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From Around the #HIMSS15 Twittersphere

Posted on April 8, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Yep, I have HIMSS on the mind. What can I do? I’ll be there for a week with more meetings and events than I care to count. It’s going to be fun. I thought it would be fun to highlight some tweets (like I do regularly) and add a little bit of my own snark (another regular occurrence).


A little self serving (I know), but these hidden gems really are worth it and people don’t even know that they happen. Now you’ve been told.


Would you rather hang out with Bennett at the parties or with Chuck at the workflow tech companies? That’s a tough one. Although, you have to credit Chuck on being true to form. Plus, I hear he’s going to be displaying his robot, 3D Printing, drone, etc at the ClinicSpectrum booth. Should be something different than you’ll find at most booths.


I thought security would be really big at HIMSS as well, but I haven’t seen that to be the case. Or at least I thought it would be much bigger. Sure, the topic will be covered in most sessions and discussions, but I thought we’d see a wave of new HIPAA related vendors at HIMSS, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Maybe I just haven’t heard from them.


People don’t go to HIMSS? (I told you I’d bring some snark). I think our HIMSS15 Twitter Tricks and Tips will help people out that aren’t attending.


Too far! Hey…they asked. I’m not complaining though. I enjoy walking. I think I lost 5 pounds at HIMSS last year. I chalk it up to all the walking, but also no time to actually eat. One of the best ways to avoid eating is to stay busy. HIMSS keeps me busy. (Look at that health knowledge I’m throwing your way).


Social vendor? How do you measure that? Who throws the best party? Who is the most friendly? Who tweets the most? Who has the best tweets?

I think he probably means which vendor best uses social media. My guess will be CDW healthcare in that regard. The people behind their social accounts (StudioNorth for those keeping track at home) are always up to something. They better not let me down now that I predicted it 😉


I’m lucky to call Shahid my partner, so I take every chance I can get to hear him speak or hear discussions he lead. The topic of getting clinical value and ROI out of data is going to be such an important one for healthcare going forward.


This has to make your heart hurt a little. Looks like Richard is from Bogota, Colombia. I hope someone can help him out. Being out $2k would stink.

I fly out Saturday and I’m there until Friday. I look forward to seeing so many of you at the event. I’ll be doing my full write up of places I’ll be and things to see at HIMSS 2015 over on EMR and HIPAA tomorrow.

Where Medical Devices Fall Short: Can More Testing Help? (Part 1 of 2)

Posted on April 3, 2015 I Written By

Andy Oram is an editor at O'Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in open source, software engineering, and health IT, but his editorial output has ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. His articles have appeared often on EMR & EHR and other blogs in the health IT space. Andy also writes often for O'Reilly's Radar site (http://oreilly.com/) and other publications on policy issues related to the Internet and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O'Reilly's Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM, and DebConf.

Clinically, medical devices do amazing things–they monitor vital signs (which, as the term indicates, can have life-or-death implications), deliver care, and measure health in the form of fitness devices. But technologically, medical devices fall way short–particularly in areas of interference, interoperability, and security.

The weaknesses of devices, their networks, and the settings where they reside came up over and over again in a joint workshop held by the FCC and FDA on March 31. I had a chance to hear most of it via live broadcast, a modern miracle of networking in itself.

Officially, the topic of the gathering was test beds for medical devices. Test beds are physical centers set up to mimic real-life environments in which devices are used, hosting large numbers of devices from different manufacturers running the popular software and protocols that they would employ out in the field. The workshop may have been an outgrowth of a 2012 report from an FCC mHealth Task Force which recommended “FCC should encourage and lend its expertise for the creation and implementation of wireless test beds.” (Goal 4.4, page 13) I thought the workshop had little new to offer on test beds, however, as the panelists concentrated on gaps between clinical needs and the current crop of devices and networks.

Medical settings are notoriously difficult places to employ technology. One panelist even referred to them as “hostile environments,” which I think is going a bit far. After all, other industries employ devices outdoors where temperatures drop below zero or rise precariously, or underwater, or even on battlefields (which actually are also medical settings).

