HIPAA poses threat to innovative healthcare technology

HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was enacted back in 1996 as a way to protect the privacy of individual patients, among other things. It all sounds good in theory, but in practice HIPAA creates more problems than it fixes. The regulatory burden of the act creates a black hole of endless tail-chasing as healthcare facilities spend precious resources ensuring that they’re in compliance. Trust me when I say that the red tape is labor intensive and costly.

It seems that I’m not the only one that thinks HIPAA is problematic for healthcare. According to a recent article at mobihealthnews:

“…the regulations [HIPAA] still are not flexible enough to keep up with the pace of innovation in digital health, according to a newly published commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).** Plus, the authors contend, the new requirement that business associates such as vendors be subject to the same HIPAA requirements as covered entities – healthcare providers, insurance companies and the like – poses a serious threat to startup companies…the final rule may impose an unfunded mandate for organizations, which ironically may impede adoption of innovation in mobile health,” wrote Dr. C. Jason Wang, Stanford University, associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University Center for Policy, Outcomes and Prevention, and Delphine J. Huang, a medical student at the University of California, San Francisco.”

I understand the spirit of HIPAA, but like all bureaucratic solutions to simple problems it lacks common sense.  Is HIPAA really necessary? I believe you could make an equally solid case for or against it depending on where you fall on regulatory necessity. Regardless of your view, it’s obvious to me that HIPAA needs a serious overhaul.


**The commentary in JAMA is available for free and can be found here.

Collecting, collating and connecting information

I am a digital pack rat. It’s better than being a pack rat in the physical world I suppose, but it definitely causes problems. I collect information at an alarming rate, which isn’t a problem in and of itself, but it creates problems when I want to use the information that I’ve collected. It’s stored in various places via a host of methods that I’ve devised over the years to make it easy to use; in theory anyway.

Searching for information isn’t a problem, Google places the sea of information on the internet a click away, and Windows 8 offers a fair desktop search engine. No, finding information isn’t an issue. However, sorting and connecting the information in a logical way is.
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The job market for pharmacists has taken an ugly turn

There was a time when I could have found half a dozen pharmacist job openings in one afternoon. Now I find myself in a position where I can’t even find one.

It’s no secret that I was laid off several weeks ago; July 25th to be exact. I don’t know why I was laid off, only that my position was eliminated. I didn’t really think to ask any questions at the time as I was in a state of disbelief. I’ve been a pharmacist for just over 16 years and during that time I had never been laid off, fired, or “let go”. This is officially uncharted territory. I’m told that this kind of thing “happens in business”. Sucks anyway.
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Is it just me or is the pharmacy presence on Twitter growing?

My daughter had a three-day volleyball tournament over the weekend. While there’s a lot of action during these tournaments, there’s also some downtime. I usually pass the downtime by reading through my social media streams. I have a system that typically goes something like this: Twitter –> Google+ –> Facebook –> LinkedIn –> RSS-feed-reader-of-the-week –> start over.

This weekend I found myself clicking on, and reading, a lot more pharmacy related Tweets than usual.
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Pharmacists should learn to write code

You know what’s missing in healthcare? Pharmacists that write code and work on application development, that’s what’s missing. It’s the only way to ensure that applications have the right look, feel and functionality. Who knows better than a pharmacist, or pharmacy technician, how a pharmacy application should behave? No one, that’s who. Trying to explain healthcare workflow to a non-healthcare person is like trying to explain calculus to a dog; not that I think people outside healthcare are dogs. It’s just a metaphor.

Anyone can learn to code the basics, much the same way anyone can learn the basics of being a pharmacist. I could teach an average sixth grader how to perform the basic functions of a pharmacist; no lie. Of course things get a lot more complicated once you get past the basics, and that’s when you need people with more experience, expertise and wisdom.

I’ve dabbled in “programming” here and there, mostly out of necessity. At one time or another I’ve taught myself to code with visual basic, C# and some scripting languages like Javascript, PERL, and HTML. I also spent a couple years learning the ins and outs of database design and writing queries. But I was never all that good at it. I could do the basics, but it was neither my profession nor passion.

