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Category: Matthew Holt

Matthew Holt is the founder and publisher of The Health Care Blog and still writes regularly for the site and hosts the #THCBGang and #HealthInTwoPoint00 video shows/podcasts. He was co-founder of the Health 2.0 Conference and now also does advisory work mostly for health tech startups at his consulting firm SMACK.health.

Send in the Clowns!

David is a long time friend and occassional contributor to THCB. And he politely asked if the THCB audience would be interested in helping contribute to the charity he works with–please read and give what you can–Matthew Holt

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The Hearts & Noses Hospital Clown Troupe provides professionally trained volunteer clowns to hospitalized children in Greater Boston and training for other clown troupes worldwide. I’m chairman of the board of directors and hope you will join me in supporting the work of the clowns by making a donation.

Hospitalized children often experience stress, fear, and anxiety, which can become a barrier to healing. Hearts & Noses clowns are specially trained to provide relief for ill children and respite for their families. Our clowns strive to uncover the hidden spirit of joy and the creative energy that lives in the heart and soul of children− a spirit that is often dampened by the sterile and sometimes frightening clinical environment. Our clowns’ central goal is to engage, empower and give choices to hospitalized children.

After a life-changing trip to Russia with famous clown and physician Patch Adams, troupe founder Jeannie Lindheim began offering a series of seminars on hospital clowning in the 1990s. Lindheim, an actor, began training clowns to visit ill and disabled children at Boston area hospitals. She formed the Clown Troupe and worked diligently to build a strong, professionally-trained group of volunteers. More than a decade later, our clowns are still all volunteers and we have helped build clown troupes throughout the world.

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Engage with Grace at Thanksgiving

Since 2008 THCB has featured Engage with Grace at Thanksgving. We invite everyone to post this to their blog or Facebook page, and to link here with their status update. You can download a “blog ready” html version of this piece in .txt format to drop into your blog software by right-clicking and choosing”save link as” here. This post was written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team.

For three years running now bloggers have participated in what we’ve called a “blog rally” to promote Engage With Grace – a movement aimed at making sure all of us understand, communicate, and have honored our end-of-life wishes.

The rally is timed to coincide with a weekend when most of us are with the very people with whom we should be having these unbelievably important conversations – our closest friends and family.

At the heart of Engage with Grace are five questions designed to get the conversation about end-of-life started. We’ve included them at the end of this post. They’re not easy questions, but they are important.

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Suzanne Delbanco on the new Catalyst for Payment Reform

Catalyst for Payment Reform is a new organization set up by several large employers. The organization’s goal is to pay for health care differently, and make sure that those employers run ahead of any Medicare payment reform coming down the track. Suzanne Delbanco, formerly of Leapfrrog, is now the first Executive Director and Founder of the new organization. Last week I interviewed her about what the organization is going to do, what employers care about, and (despite decades of employers being simple price takers in health care) why this time it’s going to be different.

Keep watching to the very end to see the great view from Suzanne’s office!

Eric Dishman talks about Intel in health

Eric Dishman has been working with a big team at Intel on the use of technology to help seniors and patients age in place. It’s been a long-ish road for Eric but in the last few years his extensive work on the anthropology of aging is starting to bear fruit in terms of products from the chip giant, including a new-ish joint-venture with GE. I talked with Eric and got some brief overviews of some of the products at last week’s TEDMED conference.

Vic Fuchs Speaks!

I was absolutely delighted that after several polite “maybe later” responses I was able to  recently interview Victor Fuchs, the Henry J. Kaiser Professor Emeritus at Stanford University. Vic is best known as the “Father of Health Economics” and perhaps less well known (but more importantly to me!) the professor who taught the first health economics class that I ever took.

Matthew Holt: Victor, thanks so much for agreeing to come on THCB. I must admit Vic when I joined your class I had no idea about your background and reputation in health economics. So, I was just delighted to figure out that I blundered in right at the top. It’s a real pleasure to have you on the line

Victor Fuchs: I think you’re doing a great job and therefore I’m glad to spend some time with you.

Matthew Holt: Fantastic! You’ve, obviously, been observing and commenting on– and more recently sort of promoting ideas around –health reform for quite a while now, so let’s jump into a couple of things that you’ve published very recently, in fact just these past few weeks.

The first is a paper in The New England Journal of Medicine about a conceptual future for new biomedical innovation and I’d be grateful if you could just explain just a little bit what your general concepts are here. You’ve been working on this for quite a while. In fact, back when I was in your class, you were publishing some stuff with Alan Garber about technology assessment and this is sort of a continuation to that in some ways. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Victor Fuchs: Well, I think there were two key elements here, one of them better understood by a larger audience and one of them I think rather new. Let me do the new one first. The new one is that we are going through what I call the second demographic transition.

The first transition was when every country had high mortality and high fertility and then the mortality especially of young people started to drop, but fertility did not drop right away, so you had a divergence there and in some cases it lasted for a couple of decades and during that time the population soared because there was this discrepancy between mortality and fertility.

