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ONC issues its Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020, which will serve to set the stage for the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap that will be released early next year. The 28-page plan, open for comments through February 6, describes the government’s strategies to achieve five goals:

  1. Expand adoption of health IT.
  2. Advance secure and interoperable health information.
  3. Strengthen healthcare delivery.
  4. Advance the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.
  5. Advance research, scientific knowledge, and innovation.

It’s a fairly concise and well thought-out document, listing expected outcomes for each goal and the federal agencies that are expected to play a part in achieving them. My only concern at this point would be the stability of ONC leadership over the next five years, and the likelihood that the big healthcare IT vendors will step in to create meaningful assistance rather than additional layers of half-baked interoperability. I’ll be interested to see how this gets whittled down to a tighter framework once the comment period concludes.

HIStalk Practice Announcements and Requests


The spate of telehealth-related press releases and traffic around the #mhealth14 hashtag means the 2014 mHealth Summit is in full swing. Having never attended, I have to rely on show-floor correspondents and tweet streams to fill me in on the digital health action. Mrs. Blackwell tells me that, “Everyone is in black here including me. We are in D.C. after all, where everything and everyone is conservative!” She added that she loved Dr. Jayne’s latest Curbside Consult, which picks apart a rather ridiculous Forbes article that suggests how female presenters should attire themselves at the event. I agree with Dr. Jayne’s colleague who said, “The only trend in healthcare that we should care about is the one that comes from having a true longitudinal and holistic and normalized view of a patient from birth to present. All other trends should be left at the hatters and haberdashers.” That being said, fashion can be fun, and can certainly help you stand out in a sea of black-clad colleagues.

It’s official – HIStalk readers have voted Atlanta as the “Healthcare IT Capital of the U.S.” Atlanta’s health IT network and civic pride turned out the vote with 45 percent of the 1,600 votes cast (including mine and Mr. H’s.) I came across this video from the Metro Atlanta Chamber explaining why Atlanta is THE place to be for health IT. I’m hoping to arrange a special visit with Atlanta’s health IT leaders to present them with some sort of HIStalk-style award, which I know they’ll want to proudly display at the Georgia pavilion at HIMSS next year.



December 17 (Wednesday) 1:00 ET. There Is A 90% Probability That Your Son Is Pregnant: Predicting the Future of Predictive Analytics in Healthcare. Sponsored by Health Catalyst. Presenter: Dale Sanders, SVP of strategy, Health Catalyst. Predictive analytics is more than simple risk stratification. Once you identify an individual’s risk, what are the odds that you can change their behavior and what will it cost to do so? This presentation, geared towards managers and executives, addresses scenarios in which predictive models may or not be effective given that 80 percent of outcomes are driven by socioeconomic factors rather than healthcare delivery.

HIStalk is offering 25-percent off webinars (promoted or produced) through the end of the year. Email Lorre for all the details. You can pretty much guarantee they’ll be a hit, as we put your webinar content before several executive-level members of our review committee to ensure your presentation is engaging and educational (rather than a blatant and typically boring sales pitch).

Announcements and Implementations


Johnson County Mental Health Center connects with Kansas Health Information Network’s HIE via Netsmart’s Care Connect solution.


HL7 launches the Argonaut Project to address the standards recommendations of the federal government’s JASON group, including HL7’s FHIR (fast healthcare interoperability resources). Working with HL7 will be athenahealth, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Cerner, Epic, Intermountain, Mayo, Meditech, McKesson, Partners HealthCare, SMART from Boston Children’s, and The Advisory Board Company. HL7 says the group will create FHIR-based EHR data sharing API specification by the spring of 2015.

I asked Jitin Asnaani, athenahealth’s director of technology standards, to weigh in on the announcement given that he has been knee-deep in the company’s interoperability initiatives:

“In the past, standards have been thrust upon the industry by the government – especially through incentive programs such as Meaningful Use – and this project represents a distinctive instance where competitors have reached across the aisle to build and adopt the standards to enable health information exchange, and thus determine our own fate. The fact that ONC has lauded this effort is further testament to its alignment with national priorities for health information exchange. 

“The great benefits of this standard will accrue across the healthcare industry.  It can allow patients, providers, and others directly involved in care delivery to exchange crucial health data that enables more efficient and effective care coordination.  Yet it also simplifies engagement and amplifies the value created by other participants in the healthcare ecosystem, such as laboratories, pharmacies, post-acute settings, and the like.  Ultimately, FHIR will be a critical building block of our learning health system. Athenahealth applauds the small group of providers and vendors who have invested in what will ultimately be a public good available to the healthcare community at large. We are excited to accelerate work that helps healthcare work as it should.”

