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Category: Tech

Apple, Cerner, Microsoft, and Salesforce

… all rumored to be in the mix to acquire athenahealth.

Nope.

Why not?

a) Apple doesn’t do “verticals.” It’s that easy. Apple sells products that anyone could buy. A teacher, a doctor, my mom. Sure – they have sold high-end workstations that video editors can use, but so could a hobbyist filmmaker. Likelihood of Apple buying athenahealth? ~ .01%

b) Cerner? Nah. While (yes) they have an aging client-server ambulatory EHR that needs to be replaced by a multi-tenant SaaS product (like the one athenahealth cas built), they have too much on their plate right now with DoD and VA and the (incomplete) integration of Siemens customers. Likelihood of Cerner buying athenahealth?  ~ 1%

c) Microsoft. Like Apple, it’s uncommon for MSFT to go “vertical.” They have tried it. (Who remembers the Health Solutions Group?) But the tension between a strong product-focused company that meets the needs of many market segments, and a company that deeply understands the business problems of health (and health care) is too great. The driving force of MSFT, like Apple, is to sell infrastructure to care delivery organizations. Owning a product that competes with their key channel partners would alienate the partners – driving them to AMZN, GOOG and APPL. Likelihood of Microsoft buying athenahealth?  ~ 2%

d) Salesforce. I’d love to see this. But it’s still unlikely. athenahealth has built a product, and they (now) have defined a path to pivot the product into a platform. This is the right thing to do. Salesforce “gets” platform better than everyone (aside from, perhaps, Amazon). But Salesforce has struggled with health care. They’ve declared times in recent years that they are “in” to really disrupt health care, and with the evolution of Health Cloud, and their acquisition of MuleSoft, they have clearly made some investments here, but the EHR is not the “ERP of healthcare” as they think it is. (Salesforce’s success in other markets has been that they dovetail with – rather than replace – the ERP systems to create value and improve efficiencies.) The way that Salesforce interacts with the market is unfamiliar (and uncomfortable) to most care delivery organizations. So if Salesforce “gets” platform, and athenahealth wants to be a platform when it matures, could these two combine? It’s the most likely of the three, but I still see the cultures of the two companies (I know them both well) as very different, and not quite compatible. Likelihood of Salesforce buying athenahealth?  ~ 10%

e) IBM. yup. I forgot that one. Many recent acquisitions. This would fit. I don’t think it would work very well, but it could happen. ~6%

Others?Continue reading…

Mudit Garg, Qventus on the $30m raise

Another day, another $30m round in health tech. On Monday Qventus raised that from Bessemer Partners, with Mayfield, Norwest and NY Presbyterian kicking in too. That brings their total to $43m in so far–not bad for a 75 person company that is in the somewhat obscure space of using AI to improve hospital operations. Qventus sucks in data and delivers operational suggestions to front line managers. Of course given that somewhere between $1-1.5 trillion goes through America’s hospitals each year, there’s huge potential for saving money. And given that most hospitals are being paid fixed cost per case, anything that can be done to improve throughput and increase productivity drops to the bottom line and is thus likely to meet interested buyers. I talked to CEO Mudit Garg about the problem, his company’s solution and what they were going to do next.

The Time is Now to Develop and Implement a National Health Data Strategy

The 19th century was about the Industrial Revolution. The 20th century, the Digital Revolution. As we march closer to the third decade of the 21st century, it is becoming clearer that this century’s revolution will be the Data Revolution. After all, companies are monetizing it, countries are weaponizing it and people are producing it.

In the medical space, this has fostered conflicting aims. The promise afforded by collecting and analyzing digital health data for insights into population health and personalized medicine is tempered by haziness on who owns and leverages that data.

But even as government actors struggle with the question of how to regulate data, technological progress marches on. Given the dizzying array of technological products claiming medical benefits hitting the marketplace, regulatory agencies have had to contemplate, and take, drastic steps to keep up. For instance, in the past two years the FDA has taken the following steps:

  • In July 2016, the FDA clarified what constituted a “low-risk” device such as fitness trackers or mobile apps tracking dietary activity.
  • In June 2017, new FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb outlined his vision for a more streamlined process for digital technologies which moves from a “case-by-case” approach to one that allows developers apply consistent safety standards to innovation.
  • Just a month later, the FDA announced the pilot for a digital health pre-certification program for individual companies which allows those firms that demonstrate a “culture of quality and organizational excellence” and the need for minimal regulation to introduce products to be marketed as new digital health tools with less information communicated to the FDA, sometimes with no “premarket submission at all”.
  • By September 2017, nine companies, including tech heavyweights Apple, Samsung and Alphabet-backed Verily, had been selected for the pre-cert process.
  • On February 13, 2018, the FDA further specified that low-risk products would be evaluated by looking at the firm’s practices rather than the product itself and announced its intent to create a new Center of Excellence on Digital Health which would be tasked with establishing a new regulatory paradigm, evaluating and recognizing third-party certifiers and hosting a new cybersecurity unit to complement new advances.

