It’s always interesting to talk with John Halamka, and last week–after athenahealth bought the IP but apparently not the actual code of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) web-based EHR he’s been shepherding for the past 18 years–I got him on the record for a few minutes. We started on the new deal but given that had already been covered pretty well elsewhere we didn’t really stay there. More fun that way–Matthew Holt
Matthew Holt: The guys across town (Partners) ripped out all the stuff they’ve been building and integrating for the last 30 years and they decided to pay Judy Faulkner over a billion dollars. And you took all the stuff that you’ve been building for the past 15 to 20 years and sold it to Jonathan Bush for money. Does that make you a better businessman than they are?
(Update Note 2/11/15: While I’ve heard from public & private sources that the cost of the Partners project will be between $700m and $1.4 billion, Carl Dvorak at Epic asked me to point out less than 10% of the cost goes to Epic for their fees/license. The rest I assume is external and internal salaries for implementation costs, and of course it’s possible that many of those costs would exist even if Partners kept its previous IT systems).
John Halamka: Well, that is hard to say, but I can tell you that smart people in Boston created all these very early systems back in the 1980s. On one hand, the John Glaser group created a client server front end. I joined Beth Israel Deaconess in 1996 and we created an entirely web-based front end. We have common roots but a different path.
It wasn’t so much that I did this because of a business deal. As I wrote in my blog, there is no benefit to me or to my staff. There are no royalty streams or anything like that. But sure, Beth Israel Deaconess receives a cash payment from Athena. But important to me is that the idea of a cloud-hosted service which is what we’ve been running at Beth Israel Deaconess since the late ’90s hopefully will now spread to more organizations across the country. And what better honor for a Harvard faculty member than to see the work of the team go to more people across the country?
MH: There’s been a lot of debate about the concept of developing for the new world of healthcare using client server technology that has been changed to “sort of” fit the integrated delivery systems over the last 10 years, primarily by Epic but also Cerner and others. In particular how open those systems are and how able they are to migrate to new technology. You’ve obviously seen both sides, you’re obviously been building a different version than that. And a lot of this is obviously about plugging in other tools, other technologies to do things that were never really envisaged back in 1998. You’ve come down pretty strongly on the web-based side of this, but what’s your sense for how likely it is that what has happened over the last five or ten years in most other systems including the one across the street we just mentioned is going to change to something more that looks more like what you had at Beth Israel Deaconess? Continue reading “Halamka Speaks: athenahealth & the Future of AMCs as Tech Innovators”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: athenahealth, BIDMC, EHR, Epic, John Halamka, Matthew Holt
Feb 9, 2015
Would allowing patients to read their mental health notes provide more benefits than risks?
In a recent article in JAMA my colleagues and I argue that it would. While transparent medical records are gaining favor in primary care settings throughout the country through the OpenNotes initiative, there has been reluctance to allow patients to see what their treaters say about their mental health issues. While this reluctance is understandable and deserves careful consideration, we suggest that several benefits could result from patients reading their mental health notes.
First of all, accuracy would be enhanced by allowing patients to cross-check what their clinicians say about their symptoms, medication doses, and so forth. Second, allowing patients to review assessments and treatment decisions privately might help to promote a richer dialogue between patient and clinician. Third, patients might learn that their clinician sees them more as a complete person, rather than as a collection of symptoms.
Many patients silently fear that their treater “will think I’m crazy/whining/lazy/boring”; seeing in print that the treater does not see them that way—and in fact recognizes and documents their strengths—can be an enormous relief and might therefore enhance the therapeutic alliance.
Clinicians have their own worries about transparent mental health notes that must be considered. Will patients feel objectified by the medical language commonly used in documentation? Will they break off treatment if they don’t like what they read? Will too much time be spent wrangling over details of what has been documented? Will vulnerable patients be psychologically harmed by reading their notes? Although our article briefly addresses these issues, only a trial of transparent mental health notes will provide the data needed to assess them.
Such a trial has just begun at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Culminating many months of careful planning by my colleagues in the ambulatory psychiatry clinic, the Social Work department, as well as the OpenNotes team, we began a pilot project of transparent notes in our psychiatry clinic on March 1. So far almost all clinicians have chosen to participate in the project, and have identified 10% of their caseloads to be included. It’s too early to gauge results yet, but we hope to more fully evaluate the effects of making mental health notes fully transparent to our patients.
Michael W. Kahn, MD is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Medical Faculty Physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).
Filed Under: THCB, The Vault
Tagged: BIDMC, Clinical Documentation, doctor/ patient relationship, FutureMed, Mental Health, Michael Kahn, Open Notes, patient engagement, personal health records, practice of medicine, Psychiatry
Apr 11, 2014
I was recently chastised by a colleague for being too negative in one of my pieces on hospital care. His is a remarkable story of what happens when things go well, and it has made me think a lot about why, in some places, things seem to work while in others, not so much.
