“Any system of care that depends on the personal knowledge and analytic capabilities of physicians cannot be trusted.”
Finally, I’ve come across a really spot-on analysis of what ails healthcare, and some proposals that have serious potential to improve healthcare for people like my patients. Come to think of it, implementing these proposals would surely improve care for all patients.
The analysis, and the proposed fixes, are detailed by Dr. Lawrence Weed and his son Lincoln Weed, in their book “Medicine in Denial.” (The quote above is from this book.)
The book is a little long, but for those who are interested in leveraging technology to make healthcare more consistent and more patient-centered, I’d say it’s a must-read and must-discuss. (I’m a bit surprised that this book doesn’t seem to have many reviews, and that Dr. Weed’s ideas are not more often cited by those advocating for digital health and patient empowerment.) In particular, the Weeds’ book provides:
- An excellent description and analysis of two huge fundamental problems in healthcare. One is the way we persist in relying on fallible physician minds to manage the process of evaluating, diagnosing, and managing medical problems. The other is our lack of standards for consistently documenting and organizing information related to our evaluation and management of patients. Both lead to idiosyncratic, disorganized healthcare that generally serves patients poorly, especially those who are medically complex or have multiple chronic conditions.
- A proposed method of using computers and technology to consistently connect patient data to medical knowledge, leading to better diagnosis and medical management.
Continue reading “Medicine in Denial”
Filed Under: OP-ED, Tech, THCB
Tagged: Book Review, digital health, Lawrence Weed, Leslie Kernisan, Lincoln Weed, Medicine in Denial, patient empowerment, Physicians
May 4, 2013
Recently, there has been an uptick in newsflow around the “series A crunch”/ “the valley of death” in regards to financing. Because of who we are (a firm that connects investors with private equity investments); we at Poliwogg see a lot of the “crunched” and “valley-dwellers.” We have some good news. The good news is that we are seeing increased interest on the part of accredited investors who have not invested in private companies before and who are now more open to the idea in light of lackluster returns in other asset classes. Aggregating this group of investors allows for investments in the range that are too large for a traditional “friends and family” round but are too small for traditional institutional investors where the crunch is most pronounced. The caveat is that companies need to be ready to meet the demands of this new crop of investors. Probably, what will be required will be more stringent than what companies have been asked for in the past. On the plus side in exchange for more requirements, these investors are often more patient and more passionate (especially in the disease categories) than traditional investors.
A few observations about what we are seeing (we view mostly healthcare companies):
• Asset prices seem fairer than they have been in a while especially when compared to the prices of similar assets in the public market; spurring investor interest.
• There do seem to be a large number of companies that raised seed rounds (sometimes in substantial sizes) from friends and family. That said given the lack of arms-length transactions the supporting documentation ( e.g. possessing an accountant and law firm, audited financials) often seems a bit lacking in our view and can make a more institutional looking round challenging if not impossible. More disclosure is always better.
Continue reading “Peacefully Coexisting With the Valley of Death”
Filed Under: Tech
Tagged: biotechnology, digital health, Entrepreneurs, JOBS act, Les Funtleyder, risk
May 4, 2013
Recently I came across yet another media article with suggestions as to how digital health products can gain more widespread adoption. The writer notes that “we can learn a lot from the pharma and healthcare industries,” and goes on to discuss the importance of engaging the doctor.
This article, like many I read, doesn’t acknowledge the downsides of using pharma’s tactics.
I have to assume that this is because from a business perspective, there aren’t a lot of downsides to pharma’s tactics. Pharma, along with many other healthcare industry players (hospitals, insurance companies, device manufacturers) has overall been extremely successful from a business standpoint.
So if the intent is to help digital health companies succeed as businesses, then by all means one should encourage them to copy pharma’s tactics.
But as we know, what works for business has often not worked well for serving the needs of individual patients, or to society from a health services and public health perspective.
Continue reading “Doctors: We Can’t Leave It to Business to Educate Us”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: Big pharma, clinicians, digital health, entrepreneurship, Innovation, Journal Watch, Leslie Kernisan, Physicians, the business of healthcare
Apr 5, 2013
Last year was a banner year for digital health, as the market saw significant growth in funding, bigger deals and new investors entering the space. So what’s in store for 2013? According to a survey of nearly 140 digital health entrepreneurs and over 50 health care information technology venture investors, conducted by my venture capital firm InterWest Partners, we are in for another exciting ride this year. In the survey, we asked which sectors will see the most love from investors in 2013; which companies (if any) will see a $1 billion valuation; where they are having trouble recruiting; and which digital health entrepreneur would win “Survivor: HCIT Island” The answers? Well, it all depends who you ask.
