Monday, November 19, 2018
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AI Doesn’t Ask Why — But Physicians And Drug Developers Want To Know

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By DAVID SHAYWITZ MD

At long last, we seem to be on the threshold of departing the earliest phases of AI, defined by the always tedious “will AI replace doctors/drug developers/occupation X?” discussion, and are poised to enter the more considered conversation of “Where will AI be useful?” and “What are the key barriers to implementation?”

As I’ve watched this evolution in both drug discovery and medicine, I’ve come to appreciate that in addition to the many technical barriers often considered, there’s a critical conceptual barrier as well – the threat some AI-based approaches can pose to our “explanatory models” (a construct developed by physician-anthropologist Arthur Kleinman, and nicely explained by Dr. Namratha Kandula here): our need to ground so much of our thinking in models that mechanistically connect tangible observation and outcome. In contrast, AI relates often imperceptible observations to outcome in a fashion that’s unapologetically oblivious to mechanism, which challenges physicians and drug developers by explicitly severing utility from foundational scientific understanding.

Mrs. Verma Goes to Washington

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By ANISH KOKA MD 

Seema Verma, the Trump appointee who runs Medicare, has had an active week. The problem facing much-beloved Medicare is one that faces every other government-funded healthcare extravaganza: it’s always projected to be running out of money. Medicare makes up 15% of the total federal budget. That’s almost $600 billion dollars out of a total federal outlay of $4 Trillion dollars. The only problem here is that revenues are around $3.6 trillion. We are spending money we don’t have, and thus there there is constant pressure to reduce federal outlays.

This is a feat that appears to be legislatively impossible.  The country barely is able to defund bridges to nowhere let alone try to reduce health care spending because, as everyone knows, any reduction in health care spending will spawn a death toll that would shame the black plague. The prior administration’s health policy wonk certified approach was to change the equation in health care from paying for volume to paying for value. This, we were assured, would allow us to get better healthcare for cheaper! And so we got MACRA, The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, that introduced penalties for doctors unable to provide ‘good’ care. Never mind that in some years good care means you treat everyone with a statin, and in others it means treat no one with a statin. When in Rome, live like the Romans. In 2018 parlance, that roughly translates to “check every box you can and everything will be all right.”

Health in 2 Point 00 Episode 58

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Today on Episode 58 of Health in 2 Point 00, Jess and I have more to share from Exponential Medicine, but this time we’re at the Health Innovation Lab checking out all of the startups. In this episode, Jess and I talk to Meghan Conroy from CaptureProof about decoupling medical care from time and location, Care Angel‘s Wolf Shlagman about the world’s first AI and voice powered virtual nursing assistant, and highlight Humm’s brain band which improves working memory, concentration, and visual attention. We leave you with some parting words from Godfrey Nazareth: “Let’s set the world on fire. Let’s change the world, with love.” -Matthew Holt 

Health Plan Innovation Gets a ‘New Look’ | AHIP’s CEO Matt Eyles

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“I don’t know that what they’re doing is going to be as transformative as maybe the potential of it is – and it’s going to take time. I don’t know that they’re going to ‘all-of-a-sudden’ leap frog over all the things that health plans have been doing for decades. I think they’re going to learn that this is really complicated stuff…” 

Health plan innovation got a makeover this year. What used to look like value-based care models and telehealth visits has transformed. Health plan innovation is sexier – with big-dollar M&A deals like CVS-Aetna and Cigna-ExpressScripts looking to flatten the industry. Meanwhile, brand name collaborations like Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JP Morgan may prove that payment model innovation is unexpectedly ‘label-conscious.’

So, how are health plans dealing with this startling new look? And what should health tech startups who want their innovation investment dollars do now??

A Conversation About the Dangers of Overhydration with Professor Timothy Noakes

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By SAURABH JHA MD

Professor Timothy Noakes, a South African exercise scientist and emeritus professor at the University of Cape Town who has run over 70 ultramarathons, speaks to me about the dangers of overhydration in endurance sports.

Listen to our conversation at Radiology Firing Line Podcast.

Saurabh Jha is a contributing editor to THCB and host of Radiology Firing Line Podcast of the Journal of American College of Radiology, sponsored by Healthcare Administrative Partner

The Internet of Medical Things Gold Rush (And My Grandfather’s Wooden Leg)

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By MICHAEL MILLENSON 

The most intriguing aspect of the recent Connected Health Conference was the eclectic mix of corporations claiming cutting-edge expertise in the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).

