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More accolades for Topol as ‘connected health’ gains

I’m convinced that Dr. Eric Topol is one of those rare people, like Dr. John Halamka, who can function on minimal sleep, perhaps four hours a night. He just gets that much done.

Yesterday, AT&T named Topol chief medical advisor. As such, the company says, Topol will “impact the design, development and delivery” of connected health products and services for the AT&T ForHealth business. This is on top of his appointment last year as editor-in-chief of Medscape, his many speaking engagements and TV appearances and, lest we forget, his day job as cardiologist, geneticist and chief academic officer at Scripps Health in San Diego and leader of the Scripps Translational Science Institute.

Topol will not, however, be replacing Dr. Geeta Nayyar, who was full-time CMIO at AT&T until September.

This news comes a couple weeks after CBS News ran a segment on the possible demise of the stethoscope at the hands of the portable ultrasound.


This is not the first time we have heard this idea. Yes, it was Topol who dropped his stethoscope in the trash on stage at TEDMED 2009 and suggested that the handheld ultrasound should become the standard of care by the time the 200th anniversary of the stethoscope rolled around in 2016.

Given how slowly medicine moves, I wouldn’t bet on the stethoscope being extinct in the next two years; the cost of the GE Healthcare Vscan ultrasound, the one Topol demonstrated in 2009, hasn’t really budged since then. A new one will still set you back $7,900. I can’t see primary care physicians shelling out that kind of cash when the old technology is $200 or less.

Meanwhile, this week we get more evidence that “connected health” may be winning the terminology battle over mobile, wireless and digital health. The February edition of Health Affairs examines this field, which the policy journal says encompasses telemedicine, telehealth and mobile health. On the other hand, the lead author of one of the overview articles is Dr. Joseph Kvedar, founder and director of the Center for Connected Health at Partners HealthCare in Boston. He is the champion of the term, and possibly the creator of it.



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.

Mastering Health Wonk Review

The newest edition of Health Wonk Review is up at Brad Wright’s Wright on Health policy blog, and Wright uses last week’s Masters golf tournament as his theme. He conveniently picks 18 posts to highlight from around the blogosphere (what, no 19th hole?). At the sixth tee, he gets to my post about the questionable media policy at TEDMED.

I’m even more flabbergasted now that I’ve learned others who might be considered “trade press” — really bloggers, not what might be termed traditional publications — got credentialed, too. I guess you have to know someone. Jay Walker reportedly has said he wants to make TEDMED the Davos of healthcare, and Davos is all about elitism. That’s OK, I went to Bellagio and the fancy-schmancy PR firm TEDMED hired to keep riffraff like me away did not.


April 13, 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, (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.

An easy link to many of my health IT stories

One of these days, I’m going to build a page with all my professional information and a collection of stories I’ve written over the years. In the meantime, I recently discovered a decent source for tracking some of my work, a service called uFollow.

My page on this site, which I did not build myself, contains links to pretty much every story I’ve written for InformationWeek, going back to the beginning of the year. It also includes links for the five posts I did for the BNET Healthcare Blog in 2009 (which earned me the whopping sum of $250 total). But there’s nothing else currently there, even though my bio references the work I did for three Fierce Markets titles in 2009-10. I’ve asked uFollow either to update the feeds to include my work for titles like MobiHealthNews, Healthcare IT News, Health Data Management and others, or tell me how I can update the page myself. Stay tuned.

Since I’m talking about myself here, I’ll let you know that I’m making plans for a lot of conference coverage this fall. I’ll be attending the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco in a couple of weeks, bravely wading into the back yard of the same Silicon Valley community I roundly dissed in July and have since taken a couple more swings at.

Next month, I’m expecting to be at the MGMA annual conference in Las Vegas. Last year was the first time in 10 years I missed that one, but I’m planning a return. Later that week, I’ll either be at TEDMED in San Diego or the CHIME Fall CIO Forum in San Antonio, a decision I’ll make in the next few days. Unfortunately, AMIA’s annual symposium is the same week on the east coast, so, regrettably, I’ll have to skip that one.

The first week of November, I’m scheduled to moderate a couple of panels at the Institute for Health Technology Transformation’s Health IT Summit in Beverly Hills, Calif. There may be one more speaking/moderating gig that month, but I’m not ready to announce it yet.

Publicists, you might be salivating now that you have an idea about my schedule this fall. Don’t worry, I won’t have time for all the vendor meetings you are going to propose, and I’m more than happy to ignore all but the very best pitches. I may even come to you to request a meeting if I think it would help me pay the bills, since I’m usually covering my own travel expenses. However, I know that especially at something like Health 2.0, there will be a lot of vaporware, hype and companies with no business model among the many good, solid ideas. I have a very good B.S. detector, honed over a 19-year career, and I’m not afraid to use it. Consider yourselves warned. :)

September 13, 2011 I Written By

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

Conference overload, meet conference overlap

Normally this time of year, I’m making plans to attend the many fall conferences in health IT and related industries. This year, my decisions are harder. You see, it seems like everyone decided to schedule their events during the last week of October:

AMIA 2011, Oct. 23-26, Washington

MGMA Annual Conference, Oct. 23-26, Las Vegas

TEDMED 2011 Oct. 25-28, San Diego

CHIME11 Fall CIO Forum, Oct. 26-28, Austin, Texas

Just for kicks, I’m scheduled to participate in the Institute for Health Technology Transformation’s Health IT Summit, Nov. 2-3 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

All are worthwhile, and all will be great places to find relevant stories for this blog and my various media clients. It probably makes most sense to go west, hitting MGMA and TEDMED, then spending the weekend in California before IHT2. But AMIA and CHIME always produce quality stories for me and supply me with leads which could pay off months later.

If you were in my shoes, which would you choose?

September 1, 2011 I Written By

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

Topol’s talk at TEDMED 2009

If you saw my presentation to Meharry Medical College earlier this month either live or on video, you know I referenced Dr. Eric Topol’s talk at TEDMED 2009, in which the Scripps Health cardiologist predicted the demise of the stethoscope by the 2016, the 200th anniversary of that old standby. If you were curious, there is video available of Topol’s session. In fact, it’s right here.

You don’t actually get to see Topol throwing his stethoscope in the trash. I understand that happened right when he took the stage. This video starts a little after then.

April 25, 2011 I Written By

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