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matthew holt

The (sort of, partial) Father mRNA Vaccines Who Now Spreads Vaccine Misinformation (Part 1)

By DAVID WARMFLASH, MD

Robert W. Malone, MD MS, is a physician-scientist who will live in infamy, thanks to the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast boosting his visibility this past December regarding his criticism of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly the mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech). Subsequently, Malone was banned from Twitter, which further boosted his celebrity status. Describing himself as the inventor of mRNA vaccine technology, he has been reaching a growing number of people with a narrative that makes COVID-19 vaccination sound scary. We cannot embed clips from the Rogan interview, which lasted about three hours, because it is accessed only on Spotify. But we can pull quotes from the interview transcript and we can see how Malone addresses non-scientists in shorter appearances, like the following clip from Wisconsin Morning news aimed at parents:

…Before you inject your child – a decision that is irreversible – I wanted to let you know the scientific facts about this genetic vaccine, which is based on the mRNA vaccine technology I created…

There are three issues parents need to understand:

The first is that a viral gene will be injected into your childrens cells. This gene forces your childs body to make toxic spike proteins. These proteins often cause permanent damage in childrens critical organs, including

Their brain and nervous system

Their heart and blood vessels, including blood clots

Their reproductive system

And this vaccine can trigger fundamental changes to their immune system

The most alarming point about this is that once these damages have occurred, they are irreparable

You cant fix the lesions within their brain

You cant repair heart tissue scarring

You cant repair a genetically reset immune system, and

This vaccine can cause reproductive damage that could affect future generations of your family….

Along with the alarmist theme, there are some phrases in the excerpt that people with little knowledge of biology could take the wrong way. The ‘toxic’ spike protein terminology warrants unpacking later, because Malone’s more farfetched ideas rest upon his disagreement with experts who have worked on that very spike protein. This is a protein that SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) makes and uses to enter body cells, and is the basis of most of the COVID-19 vaccines that are approved throughout the world. In the case of the genetic vaccines (the mRNA vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna and the viral vector vaccines of Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca), the vaccines do not actually contain spike protein. Instead, they contain a recipe for cells of a vaccinated person (not all the person’s cells, but just a small sampling) to make spike protein —in very small amounts and for a very limited time— and display it on the outer part of their cell membranes. This allows the immune system to use that vaccine-generated spike protein for target practice, so you can build immunity against the virus without the virus infecting you.

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Quickbite Interviews: 1UpHealth& Cecelia Health

I was at the VIVE conference in Miami last week and caught up with a number of CEOs & execs for some quickbite interviews — around 5 mins getting (I hope) to the gist of what they & their companies are up to. I am going to dribble them out this week.

Up here are are Joe Gagnon, CEO, 1upHealth, a data integrator that works primarily with health plans, and Mark Clermont, CEO, Cecelia Health, a chronic care management company that also runs pharma patient adherence programs. — Matthew Holt

Where Health Care Value Can Lead

By BRIAN KLEPPER

It seems inevitable that, in the near future, an innovative health care organization – Let’s call it The Platform – is going to seize the market opportunity of broader value. It will cobble together the pieces, and demonstrate to organizational purchasers that it consistently delivers better health outcomes at significantly lower cost than previously has been available.

To manage risk and drive performance, The Platform will embrace the best healthcare management lessons of the past decades: risk identification through data monitoring and analytics, driving the right care, quality management, care navigation and coordination, patient engagement, shared decision-making, and other mission-critical health care management approaches. It will practice care that is grounded in data and science, and is outcomes-accountable.

But The Platform will also appreciate that a few specialty vendors have developed deep expertise in dealing with clinical or financial risk in high value niches – where health care’s money is – like management of musculoskeletal care, chronic disease, maternity, surgeries, high performing providers, or specialty drugs. It will understand that it often makes sense to partner with experts who can prove and guarantee high performance rather than trying to learn to achieve high performance within each niche. The Platform also will realize that simplicity is a virtue, and that bundling specialized services under one organizational umbrella is easier for health plan sponsors to manage and for patients to negotiate than an array of individual arrangements.