He told me how a few months ago, soon after returning to Boston from a trip to China, he had started feeling short of breath. When his cardiologist convinced him to be evaluated, he found himself at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), arriving in the ER late one evening. He was triaged within minutes, had an EKG within 15 minutes, at which time comparisons were made to previous EKGs. After ruling out a heart attack, his ER physicians quickly ordered a CT Angiogram.
That test, completed within an hour of his initial arrival to the ER, revealed the reason for his shortness of breath: he had a large saddle pulmonary embolus. He was started immediately on IV heparin and sent quickly to the ICU, experiencing essentially no delay in care. He spent three days there and reports receiving care that was attentive, expert, and consistently of the highest quality. Even after discharge, he received two nursing visits at home to ensure he was doing OK. In discussing his experience, he repeatedly emphasized the fantastic communication and teamwork that he witnessed. Weeks after discharge, he continues to get better and feels the benefits of the excellent care he received.
This is the story we all hope for. And when I heard it, I have to say that I wasn’t surprised. There’s something about the BIDMC that’s unusual. Of the 4,500 hospitals that report their mortality rates to Medicare’s Hospital Compare website, only 22 (less than 0.5%) have better than predicted mortality rates for all three reported conditions: heart attack, congestive heart failure, and pneumonia. And, we know that the combined performance on these three conditions is remarkably good at predicting hospital-wide outcomes, including outcomes for pulmonary embolism.
If you are a patient and care deeply about good outcomes, BIDMC seems to be a good place for you.
So what’s so special about them? What do they do that’s different? I don’t know, specifically, all of their tactics, but I have some guesses about what seems to differentiate high performing institutions from the rest. And in a word, it’s leadership. BIDMC has had two CEOs over the past few years, and both of them have been unusually committed to achieving high quality care. That commitment translates into real activities that make a big difference. Let me divert us with a story of what this might actually mean.
A few years ago, I was working on a strategy for improving the quality and safety of VA healthcare. As part of this effort, I called up senior quality leaders of major healthcare organizations across the nation. One call is particularly memorable. Because I promised anonymity, I will not name names but this clinical leader was very clear about his responsibility: every month, he met with his CEO, who began the meetings with three simple questions: “How many patients did we hurt last month? How many patients did we fail to help? And did we do better than the month before?”
The CEO and the entire hospital took responsibility for every preventable injury and death that occurred and the culture of the place was focused on one thing: getting better. When I looked them up on Hospital Compare, they too had excellent outcomes and they regularly get “A” ratings for patient safety from the Leapfrog Group.
Continue reading “How Many Patients Did We Hurt Last Month? Learning (But Not Too Much) From The Best Hospitals”
Filed Under: Tech, THCB
Tagged: Ashish Jha, BIDMC, Hospital Compare, Quality, VA Health System
Nov 6, 2013
Now that Labor Day has come and gone, I’ve thought about the months ahead and the major challenges I’ll face.
1. Mergers and Acquisitions
Healthcare in the US is not a system of care, it’s a disconnected collection of hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, labs, and imaging centers. As the Affordable Care Act rolls out, many accountable care organizations are realizing that the only way to survive is to create “systemness” through mergers, acquisitions, and affiliations. The workflow to support systemness may require different IT approaches than we’ve used in the past. We’ve been successful to date by leaving existing applications in place and building bidirectional clinical sharing interfaces via ”magic button” viewing and state HIE summary exchange. Interfacing is great for many purposes. Integration is better for others, such as enterprise appointment scheduling and care management. Requirements for systemness have not yet been defined, but there could be significant future work ahead to replace existing systems with a single integrated application.
2. Regulatory uncertainty
Will ICD10 proceed on the October 1, 2014 timeline? All indications in Washington are that deadlines will not be changed. Yet, I’m concerned that payers, providers and government will not be ready to support the workflow changes required for successful ICD10 implementation. Will all aspects of the new HIPAA Omnibus rule be enforced including the “self pay” provision which restricts information flow to payers? Hospitals nationwide are not sure how to comply with the new requirements. Will Meaningful Use Stage 2 proceed on the current aggressive timeline? Products to support MU2 are still being certified yet hospitals are expected to begin attestation reporting periods as early as October 1. With Farzad Mostashari’s departure from ONC, the new national coordinator will have to address these challenging implementation questions against a backdrop of a Congress which wants to see the national HIT program move faster.