You see the high fertility made sense when mortality was high because you wanted to have at least a couple of children survive to adulthood, but when mortality dropped it didn’t sink into people’s consciousness right away, so it took quite a bit of period which the historians and the demographers referred to as the demographic transition, okay. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it or not, but —

Matthew Holt: Yeah, I get the concept and there’s been some stuff written about that in terms of the impact on social security and healthcare.

Victor Fuchs: And some of the third world countries are going through it now, but now the second demographic transition is the one that I talk about in the NEJM piece a little bit. It has the following elements.

First is that a very large and increasingly large percentage of the population cohort lives until age 65, whereas at the beginning of the 20th century only a small percentage lived until 65. Now we’re going to 80% and we’ll eventually approach close to a 100% living till 65.

The second element is that life expectancy at 65 is increasing and it’s increasing at a quite brisk pace in recent decades. You put those two things together and you find out a very large and growing percentage of all the additional years that are lived if you have increasing life expectancy will be lived after 65.

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The trifecta: Reform idiocy, Hospital CEOs and the Obesity Problem

It’s rare that you get such a delicious health care story combining human frailty, blindness and multiple stereotypes, but Julie Rovner of NPR found it. In fact I literally thought she’d been set up but she confirmed to me that it was true and put me in touch with the CMS spokesman who confirmed it. So remember, this really happened.—Matthew

An interim hospital CEO in Ohio Valley Medical Center, in West Virginia “found out” “advanced intelligence” from “word of mouth” sources in Washington DC that the “High Commissioners of the Healthcare Reform Bill” were going deny Medicare payments  to any hospital of which than 5% of employees were 25% overweight.

This rumor prompted the said CEO to panic. Now before I tell you what he did, let me tell you a little of his story. To quote the CEO as he tells it:

I am five feet, 10 inches tall. The guidelines (he’s referring to standard BMI guidelines) suggest that I should weigh between 151 and 163 for my medium frame. If you add 25 percent to the upper limit, I would need to be no heavier than 204 pounds. I currently weigh 272 pounds, down from 335. I would have three years to lose 68 pounds

That is indeed some challenge. Not to mention that the hospital is in West Virginia (albeit the northern sliver between Ohio & Pennsylvania) where the obesity rate is among the nations highest—there’s a reason that Jamie Oliver took his childhood obesity crusade there. In fact Ohio County, WV’s obesity rate is 32% according to the rather fun County Sin Rankings site. And as obesity tends to mean a BMI of roughly 25% more than the outer band of the guidelines, it’s a fair bet that somewhere close to 32% of the workforce is obese. So getting that number down to 5% would be a major struggle.

The interim CEO also wanted to promote not only his own weight loss story but the laudable activities of his hospital’s dietitians and its weight-loss programs. Here’s his counsel to hospital employees.

I strongly urge you to take advantage of the programs OVMC and EORH are currently offering employees who are battling with excess weight. Mary Velez is doing a fabulous job with Weight Watchers programs, and in addition, I have also been offering a program known as “Diet and Fitness for Love.”

And who could be against that advice?

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Aneesh Chopra talking Health IT and innovation, SF 12 noon today

Today at 12 noon PST Aneesh Chopra, Federal CTO will be at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco talking about health care and health care IT. Indu and I saw him last night talking about technology before a big crowd at the Silicon Valley Computer History Museum.

In today’s talk he’s going to be focused exclusively on health care, which means he won’t have to dodge the question on Net Neutrality that he got last night. And even better, if you don’t have a ticket yet you can get one free thanks to the California Health Care Foundation,

I’ve seen Aneesh talk several times. Last night was particularly good in that he really responded well in the Q&A session. Plus he gave several shout-outs to the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge even if he made Indu embarrassed,

So if you care at all about health care and IT, you should come to the Commonwealth Club in downtown San Francisco today. And as an added bonus the entire health 2.0 team down to the Norwegian interns will be there – except for Lizzie who is up at the Health 2.0 NorthWest Chapter Kick off meeting.

Diversinet: a backbone for unplatforms?

Unplatforms is the term I’ve been using to describe the multitude of devices that people are using to collect and receive information. And also to cover the different channels they are using often on the same device (e.g. text, voice and web on one smart phone). Application developers are having to come up with strategies for connecting with people and moving and integrating their data in a world of multiple unplatforms, Diversinet has been focusing on creating a turnkey system for moving health data securely to patients–here’s a demo you can play around with to see how it works. It might be one solution for health care organizations to deal with all those unplatforms over which they need to reach consumers.

The company has recently changed its business strategy–it was working with a subsidiary of a Penn Blues plan to distribute its services, but following a protracted legal dispute, it’s now going direct to health care plans and providers who want to move data between multiple devices, and has hired McKesson veteran Mark Trigsted to run its new health care group. First customer is Minnesota integrated systems HealthPartners, with a pilot for pregnant women underway already. I spoke with Diversinet’s SVP of sales Jay Couse to find out more about the technology and the business strategy.

Interview with Jay Couse, Diversinet

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