Blog and Whitepapers

Recon takes an analytical look behind select developments in healthcare

Amazon becomes a shopping facilitator for healthcare services (finally…)

Back in 2018, I offered a speculation about what Amazon might do in healthcare as part of its now defunct joint venture with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway.   The focus was on doing what Amazon is remarkably good at: creating simple, consumer-friendly, transparent and highly liquid markets.   Here was my suggested Step 1: “[T]here are several classes of healthcare that many patients are ready to shop for (and payers have been trying to get them to shop for): minor acute care (sniffles and coughs to simple fractures), basic diagnostic

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Some very disappointing failures: An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for August and September 2022

Is Parkinson’s α-synuclein going to be as elusive a target as β-amyloid has been for Alzheimer’s? Alpha-synuclein aggregates are characteristic of Parkinson’s disease and genetic variants of this protein clearly lead to familial forms of Parkinson’s; it was therefore reasonable to target alpha-synuclein with antibodies in the hope of modifying disease progression. Sadly, two well designed placebo-controlled studies have now crushed this hope. Both showed absolutely no impact on the progression of patients with early Parkinson’s over times that extended to 1.5 year of follow-up. If there is silver lining,

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Trends in oncolytic virus therapeutics: then and now

PDF: Trends in oncolytic virus therapeutics: then and now The idea of using pathogens to treat disease is not new; ranging from phage therapy to malariotherapy (resulting in the only Nobel in medicine to a psychiatrist – in 1927), but it was really only with the onset of the biotech revolution in the 1990s that an old concept of using viruses as tumor killing agents started to come into its own.  As the ability to characterize viruses at the genetic level grew, it was followed by the techniques to genetically modify

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Are some of Kaiser’s regional ambitions starting to pay off?

PDF: Are some of Kaiser’s regional ambitions starting to pay off? We have produced a new study evaluating developments in Kaiser’s regions (outside of California). The report provides an explanation for recent improvements in performance as well as leadership and governance changes. Further, we identify several implications for the future of Kaiser strategy. The Kaiser Permanente model has a heavy infrastructure, and so it requires a lot of local market share and operating scale to deliver a positive net underwriting margin (we roughly size how much using statistical analysis). Yet,

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What should school nurses do (and not do)? A call for further research

About the author: Alyssa Idusuyi is currently a high school senior attending Miss Porter’s School (Connecticut). She spent the summer of 2022 with Recon Strategy as a paid intern assigned a project to research the evolving role of school nurses in student health. Alyssa plans to attend college next year, and is considering a career in healthcare.   School nurses do more than just give students band aids and Tylenol. Since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, school nurses have been front and center in taking care of students and

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An auto- or allo- future for cell therapy?

Download a PDF of this article here. Ex vivo gene-therapies have been a game-changer for aggressive hematologic cancers. These products can effectively cure patients who otherwise had very low chance of survival beyond 5 -years.  However, making these products is exceptionally complex and the drugs are priced accordingly (from $370,000 to over $2.5M). While few patients receive these treatments today, clinical development could lead to a much broader population. If 1 in 20 newly diagnosed cancers were optimally treated with these high-price therapies, the cost to health-payers could become untenable

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An innovative sales strategy for a pivotal drug; Novartis trailblazes with Leqvio

After the $9.7B acquisition of The Medicines Company two and a half years ago, Novartis is eager to demonstrate value with a successful launch of the primary target of the deal, Leqvio. This launch is also a key catalyst for new revenue generation at Novartis, due to a $9B patent cliff by 2026. Given the high-stakes nature of Leqvio’s launch, the decision of the Swiss pharma to employ a non-traditional sales strategy in several key countries, including US and England, is noteworthy.   Novartis paves an innovative commercial path for

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An excellent July vintage: an opinionated take on NEJM highlights for July 2022

