The use of the term ‘innovation’ is getting pretty worked up lately. In fact, almost every healthcare entity whether health plan, health system, IDN or even ‘mature ACO’ (morphed from an IPA or risk bearing PHO “chassis” or “carcass” as the case may be) seem to have anointed a ‘CIO’ as in ‘chief innovation officer’ to steward the critical transformation from volume-to-value during a yet to be determined period of conflicting if not schizophrenic incentives coupled with its legacy cultural inertia.

In fact some institutions via branded ‘Centers for Innovation or Transformation‘ have made substantial investments in people and infrastructure (“bricks, sticks and platforms”) as well as the promise of the essential ‘firewall inoculation’ and separation from the ‘mother-house’ to catalyze the required re-engineering during a likely period of cannibalization of traditional revenue streams.

So the ancient Chinese curse (paraphrased below) most likely applies here:

..we live in ‘interesting times’ with both ‘danger and opportunity’ before us.

For those tasked with this challenge and fortunate enough to participate in conferences (Health 2.0Exponential MedicineHealth DatapaloozaTEDMED to name a few of the trophy organizers) at the disruptive and transformational tip of the spear, the nature of the challenge including opportunities to meet and leverage connections of like minded and focus colleagues is a distinct strategic advantage. Continue reading “Rooting and Leveraging the Innovation Economy”

Niam YaraghiIn his 2015 State of the Union address President Obama announced the launch of his precision medicine initiative, an audacious initiative to address these issues. In a nutshell, precision medicine customizes health care; That is, medical decisions are tailored based on the individual characteristics of the patients, ranging from their genes to their lifestyle. To have a clear understanding of the relationship between individual characteristics of patients and medical outcomes, it is necessary to collect various types of data from a large population of individuals. The precision medicine initiative requires a longitudinal cohort of one million individuals to provide researchers with various data types including DNA, behavioral data, and electronic health records. Assembling such a large sample of many different data types proposes two unique challenges pertaining to healthcare information technology: interoperability and privacy.

The federal government has already spent $28 billion to incent medical providers to adopt electronic health record (EHR) systems. As a result, almost all of the medical providers in the United States currently compile an electronic archive of their patients’ medical records. However, most of the EHR systems are not able to exchange information with each other. This is a strange problem in the age of information technology and Internet connectivity. There are a variety of technical and economic reasons, which make it especially complicated and difficult to solve.

Given the current lack of interoperability between EHR systems, it seems highly unlikely to be able to obtain a complete medical history of one million Americans. To succeed, the precision medicine initiative has to either overcome the lack of interoperability problem in the nation’s health IT system or to find a way around it. Congress members in both the House and Senate are considering new rules that would stop EHR vendors from interfering with medical providers that had already started transferring records. These efforts are fraught with difficulty and will take a very long time to produce tangible results. Continue reading “Precision Medicine’s First Real Patient: The National Health IT System”

Matthew Holt, Co-Chairman of Health 2.0 recently interviewed David Chao, Director of Industry Solutions at Mulesoft. Mulesoft is a “connectivity company” with a vision to connect the world’s data, devices, and applications. During this interview, David shares the challenges within health care and gives an insight into how Mulesoft is re-framing health care delivery and ensuring health data moves freely between multiple systems as well as within organizations to be delivered at the point of care when and where it’s needed the most.

You can see David during the Care Delivery Innovation: Reinventing Access and Expectations session at HxRefactored on April 1-2 in Boston, MA.

Optimized-roblambertsnew

I drank the kool-aid early.  We installed our first EHR in 1996 with me doing the lion’s share of pushing and pulling.  While I’d ultimately turn my back on this passion, I had a number of notable accomplishments before walking down my Damascus road.

  • Within a year of implementation, our practice became one of the top installations for our vendor.
  • Within 2 years I was elected to the board of our user group.
  • Within 4 years I was president.
  • In 2003, our practice was recognized by HIMSS as one of the top primary care installations of Electronic Records.
  • In subsequent years I lectured around the country (for HIMSS) extolling the benefits of EHR for both quality and efficiency of care.
  • As opposed to the experience of other physicians, our practice was not only successful in our implementation, we were in the top 10% in income for our specialty.
  • Our quality metrics were also routinely far above national norms.
  • In 2012, I was the physician representative for CDC public health grand rounds, discussing the upcoming EHR incentive program: Meaningful Use.
  • By 2013, we easily qualified for stage 1 of Meaningful Use, and I happily accepted the financial fruit of my labors.

But the final years were not, as I expected, a triumph. I became increasingly frustrated with the worsening of our EHR by the “features” needed to qualify us for MU1. I also chafed at the way most physicians were meeting this criteria: by abandoning patient-centered care and adopting a data-centered care model.  Patients were given useless handouts to summarize “care,” and the data requirement was satisfied.  Patient portals gave limited access to information were touted as “patient centered” care, while the product was left unused by most patients, but the data requirement was satisfied.

