Category Archives: Technology

Blockchain for healthcare: Interview with Fluree co-CEO Brian Platz

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Brian Platz, co-CEO of Fluree

SilkRoad Technology co-founder Brian Platz has turned his attention to blockchain, with Fluree, a new Public Benefit Corporation that has introduced a scalable blockchain database for decentralized applications. Fluree is not healthcare specific, but there is a lot of potential for blockchain.

In this podcast interview we covered the following:

  • (0:10) What is a scalable blockchain database and why is it important?
  • (1:58) What are some of the most pressing database needs in healthcare? How different are they from the issues faced by other industries?
  • (3:07) What are some of the healthcare use cases for Fluree?
  • (5:15) You mention transparency and consensus as key attributes of block chain. Does that contradict healthcare’s needs for privacy and security?
  • (6:35) Who will leverage the technology in healthcare? Who is likely to be left behind?
  • (7:46) What impact, if any, will healthcare consumers and patients see as a result of Fluree?
  • (8:51) Why is Fluree organized as a Public Benefit Corporation?

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

How formidable would Amazon be in pharmacy?

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I’m a big fan and customer of Amazon, having placed thousands of orders since 1998. I understand why retailers (and other businesses) quake in their boots at the thought of Amazon disrupting them. As a healthcare insider, I also understand why healthcare companies are especially nervous. Deep down, we understand that US healthcare is tremendously wasteful and inefficient and that Amazon could make the industry look bad and eat its lunch.

Still, I’m not convinced that Amazon is going to take over the pharmacy business, the latest topic of discussion. The Wall Street Journal (Amazon’s push into pharmacy is full of promise and pitfalls) has a piece and we’re also told that CVS’s play for Aetna is a direct result of the Amazon threat.

My own recent experience with Amazon left a bitter taste in my mouth and provided a glimpse of just how hard pharmacy could be. I don’t usually take painkillers, but the past three weeks have been an exception. Since getting hit by a car while crossing the street, I have been a pretty good customer for OTC pain meds. On a recent Sunday I noticed I was running out of ibuprofen, and rather than asking family members to do one more errand, I used Amazon to place a same-day order.

I pressed the button around 9 am, and was promised that my order would be at my doorstep by 9 pm. By around noon the item was “out for delivery” but it hadn’t arrived by 8:30 pm and I was starting to get a little worried. Nine o’clock came and went, and Amazon switched my status to “delayed.” Finally I had to ask my wife to go out to the pharmacy, which luckily for us is close by and open late. I would have had a difficult night without my refill.

Eventually Amazon canceled the order and said my address was undeliverable –a weird claim for a home that receives Amazon shipments nearly every day.

Most of the skepticism about Amazon’s entry into pharmacy focuses on new complexities like third-party payment, which are admittedly pretty serious. But my own experience shows that Amazon’s current infrastructure isn’t robust enough for the basics, so I definitely won’t be among the first to sign up for AmazonRx.

Of course Amazon isn’t the only one with shipment woes, and this experience was an exception to my usual good ones. Still, it gives me pause.


By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Natural Language Processing: Podcast with Wired Informatics

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Murali Minnah, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Wired Informatics

Natural language processing (NLP) is a fascinating segment of Artificial Intelligence that draws on a variety of emerging scientific fields.   Wired Informatics is developing and commercializing NLP within the healthcare industry.

I met co-founder and chief strategy officer, Murali Minnah last year and we have been exploring  applications for NLP within Health Business Group’s client base. I admire the company and its approach, so asked Murali to share his insights in this podcast:

  • (0:11) You are involved with a lot of the hot buzzwords: big data, natural language processing, and machine learning. What do those words actually mean to you?
  • (4:59) Are there aspects of healthcare that lend themselves well to natural language processing?
  • (7:18) How well does NLP actually work today? What’s the trajectory for its development?
  • (8:42) How do you work with a technology that is good and improving but not perfect? In healthcare it seems we’d be concerned about something that isn’t perfectly accurate.
  • (10:59) If you do get to 100 percent accuracy, how do you contend with problems in the underlying data?
  • (12:50) You mentioned operational use cases as the first places to start. What are some of the most compelling use cases today and down the road?
  • (15:35) Where is your company getting traction? What use cases? What customers?

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

mHealth Israel founder Levy Shapiro shares plans for conference in Jerusalem

 

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Innovative Israeli technology companies have a huge impact around the world. Now, more of the country’s entrepreneurs are turning to connected health. mHealth Israel is at the center of this surge. Its upcoming mHealth Israel conference on September 14 will be the culmination of a nationwide week of activities.

