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What If Healthcare Was Like Wikipedia?

By KIM BELLARD

Last week I wrote about, well, how awful social media has become, so this week it’s nice to write about pretty much the opposite: Wikipedia turned twenty last Friday (January 15). 

In person years that’s not even old enough to buy alcohol, but in Internet years that makes it one of the grand old masters, like Google or Amazon.  Wikipedia is one of the most visited Internet destinations, with its 55+ million articles, in 300+ languages, getting some 10b+ views per month. 

It is something that, by all rights, shouldn’t exist, much less be successful.  A non-profit, volunteer written/edited, online encyclopedia?  An online resource widely trusted for its objective, generally accurate articles in a world of fake news?  As the joke goes, it’s good that it works in practice because it does not work in theory.

That’s sort of the opposite of our healthcare system: it’s good that it works in theory, because it sure doesn’t work in practice.

Wikipedia works due to its army of editors (“Wikipedians”); some 127,000 have edited the English edition alone within the past 30 days.  They work in virtual real time; when someone wins an Oscar the update happens almost immediately.  When the U.S. Capitol was stormed two weeks ago, Wikipedia had a page up before the protesters were gone. 

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Virtually Better

By KIM BELLARD

The COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t have come at a better time for virtual reality.  It has caused many workers to work remotely, introducing many workers to collaborative tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams and even more to video platforms like Zoom or Skype.  But we’re just beginning to understand what collaboration could look like — such as virtual reality (VR).

As CNBC noted: “Virtual reality is booming in the workplace amid the pandemic.”  Even a pre-pandemic Perkins Coie survey, done for the XR Association, predicted an explosion of immersive technologies like VR, augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR).   Elizabeth Hyman, President of XRA, said: “We are at the precipice of an integration of XR technology that will transform businesses and society for the better.”  

The report expected healthcare to be the industry most impacted by immersive technologies (outside of gaming/entertainment).

Take VR-start-up Spatial, which thinks it has a better mousetrap.  Chief Product Officer described their solution to MIT News:

Spatial is a collaborative, holographic, augmented reality solution.  You can teleport to someone’s space, work as an avatar sharing that 3D space, and use it instead of a screen to manage a project, present an idea, and more.

Don’t you love the “and more,” as though the teleportation wasn’t enough?  

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Goodbye Glasses, Hello Smartglasses

By KIM BELLARD

It’s been a few months since I last wrote about augmented reality (AR), and, if anything, AR activity has only picked up since then — particularly in regard to smartglasses.  I pointed out then how Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg were extremely bullish on the field. and Alphabet (Google Glasses) and Snap (Spectacles) have never, despite a few apparent setbacks, lost their faith.   

I can’t do justice to all that is going on in the field, but I want to try to hit some of the highlights, including not just what we see but how we see.  

Let’s start with Google acquiring smartglass innovator North, for some $180m, saying: 

We’re building towards a future where helpfulness is all around you, where all your devices just work together and technology fades into the background. We call this ambient computing. 

North’s founders explained that, from the start, their vision had been: “Technology seamlessly blended into your world: immediately accessible when you want it, but hidden away when you don’t,” which is a pretty good vision.

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Health in 2 Point 00, Episode 118 | Aledade, Medopad, Amblyotech and Yes Health

Today on Health in 2 Point 00, Jess and I talk about HCA now that the real numbers have come out. On Episode 118, Jess asks me about Aledade raising $64 million. Founded by former ONC director Farzad Mostashari, they set up ACOs for independent physician practices and have been doing a lot around COVID-19. Medopad has rebranded as Huma and acquired Biobeats and Tarilian Laser Technologies (TLT); they’ve been doing remote monitoring and have been around for a while. Novartis acquires Amblyotech, a lazy eye digital therapeutic. Finally Yes Health gets $6 million – yet another “we’ll put you on a diet and have coaches bully you” platform. —Matthew Holt

Wait — Robots Work But I Get Paid

By KIM BELLARD

We’re not through the COVID-19 pandemic.  We’re probably not even near the end of the beginning yet.  That hasn’t stopped many pundits to start speculating about how our society (and our healthcare system) are likely to be permanently changed as a result, such as continued reliance on telecommuting and telemedicine.  

OK, I’ll play too: I believe we need to greatly expand the role of robots, and begin something that resembles Universal Basic Income (UBI).  They’re not the only changes that may result, but they are two that should.

Robots

We’ve been seeing robots infiltrating the workforce for many decades, such as in manufacturing but also in many other industries. 

Still, though, as our economy pares down to “essential businesses” during the pandemic, I’ve been alarmed at how many of the jobs remain done by humans.  Not just healthcare workers on the front lines but also all those people doing the cleaning for essential businesses, all those people in the supply chain of food and other vital materials, all those people making deliveries, all those first responders, all those people all those people keeping the power on, the water running, and the internet streaming, among others.  And so on.

