Consortium News

  • 22 Sep 2016 7:14 AM | Brian Kelley (Administrator)

    Worksite Wellness Council of Massachusetts (WWCMA) Announce Winners for 2nd Annual Employer Wellness Program Awards

    The Worksite Wellness Council of Massachusetts (WWCMA) has announced the winners of its WorkWell Massachusetts Awards program aimed to recognize Massachusetts employers for their exemplary work in worksite health promotion. Winners will be recognized at WWCMA’s Fifth Annual Worksite Wellness Conference being held today at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    The WorkWell Massachusetts Award program criteria is based on the following:

    1. The HERO Employee Health Management (EHM) Best Practices Scorecard in Collaboration with Mercer– a tool designed to help organizations learn about best practices, discover opportunities to improve their programs, and measure progress over time. 
    2. Applicants are asked to provide details on their strategic planning and organizational support, program design and implementation, participant engagement, and measurement and evaluation process.

    Employers are eligible to earn a Gold, Silver, or Bronze award. WWCMA appointed a Peer Review committee of independent industry experts to review the applications and designate the award winners and categories.

    “We are proud to recognize these innovative Massachusetts employers for their outstanding wellness programs”, states Kristie Howard, WWCMA Board of Directors Co-Chair. “The WorkWell Massachusetts Award is an important program put forth to honor the work being done by employers in our state to improve the health and vitality of our communities.”

    “We are very proud of this year’s winners and their incredible programs designed to improve employee health and well-being”, states Archana Kansagra, WWCMA Board of Directors Awards & Recognition Committee Chair. “We know there are many organizations in Massachusetts we know there are many other employers committed to creating healthy workplaces that did not apply and encourage them to apply in 2017.”

    Click here for more information.

    The 2016 WorkWell Massachusetts Award winners include:


    • Berkshire Health Systems


    • A.I.M. Mutual Insurance Companies 
    • athenahealth, Inc. 
    • Borislow Insurance 
    • Cambridge Health Alliance 
    • Kronos Incorporated 
    • Lowell General Hospital 
    • OMAM, Inc. 
    • Pegasystems 
    • Signature Healthcare 
    • TripAdvisor 
    • Wright-Pierce


    • Alkermes 
    • Babson College 
    • Endurance International Group 
    • Flexcon Industries 
    • Forrester Research 
    • Onyx Specialty Papers, Inc. 
    • Sturtevant, Inc. 
    • Tocci Building Companies

  • 08 Sep 2016 8:58 AM | Brian Kelley (Administrator)

    By Priyanka Dayal McCluskey  |  Retrieved from the Boston Globe 7-Sep-2016

    The growth of health care spending moderated in Massachusetts last year, the state reported Wednesday, a sign that its ground-breaking experiment to rein in medical costs is making tentative progress.

    Outlays rose 3.9 percent, a figure that is down from a 4.2 percent increase in 2014 and that matches the state’s economic growth, according to the new data. Spending most likely rose at a slower pace here than nationally, a change from years past — and an accomplishment given that Massachusetts has some of the most expensive hospitals and doctors in the country.

    While the numbers from the state’s Center for Health Information and Analysis show some success on the spending front, cost control remains a significant challenge at a time when more people are gaining insurance coverage and prescription drug prices are rising. Growth in expenditures in 2015 exceeded the state’s goal of 3.6 percent for the second straight year. Moreover, health care spending rose much faster than the state’s 0.6 inflation rate.

    Massachusetts, which mandated health insurance coverage for all residents in a landmark 2006 law, is also considered a leader for monitoring medical costs and encouraging insurers and hospitals to adopt new business models designed to provide more cost-effective care.

    “We’re really the only state that is trying to do something about total health care spending,” said Stuart Altman, chairman of the Health Policy Commission, a state watchdog agency that tracks health costs.

    All together, Massachusetts spent $57 billion on health care in 2015, or $8,424 per resident, according to the report. That includes spending through private health insurance as well as the big government programs Medicare and Medicaid.

    Nationwide, the report says, health spending was projected to increase 4.6 percent last year.

