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This is Your Brain on Microwaves

By KIM BELLARD

Those of us of a certain age well remember the 1987 ad campaign from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. It equated frying an egg to what drugs did to our brains. The ad certainly impacted awareness, but it is less clear that it impacted drug use or, for that matter, that it actually was like what drugs did to our brains.

Well, it turns out that there is something that can scramble our brains, but it’s microwaves, and it appears that “malevolent actors” are using them to do just that. We’re now in the age of “directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy.” 

There were reports coming out of Havana in 2016 of State Department employees complaining of mysterious symptoms, including dizziness, fatigue, headaches, memory loss, balance issues, and hearing loss. Over the next couple years there were more reports, in Cuba and in other countries, including China and Russia, with CIA officers also seemed to be common targets. It has been labeled “the Havana syndrome.”

As least 44 people from Cuba and 15 from China were treated at Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania, with more believed to have been treated elsewhere. No one could pin down exactly what was happening. 

Now the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine has issued a report concluding that the directed, pulsed microwave bursts were “the most plausible mechanism” to explain what happened. They evaluated but ruled out other mechanisms, such as background microwaves, chemical agents, infectious diseases, and even “psychological issues.” 

Committee chairman David Relman, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, said:

The committee found these cases quite concerning, in part because of the plausible role of directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy as a mechanism, but also because of the significant suffering and debility that has occurred in some of these individuals.  We as a nation need to address these specific cases as well as the possibility of future cases with a concerted, coordinated, and comprehensive approach.

One thing in particular that concerned the Committee was the presence of persistent symptoms in many victims – “persistent postural-perceptual dizziness (PPPD), a functional (not psychiatric) vestibular disorder that may be triggered by vestibular, neurologic, other medical and psychological conditions and may explain some chronic signs and symptoms in some patients.”  i.e., not only can you be impacted by such an attack, but the impairment can last an indefinite time. 

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RWJF Emergency Response Challenges Video

On November 19, 2020 Catalyst @ Health 2.0 hosted the finals of the RWJF Emergency Response Challenges, one for tools for the General Public and the other for the Health System. The promise of the tools that have been built as part of these challenges is immense in the battle against this COVID-19 pandemic and the ones yet to come. The finalists for the General Public challenge were:

Binformed Covidata– A clinically-driven comprehensive desktop + mobile infectious disease, epidemic + pandemic management tool targeting suppression and containment of diseases such as COVID-19. The presenter was veteran health IT expert Rick Peters.

CovidSMS– A text message-based platform providing city-specific information and resources to help low-income communities endure COVID-19. In contrast to Rick, CovidSMS’ team were undergraduates at Johns Hopkins led by Serena Wang

Fresh EBT by Propel– A technology tool for SNAP families to address food insecurity & economic vulnerability in times of crisis – highlighted by Michael Lewis on his Against the Rules podcast about coaching earlier this year. Stacey Taylor, head of partnerships for Propel presented their solutions for those in desperate need.

The finalists for the Health System challenge were:

PathCheck– A non profit just spun out of MIT. It has a raft of volunteers and well known advisors like John Brownstein and John Halamka among many others, and is already working with several states and countries. Pathcheck provides privacy first, free, open source solutions for public health to supplement manual contact tracing, visualize hot spots, and interface with citizen-facing privacy first apps. MIT Professor Ramesh Raskar was the presenter.

Qventus– A patient flow automation solution that applies AI / ML and behavioral science to help health systems create effective capacity, and reduce frontline burnout. Qventus is a great data analytics startup story. It’s raised over $45m and has lots of health system clients, and they have built a suite of new tools to help them with pandemic preparedness. Anthony Moorman, who won the best facial hair of the day award, showed the demo.

Tiatros – A mental health and social support platform that combines clinical expertise, peer communities and scalable technology to advance mental wellbeing and to sustain meaningful behavioral change. They’ve done a lot of work with soldiers with PTSD and as you’ll see entered this challenge to get their tools to another group of extremely stressed professionals–frontline health care workers. CEO Kimberlie Cerrone and COO Seth Norman jointly presented.

