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Tag: Kim Bellard

The THCB Gang Episode 3, (LIVE Today at 1PM PT/4PM ET)

Each week an episode of “The THCB Gang” (this was Episode 3) is streamed live here (below) and is also preserved as a weekly podcast and available on our Itunes & Spotify channels a day or so later. Each week 4-6 semi-regular guests drawn from THCB authors and other assorted old friends of mine will shoot the shit about health care business, politics, practice, and tech. It tries to be fun but serious and informative!

This week, joining me were Deven McGraw (@healthprivacy), Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), Michael Millenson (@MLMillenson), Brian Klepper (@bklepper1), Grace Cordovano (@gracecordovano) & Daniel O’Neill (@dp_oneill). It was an argumentative discussion about the developments around COVID19 and what we should pay attention to next week — Matthew Holt

Pandemics Are the Mother of Invention

By KIM BELLARD

If, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, then you’d have to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be the mother of invention and innovation.  And, like Isaac Hayes sang about Shaft, it is a “bad mother…(shut your mouth).”

Many believe that the Allies won WWII in large part because of how industry in the U.S. geared up to produce fantastic amounts of weapons and other war materials.  It took some time for businesses to retool and get production lines flowing, during which the Axis powers made frightening advances, but once they did it was only a matter of time until the Allies would prevail.

Similarly, COVID-19 is making scary inroads around the world, while businesses are still gearing up to produce the number of ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), tests, and other badly needed supplies.  COVID-19 is currently outnumbering these efforts, but eventually we’ll get the necessary equipment in the needed amounts.  

Eventually.  

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The New Scarlet Letter

By KIM BELLARD

This piece is part of the series “The Health Data Goldilocks Dilemma: Sharing? Privacy? Both?” which explores whether it’s possible to advance interoperability while maintaining privacy. Check out other pieces in the series here.

If you live in one of the jurisdictions that have imposed stay-at-home requirements, you’re probably making your essential excursions — grocery store, pharmacy, even walks — with a wary eye towards anyone you come across.  Do they have COVID-19?  Have they been in contact with anyone who has?  Are they keeping at least the recommended six feet away from you?  In short, who is putting you at risk?   

Well, of course, this being the 21st century, we’re turning to our smartphones to help us try to answer these questions.  What this may lead to remains to be seen.

We long ago seemed to shrug off the fact that our smartphones and our apps know where we are and where we have been.  No one should be surprised that location is of importance to tracking the spread of COVID-19.  No one should be surprised that it is already being used.  We may end up being surprised at how it will be used.

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A Healthcare System, If We Can Keep It

By KIM BELLARD

We are in strange days, and they are only going to get stranger as COVID-19 works its way further through our society.  It makes me think of Benjamin Franklin’s response when asked what kind of nation the U.S. was going to be:  “A Republic, if you can keep it.” 

SAUL LOEB / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The versions of that response that COVID-19 have me wondering about are: “A federal system, if we can keep it,” and, more specifically, “a healthcare system, if we can keep it.”  I’ll talk about each of those in the context of the pandemic.

In times of national emergencies — think 9/11, think World Wars — we usually look to the federal government to lead.  The COVID-19 pandemic has been declared a national emergency, but we’re still looking for strong federal leadership.  We have the Centers for Disease Control, infectious disease experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, and a White House coronavirus task force.  But real national leadership is lacking. 

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Still Fighting the Wrong Wars

By KIM BELLARD

What do the coronavirus and Navy ships have in common?  For that matter, what do our military spending and our healthcare spending have in common?  More than you might think, and it boils down to this: we spend too much for too little, in large part because we tend to always be fighting the wrong wars.  

Photo by STR/AFT via Getty Images

I started thinking about this a couple weeks ago due to a WSJ article about the U.S. Navy’s “aging and fragmented technology.”  An internal Navy strategy memo warned that the Navy is “under cyber siege” by foreign adversaries, leaking information “like a sieve.”  It grimly pointed out:

Our adversaries gain an advantage in cyberspace through guerrilla tactics within our defensive perimeters.  Once inside, malign actors steal, destroy and/or modify critical data and information. 

This is the Navy, after all, that proudly tried to modernize by installing touch screen technology on some of its ships, only to have the disaster that hit the USS McClain.  Its vaunted Integrated Bridge and Navigation System was, ProPublica found, “was a welter of buttons, gauges and software that, poorly understood and not surprisingly misused, helped guide 10 sailors to their deaths.”  And that wasn’t the only technology-enabled naval disaster in recent years.

