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UPMC Sells Oncology Analytics Firm To Elsevier

Posted on January 22, 2018 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.

Using analytics tools to improve cancer treatment can be very hard. That struggle is exemplified by the problems faced by IBM Watson Health, which dove into the oncology analytics field a few years ago but made virtually no progress in improving cancer treatment.

With any luck, however, Via Oncology will be more successful at moving the needle in cancer care. The company, which offers decision support for cancer treatment and best practices in cancer care management, was just acquired by information analytics firm Elsevier, which plans to leverage the company’s technology to support its healthcare business.

Elsevier’s Clinical Solutions group works to improve patient outcomes, reduce clinical errors and optimize cost and reimbursements for providers. Via Oncology, a former subsidiary of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, develops and implements clinical pathways for cancer care. Via Oncology spent more than 15 years as part of UPMC prior to the acquisition.

Via Oncology’s Via Pathways tool relies on evidence-based content to create clinical algorithms covering 95% of cancer types treated in the US. The content was developed by oncologists. In addition to serving as a basis for algorithm development, Via Oncology also shares the content with physicians and their staff through its Via Portal, a decision support tool which integrates with provider EMRs.

According to Elsevier, Via Pathways addresses more than 2,000 unique patient presentations which can be addressed by clinical algorithms and recommendations for all major aspects of cancer care. The system can also offer nurse triage and symptom tracking, cost information analytics, quality reporting and medical home tools for cancer centers.

According to the prepared statement issued by Elsevier, UPMC will continue to be a Via Oncology customer, which makes it clear that the healthcare giant wasn’t dumping its subsidiary or selling it for a fire sale price.

That’s probably because in addition to UPMC, more than 1,500 oncology providers and community, hospital and academic settings hold Via Pathways licenses. What makes this model particularly neat is that these cancer centers are working collaboratively to improve the product as they use it. Too few specialty treatment professionals work together this effectively, so it’s good to see Via Oncology leveraging user knowledge this way.

While most of this seems clear, I was left with the question of what role, if any, genomics plays in Via Oncology’s strategy. While it may be working with such technologies behind the scenes, the company didn’t mention any such initiatives in its publicly-available information.

This approach seems to fly in the face of existing trends and in particular, physician expectations. For example, a recent survey of oncologists by medical publication Medscape found that 71% of respondents felt genomic testing was either very important or extremely important to their field.

However, Via Oncology may have something up its sleeve and is waiting for it to be mature before it dives into the genomics pool. We’ll just have to see what it does as part of Elsevier.

Are there other areas beyond cancer where a similar approach could be taken?

The Future of Healthcare Depends on Partnerships

Posted on September 28, 2016 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.


This tweet from Estrella Jaramillo (See her @HelloBwom app) quoting the incomparable Rasu Shrestha (@RasuShrestha) really stuck with me when I read it. I agree 100% with the concept that partnerships will determine the destiny of most healthcare organizations. It’s very clear that one organization is not going to be able to do everything they have to do in healthcare.

What scares me about this idea is that many healthcare organizations aren’t embracing it. Many healthcare organization and even their partner health IT companies don’t embrace the idea of partnerships. Instead, they think they can build everything themselves. They sincerely believe that a single source system is the best thing for the future of healthcare.

This type of arrogant attitude is going to leave these organizations behind. In the short term, a single source system is better. However, once the community starts innovating and integrating, these single source systems start to fall behind and fall behind quickly.

I’m reminded of a popular African proverb (at least I think that’s the source) that Dr. Nick shared on Facebook recently “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go together.” Too many in healthcare are playing the short game. That’s going to eventually catch up to them.

The Double Edged Sword of Healthcare Culture

Posted on March 25, 2016 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.

Rasu Shrestha, MD shared the tweet above today which caused me to ponder on the impact of culture on healthcare. This tweet was particularly interesting coming from Rasu who has created a unique culture of innovation within healthcare at UPMC.

While at RSNA, Rasu recounted to me how his UPMC innovation offices shares a building with the Google office. When interviewing candidates, many of those prospects interview at both UPMC and Google. There’s no way that Rasu and his team can compete with Google as far as perks. However, there’s no way that Google (at least the offices in Pittsburgh) can compete with the impact UPMC can have on the lives of individuals.

If it weren’t for the culture and mission of Rasu and UPMC, then they wouldn’t stand a chance recruiting people away from Google. However, that mission makes all the difference for the right person. Plus, if that person doesn’t understand the mission, then UPMC doesn’t likely want them in the first place.

While I believe that Rasu has created a special culture of innovation, the same can’t be said for much of healthcare. In fact, if you read the tweet at the top another way, healthcare culture is holding innovation behind in so many ways.

Said another way, Culture trumps everything and that can be good or bad.

A culture of innovation is great, because it spurs more innovation. A culture of being closed. A culture of fear. A culture of bureaucracy. Those can all be extremely damaging and stifle innovation and change that could improve healthcare.

I want to be careful to say that I’m not advocating a culture of recklessness. Culture can be taken too far either direction. However, I know very few people in healthcare who are reckless and I know a lot of people in healthcare who are paralyzed by a culture of fear.

Take a second to think about your culture and the impact for good and bad it has on your and your organization’s choices.