Policy/Politics

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Allscripts is one of the biggest companies in Health IT. Glen Tullman built it from almost nowhere and then last year after one bad quarter and a power struggle in the boardroom (which he initially won), he left–and he stresses it was his decision. Along the way there were lots of interesting choices made, and he and Allscripts ended up with a sweep of all the negative awards at this years HISSIES (including his first time as “Industry figure in who’s face you’d most like to throw a pie”).

But despite all the abuse, what Glen did over the past 15 years is pretty remarkable given the stagnant state of the enterprise HIT market. I’ve interviewed him almost every year since THCB started and he was never shy in giving his opinions. Last month I got him for a long retrospective. THCB will be running that in parts over the next week or so, and he dishes on the Allscripts’ record, on Epic, on the future of health IT and more.

But here’s a teaser…

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There’s no one that pisses off the right in this country as much as Paul Krugman, and there’s nothing that pisses off the right as much as welfare for the poor. So when Krugman wrote recently in the NY Times supporting a program that is welfare for the poor, and describing how Romney/Ryan would decimate it, well you can expect an explosion from the GRWC. Yes the topic of today’s right-eous indignation is Medicaid.

The place to go to see that explosion is the comments section of John Goodman’s blog. That’s the halcyon world where the poor are oppressed by government programs and would much rather be set free to swim in the happy waters of the free market. Goodman proves to himself that studies showing that people without health insurance on average die prematurely must be wrong because they’re not seen in any “credible, peer-reviewed social science journal” — just in biased rubbish like the American Journal of Public Health and reports from the crack-smoking wackos at the Institute of Medicine.

Having read the comments on Goodman’s article I’m very surprised that Heartland’s Peter Ferrera hasn’t gone on welfare to show how it’s now a guaranteed path to unlimited riches (as opposed to say the tough job of taking payola from a convicted felon) and that Goodman himself hasn’t rejected his health insurance and gone naked on the income of the single mom & waitress in Dallas that Uwe teased him about a few years back. After all it would give him so much buying power to impact the market!

Continue reading “Laughing at the Chutzpah of the Right on Medicaid”

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The protest organized by Regina Holliday over a patient’s right to access their medical information is not quite the same magnitude as agitating for integration in 1950s-era Alabama. Yet there are intriguing similarities between the crusade Rosa Parks launched then and what Holliday is attempting today. Both involve a refusal to accept second-class status and a resolve to push back against entrenched institutions.

Parks’ story is well known. Her refusal to surrender her seat to a white male passenger on a Montgomery city bus in December, 1955, prompted her arrest and a sustained bus boycott by outraged black residents. That boycott’s success propelled a young Martin Luther King, Jr. to the forefront of the fight against segregation. Parks eventually came to be known as the “mother of the modern day civil rights movement.”

Continue reading “Will Regina Holliday Become Health Care’s Rosa Parks?”

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Amy Goldstein has an important article in today’s Washington Post detailing the place Don Berwick, the Medicare and Medicaid administrator finds himself in.

It is all but certain he will have to leave his post at year’s end, when his recess appointment expires, because the Senate will not confirm him for a lack of Republican support.

Berwick is one of the most respected health care experts in the country—his career has been dedicated to improving quality first and with that the cost of care. With the new law giving his agency more opportunities to experiment with new approaches and the ability to more quickly implement the things that work, he was the ideal choice.

But with the Democrats ramming the law through without a political consensus to support it, Berwick also became the political whipping boy for opponents to pile on. That he has been willing to point to the things that work in places like Britain only gave the political opportunists plenty of red meat to throw into an already red hot ideological debate.

Continue reading “The Awful Dichotomy Between Health Care Politics and Policy”

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Though thoroughly smothered under 2900 pages of well meaning but poorly focused, expert-driven “good works”, the core of the Affordable Care Act was providing 30 million people subsidized health insurance coverage. As the country continues to decide how it feels about this monumental legislation, a major ideological divide persists over whether the aggressive coverage expansion in health reform was really needed or not.