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Time Really Can Be Money

By KIM BELLARD

If you are not an IKEA fan, or haven’t been spending any time in Dubai, you may have missed the chain’s marketing campaign to help promote its second store in the area.  Titled “Buy With Your Time,” customers got store credits for how long they spent getting to the store. 

Gosh, that’s something that should make any self-respecting critic of the U.S. healthcare system perk up.  Count me as intrigued.

The campaign involved checking the customer’s Google Maps’ Trip tab to determine how long it took them to get to the store.  IKEA benchmarked the average hourly wage in Dubai, and converted the travel time into how much credit they’d generated.  It works out to about $29/hour, or $0.48 per minute.  Spend long enough getting there and you could get a free coffee table or even a bookcase.  Prices in the store include the equivalent time currency.

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Who’s in Your Supply Chain?

By KIM BELLARD

Tesla is now, by market cap, the second largest auto manufacturer (after Toyota).  Its market cap exceeds U.S. auto makers Ford, G.M., and Fiat/Chrysler — combined.  This despite selling less than 400,000 vehicles in 2019, a figure that is more than the prior two years combined.   

Tesla has made its bet on the future of electric cars.  It didn’t invent them.  It isn’t the only auto manufacturer selling them.  But, as The Wall Street Journal recently said

Investors increasingly see the future of the car as electric—even if most car buyers haven’t yet. And lately, those investors are placing bets on Tesla Inc. to bring about that future versus auto makers with deeper pockets and generations of experience.

 A recent analysis suggested a big reason why, and its findings should give those in healthcare some pause.  Tesla’s advantage may come, in large part, from its supply chain.

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Healthcare Has a Moral Injury

By KIM BELLARD

The term “moral injury” is a term originally applied to soldiers as a way to help explain PTSD and, more recently, to physicians as a way to help explain physician burnout.  The concept is that moral injury is what can happen to people when “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.”  

I think healthcare generally has a bad case of moral injury.  

How else can we explain physicians practicing surprise billinghospitals suing patientshealth plans refusing to pay for pre-authorized treatments, or pharmaceutical companies charging “skyrocketing” costs even for common, essential prescription drugs?  There are people involved in each of these, and countless more examples.  If those people haven’t suffered a moral injury as a result, it’s hard to understand why.  

Melissa Bailey, writing for Kaiser Health News, looked at moral injury from the standpoint of emergency room physicians.  One physician decried how “the real priority is speed and money and not our patients’ care.”  Another made a broader charge: “The health system is not set up to help patients. It’s set up to make money.”  He urged that physicians seek to understand “how decisions made at the systems level impact how we care about patients” — so they can “stand up for what’s right.”

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For Your Eyeballs Only

By KIM BELLARD

There’s so much going on.  There’s the coronavirus: It’s now a pandemic!  China can build an entire hospital to treat coronavirus patients in under two weeks!  Or there’s primary care: One Medical’s IPO boomed!  AmazonHumana and Walmart are testing their versions!  People are flocking away from primary care!  Or, on a completely unrelated note, Tesla wants to disrupt auto insurance too. 

As interesting as all those are, it’s augmented reality (AR) that I want to talk about. 

Stop thinking about Snap Spectacles or Pokémon Go as what you think of when you think about AR.  Stop thinking about the supposed failure of Google Glass.  Start thinking about AR being ingrained in our daily lives.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes “at some point in the 2020s, we will get breakthrough augmented reality glasses that will redefine our relationship with technology.”  He went on to elaborate:

Instead of having devices that take us away from the people around us, the next platform will help us be more present with each other and will help the technology get out of the way. Even though some of the early devices seem clunky, I think these will be the most human and social technology platforms anyone has built yet.

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Quantum Theory of Health

By KIM BELLARD

We’re pretty proud of modern medicine.  We’ve accumulated a very intricate understanding of how our body works, what can go wrong with it, and what are options are for tinkering with it to improve its health.  We’ve got all sorts of tests, treatments, and pills for it, with more on the way all the time.

However, there has been increasing awareness of the impact our microbiota has on our health, and I think modern medicine is reaching the point classical physics did when quantum physics came along.  

Image credit: E. Edwards/JQI

Classical physics pictured the atom as kind of a miniature solar system, with well-defined particles revolving in definite orbits around the solid nucleus.  In quantum physics, though, particles don’t have specific positions or exact orbits, combine/recombine, get entangled, and pop in and out of existence.  At the quantum level everything is kind of fuzzy, but quantum theory itself is astoundingly predictive.  We’re fooled into thinking our macro view of the universe is true, but our perceptions are wrong.   

So it may be with modern medicine.  Our microbiota (including both the microbiome and mycobiome) both provide the fuzziness and dictate a significant portion of our health.   

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