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More health IT comedy means the public is taking notice

I often share jokes and humorous videos here, sometimes because a product is worthy of ridicule, but also to illustrate how some health IT is going mainstream. I’m going to do it again today because two things happened in the last week that I had not seen before.

First, though Stephen Colbert has made fun of digital health and fitness products before, last week he took it upon himself to do so on consecutive nights.

On Sept. 8, he took down the forthcoming Pavlok fitness bracelet, a product that sends an electrical jolt to the wearer’s arm as a reminder to exercise. It also debits the user’s bank account and posts an embarrassing message on Facebook. No, really. “When you’re in a dark place, alone at home, out of shape and too tired, overweight or depressed to work out, it’s probably because you weren’t getting enough public humiliation,” Colbert said.

 

A night later, Colbert, like the rest of the world, was talking about the Apple Watch. After cheering wildly about the announcement, Colbert asked, “What does it do?” He then showed a picture of himself from high school and said it was finally cool to wear a calculator watch.

 

Then, on Friday, no less than America’s Finest News Source, The Onion, got into the act with its “American Voices” feature, in which common people (actually, the same five or six headshots recycled for years with different names and occupations) give their fake opinions on a newsworthy topic. That day, the subject was, “Patients Making Record Number Of Telehealth ‘E-Visits’ With Doctors,” with a reference to an actual Deloitte study on that very topic.

As one “commenter” said, “Until doctors can email me painkillers, I don’t see the point.”

 

September 16, 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.

Colbert pokes fun at Fitbit and other digital trackers

“We live in a golden era of digital toys,” noted comedian Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report” last Monday.

Indeed, some of the digital health and fitness products out there are rather ridiculous, even the popular ones, and we’re hearing just that at some actual health IT events. At last month’s WTN Media Digital Healthcare Conference in Madison, Wis., Adam Pellegrini, vice president of digital health at Walgreens, poked fun at programs that reward people for allegedly exercising. “You could put a pedometer on your dog and get 10,000 steps while watching TV,” Pellegrini joked.

Colbert, who certainly was not present at that Madison meeting, got the same idea about the Fitbit activity tracker. “Last week, I wanted to run a marathon, so I strapped this bad boy to a paint shaker for about 20 minutes,” he said.

Colbert then addressed the Vessyl digital cup, which records data on the beverages each user consumes. “That level of information was previously available only on the can you just poured it out of,” he said. He then pointed out that Vessyl only tracks half of the hydration equation, the input, so he announced the pre-release of his own “product,” Toylyt.

Watch the clip below.

 

 

July 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.

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.

HIMSS gossip

ORLANDO, Fla.—Two days of HIMSS14 have come and gone, and I’m not bouncing off the walls just yet. But I did bounce off the pavement Monday night when I tripped exiting a shuttle bus, and have some facial scrapes to show for it. You will see the evidence whenever Health Innovation Media gets around to posting a video interview I conducted Tuesday afternoon.

Health Innovation Media’s Gregg Masters and Dr. Pat Salber have been camped out near the HIMSS press room since Sunday with their video equipment, querying various newsmakers on various health IT topics, and occasionally having guest interviewers. As I walked out of the press room on my way to the exhibit hall, I said hello to former national health IT coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari, who looked like he was just hanging around, but was actually waiting to be interviewed. Masters and Salber asked me if I’d be interested in interviewing Mostashari right there on the spot with no preparation, and with just 15 minutes to get down to the show floor.

If you recall, I did a live interview—yes, streamed live on the Web—last year with Athenahealth honcho Jonathan Bush, beers in hand, for the Health Innovation Broadcast Consortium that Masters and Salber were involved in. (I don’t know the status of that project, as there’s nothing new on that site since last July.) So of course I said yes, and I think it went pretty well. Well, there were a couple of hiccups, as in me thinking we needed to wrap up earlier than we actually had to. And then there’s this:

 

Followed by this:

 

Yes, the Twitterverse catches everything.

Now about that facial injury. I think I just need to avoid Orlando. In 2011, the last time HIMSS met here, I needed six stitches above my right eye after I banged my face against the edge of the bathtub in my hotel room. As I arrived for the 2008 conference here, I turned on my phone after landing and got the message that my grandfather had passed away. Just for good measure, I passed through Orlando on my way back from Europe in 2009. As the flight pulled to the gate, the skies opened up with a violent summer thunderstorm, prompting the airport to close the ramp, preventing the ground crew from unloading bags for nearly an hour. I was stuck in the no-man’s land of U.S. Customs for that whole time, where cell phones are prohibited. It was not until I cleared security, took the airport tram to a different terminal, then hustled to the gate that I knew I would make my connecting flight. So yeah, it’s become a pattern.

Anyway, speaking of Jonathan Bush, he is not at HIMSS14 because he is on sabbatical to write a book and who knows what else? Well, here’s a clue. He was spotted at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, last week with his more famous brother, Billy, host of “Access Hollywood.” (Hat tip to HIStalk for showing this video at HIStalkapalooza Monday night.)

I also heard that Bush is considering a run for political office of some kind, perhaps because it’s, you know, the family business. Anyone care to confirm this?