I don’t dispute that medical networks present their own particular challenges. Hospitals crowd many devices into small spaces (one picture displayed at the workshop showed 15 wireless devices in a hospital room). Some last for decades, churning away while networks, environments, and requirements change around them. Walls and equipment may contain lead, blocking signals. Meanwhile, patient safety requires correct operation, resilience, and iron-clad security. Meanwhile, patients and their families expect access to a WiFi networks just like they get in the cafe down the street.

And yet Shawn Jackman, Director of Strategic Planning at Kaiser Permanente IT, said that problems are usually not in the infrastructure but in the devices. Let’s look at the main issue, interference (on which the panelists spent much more time than interoperability or security) and then at the ideas emerging from the workshop.

All the devices we associate with everyday network use (the IEEE 802.11 devices called WiFi) are all squeezed into two bands of the radio spectrum at 2.4 Gigahertz and 5 Gigahertz. When the inventors of WiFi told the world’s regulators that they had a new technology requiring a bandwidth in which to operate, freeing up existing bandwidth was hard to do, and the inventors were mere engineers, not powerful institutions such as the military or television broadcasters. So they resigned themselves to the use of the 2.4 and 5 Gigahertz bands, which were known as “junk spectrum” because all sorts of other equipment were allowed to emit radio-frequency noise in those bands.

Thus, because the bands are relatively narrow and are crowded with all sorts of radio emissions, interference is hard to avoid. But you don’t want to enter a patient’s room and find her comatose while a key monitor was unable to send out its signal.

Ironically, at the request of health IT companies, the FCC set aside two sets of spectrum for medical use, the Medical Device Radiocommunications Service (MedRadio) established in 1999 and the Wireless Medical Telemetry Service (WMTS) established in 2002. But these are almost completely ignored.

According to Shahid Shah, a medical device and software development expert, technologies that are dedicated to narrow markets such as health are crippled from the outset. They can’t benefit from the economies of scale enjoyed by mass market technologies, so they tend to be expensive, poorly designed, and locked in to their vendors. Just witness the market for electronic health records. So the medical profession found devices designed for the medical bands unsatisfactory and turned to devices that used the WiFi spectrum.

In 2010, by the way, the FCC relaxed its rules and permitted new devices to enter the little-used spectrum at the edges of television channels, known as white spaces, but commercial exploitation of the new spectrum is still in its infancy.

Furthermore, the FCC has freed up the enormous bandwidth used for decades to broadcast TV networks, by kicking off the stubborn users (known with respect as the “last grandmas”) who didn’t want to pay more for cable. An enormous stretch of deliciously long-range spectrum is theoretically available for public use–but the FCC won’t release it that way. Instead, they will sell it to other large corporations.

Networks are unreliable across the field. How often do you notice the wireless Internet go down at a conference? (It happened to me at a conference I attended the next day after the FCC/FDA workshop. At one conference, somebody even stole the hubs!) Further problems include network equipment of different ages that use slightly different protocols, which prove particularly troublesome when devices have to change location. (Think of wheeling a patient down the hall.) And you can’t just make sure everything is working the first time a device is deployed. Changes in the environment and surrounding equipment can lead to a communications failure that never turned up before, or that turned up and you thought you had fixed.

Medical device and wireless expert David Höglund claims that WLAN can work in a healthcare environment for medical devices. He lays out three overarching tasks that administrators must do for success:

  • They have to understand how each application works and its communications patterns: real-time delivery of small packets, batch delivery of large volumes of data, etc.

  • They have to provide the coverage required for each device or application. Is it used in the hallways, the patient rooms, the labs? How about the elevators on which patients are transported?

  • They need to obey the application’s quality service requirements. For instance, how long is a failure tolerable? For a device monitoring a patient’s heart in the ICU, a five-second interruption may be too long.

Medical devices and hospital networks need to be more robust and more secure than the average WiFi network. This calls for redundant equipment, separate networks for different purposes, and lots of testing. Hence the need for test beds, which many hospitals and conglomerates set up for themselves. Should the FCC create a national test bed? We’ll look at that in the next installment of this article.

