Author Archive

The lonely universe of autoimmune diseases

| April 10, 2014|Tags:


Dr. Bonnie Feldman

How would you feel if, after years of searching for a diagnosis you finally found out you have an autoimmune disease, and then you realize that your doctors will have to experiment on you to find the right treatment?

That’s the state of the art today in autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s, lupus, and MS.

At least 50 million Americans (twice the number of cancer patients) suffer from autoimmune diseases. Each of the 90 or more named diseases is represented by a variety of stakeholders, (patients, specialists, researchers), with little sharing of data across groups, and even less across diseases.

10 Women Rockstars In The History Of Healthcare

| March 08, 2014|Tags: ,


Virginia Apgar

Ana Manzur-Allan 

In honor of International Women’s Day,  XX in Health is featuring 10 inspiring ladies in the history of healthcare and medicine. From a Nobel-prize winning chemist who discovered the structure of penicillin to the founder of Planned Parenthood, these healthcare rockstars helped set the stage for disruption then, and now.

Grace Hopper

was not only a Navy rear admiral but also one of the first computer programmers. She drove the transition from crude programming techniques to the use of novel compilers.

Gertrude Elion

a top-notch chemist, was responsible for discovery of over 45 treatments to aid the immune system in fighting cancer, organ transplant, and other diseases. She advanced the development of the drug Perinethol, which became the
first effective treatment for leukemia. (more…)

An entrepreneur’s retrospective on

| February 28, 2014|Tags: ,

Rustam Lalkaka, Co-founder of Anapsis

Gallons of ink (pixels?) have been spilled on what went wrong with the rollout of As a software engineer who has spent time working on both sprawling, mission-critical projects at Microsoft and building healthcare-focused SaaS at Rock Health-funded Anapsis, here are my two cents.

To draw a bastardized analogy between software development and civil engineering:

1) The White House and Congress have decided we’re going to build a new interstate highway system.
2) It’s going to be ready on October 1st, 2013.
3) All cars are required to use the new roads on that date.
4) An agency that has never before managed a large scale physical infrastructure project is handling the general contracting.
5) Construction is bid out to a firm that is talented in the art of government contracting, but just so-so with the process of building roads.
6) No one really understands how the legacy on/off ramps the new system is supposed to interface with work or how they were built. The engineers decide to wing the integration.
7) Because the road construction is (inevitably) late, there’s no time to try all the different route and merging combinations before October 1st hits.
8) The bureaucrats tasked with oversight don’t know how to drive, so none of this sounds all that concerning.

Fuelling change in Australia’s healthcare through technology

| February 27, 2014|Tags: ,

Melia Rayner, Portable Studios

Social change through technology is all around us, in the way we shop, communicate, pay bills and arrange services. So why has the incredibly important area of health been so slow to move in line with the digital economy? Australia has led medical breakthroughs in the past; from the implementation of the first bionic ear in 1982 to the cervical cancer (HPV) vaccine in 2007, but the past few years have seen our healthcare landscape struggling to get further than the ‘middle of the pack’.

Elsewhere, the digital health movement is growing rapidly. In Washington, KitCheck helps hospital pharmacies process medication kits faster and without error, whilst in San Francisco, CellScope has built a smartphone-enabled diagnostic toolkit, including a digital otoscope. Even global magnates have put resources and teams into developing health innovation, such as GE’s Logiq; which is an ultrasound for the whole body, and Walgreens’ Pill Reminder app and Find Your Pharmacist web tool.

All the companies above have capitalised on the need for social change in healthcare through the vehicle of technology. Utilising innovations in technology to solve human problems is behind everything we do at Portable. The point at which culture and technology meet is where social change can really happen. It’s in this mission that our maxim ‘Intelligent thinking first, technology second’ hits home; in the utilisation of technology to support social change rather than commandeer it.

Seven strategies for telehealth to shape the future of healthcare delivery

| February 19, 2014|Tags: ,

Holly May is a consultant at Health Advances.

The standard medical encounter today is local and synchronous: a healthcare provider and a patient must be in the same place at the same time for healthcare delivery to happen.

Telehealth opens a whole new world. It enables remote and asynchronous engagement.  The tip of the telehealth iceberg includes the use of videoconferencing to enable a doctor to conduct virtual “house calls” or connect far away loved ones to an important conversation with a physician.

Telehealth holds a lot of promise. But, its potential to improve and streamline healthcare delivery has not been met yet.