Far from “selling itself,” as a overconfident White House aide suggested it would back on March 23, 2010,  health reform remains strikingly unpopular. Only 37% of the public thinks the country will be better off as a result of health reform, and only 28% think their families will be better off, according to the May Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll.  There is a stark partisan divide over health reform.  While 72% of Democrats have a favorable opinion of health reform, a substantial minority believes the bill could have done more (covered more people, provided a public option or path to single payer).  Alternatively, 74% of Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of health reform; the same percentage favors repeal.  Independents tend to break toward the Republican view of the bill (49% unfavorable vs. 35% favorable).  Those opposed feel more intensely about health reform than those in favor.

The Ryan House Budget for 2012 zeroes out all new spending for health reform (while keeping ACA’s Medicare cuts, devoting them to deficit reduction!).  The conservative narrative is that the problem of the uninsured was liberal mythology, not meriting major new spending.  In the blogosphere, an analysis surfaced suggesting that the real uninsured problem is only about 4 million people. This apparently originated in a Heritage Foundation blog posting from late August, 2009.  Other conservative analysts charitably suggest there may be as many as ten to twelve million uninsured worthy of federal help.   To take care of this smaller number, you do not need a major coverage expansion, but merely to apply the familiar market oriented remedies: selling insurance across state lines, high deductible health plans, malpractice reform, high risk pools, etc.

Continue reading “The Unbridgeable Gap between Left and Right on Health Reform”

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On April 15, 2011, the White House released the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) during a launch event that included U.S. Sec. of Commerce Gary Locke, other Administration officials, and U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, as well as a panel discussion with private sector, consumer advocate, and government ID management experts.
What is it a trusted identity in Cyberspace?   This animation describes the scope of the effort.  It includes smartcards, biometrics, soft tokens, hard tokens, and certificate management applications.
NSTIC envisions a cyber world – the Identity Ecosystem – that improves upon the passwords currently used to access electronic resources. It includes a vibrant marketplace that allows people to choose among multiple identity providers – both private and public – that will issue trusted credentials proving identity.
Why do we need it? NSTIC provides a framework for individuals and organizations to utilize secure, efficient, easy-to-use and interoperable identity solutions to access online services in a manner that promotes confidence, privacy, choice and innovation. Continue reading “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace”
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This week I spent quite a bit of time at the very new and very fancy Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health in Washington DC. It’s next door to a very large medical office building  (110+ docs) in which KP is showcasing its current integrated care model, and how far its come in its mid-Atlantic region. The Center is  a pretty fascinating place–part tech and idea showcase and part meeting room. Certainly no other health care organization that I’m aware of has spent so much on a place designed to stimulate the imagination and enhance conversation–under the nose of the folks on Capitol Hill. I won’t get into here whether this is how money should be spent in health care but on balance I’m a  fan. (FD KP is a sponsor of the Health 2.0 Conference I co-run).  Instead I want to try to give you a feel for the place, and why it fits their vision and what it’s trying to demonstrate.

I took a tour with some colleague journo/blogger types led by the always expressive Robbie Pearl (CEO of the Permanente Groups in N Cal and now DC too–the airlines thank him!) and with Phil Fasano, CIO of the whole organization. Robbie is not shy in voicing his opinions (as you’ll see) and Phil occasionally trots out the voice of caution to reel in Robbie’s vision a tad. It was great fun.

What was also fun was the cocktail party at the grand opening. There I met three of my favorite DC-based ladies in health: Deven McGraw, Regina Holliday & Cindy Throop. So we’ll start with that fun video, and then there’s a whole lot more from the tour of the center after the jump. All these videos are pretty short.

After that fun and games, lets head to the tour. This is a series of videos of me and a few others testing out the displays, and listening to Pearl &  Fasano, as well as asking them a couple of pointed questions.

But I’ll take the tour in order….after a quick thanks to Holly Potter, Danielle Cass, Ravi Poorsina & center boss Julie Norris who with a ton of their colleagues worked their butts off keeping hundreds of visitors informed and entertained.

