Healthcare Informatics’ Top 10 Stories of 2017

Dec. 20, 2017
It was another exciting year in health IT. Which stories did you, our readers, like the most?

Another year has come and gone, and once again there was no shortage of health IT developments. At this time last year, industry stakeholders were thrust into an era of certainty as a new presidential administration took the helm. But since that early period of angst, things have seemed to calm down as most patient care organization leaders are now operating as if things will go on as planned from a value-based care perspective.

With that said, it was still another very exciting year in health IT, from major policy developments to unfortunate cybersecurity incidents to new trends that could help shape the future healthcare landscape. These topics make up just some of the top stories of 2017; indeed, the following list of stories is from you, our readers, as it is based on what pieces were most read in the year that was.

1) The 2017 Healthcare Informatics 100 This one should come as a surprise to nobody as it is a yearly fixture on this top-10 list. Every year, our team ranks the 100 vendors with the highest revenues derived from healthcare IT products and services earned in the U.S. based on their revenue information from the previous year. This year, Optum once again topped the list with a reported 2016 health IT revenue of $7.3 billion. In addition to the company rankings is a plethora of other data that helps industry observers get a better sense of the health IT marketplace and vendor landscape. Year in and year out, it’s the most popular content that we produce.

2) Most Interesting Vendors 2017: What’s Behind the Epic Juggernaut? This profile on the Verona, Wis.-based EHR vendor Epic Systems was one of the most popular features ever produced by Healthcare Informatics. Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland was able to go directly to Epic’s campus in Wisconsin and talk to its two top personnel people in person, including billionaire CEO Judy Faulkner. The story touched on several different angles, but for anyone who has a stake in this industry, it’s clearly a must-read.

3) Cyber Attack Update: Nuance Still Down, Researchers Believe “Petya” is not Ransomware This story was part of a few updates from us on a major worldwide cybersecurity incident that took place in June. This particular piece was about how operations at Massachusetts-based technology company Nuance Communications continued to suffer following a global malware attack that affected various industries in 65 countries. Some of our other coverage on the Petya/NotPetya cyber attack can be read here, here and here.

4) Who is Seema Verma? Digging Deeper into Trump’s Pick to Run CMS This story was technically published late in 2016, but we’ll make an exception here for relevance. When reports came out that President Trump would be nominating Seema Verma to run the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), not many people connected to health IT knew much about her. But our piece hoped to lessen that uncertainty by talking to some people who had worked with her in the past. While she was a healthcare consultant prior to joining CMS, Verma was generally well-regarded by her peers and was particularly praised by Republicans for constructing a Medicaid expansion program in Indiana that made sure low-income patients had “skin in the game,” despite operating under a Democratic healthcare law with different ideals.

5) MACRA QPP 2018 Proposed Rule and Final Rule Released These are two different stories but they are attached at the hip since both are about the same legislation—the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). First in June, and then in early November, CMS released two key rules that stakeholders were extremely interested in as they continue to push forward into value-based care. Neither the proposed rule nor the final version were brief in length (to say the least), but for eligible clinicians who will be participating in MACRA’s Quality Payment Program (QPP), they could not be ignored.

6) BREAKING: CMS Finalizes 90-Day MU Reporting Period, Pushes Back Stage 3 Mandate Another policy story, with the angle this time being the lesser-discussed meaningful use program rather than MACRA. Still, this development was a big deal since for the time being, the MU program applies for hospitals whereas MACRA does not. In August, CMS released a final rule that affirmed a 90-day reporting for hospitals attesting to the meaningful use program in 2018. And perhaps more importantly, the government, in that rule, pushed back the mandatory start date for Stage 3 of the MU program, the final stage, by a full year, until 2019.

7) The Allscripts-McKesson EHR Deal: Time to Consider the Broader Industry—and Policy—Context This commentary from Hagland was a reactionary piece to the huge health IT industry news that dropped in early August, that the Chicago-based Allscripts announced that it had agreed to pay about $185 million in cash to acquire the Enterprise Information Solutions (hospital and health system IT business) division of the Alpharetta, Ga.-based McKesson Corporation. In his piece, Hagland pondered if the acquisition could tighten the gap that currently exists between the two dominant vendors in the marketplace—Epic and Cerner—and others. He also wondered if having just a few major EHR vendors will create a potential policy issue, and if so, what that means for hospitals and physician practices going forward.

8) Selling Cybersecurity in the Age of Ransomware As outlined by Associate Editor Heather Landi, one of the core challenges that chief information security officers (CISOs) at hospitals and health systems have had over the years has been around “selling” the importance of cybersecurity to the board. But as noted in Landi’s article, many boards are actually now keen on making cybersecurity prevention more of a priority as they understand the impact that data breaches have on their organizations. Now, as sources said, they key is to tighten up the communication between CISOs and the board so that everyone is on the same page.

9) Most Interesting Vendors 2017: Optum Similar to the above Epic profile, we also named Optum as one of this year’s most interesting health IT vendors due to its continued growth in the healthcare payer and data analytics spaces. For years, Optum has ranked amongst the top companies in the Healthcare Informatics 100, but in the last three years, the vendor has soared to the No. 1 spot on the list each year, due to Healthcare Informatics starting to allow revenue derived from the payer market to be included. Indeed, with a 2016 health IT revenue of $7.33 billion, Optum’s success in helping health plans and provider organizations in the analytics space has become much more well-known.

10) What are the Potential Ripple Effects of the eClinicalWorks Settlement? (Part 2 here) One of the biggest stories in health IT this year was a settlement of a False Claims Act lawsuit against EHR software vendor eClinicalWorks. In May, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement that held eClinicalWorks and the company’s founders and executives liable for payment of $155 million to resolve a lawsuit that said the company allegedly violated federal law by misrepresenting the capabilities of its software and for allegedly paying kickbacks to certain customers in exchange for promoting its product. In a two-part reactionary piece, Landi interviewed an array of sources and took a deep dive into what the impact of this settlement could be on health IT policy and the vendor market, and also what the settlement could mean for patient safety and interoperability.