More Meaningful Use Stage 2 Resources

Two important resources you can use as you plan for MU Stage 2 certification and attestation.

1.  The Advisory Board has prepared a poster, available to the public, comparing meaningful use Stage 1 with the Stage 2 final rule, including objectives, measures, numerators, denominators, exclusions, as well as certification criteria and standards.

2.  ONC has released the first wave of certification test procedures .

All Test Procedures will undergo public review and comment before being finalized and approved by ONC for use in testing and certification.

Comments and suggestions should be submitted to All submissions should include "Test Procedure" in the subject line.

The HIT Standards Committee's Implementation Workgroup is reviewing these in detail and I'm hopeful that they'll be rigorously tested in real world settings before the procedures are finalized.

Lake County Health Department: The extremes to which faith-based informatics beliefs can drive healthcare facilities - Depression era soup lines at the clinic?

Here is a story exemplifying the extremes to which faith-based informatics beliefs can drive healthcare facilities, to the benefit of IT companies and at the expense of patients.  This is occurring a bit north of the Chicago area:

County Health Department clinics moving to electronic records

By Judy Masterson

Last Modified: Sep 11, 2012 02:43AM

People who rely on Lake County Health Department clinics for their health care have found cuts in service during walk-in hours as the department began implementing a new electronic medical record.

 That, as is explained further in the story, is an understatement.

The massive shift to electronic storage of medical data by the department has been underway for about two years, at a cost through April 2012 of $3.8 million, according to department spokeswoman Leslie Piotrowski.

During the first phase, appointment-taking, laboratory, financial and demographic information and billing were transferred from paper records to electronic storage. Under the newest phase of the project, physicians and staff are being trained to use new computer software to electronically gather health histories and record information on tests, treatments and prescriptions.

Are they using the software to record health histories, or to gather them?  There is a difference, and I believe this passage exemplifies that these "EHRs" are no longer innocuous filing systems, but are interfering in and regulating the information gathering process from patients itself (i.e., the physician-patient relationship) itself.  More on that issue below.

Denise Koppit, Health Department associate director of primary care services, acknowledged the training has temporarily cut by half the number of walk-in patients seen at the department’s clinics in Waukegan, Zion, North Chicago, Highland Park and Round Lake Beach.

Cut by 50%?  That is remarkable.  That an electronic record system could be so hard to learn and use that patient count has to be halved is stunning - and outrageous.

It suggests a fiasco in the making in terms of care quality when the clinicians are asked (and probably forced) to get back to more traditional volumes.

Similar situations are noted here:  

"Avatar fails - No, not the Cameron movie, but yet another lousy EMR system implemented by amateurs."

and here:

"Contra Costa's $45 million computer health care system endangering lives, nurses say."

“We’re learning new systems which totally change the way we gather information about patients,” Koppit said, noting “it was a little bumpy” the first day, Sept. 5, but Sept. 6 “it was a little better.”

"Totally change the way we gather information about patients?"  (As opposed to "the way we record information?")

This is concerning to me, as it suggests interference (ill-conceived and deleterious interference is probably more accurate) in medical processes by technology.  To my knowledge, there's been no revolution in clinician history taking and performance of physical exams.  The state government needs to examine exactly what is being referred to.

Also - add "a little bumpy" to the list of banal excuses for toxic software such as - it's a rare event, it's just a 'glitch',  it's teething problems, it's a learning experience, we have to work the 'kinks' out, it's growing pains, etc.

I'm actually surprised not to see the usual refrain in this article, that "patient care was not compromised."

... “We want to improve quality of care and increase efficiency so patients don’t go through multiple tests and so everyone can see medications,” Koppit said. “This will allow ready access to patient information. Patients will receive a printout of their diagnoses, medications and lab work.”

As described in other posts (query link here), these are "faith-based informatics beliefs" (i.e., enthusiasm and technology-deterministic statements of fait accompli not driven by robust evidence, especially considering the state of health IT in 2012).

Patients who transfer to different providers, will receive their medical history and information in a paper file or on a flash drive.

Paper file?

The reductions in number of walk-in patients accepted hit the Zion clinic especially hard. One user, who contacted the Lake County News-Sun, said patients waiting outside the clinic “on any given day” look like “a Depression-era soup line” that snakes around the corner of 27th Street.

Koppit said that the Zion clinic, which also serves patients from Winthrop Harbor, Beach Park and Wadsworth, relies on just two physicians who typically treat between 12 and 15 walk-ins per day.

Health IT project managers whose plans caused “a Depression-era soup line” of sick patients should be sanctioned, in my opinion. 

When an EMR implementation causes "Depression-era soup lines" at the clinic, one can reasonably conclude project mismanagement is occurring.

