2006-01-28 00:00:00

How we carry $10,000 cash versus patient data backup tapes worth much, much more

I just read another data theft article. The Seattle Times reported Patients’ information stolen in 3 thefts. This time backup tapes (which I warned about in an earlier post) were left in a personal vehicle which was broken into. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked around in a hospital or provider parking lot and seen medical record folders sitting in physicans’ cars. That’s bad, but thieves (if they broke in) could only get a few records at a time. Breaking in and grabbing backup tapes, though, nets thousands of records with very little effort. The Providence example (from the Seattle Times story) is neither new nor unique — backup tapes are carried in personal vehicles by IT people thousands of times a week all over the country.

In case you’re not already aware, I thought it might be illustrative to show how businesses send $10,000 in cash versus some hospitals send potentially hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars worth of patients’ medical and financial data backup tapes. Here’s the difference:

Cash versus medical information

Cash is carried in an armored truck.

Medical data and customer financial backup tapes are carried in the same vehicles as flowers and candies!

Is it just me or is something not right here?

I’ve worked for many years in DoD research centers dealing with classified information and it worries me that many businesses and hospitals don’t treat their customer, patient, and financial data just like we used to treat classified information: as extrememly valuable with the appropriate checkin/checkout/hand off procedures. Law enforcement treats evidence using a “chain of custody” model where everything is tracked as information and evidence moves from one person to antother.

Is there any reason why we in healthcare can’t use tried and true methods like intelligence and law enforcement agencies use to protect backup tapes? Only if we don’t care.

At some point our patients will wake up and starting asking us about our policies. I’d suggest we get our act together before then :-)

Filed under: — @ 2006-01-28 00:00:00
2006-01-28 00:00:00

How we carry $10,000 cash versus patient data backup tapes worth much, much more

I just read another data theft article. The Seattle Times reported Patients’ information stolen in 3 thefts. This time backup tapes (which I warned about in an earlier post) were left in a personal vehicle which was broken into. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked around in a hospital or provider parking lot and seen medical record folders sitting in physicans’ cars. That’s bad, but thieves (if they broke in) could only get a few records at a time. Breaking in and grabbing backup tapes, though, nets thousands of records with very little effort. The Providence example (from the Seattle Times story) is neither new nor unique — backup tapes are carried in personal vehicles by IT people thousands of times a week all over the country.

In case you’re not already aware, I thought it might be illustrative to show how businesses send $10,000 in cash versus some hospitals send potentially hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars worth of patients’ medical and financial data backup tapes. Here’s the difference:

Cash versus medical information

Cash is carried in an armored truck.

Medical data and customer financial backup tapes are carried in the same vehicles as flowers and candies!

Is it just me or is something not right here?

I’ve worked for many years in DoD research centers dealing with classified information and it worries me that many businesses and hospitals don’t treat their customer, patient, and financial data just like we used to treat classified information: as extrememly valuable with the appropriate checkin/checkout/hand off procedures. Law enforcement treats evidence using a “chain of custody” model where everything is tracked as information and evidence moves from one person to antother.

Is there any reason why we in healthcare can’t use tried and true methods like intelligence and law enforcement agencies use to protect backup tapes? Only if we don’t care.

At some point our patients will wake up and starting asking us about our policies. I’d suggest we get our act together before then :-)

Filed under: — @ 2006-01-28 00:00:00
2006-01-25 00:00:00

Health-IT vendors must consider Open Source

I got some good comments on my recent article where I suggested that QuadraMed open source their solution in order to help them gain more sales. There were a number of folks who asked for more information about why vendors should consider open sourcing their products so I put together this article, which was also published in today’s Health IT World newsletter. Update: the Health IT World website has now published the article, too. Lets hope some vendors give it some serious thought.

The open-source software (OSS) movement is formally about 15 years old and informally much older than that. Most people know that OSS provides them free software (at least without a license cost) with source code and much has been written about it from a user’s perspective. However, I’d like to encourage that healthcare IT vendors, especially those just getting into the market or those that are struggling to make sales in a tough customer climate (jaded by failures), seriously consider open-sourcing their solutions.