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Health in 2 Point 00, Episode 115 | Olive, Bright.md and AristaMD

Today on Health in 2 Point 00, we have a no-nonsense April 1st episode—with deals this time! On Episode 115, Jess asks me about Olive raising $51 million for its AI-enabled revenue cycle management solution, Bright.md raising an $8 million Series C for its asynchronous telemedicine platform, and AristaMD raising $18 million for a different sort of telemedicine, eConsults, which allow primary care physicians to consult with specialists virtually. —Matthew Holt

Health in 2 Point 00, Episode 113 | Oura, Heartbeat Health, Vault & Bloomer Tech

Today on Health in 2 Point 00, Jess and I are covering all the hard hitting news while surviving COVID-19. Before we turn to deals, Jess asks for my thoughts on the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association asking for $100 billion from Congress. For our funding news, Finnish smart ring startup Oura raises $28 million in a Series B; Heartbeat Health raises $8.2 million in a Series A for virtual cardiovascular care; Vault raises $30 million in a Series A, entering an already-crowded field alongside Roman and Hims; and Bloomer Tech raises $3 million for their smart bra. Finally, keep up with digital health innovators working on COVID-19 on Catalyst’s new site, covid19healthtech.com. Matthew Holt

Health in 2 Point 00, Episode 110b | Maven, IntelyCare, and New Acquisitions!

Today on Health in 2 Point 00, we resume our two-part series with part B and bring our promised special guest! Continuing from the first part of Episode 110, Jess and I discuss the women and family health startup Maven raising $45 million in its Series C round with celebrity investment. 1UpHealth, the MassChallenge HealthTech Finalist, raises $8 million; IntelyCare raises $45 million bringing the gig-economy approach to nurse staffing raises, and HealthJoy raises $30 million in Series C funding. The hospital owned ACO umbrella services company Caravan Health acquires Wellpepper, and Sharecare acquires Visualize Health; are these good acquisitions? -Matthew Holt

Can Startups Save Primary Care?

By ANDY MYCHKOVSKY

Today, primary care is considered the bee’s knees of value-based care delivery. Instead of being viewed as the punter of the football team, the primary care physician (PCP) has become the quarterback of the patient’s care team, calling plays for both clinical and social services. The entire concept of the accountable care organization (ACO) or patient-centered medical home (PCMH) crumbles without financially- and clinically-aligned PCPs. This sea change has resulted in rapid employment or alignment to health systems, as well as a surge in venture capital being invested into the primary care space.

Before we get too far in the weeds, let’s first begin with the definition of primary care. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) defines a primary care physician as a specialist typically trained in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, or Pediatrics. Some women do use their OB/GYN as their PCP, but these specialists are not traditionally considered PCPs. Now if you’ve gone to your local PCP and noticed that your care provider is not wearing a white coat with the “MD” or “DO” credentials, you are either receiving treatment from a hipster physician, nurse practitioner (NP), or physician assistant (PA). Two of the three professionals are trained in family medicine and can provide primary care services under the responsibility of an associated PCP. At least one of the three has a beard.

The crazy thing is, despite the industries heightened focus on the importance of PCPs, we’re still expecting a shortage of primary care providers. In April 2019, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released a report estimating a shortage of between 21,100 and 55,200 PCPs by 2032. Given we just passed 2020, this not that far off. The primary reason for the shortage is the growing and aging population. Thanks mom and dad. Digging into the numbers will really knock your socks off, with the U.S. Census estimating that individuals over the age of 65 will increase 48% over that same time period. Like a double-edged sword, the issue is not just on the patient demand side though. One-third of all currently active doctors will be older than 65 in the next decade and could begin to retire. Many of these individuals are independent PCPs who have resisted employment by large health systems.

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Advice for Health Tech: Focus on Results, Mission, & Critics | Molly Coye, AVIA

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Molly Coye has spent more than two decades working to advance technology initiatives in healthcare, serving roles as diverse as the Commissioner of Health for the State of New Jersey, Chief Innovation Officer for UCLA Health, and now Executive in Residence for AVIA, which mentors more than 50 large health systems on tech selection, adoption, and implementation. With such rich experience working with healthcare incumbents, we asked Molly to size up the current class of innovators, technologists, developers, and investors bringing the latest health tech solutions to market. What have they gotten right? Where do they need to improve? “We’re not so good at cost of care and lack of access,” says Molly, who also sees potential for that to change thanks to the work of organizations like Health Tech for Medicaid and an increased focus on solutions that address the health needs of ALL patient populations.

Filmed at J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, January 2020.

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