Free Healthcare IT Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Get all the latest Health IT updates from Neil Versel for FREE!

Digital health at the Mid-America Healthcare Venture Forum

In case you haven’t seen the official announcements or caught my tweets, later this month I will be moderating a panel at the Mid-America Healthcare Venture Forum, an event being put on by MedCity News, April 22-23 at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Chicago.

The panel is called “Opportunities (and Challenges) in Digital Health. Per the official description: “Digital health — and its business models — are coming of age. Promising young companies are integrating into healthcare and, in some cases, beginning to find exit partners. But that’s also meant new scrutiny from everyone from investors to the FDA. Learn about the challenges, opportunities and promising new markets in digital health.”

Panelists include: Amy Len, director of Chicago-based accelerator Healthbox; Julie Kling, director of mobile health at Verizon Wireless; and Jack Young, who heads the Qualcomm Life Fund for Qualcomm Ventures. I’ll just be there to keep order, and, of course, to cast my usual, skeptical eye on the field and continue to wonder why investors are throwing so much money at me-too fitness trackers and countless direct-to-consumer products that don’t stand a chance in an industry where nearly everything is paid for by third parties. Or at least that’s my thought at the moment, until we have our conference call next week. :)

The session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 23, at 8:55 a.m. CDT. The hotel is located at 151 W. Adams St. in the heart of the Financial District. Years ago, I worked about two blocks west of there, so I know it’s about 40-45 minutes away from me by public transit, and I’m not a morning person. This could get  interesting. (If any MedCity people are reading this, I’m kidding. I’ll be there on time. Hopefully.)

Our session follows a keynote from James Rogers, chairman of Mayo Clinic Ventures. After the panel is a break, then breakout sessions featuring presentations to investors from startups in digital health, medical devices and pharma/biotech. I hope I don’t prematurely burst anyone’s bubble with too much of a reality check. But, in honor of this week being the 25th anniversary of the release of the great Gen X satire, “Heathers,” I offer this quote from the movie: “Heather told me she teaches people ‘real life.’ She said, real life sucks losers dry.”

Wait, was that too cynical?Let me just say that the panel just got another thing to talk about today, as the FDA, FCC and ONC just released their proposed health IT regulatory strategy, as called for by the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA). To nobody’s surprise, they recommend a “risk-based framework” to regulation of health IT and digital health. Now to figure out if there are any details people should be concerned about…

In the meantime, you can register for the conference here.

April 3, 2014 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Keep wasting your money, Silicon Valley venture capitalists

Silicon Valley is at it again.

Last week, digital health accelerator Rock Health unveiled its new offices, and from the news coverage, it seems as if it’s creating an image as much as incubating startup companies.

According to Xconomy, “a big crowd of investors, executives, and other life science industry insiders took time away from JP Morgan to attend the grand opening of Rock Health’s stylish new headquarters in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco.” And stylish it is.

“Rock Health’s kitchen and community gathering space includes a Cirque-du-Soleil-style swing,” Xconomy reported. Because, you know, incubating companies that will fix a broken $2.8 trillion industry with their “solutions” requires a little avant-garde spectacle à la Québécoise — or perhaps Las Vegas. Having been at the Digital Health Summit at International CES in Sin City myself a week earlier, I was happy to see more focus on substance than style in the meeting room, if not in the exhibit hall.

© Bruce Damonte/Studios Architecture

I bet that swing cost a lot of money. So did the design, since Xconomy saw fit to identify the architecture firm. (For that matter, so did I, but only to give proper credit for the photo.) In an industry where a third or more of spending is wasteful — completely irrelevant to care and probably preventable — according to a 2012 report in Health Affairs, are such frills really necessary? I’m certainly not blaming Rock Health here. It’s the investors who are throwing away their money.

In opening the center, Rock Health reportedly dubbed Mission Bay the ‘United States’ New Digital Health Hub.’” That’s a bold statement. There certainly is a lot of potential there, but, as the person who identified San Diego as “a leader in mobile healthcare” back in January 2010, I still see more substance and tangible results in Southern California than in Northern California. For that matter, the Boston area could make a strong case, as could New York City. Smaller but healthy communities have popped up in places like Madison, Wis. That’s fine, competition is good.