Why should a vendor forgo license revenue and give out their source code for free? While I know of dozens of good reasons, here are just a few great reasons:

Gain visibility for your product, eliminate long sales cycles, improve customer relationships, and build your market quicker because people will be able to download your products and begin to use them immediately. If they like it, word will spread. You can put together software and release more quickly and with greater frequency, since you’re not beholden to a sales cycle. By eliminating cost from the sales side, you can focus all your efforts on development and building a maintenance, customization, and services arm that tends to make more money for most vendors, anyway. You can also foster a community of developers around your product to help develop enhancements for free. This will reduce your overall development costs, help increase the value of the product, and make customers happier. And with a happy development community, your product will be able to get into more customers faster than ever before. All without a large sales force.

If you’re in a field with an entrenched competitor, open-sourcing your solution may be the best way to break the vendor lock-in that customers feel. Because your product will be freely available without license costs, a different group of people (the ones not beholden to the incumbent vendor) can make decisions about bringing your product in-house. Then, once in-house, you will have the ability to customize, enhance, and service your product by connecting it to the competitor already in the customer’s environment and help them “wean” themselves off the legacy vendor. Another benefit of this approach is that you will be seen as a “risk reducer” for the customer, not a “risk increaser.” By getting in there for free, you come in risk-free. By reducing lock-in to the existing vendors, you lower the customer’s risk of being handcuffed. Both are great ways to win and keep customers.

As an open-source vendor, you can be seen as the innovation and thought leader in your category. Because you don’t count on license revenue, your products have to win and be installed on their merits because they can be thrown out as easily as they were brought in (people don’t throw out million-dollar systems regardless of how bad they are, but since yours will be free, they can). Customers are more likely to share their honest thoughts and opinions, give ideas, foster innovation, and help you grow because they feel you are there for them, not for your license revenues. Overall, the “community” feel will simply improve your ability to get your product into the customer’s environment, which is, of course, the whole point.

So, should you open-source? If you’re looking to get into a competitive and entrenched field with big vendors and want to help reduce long sales cycles to get your customers to try your products, the answer is a simple “yes.”

Open source isn’t best for every vendor, but I do believe that health-IT customers are begging for the benefits that OSS can provide them.

Filed under: — @ 2006-01-25 00:00:00
2006-01-25 00:00:00

Health-IT vendors must consider Open Source

I got some good comments on my recent article where I suggested that QuadraMed open source their solution in order to help them gain more sales. There were a number of folks who asked for more information about why vendors should consider open sourcing their products so I put together this article, which was also published in today’s Health IT World newsletter. Update: the Health IT World website has now published the article, too. Lets hope some vendors give it some serious thought.

The open-source software (OSS) movement is formally about 15 years old and informally much older than that. Most people know that OSS provides them free software (at least without a license cost) with source code and much has been written about it from a user’s perspective. However, I’d like to encourage that healthcare IT vendors, especially those just getting into the market or those that are struggling to make sales in a tough customer climate (jaded by failures), seriously consider open-sourcing their solutions.

Why should a vendor forgo license revenue and give out their source code for free? While I know of dozens of good reasons, here are just a few great reasons:

Gain visibility for your product, eliminate long sales cycles, improve customer relationships, and build your market quicker because people will be able to download your products and begin to use them immediately. If they like it, word will spread. You can put together software and release more quickly and with greater frequency, since you’re not beholden to a sales cycle. By eliminating cost from the sales side, you can focus all your efforts on development and building a maintenance, customization, and services arm that tends to make more money for most vendors, anyway. You can also foster a community of developers around your product to help develop enhancements for free. This will reduce your overall development costs, help increase the value of the product, and make customers happier. And with a happy development community, your product will be able to get into more customers faster than ever before. All without a large sales force.

If you’re in a field with an entrenched competitor, open-sourcing your solution may be the best way to break the vendor lock-in that customers feel. Because your product will be freely available without license costs, a different group of people (the ones not beholden to the incumbent vendor) can make decisions about bringing your product in-house. Then, once in-house, you will have the ability to customize, enhance, and service your product by connecting it to the competitor already in the customer’s environment and help them “wean” themselves off the legacy vendor. Another benefit of this approach is that you will be seen as a “risk reducer” for the customer, not a “risk increaser.” By getting in there for free, you come in risk-free. By reducing lock-in to the existing vendors, you lower the customer’s risk of being handcuffed. Both are great ways to win and keep customers.

As an open-source vendor, you can be seen as the innovation and thought leader in your category. Because you don’t count on license revenue, your products have to win and be installed on their merits because they can be thrown out as easily as they were brought in (people don’t throw out million-dollar systems regardless of how bad they are, but since yours will be free, they can). Customers are more likely to share their honest thoughts and opinions, give ideas, foster innovation, and help you grow because they feel you are there for them, not for your license revenues. Overall, the “community” feel will simply improve your ability to get your product into the customer’s environment, which is, of course, the whole point.