Karen DeSalvo’s Sit Down Interview with Shahid Shah at the Health Privacy Summit

Posted on August 7, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

At the 2014 Patient Privacy Summit, Shahid Shah had a “Fireside Chat” with Karen DeSalvo. The interview was really great because it was the first time that I’ve seen Karen DeSalvo talk in a more casual and less scripted setting. In the interview you learn a lot about the leader of ONC and what’s on her mind and how her and ONC plan to approach healthcare IT in the future. Of course, since it’s at the Patient Privacy Summit, there’s a specific emphasis on privacy, but they also cover a lot of other related topics. Enjoy!

Is the End of the Standalone EHR and PM Near?

Posted on July 25, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

News this week came out that simplifMD and Azalea Health were merging companies. It’s an interesting merger since Azalea Health has been strong on the PM side of things and an EHR that’s not yet MU 2 certified, while simplifyMD has been more focused on the EHR side of things. As one company they can put together their PM and EHR into one standalone system.

As Shahid Shah recently pointed out on his Healthcare IT Guy interview with Melissa McCormack from Software Advice, buyers are decidely more interested in an integrated PM and EHR. Here’s one of the questions and answers:

1. As EHR meaningful use requirements grow more involved, standalone billing or scheduling systems are becoming less viable. In fact, nearly 70 percent of the buyers we spoke with wanted integration between practice management and EHR. The trend of PM buyers looking for robust EHR integration grows more pronounced each year, and shows no signs of tapering off since EHR meaningful use requirements increasingly require physicians to utilize charting, billing and scheduling in tandem. Vendors who can offer seamless integration between these applications will have a clear advantage over those who cannot.

I find this question interesting, because the trend towards an integrated EHR and PM started when I first started blogging about EHR software about 9 years ago. Now there are only a few standalone EHR companies left. There are more standalone PM vendors left, but most of them see the writing on the wall and know that they won’t survive as just a PM. In fact, some of those PM companies have stopped developing their PM and are just at a stand still waiting for their last customers to leave. It’s been amazing to see how long some of these extremely small PM vendors have survived.

With that said, is the end of the separate EHR and PM near? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What if the FDA Started Regulating EHR?

Posted on March 20, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In the world of mobile health, we’ve often talked about what will happen if the FDA starts to regulate the various mobile health apps out there. In fact, the FDA has come out with some pretty detailed guidelines on what mobile health applications and devices need FDA clearance. To date, the FDA has stayed away from any regulation of EHR software.

On my ride to the airport after the Dell Healthcare Think Tank event, we had an interesting and engaging conversation about the FDA when it comes to EHR software. Some of the discussion was around whether the FDA would start regulating EHR software.

Shahid Shah suggested that it was extremely unlikely that the FDA would touch EHR software at least until meaningful use was complete and the current President was out of office. He rightfully argues that this administration has hung their hat on EHR and the FDA wasn’t going to step in and stop that program. Plus, Shahid suggested that ONC wouldn’t let the FDA do it either. Janet Marchibroda from the Bipartisan Policy Center was hopeful that Shahid was right, but wasn’t as confident of this analysis.

After hearing them discuss this, I asked them the question:

What would happen to the EHR Market if the FDA started regulating EHR?

Shahid quickly responded that the majority of EHR vendors would go out of business and only a small handful of companies would go through the FDA clearance process. Then, he suggested that this is exactly why the FDA won’t regulate EHR software. FDA regulation of EHR would wipe out the industry.

This is a really interesting question and discussion. The reality is that there are a lot of similarities between EHR software and medical devices. One could make a really good case for why the FDA should regulate it like medical devices. One could make a case for the benefit of some rigor in the development of EHR software. However, there’s no appetite for such a change. In fact, the only people I’ve seen calling for it are those who think that EHR is unusable and potentially harmful to patients. I’m not sure FDA regulation will make them more usable though.