    A good sign, industry experts said, is that the spending growth in Massachusetts kept pace with the state’s economic growth. That means health care expenditures didn’t account for a larger proportion of total output of goods and services.

    Altman, a health economist, said he was “pleased but cautious” about the report’s findings. “I still believe there’s a real potential for [medical] inflation to rear its head again,” he said, “but right now I give credit to the people who are running our delivery systems and the people running our insurance companies that they are sticking to the letter of the law.”

    Higher prescription drug prices contributed to the growth in spending again last year. Spending on medicines jumped 10.1 percent in 2015 after rising 13.5 percent the previous year. Many pharmaceutical companies have implemented substantial price hikes in recent years for both brand-name and generic drugs. Most recently, the drug company Mylan faced an outcry after it raised the price on its popular EpiPen, which treats allergic reactions.

    “It’s unsustainable,” Lora Pellegrini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, said about rising drug prices. “The health plans, providers, and pharmaceutical community all need to be held accountable.”

    Robert K. Coughlin, president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, a trade group, said it’s important to remember that drug companies often offer discounts and rebates to reduce the cost of medicines.

    “As the report clearly points out, there is certainly more work to be done to get a truly accurate picture of the costs and value of innovative medicines, and we look forward to continuing the conversation,” Coughlin said in a statement.

    The state’s largest insurers — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Tufts Health Plan — all kept spending increases below the state benchmark. But large health care providers had mixed results, meeting the goal for some insurers but not for others.

    The state Health Policy Commission can require organizations that exceed the benchmark to submit plans to curb spending and fine organizations that don’t comply with those plans. So far, it has not taken those steps.

    Timothy F. Gens, executive vice president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said doctors and hospitals are working to become more efficient and control costs by, for example, monitoring patient care through technology and trying to prevent unnecessary hospital visits. New types of insurance contracts, which encourage doctors and hospitals to focus on quality of care over the amount of services they provide, are pushing such changes. But these so-called alternative payment models account for only 35 percent of the commercial health insurance market, the report found.

    “When looking at costs, whether you’re looking at Massachusetts or the country, it’s a challenge, but I think we continue to make progress,” Gens said.

    Meanwhile, spending on the state’s Medicaid program, called MassHealth, moderated last year after thousands of people who had received temporary coverage from the program moved over to commercial insurers. Spending on the program rose 4.6 percent, after a 17.9 percent spike the previous year. MassHealth covers more than one in four poor and low-income residents.

    The report released Wednesday is the third to measure overall health spending, after a 2012 state law set a benchmark for containing spending. The same law established the Center for Health Information and Analysis and the Health Policy Commission, sister agencies that monitor the health care industry.

    The figures are preliminary and could change as more data become available. The estimate for spending growth in 2014, for example, was revised from 4.8 percent to 4.2 percent.

  • 25 Aug 2016 10:38 AM | Brian Kelley (Administrator)

    The Essentials to Creating a Data-Driven Organization

    Thursday, September 8, 2016 2:00 PM 

    Sponsored by

    In this upcoming online presentation, industry experts will offer insights on how to create a data-driven organization and ensure value generation from analytics investments.

    Click HERE for more info and to Register

    By attending this webinar, you'll discover:

    • How to unlock further value from your analytics investments
    • Tips to address the cultural shift towards data-driven decisions
    • Why providers are democratizing data to empower clinicians and staff

  • 24 Aug 2016 4:00 PM | Brian Kelley (Administrator)

    Christina Farr and Mark Sullivan, Fast Company, August 22, 2016

    Apple's ambitions in the health sector continue to expand, with its digital health team making its first known acquisition—personal health data startup GliimpseFast Company has learned.

    Silicon Valley-based Gliimpse has built a personal health data platform that enables any American to collect, personalize, and share a picture of their health data. The company was started in 2013 by Anil Sethi and Karthik Hariharan. Sethi is a serial entrepreneur who has spent the past decade working with health startups, after taking his company Sequoia Software public in 2000. He got his start as a systems engineer at Apple in the late 1980s.

