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Category: Health Policy

Catalyst @ Health 2.0 & AFBH Launch Call For COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling

By ELIZABETH BROWN

Attention digital health innovators! Do you have a health tech solution that can aid community-based care coordinators in COVID-19 vaccine screening and appointment scheduling for their underserved and vulnerable patients? Apply to the second Alliance for Better Health Rapid Response Open Call, hosted by Catalyst @ Health 2.0 & sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation!

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the importance of ensuring health equity and access is vital. This RROC is looking for solutions to help community care coordinators and providers schedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccines for vulnerable and underserved patients who may be facing barriers to self-scheduling those vaccine appointments. The intended care providers are those working with patients who may lack resources, health literacy, or face other barriers to self-scheduling appointments. A select group of semi-finalists will have the opportunity to demo their technology. A grand prize winner will receive $15k and the opportunity to collaborate with Alliance for Better Health! 

Do you have a solution that can fit this need? Apply HERE today! Applications close 2/2.

(This is the second of 2 COVID-19 RROC challenges from Alliance for Better Health. The first was for vaccine administration tracking announced on Tuesday 19th. Both are mentioned in the video from Jacob Reider, Alliance for Better Health’s CEO, which you can see below)

CEO Jacob Reider introduces the challenges

About Alliance For Better Health: Alliance For Better Health engages medical and social service providers in developing innovative solutions to promote people’s health, with a goal of transforming the care delivery system into one that incentivizes health and prevention. Established in 2015 as a Performing Provider System in the New York State Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program (DSRIP), Alliance partners with more than 2,000 providers and organizations across a six-county area in New York’s Tech Valley and Capital Region.  

Elizabeth Brown is a Program Manager at Catalyst @ Health 2.0

Restorative Justice: Don’t Presume “We’re Better Than This”

By MIKE MAGEE

“We’re better than this” is the common refrain heard from many political leaders following the deadly assault on our democracy on January 6th. We hear empty appeals for blind appeasement from the likes of Kevin McCarthy in the interest of “bringing our country together.” But for those of us who study medical history, pursuing this course takes our nation in exactly the wrong direction.

Rather, the model we must follow is the model of Germany in 1945, or South Africa in 1995. In both cases, strict legal and public accountability (retributive justice) were married with fundamental expansion of universal social services to rebuild confidence and trust in their government’s ability to assure safety and security, and an equal playing field for all of their citizens (restorative justice).

In sorting through the legacy of Hitler’s regime in Germany, the Allied forces established the International Military Tribunal.  One of the series of trials, opened on November 19, 1945 in the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, delved into egregious examples of medical criminality, including Nazi experimentation on human subjects. These trials are often cited as an example of “retributive justice.” Of 23 defendants, 7 were hanged, 7 acquitted, and the rest given sentences of from 10 years to life in prison.

These judgments were conducted under the direction of U.S. judges and prosecutors and fully compliant with U.S. standards of criminal procedure. Yet another 25 years would pass before any of the 10 agreed-upon medical ethics research standards were integrated into US trial law.

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Catalyst @ Health 2.0 & AFBH Launch Call For COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Tracking

By ELIZABETH BROWN

Attention digital health innovators! Do you have a tracking tool that can assist public health care providers in managing the two-phased COVID-19 vaccination administration? Apply to the Alliance For Better Health Rapid Response Open Call for Vaccination Administration Tracking! 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the importance of ensuring health equity in #COVID19 vaccination administration for vulnerable and underserved populations is increasingly critical. Catalyst @ Health 2.0 is proud to host a Rapid Response Open Call (RROC) in collaboration with Alliance For Better Health. A select group of semi-finalists will have the opportunity to demo their technology. A grand prize winner will receive $15k and the opportunity to collaborate with Alliance For Better Health! 

Do you have a solution that can fit this need? Apply HERE today! Applications close 1/31.

