News roundup: VA extends Oracle Cerner for 11 months; Amwell founders swap jobs; Alphabet’s Verily pivots to Lightpath with GLP-1, retiring Onduo; UnitedHealth hasn’t notified on Change breach

To no one’s surprise, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) extended its contract with Oracle Cerner for another 11 months. This is per the new contract relationship that started last year, resetting from the original five-year contract that started in 2018 to five one-year terms, with mandatory annual reviews and renewals [TTA 18 May 2023]. Technically, the contract expired in May but VA extended it for one month as discussions continued over the next one-year term. This second option period expiring May 2025, according to the VA release, is focused on the following for the EHR modernization (EHRM):

  • Supporting the existing six facilities with the Oracle Cerner EHR
  • Achieving the goals of the reset and driving towards future deployments
  • Increased accountability across a variety of key areas, including minimizing outages and incidents, resolving clinician requests, improving interoperability with other health care systems, and increasing interoperability with other applications to ensure an integrated health care experience
  • Supporting value-added services, such as system improvements and optimizations
  • Achieving better predictability in hosting, deployment, and sustainment
  • Fiscal responsibility 

The plan is to resume site deployments in FY 2025, likely in year 2025, after reset goals are met. Seema Verma, Oracle Health’s new executive vice president and general manager, said that “VA’s intent to resume deployments in the next fiscal year is a significant milestone that reflects the hard work our collective teams have done to improve the system today, as well as confidence in our shared ability to continually evolve the EHR over time to meet the needs of both practitioners and patients.” NextGov/FCW, FierceHealthcare, Healthcare Dive, Oracle release

Is there much choice for the VA in the matter? Not really. VistA can be updated but remains non-interoperable with the Military Health System’s (MHS) Cerner-Leidos EHR. But can Oracle Cerner be fixed up and debugged to work for VA’s vastly different needs and smoothly deployed within the contract duration? That jury is still out in the view of the VA and Congress.

The Brothers Schoenberg swap positions at Amwell. Roy Schoenberg, MD, MPH, will transition immediately from his role as president and co-CEO to move to executive vice chairman of Amwell’s board of directors. Ido Schoenberg, MD, will become the sole CEO. The brothers co-founded the company in 2006. Ido’s quote closing the release is interesting in demonstrating the shift from investment without profits to getting on the path to profitability:  “This transition represents a natural evolution for our company as we shift from a period of intense R&D investment to an operational focus aimed at achieving greater efficiencies, optimizing cash flow and delivering profitable growth while maintaining our dedication to enabling our clients’ aspirations.” Roy is credited with developing Converge which is their next-generation integrated platform. If Teladoc is finding it difficult to transition from the stand-alone, transactional, urgent care service they and Amwell pioneered, into an evolved market that has incorporated virtual capabilities into multiple types of care models, whither Amwell’s future? More thoughts in TTA 2 May, 9 April

Alphabet (Google)’s once-visionary Verily now jumps on the GLP-1 bandwagon with Lightpath. Verily’s latest pivot to the highly trendy weight loss area is termed as a metabolic solution as part of a “personalized chronic care solution for health plans and members”.  Lightpath will start as Lightpath Metabolic, a four-part program that includes Metabolic Intensive (diabetes management), Weight Loss Intensive, Metabolic Improvement, and Metabolic Achievement. The Verily platform integrates data from health records, connected devices, and other care points to deliver “personalized pathways, suggestions, and nudges to health plan members” virtually along with health coaches and an advanced licensed clinical team. The current virtual chronic care management platform, Onduo, will be retired by 2025.

Once upon a time (2021, sigh), Verily was Google’s skunk works for advanced health tech with Google Health being the marketing and merchandising arm for clinical and consumer products. Google Health was broken up in August 2021 and Verily faded into the Alphabet background with the occasional joint venture and clinical pilots, with Onduo being their most marketable product. Google seems to have little direction for Verily other than to keep it alive. And given the competition plus a greater understanding of the long term effects of the GLP-1 drugs in the weight loss area, the GLP bandwagon is up for a shaky ride in the next year. Release, FierceHealthcare

And very strangely, UnitedHealth Group hasn’t notified Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (HHS-OCR) about the ransomware data breach at Change Healthcare, nor the individuals affected. The notification to OCR is required under HIPAA to be within 60 days of the date of the incident. UHG is over the deadline by two months, calculating from 21 February. CEO Andrew Witty wilted before double-barreled Senate and House hearings in May and UHG lost a fight to put the notifications for the breach onto providers [TTA 5 June]. Senators Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) sent a joint letter on 7 June to Andrew Witty, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, urging him to send a breach notification letter that notifies OCR, state regulators, Congress, the media, and health care providers that it intends to complete all breach notifications on behalf of all HIPAA-covered entities, individuals and businesses affected, by 21 June. That’s Friday. UHG continues to maintain that they still do not know the extent of the breach. The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) also sent a letter to Mr. Witty on 12 JuneDon’t hold your breath for UHG sending millions of letters. Becker’s, HealthExec

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