With this flurry of activity, the FDA is clearly moving toward a principles-oriented and firm-based approach to regulating digital technologies. This means moving away from certifying medtech products to the producers.

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The Peril of Online Physician Reviews

You may have heard that before you pick a doctor you are supposed to look them up online and see what other people have to say about them before you set up an appointment.

In the Age of Amazon this makes sense. Why wouldn’t you?

Allow me to give you a little insider information.  While they may well be a good idea in theory, Yelp.com and other online physician review sites have evolved in recent years to become the bane of my and fellow doctors existence. 

This past summer, Physicians Working Together, a non-partisan physician organization, started a petition on Change.org requesting Yelp remove online reviews of doctors.  To date, more than 30,000 physicians have signed it but I doubt Yelp will pay much attention.

Recently, the highest-level court in Germany ruled Jameda, an online physician rating site, must remove the name of a disgruntled physician.   A dermatologist from Cologne filed the case in the Federal Justice Court demanding Jameda remove her name due to the fact the anonymous nature of the rating site inspires the public to leave spiteful, vindictive comments.  Interestingly enough, in 2014, a gynecologist asked to be removed from Jameda, however the Court ruled the right of patients to be “well informed” about their doctor took precedence over freedoms of the physician.

What is the value of rating physicians online?  Are consumers becoming “well-informed?”

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Apple’s EHR: Why Health Records on Your iPhone is Just the Beginning

Americans on average will visit a care provider about 300 times over the course of their lives. That’s hundreds of blood pressure readings, numerous diagnoses, and hundreds of entries into a patient’s medical record—and that’s potentially with dozens of different doctors. So it’s understandable, inevitable even, that patients would struggle to keep every provider up-to-date on their medical history.

This issue is compounded by much of our healthcare information being fragmented among multiple, incompatible health systems’ electronic health records. The majority of these systems store and exchange health information in unique, often proprietary ways—and thus don’t effectively talk with one another.

Fortunately, recent news from Apple points to a reprieve for patients struggling to keep all of their providers up-to-date. Apple has teamed with roughly a dozen hospitals across the country, including the likes of Geisinger Health, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, to make patient’s medical history available to them on their phone. Patients can bring their phone with them to participating health systems and provide caregivers with an up-to-date medical history.

Empowering patients with the ability to carry their health records on their phone is great, and will surely help them overcome the issue of fragmented healthcare records. Yet the underlying standardization of how healthcare data is exchanged that has made this possible is the real feat. In fact, this standardization may potentially pave the way for innovation and rapid expansion of the health information technology (HIT) industry.

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Integrating with EMR vendors? Tell us More! The 2018 Health 2.0 API Survey

TL;DR  Accessing and using APIs from major EMR vendors has proved a real problem in the past — in 2016, Health 2.0 (with support from CHCF) collected the data to prove it. This year, we’re updating the survey and are asking again: how hard is it for smaller tech companies to integrate their solutions with big EMR vendors? Take the survey here.  

In 2016, Health 2.0 conducted a survey of health tech startups on behalf of the California Healthcare Foundation (CHCF) to shed some light on the difficulties around integrating third party applications–mainly from a new generation of health technology companies–into major electronic medical records (EMRs). The data was revealing, and confirmed that much of the anecdotal gossip was true: it is a challenge for smaller health tech companies to integrate their solutions with the major EMR vendors. There is no clear path to integration or data access, fees are sometimes involved, and even without fees, the lengthy process is too complicated and costly for small companies to handle. Of course, the problem of integration and data access is not limited to major EMR vendors. Healthcare providers and other data custodians may well be complicating the process, too.

In 2016, this survey found an incredible diversity of experience across the major EMR vendors (i.e. working with Epic is different than working with athenahealth), as well as an incredible diversity of experience across different tech companies dealing with the same EMR vendor. We want to know more. Now, Health 2.0 is reprising our previous work, looking once again to collect concrete data around this problem. Will the data reinforce what we found in 2016 or will there be some measure of progress in the past few years?

Much has changed since the first version of this survey, including a flurry of activity around Epic and Apple’s Healthkit integration, Cerner’s Ignite initiative, and the Carin Alliance. We want to know if any of that has made an impact for those looking to integrate. If you are a tech company that has experience with these issues, take this survey. Help us understand where we stand.    

