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Health in 2 Point 00, Halloween Edition (Ep 163)

It’s the Halloween edition of Health in 2 Point 00 where we round up a bunch of smaller deals plus Medidata buying MC10. The smaller ones include Navina, Nice Healthcare and Vitable (who appear to be the same thing in telehealth), Coa (mental health group classes), and Quit Genius (smoking cessation) which somehow has the tennis playing William sisters on board. But the main question of today is whether Jess DaMassa is wearing a mermaid tail below that wig!Matthew Holt

Rehash: The Health Assurance SPAC

Not so long ago (August) Jessica DaMassa and I ran a THCB Bookclub interview with Hemant Teneja & Stephen Klasko about their new book UnHealthcare. And, just because, their friend Glen Tullman sat in…..

Fast forward to this week and the three of them plus a cast of characters from General Catalyst & Livongo (Jenny Schneider, Lee Shapiro) have put $500m of their Livongo winnings into a SPAC. The book is based on the idea of Health Assurance and so is the SPAC. So if you are interested in figuring out what they are up to and what they might do or buy, here’s the interview–Matthew Holt

THCB Spotlights: Jon Bloom, Podimetrics

By MATTHEW HOLT

This is a fun conversation with Jon Bloom, the CEO of Podimetrics. It’s one of a number of competitors trying to help prevent foot ulcers among people with diabetes. Some use socks, others use insoles, but Podimetrics’ approach is to use a SmartMat which looks like a weight scale and can tell whether a patient might be developing a foot ulcer and is therefore at risk for amputation. Last week Podimetrics and Kaiser Permanente released a study that showed SmartMat and wraparound/care management service showed great success in reducing hospitalization, ER visits and foot amputations. But Bloom thinks that there’s much more to the care of very sick & underprivileged people with diabetes, and we had a great discussion about that that might look like.

Will Trump, Congressional Infections Boost Innovations For Covid-19 Survivors?

By MICHAEL MILLENSON

When powerful politicians confront a life-threatening diagnosis, it can change policy priorities. 

In addition to President Trump and a slew of top aides, five U.S. senators and 15 members of the House of Representatives have now tested positive or been presumed positive in tests for Covid-19 as of Oct. 5, according to a running tally by National Public Radio (NPR).

In that light, the recent burst of coronavirus infections could accelerate three significant innovations affecting every Covid-19 survivor.

1) Post-Covid Clinics

Even seemingly mild encounters with the coronavirus can trigger a cascade of lingering health consequences. While “there is no consensus definition of post-acute Covid-19,” noted an Oct. 5 JAMA commentary, symptoms that have been reported include joint pain, chest pain, fatigue, labored breathing and organ dysfunction “involving primarily the heart, lungs and brain.”

A survey by Survivor Corps, a patient support group, and the Indiana University School of Medicine found that Covid “long haulers” often suffer from “painful symptoms…that some physicians are unable or unwilling to help patients manage.” A similar survey by the Body Politic Covid-19 Support Group concluded that Covid long-haulers face “stigma and lack of understanding [that] compromise access to health care and quality of support.”  

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Biden’s Nov 9th speech: “Don’t you force me to pass Medicare 4 All”

By MATTHEW HOLT

The new Supreme Court, in all likelihood including just nominated Justice Amy Coney Barrett, will be hearing the California v Texas suit against the ACA on November 10th, seven days after the election. The lower courts have already ruled the ACA unconstitutional. Some hopeful moderates among my Democratic friends seem to believe that the justices will show cool heads, and not throw out the ACA. But it’s worth remembering that in the NFIB vs. Sebelius decision which confirmed the legitimacy of most of the ACA back in 2011 all the conservative justices with the exception of John Roberts voted to overturn the whole thing. With Ginsburg being replaced by Barrett there’s no reason to suppose that she won’t join Thomas, Alito, Kavanagh & Gorsuch and that Robert’s vote won’t be enough to stop them this time. The betting odds must be that the whole of the ACA will be overturned.

There is nothing the Democrats can realistically do to prevent Barrett filling RBG’s seat on the court, but assuming Biden wins and the Democrats take back the Senate, the incoming Administration can give the Supremes something to think about regarding the ACA. I would not suggest this level of confrontation before the election but, if Biden wins, the gloves must come off.

Assuming he wins and that the Dems win the Senate, this is the speech Biden should give on November 9th. (The TL:DR spoiler is, “Keep the ACA or I’ll extend Medicare to all ages”)

“I’m directing this speech to an extremely select number of people, just the Supreme Court Justices appointed by Republican Presidents. It is obviously no secret that we have political differences on many issues and we find ourselves in the strange situation in which I am the incoming President with an incoming Democratic Senate majority and yet you are considering overturning the signature bill of the administration in which I was Vice-President. You may recall that at the time of its signing I told President Obama that it was a “big f****** deal”  and, although many of my colleagues in the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party have criticized the ACA since its passage, it turns out that I was right. 

I am not referring here to the apoplexy that the ACA created amongst the Republican Party including not only the current and outgoing President but also almost all Republican members of Congress between 2010 and 2018. Instead I’m referring to the ACA’s impact on the nation and its health care system. 

Since 2010 there have been many changes to the way our nation’s health care system operates; almost all of them have their roots in the ACA. 

First, the ACA gave access to health insurance coverage to many people who had great trouble getting it before. That includes young people moving between their parent’s home, college and getting into the workforce; small business owners; freelance workers; the unemployed; people with low incomes; and people with underlying “pre-existing” health conditions. I remind you that due both to the pandemic and changes in our economy, there are many, many more of these people now than there were in 2009. 