However, I’ve seen more failures in Silicon Valley than anywhere else. But does that stop Silicon Valley’s No. 1 media cheerleader, TechCrunch, from declaring, “VC’s Investing To Heal U.S. Healthcare”? No, it does not.

No flame-out has been as spectacular as that overhyped vaporware known as Google Health. Google is back at it again with its VC arm, but this time the Internet giant seems to have a direction and a clue. Maybe.

As TechCrunch reported, “Google Ventures is addressing the nation’s healthcare dilemma with investments in companies like the physicians’ office and network One Medical Group, which raised a later stage $30 million last March. At the opposite end of the spectrum in December 2013 Google invested in the $3 million seed financing of Doctor on Demand, which sells a service enabling users to video chat with doctors.”

Google appears to be scrapping the torturous direct-to-consumer route in favor of going where the money actually is, from third-party payers and from providers, newly incented under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and private reform efforts to work more efficiently and better coordinate care.

On the other hand, it’s been less than two weeks since Stephen Colbert made fun of Doctor on Demand. (Health 2.0 boss Matthew Holt commented on that post that it was “Kind of unfair that Doctor on Demand get the publicity when American Well and a [scad] of others have been doing this at scale for years.” He was right, but, hey, Google.)

Google Venture General Partner Dr. Krishna Yeshwant told TechCrunch the real motive behind all the VC money flooding into healthcare. “As an entity it is where we’re spending 17 percent to 18 percent of GDP, so any one segment is tens of billions of dollars,” Yeshwant is quoted as saying. “Increasingly you’re seeing IT investors who have a fine sense of disruptive opportunities enter the market.” In other words, it’s all about the Benjamins.

But do they understand that healthcare doesn’t work like any other industry? I’m not so sure. And I haven’t even addressed the bigger questions of privacy, data stewardship, interoperability and workflow.

As you prepare your hate mail for me, check out this site, “What the F*** Is My Wearable Strategy?” (NSFW). Refresh the page for more hilarity, but be forewarned: some of the ideas may hit close to home.

You’re welcome.

January 20, 2014 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Transcript from Leslie Saxon’s appearance on CNN’s ‘The Next List’

LOS ANGELES—Yesterday, I covered the seventh annual Body Computing Conference at the University of Southern California, hosted by Dr. Leslie Saxon, chief of cardiovascular medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. That got me thinking: Whatever happened to the video from Saxon’s appearance on CNN’s “The Next List” back in March?

I’m pretty sure CNN never actually posted the full video anywhere online, though the network did share a short teaser clip a couple days before the show, hosted by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, first aired. However, I did find a full, albeit unverified, transcript of the episode on CNN’s Web site if you care to imagine what the pictures might look like.

Several of the people who were on the show also appeared at USC yesterday, including AliveCor’s Dr. Dave Albert, Zephyr Technologies CEO Brian Russell, Misfit Wearables CEO Sonny Vu and product designer Stuart Karten, as, of course, did Saxon and her Oscar-winning film producer-brother, Ed. I’ll have more coverage Monday in MobiHealthNews.

In the meantime, here’s Friday’s news about AliveCor earning FDA 510(k) clearance for the universal, Android-compatible version of its smartphone ECG, the newly dubbed AliveCor Heart Monitor. I’ll see you next week at CHIME’s Fall CIO Forum in Scottsdale, Ariz.

October 5, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Counting the health IT accelerators

Have you noticed all the digital health “accelerators” and “incubators” out there? I count the following, in alphabetical order:

In addition, the USC Center for Body Computing has announced plans for its own incubator/accelerator in Los Angeles, but we continue to await details.

That’s a lot. Is it too many? We have seen plenty of failures in digital health entrepreneurship over the years, in no small part because too many companies don’t understand the unique economics of healthcare, particularly in the U.S. With the possible exception of fitness products, direct-to-consumer simply does not work in healthcare because most of the expenses are paid for by third parties. (I’d argue that wellness and fitness are distinct from traditional healthcare anyway because healthcare really does focus on sick care.)

At least one report from the California HealthCare Foundation backs up my belief that the DTC focus is a recipe for failure, one reason why health accelerators probably have it harder than their counterparts in other industries.

