TTA’s week: CVS-Aetna–does it make sense? The Rivers of Babylon (Health). Tender alerts gift wrapped!

More on the ground-breaking CVS-Aetna merger–does it make sense? We wade into the rivers of Babylon Health’s pilots and present you with a large box of Tender Alerts for our UK companies.

And a reminder that you have just two more days to 15 Dec to submit your project for The King’s Fund 2018 Digital Health Congress.


Tender Alert: NHS England, London South Bank, Univ. of Leeds, NHS Digital, Halifax, Healthy New Towns (The last is big…really big)
Babylon Health: correcting earlier NW London CCG report; other concerns raised by CQC report (A deeper dive into The Rivers of Babylon and lessons to learn)
CVS-Aetna: the canary says that DOJ likely to review merger–plus further analysis and developments (It faces legal headwinds, may not make the most business sense–and has international repercussions affecting Walgreens Boots)

Is the CVS-Aetna merger heralding a new era, or an executional disaster in waiting? A lively #MedMo17 awards six startups. And Australia tries Health Care Homes for coordinated care.

Analysis of the CVS-Aetna merger: a new era, a canary in a mine–or both? (Are US healthcare execs in shock?)
#MedMo17: the conference, winning startups, Bayer, blockchain, and more (A lively conference report!)
Health Care Homes – treating chronic diseases in Australia (Coordinating care Down Under)

Does telemental care work?–the VA record. Secretary Shulkin moves forward on private care, Mayo’s Dr. Montori on care fitting into life. And HeyDoctor is Text 4 Doc.

OnePerspective: VA shows how technology can improve mental health care (Telemental health’s expansion chronicled in our new section)
VA’s Secretary Shulkin wants more private care options for veterans as part of reforms (Telehealth, private care coverage leading to better care)
Mayo Clinic’s Victor Montori MD calls for a ‘patient revolt’ for ‘careful and kind care’ (Expanding minimally disruptive medicine concept)
HeyDoctor! Come and get your diagnosis via text here! (Intriguing, but we see the downside)

Plenty of news before (US) Thanksgiving: NHS/Babylon Health’s London tests, Tunstall, Caribbean telemedicine. 

Rollout of second planned Babylon Health GP pilot for North West London scuttled (More unsettling news for Babylon’s model)
NHS, Public Health England testing multiple digital health devices for obesity, diabetes (Taking a year to do so with five suppliers)
NHS ‘GP at hand’ via Babylon Health tests in London–and generates controversy (Hits a GP brick wall)
Tunstall partners with voice AI in EU, home health in Canada, update on Ripple alerter in US (Changing their model, hopefully to profit)
Telemedicine comes to Saint Lucia–and the Caribbean (Seeking warmer climes doesn’t mean you leave telemedicine behind)

FDA’s approval of the first digital drug tracker. Reports on CES 2018, Aging 2.0.  Roundups on telehealth and companies. And Editor Charles cheerfully points out the difference between doers and advisors. 

Breaking: FDA approves the first drug with a digital ingestion tracking system (Proteus only took 16 years)
Telehealth roundups: Cuyahoga County (OH), BMJ systematic review, AAFP Forum (Telehealth results, PCP challenges)
Tender/Prior Information Alerts: North Yorkshire, North Ayrshire (Closing early 2018)
CES Unveiled’s preview of health tech at CES 2018 (5G, AI, VR, Extreme Tech, more)
BU CTE Center post-mortem presentation on Aaron Hernandez: stage 3 CTE (Can health tech even help?)
Some quick, cheerful updates from Welbeing, CarePredict, Tunstall, Tynetec, Hasbro, Fitbit
Themes and trends at Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE 2017 (Reinventing aging to thrive, not just survive)
A blogger’s lot is not a happy one (Editor Charles opines on the increasing disproportion between doers and advisers in the NHS) 

Of continued interest….

Fall risk in older adults may be higher during warm weather–indoors (A counterintuitive surprise marks need for gait detection/analytics)
How does the NHS get funded and work? The King’s Fund pulls it together for you. (Graphics and video)
Public Health England: we’re hiring to expand digital initiatives (A hiring blitz of 9 openings, more to come)
A few short topical items: NHS Digital, DHACA, IET, more (Editor Charles’ update)

CareRooms: the perils of “Silicon Valley hype” when your customer is the NHS (Discretion is the better part of valor)
Tender Alert: advance notice for NHS England ACS-STP Innovation Framework (Another big part of this NHS initiative)
Will Japan’s hard lessons on an aging population include those with dementia? (Japan’s bellwether rings again)

Have a job to fill? Seeking a position? Free listings available to match our Readers with the right opportunities. Email Editor Donna.


Read Telehealth and Telecare Aware: http://telecareaware.com/  @telecareaware

Follow our pages on LinkedIn and on Facebook

We thank our present and past advertisers and supporters: Tynetec, Eldercare, UK Telehealthcare, NYeC, PCHAlliance, ATA, The King’s Fund, HIMSS, Health 2.0 NYC, MedStartr, Parks Associates, and HealthIMPACT.

