Meet Your Social Media Ambassador to HIMSS15 Conference

The annual HIMSS Conference begins next month in Chicago (April 12-16). This year, I am very pleased to announce that I was named one of the HIMSS Social Media Ambassadors for the event. The #SoME ambassadors group includes many influential, super-knowledgeable, and prolific information-curators and contributors to a wide range of publications. I know most of these people from online conversations and in many cases met them at the first HIMSS conference I attended in 2010. Needless to say, I am thrilled to be included in this group!

Follow this elite group on Twitter and you’ll be well-informed about health IT standards & policy, behavioral health, advances in EHR technology, healthcare analytics/big data, new clinical decision support services, healthcare economics and more. The group includes:        

  • Brian Ahier @ahier
  • Mandi Bishop @MandiBPro
  • Wen Dombrowski, MD @HealthcareWen
  • Susan Hull @SusanCHull
  • Gregg Masters @2healthguru
  • Janice McCallum @janicemccallum
  • Jane Sarasohn-Kahn @healthythinker
  • Shahid Shah @shahidNShah
  • Linda Stotsky @EMRAnswers
  • Michelle Troseth @CPMRCmichelle
  • Charles Webster @wareFLO

[To follow this group, subscribe to Twitter list:]

Healthcare IT News is publishing a profile of each of the SoMe ambassadors to provide more insight into the areas of specialization of each member of the group. The profiles go beyond our geeky health IT and policy backgrounds to include some lesser-known aspects of our lives. My profile was published today and I have to congratulate the writer, Scott Thaler, on incorporating so many aspects of my career in designing & marketing digital information products and overall interest in the intersection of health IT and health content. Read more to learn of some other interests of mine:

If you will be attending HIMSS15, come by the #IHeartHIT Meetup to meet me and the other SoMe ambassadors on Monday, April 13, at 3:30pm. Register here.

Whether you are attending or not, be sure to follow the #HIMSS15 hashtag on social media. Since that list may get overwhelming during the conference, I want to reinforce my recommendation to follow the #SoMe list, which is guaranteed to serve up carefully curated selections from the sessions, exhibit hall, press briefings, and social events.

I look forward to seeing many colleagues at HIMSS15. Please contact me if you would like to set up a briefing.



Springer Science+Business Merges with Holtzbrinck’s Macmillan Science Group

One could get dizzy trying to trace the M&A history of Springer Science+Business. I recall analyzing their likely future back when they were owned by two private equity companies, Cinven and Candover in the mid-2000s. Cinven & Candover had formed Springer Science + Business by merging Kluwer Academic Publishing with Springer in 2004. In late 2009, Cinven & Candover  sold Springer Science + Business to EQT, a Swedish private equity firm, for 2.3 B EUR (note, Springer held 2.2 B EUR of debt at the time).

In 2013, EQT sold Springer to BC Partners for 3.3 B EUR.

Today, it was announced that BC Partners will merge Springer with Holtzbrinck Publishing Group’s Macmillan Science Group (well, almost all of MSG). Holtzbrinck becomes majority investor with a 53% stake; BCP retains minority ownership. Derk Haank, the CEO of Springer, will become CEO of the combined company. Annette Thomas, current CEO of Macmillan, will serve as Chief Scientific Officer.

The combined entity will have 13,000 employees and annual sales of 1.5 B EUR ($1.7 B US).

The rationale for the merger centered on the need for market share in the scholarly publishing segment. Derk Haank is quoted as saying, “Together, we will be able to offer authors and contributors more publishing opportunities and institutional libraries and individual buyers will have more choice. The expected economies of scale will allow for additional investments in new product development.” 

Scale and market share are becoming increasingly important as large publishers, including Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, and Wiley, along with Springer, are competing to acquire titles from scholarly societies and other small publishers. Having control over the high quality scientific and medical journal content allows the big publishers to reinforce the value of bundled access to their collective publications (as well as subsets of their publications). But, perhaps more important, by accumulating rights to a significant share of the journals that serve as the arbiters of quality research— and by association, quality scientific and medical evidence—these leading scientific, technical and medical (STM) publishers will remain essential to any analytics engine that aims to mine the universe of important research results.

