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When Push Comes to Shove: The AMA v. Dobbs. Part 1.

BY MIKE MAGEE

Should anyone present know of any reason that this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.”     Book of Common Prayer, Church of England, 1549

Last evening Trump rose from the ashes and declared it was time to “Make America Great and Glorious Again” (MAGAGA).

This past week, five days after the Midterm elections, AMA President, Jack Resnick, Jr., MD, raised his voice from the podium at the AMA Interim Meeting in Hawaii with the AMA’s own version of a call to action:

But make no mistake, when politicians insert themselves in our exam rooms to interfere with the patient-physician relationship, when they politicize deeply personal health decisions, or criminalize evidence-based care, we will not back down…I never imagined colleagues would find themselves tracking down hospital attorneys before performing urgent abortions, when minutes count … asking if a 30% chance of maternal death, or impending renal failure, meet the criteria for the states exemptions … or whether they must wait a while longer, until their pregnant patient gets even sicker…Enough is enough. We cannot allow physicians or our patients to become pawns in these lies.”

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Is Care Navigation Healthcare’s Next ‘Gold Mine’? Quantum Health’s Move to Win Over Larger Employers

BY JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

One-to-watch as a potential health tech IPO this year is care navigator Quantum Health, and I’m talking to CEO Zane Burke about both their breaking new product launch AND the key differences between Quantum and the increasingly competitive field of other employer benefits advocacy-based businesses like Accolade, Rightway, and Transcarent.

Private equity backed, two-decades old, and EBITA positive, Zane says Quantum Health is delivering an ROI of “over two-and-a-half to one” to its client roster of 450 top large, self-insured employers and saving more than 14% on all healthcare costs over time. The new product – Quantum Health Access – is a streamlined, more flexible version of the soup-to-nuts Complete Care offering capable of yielding these results, and it’s being offered to give the largest of employers (those big enough to be working with multiple health plans, for example) a way to start out with Quantum’s data-driven navigation tools without a total overhaul of their current benefits situation.

Zane explains Quantum’s “real-time intercept tool” and how it not only helps engage high-utilizers in an employer’s plan (aka those who spend more than $10,000 in claims), but how 85% of the time it catches them on their care journey before they’ve spent a thousand dollars – creating an early opportunity to provide better routing and, ultimately, reduce overall costs. The upside for Quantum? “Employers have long thought of the carriers as this is their responsibility, but the carriers are really maximizing around their siloed system to pay a claim, do the disease management, get you off the phone and into somebody else’s queue,” explains Zane. “Our model is, ‘hey…every single one of those interactions is a gold mine.’”

We get further into the details around the new Quantum Health Access product, and, more importantly, what Zane sees as Quantum’s key point of differentiation against Accolade, Rightway, Transcarent, and the rest. Tune in around the 20-minute mark to hear this bit and to find out what Quantum’s doing with provider data that makes “everybody else that talks that game” look like they are just playing “Pick Up Sticks.”

Our Plants Should Be Plants

BY KIM BELLARD

It seems like most of my healthcare Twitter buddies are enjoying themselves at HLTH2022, so I don’t suppose it much matters what I write about, because they’ll all be too busy to read it anyway.  That’s too bad, because I was sparked by an article on one of my favorite topics: synthetic biology.  

Elliot Hershberg, a Ph.D. geneticist who describes his mission as “to accelerate the Century of Biology,” has a great article on his Substack: Atoms are local.  The key insight for me was his point that, while we’ve been recognizing the power of biology, we’ve been going about it the wrong way.  Instead of the industrialization of biology, he thinks, we should be seeking the biologization of industry.

His point:

Many people default to a mindset of industrialization. But, why naively inherit a metaphor that dominated 19th century Britain? Biology is the ultimate distributed manufacturing platform. We are keen to explore and make true future biotechnologies that enable people to more directly and freely make whatever they need where-ever they are.

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The Dangers of EMR-Defaulted Prescription Stop Dates

By HANS DUVEFELT

It happens in eClinicalworks, I saw it in Intergy, and I now have to maneuver around it in Epic. Those EMRs, and I suspect many others, insert a stop date on what their programmers think (or have been told) are scary drugs.

In my current system all opioid drug prescriptions fall into this category. For a short term prescription that might perhaps be a good idea but for a longer-term or occasionally needed prescription it creates the risk of medical errors.

In Epic there is a box for duration, which is very practical for a ten day course of antibiotics. If I fill in the number 10 in the duration box, the medication falls off the list after 10 days. This saves me the trouble of periodically cleaning up the list.

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THCB Gang Episode 106, Thursday November 10

After an early Fall hiatus, THCB Gang is back!! Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) for #THCBGang on Thursday November 10 were medical historian Mike Magee (@drmikemagee); futurist Jeff Goldsmith; THCB regular writer and ponderer of odd juxtapositions Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard); and policy consultant/author Rosemarie Day (@Rosemarie_Day1). You can imagine that elections were on our collective minds.

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

Virtual Care Regulatory Round-Up: Ro’s Z Reitano & Virtual-First’s Power to Control the Care Journey

by JESSICA DAMASSA, WTF Health

“What happens when there is a massive shift of where the beginning of a journey occurs…that sort of affords the opportunity for everyone after that to be disintermediated.” So says Zachariah “Z” Reitano, co-founder & CEO of Ro, arguably one of the most successful OG virtual-first care companies which has been providing telehealth-plus-testing-plus-pharmacy-delivery (and now a whole lot more) via its Roman and Rory brands since 2017.

As health tech companies – and now, more and more incumbent orgs and retail health providers – evolve their own “omnichannel” strategies, we talk to Z about Ro’s direct-to-patient care model, and what we can learn from its successful operation and expansion as one of the first “digitally native” healthcare providers.

