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

Google’s strategy (mostly outside of health care)

VC Fred Wilson explains where he thinks Google is going in Chrome, Android, and The Cloud. The Health 2.0 team is about 3 months into using Google Docs (especially the spreadsheet) and although Docs continues to have its teething troubles, like Fred we are hooked. I suspect we and Fred’s shop are not alone

BTW, I read the Chrome comic book today and it is a thing of beauty — taking really tough technical concepts and explaining them simply and not condescendingly. I’ll for sure be downloading Chrome when I get the chance.

Meanwhile, in health care last week David Kibbe interviewed Ronnie Zeiger at Google as part of the Great American Health 2.0 Tour. The Googleplex was a little empty as half the employees seemed to be at Burning Man. But a little way into the public release of Google Health, it does seem as they’re happy with what’s happening so far, and they remain committed to taking it seriously. (I sense a bottle of fine wine coming my way ).

On the other hand, I know for sure that Microsoft continues to take its health care business very seriously too. And yes, you’ll be able to see both of them at Health 2.0.


Obama and Krugman — almost mirror each other

I thought Obama was fabulous last night at the convention. He’s a great speaker, but
also able to gently laugh with his audience. His introduction showed what a tough road he had. If the Republicans manage to convince the American people that a black kid with a single white parent living in middle America is an elitist son of privilege then Karl Rove is better than I thought.

He was happy to rip McCain not on personality but on the issues. I’d like to have seen a lot more from the Democrats at this convention ripping Bush and Cheney on personality, personal corruption and the issues, and I wish Kerry had done even more in 2004, but that’s water under the bridge.

But the key point is that for most Americans things aren’t going well. Paul Krugman, who’s had his differences with Obama says it well today showing just how much key Republicans are out of touch — especially on the economy and health care.

Of course all he has to do is quote Phil Gramm, who appeared in Obama’s speech, and John Goodman who didn’t but does make it into Krugman’s column today. Goodman, of course, was pilloried in THCB yesterday. But I still think it’s a triple bluff on his part.

Two Boston Health 2.0 companies show a little more

Two MD-run Health 2.0 companies in Boston had decent interviews recently in which they told a little more about themselves.

American Well’s Roy Schoenberg was interviewed by Health Business Blog’s David
Williams. It’s a long and thorough interview although Roy doesn’t tell Americanwell_2anything particularly new, it’s as good a summary of what he thinks their business will be as I’ve seen anywhere. And they get all those fun trips to Hawaii too!

Meanwhile, across the Charles River in Cambridge Sermo’s Daniel Palestrant is making a
little more public. It’s no longer just Pfizer, now most of the big pharma companies are dipping their toe in the Sermo pond, as he tells Xconomy. What he won’t tell anyone yet is how deep their feet are in, but Sermo which reached more than 70,000 signed up docs recently — Sermofrom less than 10,000 only 18 months ago — is clearly basing most of its business plan on getting big pharma to move from experimenting with it to using Sermo as a mainstream educational and marketing channel. As I’ve said before, this makes lots of sense for Sermo and its users. Whether it helps big pharma remains to be seen!

But the good news is that Daniel is not shy with his advice to other Health 2.0 Companies. “You Will Not Pay Your Bills with ads by Google,” he says.

Why not, Daniel? It works pretty well for Google!

(Both Roy of American Well and Daniel of Sermo will be at Health 2.0 next month, of course!)

Is John Goodman joking or just mean?

The uninsured numbers went down a touch because in 2007 Medicaid expanded. In 2008 they’ll go up as unemployment increases and S-CHIP coverage is cut. Really this doesn’t change too much.

Right-wing nut jobs all over the Internet are saying that uninsurance doesn’t matter. It’s surprising that one of the more sensible right-wingers has joined in and now says that the uninsured don’t exist.

But the numbers are misleading, said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-leaning Dallas-based think tank. Mr. Goodman, who helped craft Sen. John McCain’s health care policy, said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort. (Hospital emergency rooms by law cannot turn away a patient in need of immediate care).

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Cisco’s Frances Dare talks about Congressional action on health IT

Frances Dare is someone I’ve know for a long time in the health care IT world (sorry, Frances!). That means that she’s seen the painfully slow developments in many aspects of health IT since the 1990s, and has an experienced view of what’s coming along at what pace. These days Frances is a Director at Cisco focusing on health care, and more recently she’s taken an active role in Cisco’s health care lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

Given that we don’t spend much time on THCB talking about the impact of the Federal sausage-making process on health care IT, telemedicine, et al, I thought that getting the view of a major IT vendor about what they expect to come out of the current Congress would be pretty interesting. And it was. Here’s the Interview.