Tirzepatide in pole position As previously described in this blog, GLP-1 agonists initially designed to treat glycemia in Type-2 diabetes are emerging as powerful weight loss agents in obesity independent of diabetic status. Recently, tirzepatide (Mounjaro, Lilly, approved May 2022) which combines GLP-1 and GIP activity has shown potential to be best in class, and this is supported by a 72-week study that randomized 2539 obese individuals to 3 different tirzepatide doses or placebo. The results are nothing short of spectacular with ~-21% mean change in weight at the optimal

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What’s so special about One Medical in the eyes of Amazon? A few quick thoughts

There isn’t a bricks-and-mortar primary care acquisition out there that is beyond Amazon’s financial reach.  While the announcement regarding One Medical has provoked fresh rounds of speculation about what Amazon might do broadly in primary care (e.g., push Pillpack),[1] our interest here is in why Amazon seems to think One Medical specifically is the right move right now.  Below are some quick thoughts:  Compatible business models One Medical’s legacy commercial business and Amazon (Prime) both operate a fixed annual membership fee plus charge-per-transaction business model.  The membership fee provides customers

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Looking into the crystal ball – What is in store for the future of gene therapy delivery?

Download Here: Troubleshooting GT_Recon Strategy 2022 In the last decade, gene therapies have been a major area of development and interest. What kicked off with the approval of Spark Therapeutics’ Luxturna in 2017 has now blossomed into a robust pipeline including the approval of Zolgensma (Novartis), and a number of cutting-edge therapies in clinical trials (such as Uniqure and CSL Behring’s therapy for hemophilia or Ultragenyx’s therapy for MPS IIIA). However, while the number of gene therapies entering clinical trials has increased, so have the inevitable stumbling blocks in development.

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An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for June 2022

A cell therapy success against a solid tumor In CAR-T therapies, T-cells are transformed to express an antibody on their surface that allows them to home in on cancer cells and effect killing. This approach has seen remarkable successes in hematological tumors but not so much in solid tumors. However, efforts have been underway to use the intrinsic killing mechanism by T-cells which relies on the native T-cell receptor. The idea is that instead of inserting an antibody construct (i.e., the CAR-T approach), the T-cell receptor is modified to be

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An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for May 2022

A step forward for kidney xenotransplantation A report on the recent, well-publicized, temporary transplantation of kidneys from genetically modified pigs in two deceased individuals at NYU. The kidneys functioned well and there was no sign of acute rejection, but because these experiments took place over only 54 hours, this is not indicative of longer term compatibility of the transplant of kidneys from this particular strain of pigs. A question in my mind is why there have not been kidney xenotransplants in live patients yet – especially given a recent porcine

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Advances in AI for Health in 2021: An Analysis of the Clinicaltrials.gov Registry

The role of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in healthcare spans a vast range of potential applications. A view of AI development on clinicaltrials.gov helps to focus this landscape, giving a sense of trends and near-term applications. Following last year’s review of AI development, we have updated our analysis to include registered studies starting in 2021.[1] The analysis revealed continued strong growth of studies across the field, especially in patient engagement and research. Within patient engagement, the tools studied (mostly chatbots) have increased in complexity, tracking with advancements

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An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for March-April 2022

The opioid crisis and patient abandonment A perspective from a February issue that I originally missed highlighting the plight of patients who have been on a long-term opioid regimen for chronic pain. They are often stable, but it is when their physician retires or leaves that all hell breaks loose because, in this day and age, they cannot find another physician to continue the regimen. For someone who has been taking large doses of opioid for many years, going cold-turkey, or even tapering, is just not an option. These folks

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The coming site-of-care shock for infusions

There’s a major disruption looming in how the site-of-care for infusions is managed which will have repercussions for plan competition, delivery system economics, PE hunting for healthcare opportunity and biopharma commercialization strategy. Plans have long been frustrated by the growth of infusion care in expensive hospital outpatient department (HOPD) settings. HOPD infusion services can cost health plans on average 70% more than a physician office for the same infusion. But because patients on infusion therapy are often very sick and the therapies hard to tolerate, plans have historically been reluctant

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The growth of small molecule drug classes over time