Now, juxtaposition the above conversation with this post by William Hyman titled “A Medical Device Recall of an EHR-like Product” In this case, the FDA announced McKesson’s voluntary recall of it’s Anesthesia Care system. This software was tightly integrated with other FDA regulated medical devices. I wonder what this means for other EHR software that is starting to integrate with a plethora of FDA cleared medical devices and other non FDA cleared medical devices.

I’m personally with Shahid in that I don’t think the FDA is going to touch EHR software with a long pole. At least, not until after meaningful use. After meaningful use, I guess we’ll see what they decide to do.

Developing Safety Critical Healthcare Software

Posted on June 21, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The Healthcare IT Guy, Shahid Shah, has a great post up on his blog about writing safety critical software using an agile, risk-based approach. Here’s a portion of the blog post where Shahid really hits the nail on the head:

Much of that [every software being custom] changed in the 90’s and then upended even further in the early part of the 21st century; we should no longer weighed down by the baggage of the past.These days even our hardware is agile and extensible, real-time operating systems are plentiful, software platforms are malleable, mHealth is well established, and programming languages are sophisticated so we need to be open to reconsidering our development approaches, especially risk-based agile.

Why should we use “risk-based” agile? Because not every single line of code in software can or should be treated equally – some parts of our medical device software can kill people, many parts merely annoy people, but most other parts simply aren’t worth the same attention as the safety-critical components. When you treat every line of code the same (as is often true in a plan-driven approach) and you have a finite amount of resources and time you end up with lower quality software and less reliable medical devices. It’s not fair to blame the FDA for our own bad practices.

I’m always amazed by Shahid’s knowledge and ability to describe something in simple terms. I should know since I’m often on calls with Shahid since he’s my partner in Influential Networks and Physia.

The irony is that in the EHR and mHealth world you could argue that many have taken too much of a lean approach to building their applications while the medical device world treats every part of the software as a patient safety issue. Now if we could just bring the two together into a more reasonable balance of what’s important from the safety side and what’s not.

As far as I can tell, the FDA is planning to mostly stay out of regulating the general mHealth and EHR side of healthcare IT and will stick to the medical devices and mHealth devices that fit under the medical device term. I think this is generally a good thing for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that the FDA doesn’t have the expertise needed to regulate EHR software. However, I wouldn’t mind a touch more patient safety concern from EHR vendors. Maybe the EHR Code of Conduct will help add a little more to this concern.

Of course, as Shahid points out, you don’t have to sacrifice agile software development to develop safety critical software. This is true in medical device development, EHR development, and even mHealth development.

Legacy EMR Bloggers

Posted on May 23, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today I had an Italian friend of mine (I lived there for 2 years) find me on Facebook. I hadn’t seen or heard from the man in 10, almost 11 years. It was a joyous reunion and fun to catch up. I really hold relationships dear and truly love seeing people I haven’t seen in years.

One of the funny blogger stories I have was when I reached out to Christina Thielst from Christina’s Considerations. She loves to tell this story to people. First, you have to know that Christina’s blog was one of the first healthcare IT blogs I found when I began blogging 7.5 years ago. In fact, I must admit that I barely knew her name. I always just thought of her as the RHIO (there’s an old term for you) blogger.

Well, 6 years or so later I saw her name and picture on LinkedIn and so I decided to request that we connect. She politely replied that she declined my connection because she only connected with people she knew on LinkedIn. I was a little sad at the response, but replied that she probably had forgotten me and that we’d known each other’s blogs for many years. She then replied with a request to connect and an apology for not recognizing my name. It turns out she was like me and only knew the name of my blog and not my name.

As I thought about these long term relationships it’s fun for me to look back at which blogs were around when I first starting blogging about EMR. Here are a few that come to mind:

Neil Versel – I’m happy that I now consider Neil a friend, but when I first started blogging I looked to him and learned. He was and is a professional journalist and I was just a hack. I learned a lot from him and modeled a lot of what he was doing.