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Quickbite Interviews: Lark & Luma Health

I was at the VIVE conference in Miami last week and caught up with a number of CEOs & execs for some quickbite interviews — around 5 mins getting (I hope) to the gist of what they & their companies are up to. I am going to dribble them out this week.

First two up are Julia Hu, CEO of Lark, a conversational AI program for chronic & behavioral health that works primarily with health plans, and Adnan Iqbal, CEO of Luma Health, a patient messaging system mostly used by providers. — Matthew Holt

BREAKING at ViVE: Jenny Schneider on Launch of New Biz, Homeward

by JESSICA DAMASSA, WTF HEALTH

BREAKING! Livongo-famous Jenny Schneider stops by to talk to us first, on-site at ViVE in Miami, about the brand-new business she’s just launched today to “rearchitect” rural health and care. Called Homeward, the startup is coming out with a $20 million Series A backed by General Catalyst, and a novel model that will integrate virtual-and-in-person primary care and cardiology care for Medicare beneficiaries in rural markets. We get into the business model, care model, some shocking statistics about just how dire the market need is, AND all the gossip about the old friends she’s bringing into the business with her. PLUS: Bonus dishing on Glen Tullman’s new business Transcarent, and what connection Homeward might have to the SPAC that Jenny co-founded with Glen, Hemant Teneja and Steve Klasko of General Catalyst. Coming at you fast with this one!

Matthew’s health care tidbits: The Stupidity Vaccine

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For my health care tidbits this week, I think we need a new vaccine. We need one that prevents stupidity.

Look I get that some people don’t think the flu vaccine is effective and don’t think the effects are too bad, so they don’t get one every year. Many people don’t get a vaccine for shingles. But as someone who had shingles long before the recommended age for the vaccine, let me tell you, you’ll wish you had the vaccine should you get it. And even sensible liberal Maggie Mahar a long while back was pretty suspicious of Merck’s Gardasil vaccine for cervical cancer–although since then it’s been replaced both by a more effective updated version and by Cervarix and the long term results are really good.

But since COVID-19 appeared the cultural and ideological identification among most Republicans has been that only wussy liberals take the COVID vaccine. This is stupid and indefensible. Even Donald Trump thinks so! But when he told his cult members that, they booed him! And so the US is stuck on not enough people vaccinated to repel variants or stop ICUs filling up. There are now hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths among the unvaccinated with no end in sight.

But this isn’t stupid enough. Now we are seeing senior political leaders attacking vaccines for diseases we’ve had under control for ages. We’ve already seen outbreaks of measles in recent years, including one at Disneyland. Last month 17 Georgia state senators proposed banning school mandates for all vaccines including MMR, chickenpox, DtAP, Hep B, Polio and more. It’s amazing that these people don’t believe in science, yet they are probably happy to use a smartphone or get in an airplane.

Sadly there appears to be no vaccine for stupidity on the horizon

DEMO: Medstar Health’s digital front door – featuring b.well Connected Health

Medstar Health, a big hospital system in the Washington DC area, has been using a selection of digital health tools like Bluestream Health’s telehealth system for a while. Now they are showing to the world their implementation of b.well Connected Health‘s patient interface which as you’ll see is being used to create a digital first experience for their patients, enabling booking of virtual and physical appointments. I spoke with John Lock, Chief Digital Transformation Officer at MedStar Health & Kristen Valdes, CEO of b.well Connected Health, while Cathryna Nieves, AVP, Digital Transformation at MedStar Health gave a full demo of the experience. I don’t often head into the belly of the beast, but it’s very interesting to see how big incumbents like Medstar are working with tech vendors to react to the billions being spent by venture capitalists to create denovo virtual first health services–Matthew Holt

Seqster: The Salesforce of Healthcare?

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

It’s not difficult to get Seqster’s CEO Ardy Arianpour fired up, but to get to the details about his business and what he refers to as its “f-ing incredible tech stack,” takes a little doing. Is Seqster a health data analytics company like Clarify Health or Komodo Health, or more of a longitudinal patient health record startup like bWell or Picnic Health?