Modern drug discovery is largely based on the identification and validation of a biochemical target, and then screening and optimizing molecules that engage that target. Over time, this has given rise to an extensive set of small molecule drugs approved for human use with activity at specific biological targets. We wanted to answer the question of how many different targets are addressed by existing agents, and how the rate of addition of newly addressed-target has varied over time. To do this, we reviewed every small molecule drug approved since 1970

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An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for January-February 2021

Gene therapy in beta-thalassemia and sickle cell anemia Beta-thalassemia and sickle cell anemia are common genetic diseases of hemoglobin (Hb) which manifest themselves in the former through transfusion dependence, in the latter through painful vaso-occlusive crises that frequently land patients in the hospital in a pitiful state. BlueBird’s lentiglobin therapy is an ex-vivo gene therapy in which autologous stem cells are harvested, transfected with new HbA gene, and then returned to the patient. Because the HbA is slightly modified via a single amino-acid substitution (HbAT87Q), expression is trackable.  Now in

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Wrapping up 2021: An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for November-December 2021

In search of a diagnosis: deploying genomics at scale A substantial number of children have a disease identified as “rare” without having any kind of causative diagnosis (autism is not a causative diagnosis!). In a UK pilot study, 2,183 proband children were referred for exome sequencing with additional sequencing of family members if warranted. The overall diagnostic yield was surprisingly high, about 25% overall. Of the approximately half of probands who had neurological or sensory disorder, an explanatory diagnosis was reached in almost 40% of the cases. Two thoughts: 1)

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The road ahead for genomic testing

New molecular diagnostics, especially tests based on next-generation sequencing and gene-panels, could revolutionize how diseases are evaluated. But experience shows that insurers won’t cover these tests just because they’re available – they need to improve clinical care. Here, we explore how researchers and test developers can prove value, and improve their chances at broad clinical uptake. Outside the niche realm of self-pay (where buyers have very different expectations[1]), the business opportunity of new molecular tests is driven by payer-coverage and reimbursement. Payers are beginning to manage[2] high-cost (>$1,000) lab tests

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The ongoing physician affiliation land grab in Pennsylvania’s Capital District

Closed vs. open Hospitals can compete for patient referrals either by exclusively affiliating with a subset of physicians (“closed model”) or by collaborating with as many qualified physicians as possible irrespective of competing affiliations (“open model”). (Both of these strategies are from the perspective of the facility, of course. A population health strategy would still focus on affiliating with physicians to aggregate patients, but with a goal of minimizing (not just directing) facilities based care.) The two strategies are generally incompatible. If most hospitals use the same approach in a

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Optum opening new competitive terrain in Revenue Cycle Management

What is revenue cycle management? Revenue cycle management (RCM) is the process of converting care delivery into cash. At its most comprehensive, services include: patient intake (scheduling/registration, coverage verification and financial counseling) claim submission (charge capture, coding, documentation, submission), and payment capture (payment processing, denials, customer service and collections).   Effective RCM is challenging because of: The variety of plans and benefits designs (what’s covered, patient co-pays, rates, etc.), Ambiguities of payer approval of specific clinical services (prior authorization, etc.), Requirements and opportunities in characterizing the care and patient risk

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Profit engine swap-outs: How UPMC sustained itself after the Highmark decoupling

UPMC’s decoupling from Highmark exposed a critical vulnerability: economic dependence on its Allegheny County hospitals. In FY11-12,[1] these hospitals provided 70% of UPMC’s overall operating margin, an average of ~$270M annually.[2] A few years later, these operating margins had been cut in half and, by FY19, these same hospitals could contribute just $9M to the enterprise.[3] How did this happen? The Highmark dispute created severe economic headwinds for its western Pennsylvania (what we call “Core”)[4] hospitals: Decay in payer mix. As Highmark patients went elsewhere, the overall commercial share of

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Taking on tough indications: An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for October 2021