Reach international leaders in health tech by advertising your company or event/conference in TTA–contact Donna for more information on how we help and who we reach. See our advert information here. 


Telehealth & Telecare Aware: covering the news on latest developments in telecare, telehealth, telemedicine and health tech, worldwide–thoughtfully and from the view of fellow professionals

Subscribe here to receive this Alert as an email on Wednesdays with occasional Weekend Updates. It’s free–and we don’t lend out or sell our list–no spam here!

Donna Cusano, Editor In Chief, donna.cusano@telecareaware.com, @deetelecare

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TTA’s week: CVS-Aetna’s implications, #MedMo17 report, Aussie Health Care Homes test

Is the CVS-Aetna merger heralding a new era, or an executional disaster in waiting? A lively #MedMo17 awards six startups. And Australia tries Health Care Homes for coordinated care.

Special to Alerts Readers: One free place at The King’s Fund Leeds meeting on 13 December. Last week! See offer below. And a reminder that you have one more week to 15 Dec to submit your project for the 2018 Digital Health Congress.


For our UK Readers: The King’s Fund has been kind enough to offer to our Readers one complimentary spot to their Wednesday 13 December ‘Sharing health and care records’ conference at the Horizon Leeds. If you would like to attend, email us by end of day Thursday 7 December at Extras@telecareaware.com with your name, title, and organization. Put in subject line of the email “KF-Leeds Ticket”. The winner will be chosen from best responses and notified by Friday 8 December.


Analysis of the CVS-Aetna merger: a new era, a canary in a mine–or both? (Are US healthcare execs in shock?)
#MedMo17: the conference, winning startups, Bayer, blockchain, and more (A lively conference report!)
Health Care Homes – treating chronic diseases in Australia (Coordinating care Down Under)

Does telemental care work?–the VA record. Secretary Shulkin moves forward on private care, Mayo’s Dr. Montori on care fitting into life. And HeyDoctor is Text 4 Doc.

OnePerspective: VA shows how technology can improve mental health care (Telemental health’s expansion chronicled in our new section)
VA’s Secretary Shulkin wants more private care options for veterans as part of reforms (Telehealth, private care coverage leading to better care)
Mayo Clinic’s Victor Montori MD calls for a ‘patient revolt’ for ‘careful and kind care’ (Expanding minimally disruptive medicine concept)
HeyDoctor! Come and get your diagnosis via text here! (Intriguing, but we see the downside)

Plenty of news before (US) Thanksgiving: NHS/Babylon Health’s London tests, Tunstall, Caribbean telemedicine. 

Rollout of second planned Babylon Health GP pilot for North West London scuttled (More unsettling news for Babylon’s model)
NHS, Public Health England testing multiple digital health devices for obesity, diabetes (Taking a year to do so with five suppliers)
NHS ‘GP at hand’ via Babylon Health tests in London–and generates controversy (Hits a GP brick wall)
Tunstall partners with voice AI in EU, home health in Canada, update on Ripple alerter in US (Changing their model, hopefully to profit)
A fistful of topical events (London Health Technology, NICE briefings, Planetary Health, RSM, DHACA, with a splash of Club Soda!)
Telemedicine comes to Saint Lucia–and the Caribbean (Seeking warmer climes doesn’t mean you leave telemedicine behind)

FDA’s approval of the first digital drug tracker. Reports on CES 2018, Aging 2.0. Looking forward to four conferences in NYC at end of November. Roundups on telehealth and companies. And Editor Charles cheerfully points out the difference between doers and advisors. 

Breaking: FDA approves the first drug with a digital ingestion tracking system (Proteus only took 16 years)
Telehealth roundups: Cuyahoga County (OH), BMJ systematic review, AAFP Forum (Telehealth results, PCP challenges)
Tender/Prior Information Alerts: North Yorkshire, North Ayrshire (Closing early 2018)
CES Unveiled’s preview of health tech at CES 2018 (5G, AI, VR, Extreme Tech, more)
BU CTE Center post-mortem presentation on Aaron Hernandez: stage 3 CTE (Can health tech even help?)
Some quick, cheerful updates from Welbeing, CarePredict, Tunstall, Tynetec, Hasbro, Fitbit
Themes and trends at Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE 2017 (Reinventing aging to thrive, not just survive)
A blogger’s lot is not a happy one (Editor Charles opines on the increasing disproportion between doers and advisers in the NHS) 


Having the ability to share health and care records digitally is essential to offering better, more co-ordinated care for local populations. But delivering the key benefits requires three things: the appropriate technology, the right governance structure and a culture of adoption. Learn about this at The King’s Fund’s 13 Dec full day conference at Horizon Leeds, where you will explore the different models that have been developed over the past few years and learn how local areas are overcoming these challenges. Click on the advert to register or here


Of continued interest….

