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Join the discussion about wearable technology

The thing about the Internet is that you never know when something is going to go viral or spark heated debate. (Actually, it’s a fairly sure bet that anything involving politics, religion or sports will lead to heated debate, generally of the lowbrow variety.)

Less common is informed, intelligent discussion on the Internet. Something I wrote early yesterday for Forbes.com has, happily, fallen into this category.

My post, “Hype Around Healthcare Wearables Runs Into Reality,” is far from the most inflammatory piece I’ve written about overblown hype in healthcare innovation, or, as Dr. Joseph Kvedar called it, “irrational exuberance,” borrowing a line from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

It’s also far from the most-viewed item I’ve had on the Forbes.com platform since I started about six months ago. However, it’s generating a lot of discussion on Paul Sonnier’s Digital Health group on LinkedIn. As of this writing, there are 28 comments, or more than one per hour since the original post went up at 9:54 am EST Wednesday.

If you’re one of the more than 30,000 members of that group, I encourage you to join the discussion. If not, you might want to join the group, or comment on the original post at Forbes.com.

I haven’t decided yet if I’ll throw in an additional two cents, since I did, you know, already give my opinion in the actual post.

December 11, 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.

Podcast: Care Innovations CEO Sean Slovenski on his company’s Validation Institute

PALO ALTO, Calif. — I’m out here in the Bay Area, in part because Intel-GE Care Innovations invited me to be one of six judges of its first-ever “hackathon” this past weekend. (Full disclosure: Care Innovations paid my travel expenses, but placed no editorial demands on me.)

On Saturday, I sat down with CI CEO Sean Slovenski to discuss a number of issues in digital health and health reform, but I found myself most curious about CI’s new Validation Institute, launched in late June, which looks to bring some truth to some outrageous claims made by entrepreneurs in the untamed world of digital health, telehealth and population health management. I turned on the voice recorder, and this short podcast is the result.

(Sorry for the bit of background noise. We both live in the Midwest, and just had to do this outside on a gorgeous California morning.)

Podcast details: Interview with Sean Slovenski, CEO of Intel-GE Care Innovations, on the company’s new Validation Institute. MP3, stereo, 192 kbps,  9.2 MB. Running time 6:38

September 22, 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.

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 should get in on Health Affairs innovation action

The policy journal Health Affairs puts out an e-mail update every Sunday, for those of us who can’t get enough of reading work e-mail during the week. Today’s contained the following solicitation:

Health Affairs is planning a theme issue on health care and medical innovation in early-2015. The issue will span the fields of medical technology and public policy as well as private sector innovations that promote improvements in the delivery of care, lower costs, increased efficiency, etc. We plan to publish 15-20 peer-reviewed articles including research, analyses, and commentaries from leading researchers and scholars, analysts, industry experts, and health and health care stakeholders.

We invite interested authors to submit abstracts for consideration for this issue. To be considered, abstracts must be submitted by Wednesday, June 25, 2014. We regret that we will not be able to consider any abstracts submitted after that date. Editors will review the abstracts and, for those that best fit our vision and goals, invite authors to submit papers for consideration for the issue. Invited papers will be due at the journal by September 2, 2014.

Abstract submission requirements. Abstract submissions should not exceed 500 words, and should include (in this order): proposed title, author names and affiliations, abstract, name and contact information for the corresponding author below the abstract. Please consult our online guidelines for additional formatting instructions. http://www.healthaffairs.org/Abstract_Submission_FAQ.php

If you wish to submit an abstract, please send it as an e-mail attachment to abstracts_innovation@projecthope.org (note: there is an underscore between “abstracts” and “innovation”).

We thank you for your time and consideration. Please feel free to pass this invitation along to colleagues who might be interested. If you have questions about this request, please contact Senior Deputy Editor, Sarah Dine, at sdine@projecthope.org.