I wrote a couple of small apps to help me do my job – desktop and web-based – and built some databases to handle pharmacokinetic tracking and pharmacist interventions. Everything worked, but they were nothing that would have wowed anyone. What I needed was someone with a lot more experience to take those applications and turn them into something spectacular. That’s where having a real “programmer” would come in handy; someone with years of experience, expertise and wisdom.

However, back to my original point. Healthcare needs pharmacists that know how to write code to jump start the development process and drive things forward when things stall. Sometimes pictures and words simply don’t work.

Just an opinion. Take it for what it worth.

The loss of Google Reader will be tough and here’s why

The news that Google Reader is going to be sunset in July of this year has created somewhat of a panic among many, including myself.  The internet has been abuzz with articles on potential replacements. I’m sure people will look at many of these and find something to meet their needs, but what I’ve found thus far has been disappointing. I assume that’s because Google Reader was truly more than just a RSS aggregation tool for me.  A lot of the functionality that I used was the result of many third party developers that wrote plugins and scripts to do everything from rearranging the information on the page to removing ads. Google Reader was popular and mature, and it showed.



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Computers, bags and TSA screening


Mobile Health Computing: “Electronic devices that are smaller than a standard laptop can stay in your bag. There is no need to pull them out. The TSA told us this back in 2010.” Good to know.

I was told by TSA that anything with an SSD (vs. a standard HD) can remain in your bag; iPad, Android tablet, eReader, etc. I tried to apply this logic to my laptop, but it didn’t work. The TSA is inconsistent with how they apply the rules. I only travel about 20 times a year, but it can be different from one airport to another. Most handle things the same way, but it’s not 100% across the board.
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Crowdsourcing pharmacy: automation, technology, informatics

redlegoI travel for work a couple of weeks a month, sometimes more, sometimes less. Most of the time I travel by myself, but recently I found myself traveling, albeit briefly, with another pharmacist. He and I ended up in a little pub one night talking about work; products, strategy, gripes, likes, and so on. Typical stuff when two guys get together and talk about work. After a while the conversation turned away from work and toward pharmacy in general. Just two guys talking about stuff that’s interesting.

A few drinks and several bowls of popcorn later we had covered a lot of interesting pharmacy topics including acute care pharmacy operations, telepharmacy, medication therapy management, insurance company billing, specialty pharmacy practice and so on. There were several interesting ideas figurative sketched out on the back of a napkin that night. This type of comradery is good for the creative process as I’ve mentioned before.

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BMTS Corp goes down for the count and takes Demolizer II with it

Way back in November 2011 I posted about a cool pharmacy technology called the Demolizer II, a sharps waste eliminator system of sorts. That’s not the interesting part though. That particular post has generated more comments than any other post I’ve ever written. As of this moment there are 32 comments attached to it, mostly bad.

Starting last month comments mentioning BMTS going out of business started to appear.

Mike – December 26, 2012 at 5:27 pm
BMTS, a public company appears to be out of business. They have not filed a report with the SEC since the third quarter of 2011.

John – January 22, 2013 at 11:35 am
The IRS has placed locks on the office doors at BMTS due to back taxes. Not sure what the future holds for these guys but its not good at this point.

Sharon Wagner – January 22, 2013 at 11:38 am
I just spoke with the owner of the company, John Bricken, who apologized profusely, told me that the company is in financial dire straits and told me to do whatever I have to do because he has no way of helping me. I point blank asked him if I purchased a very expense piece of equipment that is now useless and his respose was, “yes, I’m afraid so”. I asked if there was any possibility that we would be able to eventually get the containers and use this device again and he told me if he was a betting man, he’d say no. The long and the short of my conversation with Mr. Bricken was that we might as well throw our Demolizers away because the company is going belly up! At least someone was finally honest with me!

Kind of sad really as the Demolizer II was a pretty cool product.

Year end thoughts 2012

fathertime_babynewyear2This is my final post of 2012. Random thoughts about things that I’ve seen, heard and/or read over the past twelve months.

Twenty-twelve was an interesting year for the Fahrni clan, and not in a good way. We lost one of our own and had some bad things happen. We also had some good times, but it won’t be a year that I’ll miss all that much.

We all survived the Mayan Apocalypse

We experienced the last repeating date of the century: 12-12-12
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