Fall risk in older adults may be higher during warm weather–indoors (A counterintuitive surprise marks need for gait detection/analytics)
How does the NHS get funded and work? The King’s Fund pulls it together for you. (Graphics and video)
Public Health England: we’re hiring to expand digital initiatives (A hiring blitz of 9 openings, more to come)
A few short topical items: NHS Digital, DHACA, IET, more (Editor Charles’ update)

CareRooms: the perils of “Silicon Valley hype” when your customer is the NHS (Discretion is the better part of valor)
Tender Alert: advance notice for NHS England ACS-STP Innovation Framework (Another big part of this NHS initiative)
Will Japan’s hard lessons on an aging population include those with dementia? (Japan’s bellwether rings again)
CVS’ bid for Aetna–will it happen, and kick off a trend? (updated) (Where do payers, retailers go to expand?)


Have a job to fill? Seeking a position? Free listings available to match our Readers with the right opportunities. Email Editor Donna.


Read Telehealth and Telecare Aware: http://telecareaware.com/  @telecareaware

Follow our pages on LinkedIn and on Facebook

We thank our present and past advertisers and supporters: Tynetec, Eldercare, UK Telehealthcare, NYeC, PCHAlliance, ATA, The King’s Fund, HIMSS, Health 2.0 NYC, MedStartr, Parks Associates, and HealthIMPACT.

Reach international leaders in health tech by advertising your company or event/conference in TTA–contact Donna for more information on how we help and who we reach. See our advert information here. 


Telehealth & Telecare Aware: covering the news on latest developments in telecare, telehealth, telemedicine and health tech, worldwide–thoughtfully and from the view of fellow professionals

Subscribe here to receive this Alert as an email on Wednesdays with occasional Weekend Updates. It’s free–and we don’t lend out or sell our list–no spam here!

Donna Cusano, Editor In Chief, donna.cusano@telecareaware.com, @deetelecare

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

OnePerspective: VA shows how technology can improve mental health care

Editor’s note: This inaugurates our new series of ‘OnePerspective’ articles. These are written by industry contributors on issues of importance to our Readers and are archived under ‘Perspectives’. For more information on contributing an article to our OnePerspective program, email Editor Donna.

click to enlargeBy: Gigi Sorenson

The shortage of mental health professionals in the U.S. is becoming more acute for two reasons: 1) more health professionals are encouraging their patients to seek treatment, and 2) more people now have health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act.  A December 2016 assessment showed that over 106 million Americans live in areas where there are not enough mental health providers to meet the need. Because of this provider shortage, as well as the stigma attached to behavioral health treatment, roughly half of mental illness cases go undiagnosed or unaddressed.

However, telehealth could fill much of this gap, and the beginnings of this trend are already evident. A growing number of psychiatrists and psychologists are using video and audio teleconferencing to treat patients remotely. Patients have access to this “telemental health” either in clinics and medical centers or, in some cases, through their Internet-connected personal devices. Studies of telemental health have found that it is effective for diagnosis and assessment in many care settings, that it improves access and outcomes, that it represents a portable, low-cost option, and that it is well-accepted by patients.

VA Program Sets the Pace

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began to deploy telemental health in the early 2000s, and the VA now has the largest and most sophisticated such program in the U.S. In 2016, about 700,000 of American’s 22 million veterans used VA telehealth services. In 2013, 80,000 veterans used telemental health services, and over 650,000 veterans took advantage of those services in the previous decade.

The VA system has trained more than 4,000 mental health providers in evidence-based psychotherapies for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions.  It has expanded the use of telemedicine at its 150 medical centers and its 800 outpatient clinics.  It is relying increasingly on telemental health to serve its beneficiaries, partly because nearly half of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan live in rural areas. Mental health professionals are often unavailable in these regions, and it can be difficult for these veterans to travel to metropolitan areas where VA clinics and medical centers are located.

Telemental health can address these issues.

(more…)

VA’s Secretary Shulkin wants more private care options for veterans as part of reforms

Released days before our Thanksgiving turkey (or steak, or lasagne), the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal (paywalled), stated his aims to increase veteran access to private care without having to rely on the VA to approve or coordinate it. This is in the direction of the recently signed bill with $2.1 bn in funding for the Veterans Choice program that targets veterans living in areas without ready access to VA facilities, or who are told they cannot get an appointment within VA within 30 days.

“The direction I’m taking this is to give veterans more choice in their care and be the decision maker for their care, which I fundamentally believe is a concept that has to be implemented,” Shulkin said. He admitted that opening the VA to private care programs will be gradual. Mentioned in the article were commodity, non-urgent services like podiatry and audiology.

For instance, the Veterans Choice program started in 2014 after wait times exploded in multiple regions, delaying care past 30 days for over half a million veterans for years well into 2015. Veterans died after waiting for care or follow up for months, notably at the Phoenix VA, creating a massive and rightfully political problem. 

