LOSS OF AN ELDER: Cerner Chairman and CEO Neal Patterson died Sunday of unexpected complications from a soft-tissue cancer, the company he co-founded announced. Patterson was 67. Cliff Illig, who helped create Cerner with Patterson in 1979, has been named interim chairman and CEO, the company announced, saying it was close to naming a new CEO. Patterson had been ill with cancer for more than a year.
Allscripts CEO Paul Black, a former Cerner executive, called Patterson his “friend and mentor. … His vision, passion and grit created HIT as we know it today.” Said Epic Founder and CEO Judy Faulkner, “Neal’s vision and spirit helped transform the healthcare landscape in a way that will have a lasting impact for generations to come.”
Patterson first gained wide recognition as an executive when a 2001 email, in which he harshly demanded harder work from his employees, was published by The New York Times, leading the company stock to plunge.
But Cerner continued to grow, and a RAND study he co-sponsored in 2005 helped lend credence to the 2009 HITECH Act’s subsidy program, which directed billions to the EHR industry. In 2015, a $4.3 billion DoD contract with Cerner bolstered the company’s standing; this year the VA announced it too would transition to a Cerner EHR.
Patterson had become a champion of a national patient ID and called for more interoperability, often discussing the need for data sharing in the context of his wife Jeanne’s breast cancer treatments. Read more details on his life here.
IS PRICE TRANSPARENCY COMING? There are price tags on the pizza you order, the dress you try on and even the windshields in the used car lot. But you don’t know how much you’ll pay for a prescription drug until they ring it up at the pharmacy counter. “It’s never been a priority — ever — to tell patients how much health care is going to cost,” says Barak Richman, a law professor Duke University.
But later this year, reports our David Pittman, the companies that have for decades refused to share that information–fighting federal efforts to get it included in electronic health records—say they will start to make it available for doctors to share with patients before they write a script.
— Price data has not been available in the past for both business and technical reasons. But the rapid digitization of the American health care system has made it more feasible. Subs can read David’s whole investigation here.
Welcome to Monday morning eHealth, where we’re remembering Neal Patterson’s anxious reaction when a reporter ambushed him outside a Health IT Policy Committee a few years ago, and his ultimately friendly and helpful response. Share stories to aallen@Politico.com, or reach out via Twitter @David_Pittman, @athurallen202, @DariusTahir, @POLITICOPro, @Morning_eHealth.
DIGITAL HEALTH ROCKING: Investor Rock Health tallied the numbers and found that the digital health sector is doing very well: startups raised $3.5 billion in the first half of 2017—which is greater, to give you an idea, than the total for 2013, reports Darius Tahir.
If there’s a gray cloud surrounding the silver lining, it’s in the output end of the investment pipeline. No digital health startups have entered the public markets so far this year, and mergers and acquisitions are down by nearly a third relative to 2016’s half-year pace. The digital health companies that are public are doing strongly — by Rock Health’s reckoning, those companies’ stocks are up 30 percent so far this year. More here.
— The latest StartUp Health investment figures also give reason for digital health optimism. StartUp tallied nearly $4 billion in investment in 2017’s second quarter. EHR companies got less love—Modernizing Medicine, an exception, got a $231 million refill in May — compared to apps related to patient experience and analytics.
MONEY MOVEMENT ON THE HILL: The full House Appropriations Committee should mark up the FDA’s 2018 budget on Wednesday. The legislators will also release the non-binding report language that sometimes directs agencies to do things that are of interest to Morning eHealth readers.
— On Thursday, the full Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the VA’s 2018 budget. We’re likely to learn more about how the VA is responding to Senate requests for specific information about how the Cerner contracting process will proceed.
— No word, to date, on the HHS budget — which is usually one of the last taken up — from either the House or Senate.
INDUSTRY TO CONGRESS: DON’T CUT NIST: HIMSS and CHIME are among the signatories of this multi-stakeholder letter to Congress responding to the administration’s proposed 2018 budget, which would cut around $237 million in funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Please don’t, says the letter, whose signatories include many of the leading industry groups in the country. They argue that, quite to the contrary, NIST’s budget should be increased.
HOSPITALS ASK SCOTUS TO INTERVENE IN PATIENT SAFETY ACT CASE: The American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals in an amicus brief Friday urged the Supreme Court to review a Florida Supreme Court decision that could affect the 2005 Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act. The act creates Patient Safety Organizations where health care providers can openly discuss medical errors and near-misses without fear of liability. In the case in question, Charles v. Southern Baptist Hospital, the brother of an injured patient sought documents that the hospital claimed were shielded because they had been produced for discussion by the safety organization. The Florida Supreme Court in January ruled against the hospital, overturning an appeals decision in the case. The national hospital groups are supporting the Florida hospital. The decision, “if allowed to stand, will thwart Congress’s goals in passing the Act. Nationwide, over 2,200 hospitals participate in patient safety organizations. The Court should grant the writ and reassure these hospitals and other providers that they can report, study, and learn from errors and near-errors without fear,” says the brief.
ORWELL ON THE POTOMAC: Medpage Today has published a yarn that seems to add to evidence that CMS is turning away from the principle of open data — at least when the data has to do with Obamacare. CMS last month released a map showing the number of insurers expected to participate in health exchanges in each county next year. But when Medpage tried to get the data behind the map, CMS clumsily refused. Read all about it here.
BUT SHE’S PRO-TELEMEDICINE: President Trump’s choice to head the CDC, Brenda Fitzgerald, peddled anti-aging medicine and was board certified in “Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine” at her ob-gyn practice in Georgia, according to this Forbes story. The American Board of Medical Specialties doesn’t recognize that specialty, which many doctors consider borderline quackery. Fitzgerald, a 71-year-old pal of Georgia GOP leaders such as Newt Gingrich and HHS Secretary Tom Price, has a more mainstream position on vaccination, which she strongly supported. In addition, she established an interagency telehealth system when she was commissioner of public health in her state. “It will be good for telemedicine as she is a true champion,” said Paula Guy, the former head of the Georgia Partnership for Telehealth. Read more about Fitzgerald’s public health work here, here, and here.