Healthcare Guy – I was always amazed at the stuff Shahid would write on his blog and enjoyed HITSphere which he created. Now he’s my partner in two businesses which we first talked about creating after we met in person at a HIMSS press room. I’m still amazed every time I’m on a call with Shahid. I like to just sit back, listen and learn from him.

HIStalk – I think Mr. H remembers those good old days. The funny thing is that when I first came across his posts they didn’t make much sense to me. They’re so full of industry jargon that it was like reading another language for me. Of course, now it’s often news and rumors I’ve already heard, but I still enjoy his wit. It’s like picking up the healthcare IT tabloids. You can’t look away. Plus, Inga is a sweetheart, even if she won’t tell me who she is. Maybe the Inga mystery is better.

Dalai’s PACS Blog – Sadly someone I have yet to meet in person. The PACS blog was and always has been an irreverent mix of many topics sprinkled with PACS talk. I have a feeling that the blog reflects the writer, which is why I’d love to one day meet him.

The Medical Quack – Barbara Duck has always been a good friend to me. I’ve always hated her blogger design, but she seems to like it. Barbara and I first met on the EMR Update forum (where I really cut my EMR teeth), and she’s always been a kind, but passionate lover of healthcare. I still remember how brave she was to be developing an EMR on her own (she’s since shut it down).

Candid CIO – Still one of my favorite blogs to read. I think Will is one of the smartest hospital CIOs that I’ve met. He has great insight and a great view of his job as CIO. Plus, I love a hospital CIO that’s willing to take time to blog.

The Healthcare Blog – I’m not sure if this one started a little after mine or if I just didn’t find it until after. Although, it was one of the early ones and had great writers like David Kibbe and Vince Kuraitis. Plus, the always interesting Matthew Holt. It’s not exclusively healthcare IT (which is my love), but a huge portion of it is about health IT.

When I think about all of these blogs that have been there since the beginning it’s fun to see so many of them still around and blogging today. That’s a special commitment. Although, I also realized that when it comes to blogs, you might call us the Legacy EMR bloggers. To use my own analogy, are we the Jabba the Hutt EMR bloggers? In some ways I think I am. The question is whether a blogger does better with age like a fine wine or if it just rots and gets thrown out.

NIST May Standardize The Cloud, Even If It’s Too Late For EMRs

Posted on March 5, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Over at the august halls of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, researchers have been compiling data on what makes EMRs usable. A year ago, in April 2011, NIST presented a draft set of usability standards. At the same hearing, a wide range of academics and scholars got up to talk about what they saw as they key issues — including whether EMR workflow should be changed to make it cost-efficient.

Since then, from what I can tell, there’s been a lot of noise but little light shed on the design specs a truly usable EMR should adhere to.  There’s been some progress in the development of HIE connections between EMRs, some worthwhile work EMR return on investment and even some improvements that might leverage EMRs to help doctors collect more from patients.

Talk to many doctors, and they’ll tell you their EMR stinks. Why? Largely because workflow is still inefficient and the “click burden,” which can drive doctors through a dozen steps to get tasks handled, hasn’t been reduced any too much. Some older docs I’ve spoken with even pine for the rough-hewn EMRs of 20 to 30 years ago more, which were at least built by their colleagues.

Honestly, I don’t expect the “awkward interface” problem to go away anytime soon. But while we stew on this issue, you might be interested to learn that NIST is taking over a few related problems in which it could conceivably make a real difference.

A few months ago, NIST released the 16th and final draft of its recommendations on definition of cloud computing. (Talk about insisting on getting it right!)  Not everyone in the health IT industry is even aware that NIST has kicked out a cloud standards document, which our friend Shahid Shah, “The Healthcare Guy,” is urging people to get onto their radar.  Maybe this time, NIST has a chance to actually standardize before an industry runs while with its own implementations of key technology.