Dr. Shulkin’s drive for reform and speed of care is also increasing the pace telehealth expansion with programs such as Anywhere to Anywhere which would allow cross-state consults and care that published their Federal proposed rule last month, and the rollout of VA Video Connect [TTA 9 Aug]. Earlier this year, four companies were awarded a total of over $1 bn to provide Home Telehealth over five years, reviving a fading program and updating it to not only smaller in-home tablets, but also to mobile and laptop devices. As noted in our OnePerspective article on telemental health deployment, the VA has the largest program in the US, dating back to the early 2000s.

While some veterans organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, have been critical of moves towards integrating private care, this Editor cannot see where the problem truly is. Healthcare Dive, The Hill 

Telemedicine comes to Saint Lucia–and the Caribbean

click to enlargeThe wide world of telemedicine! It’s hard to get away from the internet (see The Telegraph’s digital detox list of countries and areas with little to none, like North Korea), but your Editors have found that telemedicine is reaching far away places like the small, volcanic Windward Island of Saint Lucia. For those who are considering a winter holiday or are resident in this eastern Caribbean Commonwealth-member island with a dual French and British history, you can take advantage of Bois d’Orange’s Easycare Clinic‘s telemedicine services. These include real-time video consults, answers to healthcare questions, creation and maintenance of PHRs, vital signs tracking, and full access to a health network. Registration is free at www.easycare-stlucia.com along with the app. St. Lucia Times

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, a report from the Bahamas tells us that that the Princess Elizabeth Hospital A&E department is now covering Fresh Creek Community Clinic in Andros and Marsh Harbour in Abaco (the ‘family islands’). According to Edward Stephenson, a healthcare consultant in the Caribbean, telemedicine has been established privately in Turks & Caicos, Haiti, Dominican Republic and St. Vincent. The VA’s Home Telehealth program was established in Puerto Rico and the USVI, although in what present condition after two hurricanes is unknown. The University of the West Indies has had a telehealth program for Trinidad and Tobago since 2004 and works with The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto in a program that includes that country as well as the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

ATA has had a long-standing Latin America and Caribbean Chapter (ATALACC) which also is affiliated with the University of Arizona’s well-known Arizona Telemedicine Program–which in turn is affiliated with Panama’s Proyecto Nacional de Telemedicina y Telesalud. Readers’ updates welcome on this subject!

Proposed rule issued for ‘VA Anywhere to Anywhere’ telehealth cross-state care

The Department of Veterans Affairs ‘Anywhere to Anywhere’ program, which would enable VA doctors to treat VA patients across state lines via telehealth and telemedicine, yesterday (2 October) published in the Federal Register the required Federal proposed rule. There is a mandated 30-day comment period (to 1 Nov). In the Federal government, these rules move faster than any legislation. From the rule: “VA has developed a telehealth program as a modern, beneficiary- and family-centered health care delivery model that leverages information and telecommunication technologies to connect beneficiaries with health care providers, irrespective of the State or location within a State where the health care provider or the beneficiary is physically located at the time the health care is provided.” PDF of rule.

VA Home Telehealth has both doctor-to-patient telemedicine and vital signs remote monitoring components. While VA is fully able to waive state licensing requirements if both the physician and the patient are in a VA clinic, because of state telemedicine laws they have not been able to provide the same care for veterans at home. VA also has a care distribution problem, with many veterans living in rural areas, at great distances from VA facilities, or with limited mobility. What this will enable is VA hiring in metro areas primary care and specialist doctors to cover veterans in rural or underserved areas and the expansion of mental health care. It also will facilitate the rollout of the VA Video Connect app for smartphones and video-equipped computers now in use by over 300 VA providers [TTA 9 Aug].

The VETS Act (Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2017, S. 925) would permanently legislate this, but in the US system this type of Federal rule, in this circumstance, moves faster.  Fierce Healthcare, Healthcare Finance, mHealth Intelligence 

VA EHR award to Cerner contested by CliniComp (updated)

See update below. CliniComp International, a current specialized EHR vendor to some Department of Veterans Affairs locations and to the Department of Defense for clinical documentation since 2009, has filed a bid protest in the US Court of Federal Claims on Friday 18 Aug, saying that VA improperly awarded a contract to Cerner in June [TTA 7 June] without a competitive bidding process.

At the time, VA Secretary David Shulkin moved the award via a “Determination and Findings” (D&F) which provides for a public health exception to the bidding process. Without this, competitive bidding could take six to eight months, as Dr. Shulkin stated to a Congressional committee after the award–or two years, as DoD’s did–and would have further slowed down the already slow adoption process. Even if all goes well, the transition from VistA to Cerner will not begin at earliest until mid-2019 [TTA 14 Aug]. The Cerner MHS Genesis choice was also logical, given the Federal demand for interoperability with DoD. In June, the House Appropriations Committee approved $65 million for the transition, provided that VA provides detailed reports to Congress on the transition process and its interoperability not only with DoD’s but also private healthcare systems.

