Saturday, June 25, 2005

Flaw Found in JCAHO Software

iHealth Beat reported on June 24, 2005, that JCAHO disclosed on its website that it founda flaw in software it has sold to over 1,000 hospitals, which use the software to assist them in qualifying for JCAHO accreditation. The software fails to monitor and provide feedback on 250 out of appoximately 1,300 standard that JCAHO utilizes to examine whether hospitals are compliant with the standards.

The New York Times also reported on this item here.

If your hospital utilizes the software for monitoring compliance with JCAHO standards I would plan to check into this further.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Fined $200,000

For those of you following the Elisa D. Cooper (aka Diva of Disgruntled) matter, you will be interested to know the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) today issued a press release stating that the DMHC had completed its investigation and was fining Kaiser Foundation Health Plan $200,000 fo the unauthorized disclosure of patient health information.

Interestingly the press release by the DMHC does not mention Ms. Cooper nor the status of its actions directly against Ms. Cooper. For more background information on this action you might want to read the March 17, 2005 press release issued by the DMHC. I am sure that Ms. Cooper is smiling today after hearing the news and I will be interested to see her followup posts on the DMHC's decision. It will also be interesting to see what impact, if any, this has on Kaiser's pending action against Ms. Cooper.

According to an online article in The Murcery News, this is the largest privacy fine ever issued by the DMHC against a health care entity.

The press release states:

"The DMHC investigation determined that Kaiser was responsible for the creation of a Web site used as a testing portal by its information technology staff. The site contained confidential patient information such as names, addresses, phone numbers and lab results. It was set up and available for public viewing in 1999 without the prior consent of those affected, in direct violation of state law and the plan’s own privacy policies.

DMHC officials were concerned that Kaiser allowed the site to languish on the Web in an
accessible format and did not act to remove it until its existence was brought to the attention of federal civil rights authorities in January 2005. In addition, Kaiser authorities chose not to inform state regulators until after the site had been reported to the media in March. However, Kaiser has since informed all of the approximately 150 members who may have been affected.

“Not only was this a grave security breach, Kaiser did not actively work to protect patients until after they had been caught,” said Ehnes. “We’re imposing this fine because we consider this act to be irresponsible and negligent at the expense of members’ privacy and piece of mind.”

UPDATE: For more analysis on the latest from the "gadfly" please check out the post by Matthew Holt's The Health Care Blog.

Senate Bill 1262: Health Technology to Enhance Quality Act of 2005

Bill Frist's office released the following press release on Senate Bill 1262 introduced on June 16, 2005 by Senator Frist and Senator Clinton. The bill going by the acronym "Health TEQ Act" appears to be the next push fromCongress to make good on the federal government's to push for the national interoperability of electronic medical record standards.

Here is a unofficial text of Senate Bill 1262. Thanks to Alan S. Goldberg, a colleague and moderator for the HIT Listserve of the American Health Lawyer Association, for providing a link to the bill.

Press release:
June 16th, 2005 - WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D. (R-TN) and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) today introduced the “Health Technology to Enhance Quality Act of 2005” (Health TEQ) at a press conference at George Washington University Hospital. The bipartisan legislation creates an interoperable health information technology (IT) system through the adoption of standards that will help reduce costs, enhance efficiency and improve overall patient care.

“This innovative legislation will help launch America’s transition away from outmoded pen-and-pad medicine by encouraging the creation of an interoperable, secure and technology-based system of medical care,” said Frist. “Grounding our health care in information technology can cut out waste and redundancies that drive up costs, hamper efficiency and cause medical errors. I’m proud of this bold, bipartisan and forward-thinking legislation. It will generate meaningful action that confronts tomorrow’s health care challenges, and help ensure high quality health care is available and affordable for all Americans.”

“This legislation marries technology and quality to create a seamless, efficient health care system for the 21st century,” said Clinton. “By creating national interoperability standards, we will give health care providers the confidence that an investment in health IT is an investment in the future.”

The Health Technology to Enhance Quality Act of 2005 implements health information technology standards that would guide the design and operation of interoperable health information systems. The legislation codifies the Office of National Coordinator for Information Technology and establishes standards for the electronic exchange of health information. The bill also authorizes grants to local and regional consortiums to implement health information technology infrastructure that is compliant with national standards and establishes measures to assess the quality of care. Finally, it establishes standard quality measures to better assess the value of federal programs.

Senators Frist and Clinton are cosponsoring this legislation along with Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Jim Talent (R-MO) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL).

This legislation is endorsed by over 20 organizations including the National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society. A complete listing of supporters is attached to this release.

More information on the bill:

Click here for a brief summary of the bill located on Senator Frist's website.