In brief, scale affords digital information businesses far more options in their choice of business models than would be available to a small publisher. Springer Science + Business now has Nature and its portfolio of journals in its camp. Together, they should be able to better compete in a segment that will continue to consolidate.


Should We Expect Healthcare Providers to Plot Their Own Demise?

The Triple Aim of improving quality, improving patient care and reducing costs is a noble mission, but can we expect the current vendors of medical services to take the lead in reducing costs?

There is so much to debate in healthcare regarding where to focus reform efforts. Many will look at the high costs of caring for chronically ill patients and conclude that that the segment that accounts for the greatest share of expenditures must surely be the target for cost savings and disruption.  It’s difficult to argue against the need to continually improve how we care for the acutely and chronically ill. However, to use one analogy, we can’t continue to get better at putting out fires once they are in full burn without equal or greater efforts devoted to preventing fires. For the population as a whole, the benefits of prevention far outweigh the benefits of incremental improvements in managing chaos.

Given that hospitals and physician practices exist to perform medical interventions, how can we expect these organizations to lead the efforts in reducing demand for their services by promoting wellness and patient education programs?  We can’t. The same logic applies to patient engagement. How can we expect provider organizations to lead efforts that ultimately will reduce the demand for medical services? We can’t. Instead, we have patient engagement programs that predominantly target medication adherence.

Granted, there are attempts at creating patient-centered medical homes and accountable care organizations (ACOs) that have incentives to better coordinate care and attempt to reduce duplication of tests, overtreatment and medical errors, all things that should help reduce overall costs. But, it would take some pretty massive incentives to ask physician practices to become public health promotion centers. In fact, the pendulum is moving away from primary care physicians’ offering even basic preventive health services. One data point to support my statement: vaccinations are moving from primary care facilities to pharmacies. One anecdote: my mother’s primary care physician effectively refused to give her a shingles vaccine on two occasions, saying she’d be better off getting it at CVS. My mother interpreted the doctor’s comment and attitude to mean that the vaccine isn’t medically important, even though the doctor more likely was trying to save my mother some money (CVS charges less than $100;  the doctor’s administrative staff could only say that depending on her insurance, the cost to her could be as high as $300).

So, if we want to make a serious dent in the level of health care expenditures in the US, we’re going to have to bolster our public health efforts and educate and engage the greater population on how to adopt behaviors that help maintain health and avoid disease. Harvard School of Public Health received a gift of $350 million this week. That’s an encouraging sign. To quote the benefactor, Hong Kong billionaire Gerald Chan, “While medical doctors give health benefits to individual patients, public health is a field that helps to give benefit to the whole population”. [1]

While we still need better one-on-one communication between physicians and patients, we can’t expect a meaningful reduction in healthcare expenditures until we reduce the demand for medical services. And, we shouldn’t expect the providers of those services to lead the efforts to reduce demand.


[1] Source: See also:


Big Data in Healthcare and Life Sciences Reports

Three new reports on the future of Big Data in healthcare, life sciences, and urban planning (Connected Cities) are available from the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC). 

I am pleased to have worked with MassTLC to produce the healthcare and life sciences reports. The reports resulted from a Delphi process that included one-on-one interviews with leading thinkers and practitioners in each field followed by an onsite roundtable meeting. The insights from the academics, researchers, industry leaders, investors, and policymakers are eye-opening and offer a balanced view on the challenges and opportunities involved in applying big data methods and tools to life sciences research and healthcare delivery. 

The reports are available for free download from the MassTLC site


Post-HIMSS Interview with NaviNet


Laura McCaughey’s Interview with Janice McCallum on 2014 Outlook for Health Insurance Exchanges, Health Start-ups, and Need for Price Transparency Tools

Janice McCallum, Managing Director of Health Content Advisors, is a leading blogger and contributor to healthcare IT conversations on social media. Last night, Janice graciously spent time with us after Hillary Clinton’s HIMSS14 keynote address to discuss what surprised her in 2013, her thoughts about the progress of health insurances exchanges (HIX) to date, the most interesting start-ups she’s seen in the past few months, and what applications she expects to have the biggest influence on healthcare in 2014.

(1) What event/nonevent or trend surprised you the most last year?
I’ve lived through several periods of rapid change where digital technology radically improved access to information and transformed how we purchase goods and services. So, it’s not easy to surprise me; I’ve seen a lot!