CliniComp objected to all that, saying in the protest that VA had enough time for an open bidding procedure, that the failure to do so was “predicated on a lack of advance planning,” and that awarding it to Cerner without it was “unreasonable”. “As shown by the nine counts set forth below, the VA’s decision to award a sole-source contract to Cerner is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and violates the CICA and Federal Acquisition Regulations,” according to the suit.

According to Healthcare IT News, “CliniComp said it filed an agency-level protest to contest the sole source award shortly after the announcement, according to the complaint. But the VA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition denied the protest on Aug. 7. In doing so, the VA violated the Competition in Contracting Act of 1978, the company claims.”

This is not CliniComp’s first bid protest. Before one dismisses the bid protest as sour grapes picked by a minor vendor, this Editor discovered via Law360 that CliniComp was successful in a VA bid protest in August 2014. In this case, VA had a $4.5 million contract for computer systems at several intensive care units for saving patient waveform biometrics. The VA’s award to Picis in October 2013 was overturned because the Court of Federal Claims found that in clarifying the CliniComp bid, VA never had official discussions with CliniComp, only informal requests for clarifications. The court found that the two bids were not evaluated the same way–and that likely both were acceptable, with CliniComp’s bid preferable because it was lower. (More on CliniComp and its 30-year history here)

Update. Arthur Allen in POLITICO Morning e-Health also did his homework and found the same Law360 article on CliniComp’s 2014 bid protest win, adding the following:

  • DoD and VA officials have complained that CliniComp’s software is not compatible with legacy systems. However, some IT experts have noted that neither DoD nor VA can provide platforms which can be interoperable with Cerner. (Circular firing squad?)
  • Oral arguments are set for 2 October, if necessary, after motions are filed next month. Cerner joined in the defense against the protest as of Monday. 

Will the brakes be put on Cerner’s work while the protest wends its weary way through the Federal Claims Court? The bid protest is high-profile embarrassing for VA, though the D&F is completely legal. Stay tuned. Also Modern Healthcare, KCUR, Healthcare Dive

Can unused “TV white spaces” close the rural and urban broadband–and telehealth–gap?

click to enlargeThe digital divide comes one step closer to closing. Microsoft’s release of its white paper proposing an alternative to the expensive build-out of the US broadband network deserved more attention than it received in July. The Rural Broadband Strategy combines TV white spaces spectrum (the unused UHV television band spectrum in the 600 MHz frequency range which can penetrate through walls, hilly topography, and other obstacles) with fixed wireless and satellite coverage to economically deliver coverage to un/under-served areas versus fiber cable (80 percent savings) and LTE fixed wireless (50 percent).

34 million Americans lack broadband connection to the internet. Some of these are voluntary opt-outs, but 23.4 million live in rural areas without access, with huge economic consequences estimated in the hundreds of billions. TV white spaces can also expand coverage in small cities and more densely populated areas, including usages such as within buildings. This effort also presses the FCC, which in turn has pressed for broadband for two decades, to ensure that at least three channels below 700 MHz are kept unlicensed in all markets in the US, with more TV white spaces for rural areas.

The first part, the Rural Airband Initiative, builds on Microsoft’s present 20 programs worldwide, and is planned to connect 2 million people in by July 4, 2022, with 12 projects across the US running in the next 12 months. Much of the connectivity is dedicated to nonprofit efforts like 4-H’s digital literacy program and ‘precision agriculture’ in New York State and Washington. Microsoft is also granting royalty-free access to 39 patents and sample source code related to white spaces spectrum use in rural areas.

A positive move for telehealth’s spread. Rural healthcare providers pay up to three times as much for broadband as their urban counterparts. Telemedicine increasingly connects for consults between hospitals in rural areas and city-based health systems for specialty coverage and to provide assistance in specialized medical procedures. Telemedicine and telehealth remote monitoring has difficulty spreading with poor internet coverage; this has already been a barrier to patients in rural ACOs who can be 1-2 hours from the doctor’s office and notably for the VA in providing rural veterans with home telehealth support. Paramedics increasingly rely on internet connections and dropped connections lead ambulances to go to hospitals at a greater distance. If the FCC cooperates and Microsoft’s partners can find a way to profitably execute, broadband can finally achieve that promise about closing the ‘digital divide’ made back in the Clinton Administration. A Rural Broadband Strategy: Connecting Rural America to New Opportunities  The Verge, mHealth Intelligence, Becker’s Hospital Review

More creepy monitoring: USAA collecting health information from patient portals

Veteran health reporter Anne Zieger has uncovered another instance of data mining that could be a benefit–or not. USAA, a financial services company for military and veteran families, has started to collect health data via electronic records from life insurance applicants at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense. They have streamlined the health records process in the application by developing with Cerner a feature called HealtheHistory that retrieves the data via the patient portal from the applicant’s EHR after consent. It cuts application time by 30 days, but the implications raise some alarms. In Ms. Zieger’s view, we should consider this carefully before huzzahing this type of data sharing:

  • Is an insurer going to care much about HIPAA compliance on PHI? In her view, not likely.
  • Is it a good idea to give an insurer full access to health data? There is the case of an otherwise healthy woman who tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene which indicates that the carrier has an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, who was turned down for insurance by USAA. To not disclose would be fraud, but the nuance is risk, not the condition.
  • Will the information be shared within USAA for judgment on other financial instruments, such as mortgages–regardless of legality?