Dr. Lee Schwamm is the medical director of telehealth at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. In this month’s issue of Health Affairs, he sets forth seven critical strategies for the future delivery of healthcare and outlines the opportunity for telehealth in this brave new world.

From Volume to Value: Accretive vs. Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare

| January 03, 2014

Jeff Levin-Scherz, MD

Health care has long resisted disruptive innovation – services that use technology to downshift work to those with less training and products that are “good enough” for many even if they aren’t the most advanced.   Instead, healthcare has embraced accretive innovation, where we layer new products and services on top of what we’re already doing – refusing to jeopardize existing revenue streams.


Hospitals have purchased and promoted surgical robots which increase operating room time and raise costs – even while it appears that they don’t make care any better. Physicians have prescribed the newest brand name drugs – even when there are well-accepted and cheap generics available. We insist on an MRI machine with a 7 Tesla magnet, while Japan is able to deliver $99 MRIs with just a bit less resolution.

But all of this is coming to an end, which will create huge opportunities for entrepreneurs not burdened with sunk costs and huge legacy businesses they are afraid to disrupt. The confluence of unsustainably high prices in US health care, the Affordable Care Act, and changes in health care finance will immutably change health care purchasing, and make health care organizations avid for just the kind of innovation they would have thumbed their noses at a few short years ago.

Bad Data: A Chronic Condition of Healthcare?

| October 30, 2013|Tags:

File Room
By: Andy Oram

A lot of health-related data has released recently — some datasets of note include what health providers charge for services and Medicare prescribing data (1:34 into the keynote video). Application developers as well as health care reformers, payers, and patient advocates benefit from such open data. Untold terabytes more is pawed over secretly by insurers, large providers, and marketing firms. So have we achieved data nirvana? Not quite.

Dive in with me, as I survey the field of health care data.

Can we improve health care even using bad data? Certainly. After all, we have determined the age of the universe pretty closely with only a few vibrations from unimaginably large distances for evidence. Few choices are as idiosyncratic as how people vote, but Nate Silver combined rough data from many polls and accurately called the 2012 presidential election in every state. Modern statistical tools can do wonders for health care too, even with imperfect (to say the least) data.

Reflections on Apple’s new fitness tracking API and M7 coprocessor

| September 12, 2013

Jonathan Palley

Yesterday, Apple announced their new CoreMotion M7 Co-Processor in the iPhone 5S.  This new technology allows any developer to create apps that track your physical activity – similar in function to the Fitbit or Jawbone Up – using just the phone’s onboard sensor.

The announcement included a bit of technical jargon, a demo of a new activity tracking app from Nike and the intriguing promise of a new generation of health and fitness apps.  Here’s a rundown of what we think is important, in Q&A format:

What makes this new?  Doesn’t my phone already have an accelerometer? (more…)

Highlights of HiSum 2013: Part II

| August 20, 2013

Holly May is a Consultant at Health Advances.

Missed the Health Innovation Summit in San Francisco last week, did you? Today we bring you the highlights from day two.  Read day 1 highlights here.

The morning began with a conversation between investor Esther Dyson and Venture Beat writer Christina Farr. The pair discussed Ms. Dyson’s ambitious plan to accelerate healthy habits on a national level: HICCup. The plan is to catalyze and track healthy living among residents of small cities and enable the towns to try various tools and interventions as part of a city-versus-city competition. Read more here.

Next up was a panel discussion about the future of healthcare delivery. Dr. Bridget Duffy facilitated a conversation with Dr. Jay Parkison, who is “intolerant of bad” and that mentality led him to found a concierge medicine company called Sherpa. They were joined by Dr. Patricia Conolly, a geriatrician and associate executive director of the Permanante Medical Group. The group discussed whether technology was dehumanizing – or re-humanizing – healthcare. Describing the problems with communication that plagues healthcare, Dr. Duffy remarked that we can order a $15 pizza from Domino’s and get text updates for every stage of the pizza-making and pizza-delivery process, yet there is far less communication and coordination in medicine when the items being moved about are far more vital than a pizza. (more…)

Highlights of HiSum: Part I

| August 14, 2013

Holly May is a Consultant at Health Advances.

Missed the Health Innovation Summit in San Francisco last week, did you? Today we bring you the highlights from the first of two days.
HiSum brought together over 400 individuals from diverse perspectives: from physicians to investors to entrepreneurs to payers, all sectors of the healthcare industry were represented. The event began with 8 Silicon Valley companies joining Rock Health to open their offices to small group tours, including Castlight Health, IDEO, and PracticeFusion, companies at the vanguard of digital health.

Highlights of the first day include: (more…)