    The acquisition happened earlier this year, but Apple has been characteristically quiet about it. The company has now confirmed the purchase, saying: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

    According to Sethi's LinkedIn page, Gliimpse—like many startups—was born of a personal need. Sethi says that he's followed his sister through her battle with breast cancer and discovered firsthand how challenging it is to acquire and manage your personal health data. Sethi writes:

    "As a consumer of healthcare, I leave behind a bread-crumb-trail of medical info wherever I’ve been seen. But, I'm unable to easily access or share my own data. Obamacare is one of several forcing functions federally mandating physicians and hospitals give us our data: meds, labs, allergies . . .you get the idea. However, there’s no single Electronic Health Record that all physicians use, sigh. Worse, there isn't even a common file format across a 1000+ systems."

    The acquisition will bolster Apple’s efforts in digital health. In recent years, Apple has delved into the sector with a range of services (HealthKit, CareKit, and ResearchKit) that allow patients, clinicians, and researchers to access important health and wellness data via a range of mobile devices. That's in line with Gliimpse's mission of uniting disparate streams of health information.

    What stands out about the deal is that Gliimpse is intended for patients with diseases like cancer and diabetes. Apple recently hired a top pediatric endocrinologist who developed a HealthKit app for teens with Type 1 diabetes, signaling an increased interest in applications for chronically ill users.

    It's unlikely that this acquisition will bring Apple's health technologies under the purview of federal regulators. CEO Tim Cook recently told Fast Company in an interview that he sees a major business opportunity for the company in the non-regulated side of health care: "So if you don’t care about reimbursement, which we have the privilege of doing, that may even make the smartphone market look small."

    It's hard to tell how Apple will use the technology—in previous cases, the technology it has acquired from another company often ends up looking very different when it finally makes it into a product.

    So far, the acquisition has not been announced on LinkedIn, or on the company's website.

  • 29 Jun 2016 10:10 AM | Brian Kelley (Administrator)

    Hacker Advertises Slew of Alleged Healthcare Organization Records

    Written by  JOSEPH COX,  motherboard June 26, 2016 // 05:24 PM EST

    A hacker is advertising hundreds of thousands of alleged records from healthcare organizations on a dark web marketplace, including social security and insurance policy numbers.

    The data could be used for anything from getting lines of credit to opening bank accounts to carrying out loan fraud and much more, the hacker selling the data, who goes by the handle "thedarkoverlord," told Motherboard.

    News site Deep Dot Web first reported the news on Saturday. The breaches supposedly come from three different healthcare organizations: one in Farmington, Missouri with 48,000 records; another in Atlanta, Georgia with 397,000 entries, and the third in the Central/Midwest US with 210,000 records. Thedarkoverlord has decided to not name the organizations, as he has threatened each with a ransom demand.

    “A modest amount compared to the damage that will be caused to the organizations when I decide to publicly leak the victims,” thedarkoverlord said, although he claims to have already sold $100,000 worth of records from the Georgia dump. (The hacker declined to provide his or her gender, so for ease of reading Motherboard will just refer to the hacker as “him.”)

    “Someone wanted to buy all the Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance records specifically,” he said.

    Motherboard was provided with a sample of just under 30 patient records from the alleged Georgia dump. The vast majority of phone numbers went through to the correct person or family home, and one individual confirmed the rest of their details, although the physical address was out of date. Most of those persons contacted from the sample declined to be interviewed.

    Included within the dumps are alleged social security numbers, full names, physical addresses, dates of birth, and insurance information, such as policy identification numbers.

    The hacker claims he obtained each database in roughly the same way each time via an unknown vulnerability in remote desktop protocol, which allows (usually) authorised parties to control computers for things such as tech support. From here, thedarkoverlord claims he moved throughout the network “until I got to the juicy machines running their electronic health systems.”

    Thedarkoverlord is selling the Georgia dump for just over 643 bitcoins, or around $411,000. The hacker expects people to pay this price, he said. The others are being sold for around $100,000 and $205,000 each, and all are listed on the Real Deal marketplace, which has become a particularly popular hub for stolen data.