Continue reading “Investors Are from Mars. Entrepreneurs Are from Venus”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: digital health, entrepreneurship, Funding, Health Insurance Exchanges, InterWest Partners, Michelle Snyder, Practice Fusion, Startups, venture capital
Feb 20, 2013
The ability to gather, analyze, and distribute information broadly is one of the great strengths of digital health, perhaps the most significant short-term opportunity to positively impact medical practice. Yet, the exact same technology also carries a set of intimately-associated liabilities, dangers we must recognize and respect if we are to do more good than harm.
Consider these three examples:
- Last week, a study from Case Western reported that at least 20% of the information in most physician progress notes was copy-and-pasted from previous notes. As recently discussed at kevinmd.com and elsewhere, this process can adversely affect patient care in a number of ways, and there’s actually an emerging literature devoted to the study of “copy-paste” errors in EMRs. The ease with which information can be transferred can lead to the rapid propagation of erroneous information – a phenomenon we used to call a “chart virus.” In essence, this is simply another example of consecrating information without first appropriately analyzing it (e.g. by asking the patient, when this is possible).
- At a recent health conference, a speaker noted that a key flaw with most electronic medical record (EMR) platforms is that they are “automating broken processes.” Rather than use the arrival of new technology to think carefully, and from the ground up, about the problems that need to be solved, most EMRs simply digitally reify what already exists. Not only does this perpetuate (and usual exacerbate) notoriously byzantine operational practices and leave many users explicitly complaining they are worse off than before, but it also misses the chance to offer conceptually original approaches that profoundly improve workflow and enhance user experience.
Continue reading “The Chart-Eating Virus, Me Too Software and Other Emerging Digital Threats”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: 'get well quick' scheme, Al Lewis, chart viruses, copy-paste errors, David Shaywitz, digital health, EHR, Employers, Nassim Taleb, Physician Progress Notes, Vic Khanna, workplace wellness programs
Jan 21, 2013
Rock Health recently released a decidedly mixed report on the current state of Digital Health investing, as the data suggest many investors continue to tentatively explore the sector, but most have yet to make a serious commitment.
Overall, VC funding for digital health increased significantly over the past year, from just under $1B in 2011 to about $1.4B in 2012; 20% of this total was associated with just five deals: two raises for transparency companies, Castlight (targeting employees with high deductible plans looking to manage their costs) and GoHealth (targeting consumers contemplating purchase of health insurance); two raises for referral companies, Care.com (helps consumers find the right caregiver – defined broadly, as needs addressed include eldercare, child tutoring, babysitting, and pet care) and BestDoctors (helps employees find the right doctor), and one deal for 23andMe (a pioneering consumer genetics company).
Not surprisingly, the largest thematic area of investment ($237M) was “health consumer engagement,” comprised of companies that – like the first four above – help consumers or employees with healthcare purchases. “Personal health tools and tracking,” the second leading category, captured $143M in funding last year. “EMR/EHR” ($108M) and “hospital administration” ($78M) rounded out the list; the last two numbers seem shockingly low given the apparent size of these markets, and suggest both areas may be perceived as firmly owned by incumbent players, and prohibitively difficult for new participants to enter.
Athenahealth’s just-announced acquisition of Epocrates highlights the competitive pressures even existing EMR companies face as they struggle for traction in an environment that seems to be increasingly dominated by a few large players, most notably Epic. “Our biggest obstacle,” Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush told Bloomberg Businessweek, “is that 70% of doctors don’t even know we exist.” In contrast, I’ve suggested that a category I’d broadly define as EMR adjacencies may be primed for growth, as VC’s Stephen Kraus and Ambar Bhattacharyya have also discussed recently in this intelligent post. The related area of care transitions is also attracting considerable entrepreneurial interest, including current Rock Health portfolio companies WellFrame and OpenPlacement, and TechStars alum Careport; it remains to be seen whether a robust business model will emerge here.
Continue reading “2012 Digital Health Investment Activity: The View From the Valley”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: athenahealth, David Shaywitz, digital health, Rock Health, Tory Wolff, VC Funding
Jan 8, 2013
The human connection is threatened by medicine’s increasingly reductive focus on data collection, algorithms, and information transaction.
If you follow digital health, Rachel King’s recent Wall Street Journal piece on Stanford physician Abraham Verghese should be required reading, as it succinctly captures the way compassionate, informed physicians wrestle with emerging technologies — especially the electronic medical record.
For starters, Verghese understands its appeal: “The electronic medical record is a wonderful thing, in general, a huge improvement on finding paper charts and finding the old records and trying to put them all together.”
At the same, he accurately captures the problem: “The downside is that we’re spending too much time on the electronic medical record and not enough at the bedside.”
This tension is not unique to digital health, and reflects a more general struggle between technologists who emphasize the efficient communication of discrete data, and others (humanists? Luddites?) who worry that in the reduction of complexity to data, something vital may be lost.