This is, by definition, gross project mismanagement, entirely unnecessary, that endangers patients dependent on the care provided in these clinics.  This project as structured, in fact, violates patient's rights.

She admitted that regular appointments can take two months to schedule. “If somebody comes in very sick, we’re trying to get them squeezed in,” she said.

We're "trying to get them squeezed in"?  And, if they are harmed or die because they can't be "squeezed in", or because the clinicians are up to their necks in cybernetic frenzy, who's liable?

I suggest the implementation leadership team should, in that case, find themselves as defendants.

-- SS

How Big Health Care Charities Rely on Lying Telemarketers

A modern day Diogenes searching for an honest organization in health care would have a very hard time.  Close to the "you can't make this stuff up" category is a new investigative report from Bloomberg on deceptive - to use a polite word - practices at some of the US' biggest health care charities.

Using Commercial Telemarketing Firms that Keep Nearly All Money Raised

The report showed how major US health care charities use privately held for-profit telemarketing firm InfoCision Management Corp to raise money, but most of the money raised went back to InfoCision.  The opening example was of a particular telemarketing call:
A woman named Robin said she was representing the American Diabetes Association.

Robin didn’t ask for money. She asked Patterson to stamp and mail pre-printed fundraising letters to 15 neighbors. Both of Patterson’s parents and one grandmother had been diabetic, so she agreed to do it, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its October issue.

'I thought since it does run in the family, it wouldn’t hurt for me to help,' says Patterson, 64, a retired elementary school teacher. She guessed, based on what she knew about charity fundraising, that about 70 to 80 percent of the money she brought in would be used for diabetes research.

The truth was almost the exact opposite. The vast majority of funds Patterson, her neighbors and people like them throughout the country would raise -- almost 80 percent -- would never be made available to the Diabetes Association. Instead, that money collected from letters sent to neighbors would go to the company that employed Robin and an army of other paid telephone solicitors: InfoCision Management Corp.

Just 22 percent of the funds the association raised in 2011 from the nationwide neighbor-to-neighbor program went to the charity, according to a report on its national fundraising that InfoCision filed with North Carolina regulators.

So while some American health care charities boast that most of the money they receive goes to programming, not management or fund raising, in this case, the opposite was true.

Many of the Biggest US Health Care Charities Were Involved

As the article stated,
Many of the biggest-name charities in the U.S. have signed similarly one-sided contracts with telemarketers during the past decade. The American Cancer Society, the largest health charity in the U.S., enlisted InfoCision from 1999 to 2011 to raise money.

In the past decade, many of the nation’s biggest health charities have hired InfoCision, including the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, March of Dimes Foundation and National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Note that the Bloomberg article was focused on InfoCision. I suspect that if one were able to look at arrangements with similar telemarketing firms made by all US health care charities, the results might be even more extreme.

The Fund Raisers and the Charities Lied

The article contained instances in which the telephone callers lied about who they were or about where the money they were trying to collect would go.

First, regarding who the callers were:
The ruse begins with the name that flashes on your caller ID when a telemarketer is phoning on behalf of a charity. It’s the charity’s name that often shows up, not that of the telemarketing firm.

The misrepresentation can continue on the call itself. Solicitors in recordings obtained by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office sometimes identify themselves to potential donors as 'volunteers.' They’re not; they’re paid employees of InfoCision.

Second, regarding where the money would go:
The bigger lie telemarketers tell is what they say about how much money will go to the charities they’re working for.

According to documents obtained through an open records request with the Ohio attorney general, the Diabetes Association approved a script for InfoCision telemarketers in 2010 that includes the following line: 'Overall, about 75 percent of every dollar received goes directly to serving people with diabetes and their families, through programs and research.'

Yet that same year, InfoCision’s contract with the association estimated that the charity would keep just 15 percent of the funds the company raised; the rest would go to InfoCision.

This deception appears to be sanctioned by the leaders of the charities for whom InfoCision worked,
[American Diabetes] Association Vice President [Richard] Erb offers no apologies for the script, saying the association runs many fundraising campaigns and, overall, about 75 percent of the money goes to its programs. He acknowledges that the contract with InfoCision estimated that the telemarketer would get to keep 85 percent of the funds it raised.

Erb also says he isn’t happy that volunteers are upset upon learning the truth.

'Obviously, if people feel betrayed or that we’re not being honest with them, it doesn’t make me feel well,' he says.

The American Cancer Society similarly seemed to sanction deceptive fund raising practices.
The Cancer Society, in a Sept. 1, 2009, contract with InfoCision, estimated that the charity would get 44 percent of the amount the company collected in the following fiscal year.

