My first job after residency was in a small mill town in central Maine. I joined two fifty something family doctors, one of whom was the son of the former town doctor. I felt like I was Dr. Kiley on “Marcus Welby, MD.” I didn’t have a motorcycle, but I did have a snazzy SAAB 900.
Will was a John Deere man, wore a flannel shirt and listened to A Prairie Home Companion. He was kind and methodical. Joe didn’t seem quite as rural, moved quicker and wore more formal clothes. I never could read his handwriting.
They each had their own patients, but covered seamlessly for each other. They were like a pair of spouses in the sense that they answered to each other as much as to their patients. They had to make everything work for the benefit of their shared practice, their shared livelihood. Their mutual loyalty was essential and obvious, although allowing for their differences in temperament and personalities.
Invited to stay on and enter into a partnership, I hesitated. How did I fit in? Could I follow in their footsteps and become an equal partner, covering for them and doing things similarly enough to fit in for the long haul?
On Episode 85 of Health in 2 Point 00, it’s our last night in Helsinki. In this episode, Jess asks me about GE selling off Ventures, Neurotrack raising $21 million to detect and track dementia, and Allscripts acquiring ZappRx, a prescribing tool. Also, find out my favorite things from Health 2.0 HIMSS Europe, including a cool pill tracker, Popit, and a great panel on femtech (even though there were not enough men in the room). —Matthew Holt
Electronic health records (EHRs) are a polarizing issue in health reform. In their current form, they are frustrating to many physicians and have failed to support cost improvements. The current round of federal intervention is proposed rulemaking pursuant to the 21st Century Cures Act calls for penalties for “information blocking” and for technology that physicians and patients could use “without special effort.”
The proposed rules are over one thousand pages of technical jargon that aims to govern how one machine communicates with another when the content of the communication is personal and very valuable information about an individual. Healthcare is a challenging and unique industry when it comes to interoperability. Hospitals spend lavishly on EHRs and pursue information blocking as a means to manipulate the physicians and patients who might otherwise bypass the hospital on the way to health reform. The result is a broken market where physicians and patients directly control trillions of dollars in spending but have virtually zero market power over the technology that hospitals and payers operate as information brokers.
What follows below are comments by Patient Privacy Rights on the proposed rule. The common thread of our comments is the need to treat patients and physicians, not the data brokers, as the real stakeholders.
Comments to the ONC Rule
Overview: 21st Century health care innovation, policy, and practice is increasingly dependent on personal information. This is obvious with respect to machine learning and risk adjustment, but personal information is now central to the competitive strategy for most of the health care economy, clinical as well as research. ONC’s drafting of this rule reflects the importance of competition to innovation and cost containment.
Slide into Health in 2 Point 00 (or rather, Health 2.0 HIMSS Europe) with Jess and I today! On Episode 84, Jess asks me about the big news that CVS has now made it possible for employees to get reimbursed for Big Health’s Sleepio, an insomnia digital therapeutic, and about Atrium Health’s $10 million investment in an affordable housing plan, addressing the social determinants of health. Hear some of my key takeaways from the conference so far, too. –Matthew Holt
Far more attention has been devoted to the ways in which
industry consolidation has driven up health costs than to proposals on how to
remedy the situation. But the introduction of Medicare for All and Medicare for
More bills—however dim their short-term prospects are—has changed the terms of
the debate. It is time to think about how we can eliminate the market power of health
systems without causing harmful dislocations in health care and the economy.
Before we get to that, here are the main facts about
consolidation: As a handful of health insurers have become dominant in many
markets, health systems have done likewise in order to maintain or improve
their negotiating positions. That has proved to be an effective strategy in
many cases. Even dominant health plans cannot do without the largest hospital
systems in their areas, especially when they employ many of the local
According to a Kaufman Hall report, 90 hospital and health system deals were publicly announced in 2018. This was a decline from the 115 deals unveiled in 2017, but the average size in the revenue of sellers hit a high of $409 million.
The biggest provider mergers are staggering in scale. In February 2019, for example, Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health formed a new organization called CommonSpirit Health, which has 142 hospitals, 150,000 employees and nearly $30 billion in revenues. The union of Chicago-based Advocate Health Care and Wisconsin’s Aurora Health Care in April 2018 created a giant with 27 hospitals and $11 billion in revenues. A month later, Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas Healthcare System) joined with Wake Forest Baptist Health to form a system with 49 hospitals and combined revenues of $7.5 billion.
There I was, my 10th-grade science fair. My mother made
sure I had a tie that fit properly and a shirt that was perfectly pressed. I stood among my peers
with our cardboard presentation displays highlighting what we did to make it to
this point. I was a little nervous but also extremely proud of myself and
excited to see the looks on the judge’s faces when they saw what my project was
of Enzymes on DNA”
Boom. Oh, I wasn’t doing something that many people had seen
already — I was working inside an NIH facility with a brilliant scientist
mentor/coach, to get this done. The memories of taking multiple modes of
transportation after school throughout the week for what seemed like forever
wore me down enough to make sure that I knew this was going to be worth it. And
then after the judges were introduced to all of our concepts and families
poured throughout the gymnasium to see what we all came up with — now was the
moment of truth.