We also presented the Catalyst @ Health 2.0 Covid19 SourceDB between the two competitions. Please enjoy the video

THCB Book Club: Rosemarie Day – Marching Towards Coverage

Rosemarie Day has been a long time health care consultant and operator, most prominently as the COO of the Massachusetts Health Connector–the first real state exchange that was created as part of Romneycare (which with a few twists later became Obamacare!) Following the 2017 Women’s March, Rosemarie decided to write her own book, Marching Towards Coverage. It’s really four books in one. A personal patient & caregiver journal; a history of the slow march towards universal health care; a policy document; and a primer on how to become an activist. All in less than 200 pages! For the November THCB Book Club Jessica DaMassa and Matthew Holt talked with Rosemarie about what we can all do to really get to better health care for everyone.

#Healthin2Point 00, Episode 169 | They’re real and they’re SPACtacular!

Today on Health in 2 Point 00, It’s a whacky SPACy world, as a new SPAC rolls “UpHealth” and has me singing Bob Marley, meanwhile there’s $91m for remote clinical trial software player Medable, $76m more for Spring Health joining the throng of mental health companies, while K-Health gets $42m to introduce chat bot front ends to Korean pop music…or something like that. —Matthew Holt

RWJF Emergency Response Challenge Results!

by MATTHEW HOLT

Yesterday Catalyst @ Health 2.0 hosted the finals of the RWJF Emergency Response Challenges, one for tools for the General Public and the other for the Health System. It was a great session, sadly virtual and not at a conference with cocktails afterwards. But the promise of the tools that have been built as part of these challenges is immense in the battle against this COVID-19 pandemic and the ones yet to come.

The finalists for the General Public challenge were

  • Binformed Covidata– A clinically-driven comprehensive desktop + mobile infectious disease, epidemic + pandemic management tool targeting suppression and containment of diseases such as COVID-19. The presenter was veteran health IT expert Rick Peters.
  • CovidSMS– A text message-based platform providing city-specific information and resources to help low-income communities endure COVID-19. In contrast to Rick, CovidSMS’ team were undergraduates at Johns Hopkins led by Serena Wang
  • Fresh EBT by Propel– A technology tool for SNAP families to address food insecurity & economic vulnerability in times of crisis – highlighted by Michael Lewis on his Against the Rules podcast about coaching earlier this year. Stacey Taylor, head of partnerships for Propel presented their solutions for those in desperate need.

The finalists for the Health System challenge were

  • PathCheck A non profit just spun out of MIT. It has a raft of volunteers and well known advisors like John Brownstein and John Halamka among many others, and is already working with several states and countries. Pathcheck provides privacy first, free, open source solutions for public health to supplement manual contact tracing, visualize hot spots, and interface with citizen-facing privacy first apps. MIT Professor Ramesh Raskar was the presenter.
  • Qventus A patient flow automation solution that applies AI / ML and behavioral science to help health systems create effective capacity, and reduce frontline burnout. Qventus is a great data analytics startup story. It’s raised over $45m and has lots of health system clients, and they have built a suite of new tools to help them with pandemic preparedness. Anthony Moorman, who won the best facial hair of the day award, showed the demo.
  • Tiatros IncA mental health and social support platform that combines clinical expertise, peer communities and scalable technology to advance mental wellbeing and to sustain meaningful behavioral change. They’ve done a lot of work with soldiers with PTSD and as you’ll see entered this challenge to get their tools to another group of extremely stressed professionals–frontline health care workers. CEO Kimberlie Cerrone and COO Seth Norman jointly presented.

Videos of the whole session and the demos will be up soon.

And the winners were…

A tie in General Public challenge between CovidSMS & BInformed, who split the $25,000 first prize (and the $10,000 second prize!)

Qventus in the Health System challenge who take home $25,000

But there were no losers. A great culmination of a lot of work to get tech solutions to help us deal with the pandemic.