3. Meaningful Use Stage 2 challenges
Although attestation criteria are very clear (and achievable), certification is quite complex, especially for a small self development shop like mine. One of my colleagues at a healthcare institution in another state noted that 50 developers and 4 full analysts are hard at work at certification for their self built systems. I have 25 developers and a part time analyst available for the task. I’ve read every script and there are numerous areas in certification which go beyond the functionality needed for attestation. Many EHR vendors have described their certification burden to me. I am hopeful that ONC re-examines the certification process and does two things – removes those sections that add unnecessary complexity and makes certification clinically relevant by using scenarios that demonstrate a real world workflow supporting the functionality needed for attestation.
Continue reading “What Keeps Me Up At Night – 2013 Edition”
Filed Under: Tech, THCB
Tagged: BIDMC, EHR, HIPAA Omnibus Rule, HIT, ICD-10, John Halamka, Meaningful Use, The ACA
Sep 5, 2013
I am affiliated with the institution where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is currently hospitalized. I am friends with people who have treated him. I’m trying to stay away from those people; I would be unable to help asking them about him. They might be unable to help talking about him. There has been a flurry of emails and red-letter warnings cautioning people here not to talk about Mr. Tsarnaev or look him up on the EMR (Electronic Medical Record) system. Despite this there have been leaks of information and photos from various sources. It is virtually impossible to keep people from asking about him and talking about him. Curiosity is human nature. When human nature comes up against morals and laws, human nature will win a good percentage of the time. The question is: given what he has done, does this 19-year-old still have his right to privacy?
The answer, of course, is yes. The American Medical Association includes patient confidentiality in it’s ethical guidelines:
“…the purpose of a physicians ethical duty to maintain patient confidentiality is to allow the patient to feel free to make a full and frank disclosure of information…with the knowledge that the physician will protect the confidential nature of the information disclosed.”
Threre are legal guidelines as well, most notably with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. This law was originally passed in 1996 to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system, allow people to switch jobs without losing their health insurance, and impose some rules on electronic medical information. Congress incorporated into HIPAA provisions that mandate the adoption of the Federal privacy protections for health information. The “simplified” administrative document for the privacy and security portions of HIPAA is 80 pages long. Basically your health information cannot be shared with ANYONE. Of course, there are exceptions to HIPAA. Continue reading ““Did You Take Care of Tsarnaev?””
Filed Under: Physicians
Tagged: BIDMC, Boston bombing, EHR, Ethics, HIPAA, Patient privacy, Shirie Leng
Apr 23, 2013
Over the next few months, the majority of my time will be spent discussing topics such as care coordination, healthcare information exchange, care management, real time analytics, and population health. At BIDMC, we’ve already achieved 100% EHR adoption and 90% Meaningful Use attestation among our clinician community. Now that the foundation is laid, I believe our next body of work is to craft the technology and workflow solutions which will be hallmarks of the “post EHR” era.
What does this mean?
I’ve written previously about BIDMC’s Accountable Care Organization strategy, which can be summed up as ACO=HIE + analytics.
In a “post EHR” era we need to go beyond simple data capture and reporting, we need care management that ensures patients with specific diseases follow standardized guidelines and protocols, escalating deviations to the care team. That team will include PCPs, specialists, home care, long term care, and family members. The goal of a Care Management Medical Record (CMMR) will be to provide a dashboard that overlays hospital and professional data with a higher level of management.
How could this work?
Imagine that we define each patient’s healthcare status in terms of “properties”. Data elements might include activities of daily living, functional status, current care plans, care preferences, diagnostic test results, and therapies, populated from many sources of data including every EHR containing patient data, hospital discharge data, and consumer generated data from PHRs/home health devices.
That data will be used in conjunction with rules that generate alerts and reminders to care managers and other members of the care team (plus the patient). The result is a Care Management Medical Record system based on a foundation of EHRs that provides much more than any one EHR.
My challenge in 2013-2014 will be to build and buy components that turn multiple EHRs into a CMMR at the community level.
Continue reading “The “Post EHR” Era”
Filed Under: Tech, THCB
Tagged: Accountable Care Organizations, BIDMC, Care Management Medical Record, coordinated care, delivery innovation, EHR, John Halamka, Meaningful Use, post-EHR era
Feb 12, 2013
2012 has been a challenging year for me.
On the personal side, my wife had cancer. Together we moved two households, relocated her studio, and closed her gallery. This week my mother broke her hip in Los Angeles and I’m writing from her hospital room as we finalize her discharge and home care plan before I fly back to Boston.
On the business side, the IT community around me has worked hard on Meaningful Use Stage 2, the Massachusetts State Health Information Exchange, improvements in data security, groundbreaking new applications, and complex projects like ICD10 with enormous scope.
We did all this with boundless energy and optimism, knowing that every day we’re creating a foundation that will improve the future for our country, communities, and families.
My personal life has never been better – Kathy’s cancer is in remission, our farm is thriving, and our daughter is maturing into a fine young woman at Tufts University.