Sweaty palms and teenage anxiety wouldn’t deter me. First place goes to….oh ok, yeah of
course, they deserved that. They worked really hard I’m sure. Second place goes to….oh wow, I didn’t make
second place? At least, I’ll get something. After a third place winner was
announced and the applause faded. I looked, stunned, over at my mother in the
audience whose face was covered in tears. I was ready for the night to be over.
Did I not wear the right tie? Did I seem
too confident? Not confident enough? The questions would consume me until
later that evening when my science teacher told me that the judges thought I cheated or didn’t actually do any
of the work.
Today on Health in 2 Point 00, Jess and I are in Helsinki for Health 2.0 HIMSS Europe. In Episode 83, Jess asks me about Roche cheating on mySugr—Roche announced a new partnership with digital diabetes provider GlucoMe, about the new $100 million hospital venture fund in Iowa coming from UnityPoint Health, and about Infermedica’s recent $3.65 million raise for their cool symptom checker complete with an AI chatbot. Stay tuned for more updates from the conference. —Matthew Holt
I’ve been talking in recent posts about how our typical methods of testing AI systems are inadequate and potentially unsafe. In particular, I’ve complainedthat all of the headline-grabbing papers so far only do controlled experiments, so we don’t how the AI systems will perform on real patients.
Today I am going to highlight a piece of work that has not received much attention, but actually went “all the way” and tested an AI system in clinical practice, assessing clinical outcomes. They did an actual clinical trial!
Big news … so why haven’t you heard about it?
The Great Wall of the West
Tragically, this paper has been mostly ignored. 89 tweets*, which when you compare it to many other papers with hundreds or thousands of tweets and news articles is pretty sad. There is an obvious reason why though; the article I will be talking about today comes from China (there are a few US co-authors too, not sure what the relative contributions were, but the study was performed in China).
China is interesting. They appear to be rapidly becoming the world leader in applied AI, including in medicine, but we rarely hear anything about what is happening there in the media. When I go to conferences and talk to people working in China, they always tell me about numerous companies applying mature AI products to patients, but in the media we mostly see headline grabbing news stories about Western research projects that are still years away from clinical practice.
This shouldn’t be unexpected. Western journalists have very little access to China**, and Chinese medical AI companies have no need to solicit Western media coverage. They already have access to a large market, expertise, data, funding, and strong support both from medical governance and from the government more broadly. They don’t need us. But for us in the West, this means that our view of medical AI is narrow, like a frog looking at the sky from the bottom of a well^.
Today on THCB Spotlight, Chris Gervais, Chief Technology Officer of Kyruus, tells us about what Kyruus is doing to improve patient access and help health systems match patients to the right providers. Health systems often don’t know enough about their providers, and Kyruus is working to empower health systems to use that data in a computable way in order to coordinate patient demand with physician supply.
Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid (CMS) have proposed final rules on
interoperability, data blocking, and other activities as part of implementing
the 21st Century Cures Act. In this series, we will explore ideas
behind the rules, why they are necessary and the expected impact. Given that
these are complex and controversial topics are open to interpretation, we
invite readers to respond
with their own ideas, corrections and opinions.
Interventions to Address Market Failures
Many of the rules proposed
by CMS and ONC are evidence-based interventions aimed at critical problems that
market forces have failed to address. One example of market failure is the long-standing inability for health care
providers and insurance companies to find a way to exchange patient data. Each
has critical data the other needs and would benefit from sharing. And, as CMS
noted, health plans are in a “unique position to provide enrollees a complete
picture of their clams and encounter data.” Despite that, technical and
financial issues, as well as a general air of distrust from decades of haggling
over reimbursement, have prevented robust data exchange. Remarkably, this happens
in integrated delivery systems which, in theory, provide tight alignment between
payers and providers in a unified organization.
With so much attention
focused on requirements for health IT companies like EHR vendors and providers,
it is easy to miss the huge impact that the new rules is likely to have for
payers. But make no mistake, if implemented as proposed, these rules will have
a profound impact on the patient’s ability to gather and direct the use of
their personal health information (PHI). They will also lead to reduced
fragmentation and more complete data sets for payers and providers alike.
Overview of Proposed CMS Rules on Information
Sharing and Interoperability
The proposed CMS rules
affect payers, providers, and patients stating that they:
Require payers to make
patient health information available electronically through a standardized,
open application programming interface (API)
Promote data exchange
between payers and participation in health information exchange networks
Require payers to provide
additional resources on EHR, privacy, and security
Require providers to comply
with new electronic notification requirements
Require states to better
coordinate care for Medicare-Medicaid dually eligible beneficiaries by
submitting buy-in data to CMS daily
Publicly disclose when
providers inappropriately restrict the flow of information to other health care providers and payers