To Z, the technology is just an enabler to a larger shift in how people are ultimately gaining more control over their health. Technology can turn luxuries into commodities, he says, and, at Ro, that’s translating into a concept they’re calling “goal-oriented healthcare,” which is basically providing the “luxury” of giving a patient what they want, when they want it; easily, conveniently, and affordably.

In short, Z explains: “Patients come to us, and they say what they want to achieve: ‘I want to lose weight…I want to have a child…I want to improve my mental health…I want to improve my skin…I want to have better sex.’ And then, we help them from beginning to end in the most convenient and effective way possible.”

The role of digital in all this is critical. It allows for costs to be stripped out, for providers to be able to practice at the top of their licenses, and for data to be shared between provider and patient asynchronously (aka conveniently.) But, it sounds like what’s most exciting about ‘virtual-first’ to Z is the “first” part – having the opportunity to initialize the relationship with the patient, then “raise the standard of where we guide people afterwards, and have the opportunity to disintermediate and really heavily influence the entire patient journey.”

Oooohh – can’t hear enough about this! Tune in to find out more about how Z sees virtual-first care as changing patients’ relationships with the healthcare system AND, because we had to talk a little policy too, get his thinking on how barriers like state licensure that are often looked at as constraints to ‘virtual care at-scale’ might also be evolving to help enable that shift.

* Special thanks to our series sponsor, Wheel – the health tech company powering the virtual care industry. Wheel provides companies with everything they need to launch and scale virtual care services — including the regulatory infrastructure to deliver high quality and compliant care. Learn more at www.wheel.com.

And you thought Mastadons were extinct…

by KIM BELLARD

Until last week, for me, “mastodon” only meant the giant animal that went extinct several thousand years ago (I was, it appears, unaware of the heavy metal band Mastodon). Now, as the result of Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, many Twitter users are being forced to take a look at alternatives, such as the social networking site Mastodon.

It’s possible that we are about the witness the Myspace-ization of Twitter, brought down by competition, bad management, and bad product decisions. In my usual “there must be a pony in here somewhere” fashion, there may be some lessons in the Twitter saga that healthcare might want to pay attention to.

As most know by now, Mr. Musk has been a Twitter power user for many years, and a frequent critic. In March of this year he started discussions about purchasing it. In short order, he threw out a bold bid, was rejected then accepted by Twitter’s board, tried to get out of the deal, was sued by Twitter, and closed the deal late last month. 

Then things got really rocky.   

Mr. Musk tried to reassure squeamish advertisers, only to make them and others even more nervous when he retweeted some disinformation. After a spike in hate speech on the site, he promised that, as much as he was buying Twitter out of his love for free speech, Twitter “cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” Then he shocked observers (and Twitter employees) by suddenly laying off half the workforce, including much of the content moderation staff. Some are now being asked back, being told they were laid off “by mistake.”   

He then floated a balloon about charging $20 a month for Twitter’s blue verification, had a tweet argument with Stephen King about it, then went forward with a $7.99 plan, only to be punked by users illustrating the flaws. At this writing, the plan now appears to be on hold, at least until Tuesday’s mid-term elections. 

Advertisers appear to be fleeing, or at least curtailing spending.

As The Wall Street Journal put it: “In Elon Musk’s first week at Twitter Inc., he flouted much of the advice management gurus have dished out for decades.” It’s no wonder many Twitter users are looking at Mastodon.

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I’m trying to get AI to write this!

By MATTHEW HOLT

So it’s a new world in blogging about health care, and when I want to write about Digital Health or primary care, I’ve been told that this system at Lex.Page can do it for me

So here goes and lets see what it says about Digital Health or primary care

Digital Health is one of the most rapidly growing and important sectors in health care today. It is a broad term that encompasses the use of technology to improve health and health care.

OK so it wrote that. Which isn’t bad but not too helpful

Perhaps I can ask it whether it thinks that digital health will have a big impact on the future of primary care

The system at Lex writes that it does think digital health will have a big impact on the future of primary care.

So now it’s just spitting back at me what I asked it. Not too sure how to get it to write more for me

I then asked it to follow this sentence — The biggest challenges for primary care are

-Access to care

-Cost of care

-Quality of care

So it seems that digital health can help with all of those things. By providing tools that help patients better self-manage their health, digital health can help to improve access to care. By providing tools that help to lower the cost of care, digital health can help to make care more affordable. And by providing tools that help to improve the quality of care, digital health can help to make

That is pretty damn good given it’s a machine just guessing what I want it to write, even if it didn’t finish that last sentence. I can imagine that pretty soon I’ll be able to spit one of my talks into it and it will be able to write an article out of it quickly. I’ll be playing around with Lex and I can give some invites — if you want one, let me know.

The “Comstockery” of Justice Clarence Thomas

BY MIKE MAGEE

“When we think about the past, we think about history. When we think about the future, we think about science. Science builds upon the past, but also simultaneously denies it.” These are the words of Jim Secord, a Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. His research and teaching are on the history of science from the late eighteenth century to the present, with a special focus on Darwinian evolution. 

His perspective is especially relevant when it comes to the recent Dobbs decision. The history of this contemporary struggle is as clear as is the science disputed by modern day left and right. It began on March 7, 1844, with the birth of this man, Anthony Comstock, in New Canaan, Connecticut. Raised in a strict Christian home, his religiosity intensified during a two-year stint in the Union Army during the Civil War.

A member of the 17th Connecticut Infantry, he took great offense to the profanity and debauchery he witnessed in and among his fellow soldiers. With the strong support of church-based groups of the day, and as the self-proclaimed “weeder in God’s garden”, he sought out a purpose and found a political vehicle in New York City’s Young Men’s Christian Association, and parlayed that to a post as the United States Postal Inspector.

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