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Hot Days and Deep Bowls

by John Moore | March 25, 2009

img_0112Got back late last night after a relaxing (at least mentally) trip out West, first to give a Keynote presentation at LabInfoTech, and then onto Aspen, Colorado for some downhill skiing escapades and general romping in my old stomping grounds. (Spent most of my teenage years in Colorado Springs.)

Beautiful sunny days with temperatures on the mountain reaching 50+ degrees, that is scary warm for the mountains. Luckily, there was plenty of base so the rocks only appeared on the steepest and most skied runs. I managed to avoid all the rocks – my skis were thankful.

While I skied the three major mountains of Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and Highlands, it was Highlands where I spent the majority of my time.  A great mountain with breathtaking views that no camera can do justice and plenty of challenging runs.  The highlight of the whole trip was the 35min+ hike (in ski boots and skis on shoulder) up the ridge to the top of Highland Peak (~12,400ft) to ski the Highland Bowl.  Picture above is view from the top. Did the amazing drop down the face of the bowl.  One of those super steep runs where if you lose a ski, you’ll be walking a long time down to retrieve it.  What a thrill!

On to the Healthcare Front & Some Quick Notes

The Obama administration appointed Harvard Professor and policy wonk, David Blumenthal as the new head of ONC.  Had heard rumor back in November that like his Harvard compatriot, David Cutler, Blumenthal was destined for a high-ranking position in HHS.  This is a great appointment as the new responsibilities of ONC, as defined in the ARRA require a more visionary leader – Blumenthal fits that need.

A Modern HealthcareIT article incorrectly mentioned that the Mayo Clinic had put on-hold any movement of consumer health data into HealthVault pending further interpretation of new HIPAA guidelines in the ARRA.  As it turns out (direct communication with Microsoft) no such thing has occurred and all is proceeding ahead, as planned.  While the author may have mis-quoted Mayo spokesperson, there is broader concern in the industry regarding the extension of HIPAA to “business associates” and what exactly defines a business associate.  The legislative language is unclear leaving many to wonder how the new HHS administration will ultimately define this term.  This could get tricky.

The small innovative EMR company, MIE (they are also parent of the PHR, NoMoreClipBoard) won a modest size deal with the Internet giant, Google to provide the EMR that will go into Google’s on-site clinics. Assume a big selling point was NMC’s existing relationship with Google Health.  Will be talking to NMC later and have the full story tomorrow.

There is also a new iPhone app, iTriage which looks interesting.  Developed by a couple of ER docs, iTriage resembles a mash-up, combining a symptom checker with doc finder and even has a relationship with Teladoc for immediate, on the phone assistance.  So far, the app is getting good reviews on the iTunes App Store and for a mere $0.99 for the app, looks like a good deal.  Hope to talk to the founders within and week and have more to report.

In closing…

No matter where my travels take me, there is always someone ( or many) I meet with a healthcare story of their own.  Aspen was no exception.

It continues to surprise me just how many struggle with the current, archaic method that we use to currently interact with the healthcare system and receive care.  When I tell them the type of research perform by Chilmark Research and the companies followed, there is almost universal awe and desire to use these new tools that are designed to assist consumers in managing their own health.  Rarely does the issue of privacy and security come up. Far more often is the desire to facilitate communication and manage simple transactional processes with the healthcare system.  There is a pressing demand for such solutions among those I come in contact with, but few know of the existance of these new applications and services, outside of WebMD.  Which raises the question: How will the small companies in the consumer HIT market gain the significant traction to become a truly global brand?

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