Matthew Holt is Publisher of THCB and also Co-Chairman at Catalyst @ Health 2.0

THCB Gang Episode 33, Thursday 11/19

Episode 33 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed here Thursday, November 19th. You can watch it below.

Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) was joined by some of our regulars: CEO of Day Health Strategies Rosemarie Day (@Rosemarie_Day1), data privacy expert Deven McGraw (@healthprivacy), patient safety expert Michael Millenson (@MLMillenson) and health futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve). While the chaos of the post election legal shenanigans goes on, we chatted what the Biden team might and can do, and look at the pre- and post-vaccine COVID-19 future of health care.

If you’d rather listen to the episode, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

The Catalyst @ Health 2.0/Wipfli Survey on the State of Digital Health

By MATTHEW HOLT

Catalyst @ Health 2.0, supported by professional services firm Wipfli, is launching a survey about the state of Digital Health. We hope to get a comprehensive analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on digital health companies and the rest of the ecosystem. This survey should take under 8 minutes to complete (and probably less). For your time we will get you a copy of the results when they are released. As an added bonus TWO respondents drawn at random who complete the survey will get advertising for their company for 6 months on The Health Care Blog (worth $5,000).

We are interested in hearing from leaders working in digital health companies, or those connected to digital health in health systems, payers, life sciences, consulting or investment companies.

To take the survey CLICK HERE

NOTE–None of the data from this survey will be shared by Catalyst @ Health 2.0 (even with our friends at Wipfli) other than as aggregate survey results. So you can be assured that your answers are completely confidential.

Matthew Holt is Co-Chairman of Catalyst @ Health 2.0 & Publisher of THCB

RWJF Emergency Response Innovation Challenges: Virtual Pitch Event on 11/19!

By ELIZABETH BROWN

As COVID-19 brought to light the lack of emergency response preparedness in the health care system, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Catalyst @ Health 2.0 saw an opportunity to highlight digital health’s potential to support health care stakeholders and the general public. RWJF and Catalyst partnered to launch two Innovation Challenges on Emergency Response for the General Public and Emergency Response for the Health Care System. 

The Emergency Response Innovation Challenges asked innovators to develop a health technology tool to support the needs of individuals as well as health care systems affected by a large-scale health crisis, such as a pandemic or natural disaster. The Challenges saw a record number of applications— nearly 125 applications were submitted to the General Public Challenge and over 130 applications were submitted to the Health Care System Challenge. 

An expert panel of judges across the health tech, venture capital, design, and emergency response industries evaluated the entries and selected three finalists from each challenge to compete at a virtual pitch hosted by Catalyst @ Health 2.0 on Thursday, November 19th at 10am PT/1pm ET. Registration for this event is now open! RSVP for the pitch event HERE.

Finalists will present their solutions to an audience of investors, provider organizations, health plans, tech companies, foundations, government officials and members of the media. During the pitch, a judge panel will select the first, second, and third place winner based on impact, UX/UI, innovation/creativity, scalability and strength of presentation. The winners will be awarded $25,000 for first place, $15,000 for second place, and $5,000 for third place. To learn more about the finalists, click on the links listed below, and to RSVP for the pitch event, click HERE

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What Will Shape Joe Biden’s Health Care Agenda?

I’m thrilled to have health futurist Jeff Goldsmith back on THCB, and given Biden was only confirmed as President-elect this morning, his article on what to expect is extremely timely!–Matthew Holt

By  JEFF GOLDSMITH

The Trump administration’s health care journey began with a trillion dollar near miss–the failed Repeal and Replacement of ObamaCare- and ended with a full-on train wreck, the catastrophically mismanaged COVID epidemic that will have claimed 300,000 lives by the time he leaves office. After four years of posturing and lethal incompetence, it will be a relief to see caring and professionalism return to the White House health policy under President-Elect Joe Biden.   

