Category: Health Tech

It’s, err, gulp, HIMSS time

Yes, the annual cavalcade of boat-show sized booths and late night partying—interspersed with frequently mind-numbing presentations that most people skip— is on. In Chicago in a snowstorm! I touched down on Sunday midday and managed to compound the craziness in HIMSS by starting in London (thanks to American Airlines for the free upgrade this time!), but I did make it to bed before midnight. And yes, there was 3 inches of snow/slush in Chicago and I did throw snowballs.
Before I got in there appears to have been a rather odd session on Health 2.0 (at least judging by this report, it seems it was all about hospital marketing and excessive use of FaceBook which I don't think is the whole point).

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From Health 2.0 meets Ix: A Breathtaking Display of Possibilities

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(Boston) Jane Sarasohn-Kahn and I were quickly comparing notes this morning. Our impression is that, compared to past meetings, this one seems more characterized by doers than observers.

This conference brings together a dizzying array of tools and experiences, which is testament to the organizers’ encyclopedic handle on the vast diversity of activity in this sector. Josh Seidman, Indu Subaiya and Matthew Holt have done yeomans’ jobs in putting these impressive presentations together.

Mingling, I’ve spoken to person after person actively involved in mostly consumer-oriented ventures, leveraging science and user-generated information to facilitate a more favorable patient experience. There are some real steps forward, like the demo that Mayo and Microsoft showed, that takes information entered into Health Vault and applies the rules that Mayo has developed through many years of experience. Or the work that groups like Up-To-Date and HealthWise are doing, that continually, organically update descriptive information throughout medicine and health care.

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Holt accepts Beltway role, pledges new era of ‘personable responsibility’

In a dramatic reversal, THCB publisher Matthew Holt announced today that he has accepted a position with the Washington based CATO Institute, a think tank devoted to sober analysis and rigorous defense of the ideals of the modern conservative movement.

At CATO, Holt will hold the title of Distinguished Visiting British Policy Wonk.  He is expected to deliver a series of entertaining lectures designed to warn conservative audiences of the dangers of encroaching big government and the evils of internationalism.

Tentative topics in the  series, scheduled to be held at the Rottweiler Student Center at the American University are “What the Hell is Government, Anyway, Really, When You Think About it?” and “Regulation 2.0: Here We Go Again, This Guy Reminds Me of Jimmy Carter ..”

The appointment represents only the latest chapter in a personal voyage spanning three decades and six continents for Holt. In recent years the blogger and entrepreneur had become synonymous with cheeky criticism of the healthcare industry.

“It all started when I read that Ayn Rand book on a bumpy flight from San Francisco to Nashville,” Holt said. “At first, I thought I was going to be sick, then, in a moment of clarity, I became aware of my numerous internal contradictions. By the time I got off the plane I was composing a personable e-mail to Michael Cannon in my head .. ”

Officials at CATO said they were initially skeptical when Holt approached them with the idea that he join the institute, but gradually warmed to the idea, after thinking about it for a little while.  “Frankly. we thought it was a bit odd,” said Institute spokesman Chet McClellan   “Shit. I mean. Matthew Holt?  But people change. Especially in Washington around stimulus package time. ”

In recent months, Holt had been among a number of candidates rumored to have been headed to a high profile role in the White House Office of New Economic Policy.  (WHONEP).  According to highly placed sources in the administration with an intimate knowledge of events, that lifelong dream came to an premature end last month after Holt offended first lady Michelle Obama with public comments denigrating the Obama Health care reform plan.

According to several witnesses who asked not to be identified, Mrs. Obama flew into an extended rage after learning that Holt had called Mr. Obama’s bold plan to radically reshape the broken US Healthcare System in three months using a handpicked team of people from Massachusetts quote “really silly.”

“Really silly? WTF? The man has a stupid english accent and he can’t spell.” Mrs Obama is reported to have said. “And he doesn’t fact check his blog posts.”

A White House spokesperson denied the incident ever took place.

Health 2.0 NYC Chapter, has meeting, needs a place!

Health 2.0’s NYC chapter is having a meeting this Thursday 4/2–-around 50 people are due to attend and it’s set to be a great session.

There is one minor problem though. Due to a last minute cancellation by the existing conference room sponsor the meeting needs a new venue. Please contact if you can fit ~40-50 people for tomorrow evening from 6.30pm on.

(Eugene does have a back up, but it’s not ideal! And no this is not an April Fool’s joke)

The Hawaii Health 2.0 Chapter meeting

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Indu & Matthew traveled to Hawaii (tough gig but someone’s got to do it) to take part in the Hawaii Health 2.0 chapter on Online Care, held on Thursday March 26. The chapter meeting was rather more fancy than the average Health 2.0 local meeting, with the dolphins in their own lagoon at the Kahala resort being a few steps away from the meeting.