But, to answer your question, I’d have to single out the problems with the Massachusetts Health Connector as it transitioned to an ACA-compliant health exchange last fall as the biggest surprise. The problems didn’t surprise me as much, since I had an inkling of how complex the set of data extraction and matching algorithms had to be. However, within Massachusetts (my home state), where we had ample experience with an existing insurance marketplace that we call the “Connector,” it took me by surprise that the transition to the ACA HIX was—and still is—such a disaster. Perhaps it was due to overconfidence, or more likely, it was due to the fact that Mass chose the same IT contractor as the federal government used for the launch of CGI Federal. I don’t place the entire blame for early problems with the site on CGI’s shoulders, but it does appear that they had insufficient resources to complete either job on time. Overall, I’d say there’s plenty of blame to go around, but for now the focus has to be on moving forward and fixing the problems.

(2) Uncertainty and painful reality around health insurance exchanges (HIX) are keeping payers, providers, and patients up at night—and demanding a lot of problem-solving during the day. What advice would you give to health plan CIOs as they strategize to leverage technology to insulate their companies from the reality of HIX versus the model?
I can only offer high-level strategic advice, since I’m not an expert in the technology underpinnings of the exchanges. My advice is to learn from the successes and failures on and the state exchanges, adopt best practices from the successes, and avoid duplicating the mistakes made by others.

(3) You are quite active in the world of innovation. What are some of the most interesting start-ups you’ve seen in your travels over the past few months?
I see a lot of well-intentioned start-ups that aim to help patients/consumers manage their health—whether their audience consists of consumers managing chronic diseases, trying to maintain wellness, or fitness enthusiasts who want to analyze data to gain a competitive edge – or just a better understanding of the effects of exercise. However, I think it will be a couple of years before these consumer apps really take off, because it will require more connectivity between consumers, researchers, providers, and payers. More important, business models that offer benefits to consumers are needed. I’m concerned that the business model that is gaining momentum involves sending data to providers and payers who will use the data to dictate to patients/consumers what they must do to stay compliant with their health plan. Personally, I want to see a more inclusive model where motivated patients have full access to the data and their observations and analyses are taken seriously by payers and providers. At present, we don’t have an evidence base that is solid enough to jump to a model where health plans make decisions based on device data without involving the consumers, whose observations about the data could reveal insights about interactions or other factors that affect the interpretation of data.

Apart from devices and sensor data start-ups, I’d point to investments by Google Ventures for early-stage companies that merit watching. Their investments include One Medical Group, Foundation Medicine (which recently went public), InformedDNA, and On February 20, 2014, Google Ventures announced investments in two enterprise/mobile security companies—Ionic Security and ThreatStream. These applications certainly play a big role in healthcare enterprises. Also, I think Rock Health does a very good job of tracking and categorizing healthcare start-ups.

(4) What application do you expect to have the biggest influence on healthcare in 2014?
Apps that help consumers track healthcare expenses and aid in price transparency will be in demand in 2014 as high-deductible and health savings account (HSA) plans expand. Castlight Health is a player in the price transparency space and is a darling of the investment community, but it is targeted to the employer, not consumer, segment. I am more interested in tools that help consumers understand what an encounter with a provider or an episode of healthcare will cost. To really make an impact, apps will have to provide information to consumers before they make a decision to visit their general practitioner, urgent care center, a specialist, or choose some other path.

Apple’s planned Healthbook platform may be a game-changer in this space if they can go beyond consolidating data from apps and patient health records (PHRs) and connect that data with information from a consumer’s health plan. I think Intuit had planned to focus on the financial tracking aspect when they acquired Medfusion in 2010 to grow the Quicken Health Expense Tracker. But, that goal was short-lived when Intuit’s corporate strategy shifted away from the consumer market, and they sold Medfusion back to its founder.

To succeed in achieving the price transparency and out-of-pocket expense tracking objectives, these consumer application developers—Apple, HealthVault, and others—will have to collaborate with health plans in order to have access to the cost-sharing structures of each health plan. Policymakers and health plan executives keep emphasizing how important it is for consumers to make wise healthcare decisions. In 2014, I’d really like to see significant movement toward giving consumers access to information that helps them make better decisions about their health and their utilization of healthcare services.

This interview was originally published at on February 27, 2014.

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