First up, Robbie Pearl on the current state of the KP.org health record and why we shouldn’t have to put up with less; what he called the 19th century state of medicine. And I can assure that is on display in my wife’s OBGYN office every time I visit. Continue reading “Video Collage: KP Center for Total Health”

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I’ve just returned from a few days in London, scoping things out for a planned sabbatical next fall. In what may be a pale echo of the late Alistair Cooke’s always fascinating “Letters From America,” here are a few of my initial observations:

The dominant issue, of course, is the Cameron government’s new austerity program, with its planned deep cuts to government services and benefits. While the program (or programme, I guess I should say) has created some upheaval – witness the recent semi-violent demonstrations by university students, whose tuitions may treble – it has not torn apart the society, the way belt tightening of this magnitude undoubtedly would in America. My sense is that the relative acceptance (yes, I know Charles and Camilla had a frightfully awful limo ride to the West End the other night, but this was, er, theater rather than a defining moment) can be explained the Brits’ stronger trust in their government. It is this same trust that leads to near-universal support for the National Health Service, the UK’s tax-funded healthcare system. This wellspring of support gives the government a little leeway when it says, “We can’t afford to do all this anymore, folks, and we can’t just print money. We must cut programs and benefits.”

In the US, of course, there is no such trust today, nor harbingers of its return any time soon. In a recent issue of Time that outlined this past decade’s mega-trends, Nancy Gibbs observed that the cumulative effect of 9/11, Katrina, BP and the subprime crisis was to markedly shrink Americans’ already scanty faith that their government can do anything competently. So our response to the recent announcement that Chinese kids are shellacking us in educational achievement is hand wringing and statistical nitpicking, not the call for vigorous government action that characterized our nation in the Sputnik era.

Continue reading “Letter From London”

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“A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.”
~Samuel Johnson

“Joe” has been on the streets now for two months. He’s 35, unmarried, and diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia since age 19. His illness is difficult to manage, even with regular medication, and Joe is subject to hallucinations telling him to “fight off the evil ones”. Like most people with psychiatric disorders, Joe has never been violent—but when his illness is not well-controlled, he can become loud and belligerent.

Despite his many tries at holding down a job, the economic downturn and his worsening psychosis have left Joe jobless and homeless.  Joe’s family thinks he is “faking” his symptoms and they are “fed up” with him. They have refused to take him in or help him with his medical care. Joe has no friends willing to help him and survives on the streets by panhandling and dropping in at soup kitchens. The local shelters won’t accept Joe, because he is “too agitated.” Joe sleeps in alleyways, or, when lucky, in ATM stations. In the past month, he’s been beaten up twice by members of youth gangs.  Recently,  Joe was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, requiring daily medication and monitoring. Joe says he doesn’t want “charity”, and would like to work again, but doesn’t see how he can.

“Joe” represents many patients I’ve cared for during nearly 30 years of medical practice, and typifies thousands of Americans with severe mental illness.   In my previous blog entitled, “The Libertarian Mind”, I posed this question: what is the moral responsibility of federal and state government to help care for people like Joe? I argued that the Libertarian Party platform—calling for the abolition of “the entire social welfare system”, including food stamps—is neither humane nor compassionate.

Continue reading “American Healthcare X”

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There will be two national elections before the new health overhaul is substantially implemented (in 2014) and a third election the year it is supposed to be implemented.

Question: Will the voters reward office holders who supported the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or will they vote for their opponents? In thinking about this question, forget all the public opinion polls. Can you predict the outcome based on what you know about political science alone?

My prediction:  Supporters of the new law are going to get creamed. As I explained at my own blog the other day, there are four reasons: The law violates two bedrock principles of coalition politics that have been successful for the past 80 years; it abandons core Democratic constituencies; and it ignores the fundamentals of the politics of the health care sector.

Franklin Roosevelt’s First Principle of Successful Coalition Politics: Create benefits for people who are concentrated and organized, paid for by people who are disbursed and disorganized.

The ACA  violates this principle in spades. The main beneficiaries are many (but not all) of the new law are 32 million to 34 million newly insured people who otherwise would have been uninsured. Far from being organized and focused, most people in this group do not even know who they are. Indeed, it is probably fair to say that never in American history have so many benefits been conferred on so many people who never even asked for them!

Continue reading “The Politics of Health Reform”

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