other EMR Tweets

Posted on October 30, 2011 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.

Time to go through some interesting Tweets from the world of EMR and EHR.

@glevin1 – gary levin
Commodization of EMR | HealthWorks Collective

There was a link on this tweet too, but it looked like a link to a page that stole the content from the original article. I’ve been intrigued by the question of whether EMR is a commodity software or not for a while now. I still haven’t come to a firm conclusion. This article uses the idea that you can buy Allscripts MyWay at Costco as a way to say that EMR is a commodity. You can also buy eCW at Sam’s Club I believe. Although, as best I can tell, that was basically a PR move on the various EHR vendors part.

Also, the article says that Allscripts MyWay product came from the purchase of Misys. Actually, I think MyWay was originally Aprima. I believe the Misys EHR software is set to be sunset.

What do you think? Is EMR a commodity?

@BrianSMcGowan – Brian S. McGowan PhD
Percent of US PCPs using EMR = 17% in ’00’ – 28% in ’06’ – 46% in ’09’ (vs 99% in Netherlands) #socialQI #progress??

The link on this one was to a terribly long PDF file. So, I cut it out. I just wish I knew where Brian got his numbers. I call BS on the US having 46% EHR adoption in 2009. I still put us at about 25% EHR adoption now. Maybe a little higher if I’m being generous. Of course, a lot of people define EHR a lot of different ways. So, that might be part of the issue.

@DRZORBA – Zorba Paster
Back to the clinic. Everyone brings their records with them. No EMR here. If they lose their record then they’re @*%&M.

Hmm…imagine a world where the doctor didn’t keep any record. The patient was just responsible for the record. That idea is fraught with trouble and issues, but I bet many doctors would love to not have to worry about the records part of their job.

@medreccom – Medical Records
“Paper is dangerous and inefficient, it doesn’t belong in health care any longer.” Future of #EMR: on.mash.to/uhVkHn

I was interested in this tweet since it linked to an article on Mashable (a mainstream tech site). So, if I get this right, this article and series was sponsored (ie. paid for) by Lenovo and profiles Practice Fusion. In other words, Lenovo paid to advertise Practice Fusion on Mashable. Good for Practice Fusion. Although, I’m not sure how many doctors read Mashable. Maybe the article wasn’t about finding doctors, but was a way to find more tech people to come work at Practice Fusion. The article itself is pretty basic for someone that reads this site. Not a bad play if that was the intent. Full Disclosure: Practice Fusion advertises on this site. Although, they certainly didn’t pay me to write about this and link to it.

Care360 EHR, MedPlus and Quest Diagnostics

Posted on March 8, 2011 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.

While some might consider the following commentary an ad for Quest Diagnostic’s Care360 EHR, it’s not. I don’t even have them as an advertiser. Plus, you could easily submit a number of other companies name in the place of Quest. However, the following were some thoughts I had after talking with the people behind Care360 EHR at Quest.

First, let me clarify some name issues so we’re all on the same page. Quest Diagnostics is the company. It’s publicly traded on the NYSE with the ticker DGX. Most of you will know about Quest since they’re one of the leading lab companies in the US. MedPlus is the subsidiary within Quest that covers the healthcare IT portion of the company including their EMR software. Care360 is the name of their SaaS EHR software which they sell. Although, Care360 is also used to provide lab results amongst other functions as well.

Now why am I talking about Care360 and Quest? I find it completely fascinating that a company like Quest is part of the EHR landscape. Certainly we have plenty of large and even many publicly traded companies that already provide an EHR, but I see some potential differences between Quest and many of these companies.

One of the biggest fears that doctors have when selecting an EHR company is that they’re afraid of how long that company will be around. Even in the cases of very large companies, there’s still the fear that the large EHR company might get bought out or merged into another company and the EHR software will be left on life support (see Misys being bought by Allscripts for an example). This is a reasonable fear that should be considered during the EMR selection process.

I believe that Quest and Care360 EHR has a distinct advantage in this regard. Quest is not likely to go out of business or even sell off their EHR software to another company. In fact, their Care360 EHR is so tightly coupled with the rest of Quest’s lab services, I’m not sure it would even be possible for Quest to sell off their EHR software if they wanted to do it.

That’s not to say that something couldn’t happen to Care360 that would make Quest change their direction. They could essentially “sell” their users to another EHR vendor through some sort of referral process or they could just choose to shutdown that division of the company because it wasn’t profitable. However, you can be quite sure that they’ll be interested in the transition process. At least if you’re a Quest lab customer. They’re not going to want to lose lab customers because they decided to stop doing EHR.