EMR and EHR  Our previous look at data gathering on medical conditions run amok is here 

VA’s Shulkin: Cerner rollout start by mid-2019?

An interesting short (free) article on POLITICO Morning eHealth today was an interview with VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD on the Cerner transition, stating that if all went well with negotiations later this year, VA clinicians could be using the Cerner system by mid-2019. “There’s a lot of understandable concern about whether the Cerner EHR will have the same functionality as VistA, which has evolved to the physician’s needs over the past 35 years.” One of the problems with VistA was that it wasn’t one system, it was 130 systems, which is echoed in many EHRs. POLITICO goes on to quote Dr. Shulkin: “I don’t hear as many concerns about that as I do relief about finally making a decision because people felt this was the slow death of a system that they have poured their hearts and souls into. Knowing we’re committed to doing a transition as well as we can is reassuring to people.” Sadly, the rest of the interview is paywalled on POLITICO PRO. Earlier analysis: VA says goodbye to VistA, hello to Cerner. We wonder what the involvement and engagement of the four Home Telehealth winners of the 5-year contract will be.

VA unveils several ‘anywhere’ new telehealth services for veterans

The new Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin, has wasted no time since his appointment in introducing several technology and mobile-based services at the VA, all of which are long overdue in this Editor’s estimation:

  • Anywhere to Anywhere VA Health Care will authorize telehealth consults and cross-state care for veterans no matter their location and regardless of local telehealth restrictions. VA is already the largest provider of telemedicine services (called VA Telehealth) in 50 specialties to 700,000 veterans annually. This new regulation will enable VA to hire primary care and specialist doctors in metro areas to cover veterans in rural or underserved areas. 
  • Rolling out nationally over the next year is the VA Video Connect app where veterans can use their smartphones or home computers with video connections to consult with VA providers. At present 300 VA providers at 67 hospitals are using it.
  • The Veteran Appointment Request (VAR) app will also roll out from its test. It will enable veterans to use their smartphone, tablet or computer to schedule or modify appointments at VA facilities nationwide.

Dr. Shulkin advocated these programs while undersecretary, especially ‘Anywhere to Anywhere’, which required advice from the Justice Department. VA’s technology is also being supported by the American Office of Innovation to improve care transitions between the Defense Department and VA. 

President Trump participated in the announcement with Dr. Shulkin and sat in on between Albert Amescua, a 26-year Coast Guard veteran at a VA clinic in Grants Pass, Ore., and Brook Woods, a VA internist in Cleveland. VA announcement with videos, POLITICO Morning eHealth, HealthcareITNews

Cerner DoD deployment on time; Coast Guard EHR shopping; Air Force, VA sharing teleICU

The US Department of Defense announced that the deployment of Cerner’s EHR MHS Genesis at the Naval Hospital in Oak Harbor, Washington is on time for later this month. It’s a little unusual that anything this big and in the government is actually on time. It’s also meaningful for VA, as they are adopting MHS Genesis in an equally, if not longer, rollout [TTA 7 June]. Healthcare IT News

Less well known is the Coast Guard‘s dropping its costly six-year deployment of the Epic EHR last year and reverting to paper. They are not in the MHS Genesis rollout because the CG is part of the Department of Homeland Security, despite its service roots and structure similar to the US Navy. This has led to much speculation that their final choice will be DoD’s Cerner platform, although the OpenEMR Consortium has already answered their April RFI.

And even less noticed was the late June announcement that the US Air Force Medical Operations Agency and the VA are implementing a tele-ICU sharing arrangement, giving the USAF access to the VA’s capabilities at five AF locations: Las Vegas; Hampton, Virginia; Biloxi, Mississippi; Dayton, Ohio; and Anchorage, Alaska. The VA central tele-ICU facility is in Minneapolis. Doctors there can remotely consult, prescribe medications, order procedures and make diagnoses through live electronic monitoring. Becker’s Hospital Review, VA press release

VA says goodbye to VistA, hello to Cerner for new EHR–and possible impacts (updated)

The new sheriff just turned the town upside down. Veterans Affairs’ new Secretary, Dr. David J. Shulkin, as expected moved quickly on the VA’s EHR modernization before the July 1 deadline, and moved to the same vendor that the Department of Defense (DoD) chose in 2015 for the Military Health System, Cerner. VA will adapt MHS GENESIS, based on Cerner Millenium. The rationale is seamless interoperability both with DoD and with private sector community providers and vendors, which base their services on commercial EHRs. The goal is to have one record for a service member through his or her lifetime and to eliminate the transition gap after discharge or retirement. (Transition gaps are also repeated when reservists or National Guard are called up for active duty then returned to their former status.) Another priority for VA is preventing the high rate of suicide among vulnerable veterans.