According to Ardy, these companies would actually make great Seqster clients, and that his tech would serve as the ideal, white-labeled operating system upon which they could engage with patients, collect their data, and examine it alongside EMR data, pharmacy data, social determinants of health data, and even genomic data. While those aforementioned health tech startups might be able to do many of these services themselves, the life sciences companies, health systems, health plans, digital health startups, and non-profit patient registries Seqster does count as clients are using its platform for everything from running decentralized clinical trials to providing patients with a longitudinal single-source medical record.

Ardy breaks down the “operating system” approach Seqster is taking, and how he sees his platform becoming as the “Salesforce of healthcare.” Beyond the specific examples that really bring this concept to life, we talk about what’s ahead for the business, which has raised $23 million in total funding and, interestingly, counts both Takeda Digital Ventures and 23andMe’s CEO and Founder, Anne Wojcicki on its cap table.

BREAKING: MindMaze Lands Fresh $105M for Digital Neuro-Therapeutics

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

You may know the term “digital therapeutics,” but how about the specialized category of “digital neuro-therapeutics”? MindMaze, which has developed a platform approach to creating prescription digital therapeutics for neurological diseases like stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s has just landed $105 million in fresh funding from Concord Health Partners to further advance development of this unique category of pDTx’s.

CEO Tej Tadi, CFO Kevin Gallagher, and Chief Medical Director John Krakauer get us smart on the neuroscience behind MindMaze, their device-plus-gaming interventions, and how they are gaining reimbursement for their brain health and recovery therapies. Each therapeutic is a bit different – MindPod Dolphin, for example, helps patients rehab upper limb motor skills by way of a dolphin-themed gaming experience that incorporates sensors and an anti-gravity vest. The team says there are 10 clinical trials underway across seven indications, with the goal to bring at least three new prescription digital therapeutics to market by next year.

How will this new funding – and a partnership with the American Hospital Association – aid US market expansion for Swiss-based MindMaze? We explore the company’s growth plans, talk about market readiness for digital therapeutics, and even find out the backstory behind how Leonardo DiCaprio ended up on their cap table.

What the Pandemic Taught Us About Value-based Care

By RICHARD ISAACS

You’ll recall that we ran a long piece (pt 1, pt 2) about Medicare Advantage from former Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson earlier this year. Here’s a somewhat related piece from the current head of The Permanente Medical Group about what actually happened there and elsewhere during the pandemic–Matthew Holt

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided important lessons regarding the structure and delivery of health care in the United States, and one of the most significant takeaways has been the need to shift to value-based models of care.

The urgency for this transformation was clear from the pandemic’s earliest days, as shelter-in-place orders caused patient visits to brick-and-mortar facilities to plummet. That decline dealt a financial blow to many fee-for-service health care providers, who are paid per patient visit, treatment or test performed — regardless of the patient’s health outcome.

Prepaid, value-based health care systems, on the other hand, have demonstrated that they are better equipped to respond to a continually evolving health care landscape. Because they are integrated, with a focus on seamless care coordination, and they are accountable for both the quality of care and cost, these systems can leverage technologies in different ways to rapidly adapt to major disruptions and other market dynamics. Priorities are in the right place: the patient’s best interests. Value is generated by delivering the right level of care, in the right setting, at the right time.

Because value-based care focuses on avoiding chronic disease and helping patients recover from illnesses and injuries more quickly, it has the promise to significantly reduce overall costs in the United States, where nearly 18% of gross domestic product was spent on health care before the pandemic — significantly more than comparable countries. That figure rose to nearly 20% in 2020 during the pandemic.

While providers may need to spend more time on implementing new, prevention-based services and technologies, they will spend less time on managing chronic diseases. And thanks to the preventive approach of value-based health care organizations, society benefits because less money is spent managing chronic diseases, costly hospitalizations and medical emergencies.

Value-based organizations drive additional societal benefits. They understand that building trust with patients requires cultural competency — tailoring services to an individual’s cultural and language preferences. During the pandemic, building trust was especially important with underserved communities, where mistrust of health care systems is prevalent.

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