The telemarketer script for the same year approved by the society for InfoCision asks solicitors to say something different: 'Overall, about 70 cents of every dollar received goes to the programs and services that we provide.'

Predictably, an executive for the society dodged responsibility for such lying:
[Greg] Donaldson, the society’s senior vice president, declined to comment on the contradiction between the contract and the script, saying the society doesn’t provide 'proprietary competitive information regarding individual programs.'

The Telemarketing Firm Stonewalls

While the Bloomberg reporters were able to get some health care "charity" executives to respond to the issues, InfoCision was not even slightly forthcoming. The best they could do was get an InfoCision executive to protest the company's importance for charity:
InfoCision Chief of Staff Steve Brubaker says his company is vital to the success of charity fundraising. Many nonprofits have stayed with InfoCision for more than 20 years, proving the firm offers value and integrity, he says.

'We’ve developed that high level of trust by being good stewards of their money and mission,' he says. Campaigns to develop new donors are more expensive than those seeking money from previous supporters, he says. He declined to answer specific questions, saying such information is proprietary to the company or its clients.

He turned down a request for interviews with Taylor and InfoCision executives.

Previously, the company owner had taken on the mantle now familiar in the current US election campaign, "job creator,"
[InfoCision founder Gary] Taylor was an outspoken opponent of efforts by the Federal Trade Commission in 2003 to begin the National Do Not Call Registry, allowing people to block calls from for-profit solicitors. In an interview with Customer Interaction Solutions, a trade journal, he said:

'The most pressing issue, without a doubt, is excessive governmental regulation. It seems that the politicians and regulators are ignoring the significant benefits we provide through job creation, economic growth and the goods and services we cost-effectively market for our clients.'

Keep in mind that the article documented how much of those jobs are minimum wage, and they may involve lying.

Note further that Taylor "got his start raising money for evangelical preachers." The company also " did fundraising for Citizens United, the conservative group best known as the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that allowed unlimited independent spending by corporations and unions on behalf of political candidates."

Health Care Charities are Really Just "Businesses"

Underlying all this seems to be the transformation of health care from a calling to a business. While US health care charities have reputations as organizations out to do good, one executive, the American Diabetes Soceiety's Mr Erb, admitted that doing good was no longer really the focus,
'But the thing is, we’re a business. There has never been a time or a place where we said, 'Most of this money is coming to us.''

An expert the Bloomberg reporters interviewed said that the fund raising tactics these organizations used meant they were no longer charities. Per Ken Berger, "who runs Glen Rock, New Jersey- based Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest nonprofit watchdog group,"
'These organizations were created to provide public benefit,' he says. 'The fact that the vast majority of money is instead lining the pockets of telemarketers defies the whole reason behind the very creation of these charities.'

The Experts Say It's Fraud

Bloomberg reporters interviewed several experts on philanthropy and law. They were not amused. One suggested that the fund raising tactics described in the article were fraudulent:
Charities should be held accountable for deceptive fundraising done in their name, says James Cox, a professor at the Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina, and co-author of 'Cox and Hazen on Corporations' (Aspen Publishers, 2003).

'If that’s what they do systematically, then they’re obtaining money under false pretenses,' he says. 'I don’t just think it’s incredible. I’d be surprised if it isn’t criminal.'

Another labeled the practices "deceitful."

Bloomberg cited a 2003 US Supreme Court decision:
While telephone solicitors have no obligation to volunteer what the firm’s cut is of each donation, they don’t have a constitutional right to lie, the court ruled in a 2003 Illinois case.

'States may maintain fraud actions when fundraisers make false or misleading representations designed to deceive donors about how their donations will be used,' the court said.


This horrendous story illustrates how the mission of health care has been undermined by the last 30 years' push to turn health care organizations into businesses at a time managers were indoctrinated that they only thing that matters is short-term revenue (that is, they have become "financialized," look here). Here we see ostensibly charitable organizations that solicit donations from the public supposedly to aid patients and support medical education and research willing to do whatever it takes to raise money, including deception, and what might be fraud. This is just disgusting.

In my humble opinion, patients, health care professionals, and the public should insist that health care non-profit organizations disclose their fund-raising tactics, and abandon any that are dishonest. Law enforcement should investigate to see if prosecutions for fraud or related crimes are warranted. Organizations that refuse to change their ways should lose their tax exempt status.

Meanwhile, I would suggest that everyone should be extremely skeptical of fund raising by major health care charities. In no instance should anyone give money solely based on telephone solicitations.

If we, health care professionals, patients, the public do not take our heads out of the sand and realize how dishonest health care has become, we will have only ourselves to blame when it collapses.