I think I’ll finish with Shahid’s comments on the subject, as I think he’s pretty clearly got it right:

My strong recommendation to all senior healthcare executives is that we not come up with our own definitions for cloud components – instead, when communicating anything about the cloud we should instruct our customers about NIST’s definition and then tie our product offerings to those definitions. The essential characteristics, deployment models, and service models have already been established and we should use them. When we do that, customers know that we’re not trying to confuse them and that they have an independent way of verifying our cloud offerings as real or vapor.

Genomics Based EHR

Posted on January 10, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This is a pretty old tweet that I’d stored away, but I’m completely interested in the idea of a Genomics based EHR. I meant to reach out to Don Fluckinger to see what he was talking about. I don’t think that there is any EHR that is based on Genomics. Although, if there is I’d love to know about it. Instead, I’m pretty sure that Don is just talking about integrating Genomics into EHR software.

I’ve made this prediction for a number of years now: Genomics will be part of the EHR software of the future. Genomics is one of the core elements that I think a “Smart EMR” will be required to have in the future. I really feel that the future of patient care will require some sort of interaction with genomic data and that will only be able to be done with a computer and likely an EHR. I love some of the quotes by Shahid Shah in this eWeek article about Digital Biology and Digital Chemistry.

As I think about genomics interacting with EHR data and the benefits that could provide healthcare going forward, I realize that at some point doctors won’t have any choice but to adopt an EHR software. It will eventually be like a doctor saying they don’t want to use a blood pressure cuff since they don’t like technology.

Build Or Buy, EMRs Cost A Bundle

Posted on March 7, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Ever wonder whether it would be smart to drop your vendors and grow your own EMR/HIT apps?  Here’s some food for thought.

Today, I ran across a very detailed analysis of the labor costs involved in developing EMR and HIT applications, straight from the blog of the always perceptive Shahid Shah.

Shah, a longtime health IT consultant and former CTO for two EMR companies, just posted a list of the various professionals you’ll need to develop such applications — and the high prices these professionals command:

  • Clinicians and healthcare professionals (HCP) like docs, nurses, etc. – perhaps as consultants
  • Senior project manager – about $150k per year
  • User interaction engineer (UX, usability) – about $120k per year
  • Web design engineers (UI, HTML, JavaScript) – about $60k to $100k per year
  • Web developers (UI, PHP, JavaScript, HTML) – about $80k to $120k per year
  • Mobile app developers (iOS, Android, etc.) — about $90k per year
  • Database modeler and information architect (SQL) — about $150k per year
  • Database administrator (SQL) –  about $120k per year
  • API engineer (REST / SOAP) – about $120k per year
  • Service code engineers (Java, Ruby, etc.) – about $150k per year
  • Security analyst and privacy engineer (HIPAA, HITECH, Sarbox, etc.) — perhaps as consultants, $175k per year
  • Cloud infrastructure admins (Amazon, Eucalyptus) – about $90k per year
  • Network infrastructure admin / engineer (TCP/IP, etc.) – about $120k per year
  • Data integration engineers (ESB / ETL / connectors) – about $90k per year
  • HL7 and healthcare data integration conformance engineers – about $90k per year
  • Technical documentation specialist – about $60k per year
  • Quality assurance directors (test strategy, test planning) — about $120k per year
  • Quality assurance engineers (test planning, manual execution) – about $80k per year
  • Quality assurance automation (automated execution) engineers – about $90k per year
  • Trainers (folks with healthcare office experience plus tech knowhow) — about $60k per year

As Shah notes, this is what U.S. specialists typically cost.  (Working with Indian developers can save you about 35 percent, he estimates.)  Still, either way we’re talking about a bundle on compensation alone.

Despite the expense, there are probably some large institutions which will choose to develop EMRs or related applications internally.

After all, if you have a deep enough IT bench, developing even high-end applications might be cheaper than paying for high-end packaged products.  And of course, there’s always something to be said for apps developed exactly to your own specs.

Ideally, your institution could build its own EMR/HIT apps, then license them to other institutions or co-develop them with partners who can sell them elsewhere. (For an example of how this might work, check out the $400 million partnership deal the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center did with IBM a few years ago.)

Still, Shah’s analysis is more than a little sobering, isn’t it?