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Nashville's Emdeon asserts influence on health tech, privacy debates
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Miriam Paramore is just getting started at Emdeon Business Services
True, it was only breakfast for some Democratic National Convention participants. However, for Nashville-based Emdeon Business Services, co-sponsoring the Denver event Monday morning signaled the company's determination to influence debate about the flow of health information that is the raw material of the company's business.

Lest that breakfast signal go unnoticed, the company issued a press release announcing its involvement in the quadrennial DNC event. The "health policy forum" included legislators and other policy and media influentials.

Emdeon Senior Vice President Miriam Paramore told VNC yesterday that although Emdeon was unable to secure a similar sponsorship for next month's Republican National Convention, that fact should not be interpreted as "a political statement" on Emdeon's part. Co-sponsors of the event reportedly included close Emdeon allies Cerner and AT&T.

In any event, there's little to worry about: She explained, "We've pretty well analyzed both options for Administration change at the presidential level and we think our company fares well regardless of who our next President is." She added, "both candidates have a health information plank within their platforms."

After all, she explained, modernizing healthcare delivery and payments by using electronic health records, claims-management and other systems is a "nonpartisan issue."

In fact, the fact that automating healthcare information has become a mostly white-hat issue may have spared Emdeon the sort of criticism gained in the past week by DNC convention-event sponsors like AT&T, which has been criticized for using the political events to circumvent federal laws and curry further favor among the policymakers who recently immunized telecom carriers from liability related to providing customer information to national-security agencies.

Although Emdeon has closely tracked key health issues for years, Paramore said the the company is now more publicly claiming a seat at the table when policy and regulations are discussed. "Now," she said, "we're raising our hand, saying 'Guys we're here and we want to be part of this discussion'."

She said Emdeon does not engage in activities that require registration of lobbyists, but seeks to educate and advocate for such issues as health-technology adoption, pro-consumer privacy laws -- and for clearing-up uncertainties related to access to health and medical information. These are among issues most important to continued growth of Emdeon, which is owned by venture capitalists General Atlantic and Hellman & Friedman.

"We think we can really inform the discussion," Paramore said. That influence comes largely from Emdeon's scale: the company processes half of all commercial health-insurance claims and executes 4 billion transactions annually. She noted that 185 million Americans are in Emdeon's databases. Emdeon connects with about 1,200 insurance payers and 350,000 healthcare providers.

Emdeon want to inform and influence that discussion, because stakes are high, in both the regulatory and legislative arenas.

Paramore explained that Emdeon is keenly interested in the next Administration's decision about how, if at all, to fund and organize the current Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT), which she said is "underfunded" relative to the scope of its mission.

Emdeon, she said, also wants to help shape the federal government's efforts to reach beyond HIPAA issues, to encompass patient rights, transparency and fostering provider adoption of technologies through the leverage of spending on Medicare and related programs. Overall, she said, "we need some policy from the Feds to continue to move the market forward."

In addition, Emdeon is aware that laws, regulations, professional groups like HiMSS and grassroots activity will all influence such arcane matters as mandated claims formatting, physicians' services coding and other revenue-cycle ingredients, all of which are central to Emdeon's business.

The proliferation of such standards and regulations is good for Emdeon's business, said Paramore, because "the marketplace can't keep up with the [electronic data interchange] requirements -- they need a helper, and we're the helper."

Paramore, 45, has been rapidly increasing her involvement in Tennessee e-Health matters. For example, she recently attended a "brainstorming" session of the Bredesen Administration's eHealth Advisory Council, in which council members and industry experts were invited to explore new models for eHealth enterprises.

She said she came away from that event even more convinced that "there are a tremendous number of sustainable business models, assuming a statewide [data] exchange exists... If government will create the connectivity," she said, "the private sector will create a lot of business models to layer on top of that."

Paramore joined Emdeon nearly four months ago. Upon her appointment in May, Emdeon CEO George Lazenby said in part, "Over the years, I have been impressed with Miriam's deep understanding of our business, her national thought leadership and her passion for transforming healthcare through the effective use of information."

She was previously a partner with Commonwealth Leverage, a business development and investment company based in Kentucky, the state where she has played numerous business and policy roles.

The move represents a return to Nashville, where her sister, Hannah Paramore, is co-owner of Paramore¦Redd Online Marketing -- recently named an Inc. 5000 company -- and where she, herself, graduated from Belmont University in 1983.

She is prominent in the leading e-health technology group, HiMSS (Health Information and Management Systems Society), currently chairing the group's financial-systems steering committee and having just completed an HiMSS board term.

Through 24 years in healthcare, much of Paramore's professional capital has been invested in Kentucky, with concentration on Louisville. She has served on the Kentucky eHealth Network board of directors, and has chaired the Louisville Health Information Exchange, a regional health information organization (RHIO). She co-founded and served on the board of the HIPAA Action Workgroup of Kentucky (HAWK), and previously served as a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association National HIPAA-at-Work Committee.

She also previously owned PCI: E-Commerce for Healthcare, a consultancy. Research indicates she has also owned or been part of AdvantageMD, an e-health consultant; Ernst & Young's healthcare practice; California-based Anthem Blue Cross' electronic-data exchange subsidiary; and, Cincinnati-based Integra Professional Services, which supports physician practice-management and revenue-cycle systems; and, Paramore Group (real estate investments). ♦

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Tags: AT&T, Belmont University, Cerner, eHealth Advisory Council, Emdeon Business Services, General Atlantic, George Lazenby, health IT, healthcare, Hellman and Friedman, HiMMS, HIPAA, Medicare, Miriam Paramore, regional health information organization RHIO, revenue cycle management

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