The big news here, as reported late last week by Mr. H, is that: (a) the second JASON report called for a big vendor to propose an open API standard instead of waiting around for the government to do it; (b) FHIR and APIs are a lot better than today’s document-based interoperability standards and probably better than the customized jungle that the HL7 standard has become; and (c) getting Epic, Cerner, Meditech, and McKesson together at the same table covers nearly all of the hospital EHR market and Epic, particularly, is a key member given its non-participation in CommonWell (and Epic and Cerner already have customers using APIs).


While Asnaani seems confident the Argonaut project will provide a way forward for interoperability efforts (and it just might given that it’s goals coincide with those of the ONC as laid out in its new strategic plan) I can’t help but wonder if the industry isn’t just creating one more level of competitive and still somewhat siloed bureaucracy for providers to wade through. (As a Forbes editorial points out, “The technology has always been there. It’s the will that’s missing.”)

Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, chair of the ONC HIT Policy Committee’s Interoperability Workgroup, and co-chair of its JASON Report Task Force, was kind enough to weigh in with this clarification: “The project is not creating an organization,” he explains. “It’s simply a mechanism to pool funding and project management and technical know-how to accelerate and focus some specific standards development work to make it available to the market (and ONC) faster than it otherwise would be available.  And then that’s it – once those specs and implementation guides are delivered, the project is complete.”

The Louisiana Health Information Technology Resource Center achieves its target for Meaningful Use attestation, helping over 1,000 providers participate in the program.


Sequenta launches the ClonoSIGHT Secure Portal to better integrate its ClonoSIGHT process (an ultra-sensitive, next-generation sequencing-based technology for minimal residual disease detection and quantification) into the care of patients with lymphoid cancers.


Walgreens offers consumers in California and Michigan access to MDLive physicians through its Walgreens mobile app. The new tool, which will be rolled out to additional states in the coming months, builds on the app’s Pharmacy Chat feature launched last year. (Check out Lt. Dan’s more thorough recap of the news here.)


Qualcomm Life integrates chronic disease management solutions from vitaphone e-health into its HealthyCircles Care Coordination and 2net Device Connectivity Platforms to capture biometric data from medical devices and coordinate team-based care.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Welch Allyn acquires HealthInterlink, a developer of remote patient monitoring software. HealthInterlink will continue to develop, source, and sell the solution during the transition. Once the acquisition is complete, Welch Allyn plans to use its newly acquired technology to help primary care physicians and cardiologists manage hypertensive patients.

Government and Politics

ONC announces a 10-part webinar series on health IT and patient safety. The first presentation – “The Role for the EHR in Patient Safety: What does the Evidence Tell Us?” – will kick the series off on Thursday, December 18 at 1pm.


ONC also releases a data brief on the motivations behind physician adoption of EHRs between 2010 and 2013, using data from the 2013 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey Physician Workflow Survey. Not surprisingly, solo practice physicians had the highest percentage of providers who were uncertain on adoption or who never planned to adopt, leading ONC to conclude that “narrowing the EHR adoption gap overall will involve continuing to focus efforts on these physicians.” None of the findings are particularly surprising, especially those regarding the importance of financial incentives pre- and post-HITECH Act. While the ONC says it will use the findings to better understand the influence of existing policies on adoption, you have to wonder if it will also use the data to determine if and how to alter the MU program  in light of low Stage 2 attestation numbers.



Steven Russell (Quantros) joins Leidos Health as senior vice president for sales and strategic accounts.



BioSensive Technologies looks to raise $30,000 through Kickstarter to develop its Ear-O-Smart earring, which monitors heart rate, caloric intake, and activity level. It expects to start shipping product in June 2015, provided it raises enough cash. I can’t help but paraphrase some of its marketing shtick: Would you want to wear a bulky wrist monitor to a party or on a date (or to the mHealth Summit)? This Digital Diva thinks not.


Officials in Dallas reveal that the city spent $155,000 to respond to the health crises of Ebola patients Thomas Eric Duncan, Amber Vinson, and Nina Pham. Nearly $27,000 (the majority of which will be offset by donations and grants) went to care for Pham’s dog, which included bedding, toys, and boarding at a decommissioned naval air base while Pham was treated at the National Institutes of Health (MD).


Mr. H, Lorre, Jennifer, Dr. Jayne, Dr. Gregg, Lt. Dan, Dr. Travis

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