Continue reading “What Does Real Meaningful Use of an EHR Look Like?”

Art Caplan 2The entirely predictable media obsession with the tragedy of the Germanwings jetliner that crashed into the French Alps on March 25 is moving forward full force. The media, especially cable television, love airline disasters. Once German prosecutors revealed that Andreas Lubitz, the pilot at the controls of the Germanwings jetliner when it crashed, had a mental illness but had kept the diagnosis hidden from his employer, all media hell broke loose.

One of the key questions raised by the spectre of mental illness was whether the pilot’s doctors tried to establish Lubitz’s mental fitness to fly and if they were concerned should they have revealed their worries to his employer. Despite a whole lot of talking heads jawing on these points few had anything useful to say since almost none of the experts consulted seemed familiar with the accuracy of mental health screening, or with the nature of German requirements for health screenings for crews or mechanics, or with German privacy law. When the discussion shifted to what about America, things still stayed fuzzy.

Pilots being interviewed noted that the Federal Aviation Administration requires they receive a physical exam from a flight surgeon annually or every six months as they get older. What mechanics or flight attendants undergo was never mentioned. Mental health is supposed to be a part of the exam for pilots but it almost never is. Pilots and the doctors examining them know that any indication of mental illness including addiction or suicidal thinking would get reported right to the FAA and that would be the end of that pilot’s job so little probing gets done. Plus those doing the screening rarely have any training in mental health. Continue reading “On Mandatory Screens and the People Doing the Screening”

thcbRecently, a jury awarded a young California resident $28.2 million for a delayed diagnosis of a pelvic tumor. The jury found Kaiser Permanente (KP) negligent. Doctors in the system, touted to be one of the finest systems by the President, allegedly refused an immediate MRI for back pain in a 17 year old. The patient eventually received an MRI three months after presentation, which found a tumor so extensive that the patient needed an amputation.

The case is instructive at multiple levels. It shows a tense dialectic between the individual and society. It also highlights a truism that many don’t understand or don’t acknowledge – missed/ delayed diagnosis and waste are reciprocal. They’re birds of a feather. You can’t have less of one without more of the other.

The patient presented with back pain. MRI for back pain is the poster child of waste. Why so? Because so many are negative. Even more are meaninglessly positive –disc bulges which simply mean “I’m Homo sapiens and I wasn’t intelligently designed to be sitting at the desk.”

High quality doctors don’t order MRI for back pain immediately, reflexively and incontinently. Think about this. A high quality doctor should say “I don’t think you need an MRI because it won’t change the management and doesn’t improve outcomes.” That’s the resounding message from the top. If it doesn’t improve outcomes it’s not a worthy test. High quality doctors will, once in a while, cost their organization a lot of money.

But quality is still not settled. Quality doctors must satisfy patients. If a patient asks for an MRI for back pain the quality doctor must acquiesce, if that refusal dissatisfies. I’m confused. Ordering an MRI for back pain is poor care. But not ordering an MRI for back pain is poor care. Which is it?

We don’t know the facts of the case. It’s possible that the patient had a neurological deficit that should have raised the urgency. It’s possible that the physician didn’t examine the patient and had he/ she examined, the tumor might have been detected. We don’t know. We shouldn’t judge (1). Continue reading “The High Cost of Reducing Waste in US Healthcare”

thcbA personal account of a transaction that went very badly, and rules of Health Reform were not followed.

Accountable Care and associated transparency have not made it to Florida, at least not in this physician’s office.

I made an appt with an ENT (ear nose and throat doctor) for ear wax.  When I get there, I need to fill out 5 papers (EMRanyone??), and I’m told there is a $35.00 copay, which she says I can pay on my way out.

The 5 page HIPAA form says they can share my info with other providers who are trying to collect fees. But you only learn this, among other clauses, if you read the form that is tacked on the wall–it’s not in the form the patient signs.

I asked the receptionist how much the office visit is, and she said, “On your insurance there’s a $35.00 copay.” Yes, but is there an additional fee for removal of ear wax? How much? “We can’t tell you that until after the doctor sees you and marks what is done. And besides, we don’t know if you have satisfied your deductible.”  I tell her I have not, but because I have to guarantee payment if the insurance company denies anything, I’d like an estimate of charges.  She repeats the deductible statement and I say yes, I understand, but that’s a problem, as I haven’t satisfied my deductible so I need to know how much this will be. She tells me she will get the Office Manager (OM).

The Office Mgr (who is disguised in a clinical suit) tells me, “You have to sign this financial form before the doctor sees you because after, you will have received the services so you or the insurance company owe the money.” No problem say I, but I need an estimate, and I can’t sign a financial responsibility form that allows you to bill me if my insurance company doesn’t pay you in 45 days AND that tacks on a 30% interest fee, when I don’t know if I can afford it.