Presumably, a lot of the submissions will come from traditional medical device manufacturers, the pharma industry and managed care, but this seems like a perfect opportunity for some from the realm of digital health to prove that they really are disruptive, game-changing, revolutionary or any of a number of buzzwords and clichés the marketing people like to throw around.

The June 25 deadline doesn’t leave a lot of time, but that’s just to submit an abstract. The full description can come later. So get to work, digital health innovators. It’s time to prove to the establishment that your ideas are real and effective.

Click here for more information.

If you’re looking for my writing this week, I’ll be at WTN Media’s Digital Health Conference in Madison, Wis., Tuesday and Wednesday, helping WTN with its coverage. I’ve got to write at least three stories from that conference, which will be my priority once the meeting starts, though that doesn’t preclude me from posting elsewhere once that work is done.

June 22, 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.

Browning out at IntelliBlast, PwC’s Wasden gets academic appointment

I have some personnel news from the world of digital health for you today.

This morning, I learned that Matthew Browning, founder of IntelliBlast Health, a healthcare communications platform formerly known as YourNurseIsOn, has resigned as CEO, in an apparent dispute with investors. Alliance Healthcare Partners made an undisclosed investment in IntelliBlast parent Targeted Instant Communications one year ago tomorrow.

Browning’s wife, Phoebe, remains CFO of the New Haven, Conn.-based company for the time being, but probably not much longer.

Also, Chris Wasden, managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ healthcare innovation practice for nearly seven years, has been named executive director of the Sorenson Center for Discovery and Innovation at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business and the associate executive director of the university’s Center for Medical Innovation. Wasden remains with PwC as a consultant.

 

June 10, 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.

Video: StartUp Health co-founder talks Health Datapalooza on CNBC

Unity Stoakes, co-founder and president of entrepreneurship academy StartUp Health, was in Washington this week for Health Datapalooza. Tuesday morning, with the Capitol dome serving as a picturesque background, he appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” to talk innovation in digital health. Stoakes used more than a couple of buzzwords, such as “revolution” (see my commentary for Forbes on Apple’s just-announced HealthKit mocking the notion of a revolution) and “creative destruction,” and CNBC added a few more, like “disruptive” and “tectonic shift”

But he did temper the enthusiasm with a reality check. “To be quite honest, there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Stoakes said when asked about who the losers would be in the new healthcare world. Have a look, and share with your friends outside of healthcare so they get a bit of a sense about what digital health is and where true healthcare reform might come from.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In case you missed it, I interviewed Stoakes last month for a story in Healthcare IT News about breaking down data silos in digital, mobile and “connected” health.

June 5, 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.

Still no consensus on digital/mobile/connected health

A while back — three months, to be exact — I asked readers if they had a preferred term to describe “the application of new, personalized technologies to healthcare.” I gave you the choice of digital health, connected health, wireless health, mobile health and telehealth, and surmised that the results would not be conclusive. On that part, I was right:

digital health poll resultsHowever, I was surprised that connected health, a relatively underutilized term, did so well and that telehealth got but one vote. Wireless health certainly has kind of become passé, but I was surprised nobody picked it at all.

In any case, these results, however unscientific they may be, are representative of the fact that it is so hard to reach consensus on anything in health IT. They also are symbolic of the silos that still exist in newer technologies.

May 6, 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.

Poll: Which term do you prefer?

My last post earlier today got me thinking: we still haven’t reached a consensus on how to describe what some people have dubbed wireless health, mobile health, telehealth, digital health and connected health. Digital health has gotten popular in the past year or two, and the new issue of Health Affairs goes with connected health, but, as I noted, Dr. Joseph Kvedar, founder and director of the Center for Connected Health at Partners HealthCare in Boston, had a lot to do with the topic selection, so there is some inherent bias.

Now that I know how to add polls to blog posts, I figured I’d ask the question. I doubt the results will be scientific and I’m sure they won’t be conclusive, but it will be fun to know what others are thinking.

 

February 4, 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.