Hello, readers! This is Sy.
One of the biggest problems in the U.S. medical system boils down to a simple issue of supply and demand. In many parts of the country, there just aren't enough health professionals to deal with a glut of patients who need care. But, in an increasingly digital world, one solution to this shortage could involve opening up the health care job market with a gig economy-style staffing system—including to nurses.
That's the approach that Nomad Health, a digital health upstart which describes itself as an "Airbnb" system for medical staffing, is taking. The company already has a system in place to match doctors from certain specialties (including internal and emergency medicine) who are looking for freelance work with hospitals that need the extra manpower. Nomad even takes care of the back-end insurance paperwork. Now, it's expanding its platform to include certified nurses throughout the country who are seeking short-term positions with participating Texas hospitals. The eventual plan is to roll out the system nationwide.
"The nursing shortage is a major factor when it comes to barriers to accessing care," Nomad co-founder and CEO Dr. Alexi Nazem told Fortune in an interview.
The numbers seem to line up with Nazem's assessment. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a physician shortage, relative to America's population and medical needs, of 40,800-104,900 by the year 2030 (in part driven by a lack of funding for more continuing medical education and residency programs, according to the AAMC). The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has pointed out similarly troubling trends such as an aging nurse workforce and shortfall against expected demand.
One digital solution likely isn't enough to overcome these major systemic issues (that would also require regulatory and legislative changes). But Nazem hopes that it can help mitigate an under-appreciated need in medicine.
Read on for the day's news.
The trouble with brain games. My colleague Laura Entis explores newly-released results from a study of brain game upstart Lumosity's tech. The latest numbers aren't exactly promising. "Since its run-in with the FTC, Lumosity’s claims have been significantly dialed back...replaced by a few caveats: “We need to do more research to determine the connection between improved assessment scores and everyday tasks in participants’ lives,” the company’s website reads. Well, more research is in and the results aren’t good for Lumosity or its competitors. The paper, published in the Journal of Neuroscience on Monday, found no evidence that playing brain games (specifically, Lumosity brain games) translated into improvements in cognitive functioning or decision making." (Fortune)
A major moment for Novartis. Swiss pharma giant Novartis has a high-profile showdown with a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel on Wednesday which could shape the fate of its next-generation cancer drug—a first-of-its-kind treatment that involves re-engineering a patient's own immune T-cells to identify and kill blood cancers (known in the field as CAR-T). The therapy, CTL019, will be probed for its safety and effectiveness in treating children who have acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Novartis has been able to beat its major rivals, the biotechs Kite Pharma and Juno, to FDA regulatory review in the CAR-T space. (Reuters)
Nestle is pooling resources into gut-based diagnostics. Food conglomerate Nestle is continuing to expand its health care ambitions with a new venture into microbiome-based diagnostics. The microbiome is the all-inclusive makeup of the various bacteria and other microorganisms which reside in the human body (many in the gut). This relatively unexplored terrain has been drawing interest from biopharma and nutrition-focused companies in recent years amid early evidence that the microbiome may influence both health and disease treatment. There isn't a whole lot of available detail on Nestle's new venture with Enterome, but it will reportedly focus on inflammatory bowel and liver disease diagnostics.
THE BIG PICTURE
Senate will reportedly unveil new health bill this week. Senate Republicans will reportedly release the latest draft of their health care legislation this week, and a vote on the bill could come as early as next week. Time is becoming an increasingly daunting obstacle for the Obamacare replacement efforts; GOP leaders would like to pass a bill before the August Congressional recess. But even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other prominent lawmakers have been expressing doubts that they can hold together a coalition of conservatives and moderates which adds up to 50 votes, even floating the idea that they may have to craft a bipartisan bill with Democrats if the final Senate bill ultimately fails.
This Is How Google Wants to 'Humanize' Artificial Intelligence, by Jonathan Vanian
Airplane Wi-Fi Will Soar Over the Next 5 Years, by Barb Darrow
Here Are 4 Better Options Than the GOP Health Care Bills, by Christine Eibner
Twitter Takes Another Step to Stop Cyberbullying, by Reuters