Tag: John Moore

Microsoft HSG Bets Future on Amalga

Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group (HSG), which has straddled the fence with consumer-facing (HealthVault) and corporate-facing (Amalga), is increasingly moving to the corporate side of the fence. Not that surprising considering that the consumer market continues to struggle (Google Health is in virtual mothball state, consumer adoption of HealthVault is nothing to write home about) and that HSG has now moved out of R&D and is now under the business solutions group, Dynamics. At the end of the day, HSG head Peter Neupert has to show that he can deliver the goods and Amalga is the horse he’s betting on (Note: Sentillion is there as well, but think of Sentillion as the gate-keeper to accessing Amalga).

Yet Amalga has gone through its share of birthing pains with some in the industry beginning to question its value.

Amalga has suffered from two significant problems, both inter-related. The first is that Amalga is an extremely powerful set of data aggregation and analytical tools, but it is more of a toolset then a product and this leads to long implementation time-frames and subsequently an inability to extract value quickly (ROI for Amalga is measured in years). For example, in 2009 Golden Living signed on to adopt Amalga and HealthVault. At last week’s Connected Health Conference, (CHC) Golden Living presented some remarkable results of how they are transforming long-term care through the use of Amalga. But in their presentation, Golden Living also stated that they knew full well when signing on to Amalga that this was going to be a multi-year effort and their implementation team has been given 5 years to put Amalga in place. Five years to fully implement a software solution is a very long-time and similar to the installs of the largest EHR systems. Unfortunately, many early Amalga customers did not have the foresight of Golden Living. In recent conversations with Microsoft, Chilmark has been told that significant resources are now being dedicated to improving time to value for Amalga. We’ll have to wait and see as the CHC sessions we attended on Amalga and HealthVault Community Connect, did not make this readily apparent.Continue reading…

The Cusp of Consumer Engagement


When Chilmark Research was founded, the primary area of focus was healthcare IT that was consumer facing, consumer enabling – tools that would help consumers better manage their health and the health of loved ones. This led to our first major study on Personal Health Records (PHRs) published in May 2008. But alas, I was idealistic in the belief that there was enough interest in this area, enough of a market to sustain and grow this young company. Sure, there are loads of small companies trying to make a consumer health play and there is certainly plenty of hype surrounding it but at the end of the day when one takes a close look at this market one finds a multitude of small companies struggling to break through. Exceedingly few companies have been able to really capture the consumer market potential and scale to a size that would support the kinds of services that Chilmark Research offers. This led to a rethinking of what Chilmark Research would focus upon.

Stepping back and looking at the market one sees several critical technical gaps:

  1. Lack of Data: Despite all of the incredible medical advances taking place and the amazing technologies that are being used today to practice medicine, the industry as a whole is a laggard in adoption of IT. One can point the finger in many directions but the bottom line is that there is simply not a lot of clinical, personal health information (PHI) in a readily computable digital format that a consumer can tap into.
  2. Data Liquidity:  A consumer’s PHI, even when it is in digital form is most often scattered across a multitude of silo’d applications making it virtually impossible for a consumer to readily and securely access and manage their complete health records using the data contained therein to personally guide them to make better health decisions. There are a number of contributing factors at play here, primary among them lack of clear standards & terminology as well as reluctance of healthcare organizations to release data to the consumer.
  3. Ease of Access: Providing the consumer with “on-the-go” access to their health information allowing them to easily call up or input data to their personal health system, via a mobile device. Today, most mHealth apps in this category are rudimentary and it is not necessarily the fault of the app developer but often the lack of good data as a result of points 1 & 2.Continue reading…

Fostering Innovation in Healthcare IT

As in most sectors, innovation in healthcare IT (HIT) is by and large incremental. A tweak here and added feature there to some existing application, e.g., what we are seeing today from EHR vendors as they strive to meet meaningful use criteria. Occasionally, we may see a vendor develop something new and novel – one might put porting their EHR application onto an iPad as an example of such – but really, is that innovation or just an attempt to meet existing customer needs by tweaking software to meet the design criteria of a new form factor?

Innovation, true innovation that breaks from existing norms is exceedingly rare. Even in an industry sector such as HIT where we are seeing an unprecedented amount of money being spent, it has been difficult for this analyst firm to find real innovation that gets us excited and thinking beyond the limited constructs that seem to keep this industry perpetually incased, like an insect, in amber. Part of the reason lies with tradition (culture), another part with entrenched interests (existing/legacy IT vendors) and arguably the most important business models.

But that may begin to change as nothing elicits innovation more than a substantial change to core models of doing business. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released proposed rules for the establishment of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which is a move towards bundled payments. Here in Massachusetts, the Governor announced introduced a bill as well to “expand the use of alternative payments and significantly reduce fee-for-service payments by end of 2015.” It is actions such as these that will open the floodgates ushering in some truly innovative approaches to optimizing the delivery of quality care.Continue reading…

Remember: Technology is but a Tool

Yesterday, Chilmark Research participated in the CRG conference, Driving Change Through Managed Care IT from Provider Payments to Quality, which was held in New York City. Despite having a title that no one will be able to remember, the overall theme of the event and presentations therein gave one a bird’s eye view into what payers are thinking as we march forward with healthcare reform and the digitization of the healthcare sector.