(This is the first of 2 COVID-19 RROC challenges from Alliance for Better Health. The second will be announced on Thursday 21st but is mentioned in the video from Jacob Reider below)

CEO Jacob Reider introduces the challenges

About Alliance For Better Health: Alliance For Better Health engages medical and social service providers in developing innovative solutions to promote people’s health, with a goal of transforming the care delivery system into one that incentivizes health and prevention. Established in 2015 as a Performing Provider System in the New York State Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program (DSRIP), Alliance partners with more than 2,000 providers and organizations across a six-county area in New York’s Tech Valley and Capital Region.  

Elizabeth Brown is a Program Manager at Catalyst @ Health 2.0

The Cost of Free Speech

By KIM BELLARD

Well, you’d have to say that the past week has been interesting.  It’s not every week that Joe Biden “officially” won the 2021 election, again, as Congress certified the election results.  It’s not every century when the U.S. Capitol is overrun by hostile forces.  And it’d never been true before that Twitter and Facebook banned President Trump’s accounts, or that various tech companies belatedly acted on the threat that Parler poses.  Oh, and we hit new daily records for COVID-19 deaths (over 4,000) and hospitalizations (over 132,000) in case you’d forgotten there is still a pandemic going on. 

Yes, all in all, a very “interesting” week.

I’m going to skip talking about the horror that was the Capitol insurrection, in part because I fear that we’re going to find out more details that will make it clear that it was even worse than we now know.  Similarly, I’m not going to dwell on the shame that Republicans should feel about the fact that two-thirds of their House members still voted to object to certifying the election results even after they’d been forced to flee from the terrorists who sought that very goal with their violence.

Instead, let’s talk about “free speech,” and the social media platforms that helped foster the violence and are now trying to do something about that. 

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RWJF Emergency Response Innovation Challenges: The Winners’ Interviews

By ELIZABETH BROWN

On November 19th, six teams competed in two virtual pitch events for the finals of two Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Innovation Challenges, one for Emergency Response for the General Public and the other for Emergency Response for the Health Care System.

The teams – binformed | covidata, CovidSMS, and Fresh EBT by Propel for the General Public Challenge and Path Check, Qventus, and Tiatros, Inc., for the Health Care System Challenge – presented in front of expert judging panels, who evaluated the entries on impact, UX/UI, innovation/creativity, scalability and strength of presentation. (You can see the demos for all teams on yesterday’s post here)

binformed | covidata and CovidSMS tied for first place in the RWJF Emergency Response for the General Public Challenge and were each awarded $17,500.

Meanwhile, Qventus was declared the winner of the RWJF Emergency Response for the Health Care System Innovation Challenge and received $25,000.

After they had a chance to catch their breath and enjoy their wins, Catalyst caught back up with the three winning teams – hear the winners’ reflections below:

binformed | covidata – RWJF Emergency Response for the General Public Innovation Challenge Winner’s Interview
CovidSMS – RWJF Emergency Response for the General Public Innovation Challenge Winner’s Interview
Qventus – RWJF Emergency Response for the Health Care System Innovation Challenge Winner’s Interview

Elizabeth Brown is a Program Manager at Catalyst @ Health 2.0

RWJF Emergency Response Challenges: The Demos!

By ELIZABETH BROWN

RWJF (Both) Challenge Graphic.png

In mid-June, Catalyst launched the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Emergency Response Innovation Challenges. These Challenges, one for the General Public and one for the Health Care System, 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. Over the course of several months and with the help of experts and industry leaders who evaluated the submissions, these applications were narrowed down to five and then again until only three teams per Challenge remained. These teams were:  

Emergency Response for the General Public Finalists:

  • Binformed CovidataBinformed is a clinically-driven comprehensive desktop + mobile infectious disease, epidemic + pandemic management tool targeting suppression and containment of diseases such as COVID-19.
  • CovidSMS CovidSMS is a text message-based platform providing city-specific information and resources to help low-income communities endure COVID-19.
  • Fresh EBT by PropelA technology tool for SNAP families to address food insecurity & economic vulnerability in times of crisis.   