HP, a legend in computer hardware, was touting a service that scoops data from Web-enabled home devices such as bathroom scales up into the cloud and then manages the information on behalf of your doctor. This presumably fulfills their corporate vow to “engineer experiences that amaze.”

Verizon, not content with deploying its cable TV clout to “deliver the promise of the digital world,” is connecting to a chip on the lid of your pill container that can monitor whether you’re taking your medications.

Even Deloitte, rooted in corporate auditing, has translated its anodyne assertion that “we are continuously evolving how we work” into a partnership with Google. DeloitteASSIST uses machine learning to translate verbal requests from hospital patients into triaged messages for nurses.

Looking Back at the RWJF Challenges

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SPONSORED POST

By JOHN EL-MARAGHY

Catalyst @ Health 2.0 is proud to have worked with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to address issues in substance misuse and artificial intelligence through two exciting innovation challenges. Following the finalists’ live pitches at the Health 2.0 Annual Conference, Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya had the pleasure to interview leaders from the six companies that placed in the top spots across both competitions.

First Place Winners

RWJF Opioid Challenge: the Grand Prize award went to Sober Grid, a social network designed to support, assist, and educate those suffering from addiction and substance misuse. The Sober Grid platform incorporates a suite of geolocated support, a “burning desire” distress beacon, and coaching tools. For those looking to get help and support, the Sober Grid platform is a fantastic free utility.

RWJF AI Challenge: the Grand Prize award went to Buoy, a virtual triage chatbot designed to work on any browser. All too often we rely on quick online searches for health information and sometimes receive inaccurate or unreliable results. The Buoy system takes a more conversational approach and emulates similar techniques a doctor would use when diagnosing symptoms and speaking with a patient.

Second and Third place prizes were also awarded to the following organizations:

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Last Month in Oncology with Dr. Bishal Gyawali

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By BISHAL GYAWALI MD

Me-too deja vu

I read the report of a phase 3 RCT of a “new” breast cancer drug but I had the feeling that I had already read this before. Later I realized that this was indeed a new trial of a new drug, but that I had read a very similar report of a very similar drug with very similar results and conclusions. This new drug is a PARP inhibitor called talazoparib and the deja vu was related to another PARP inhibitor drug called olaparib tested in the same patient population of advanced breast cancer patients with a BRCA mutation. The control arms were the same: physician choice of drug, except that physicians couldn’t choose the one drug that is probably most effective in this patient population (carboplatin). The results were nearly the same: these drugs improved progression-free survival, but didn’t improve overall survival. In another commentary, I had raised some questions on the choice of control arm, endpoint and quality of data about the olaparib trial when it was published last year. This current talazoparib trial is so similar to the olaparib trial that you can literally replace the word “olaparib” with “talazoparib” in that commentary and all statements will stay valid.

The oncology version of half-full, half-empty glass

The PARP inhibitors olaparib and niraparib are also approved in ovarian cancer based on improvement in progression-free survival (PFS), without improving overall survival (OS). If a drug doesn’t improve OS but improves only PFS, it should also improve quality of life to justify its use. According to two new reports, these drugs do not appear to improve quality of life. The niraparibtrial reported that the patients were able to “maintain” their quality of life during treatment while the olaparib trial reported that olaparib did not have a “significant detrimental effect” on quality of life. I find it remarkable that a drug that isn’t proven to improve survival is lauded for not significantly worsening quality of life … at $10,000 a month!

It is also important to recognize that these drugs were tested as maintenance therapy against placebos. For “maintenance therapies,” as explained in this paper, improving PFS alone is not an important endpoint. That’s why I am also not excited about this new trial of sorafenib maintenance in ovarian cancer. A drug has to be very ineffective to fail to improve even PFS as a maintenance therapy against placebo.

Health in 2 Point 00 Episode 57

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On Episode 57 of Health in 2 Point 00, Jess and I report from Exponential Medicine. In this episode, Jess and I talk about digital surgery and how Shafi Ahmed and Stefano Bini are transforming surgical training. She also asks me about my favorite session, one by Anita Ravi on health care for those who have been sex trafficked. Other highlights include ePatient Dave’s talk about access to data for patients and letting patients help, and Leerom Segal’s overview of why voice matters- Matthew Holt