Why Amazon is Primed to Disrupt Healthcare

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Why Amazon is Primed to Disrupt Healthcare

Amazon’s entry into healthcare raises fascinating questions: What’s the company’s end game? What will healthcare look like when the iPhone becomes a medical device with telehealth apps and virtual care platforms?

As a health tech investor and consultant, I’ve spoken with countless startups trying to disrupt healthcare. Most of them fail. Why? Healthcare is complex. Large incumbents are hard to dislodge. Misaligned incentives hinder collaboration among different players. Most startups lack the resources to scale efficiently.

Amazon is different. The company made business history by shattering old models for retail, storage and computing. Now their sights are set on healthcare. I wouldn’t bet against them.


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10 Health Hacks to Live 10 Years Longer

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10 Health Hacks to Live 10 Years Longer

It’s been called the “Inuit paradox”: Inuit Eskimos get more than 50% of their calories from animal fat. Yet their cardiac death rate is half the U.S. average.

Why do people on a high-fat diet have such low rates of heart disease?

In recent weeks we’ve heard that eating a high-salt diet may help us lose weight. A report by the American Heart Association says coconut oil may be as unhealthy as beef fat or butter. Going in a sauna and temporarily starving ourselves may be two of the best things we can do for our bodies (more on this below).

It’s been said 50% of what we “know” about health is wrong-we just don’t know which 50%.

From my work advising leading U.S. healthcare companies, I’ve seen a radical shift in how we think about diet, exercise and lifestyle. New advances in science and technology are redefining what it means to be healthy today.

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Digital Health Dispatch from JP Morgan 2017

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Digital Health Dispatch from JP Morgan 2017

The shift from fee-for-service to value-based care was a major theme of this year’s JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. In this new regime, there’s pressure on healthcare providers and insurance companies to collect and share patient EHR data in innovative ways to improve outcomes.

At a panel discussion hosted by Clover Health, product leaders highlighted emerging opportunities for healthcare data & analytics. Clover’s insurance platform aims to reduce healthcare cost by promoting better home care & preventative screenings. Omada Health uses “digital therapeutics” to treat chronic diseases like diabetes at scale by facilitating lifestyle change. Grand Rounds connects a company’s employees with healthcare specialists to improve diagnosis & treatment. 

The entrepreneurs addressed the challenges of scaling data-driven health platforms. Grand Rounds collects patient medical records from physicians, including medical tests and imaging. It uses technology to integrate “data siloes” across different hospital systems to build a standardized patient database, which feeds its recommendation engine. Clover Health highlighted the challenge of ingesting claims data from different formats at scale and making it useful and readable.

At the Startup Showcase hosted by athenahealth, 25 entrepreneurs presented an even wider array of digital health tools. Among the notable ones:

Workflow: GenID provides an EMR-integrated tool to identify and screen people who are at risk for hereditary cancers. The Right Place is a platform for improving the hospital discharge & care coordination process.

Patient Experience: Buddy Healthcare provides a care coordination platform for monitoring patients pre- and post-surgery. GoodLife’s platform delivers better rehab treatment compliance and outcomes. 

Population Health: SageSurfer is on a mission to improve mental health and substance misuse issues by coordinating care among healthcare providers. Project Vision helps obese and diabetic patients overcome social & environmental barriers.

Data & Analytics: Multisensor Diagnostics is developing a device that measures 8 vital signs via the mouth, to deliver a full health assessment in 1 minute. Deep 6 Analytics applies artificial intelligence and natural language processing to EMRs to find eligible patients for clinical trials more quickly.

It will take time for the healthcare industry to fully embrace this digital transformation. The challenges for hospitals in collecting, standardizing and sharing EHR data are well documented. 

Likewise, employers and insurance companies are taking a cautious approach to adopting digital tools to help people manage chronic health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Omada Health recently became the first digital health company to publish results in a peer-reviewed journal. The company's program participants were able to achieve lasting reductions in body weight and average blood sugar levels – critical indicators of diabetes progression.

To gain wider adoption, more digital health startups will need to show they can improve healthcare quality, reduce cost and keep people out of the hospital.

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Surgery's Robot-Powered Future

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Surgery's Robot-Powered Future

Four years ago, while playing soccer on Roosevelt Island, I was tackled and tore my ACL. It was a devastating injury in a sport I’d been playing since childhood. After reconstructive surgery and physical therapy, I was able to make a full recovery.

Many people are not so fortunate. Every year millions of people undergo knee, hip and spine surgery. There are high rates of complications and failed surgeries. It’s a particular challenge in less developed regions in India & China, where patients have limited access to skilled surgeons and hospital staff.

This is where medical technology can help. For the past year I’ve been working with global healthcare leaders to develop a next-generation orthopedic surgery platform. The goal is to make common surgical procedures like hip replacement and spinal fusion less invasive and more reliable.

New tools like AI / deep learning, machine vision, computer navigation and robotic guidance are poised to transform the role of the surgeon and reduce errors. Technology-guided surgery will be faster, cheaper and more effective. Patients will be able to get out of the hospital sooner and back to their normal lives more quickly.

Just as airplanes have installed high-tech aviation systems to make a pilot’s job simpler and safer, new medical technology is set to transform the hospital experience for both surgeons and patients. These software-enabled tools can improve healthcare access & quality for people across the globe.

Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on opportunities in MedTech / Digital Health. In the meantime -- if you're working on anything cool in this space, I'd love to hear from you!

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