Emergency Response for the Health Care System Finalists:

  • Path CheckPath Check provides privacy first, free, open source solutions for public health to supplement manual contact tracing, visualize hot spots, and interfaces with citizen-facing privacy first apps.
  • QventusQventus is a patient flow automation solution that applies AI / ML and behavioral science to help health systems optimize resources for Covid, create effective capacity, and reduce frontline burnout.
  • 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.

These six teams competed in the finals, a virtual pitch event, on November 19th in front of expert judging panels, who evaluated the entries on impact, UX/UI, innovation/creativity, scalability and strength of presentation. (Also re-introduced during this event was Catalyst’s SourceDB, a health tech tracking database – more on that in a separate blog post here!)

In the Health Care System Innovation Challenge, judges awarded first, second, and third place to Qventus, Path Check, and Tiatros, Inc., respectively, with these teams receiving, in order, $25,000, $15,000, and $5,000. However, there was a tie for first in the General Public Innovation Challenge between binformed | covidata and CovidSMS. These two teams split the first and second place prizes and received $17,500 each, and Fresh EBT by Propel in third place received $5,000.


See the demos from all six teams below!

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Evaluating President-Elect Biden’s Healthcare Plan | Part 2

By TAYLOR J. CHRISTENSEN

In Part 1 of this series, I reviewed the relevant context of our post-ACA healthcare system to show why President-Elect Joe Biden’s healthcare plan is perfectly reasonable. In this part, I will critically evaluate that plan to show what he got right and what he got wrong or missed altogether.

Joe Biden plans to get rid of the current limit (400% of the federal poverty level) on who qualifies for health insurance premium subsidies and instead convert it to a flat percentage of income (8.5%), which means anyone whose health insurance is going to cost more than 8.5% of their annual income would qualify for a subsidy. And those subsidies would be more generous, being based on a gold-level insurance plan’s price rather than a silver-level insurance plan. He also plans to create a new government-run health insurance company to offer an insurance plan—a “public option”—on the private market, which would be available to private market health insurance shoppers and some other groups as well.

Ok, now for some evaluation of all that.

First, let me frame how I am going to evaluate Joe Biden’s plan.

There are three problems healthcare reformers are usually trying to solve. They want to (1) increase access to care, (2) decrease healthcare prices, and (3) improve the quality of care.

But if we merge the last two goals into one, we can say they want to (1) increase access, and (2) improve the value of care (Value = Quality / Price). We will take these one by one.

Goal 1: Increase Access

How will Joe Biden’s plan do at increasing access?

There are three things to consider when evaluating access-increasing policies. The first is how many people will be covered. The second is how much it will cost. And the third, almost universally forgotten, is how much it will interfere with efforts to accomplish the second goal to improve the value of care.

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Evaluating President-Elect Biden’s Healthcare Plan | Part 1

By TAYLOR J. CHRISTENSEN

Without the full support of congress behind him, President-Elect Joe Biden will probably not have an opportunity to sign any major system-altering healthcare legislation. But, if Democrats can gain a majority in the senate–either this election cycle or next—healthcare reform will be high on the agenda. Let’s take a critical look at what Joe Biden would push to accomplish.

For this evaluation, I am relying solely on information that Joe Biden has committed to on his official campaign website. He has many pages talking about a variety healthcare issues, such as the pandemic, gun violence, and the opioid epidemic. But the main page that reviews his plans for the healthcare system as a whole is here. Consider giving it a read through first, because what follows will only be summarizing and evaluating the key big-picture components of his plan.

Joe Biden is not pushing for Medicare for All. He instead wants to keep the Affordable Care Act (i.e., the ACA, or “Obamacare”) and fix the parts of it that are not working so well. To understand the rationale of his proposed changes, we first need to review where we are at now with the ACA.

