Brainstorm Health Daily: July 21, 2017

July 21, 2017, 6:53 PM UTC

Happy Friday, dear Dailies. Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion on the media business. But the audience, candidly, wasn’t interested in the broadcast and print trades so much as they were in the forces disrupting them. That’s because many of those same turbulent winds are now roiling their own sector: healthcare.

Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE

The conversation was part of a private gathering of some 40 healthcare CEOs and other high-profile guests that was sponsored by The Health Management Academy and chaired by John Doerr, the legendary Kleiner Perkins VC, and Dr. Steve Corwin, the head of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital. My message to the crowd was simple: Change is already upon them. There’s no running away. There’s no way to block it. Embrace it.

Indeed, that heady swirl of change was evident in a fantastic and spirited roundtable I was lucky enough to moderate at Fortune Brainstorm Tech this week. I began the session by asking the four entrepreneurs (whom I mentioned in Monday’s note)—Adrian Aoun, the founder and CEO of Forward; Daniel Chao, cofounder and CEO of Halo Neuroscience; Arun Gupta, founder and CEO of Quartet Health; and Lisa Maki, cofounder of PokitDok—this question: Why do you need your special digital sauce—or whatever else whizbang technology your startup is offering—to solve the problem you’re trying to fix?

And we spent much of the next hours essentially answering it. My notes from the section read like a jumble of mushy fragments—“equipping providers with the tools they need to do their jobs,” “augmenting the abilities providers already have,” “widening access to expertise.” (It all seemed exciting and provocative at the time, but candidly, I may have been caught up in the high of jargon and thin Aspen air.)

Maki spoke of creating an industry-wide “operating system,” a common blockchain-based platform to connect patients, payers, providers, and data, too. Gupta spoke of a more inclusive model that incorporated healthcare for the mind along with the body. Chao spoke of learning to speak the language of the brain—which he contended was better done with electrical impulses than chemical compounds. My colleague Ellen McGirt did a beautiful job of writing up the session here.

But it was Aoun who said the thing that stuck with me most. “As a rule,” he said, “we’re smarter than we are capable.” Technology can help us be as capable as we are smart.

I think that’s a powerful notion. When it comes to healthcare, after all, we often know what to do; we just don’t do it.

And now for a Special Announcement: Starting on Monday this newsletter dives into Shark Week. I can’t say more about it now, but be sure and tune in for a jawful of shark-tinged health coverage all week. I promise: Some of it will surprise you.

Here’s the news.


Google Glass a hit with some doctors' offices. Glass, the high-tech eyewear from Google (now part of one of the arms of parent company Alphabet) was a notable flop when it attempted to elbow its way into the wearables market. But it's found interest from a somewhat unexpected source: The doctor's office. One executive, Dignity Health's Dr. David Lundquist, describes how helpful the technology has been because it allows him to concentrate fully on the patient without having to take notes. Glass, augmented with software called Augmedix, can record patient interactions while a "remote scribe" on the other end compiles the appropriate medical notes. “It saves us a tremendous amount of time, because by the time I’m done interacting with the patient, my notes are essentially complete,” Lundquist told MobiHealthNews. “It shaves hours off of our time.” (MobiHealthNews)


FDA announces voluntary recall of coffee with Viagra-like ingredient. "New of Kopi Jantan Tradisional Natural Herbs Coffee," sold by a company called Bestherbs Coffee LLC, has issued a voluntary recall on its product after "FDA laboratory analysis confirmed the presence of desmethyl carbodenafil," the agency announced. "Desmethyl carbodenafil is structurally similar to sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, an FDA-approved prescription drug for erectile dysfunction (ED)." Alright, so maybe that's a little funny. But it actually carries a real public health risk, too, since that sort of drug can have bad interactions with prescription treatments, especially heart medicines. And this isn't even the first time something like this has happened. (ArsTechnica)

One of the world's best-selling insulins may be in for more competition. The Food and Drug Administration has given tentative approval to Merck's copycat of Sanofi's Lantus insulin, one of the best-selling insulin products in the world and the latter company's flagship treatment. The copy, which would theoretically be cheaper than Lantus once it actually reaches the market, is part of the new class of "biosimilar" drugs (a.k.a. generic version of biologic, rather than chemical, treatments). And the approval is conditional because Merck and Sanofi are currently duking out a patent rights spat over the therapy in court. (Reuters)


How you may be able to lower your dementia risk. A major new report proposes a three-pronged strategy for reducing the risk of dementia and mental decline: cognitive training, physical activity, and controlling high blood pressure. Those first two methods have shown potential promise in delaying age-related cognitive decline; the third, however, may actually be able to prevent or delay Alzheimer's disease. There's still a lot more research to be done here, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (which authored the report) assert that a combination of these strategies is important. (Kaiser Health News)

The Yemeni cholera epidemic is a full blown crisis. Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, has a commentary piece up for Fortune arguing that industry, governments, and NGOs alike are failing the country of Yemen, which is in the midst of a massive cholera epidemic which public health experts believe will infect 600,000 people (more than 350,000 Yemenis have contracted it since April). The resource needs for the cholera vaccine are known, Garrett says. "The need was 20 million doses, but the world stockpile of cholera vaccine had been allowed to dwindle, and manufacturers, put off by low profit margins, stopped making the life-saving medicine. Vaccinators hoped to target meager supplies wisely, and slow the epidemic’s spread," she writes. "But on July 13 the WHO canceled vaccine shipments. The Saudis had refused to guarantee a ceasefire, which would have allowed the UN safe passage and a few days’ window of immunization possibility." (Fortune)


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