This is only one factor related to selection of an EMR (see my free EMR selection e-Book for more). There should be some discussion related to how tied you are to Quest if you use their EHR. For example, I can’t remember if Care360 has an interface with LabCorp or not. You might even ask yourself if a Lab company can make great EHR software. They also don’t have a practice management system, but said they’d consider creating one in the future.

It’s like most things in life. There’s pros and cons to everything. You could certainly argue some of the other benefits of going with Quest and Care360 EHR. For example, Quest’s been doing the SaaS based model with their Care360 lab results for a while on a very large scale. They have some expertise in that regard which they can carry over into their EHR product.

Now the question I’m interested in finding out is, what is Labcorp’s approach to EHR?

Allscripts’ Acquisition of Eclipsys

Posted on June 10, 2010 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’m going to be a little lazy today and just give you a couple links to the story of yesterday. I guess I get busy sometimes too. In case you missed it, the BIG news yesterday was Allscripts acquisition of Eclipsys.

I posted most of the relevant links on EMR and EHR yesterday along with some interesting user comments about the deal. Also, if you like this stuff, you’ll enjoy this lengthy analysis that was done on HISTalk about the acquisition.

Here’s my thoughts after reading the HISTalk analysis:
“After this merger, the new company will be trying to support eight EMRs systems and five practice management solutions with a sprinkling of inpatient technology”

Talk about an ugly situation. Plus, this quote doesn’t even highlight all the HIE software they’re dealing with.

I ran into a number of unhappy Misys users who were angry for Allscripts making them change. Just wait for these Allscripts resellers who are going to have to deal with the MyWay fall out.

My EHR Stimulus Tour Experience

Posted on September 8, 2009 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.

Many of you might remember me ripping on the EHR Stimulus Tour being a nice marketing idea for Allscripts. Ok, so maybe I went a little overboard when I said that the EHR stimulus tour sickens me and compared the EHR stimulus tour to an Amway or MLM convention. Yes, I did feel a little icky going to it and even leaving the event. However, I will admit that it was much calmer than I would have ever expected it would be. They did a pretty good job of leaving out the sales talk. Although, Allscripts really was the only vendor with much presence. A Citrix rep was there along with a local Embarq salesperson who had some Cisco IP representation as well.

Overall, I have a feeling that many will go away from the event disappointed. They did provide some good information on the amount of the EHR stimulus money and also how the EHR stimulus money will be paid. They also had quite a bit of information about ONC and other government organizations related to the ARRA funds. However, I’m guessing that many went home from the presentation seeing the dollar signs from the EMR stimulus money with little information on how to actually get the money.

Yes, I know it’s still early to be doing presentations with too much detail on “meaningful use” and “certified EHR,” but I think it would be valuable to talk about what those could potentially be. At least show them a timeline of when we’ll know more about those 2 all important terms. Instead, it was basically a presentation on the MONEY, 2 raw raw speeches about EMR use and then a sales demo over lunch.

The 2 speeches from doctors in the community were interesting. The first problem I had was that these 2 guys came from very large clinical practices. Much of what they talked about just isn’t possible for small practices. For example, one guy said we can report on anything. We just turn it over to this one whiz kid who can build a report to tell us anything. Unfortunately, small practices don’t have the whiz kid report writer to pull the data out of the EMR. That’s just one example, but you get the point. They talked about really cool things that are just hard to apply in a small practice setting.

One other note was that at least one of the speakers actually was a Misys user instead of Allscripts. I was so tempted to ask them how they felt about Misys being acquired by Allscripts and how much it was going to cost them to switch to Allscripts EMR from Misys. The timing was wrong and so I’m going to try and email him to find out. However, there were a number of other Misys users around me that were quite upset about the Allscripts purchase and the need to switch from Misys to Allscripts to get the EHR stimulus money (at least that’s what they told me).

I’ll do a few other posts about some of the technologies they showed in the demo. Although, I’ll admit that it was a horrible idea for them to do a demo like they did. Everyone around me had a headache since the screen was so small and he was clicking so much they just got confused. I didn’t mind it, but I’ve seen quite a few EMR before.

Of course, all in all it was a nice meeting for me. I made some good Las Vegas EMR contacts and got a free lunch.

AllScripts Market Share and HITECH

Posted on February 19, 2009 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 recently found an interesting post about AllScripts market share after the acquisition of Misys last year.