Click here for a section-by-section analysis of the legislation located on Senator Frist's website..

Click here for a list of organizations supporting the Health TEQ Act.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Don't Worry About Getting Fired If You Pack Heat to Work in West Virginia

I ran across a post on the The Volokh Conspiracy via Instupundit.com about an interesting1991 West Virginia case called Feliciano v. 7-Eleven addressing the right of an employee to use self-defense without fear of being discharged. If you are discharged by your employer for packing heat and using it in response to lethal imminent danger you may have a claim for wrongful discharge.

The two new headnotes from the case written by Justice Davis are as follows:

  • When an at will employee has been discharged from his/her employment based upon his/her exercise of self-defense in response to lethal imminent danger, such right of self-defense constitutes a substantial public policy exception to the at will employment doctrine and will sustain a cause of action for wrongful discharge.
  • An employer may rebut an employee's prima facie case of wrongful discharge resulting from the employee's use of self-defense in response to lethal imminent danger by demonstrating that it had a plausible and legitimate business reason to justify the discharge.
I wasn't aware of this case and plan to forward a summary of the case to a couple of clients who operate gas stations and convenient stores. Running across stuff like this on blogs makes me realize what an impact blogs and blawgs are having on society and the ability of people to share information.

UPDATE: When I reviewed the case I didn't realize that fellow blawger in West Virginia, Brian Peterson, appeared as counsel in thecase. He has posted some interesting followup "insider" comments on the case here. I'm also interested as to the reason there was a reignition of interest in this case by David Kopel. After scanning his webpage I suspect it came about due to research he must be doing on a particular project or paper.

Friday, June 10, 2005

HHS Introduces RSS feeds for Medicare News

Robert Ambrogi's LawSites Blog reports that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched the Medicare RSS News Service.

The four Medicare RSS News feeds focus on the following topics:

1. Medicare Spotlight
2. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Spotlight
3. Medicare Site Updates
4. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Headlines

To learn more about how to subscribe and use the RSS feeds you might want to check this and this out.

Robert Ambrogi points out that there are a number of other federal government RSS feeds. The FirstGov.gov website now provides a comprehensive list at U.S. Government RSS Library.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The State Journal Adds RSS Feed

Thanks to Oncee for pointing out and posting that the The State Journal has added an RSS Feed feature. The State Journal also have a good summary of what RSS and XML feeds are, how they work, etc. I'm glad to see one of the state's media and news companies taking note of growing trend toward RSS syndication.

HHS Releases Report on Nationwide Health Information Exchange

HHS issued a press release announcing its report on nationwide health information exchange. The report issued on June 3, 2005, is titled Summary of Nationwide Health Information Network Request for Information Responses.

The report is a summary of over 500 responses from health care providers and private industry responding to HHS's issuance of a request for information that sought input from the public on how to move forward with a coordinated nationwide health information exchange.

The full report is available here.

Also, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced on June 6, 2005, the formation of a national collaboration called the "American Health Information Community" (AHIC) which will be given the task of developing common standards for electronic health records and make recommendations to HHS on how best to make health records digital and interoperable, while maintaining privacy and security. HHS will solicit nominations for people to serve on the AHIC and Secretary Leavitt will serve as the chairperson.

Four requests for proposals will be issued by HHS to advance the goal of having a nationwide digital health information system within the next 10 years. The RFPs will focus on creating processes for setting data standards, certifications and architecture for an Internet-based nationwide health information exchange. A fact sheet on the RFPs can be found here. Links to the RFP solicitation documents and information on how to participate in the preproposal conference calls can be found here.

Those involved in West Virginia's efforts to create an interoperable health information system bringing together both public and private sector should plan to study the findings in the report and utilize the information in structuring and moving forward with a coordinated statewide project.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Pennsylvania Health Care Blog

I want to thank another health law blog for adding me to their list of "fellow bloggers." Just north and across the Mason-Dixon Line from West Virginia, the Pennsylvania Health Care Blog focuses on the laws and news that affect the delivery of health care in Pennsylvania. The blog is produced by the law firm of McNees Wallace and Nurick LLC and was created using LexBlog.

I've tracked this blog for months via Bloglines and enjoy the content published. Also, the blog is a great example of law firms starting to recognize the value of blogs, especially in the area of promoting specialized practice group areas such as health care law.

If you are interested in the use of blogs by law firms and lawyers for serving clients and marketing purposes you should also check out and add to your RSS reader Real Lawyers Have Blogs written by Kevin O'Keefe, founder and owner of LexBlog. To see some good examples of law blogs on a variety of topics check out LexBlog's portfolio.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Exploding Toilet Is A Real Sh#@#! Case to Defend in West Virginia

One of my favorite legal blawgers, Craig Williams at May It Please the Court reports on a recent lawsuit filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court involving an exploding porta-john. I saw a number of news items on this unique lawsuit and just hadn't gotten around to posting on the lawsuit. I am sure this West Virginia case will make the rounds on Letterman, Leno and Conan.

