Category: Science and Other News

Electronic Health Records: Not Just An American Problem

A few years ago, this blog discussed the failure of government-dictated Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in the United Kingdom.

In Australia, the Liberal-National coalition government has decided to scrap the nation’s Electronic Health Record, blaming the previous Labour government for the current one’s failings. Unfortunately, the government plans to replace it with a new one, instead of leaving well enough alone:

The Abbott Government will deliver a rebooted personalised myHealth Record system for patients and doctors that will trial an opt-out, rather than opt-in, option as part of a $485 million budget rescue package to salvage Labor’s failed attempts to develop a national electronic medical records system.

Opt-out rather than opt-in? Doesn’t that sound kind of like a mandate? It’s an odd choice for a government that espouses free-market principles.

Malpractice By Electronic Health Record

Arthur Allen of Politico exposes yet another reason for doctors to fear Electronic Health Records: Their errors lead to lawsuits:

Medical errors that can be traced to the automation of the U.S. health care system are increasingly an issue in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Some of the doctors, attorneys and health IT experts involved in the litigation fear that safety and data integrity problems could undercut the benefits of electronic health records unless HHS and Congress address them aggressively.

“This is kind of like the car industry in Detroit in 1965,” says physician Michael Victoroff, a liability expert and a critic of the federal program encouraging providers to adopt EHRs. “We’re making gigantic, horrendous, unsafe machines with no seat belts, and they are selling like hot cakes.

Readers of this blog know why they are selling despite their serious flaws: The government has thrown almost $30 billion at hospitals and physicians to cause them to buy them.

Health Care Added One in Five Jobs in April

45,000 of the 223,000 jobs added in April were in health services, according to today’s Employment Situation Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This continues the trend seen in March. As shown in Table 1, jobs in ambulatory settings accounted for well over half of health jobs.


Electronic Health Records Don’t Help Stroke Victims; And More Bad News

electronic-medical-recordNew research on over half a million stroke victims admitted to hospitals from 2007 to 2010 shows that there was no difference in quality of care for those admitted to hospitals with EHRs and those without:

The new study “is a wake-up call that we should heed,” writes Dr. John Windle, chief of cardiology at University of Nebraska Medical Center, in an accompanying commentary. Windle said electronic health records haven’t been proven to improve quality of health care, the health of large groups of people, or efficiency.

“An [electronic health record’s] first priority must be support of clinical care, not documentation for billing and reimbursement,” Windle said. (Randy Dotinga, HealthDay)

Zenefits Raises $500 Million More To Reinvent Small-Biz Health Benefits

Most of us buy small-business health benefits the way our grandparents did when they ran the hardware store. It’s a business in dire need of reinventing. Zenefits looks like the company to do it. The company that was one of the top venture deals in health care last year is looking to repeat, raising $500 million at a $4.5 billion valuation:

This is Zenefits’ third funding round in less than a year and a half. The company raised $15 million in its Series A last January, then added $66 million in an June Series B round that valued it at more than $500 million.

Zenefits offers a cloud-based software-as-a-service human resources platform for small businesses that tries to be an all-in-one solution for compliance, onboarding, payroll, health insurance, and other employee benefits. The key is that the software is free to businesses; Zenefits makes its money as a broker of services, for example earning a fee from health insurers who register new businesses through Zenefits. (Brian Solomon, Forbes)

Top VC Backed-Health Tech Companies

PitchBook has compiled a roster of 2015’s top venture-capital financed health technology companies.

The three largest valuations are Modernizing Medicine, valued at $316 million, which provides an electronic medical assistant; WellTok, valued at $216 million, which provides personalized guidance on healthy behaviors; and Crosschx, valued at $64 million, which sans patients’ fingers to create a unique, secure identifier.

Pitchbook has also listed the three biggest deals so far this year:


Americans Say, “Soak the Rich”

After six years of income redistribution, Americans are hungry for more, according to the latest Gallup poll:


Despite the growing focus on inequality inrecent years, the 63% of Americans who say that money and wealth should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people is almost the same as the 60% who said this in 1984.

Americans’ agreement that money and wealth need to be more evenly distributed reached a high point of 68% in April 2008, in the last year of the George W. Bush administration, and just before the full effects of the Great Recession began to take hold. Americans became slightly less likely to agree with the idea later that year and in surveys conducted in 2009, 2011 and 2013.

Are Doctors Becoming Democrats?

Confident DoctorsNew research published in JAMA shows that political giving by physicians has swung significantly towards Democrats and away from Republicans in 20 years or so. In 1993-1994, 69 percent of physicians who made political donations gave to Republicans, and their giving comprised 65 percent of doctors’ political giving. In 2013-2014, 45 percent of doctors who made political donations gave to Republicans, and they comprised 50 percent of doctors’ political giving.

Teladoc Fights Back

This blog noted a few weeks ago that telehealth is facing headwinds. Teladoc, a Texas-based provider of telemedicine services, was being stifled by the Texas Medical Board.

Now, Teladoc has filed both an Initial Public Offering (IPO) and a lawsuit against the Texas Medical Board on antitrust grounds:

The suit alleges that theTexas Medical Board allowed telemedicine to freely operate until 2009, as “telehealth providers, and in particular Teladoc, began to expand in scale.” It continues: “the competitive threat to traditional office- and hospital-based physicians became clear. The TMB began working to stamp out this threat to competing physicians.”

All in all, I’d prefer to see this resolved by the state legislature if the Texas Medical Board itself cannot fix itself. Nevertheless, it is good to see that Teladoc is not quitting without a fight.

Digital Health Funding Maturing Quickly

Startup Health has released the latest issue of its excellent quarterly digital health funding report:


Coming off a hot funding environment in 2014, this year is off to a slower start. Although less capital was invested in Q1 2015 than in Q1 2014, we believe this is due to an increase in investor focus and a sign of a maturing market emphasizing more developed companies that move beyond offering “features” to delivering outcomes and/or reducing costs. Startups need to demonstrate results and early validation, as well as abilities to scale to tap into today’s funding environment.