Updates: VA confirmed that Epic and Leidos will keep the development of the online medical appointment scheduling program, awarded in 2015 and currently in pilot, to be completed in 18 months. The contract is worth $624 million over five years. Wisconsin State Journal  The House Appropriations subcommittee on Veterans Affairs likes the Cerner EHR change. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is meeting Wednesday to discuss the VA budget sans the EHR transition. The EHR numbers are expected to be sooner rather than later. POLITICO Morning eHealth 

Dr. Shulkin is well acquainted with the extreme need for a modernized, interoperable system serving the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), having been on the US Senate Hot Grill for some years as Undersecretary of Health for VA. The foundation for the move from homegrown VistA to Cerner was laid last year during the prior Administration through an August RFI for a COTS (commercial off the shelf) EHR [TTA 12 Aug 16] and in later hearings. “Software development is not a core competency of VA” and it has been obvious in system breakdowns like scheduling, maintaining cybersecurity and the complex interoperability between two different systems. To move to Cerner immediately without a competition, which took DoD over two years, Dr. Shulkin used his authority to sign a “Determination and Findings” (D&F) which provides for a public health exception to the bidding process. The value of the Cerner contract will not be determined for several months.

For those sentimental about VistA, he acknowledged the pioneering role of the EHR back in the 1970s, but that calls for modernization started in 2000 with seven ‘blue ribbon’ commissions and innumerable Congressional hearings since. He understated the cost in the failed efforts on interoperability with DoD’s own AHLTA system, VA’s own effort at a new architecture, and modernizing the outpatient system. This Editor tallied these three alone at $3 billion in GAO’s reckoning [‘Pondering the Squandering’, TTA 27 July 13]. 

It is still going to take years to implement–no quick fixes in something this massive, despite the urgency.

  • Both MHS and VA will be running two systems at once for years (more…)

Iron Bow partners with Vivify Health for $258 million VA telehealth contract

One mystery solved! Iron Bow Technologies announced that its telehealth delivery partner for their award of $258 million in the Veterans Affairs Home Telehealth program is Plano, Texas-based Vivify Health. As noted in our original article [TTA 6 Feb] on the much-delayed VA remote patient monitoring award, Iron Bow was an existing contractor in other VA Telehealth services, Clinical Video Telehealth (video conferencing) and Store-and-Forward (clinical imaging review), but did not have vital signs RPM capability. The addition of Vivify with its mobile and tablet-based solutions and integrated peripherals adds that capability.

Vivify structures its main telehealth solutions based on escalating patient ‘risk’: 1) healthy and ‘at risk’ (may have early stage disease), 2) rising risk (has complex chronic disease) and 3) high risk (for hospitalization). The approaches are scaled up from engagement on BYOD mobile and web for (1), to vital signs monitoring and telemedicine clinician visits via mobile and tablet (2), to the highest level of an integrated kit with tablet and integrated peripherals (3). These further divide into five ‘pathways’ which are more product-oriented.

Cost is, of course, a factor, with VA a very demanding client in this regard as individual VISN (region) budgets are tight. Medtronic, the incumbent, has not only been using the venerable Cardiocom Commander Flex hub, but also provides VA with Interactive Voice Monitoring (IVR) which is an inexpensive patient management solution. (Ed. note: having worked with IVR in the past, it can work well if used with primarily lower-risk patients, is structured/implemented properly and integrated with live clinical check-ins.) Vivify’s system is all new–and not inexpensive, especially at the high-risk level. From their website, Vivify uses BYOD for the lower levels and the integrated kit for the highest and poorer outcome patients. This Editor notes they offer a voice telephony care solution which presumably is IVR. This gives them a welcome flexibility in price, but also a complexity which will be a training issue with VA care coordinators.

Other factors affect mobile-based solutions. Many at risk at-home veterans are older and thus don’t have smartphones or tablets. Reliable broadband connectivity is also an issue. Many don’t have Wi-Fi, which is a prerequisite for tablet use, and may live in areas with poor cellular reception.

The other work and labor-intensive parts for Vivify and Iron Bow are to integrate their reporting platform into VA’s complex and secure systems, which also involves a highly structured updating process: CPRS (computerized patient record systems), the VistA EHR and whatever replaces it (Epic is being trialed in Boise, Idaho–scroll down to ‘Big Decisions’ and Dr Shulkin).