There are many parts to the ACA, but its main thrust was to increase insurance coverage. What kind of numbers are we working with? Below are some 2019 data, rounded for simplicity. And note that I am excluding the 60,000,000 people who are over age 65 and therefore on Medicare.

The under-age-65 people fall into one of four insurance groups . . .

Employer-sponsored insurance (160,000,000 people) if they are lucky enough to work for an employer that provides benefits.

Medicaid (70,000,000 people) if their income is low enough to qualify.

Private insurance from the “private market” (10,000,000 people) if they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and do not have an employer that provides benefits.

Uninsured (30,000,000 people) if they do not get insurance from their employer, their income is too high to qualify for Medicaid, and they do not want to pay for insurance from the private market.

Remember, those are from 2019, so they are post-ACA numbers. Prior to the implementation of the ACA, the uninsured number hovered around 45,000,000 people. What did it do to reduce the number of uninsured people? There were many ways, but here are the two biggest ways:

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No Names, Please

By KIM BELLARD

Feeling good about your holiday spending?  You’ve made it through most of this mostly horrible 2020, maybe lost a job or even a loved one, but still probably found a way to buy presents for your loved ones and maybe even to give some money to charity.  Indeed, charitable giving was up 7.5% for the first half of 2020, despite the economic headwinds.

Then there’s MacKenzie Scott.

Ms. Scott, as you may recall, is the former wife of Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos.  She got Amazon stock worth some $38b in their 2019 divorce, which is now estimated to be worth around $62b.  She just gave away $4.2b – and that’s on top of $1.7b she gave away in July

In case your math skills are impaired, that’s $6b in six months, which Melissa Berman, chief executive officer of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors told Bloomberg: “has to be one of the biggest annual distributions by a living individual.”   Ms. Scott has vowed: “I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”

Kenzie Bryant, writing in Vanity Fair, marveled: “It gives a whole new meaning to “fuck-you money.” 

Private foundations are required to distribute at least 5% of their endowments each year; Ms. Scott not only has given away 10% of her net worth this year alone, but she hasn’t even used a foundation to do so.  As The New York Times reported: “Ms. Scott’s operation has no known address — or even website. She refers to a “team of advisers” rather than a large dedicated staff.”

She doesn’t make recipients plead for money through grant applications.  She doesn’t specify how the money is to be used, or require reports on how it is spent.  She doesn’t expect her name on anything.  She doesn’t even make public how much she is giving each recipient (although some choose to do so).

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3 Patient Lessons: What Cancer Patients Teach Me

By YASMIN ASVAT

An estimated 1.8 million people in this country may face a cancer diagnosis this year, in what has already been a bleak year of isolation and loss.  

While news of the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out across the U.S. offers hope in a year of 311,000 deaths,  11 million  people face the financial pressure of unemployment, and, approximately 43 percent of the nation reports some symptoms of anxiety or depression.  

It is understandable that a cancer diagnosis now may be too much to bear. And yet, somehow, many patients cope with the diagnosis and the associated uncertainty, fragility, and the threat of mortality with remarkable resilience.  

As a clinical psychologist in the Supportive Oncology program at a major Midwestern cancer center, I witness these quiet heroics every day. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic earlier this year, I have been striving to listen, empathize, support, and help cancer patients cope as their lives have been disrupted by both a cancer diagnosis and COVID-19. These are lessons these patients have taught me. 

Courage is being faced with doing something that utterly terrifies you, and you do it anyway. One of my patients described that leading up to the day of chemotherapy treatment, she is highly anxious, has racing thoughts and worries, and has trouble concentrating and sleeping. The morning of treatment, she vents to her partner about how she doesn’t want to go to the clinic. During the drive, she braces herself repeating, “I don’t want to do this” over and over again. 

Once in the clinic, she tells some of her nurses that she doesn’t want to be there because she worries about COVID-19 exposure, despite all the precautions the clinics have in place. She tells another set of nurses that she is scared of the side-effects of treatment – the disabling fatigue, the nausea, the suppressed immune system. 

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