I had planned to speak at the conference, but sadly won’t make it to Jerusalem this time around.

Levy shared his perspectives on mHealth in Israel and provided background on the upcoming mHealth conference.

  • (0:13) What’s the state of digital health in Israel? How does it differ from markets in the US and Europe?
  • (1:58) Israel is a small market and doesn’t trade much with its neighbors. Are most of these companies focused locally or are they looking at external markets?
  • (3:09) Describe the ecosystem. What is the typical interaction between the startup companies, hospitals and larger companies?
  • (7:10) What are some of the major themes you are seeing in health startups this year? Is it a change from the last couple years?
  • (9:38) What is mHealth Israel?
  • (11:30) You are running an Israel startup competition over the summer. What is it? When are the entries due?
  • (12:40) What are the highlights of mHealth week?
  • (14:02) Who are some of the speakers at the upcoming conference?

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Advances in care management: podcast interview with AxisPoint CEO Dr. Ron Geraty

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Dr. Ron Geraty, CEO of AxisPoint Health

AxisPoint Health is part of the new breed of care management companies, leveraging new data sources and digital techniques that go beyond the traditional paradigm of nurse call centers focused on a handful of common chronic conditions. Industry veteran, Dr. Ron Geraty (former CEO of Alere) took the reins of the company a couple years back.

In this podcast interview, Ron and I discuss the evolution of care management, the role of digital, and what the future will bring.

  1. (0:11) What’s the current state of care management in the US?
  2. (2:27) How is care management being done differently across populations: commercial, Medicare, Medicaid, dual eligibles?
  3. (5:36) Care management traditionally focuses on 5 common chronic conditions. Has it made a significant difference in those areas?
  4. (8:26) What attracted you to AxisPoint? How is it different from other population health management companies?
  5. (13:08) Who are the customers? Who is drawn to your approach and why?
  6. (15:26) You work with the most vulnerable populations. Do you attempt to influence the social and behavioral determinants of health?
  7. (19:18) What’s at stake for AxisPoint in the debate about healthcare in Washington, DC, especially since you are serving populations that have been a major focus of the ACA?
  8. (22:33) How will digital tools be leveraged for vulnerable populations? Will you still have feet on the street?

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Medial EarlySign: machine learning for population health (podcast)

Medial EarlySign analyzes standard EHR data to identify individuals at high risk for disease. The company’s first solution, ColonFlag uses longitudinal blood test data to identify patients who are at high risk for colorectal cancer.

I spoke recently with Medial executive Tomer Amit, who filled me in on the company’s approach and explained why the company has been named a Cool Vendor in AI by Gartner.

  • (0:15) What unmet need are you serving?
  • (1:05) You talk about using data that’s already available. What kind of data?
  • (3:02) When you mention “historical data” are you talking about longitudinal data for an individual patient or aggregated data for a population?
  • (4:18) Why is colorectal cancer an initial focus for the company, with your ColonFlag solution?
  • (5:13) Does ColonFlag replace colonoscopy or encourage someone to get one if they have an indicator that they are at greater risk?
  • (6:38) I see how it could help an individual. Would it actually help at the population level?
  • (7:45) You started in Israel and the EU, which have strong longitudinal medical records. Can the approach be applied in the US where that’s not the case?
  • (10:41) You have run your tests in different places around the world. Does the model differ by population or is there a universal algorithm?
  • (12:10) How do you protect your intellectual property? Once you are out there, are there just rules of thumb people can use instead of working with you?
  • (13:14) What traction have you gained with customers or partners? What industry recognition have you received?
  • (14:45) Are there other domains you are investigating beyond colon cancer? Other data beyond blood tests?
  • (15:58) What’s your 5-10 year vision of what’s possible and what Medial’s role will be?

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

HighRoads CEO Brian Kim talks next gen health plan product management

HighRoads helps health plans automate the creation of new products to help them get to market faster and more flexibly. It may sound like an arcane corner of the healthcare world, but in this podcast interview, CEO Brian Kim argues that his company’s platform is a game changer in the market.

Here’s what we discussed:

  • (0:15)What are the fundamental functions performed by health plans?
  • (3:40) Why has the process of defining and selling plans changed much more slowly than payment processing?
  • (10:29) What is needed to spur innovation on plan definition and selling within existing organizations?
  • (13:41) What’s the impact on these topics of action in Washington DC?
  • (15:46) What does HighRoads offer the market?
  • (18:02) Where are you getting the most traction?
  • (21:50) What can we expect on your road map over the next few years?

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By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.