What makes an indication especially tough? The combination of a lack of understanding about the mechanism of disease and a lack of clarity on what endpoints would be sufficient for approval of a therapy in studies of reasonable duration. This month, two good examples in the NEJM.   A phase 2b success in NASH Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a common slow-progressing disease and for most affected individuals the timescale to liver-related morbidity is at least 20 years, although some progress much faster. NASH is also a graveyard of clinical programs

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The Puzzling Future of Healthcare

This post is from a talk at the 2021 Link Ventures CEO summit. Original talk: Transcript: The practice of medicine has always been an information problem. Clinicians seek to diagnose an ailment and to prescribe a cure based on an incomplete understanding of what’s happening in a patient’s body as it relates to an incomplete set of knowledge about diagnoses and treatments.  This aspect of medicine has remained the same for centuries even as our collective understanding of medicine has gone through three major phases.  Until the 18th century, much

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From bleeding edge to basics: an opinionated take on NEJM highlights for August and September 2021

The weird world of synthetic biology In biology 101, one learns about the alphabet that translates DNA/RNA code into amino acids sequences ultimately resulting in proteins. Given that there are 64 possible triplet codons and 20 amino acids, multiple codons can map to the same amino acids. But this mapping can be reassigned including incorporating new amino acids – it has been done in E. coli with the promise of generating biologics with novel properties, although applications are not yet clear. A more practical application is to create strains of

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Summer catch-up: an opinionated take on NEJM highlights for May-July 2021

Cancer and mutational complexity Probably the biggest news in cancer treatment this year is the approval of sotorasib (Lumkras, Amgen) which received accelerated approval in lung cancer with mutated KRAS (G12C) and has potential for use in other cancers (see here). Mirati is hot on the trail with adagrasib, but unusually for a drug in the approval process, their paper in the NEJM is a deep dive into the mechanisms of resistance to KRAS G12C inhibition that lead to treatment failure. They present very detailed in vitro studies in which

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Iora Agonistes: High-touch primary care in Medicare Advantage is no sure bet after all

Iora Health was one of the original primary care transformers offering a clinically capable, engagement-focused, and accountability-grounded care model.  After an initial foray into commercial, Iora pivoted in 2014 to Medicare Advantage (MA), an alliance with HUM and a global capitation-oriented strategy broadly similar to Oak Street or ChenMed. MA – whose members often have chronic conditions that respond to management and with a payment model that rewards quality (via stars) and patient intimacy (via risk coding) – is fertile ground for Iora’s high touch primary care.  And that terrain

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Four plausible rationales for incumbent hospitals to embrace hospital@home despite the potential to divert “heads from beds”

We identify four different business strategy rationales for hospital@home depending on each hospital’s specific market situation and each with clear predictive implications for local markets.  These are: on-demand capacity expansion, bed capacity rationalization, competitive matching and system consistency.  Almost all participants in CMS’s current Hospital@home program could find one of these four rationales applicable.  If these rationales become compelling business cases, the future of hospital@home is bright and it is time to start the healthcare ecosystem to prepare for its disruptive consequences. The cannibalization challenge Hospital@home uses innovative protocols, technology,

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WMT’s MeMD acquisition: too small a play to make the difference

Last week, WMT acquired MeMD, a virtual provider in Arizona. Per the press release, MeMD will “allow Walmart Health to provide access to virtual care across the nation including urgent, behavioral and primary care, complementing our in-person Walmart Health centers.”  Can MeMD rescue Walmart’s struggling clinic strategy?  I am skeptical. Virtual is a great complement to the clinics Adding virtual to the clinics could be a very good idea: Walmart’s clinics had the extraordinarily bad luck of rolling out during a pandemic.  More importantly, they are weighed down with unresolved

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Clinicaltrials.gov and AI-related studies: a brief status check in April 2021

Healthcare is by nature conservative; despite a huge level of interest for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques, significant penetration in standard workflows of care will depend on demonstrations of safety and efficacy. As a result, it is today’s pipeline of clinical studies using AI/ML that will determine mainstream usage tomorrow.  In order to better understand this pipeline, we have mined clinicaltrials.gov for characteristics and trends of registered studies making use of AI/ML. Unsurprisingly we see strong growth, but starting from a very small baseline. Although most of