Two visits into the doctor’s lair, she comes out and says, “Dr M is more than willing to provide the services you need but he cannot be interrupted to tell you the costs of the services.” BOOM.

Continue reading “Accountable Care: Transparency of Fees Is Mandatory”

Nortin HadlerOvertreated, overstaffed, over-administered, overpriced, over-regulated, and over-legislated: that’s for starters. How about over-diagnosed, over-medicalized, over-screened, over-digitized, and over-litigated? Then there’s unavailable, inaccessible, non-empathic, and even cruel when it comes to the disabled, disallowed the disaffected and the disavowed. To top it off there’s the American fashion of dying, alone and encumbered by the machinery of futility.

Political pundits and policy wonks point fingers at the mainstream American health care system, sometime more than one finger, often at more than one putative culprit, and often by partisans within the system. It’s open season.

Then there’s the off-off-campus American health care system decrying the on-campus system as insufficiently holistic, alternative, complementary, organic, nutritious, mindful, centered, and soothing. Worse, still, the mainstream is decried for being dismissive of the various therapeutic modalities that various practitioners believe to be essential to maintaining health and restoring well-being. The on-campus Health Care System is so dismissive of these “others” as to wield the “sectarian” label and to restrain their licensure as much as political pressures countenance.

Continue reading “The Health Care Blame Game”

alex christmas

Today we’re starting a series of more personal stories, looking at what makes interesting people in health care tick. Alex Carmichael is a rare multiple time CEO in health technology, and she has a very interesting tale to tell–Matthew Holt

Don’t worry, this isn’t your typical, syrupy founder story. Matthew asked me to share my experience selling my startup CureTogether to 23andMe, what ensued after that, and how I ended up at uBiome today.

So I thought, if I’m going to share, I might as well *really* share. Let you in behind the scenes to see what it was actually like.

(Bonus: at the end I’ve listed my top 11 life lessons, so make sure you read all the way through for that!)

The story starts…

October 1, 1976: I came into the world in Toronto, Canada, with striking violet eyes. My lawyer/politician mother and management consultant father gave me the name Alexandra, which means “leader of all mankind,” as they often reminded me. Talk about a family having high expectations!

Childhood: I remember loving to read and walk my dogs, who were probably my best friends. I went to a progressive Montessori school with an amazing teacher who believed in me and taught me the power of patience.

Teenage years: The “best” school in Toronto was a repressive and aggressive all-girls private school. My insane work ethic was drilled into me there, as well as at my mom’s political campaign offices, where I would work after school until late into the night.

College years: I met my first love, Danny, in a biochemistry lab at the University of Toronto. I chose the most difficult major (Molecular Genetics and Molecular Biology), because it would drive me hardest. Masochist much?

First startup, 1999: I dropped out of grad school, much to the horror of my extremely educated parents, to join a bioinformatics software company Danny had started in his bedroom in 1997. I taught myself how to code, design, sell, and run a company. We worked so much that we hardly left our apartment, except to get married, have a baby, and occasionally go to Tai Chi class. We lost most of our money in the dot com bust, and scraped by on rice and beans for a few years. It was so isolating and intense that I got really depressed and even suicidal once.

First exit, and move to California, 2005: We were seriously running out of money, so one day I made a big wall chart of all the possible companies that could acquire us, and we started going after each one relentlessly. After a few months, we got a meeting with Hitachi. They were interested, but didn’t seal the deal until we decided to put our stuff in storage and just show up in California, baby daughter Samantha in tow. One way or another, we were determined to make it work. They did end up acquiring us, for a few hundred thousand dollars. Not much for 8 years of invested time and energy, but really we just wanted to get to California, where the sun shines and the opportunity abounds. We finally made it!
Continue reading “The Real Story Of How I Sold Two Startups, The Chaos Afterwards, And What’s Next”

sherie

Medicine is obsessed with numbers. Or rather, journalists and medical administrators are. Here are two related examples of how large a grain of salt one must put on numbers.

Cardiac surgical procedures, like everything else in medicine, have quality indicators. One of these is what we doctors call “30-day mortality”. What this term means is that surgeons are evaluated in part on how many of the patients they operated on died within a month of having surgery. Presumably a surgeon whose patients rarely die within 30 days is a better surgeon than one whose patients die all the time. The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, whose members deal frequently with the elderly, thinks this number, 30, harms old people. http://nyti.ms/1AR3OqB. The problem, according to Paula Span of the New York Times, is that surgeons refuse to operate on people who are more likely to die within 30 days, and that they keep patients alive in ICUs until day 31 to keep their numbers up. Bad doctors! Continue reading “No More Numbers”

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