Based on recent research, Allscripts is estimated to own about 21% of market share for the practice management system space. Further, of the 18% or so of medical providers who have adopted electronic health records, Allscripts has around 17% of that market.

17% of the EHR market is pretty huge. Congratulations AllScripts. I previously posted a really cool viral EHR video by AllScripts. I really like things like this that AllScripts is doing. It’s nice that a technology company is using technology to encourage EHR adoption.

I have been a little soured towards AllScripts after I posted about AllScripts CEO being a HIT advisor to Obama. I just can’t comprehend how an EHR vendor can think that’s not a conflict of interest. I don’t know how Obama can’t understand what that looks like from the outside looking in.

Today I got on the AllScripts conference call to hear AllScripts take on HITECH. I won’t post all my thoughts on the experience (too many to list here), but myself (@techguy) and John Moore (also check out John’s blog) were both twittering during the call and the following are some of the tweets we made as we listened to the Allscripts CEO address HITECH and CCHIT:

@techguy tweeted: AllScripts: [HITECH] Huge win for EHR industry…I agree that the EHR vendors are going to profit greatly from this $18 billion

@john_chilmark tweeted: Tullman now giving High Praise to CCHIT – logical, in his interests, not necessarily the mkt. CCHIT cert doesn’t equate to data liquidity

@techguy tweeted: @john_chilmark You like how he said that CCHIT would probably be the certification criteria. Of course AllScripts wants that to happen.

@john_chilmark tweeted: AllScripts now stating that CCHIT cert will help winnowing out the mkt – Yes, leaving mostly legacy stuff behind

@techguy tweeted: Man, the AllScripts discussion on CCHIT is just killing me. Full of misinformation about CCHIT EHR certification benefits.

@john_chilmark tweeted: @techguy CCHIT/AllScripts conv driving me nuts as well, loads of mis-information

@john_chilmark tweeted: AllScripts: Nutty, not like docs won’t use tech if there is a true value in adoption- to date, EMR vendors have not demonstrated such value

@john_chilmark tweeted: AllScripts claims that $$$ is now available is disingenuous. True, prob need to make decision soon to demonstrate meaningful use of EMR

@john_chilmark tweeted: With so many questions left unanswered, eg, what is certified, what is meaningful, will wise docs sit back and wait to see? Could stall mkt

The Medical Quack – Great Healthcare Blog

Posted on October 13, 2008 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.

Well, I’d been meaning to link to my friend Ducknet or as she calls her blog, The Medical Quack, for a while, but never got around to it. I figured it was about time since she’s been posting like crazy on that blog and deserved a little love.

I must admit that she posts a ton of medical related content. In fact, probably too much for me. I’m a little bit of a healthcare snob and have my preference for EMR and/or IT in healthcare. Ducknet has an incredible tech background with experience working at Intel and TabletKiosk. I’ve often turned to her on Skype to ask her details about the latest processors or the best tablet pc for my doctors to use with our EMR. She’s always been spot on.

Plus, she finds nice little nuggets of EMR industry knowledge that I hadn’t seen until now: Misys Purchases Allscripts. That’s a really interesting industry consolidation of what I would consider a very weak brand with a very strong brand. Kind of reminds me of when HP and Compaq came together (can’t remember who bought who in that one). The interesting question is which EMR software system will emerge from the Misys purchase of Allscripts.

Hopefully the Allscripts marketing team is kept in tact. I liked their use of social media to promote EMR.

Misys to Open Source Its Software

Posted on February 13, 2008 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 read an article about Misys leading healthcare into open source. I guess I can mostly agree with the idea of them leading into open source, but even Misys is taking baby steps into the open source realm. The article says that it’s going to “open source components of its proprietary Connect Healthcare solution”[emphasis added]. So, I don’t want to completely knock Misys for only making some components open source, but if we’re going to call them a leader in healthcare’s movement to open source then it needs to be more than just components. I think the real leader was VistaEMR (I think that’s it’s official name) was open sourced. Granted, I don’t think they had much choice, but that’s being a leader.

One thing that does look good for Misys is they have “hired Ryan Bloom, a founder of the Apache Portable Runtime project and a major contributor to the Apache HTTP 2.0 project.” I don’t know any specifics about Ryan Bloom, but I can tell you that the Apache open source project is a great one that I believe will power most of the web in the future.

This will be really interesting to watch as it evolves. Open source is now a pretty proven model in other software categories. Will it work for healthcare?