Before the ACA these people were either not well served by the private health insurance industry or literally were unable to buy coverage at all. This not only caused extreme personal and financial suffering and in some cases death to the people affected, but also impacted the economy. It restrained innovation and entrepreneurship, and it meant that the participants in the health care system–including very many well meaning clinicians and provider organizations–had to play very inefficient games in order to try to provide those people with much-needed care, which drove up the cost of care to everyone else. Warren Buffet calls that the tapeworm in the US economy.

The ACA changed this in two main ways.

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Teladoc & Livongo — The Health Techerati Weigh-In

Six competitor CEOs and one ex-CMO discuss the biggest-ever digital health merger

By JESS DAMASSA & MATTHEW HOLT

It was the news that stunned the world of health tech. And us! So we had seven of Teladoc and Livongo’s biggest competitors weigh-in on what the merger means for telehealth, digital health, the future of health care delivery–and their businesses! You’ll hear from the CEOs of Omada, Ginger, One Drop, Vida, Lark & Cloudbreak, with some spicy commentary from Lyle Berkowitz who was, until recently, CMO at MD Live. From reaction to the merger to speculation about how this will impact the future of digital health funding, fasten your seat belts for some impactful and fun infotainment about all the implications of the deal.

The THCB Book Club!

By JESSICA DAMASSA & MATTHEW HOLT

We are launching a new THCB program! The THCB Book Club (TM) is going to be a discussion with leading health care authors, which will be released on the third Wednesday of every month.

We are kicking off with the new book from Hemant Teneja (VC at General Catalyst who has been writing many big checks lately) and Stephen Klasko (CEO at Jefferson Health System and one of the most unusual hospital system bosses in America). Their book is called UnHealthcare: A Manifesto for Health Assurance which is a how-to for creating a platform for a revolutionary future for healthcare, Taneja said. “Health assurance is an emerging category of consumer-centric, data-driven healthcare services that are designed to bend the cost curve of care and help us stay well.” Sitting in on the interview because we can’t get rid of him we will also have Glen Tullman from Livongo (Just kidding, Glen!). He will weigh in on how this connects with his new idea of Consumer Directed Virtual Care. Matthew may say something about the Continuous Clinic too, and Jessica will keep score of all the crises, Tsunamis, the many ways the health care is broken, and how many zingers Glen & Matthew get in on each other!

We want YOU to read the book in advance and email us questions or comments for us to ask the author(s) before the show. (We record a day or two in advance so please email us or put question in the comments here or on Twitter by the 17th). 

Please go buy the book here (eVersion only $6!)

It should be a lot of fun and very educational! This will be up on THCB on August 19.

In September the author will be Jane Metcalfe with her 2020 book NEO.LIFE

THCB Gang, Episode 19, July 23, 2020

This episode of the THCB Gang included regulars Grace Cordavano (@GraceCordovano) , Deven McGraw (@HealthPrivacy), Ian Morrison (@seccurve), and special guest patient entrepreneur Robin Farmanfarmaian (@Robinff3). We talked about patient experiences, the state of play in health care business, and about new technologies and more. And after tomorrow it gets preserved as a podcast on Itunes & Spotify Enjoy! – Matthew Holt

THCB Gang, Episode 12

Episode 12 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Friday, June 5th from 1PM PT to 4PM ET. If you didn’t have a chance to tune in, you can watch it below or on our YouTube Channel.

Editor-in-Chief, Zoya Khan (@zoyak1594), ran the show! She spoke to economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn (@healthythinker), executive & mentor Andre Blackman (@mindofandre), writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), MD-turned entrepreneur Jean-Luc Neptune (@jeanlucneptune), and patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano). The conversation focused on health disparities seen in POC communities across the nation and ideas on how the system can make impactful changes across the industry, starting with executive leadership and new hires. It was an informative and action-oriented conversation packed with bursts of great facts and figures.

If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version it is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels a day or so after the episode — Matthew Holt

Escaping COVID-19

By RAGHAV GUPTA, MD

“In seeking absolute truth, we aim at the unattainable and must be content with broken portions.”

William Osler

A colleague shared an experience with me about testing one of his patients for the novel coronavirus and it left me a bit puzzled.  An elderly gentleman with past medical history of severe COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and heart failure came to the ER with shortness of breath, edema and fatigue.  Chest x-day suggested pulmonary edema.  He wanted to test him for SARS-CoV2 but hesitated.  Eventually he was able to order it after discussions with various staff administrators.  Dialogue included sentences like “why do we need testing? He has Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), not COVID-19” and “it could create panic amongst staff taking care of him”. I applauded his persistence as eventually the test was done.  To not test is counter-intuitive and more like an escape from diagnosing the virus rather than escaping the virus itself. 

One – the mere fact that we might hesitate before testing for a virus which is a cause of a (ongoing) pandemic should ring all the bells of concern about lack of an optimal strategy.  Inadequate testing has remained the Achilles heel of our stand against COVID-19 because to have a lasting stand, we must know where to take the stand.  

Two – the concern of CHF raised above is clinical and valid, but it is of grave importance to understand that CHF and COVID-19 are not mutually exclusive.  We now know that even the infamous flu and COVID-19 are not mutually exclusive.  Common protocols from a few months ago to test for flu in sick outpatients and not test for COVID-19 if flu was positive was like the prey closing its eyes and hoping the predator does not see it.  It did defer the use of an already scarce resource at the time, testing.  SARS-CoV2 is a virus and the disease caused by it is called COVID-19.  Virus can be ubiquitous; disease does not have to be.  A patient with CHF exacerbation can be an asymptomatic carrier of SARS-CoV2 but may not phenotypically express the disease manifestations of COVID-19.  Or may be his COPD or CHF exacerbation has happened due to a milder COVID-19 inflammatory response?  What we know about COVID-19 is that we don’t know enough about it and therefore we cannot rule out its presence.  Especially while we are in the middle of a growing pandemic.  

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