My business life has never been better – Meaningful Use Stage 2 provides new rigorous standards for content/vocabulary/transport at a time when EHR use has doubled since 2008, the State HIE goes live in one week, and BIDMC was voted the number #1 IT organization the country.
It’s clear that many have discounted the amazing accomplishments that we’ve all made, overcoming technology and political barriers with questions such as “how can we?” and “why not?” rather than “why is it taking so long?” They would rather pursue their own goals – be they election year politics, academic recognition, or readership traffic on a website.
As many have seen, this letter from the Ways and Means Committee makes comments about standards that clearly have no other purpose than election year politics. These House members are very smart people and I have great respect for their staff. I’m happy to walk them through the Standards and Certification Regulations (MU stage 1 and stage 2) so they understand that the majority of their letter is simply not true – it ignores the work of hundreds of people over thousands of hours to close the standards gaps via open, transparent, and bipartisan harmonization in both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Continue reading “A Time for Boundless Energy and Optimism”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB
Tagged: 2012 Election, BIDMC, Bush, Cancer, Cerner, Costs, Donald Berwick, EHR, Epic, HIT, House Ways and Means Committee, IHI, John Halamka, Massachusetts State Health Information Exchange, Meaningful Use Stage 2, Medicare, MEDITECH, NYT, Obama, Standards and Certifications Regulation, The States, Upcoding, WSJ
Oct 9, 2012
One major issue facing private and public Health Information Exchanges (HIE) is how to ensure patients privacy preferences are respected by obtaining their consent before data is shared.
Today I met with a multi-disciplinary team of attorneys, vendor experts, and IT leaders to discuss BIDMC’s approach to private HIE consent.
After two hours of discussion, here’s what we agreed upon:
Patients and families should be able to control the flow of their data among institutions. The ability for the patient to chose what flows where for what purpose is “meaningful consent.”
To achieve “meaningful consent” we will ask all the patients of our 1800 BIDMC associated ambulatory clinicians to opt in for data sharing among the clinicians coordinating their care.
Patients may revoke this consent at any time.
Consent for patients under 18 years old and not emancipated will be sought from their parents. Upon turning 18, the patients themselves will select their consent preferences.
Continue reading “Meaningful Consent”
Filed Under: Health 2.0
Tagged: BIDMC, Data, HIE, John Halamka, magic button, Meaningful Consent
Jun 20, 2012
Today’s Computerworld has a great article about the issues of mixing social media and healthcare.
As hospitals and clinics formulate social networking policies, there are three broad considerations.
1. Given HIPAA and HITECH privacy and breach rules, how can you best prevent the disclosure of protected healthcare information on insecure social media sites?
2. Given the distraction factor and productivity loss that can occur with social media, how can you best align the benefits of groupware communication while minimizing the negatives?
3. How can you reduce the security risks of malware embedded in games and other applications that are downloaded from social networking sites?
To date, Beth Israel Deaconess has focused on #1, ensuring that our employees do not post data to social networking sites in violation of state and federal laws.
We’ve not yet completed a policy covering #2, although several hospital sites and departments are discussing the issue.
We’re developing a pilot for #3, including blocks on selected websites, Facebook add-on applications, and personal email.
Continue reading “Crafting a Social Media Policy”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: BIDMC, Facebook, HIPAA, John Halamka, Social Media
May 23, 2012
I’ve written several posts about the issues that keep me up at night. Here’s what I wrote in 2011.
Today, my team presented a list of risks to the Compliance, Audit and Risk Committee at BIDMC. Here’s my list of top risks for 2012:
1. Old Internet browsers – many vended clinical applications require specific versions of older browsers such as Internet Explorer 6, which are known to have security flaws. We’ve worked diligently to eliminate, upgrade or replace applications with browser specificity. At this point we are 96% Internet Explorer 8/Firefox 7/Safari 5 minimizing our risks to the extent possible.
2. Local Administrative rights – Of our 18,000 devices on the network, a few thousand are devices that require the user to have local administrative rights to run their niche applications (often the research community doing cutting edge research with open source or self developed software). We have done everything possible to eliminate Local Administrative rights on our managed devices.
3. Outbound transmissions – Security has historically focused on blocking evil actors from the internet. Given the current challenges of malware and infections brought in from the outside, it’s equally critical to block unexpected outbound activity.
4. Public facing websites – any machine that touches the internet has the potential to be targeted for attack. We’ve implemented proxy servers/web application firewalls on most public websites.
5. Identity and Access management – Managing the ever changing roles and rights of individuals in a large complex organization with many partners/affiliates is challenging. If an affiliate asks for access to an application, how do you automatically deactivate accounts when users leave an affiliate, given the lack of direct employment relationships?
Continue reading “What Keeps Me Up at Night 2012″
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: BIDMC, HIT, John Halamka, Meaningful Use, Security
Apr 11, 2012