So, should you open-source? If you’re looking to get into a competitive and entrenched field with big vendors and want to help reduce long sales cycles to get your customers to try your products, the answer is a simple “yes.”

Open source isn’t best for every vendor, but I do believe that health-IT customers are begging for the benefits that OSS can provide them.

Filed under: — @ 2006-01-25 00:00:00
2006-01-24 00:00:00

HIMSS’06 Blogger and Reader Meetup Registration

After a couple of weeks of voting, the bloggers and readers have come up with a day, time, and location for the HIMSS’06 Blogger and Reader Meetup. By popular request the meetup will be on Sunday evening after the HIMSS reception at 8:30pm at Hennessey???s Gaslamp (map).

If you think you’ll be attending, please be sure to register so we can plan accordingly. If you’d like to see who’s attending, take a look at those who have already registered.

Tim Gee, Mr. Connectologist, has put together a few nice logos to use for the event. If you’re planning to announce the event on your own blog please use one of the graphics:

Meetup Meetup

Filed under: — @ 2006-01-24 00:00:00
2006-01-24 00:00:00

HIMSS’06 Blogger and Reader Meetup Registration

After a couple of weeks of voting, the bloggers and readers have come up with a day, time, and location for the HIMSS’06 Blogger and Reader Meetup. By popular request the meetup will be on Sunday evening after the HIMSS reception at 8:30pm at Hennessey???s Gaslamp (map).

If you think you’ll be attending, please be sure to register so we can plan accordingly. If you’d like to see who’s attending, take a look at those who have already registered.

Tim Gee, Mr. Connectologist, has put together a few nice logos to use for the event. If you’re planning to announce the event on your own blog please use one of the graphics:

Meetup Meetup

Filed under: — @ 2006-01-24 00:00:00
2006-01-19 00:00:00

Great use of health IT: inmates to visit doctors electronically

AP is reporting about how prison inmates will be visiting doctors electronically in Kentucky. More specifically:

Inmates in Kentucky’s jails and prisons will receive most non-routine medical visits electronically under a new program designed to save time and money, Lt. Gov. Steve Pence said yesterday.

The program, already in limited use, is expected to expand to all 13 prisons and 75 jails in the state by spring.

What’s great here is that service will improve but costs may decrease by up to 40%. They have done the studies that show that they may save up to $9 million this year alone. Pretty good way to use health IT, I’d say.

Filed under: — @ 2006-01-19 00:00:00
2006-01-19 00:00:00

Great use of health IT: inmates to visit doctors electronically

AP is reporting about how prison inmates will be visiting doctors electronically in Kentucky. More specifically:

Inmates in Kentucky’s jails and prisons will receive most non-routine medical visits electronically under a new program designed to save time and money, Lt. Gov. Steve Pence said yesterday.

The program, already in limited use, is expected to expand to all 13 prisons and 75 jails in the state by spring.

What’s great here is that service will improve but costs may decrease by up to 40%. They have done the studies that show that they may save up to $9 million this year alone. Pretty good way to use health IT, I’d say.

Filed under: — @ 2006-01-19 00:00:00
2006-01-18 00:00:00

Blogging Your Way Up the Career Ladder

Eric Spiegel writes in Datamation’s online magazine about Blogging Your Way Up the Career Ladder. The article discusses how professionals, especially in IT, can enhance their careers through blogging. The column features some of my ideas on the subject as the central interview subject.

Filed under: — @ 2006-01-18 00:00:00
2006-01-18 00:00:00

Search Engines, Blogs Lead Top E-Health Trends for 2006

Health-IT World reports Search Engines, Blogs Lead Top E-Health Trends for 2006.

People and organizations marketing e-health products and services would do well by paying close attention to search engines and formerly “alternative” media such as blogs and online video in 2006, a top healthcare information firm says.

Consumers and physicians alike increasingly are turning to search engines to find health information on the Internet, rather than pointing their browsers toward specific, known Web sites. This, according to Manhattan Research, is the No. 1 trend in e-health marketing for 2006. The New York-based company today released its annual list of top trends for e-health marketing professionals to consider.

Filed under: — @ 2006-01-18 00:00:00
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