A common theme that repeated itself numerous times over the course of the day was the lack of business process maturity in the healthcare sector. Meg McCarthy, EVP of Innovation at Aetna was the first to make this statement citing this issue as arguably the number one challenge for this industry sector to overcome. (McCarthy provided some interesting details on the Medicity acquisition but we’ll save that for a later date.)

Later that day, Jessica Zabbo, Provider Technology Supervisor at RI-BCBS gave a very detailed presentation on her company’s experiences working with providers on the adoption and use of EHRs. Over the last several years RI-BCBS has done a couple of small pilots. In both cases a defining parameter of success was business process maturity. For example, the company did a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) pilot that coupled pay for performance metrics (P4P) with EHR use. Basically P4P measurements were to be recorded and reported through the EHR. One of the key lessons learned was that P4P program success was highly dependent on the EHR being fully implemented and physicians comfortable with its use (process maturity). But in a Catch-22, to successfully incorporate P4P metrics into the EHR requires a very deep understanding of practice focus and workflow. Without that understanding, failure of the P4P program is almost certain.Continue reading…

2011 Predictions: MU Goes Tactical, ACO Strategic

In the Healthcare IT (HIT) market, 2010 was the year of meaningful use (MU). Healthcare organizations (HCOs) of all sizes developed plans, began making IT modifications and began adopting the technology they needed to meet Stage One MU requirements and subsequently receive incentive payments, some of which began being disbursed in late 2010. As we move into 2011, we will continue to see an extreme amount of activity and turmoil in the HIT market with the biggest elephant in the room being what will actually happen to the healthcare reform bill that was passed at the beginning of 2010.

Against this backdrop, we once again have prepared our annual top ten (actually we have 11 for after all it is 2011) predictions for 2011 which are as follows:

1) MU Initiatives Move to Tactical. Meaningful use is no longer of great concern to the executive suite, well except for maybe the CIO and his counterpart, CMIO. It has moved to the tactical implementation stage for enterprises insuring that systems are in place, clinicians trained and MU requirements met to reap incentive payments.

2) C-Suite Strategy Focuses on New Payment Models. Despite the turmoil swirling around healthcare reform, one thing that is unlikely to change is the move to bundled payment models and the migration to Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). The train has already left the station on this one and this train does not have reverse. The repercussions of these new payment models have the potential to make or break a HCO and the C-suite knows this thus are focusing all of their attention on what is the most appropriate strategy for their organization. Strategy service firms such as CSC, Dell, Deloitte, PWC, etc. are going to make out like bandits.

Continue reading…

Healthcare Reform, Payment Models & Acquisitions

John Moore

Earlier this week, GE announced the release of Centricity Advance, their solution for the ambulatory market. Centricity Advance is basically a build-out/rebranding of MedPlexus an SaaS EHR solution vendor that GE acquired in March 2010.  GE now joins others (see below) in the EHR market who are striving to provide a complete acute to ambulatory EHR portfolio.

Editor’s note: See also THCB founder Matthew Holt’s podcast interview this week with GE VP Mike Barber for more context on this story.

Recent weeks have seen a number of intriguing developments in this space, including:

AllScripts’ acquisition last week of Eclipsys.

NextGen, a traditional ambulatory EHR vendor whose parent, Quality Systems Inc. acquired Sphere Health Systems and Opus Healthcare Solutions to target rural acute care facilities.

While some may argue that the HITECH Act and meaningful use requirements are core drivers for these acquisitions (e.g. tap future incentives payments in new markets), the real reason is the need for large healthcare organizations to more closely align smaller affiliated practices to their operations in anticipation of healthcare/payment reform (bundled payments, patient-centered medical home, etc.). These large institutions are increasingly seeking out such fully integrated acute to ambulatory solutions and is one of the core reasons that EPIC (they started in ambulatory and grew organically into acute) has seen success in the market.  It remains to be seen if those pursuing an acquisition strategy will be as successful as EPIC for it often takes years for two systems to be combined in a truly integrated fashion.

Continue reading…

The iPad in Healthcare: A Game Changer?


There have been a lot of discussions on the Net regarding the potential impact of the iPad in the healthcare sector.  At this point, there is very little agreement with some pointing to the ubiquitous nature of the iPhone in healthcare as a foreshadowing of the iPad’s future impact, while others point to the modest uptake of tablet computing platforms as a precursor for minimal impact.

Our 2 cents worth…

We believe the iPad will see the biggest impact in two areas: medical education and patient-clinician communication.

Continue reading…

Apple Targets Healthcare Enterprise


While the Apple iPhone was first targeted at the general consumer, Apple has been taking the necessary steps to bring this device into the enterprise, directly competing with RIM’s Blackberry.  Unseating the Blackberry in many sectors, such as finance, may be near impossible but healthcare is another story.  Within healthcare, Palm, with its Treo was extremely popular as it was not only a communication device (cell, email, etc.) but also supported other apps such as the very popular Epocrates.  Palm lost its focus, sat on its laurels, the Treo became dated, barriers to entry lowered.  Enter the iPhone, its intuitive interface, a touch screen, an ever increasing number of medical apps and Palm is basically out in the healthcare.