June 4, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

CNN highlights health apps, clinical intelligence

CNN hasn’t exactly shined of late with its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath, but the embattled news network got my attention by airing a segment on cutting-edge health IT over the weekend. (Actually, credit goes to Scott Anzel, CEO and co-founder of MDconnectME, one of the three companies featured in the short video.)

MDconnectME makes an app intended to keep people up to date with short, secure messages when their loved ones are in surgery. I actually wrote about Philadelphia-based MDconnectME for MobiHealthNews last fall, after clinicians at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York found that the app worked well for keeping frazzled family members up to date on patients transferred there when other Manhattan hospitals closed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Also included in this report are Flatiron Health, a clinical intelligence platform for cancer care that’s backed by Google Ventures and LabCorp., and Mango Health, an app supported by Rock Health to encourage medication compliance through a rewards program.

Watch the video here:

You also can see

April 22, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

I’m speaking at the Health Technology Forum in SF

If you’re in Northern California, or plan to be, I will be on a panel at the Health Technology Forum’s 2013 Innovation Conference: Platforms for the Underserved on Friday, April 19, in San Francisco. I’ll be sharing the podium with Jan Oldenburg, Aetna’s VP for provider and patient engagement, in a breakout session on patient engagement. (There will be at least one other panelist, still to be determined.)

We’re still working on the details, but I suspect this session will cover what it means to be an engaged patient, the 5 percent portal usage requirement in Stage 2 of meaningful use, the relationship of patient engagement to patient satisfaction and the technologies and strategies that are and are not working. Since it is an innovation conference, I might have to play the role of reality checker like I often do when I venture into the Bay Area. :)

 

March 29, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Video: My interview with Phytel’s Steve Schelhammer from Health 2.0

Last fall, I conducted one of the “3 CEOs” interviews at the 2012 Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. For my interview, I drew Steve Schelhammer, CEO of Phytel, a population health management technology provider. Aside from a little technical glitch — one that got edited out of this clip — with Schelhammer’s earpiece microphone not working, I think this went very well. The most amazing part is that this was the first session of the morning and not only was I on time, I was awake and alert.

February 20, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Urgent news from Health 2.0

SAN FRANCISCO — The Health 2.0 Conference stopped in its tracks late Monday with this stunning news: fictional EHR vendor Extormity has agreed to acquire every one of the hot, buzzworthy, break-the-mold, think-outside-the-box, too-cool-for-school (and smarter than you because they live in Silicon Valley, went to MIT and/or once knew a guy who worked at Google) app developers showcasing their “solutions”* and explaining why a killer UX in a 99-cent app is the key to all that ails the $2.5 trillion healthcare industry.

From the horse’s mouth:

Extormity announces plans to acquire every application developer at Health 2.0

The Health 2.0 conference currently under way in San Francisco features hundreds of developers, health IT firms and device companies demonstrating innovative applications designed to improve clinical outcomes, reduce medical costs and revolutionize healthcare delivery.

“It would take a dedicated team of talented professionals months to sift through all these disruptive innovators to determine who has the next killer app capable of interrupting the significant revenues we realize from maintaining the status quo,” said Extormity CEO Brantley Whittington from his yacht moored in the San Francisco Bay. “It’s more expedient for us to simply acquire every start-up, playing the role of angel investor sent to answer the capital formation prayers of each young entrepreneur wearing premium denim and a sport coat.”

“Acquired organizations become part of our strategic portfolio and are assigned to our innovations business unit, the division where new ideas fester,” added Whittington. “Developers from digested companies are housed in a bullpen where they engage in a never-ending code-a-thon that breeds fierce competition, resentment and angst – as you might imagine, turnover is epidemic.”

“Meanwhile, the principals who come on board join the Extormity think tank where they are paid handsomely as they wait for their options to vest.”

Extormity personnel will be stationed in each breakout session room with agreements and checks.

 

About Extormity

Extormity is an electronic health records mega-corporation dedicated to offering highly proprietary, difficult to customize and prohibitively expensive healthcare IT solutions. Our flagship product, the Extormity EMR Software Suite, was recently voted “Most Complex” by readers of a leading healthcare industry publication. Learn more at www.extormity.com

 

Enjoy your new-found wealth!