It reminds me of a portable toilet company from my days of visiting my mother's relatives in Bannock, Ohio and Flushing, Ohio. There was a local porta-john company named "John's Johns". The side of the modern day outhouses said "John's Johns of Flushing, Ohio". If that ain't great advertising I don't know what is.

Following is Mr. Williams post:

WLF May it Please the Court Law Weblog of legal news and observations, including a quote of the day and daily updates: "The Dangers Of Smoking
For some reason the headline 'Man Sues Over Exploding Toilet' sounds much too much like a Monty Python skit or a headline from the onion.com.

Not being a smoker, I am not sure if it is commonplace to sit down and light up or not. If it is, just imagine the additional warning labels that are going to have to be placed on packs of smokes. If words can’t get the message across, perhaps a picture (see photo) would do. This may be the best way to keep kids from every picking up the habit. "

Brian Peterson's West Virginia Legal Weblog also recently posted on this new lawsuit. Brian points out in a followup post that the case might not be as "unique" as first thought. See Supreme Court Tom Rodd's comment citing West Virginia precedent for the case. Dowler v. Citizens' Gas & Oil Co., 71 W.Va. 417, 76 S.E. 845 (1912).

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Health Care Blogs: The Health Care Blog Aggregator

I want to thank Elyse Nielsen for adding my blog to her Health Care Blogs, a blog of blogs that aggregates approximatly 124 blog feeds covering a variety of health care related topics. Elyse Nielsen also blogs as Anticlue giving her perspective as an IT analyst with experience in health care institutions.

Bethany College's Equestrian Center: Riding Through College

I participate in Bethlink, a listserv for alumni of Bethany College. Last Friday there was a post about a West Virginia Public Radio news feature about Bethany College's new Equine Studies major, the development and construction of the Peace Point Equestrian Center, the future of the program and other spin off developments (including, the development of fox hunting and a large animal veterinarian school).

You can listen to the WVPR broadcast by going to the West Virginia Morning News section of WVPR. The feature is titled "Riding Through College" - 6/02 By Keri Brown and contains the following summary:
"YouĂ‚’re supposed to develop a little horse sense when you go to school, but at Bethany College the term has a literal meaning. The school not only has an equestrian team, but also offers a major in Equine Management with a 3,000-acre classroom.

The radio piece mentions that Bethany's Equestrian Team finished 8th out of 22 colleges in its division this year and the college plans to have about double the number of Equinemanagementt majors next year. Also the Equestrian Center has developed a strategic alliance with the United States Pony Club.

The Equestrian Center is the brainchild of a 1972 graduate of Bethany College, Gene Valentine. Mr. Valentine background includes being the Chief Executive Officer of Financial West Investment Group, Inc. Mr. Valentine is the founder and benefactor of the project and has donated up to $10M as seed money to start the equestrian program and strategically move it forward to help Bethany College and the Bethany Community. In conjunction with the Equestrian Center, he has the vision of creating a retirement community including an assisted living facility.

Personally, I can't wait to retire and return to Bethany to float down the old Buffalo in my tube starting with a quart at the "new" Em's, eat chicken hoagies and go to Beat the Clock night at Bubba's Bison Inn, play golf at nearby Oglebay Park, walk to the falls, write and blog from Peace Point, and otherwise enjoy life with short weekend trips into Pittsburgh, Wheeling, New Martinsville, etc.

Since we are on "horse" topics I thought I would mention the horse boarding and training offered by the daughter of two other Bethanians, Terry Coffield and Pamela Gray Coffield. Terry is my cousin who now lives in Bennington, Vermont. His daughter, Jessica Coffield, is the head instructor and trainer, at Northshire Farm in Winhall, Vermont.

Friday, June 03, 2005

TaxGuru Looks at S vs. C Corporation Tax Issues

I am regularly involved in various corporate and transactional matters for small business clients, including health care providers, and am always watching for practical tax related information for small business clients. I enjoy following the TaxGuru blog written by Kerry M. Kersteller, CPA and recommend it to anyone who has an interest in this area.

I saw a recent blog post by Mr. Kerstellar that referred to an earlier blog post that does a great job of summarizing and discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the S vs. C corporation tax issues.

Googles and oodles of Privacy Concerns

An interesting Reuters article on Google's tracking, collecting and storage of search engine information. This will be an interesting story for privacy experts to follow.