HMSA, American Well and Kaiser Permanente hosted the meeting which focused on online care. David Kibbe kicked off the meeting with a little reprise of the Great American Health 2.0 Motorcycle Tour. Jay Sanders “father of telemedicine” gave a great presentation going back to future showing the “radio doctor” in a picture from 1924, which looked pretty much like what online care looks like now! Jay was very provocative about the potential of telemedicine and the role of physicians in the future—for example, if you have a physical and you don't check the doctor's hearing first, how do you know that they’re reporting is correct? Indu & Matthew followed with the introduction to Health 2.0 and putting online care in place within the wider technology change….but you’ve all heard way too much about that (slides to come)

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Karen Ignagni lie of the day, part 68

6a00d8341c909d53ef0105371fd47b970b-320wiThe big insurers now seem to be doing anything they can to prevent a Medicare-equivalent public plan 
being launched to beat them up. Yes AHIP has apparently decided to throw the schlockmeisters off the boat, and more or less agree to end medical underwriting.

Those of you who listened to my interview with Tom Epstein of California Blue Shield will recall the cognitive dissonance he was suffering when he had to defend Blue Shield and other insurers’ behavior in the individual insurance market (hey, it’s the man’s job), while at the same time calling for policies that would essentially end the individual market and create a near-universal purchasing pool. By definition, that would require some level of uniformity of benefits and some risk-adjustment mechanism, and consequently it would put several currently profitable lines of insurers business out of business—yes I am talking about Tonik and Mega Life & Health among others. In general this might be a good trade for the bigger plans as they’d add a bunch more younger healthier lives at a higher price point (although what Wellpoint’s actuaries and accountants really think about it is yet to be determined—note their opposition to the similar ArnieCare legislation).

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Don’t think anything is certain on the reform front

And in more from the “is it really bad enough out there to guarantee health reform?” front…

Pew Research is out with a poll showing that the numbers in favor of a major health care system reform are growing abut nowhere near as large as they were in 1993.


For those of you who are real survey geeks it’s (almost) worth noticing that Harris, which asks a similar three questions about appetite for reform never got above 40% for its “rebuilding” category back in 1993. I’m not sure why these are different numbers, but the last one I saw from Harris in favor of “complete rebuilding” was at 33%.

But the answer is that support from the public is no more a dead cert than it was in 1993–4.

Tom Epstein, Blue Shield of California, on the hot seat

A couple of weeks ago the PR company for Blue Shield of California contacted me asking if I wanted their take on health reform. I somehow suspect that the PR flack concerned wasn’t as familiar with the California rescission issue as I am, or hadn’t checked on THCB’s extensive coverage of it

But Blue Shield of California is an odd case. CEO Bruce Bodaken has been a leader among health plans in looking towards a regulated utility model, and supporting both Arnie-Care and now Obama/Baucus-care. On the other hand, as we’ve discussed numerous times on THCB, Blue Shield has not only been as bad as the rest in terms of bad behavior in the individual market–but has also been the most aggressive of all insurers in defending its right to that behavior in the courts.

Tom Epstein, is an old Clinton White House hand who’s now running Public Affairs at Blue Shield of California. Tom was brave enough to come on THCB, discuss the good, the bad and the ugly, be frank about what they want to happen and to forecast what he thinks might happen in terms of reform, and the potential role of health plans in it. Here’s the interview and I think you’ll find it very interesting.

Jonathan Cohn on the internal politics of Obama’s health care plan

Jonathan Cohn has started blogging almost daily on the politics of health care at The Treatment. And it's a treat to read. Jon is a member of the recently exposed vast left wing conspiracy (so am I, but that’s because Ezra’s soft), but the difference is that instead of being a San Francisco based ranter with an unfocused cynicism, Jon actually knows the inside Obama players and cares what they do. And he’s an optimist.

His latest piece at TNR, Stayin' Alive describes the inner story of why the Administration decided to come up with the $65bn a year number in the budget for health reform, rather than just brushing it under the rug. And the somewhat surprising (to me) answer is that the member of the Obama team who would not let health care die was Obama.

Now I know I’m very cynical about both the chances of any reform passing and the value of said reform, but there is the (ever so slight) chance that I might be wrong. So paying attention to Jonathan is a smart idea.

CODA: BTW, why are health care reform costs always quoted as “$1.5 trillion” or whatever. Why are they not quoted like everything else, in annual terms?. After all $1.5 trillion over 10 years is a pretty small fraction of the $30+ trillion we’re going to spend on health care in the next 10 years.

Bill Maher explains why government-run health care is a good idea!

Maher’s being funny (at least he thinks he is!), but he’s tapping into a meme that I think that many in DC including any Democrats are missing. I was watching CNN on Sunday and Sanjay Gupta brought up the question to Bill Clinton and (and Bill Frist, John Podesta & Mehmet Oz) about whether single payer was really off the table. The answer is, it’s not if they get this wrong (and they will). If we have a mealy mouthed reform this time (a la Massachusetts) then single-payer will be back with a vengeance in a few years.


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