  • 01 Jun 2016 1:47 PM | Brian Kelley (Administrator)

    The Consortium would like to thank two of our long-standing Board Members, who are stepping down this month after many years of service to the Consortium.

    David SmithDavid P. Smith of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, is our longest standing Board Member, having begun in 1988.  Throughout his career, David has been responsible for analytical, technical, and research support for MHA’s public policy advocacy regarding health care performance measurement, clinical and health data, health economics, and health information technology.  He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts e-Health Collaborative as well as on the Board of the Consortium.

    John H. Strauss, MD, of the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership, also steps down from our Board of Directors after a long stint.  Dr. Strauss led the design and implementation of the statewide child psychiatry access and consultation project known as the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP), which has become the model for similar programs in over 20 other states.

    The Consortium would like to heartily thank both David and John for your many years of service to our members.  Enjoy what the future holds for you!  We wish you the best.


  • 19 May 2016 9:39 AM | Brian Kelley (Administrator)

    Retrieved from May 18, 2016

    Researcher at the Yale School of Medicine have deployed a new cloud-based system that enables them to pull patient electronic health records from across multiple healthcare organizations and to synchronize that data.

    The system, called Hugo, was developed in a partnership between Yale-New Haven Health System and health information exchange vendor Stella Technology. Hugo is designed to allow patients to gather all their health-related data for healthcare research studies.

    The platform is currently being tested to ensure that the technology works well and to identify any areas that need improvement, according to Harlan Krumholz, MD, professor of internal medicine at Yale-New Haven and one of the developers of Hugo. While Hugo is not yet available outside of Yale’s studies/testing environment, they are laying the foundation for broader release and uses.

    “Our first studies with Hugo are providing real-world experience and focus on the ability of people to have Hugo fetch their data and sync it securely with a research database,” says Krumholz. “Ultimately, Hugo is about empowering people with their health data, putting them in a position to leverage it, and making partnerships possible for sharing data with researchers and others. But, the premise is that people should be in a position to use their data for their own benefits and, if they choose, for the benefit of others.”

    Patients sign up for Hugo and use a portal/password to verify their identity to link with EHRs that have their records. Then, with their permission, the platform harmonizes the data from different sources providing the ability to share it with researchers.

    “Unless we, as researchers and clinicians, partner with our patients and find a way to give them the ability to exercise their federal right to acquire their own data and share it, then we’re not going to make progress,” says Krumholz. “This is a fundamental shift in the way we think about research.”

    Yale-New Haven itself has launched a study that will rely on Hugo. The study, partially funded by a Yale Clinical and Translational Science Award grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, is looking to see if a central repository of patient EHRs, such as Hugo, can be used to reduce readmissions and post-discharge emergency department utilization.

    “Yale, like every other providers, has patients each day that are coming from other places and it’s not uncommon to have missing records,” says Krumholz. "Yale- New Haven’s study is looking to see if a repository such as Hugo can provide a more complete view of a patient, allowing a provider to improve care and cut down on readmissions.

    “Hugo is a platform where people can pull their data and have it organized, harmonized, curated and ready for use,”
    he adds. “They’re in a position where they can use it for their own purposes but also participate in studies as full partners. My hope is that this becomes a platform that is co-created with the people who use it.”

    Patients can access Hugo from their mobile devices, according to Krumholz, who describes the platform as a next-generation personal health record that is auto-populated and updated daily from EHRs. “At this point, we are focusing on systems that are compliant with federal standards that provide for people to view, download and transmit their electronic records,” says Krumholz.

    In addition to EHR data, he reveals that Hugo will ultimately allow participants to contribute information from wearable devices and sensors as part of subsequent development phases.

    According to Krumholz, Stella helped develop the software. “We went with a group that we think is arguably the best, if not one of the best in the country, building connected healthcare networks,” he says. “We’ll be going live soon in a controlled fashion in order to test every aspect of the software.”

    The goal of the study is to thoroughly evaluate the performance of the software and the user experience. “We are starting with people locally before we make it available to others. We are moving quickly, but responsibly,” concludes Krumholz.

    Besides the Yale School of Medicine, partners on the study include the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, Yale Medical Group, as well as Yale-New Haven Hospital.