* Marketingspeak for “vaporware.”

October 9, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Attending Health 2.0? Donate your old smartphone

If you’re planning on attending the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco next Monday and Tuesday, Health eVillages, a program of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights, will be collecting used Apple iOS and Android mobile devices. Health eVillages, of which I am a member of the advisory board, will refurbish your device and load it with medical reference materials, clinical decision support tools, drug dosage calculators and other mobile health tools and deploy it to a clinician working in a developing country, helping to bring higher-quality care to that community.

Current Health eVillages sites are in Haiti, China, Kenya, Uganda, with more to come.

If you have a used iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android phone or and tablet (sorry, no BlackBerrys, which is what I happen to have), drop it off at the Health 2.0 registration desk or at the Physicians Interactive booth (No. 37) in the exhibit hall.

If you want to learn more about Health eVillages, founder Donato Trumato, CEO and vice chairman of Physicians Interactive, will be speaking for about 5 minutes on the main stage the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 9, and then will lead a lunchtime presentation at 12:50 p.m. PDT in the Imperial B ballroom at the Hilton San Francisco.

I will be there, too, participating the “3 CEOs” session Tuesday at 8:10 a.m. I will be interviewing Phytel CEO Steve Schelhammer live on stage. Am I nervous? Only about having to get up that early.

 

October 2, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

TEDMED to healthcare press: pay up

I had hoped to be in Washington next week to cover the TEDMED conference, but apparently I am either not important enough or don’t have enough money.

Earlier this week, I requested press credentials for the event, the first one since Priceline founder Jay Walker bought TEDMED from Marc Hodosh. I went through Rogers & Cowan, the boutique PR agency Walker hired to represent TEDMED, and got a rather terse and surprising response:

Due to TEDMED’s press badge policy that is available at www.tedmed.com, (also see attached), we are unable to provide press badges to trade outlets due to space constraints, and freelancers/contributors must be on assignment from national outlets with broad circulation. For these reasons, I regret that we are unable to provide you with a badge.

The policy that was attached stated, in part: “Due to space limitations we regret that we cannot accommodate trade journals, third-party research organizations, research analysts at financial services companies, or producers of TV/film projects that lack confirmed theatrical or network TV distribution plans.”

The publicist closed the e-mail with a cheery “best regards.” I read that as PFO. In any case, it seemed like a bizarre way to treat the very media people who know this industry the best. Sure, TEDMED wants coverage from mainstream, national media, and the Hodosh version last year — really, just six months ago — was featured on CNN and ABC, among others. But last year’s version also got coverage from the likes of Medgadget — clearly a trade publication if not merely a blog— and an outlet called The Daily Transcript, which bills itself as “San Diego’s only information company reporting and providing hourly and daily business news.”

I asked this publicist why Medgadget was allowed in last fall and what TEDMED is trying to hide by shutting out the trade press. People who cover healthcare technology every day know what questions to ask. We can distinguish between real news and overblown hype. National TV networks will fawn over the technology and shiny gadgets without asking the questions that need to be asked. It seems to me that the new TEDMED management doesn’t want someone raining on their parade with a reality check.

The story got more intriguing when I received this follow-up response:

Medgadget is a returning media partner.

We invite [a publication I write for] to present a media partnership proposal for the 2013 conference once this year’s event wraps up. Our media partnership commitments are finalized about 4- 5 months prior to each year’s conference, FYI.

I wish we had room to provide every reporter who applies with a press badge/seat, but it is just not possible.

Very sorry again that we cannot register you this year.

What this means is that trade press are more than welcome if they pay to play, but someone simply looking to cover an event without paying up is out of luck.

As for the claim that space is at a premium, TEDMED will take place at the Kennedy Center Opera House, capacity 2,294. TEDMED says to expect about 1,000 attendees. That leaves, oh, nearly 1,300 seats that trade press can’t have, unless they’re willing to become a “media partner.”

Sure, there’s a space crunch. I hope all the “adventurous thinkers and doers” (TEDMED’s words) find room to stretch out in a half-empty hall. At least the pesky trade press won’t be there to report on how freaking smart and innovative they really are.

 

April 6, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.