I do know for a fact that at least one HIMSS attendee is actually seeking office. That would be Dr. Steven Daviss, CMIO of startup M3 Information, maker of a mental health screening app called My M3. Daviss is running for Democratic Central Committee in Baltimore this year. If he wins, he plans on seeking a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 2018, in part because he says there is only one other physician among the state legislature.

Daviss himself is on sabbatical from his job as chairman of psychiatry at the University of Maryland’s Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, Md.

February 25, 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.

Happy birthday, HITECH, and pre-HIMSS humor

Today is the fifth anniversary of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act being signed into law, which also means today is the fifth anniversary of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which was rolled into the $831 billion stimulus bill. HITECH introduced “meaningful use” into the lexicon, and for that, it has had a lasting effect.

Through the end of 2013, the program had paid out more than $19 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentives for EHR usage, and healthcare is still a mess. However, all of that money is for Stage 1, and the goal for the first stage was mostly to get technology in place. Stage 2, which is just getting started, is about interoperability and data capture, while Stage 3, which will not start before 2017, will be focused on actually improving outcomes. It is not until the third stage where we are supposed to see real gains in healthcare quality, though we should start seeing some efficiency improvements in Stage 2.

Penalties for not achieving Meaningful Use kick in next year, though that could change. According to Medscape, the new bill to repeal the much-reviled Medicare sustainable growth rate calls for bringing Meaningful Use, the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and Medicare’s value-based payment modifier under a proposed new program called the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). This program would eliminate Meaningful Use penalties after 2017, but would base incentives and penalties on more factors than just EHR usage.

On a lighter note, MMRGlobal, the controversial PHR vendor that has been aggressive in defending its many patents but that also has, like every other vendor of untethered PHRs, had trouble landing many customers, has signed on actress and cancer survivor Fran Drescher as a spokesperson. There’s a video on the company’s Facebook page, with a teaser to “Watch For MMRGlobal on TV!” Draw your own conclusions.

On an even lighter note, digital media producer Gregg Masters has started the #HIMSSPickupLines hashtag on Twitter. A few samples:

 


 

Have fun.

February 17, 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.

Back from CES, and ready to, um, laugh about digital health

I got home from the Digital Health Summit at International CES in Las Vegas late Thursday night, and have spend most of the time since them just catching up on things. Among important news I missed was that Stephen Colbert took on health apps on Wednesday, specifically Doctor on Demand. Colbert joked that the app is going to “revolutionize medicine.” (“Why waste time getting an exam when you can just shoot your doctor an emoji of your shattered femur?”)

Ah, yes, revolutionary health apps. It has to be a joke, right?

“Clearly, app-based healthcare is the future of medicine,” Colbert continued, before introducing one of his own, from “sponsor” Prescott Pharmaceuticals.

The Doctor on Demand part starts around 3:30, but the earlier part is pretty funny, too. Some might be offended by this segment.

I will have more on the Digital Health Summit on MobiHealthNews and right here on this blog later this week.

January 12, 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.

Happy New Year! Lots of hard work ahead

Here’s a light way to end the year, with a Dilbert cartoon that’s actually more than 7 months old, but one that seems apt.

Dilbert, May 26, 2013
©2013 Scott Adams

No, healthcare technology is never easy. Neither is healthcare improvement, not that a diagnostic robot would necessarily be an improvement. There’s a lot of work to do in 2014. For now, enjoy the evening, and have a happy new year! Don’t drink and drive. Here’s a map of regions where AAA is providing free tows home for drunken revelers. Lots of local taxi companies are offering free rides tonight. Here in Chicago, the CTA is letting riders board buses and trains for a penny. There’s no excuse. Stay safe, and I’ll see you soon.

December 31, 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.

‘Dilbert’ takes on wireless health

Perhaps I’m getting loopy, or just distracted, but I’ve been reading the funnies again. (Hey, we all need a laugh from time to time, right?) But here goes my second consecutive post involving  a comic strip, this time a certain one called “Dilbert.” Today, Scott Adams, who spoke at HIMSS in 2005, addresses digital health, specifically wearable sensors and how unscrupulous employers like Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss might exploit all the new health data being generated.

Dilbert, ©2013 Scott Adams

All of our bosses can’t be so intrusive, can they?

 

August 15, 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.

A new HIT comic, and perhaps a Google fail?

Healthcare Technology Online reports this week that there is a new comic strip online called Hacking N’ Healthcare. “Hacking N’ Healthcare is a comic strip that takes a humorous look at the challenges often associated with implementing health information technology,” the magazine says. Here’s what appears to be the first edition, taking a swing at user experience design, but also, perhaps inadvertently, mocking personal health records and gamification in healthcare. (The timing is interesting. In a MobiHealthNews column that should be published Friday, I take the most measured, hopeful look at PHRs that I have since about 2007.)

Hacking ‘N Healthcare (from Health Technology Online)

 

I can’t determine if Healthcare Technology Online or Pathfinder Software is the source of this comic, or if it’s going to be a regular feature in either place. I Googled “Hacking ‘N Healthcare” and found nothing relevant. And speaking of fails, there is no word in the English language spelled “sceptor.” It’s “scepter” in American English and “sceptre” in the Queen’s English. Did I mention I’m available for all your editing needs?

 

August 8, 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.