The iPhone was first adopted by physicians independently of the organizations (hospitals) they worked for to do simple communication and access numerous apps that helped them in their day-to-day activities.  Seeing this adoption trend. some of the EMR vendors also started to get on-board offering iPhone access to their app (AllScripts introduced theirs at HIMSS’09). But this adoption, for the most part, remained separate from broader enterprise (hospital) initiatives as early versions of iPhone’s operating system (OS) were simply not enterprise ready.

But this is changing.

Apple’s iPhone OS, which has seen significant improvements since its introduction and now has robust enterprise features, including security ( HIPAA compliance), integration to the ever popular Microsoft Exchange Server (calendar, email, etc.), and an SDK to build apps for internal purposes.

To showcase the iPhone in enterprises, Apple now has a section of their website dedicated to showcasing customer deployments of the iPhone in an enterprise.  Of the 15 enterprise case studies presented, 20% of them are dedicated to the healthcare market; Mt. Sinai in Toronto, Memorial Hermann in Houston and Doylestown Hospital in Pennsylvania. Of all the enterprise verticals to profile, dedicating 20% of case studies to one market, healthcare, signals Apple’s intent to invest in this market.

Common threads in each story:

1) Security features of iPhone OS insure HIPAA compliance.

2) Ability to use Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync for email and calendaring features.

3) iPhone’s intuitive interface minimizes training requirements.

4) iPhone is readily portable and can deliver the right information at the right time to the right individual.

5) iPhone’s ecosystem of applications allows a hospital and its clinicians to tap a wide range of applications to customize the iPhone to their particular needs. Many of these apps are free thus not a drain on ever tight IT budgets.

As Hermann Memorial’s CIO, David Bradshaw stated:

Healthcare is a real-time business.

And as we’ve said before:

Health is mobile.

The combination of an ecosystem of relevant applications with enterprise connectivity in a secure, easy to use, mobile construct is the future of healthcare IT, at least for clinicians.  The next step is bridging the divide between clinician and consumer through the use of such technologies. We’re not there yet, but hopefully, Apple is working with a healthcare organization (or at least will uncover one) and present such a case study in the near future.
John Moore is an IT Analyst at Chilmark Research, where this post was first published.

It’s Not About Meaningful Use …

MucartoonWith the impending comment deadline for Meaningful Use (MU) fast approaching, many organizations, from CHIME to AHA to AAFP and others are asking for some form of relaxation of MU criteria in the final version.  Now it is not to say these concerns are not justified, it just may be that they are misplaced for the vast majority of those who currently do not use an EHR, small physician practices and clinics.  It is within these small practices, which are really just small businesses, that the majority of patient care occurs and where possibly the biggest benefit may be derived in the use of EHRs. It is also here where we may find the highest adoption hurdles, and those adoption hurdles are not so much about MU criteria, but more about productivity losses in adopting an EHR.

This past weekend I spent some time with a nurse who works in a primary care/pediatrics clinic in Vermont.  There facility, part of a network of several clinics, recently adopted and went live with a new EHR system (about 18 months ago). According to the nurse, this EHR, from one of the big names in ambulatory systems, has been a complete disaster for the clinic.  Productivity is way down, countless glitches have occurred, whole system crashed during a recent upgrade and the list goes on.  For 2009, this clinic, which has been in operation for a few decades, had its first ever loss last year, the year they went live with this EHR. The clinic puts the blame squarely on the EHR, which has severely constricted their ability to see patients and as all readers know, clinicians get paid for seeing patients, not trying to use a complex and difficult to use EHR.

It is stories like this that concern me.

This is a clinic trying to do the right thing, trying to use an EHR in a meaningful way (note, did not say meaningful use) and they are struggling. Yes, they do want to deliver the best patient care, but at the end of the day, they, like any business have bills to pay.  They are losing money far in excess of what HITECH Act incentives will provide. This story is, unfortunately, not unique, though few EHR vendors will come clean on the productivity hit to a practice.  Maybe instead of guaranteeing that their application(s) will meet MU criteria, EHR vendors should guarantee that the productivity hit of using their solution will not exceed HITECH incentive payments.  Now that would be an interesting value proposition.

Thanks to Michael Jahn of Jahn & Associates for the MU cartoon.

John Moore is an IT Analyst at Chilmark Research, where this post was first published.

Acquisitions Creating White Hot Market for Healthcare IT

Picture 58Since the beginning of 2010 there has been a series of acquisitions in healthcare IT (HIT) market, which  recently culminated in one of the largest, IBM’s acquisition of Initiate.

Triggering this activity is the massive amount of federal spending on HIT, (stimulus funding via ARRA which depending on how you count it, adds up to some $40B) that will be spent over the next several years to finally get the healthcare sector up to some semblance of the 21st century in its use of IT.

But one of the key issues with ARRA is that this money needs to be spent within a given time frame, thus requiring software vendors to quickly build out their solution portfolio, partner with others or simply acquire another firm.Continue reading…