The data and commentary collected here will be used to generate a set of slides, charts, and graphs that will be shared on THCB and at Health 2.0 Conferences, and will provide another year of data and much-needed transparency around the issue of integration. Responses will be kept anonymous by Health 2.0

Matthew Holt is Publisher of THCB & Co-Chairman Health 2.0. Kim Krueger is Research Director at Health 2.0

A National Health Encounter Surveillance System

Trust is essential for interoperability. One way to promote trust is to provide transparency and accountability for the proposed national system. People have come to expect email or equivalent notification when a significant transaction is made on our personal data. From a patient’s perspective, all health records transactions involving TEFCA are likely significant. When a significant transaction occurs, we expect contemporaneous notification (not the expectation that you have to ask first), a monthly statement of all transactions, and a clear indication of how an error or dispute can be resolved. We also expect the issuer of the notification to also be accountable for the transaction and to assist in holding other participants accountable if that becomes necessary. Each such notification should identify who accessed the data and how the patient can review the data that was accessed. Each time, the patient should be informed of the procedure to flag errors, report abuse, and opt-out of further participation at either the individual source or at the national level.

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The Healthcare.gov Rescue and the Hawaii False Alarm . When Good Government Tech Goes Bad.

By now, you’ve heard of the Hawaii False Alarm, and about the blowback and blame as people try to sort out how this could have happened. In government circles, however, there have been empathy and knowing cringes. It is the norm, not the exception, that government systems are confusing and hard to use. Horrible mistakes happen when people use clunky government systems — they just usually don’t make the news.

In fact, the last time a government technology failure was so thoroughly plastered across the news was when healthcare.gov failed to launch. At the time, I was working for the Chief Technology Officer of the United States in the White House. It was a difficult, frustrating time — but the media glare and public outrage opened up an opportunity to make some critical progress on changes that government workers had been asking for, for years, to prevent it from happening again. Government design is news right now, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on what people working on this problem could do next.

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On Data and Informatics For Value-Based Healthcare

Introduction

Value-based healthcare is gaining popularity as an approach to increase sustainability in healthcare. It has its critics, possibly because its roots are in a health system where part of the drive for a hospital to improve outcomes is to increase market share by being the best at what you do. This is not really a solution for improving population health and does not translate well to publicly-funded healthcare systems such as the NHS. However, when we put aside dogma about how we would wish to fund healthcare, value-based healthcare provides us with a very useful set of tools with which to tackle some of the fundamental problems of sustainability in delivering high quality care.

What is value?

Defined by Professor Michael Porter at Harvard Business School, value is defined as a function of outcomes and costs. Therefore to achieve high value we must deliver the best possible outcomes in the most efficient way, outcomes which matter from the perspective of the individual receiving healthcare and not provider process measures or targets. Sir Muir Gray expands on the idea of technical value (outcomes/costs) to specifically describe ‘personal value’ and ‘allocative value’, encouraging us to focus also on shared decision making, individual preferences for care and ensuring that resources are allocated for maximum value.
This article seeks to demonstrate that the role of data and informatics in supporting value-based care goes much further than the collection and remote analysis of big datasets – in fact, the true benefit sits much closer to the interaction between clinician and patient.

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2018 Forecast: Another Theranos, Hospital Hiring Slows & Successful HIT Exits

For what is now an annual tradition, we are once again attempting to be healthcare soothsayers. We are proud to share with you our 10 healthcare predictions for 2018. In 2017, amaz-ingly, eight of our predictions came true.

For 2018, we are betting on the following:

1. Another Theranos

We think at least one healthcare information technology company with an enterprise value of more than $1 billion (not including Outcome Health, which we could not have predicted tanking so spectacularly quickly) will be exposed as not having product results to support their hype. It will also expose embarrassed investors who did not do careful diligence and founders with poor integrity.

2. Hospital hiring slows

After a decade of sustained hiring every month, hospitals will stop. Many will downsize their administrative staffs as admissions continue to slowdown and reimbursement pressures intensify. We expect multiple months with net healthcare job losses which would be the first time this has occurred since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking the data.

3. Successful HCIT exits

After a long wait, and more than $10 billion of venture capital invested in startups over the past five years, we will begin to see successful IPO and M&A exits. These will reassure growth investors to keep pouring money into companies with traction.

4. Amazon does not disrupt PBMs

Despite daily rumors, we think Amazon will not shake up the PBM sector. Instead, Amazon will limit its healthcare market footprint to its existing consumer products and distributing non- regulated healthcare goods to healthcare providers (adopting a B2B and not B2C strategy).

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