Technologists, it seems, tend to view activities like reading and medicine as fundamentally data transactions. So it makes sense to receive reading information electronically on your Kindle — what could be more efficient?
Continue reading “Being Human”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: Abraham Verghese, Atul Gawande, Bedside Manner, David Shaywitz, digital health, Eric Schmidt, humanism, Physicians, Rachel King, Technologists, Vinod Khosla, WSJ
Nov 6, 2012
While the evolution of the digital health ecosystem has seemed at times almost painfully contrived, it now appears to have reached the point where it requires but a few sprinkles of magic fairy dust to be truly alive.
The basic idea behind digital health is pretty clear: we can (and must) do health better, and technology should be able to help,
There’s also an ever-increasing amount of support for early-stage innovators in this space. A remarkably large number of digital health incubators have sprung up around the country, as Lisa Suennen captured with characteristic verve in a recent Venture Valkyrie post.
On top of this, a slew of corporate VCs have now emerged – many from payors, but some from communication companies, and even a few from big pharmas such as Merck – all keen to invest strategically in the digital health space.
Deliberately, many of these large corporations also represent likely buyers for the products or services that will be produced, so it really does seem like an example of the savvy external sourcing of innovation.
So we’re good, then – right?
Well, not so fast.
It turns out that many high profile VCs continue to eschew this space, other than perhaps an occasional investment or two. The reason? As one extremely well-regarded VC – with extensive healthcare experience – told me yesterday, “I haven’t seen a viable business model yet.”
Translation: how do you make (serious) money here? Where’s the revenue?
Continue reading “Digital Health: Almost a Real, Live Business”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: Andy Grove, Big VCs, business model for digital health, David Shaywitz, digital health, Facebook of Health, Google, Google of Medicine, Intel, Lisa Suennen, Merck, Microsoft, Oracle, VCs, Venture Valkyrie
Oct 15, 2012
The gap between model or potential solutions and solutions that work in the real world – the translational gap — is arguably the greatest challenge we have in healthcare, and is something seen in both medical science and in digital health.
Translational Gap in Medical Science
The single most important lesson I learned from my many years as a bench scientist was how fragile most data are, whether presented by a colleague at lab meeting or (especially) if published by a leading academic in a high-profile journal. It was not uncommon to watch colleagues spend months or even years trying to build upon an exciting reported finding, only to eventually discover the underlying result was not reproducible.
This turns out to be a problem not only for other university researchers, but also for industry scientists who are trying to translate promising scientific findings into actual treatments for patients; obviously, if the underlying science doesn’t hold up, there isn’t anything to translate. Innovative analyses by John Ioannidis, now at Stanford, and more recently by scientists from Bayer and Amgen, have highlighted the surprisingly prevalence of this problem.
Continue reading “Closing the Translational Gap: A Challenge Facing Innovators in Medical Science — and in Digital Health”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Academic Studies, Apps, David Shaywitz, digital health, entrepreneurship, John Ioannidis, Life Sciences, Reproducibility Initiative, The Translational Gap, VC Funding
Aug 14, 2012
As an ever increasing amount of money seems determined to chase an ever greater number of questionable ideas, it’s perhaps not surprising that inquiring minds want to know: (1) Are we really in a tech bubble? (2) If so, when will it pop? (3) What should I do in the meantime?
I’m not sure about Question 1: I’ve heard some distinguished valley wags insist we’re not in a tech bubble, and that current valuations are justified, but I also know many technology journalists feel certain the end is neigh, and view the bubble as an established fact of life – see here and here. The surge of newly-minted MBAs streaming to start-ups has been called out as a likely warning sign of the upcoming apocalypse as well.
I have the humility to avoid Question 2: as Gregory Zuckerman reviews in The Greatest Trade Ever, even if you’re convinced you’re in a bubble, and you’re right, the real challenge is figuring out when to get out. Isaac Newton discovered this the hard way in the South Sea Bubble, leading him to declare, “I can calculate the motions of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.”
I do have a thought about Question 3, however – what to do: reconsider digital health — serious digital health.
Here’s why: Instagram and similar apps are delightful, but hardly essential; most imitators and start-ups inspired by their success are neither. It doesn’t strain credulity to imagine investors in these sorts of companies waking up one day and experiencing their own Seinfeld moment, as it occurs to them they’ve created a portfolio built around nothing.
Continue reading “Seriously: Is Digital Health The Answer To Tech Bubble Angst?”
Filed Under: The Business of Health Care
Tagged: Apps, Castlight Health, consumer tech, David Shaywitz, digital health, entrepreneurship, Facebook, incubators, Innovation, Instagram, Sand Hill Road, Social Media, tech bubble, VCs, wellness apps
Jun 8, 2012