Like Inheriting a Badly Managed World War

Like Barack Obama, Joe Biden will be saddled at the beginning of his regime with a damaged national economy. He will also walk in the door to the immediate need to manage the greatest public health catastrophe in a century as well as its economic consequences–a deep and enduring recession. Biden will be inheriting the equivalent of a badly managed World War we are presently losing.

Public health professionals who were marginalized by Trump will be challenged not only to craft coherent policy to contain and extinguish COVID  but also to sell it to a frightened and polarized general public, many of whom reject the need for basic public safety measures.    

Controlling COVID and rebuilding the critical public health agencies–CDC and FDA–that have damaged by political meddling will consume the lion’s share of the administration’s health policy bandwidth in its first year. It will be pressed to address a huge readiness gap–from critical PPE supplies to the development and deployment of testing and tracing capability to public health co-ordination and messaging–for the next pandemic. Increasing the presently inadequate level of public health funding (less than $100 billion a year in a $21 trillion economy) seems inevitable.

The inability of Congress to produce a fall round of COVID relief will create pressure on Biden to take immediate action to help struggling sectors of the economy, like airlines, restaurants and hospitals, as well as further help for the long term unemployed. Only a little more than half of the 22 million jobs lost in the spring have returned by November. Twenty million Americans were stranded by the July expiration of supplemental unemployment benefits as well as countless millions more “free agents” and contractors not eligible for traditional unemployment that are losing coverage at the end of the year. Mortgage, credit card and consumer loan forbearance are ending, and unless Congress acts, acres of rotten credit will turn rapidly into a banking and bond market crisis which the Federal Reserve cannot fix by itself.   

State governments face FY21 deficits equaling $500 billion over the next two years , against a current annual spending base of about $900 billion.  Further assistance to state and local governments will almost certainly include an additional increase in the federal match for Medicaid (FMAP), beyond the 6.2% temporary increase passed in March). Medicaid enrollment will likely top 80 million by mid 2021, almost one-quarter of the US population. Some states will have upwards of 40% of their population on Medicaid by mid-2021.

States laboring under severe revenue shortfalls will be unable to afford the expanded Medicaid program that was part of ObamaCare without a further increase in the FMAP rate.  President Trump and Senate Republicans blamed the state and local government fiscal crisis on profligate Democratic mismanagement, and blocked aid to them during 2020. But Texas, Florida, Georgia and other red states have the same problems New York and California do. 

Serious Fiscal Limitations Push the Health Policy Agenda Away from Coverage Expansion

Barack Obama entered office with a FY08 federal deficit of $420 billion. Joe Biden enters with a FY20 deficit of $3.1 trillion and a baseline FY21 deficit of $1.8 trillion, before adding the cost of the likely additional trillion dollar-plus stimulus package early next year. It will be passed over the dead bodies of Republican Congressional leadership suddenly recommitted to deficit reduction after racking up $8 trillion in deficit spending during the four years they controlled the federal government.

Coverage Expansion via Medicare and Public Option Unlikely

That deficit will significantly constrain a further expansion of health coverage. Not only will “Medicare for All” be off the table. Severe fiscal pressures will cause the new administration to “slow walk” a public option (which would require federal subsidies to implement) and Medicare expansion to people over age 60. These expansions were going to be  controversial and politically costly because they would be fiercely contested by hospitals and other care providers concerned about the erosion of their commercial insured customer base (the source of perhaps 130% of their bottom lines) as well as the use of Medicare as a de facto price control lever. 

By the time Biden addresses the first two problems–COVID and the economic crisis–he will probably have expended his limited stock of political capital and be weakened enough to be unable to take on the large messy issues of health coverage expansion and cost control. The Affordable Care Act exhausted Obama’s store of political capital, by early 2010. His administration’s failure to turn the economy cost the Democrats control of the House of Representatives and 20 (!) state legislatures in 2010.

What Can Biden Do in Health that Does Not Require Federal Spending?

Thus, the focus of Biden health policy is likely to be on items not requiring fresh spending.

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