Founded in 2009, Vivify has compiled an impressive track record with CHRISTUS Health (TX), RWJ Health (NJ), Trinity Health (MI), Centura Health (CO) and other large systems plus home care. It has also been conservative in its venture funding, with $23.4 million to date and its last big round from LabCorp and others in 2014 (CrunchBase).

Release. Hat tip to Vivify’s Bill Paschall via LinkedIn.  P.S. Stay tuned for an announcement of 1Vision’s partner. 

Editor’s clarification: The VA Home Telehealth contract is structured as a one-year base period, followed by four one-year optional periods, for five years total. The awarded amount over the five-year period is $258 million for Iron Bow/Vivify. It is the same amount/term for each of the three other awarded companies, totaling just over $1 billion for the five-year program. This is comparable to the 2011 five-year program value of $1.3 billion divided over six awardees. Thanks to Josie Smoot of Iron Bow Technologies’ press office.

VA awards over $1 billion in Home Telehealth contracts–at long last (updated)

Breaking News, Updated  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on 1 Feb issued over $1 billion in awards to four companies to provide Home Telehealth vital signs monitoring technologies to veterans in home care and monitoring. The four companies are Medtronic, Care Innovations, Iron Bow Technologies, and 1Vision LLC. The $1 billion is split evenly between the four ($258 million for each company over the five-year duration). The contracts are for an initial year (31 Jan 2018 end date listed on GovTribe.com), renewable annually for five years total. The bid process started in 2015 and the award had originally been scheduled for early-to-mid 2016.

On the suppliers:

  • Medtronic is the incumbent as a supplier since 2011, dating back to Cardiocom’s 2011 award for its home monitoring units (Cardiocom was acquired in August 2013). Medtronic is a Dublin, Ireland HQ’d company with a US headquarters in Minnesota.
  • Care Innovations is well known to our Readers as the developer of Health Harmony and the acquirer of the QuietCare telecare/behavioral monitoring used in senior housing. Their parent is Intel.
  • Iron Bow Technologies is a supplier to VA in other healthcare areas (telemedicine and store-and-forward) and is a large, privately held IT company with multiple Federal contracts and deep Federal contractor roots. Their revenue has been reported at over $462 million (Washington Technology Top 100 2016).
  • 1Vision LLC is a new company formed as a joint venture between HMS Technologies, Inc. and MBL Technologies, Inc. Neither are previously engaged as home telehealth providers, but both are Federal contractors. According to their individual websites, HMS is an IT systems integrator and MBL is engaged primarily in cybersecurity.

The question for this Editor is how Iron Bow and 1Vision, which are not telehealth (vital signs) monitoring companies but telemedicine and IT service providers respectively, will execute Home Telehealth with the VA. Have they partnered with yet-to-be disclosed providers in providing home telehealth services to the VA? (Watch this space)

While the award is the largest in US telehealth, the VA is, by this Editor’s experience in her last position with Viterion Corporation, extremely demanding on its service providers and will be even more so in the future. The future reasons are clear: 1) President Trump has put a Klieg light on the VA and 2) he’s named a new VA secretary, Dr David Shulkin, who is currently VA Undersecretary for Health (confirmation hearing notes courtesy of POLITICO, nomination approved by the Senate committee Tuesday, and easily confirmed Monday night 13 Feb), who has been highly engaged with HIT issues, including both the VistA EHR modernization/replacement and initiatives such as the recently unveiled Digital Health Platform [TTA 12 Jan]. (more…)

VA Digital Health Platform proof-of-concept unveiled; new VA head nominated

Back in April 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Congressional hearings hinted at an end of year preview of a ‘state-of-the-art’ digital health platform which would integrate veteran health information from multiple sources. That debut was revealed this week in analytics vendor Apervita‘s announcement that they are participating in a proof-of-concept of the VA Digital Health Platform (DHP). According to their release, in the first three weeks, they and the DHP partners demonstrated that they could organize and extract insights from veteran data originating from VA, military, and commercial electronic health records, plus e-prescribing, apps, devices, and wearables. The end outcome is to provide a unified view or dashboard that integrates data, implements a care plan, tracks clinical encounters, optimizes medications, responds to patient needs, and more. The prime contractor in DHP is Georgia Tech, which brought on board Apervita, Salesforce (workflow user engagement), and MuleSoft (API). Next steps are not disclosed. Mobihealthnews, Health Data Management

One of the sparkplugs behind the DHP and also interoperability of DOD’s and VA’s badly outdated VISTA EHR is current VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin, MD. Today, at an eventful press conference, President-Elect Donald J. Trump nominated him for the VA secretary position. Dr Shulkin was previously CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC and president of the Atlantic Health System ACO. He will also be, upon Senate approval, the first non-veteran head of the VA. What is apparent is that P-E Trump has not moved one iota from the promise he made during the campaign to move fast on modernizing, improving quality and speeding up veterans health services–and for that he needs an insider.  Health Data Management