Category Archives: healthcare

Remembering Ryan Suenaga pt. 2

Back in 2009 while I was on a mission to bring HMSA into the social media world, I had a chance to organize a panel for the Physical Activity and Nutrition (PAN) Summit 2009. I thought to myself, who is in healthcare, active in social media and willing to share a panel with me. Without a doubt, Ryan Suenaga was top of mind. He worked at Kaiser Permanente, had his own blog, was active on Twitter but would he want to share the stage with an HMSA wonk. Conscientious as he is, Ryan got approval from his boss before giving me the green light. As it turned out Ryan was a terrific choice. Our presentation was called Social Media Outlets: What Works Well and What Could Work Better. He proceeded to tell a life story I had not heard before. He talked about how his father passed away due to diabetes which became an epiphany for Ryan. He shared about being 200+ pounds with pictures to prove it. He talked about improving his health and how the social media community provided the support and encouragement to help him succeed. It was truly a story of one man's struggle to come to grips with is own health and how the community around him helped. In his concluding slide, the one shown above, his final bullet says:
Network to teach, give and get support.
The community in which Ryan surrounded himself was one that he cultivated. It did not spring forth randomly. He nurtured it with not only the near 92,000 tweets but also by interacting directly with people, through runs, tweetups, pickup basketball and twikes. He'd come out to our Bytemarks Lunches whenever his work load permitted. He came to our March lunch and gave me some good job seeking advice. He even had a way of supporting events without going to them. I organized the Unconferenz and Ryan would be the first to order a t-shirt in support of the event. He intimated to me that he wanted to avoid seeing someone there so would be an unlikely attendee. But he still wanted to give his support. If you read his blogs you might say that he sometimes wore his heart on his sleeve. He gave so much of himself and his simple expectation was that people show some reciprocal kindness. He did not find that in all people but that did not lessen his capacity for compassion and his continued ability to nurture his community. As we mourn Ryan's passing, we all feel an emptiness in our heart. Yet I think Ryan lives on in all of us. We all felt his compassion, kindness and generosity. We all learned a lesson or two from him. He was basically paying us forward so that we can share it with others. If you really want to remember Ryan, it's simple. Just show a little kindness. Pay it forward. Ryan is right there.

UH Hilo gets Beacon Grant

The University of Hawaii at Hilo, College of Pharmacy will be one of the recipients of the Beacon Community program to build and strengthen health IT infrastructure and health information exchange capabilities. UH-Hilo's $16M grant was part of an overall grant totaling $220M from the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Hawaii Island was one of 15 communities across the country to serve as pilot communities for eventual wide-scale use of health information technology. According to UH-Hilo's proposal description, their goal is to:
Implement a region-wide Health Information Exchange and Patient Health Record solution and utilize secure, internet-based care coordination and tele-monitoring tools to increase access to specialty care for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity in this rural, health-professional shortage area.
Back in March we had both Karen Pelligrin and Christine Sakuda on Bytemarks Cafe to talk about the Hawaii Health Information Exchange and how it will be implemented. Karen Pelligrin is with UH-Hilo's College of Pharmacy and Program Director of Hawaii Island's Beacon grant project. The system will include patient information from Big Island physicians, health centers, island hospitals, labs and claims information to improve coordination with health providers. Microsoft's Amalga is the planned IT system to facilitate information communicated amongst participants. On a national level,  all 15 Beacon Communities will tackle specific goals of improving health care and population health status through advanced use of IT. The communities will work closely with regional technology extension centers created and funded under HITECH, as well as state health information exchange initiatives, like the Hawaii Health Information Exchange and the National Health Information Technology Research Center to ensure the dissemination of lessons learned.

Activity Monitors

Unconferenz 2010At this year's Unconferenz 2010 there were many session topics that warrant their own blog post but this one I will put to keyboard, so to speak. We usually have a gadget session and talk about smartphones, Kindles, Livescribe, etc. This year the gadget that caught my attention was the personal activity monitor. Bob Lew headed the show'n tell and demonstrated two devices while Kevin Lohman had on him the third one. Bob showed off the Fitbit and Philips Direct Life. Kevin passed around the BodyBugg. Each of these are geared to be worn over longer periods of time, as compared to the Nike+iPod Sport Kit that came out last year which is more geared around the run. The idea behind Fitbit, Direct Life and BodyBugg is that we need to understand what is happening with our waking and resting activity throughout the entire course of the day and perhaps measured for weeks. They each have the capability of synchronizing their information with a nearby computer either by Bluetooth or USB connected device. With information about heart rate during a run contrasted to a period while sitting behind a desk one can get a better picture of your overall physical condition. These devices will also monitor you while you  sleep and graph your sleep patterns over the period that you are wearing it. For sleep deprived people like me it will probably come back and tell me the 5-6 hours of sleep I have each night is not enough. Oh well. The price points on each device is different. Fitbit cost about $100 while the Direct Life cost $100 and has a monthly recurring fee. This goes toward a health coach which you are able to access as a part of the service. The BodyBugg cost the most at $179 which has sensors to determine calorie expenditure. Obviously this is the wave of new devices that will help us better monitor our physical activity with the goal of maintaining better health.  With health care reform now passed the House, there will be a big push toward lowering the health care costs by being more healthy. The technology is becoming readily available. The more informed we are about how we are taking care of ourselves the better we are able to stay healthy. I hope to get my hands on one of these mobile devices and will  keep you informed of my tech/fitness journey.

EUTF Open Enrollment

EUTF Open Enrollment *** In the interest of full disclosure, I am employed by HMSA and the following post will be biased toward my employer. HMSA has not paid or asked me to write this post. The above chart is from the Open Enrollment Reference Guide. The Employer-Union Health Benefit Trust Fund (EUTF) will offer Open Enrollment (OE) for health plans to all active State of Hawaii employees starting in November 2009. Open Enrollment is the time of year when employees can make a choice of what health plan they wish to have for the coming year. This is an annual process. Most of the time (and I am an example of this) when you first get hired your company will lay out its benefits choices and you setup which plan you want to go with and forget about it. Each year you are told if you don't do anything at Open Enrollment, you will rollover to your current existing plan. This is all about to change with the 65,000 active State of Hawaii workers. As described in the first option, if you currently have HMSA 90/10 PPO and you do nothing, you will get converted to HMA 90/10 PPO. HMA is a Mainland company, part of the family of I/MX family of companies based in Tempe, Arizona. If you want to stay with HMSA you will need to fill out the EC-1 form, specifically selecting HMSA.  This is very different from previous years. Action needs to be taken to stay with HMSA. I won't get into details as to why this is being handled this way. A lot of it has to do with price. Plans are different and in this OE period HMSA is offering an 80/20 PPO plan. HMSA will outline the different plans and benefits in forthcoming news releases. My intent here is to make people aware of this change. At the end of the day, each State of Hawaii employee will need to make their own decision regarding health plans based on their finances and the value their plan choice provides. I only hope that people make informed decisions and not placed in a plan because they were unaware of the change. If you have any questions please feel free to post comments here and I will personally track down the answers. If you read this post please pass it on to a fellow State employee. Mahalo!