  • 29 Apr 2016 3:38 PM | Denny Brennan (Administrator)

    Jessica Bartlett, Reporter, Boston Business Journal, April 29,2016

    A Supreme Court ruling has jeopardized Massachusetts' ability to pull data from a large population of medical insurers, threatening a key tool used by the state as it increasingly relies on health care pricing and treatment data to regulate one of the Bay State's largest and most important sectors.

    The U.S. Supreme Court decision, Gobeille vs Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, issued in March, stemmed from a complaint filed in Vermont. The ruling determined that employers who pay their own insurance claims, known as self-insured employers, weren’t required by law to share their claims data with the state. According to health care experts, the Supreme Court's decision also applies to all self-insured employers throughout the United States.


  • 28 Apr 2016 8:27 AM | Brian Kelley (Administrator)

    Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY 8:48 p.m. EDT April 27, 2016

    Dr. Neel Shah, Costs of Care - former Eliot Stone internHuge variations exist in the prices of some of the most common medical procedures across state lines, according to a report major insurers released Wednesday, but some experts say the data is of little use to consumers who rarely know what they owe until the bills arrive.

    The insurer-funded Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) won’t disclose which hospitals or doctors are the high-price culprits and instead are releasing how much states' average prices differ from national average.

    California, for example, has average prices that are the same as the U.S. averages for dozens of the most common procedures, including pregnancy ultrasounds and cataract surgery. But, which compiles prices in 10 metro areas using data from consumers, doctors and hospitals and its own staff members' research, finds a huge price disparity within a 100-mile radius of San Francisco for some procedures.

    The cash price for a lower-back MRI without dye ranges from $475 at the Castro Valley Open MRI to a whopping $6,221 at the University of California, San Francisco at Mt. Zion. Patients pre-paying or paying on the day of service at UCSF, however, get 40% off.

    Some say HCCI's transparency effort doesn’t go nearly far enough now that consumers are paying for so much of procedure costs out of pocket given high deductible plans and cost sharing. Average state prices — and how they compare to national averages — may not be enough as cost transparency becomes a hot topic in state legislatures and in Washington.

    "Knowing the average cost in your own town is useful if you’re a researcher, maybe, but it doesn't help consumers make decisions," says David Vivero, founder of, a physician search tool. "You still have to call 10 doctors." The new data should at least alert consumers in states such as Maine, Virginia, North Carolina and New Mexico that they need to shop around as prices are far higher than the national average.

    HCCI has claims data representing about 25% of the commercial market and includes most major insurers except Blue Cross Blue Shield, which releases its own data. HCCI couldn't release the doctor or hospital-specific prices consumers could expect to pay because of antitrust issues, says HCCi executive director David Newman. Even though HCCI is independent of insurance companies, Newman says it would still need to partner with a state to release prices for different facilities., a consumer site operated by HCCI, gives average state prices for more than 300 procedures.

    Read the full article at USA Today

    In Massachusetts, health cost transparency is the law. Since early last year, hospitals and doctors were given 48 hours to provide detailed pricing estimates to consumers who ask. But adherence has been challenging and Neel Shah, a Boston obstetrician and gynecologist who is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, says the law set off a scramble across the state as many hospitals had to figure out how to quickly answer patient questions.

    Some other states require some level of transparency, including New Hampshire, California, Minnesota and New Jersey.

    For insurers to release more data would require them to disclose more clearly how their own deals with health care providers leave some consumers paying several hundred or thousands of dollars out of pocket for some procedures.

    One example of the problem: Colonoscopies that can cost 50 to 100% more just because it's done at a hospital rather than an independent surgery center.

    "Everyone has to produce the same work product," says Fred Rosenberg, a Chicago gastroenterologist who is president of the Digestive Health Physicians Association. "The more patients become more knowledgeable consumers of medical care, the more we can get these places to be upfront about their prices."

    Read the full article at USA Today

  • 27 Apr 2016 1:22 PM | Denny Brennan (Administrator)

    The Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative’s Micky Tripathi shares his perspectives on the promise and pitfalls of working with FHIR.


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