BTW, in the interview I get the name of Frances’ division at Cisco wrong, Frances is a Director in the ISBG which stands for Internet Business Solutions Group. (FD, I have done consulting work for Cisco in the past, even if I didn’t know the name of the group I was working for!).

A few socialist musings for Monday

I just watched the closing ceremony of the Olympics, and the word is that state sponsorship of little known or cared about sports like swimming, gymnastics and cycling gets more medals and so should be encouraged. Bob Costas told me that China spent $40 billion on the games, even if London is going to spend less than half that. So it got me thinking about socialism.

Kevin Pho, blogger of KevinMD fame, and usually reliably anti-government in his views, asks for more socialism, at least directed in the direction of him and his fellow MDs. In this USA Today op-ed he suggests rightly that cutting doctors fees in itself saves little in health costs..

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The first one’s always free….but will you buy a kid a bike?

Many times because I’m an independent consultant, blogger or general self-appointed health care know-it-all people want to talk to me. And I’m always happy to talk. Sometimes these conversations turn into business for me or THCB or Health 2.0, but sometimes they don’t. What I tell anyone who wants my time is that the "first one is always free."


Meanwhile, as part of her return from a back injury my wife Amanda has bought a bike and is training for a triathlon later this Fall. It’s also renewal time for our favorite cause the Saigon Childrens Charity. Much of its resources are spent buying rice for poor families so that they don’t need to send kids out to work, and so the kid can go to school instead. With the price of rice doubling this year, things are getting tougher for the charity and the kids.

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Who’d be a pollster, eh

HSC says that the number of Americans going online for healthcare goes way up:

In 2007, 56 percent of American adults—more than 122 million people—sought information about a personal health concern from a source other than their doctor, up from 38 percent, or 72 million people, in 2001, according to a national study released today by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).

Harris Interactive says it’s gone down ;

Ten years ago, in 1998, the Harris Poll began measuring the number of people going online for health care information. At that time we reported that 54 million people had done so at least once. Since then the number of those people, whom we labeled “cyberchondriacs,” have increased almost every year, reaching 110 million in 2002, and 160 million in 2007.

This year, the Harris Poll finds only 150 million who claim to have gone online to obtain health care information. Of course, 150 million is still a huge number and includes 66 percent of all adults and 81 percent of those who are online.

Extra points if you can spot the flaw in my reasoning. (Yes, it’s easy but I’ve been up late watching the Olympics….even though I said I wouldn’t)

Health IT policy: the fur is flying

Some fur is flying in the rarefied world of health IT policy geeks this morning. Health Affairs has three articles. The first from Markle’s Carol Diamond, writing with Here Comes Everybody author and Internet guru Clay Shirky, more or less says that obsessive attention to rigid standards is not helping and actually may be hindering the IT adoption process. And yes, in case you were wondering they do mean CCHIT and ONCHIT’s current policies and agenda which has been going for four years and which they’re accusing of “magical thinking.” Instead, we need new policies which target desired outcomes measured in improved patient care, instead of assuming that creating new technology standards will get us there. And by policies I think they mean money, and its redirection by current payers. After all, if putting in a RHIO costs hospitals operating revenue in reducing admissions and tests, why would they do it?

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Flacks peddle false “reality”

Such a pity that the NY Times has been so beaten up by the commies amongst us that it actually now feels that it has to point out where Peter Pitts and Janet Trautwein get their money. Although, as per the last time it let Pitts write an op-ed, it didn’t mention his day job as a PR man for pharmaceutical companies. After all, who could be opposed to “Medicine in the Public Interest” — after all it is in the interest of the public to pay for all and any medicine at any price that PhRMA chooses, right?

And let’s not get started on underwriters (for whom Trautwein is the main flack). After all Grace-Marie Turner thinks that they’re the health care heroes! Perhaps they’re heroes because they drive sick people into the uninsured population so that the under-paid clinical staff working in America’s public and community health system get to show their worth by caring for them —even if they’re less heroic than underwriters.

But that’s OK, Pitts & Trautwein can be printed in the NY Times cherry-picking problems with other countries health care systems. Because as we all know there’s absolutely nothing wrong with ours, eh?

And why should Pitts quote the peer-reviewed 2007 Commonwealth Fund study that showed that waiting times for surgery were longer in the US than in the communist hell-hole of Germany, when instead he was able to cite an 11 year old study about longer waiting lists for one specific type of surgery in the Netherlands, which has completely revamped its health care system since then. Something he and Trautwein have helped stop us doing — preserving a dismal status quo they obviously want to maintain.

Those two wouldn’t last 92 seconds in a debate with Uwe Reinhardt or Hillary Clinton.

On the other hand, there’s no letter from Karen Ignagni to make up the trifecta. Did she negotiate some summer vacation time along with her $1.3m salary?


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