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Remodel, rewire, repopulate: an opinionated take on NEJM highlights for April 2021

Remodeling to health? Chronic disease progression is often due to a maladaptive tissue response which leads to remodeling – such as cardiac hypertrophy with hypertension.  While most therapeutics focus on tamping down the injury, sotatercept (Acceleron Pharma) in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) breaks new ground by focusing on the remodeling. This modulator of the TGF-beta superfamily looks to inhibit the remodeling of the pulmonary vasculature that worsens the PAH over time, and eventually leads to the demise of most patients. In a 24-week placebo-controlled phase 2 trial (N=106), the pulmonary

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Balancing the humors: an opinionated take on NEJM highlights for March 2021

A new approach to schizophrenia Antipsychotic agents treat schizophrenia by manipulating the dopaminergic system. While they are effective at treating psychosis, they can have major side effects and they lack the ability to address so called negative symptoms e.g. apathy, lack of social connection, poverty of thought.  Enter the muscarinic cholinergic system which is tricky to manipulate in the CNS without untoward systemic effects as Lilly found out with their M1/4 agonist xanomeline.  Karuna Therapeutics has now licensed the molecule and cleverly combined with it with trospium, an antagonist with

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How much are Humana’s value-based care models really taking out of utilization?

All that effort for only 0.4% savings Since 2014, HUM has reported on the performance of primary care in value-based arrangements (“VBA”) vs. traditional contracts (“non-VBA”)[1] in Medicare Advantage (MA).  One statistic regarding total medical expenditures (TME) is, at first blush, a stunner.  The most recent data (2019) shows PMPM TME of VBA members measured only 0.4% less than for non-VBA members.  Given HUM’s long-standing strategic commitment to value-based care, commentators are puzzled: is the whole value-based enterprise in vain? does healthcare transformation require quasi-geologic timeframes to deliver meaningful cost

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All immunity: an opinionated take on NEJM highlights for February 2021

We can cure Hep C but not immunize against it Sovaldi and other drugs have made curing chronic Hepatitis C a routine, if expensive, proposition. Still, given how common Hep C infection is, and how it can irreversibly damage the liver without overt signs, a vaccine would be highly valuable. Unfortunately, an NIH sponsored trial with a GSK vaccine in 548 IV drug users at high risk of contracting the disease failed to show any protection: 28 participants developed chronic Hep C evenly divided between the placebo and treatment groups. 

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Walmart Health: Will the fifth attempt at clinics be the charm?

Eighteen months ago, WMT opened its first Walmart Health clinic attached to a supercenter in Dallas, GA.  The operation combined multiple services – primary/urgent care, dentistry, behavioral health, optometry, and audiology – with WMT’s Every Day Low Price philosophy (for example, $30 total for a primary care check-up, $40 for a sick visit) in one ~11K sq. ft. site. Boosted by typical supercenter traffic (~5K visits a day is our estimate), and a scarcity of primary and dental care in the local area[1], the clinic got to 2.3K visits-per-month within

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While we wait for our shot(s); an opinionated take on NEJM highlights for January 2021

Incremental progress in the fight to treat heart failure After a decade or more of relative quiescence in the 2000s, a volley of new therapies have come to the forefront in the pages of the NEJM: sacubitril valsartan (2014 – Novartis’ Entresto), various SGLT2 inhibitors such as dapagliflozin (2019, AstraZeneca’s Farxiga), vericiguat (2020 – Merck’s Verquvo), and now a 2021 entry from Amgen in the form of the cardiac myosin activator omecamtiv mecarbil. None of those are a panacea, and of the four listed, omecamtiv has the lowest efficacy profile

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Closing a tough year: An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for December 2020

Cardiovascular health – go big or go narrow? A follow up on the development of evinacumab (Regeneron), an inhibitor of ANGPLT3 (see this opinionated take from 2017), confirming the safety and LDL reduction effect in a population of individuals with cholesterol levels refractory to other therapies (including PCSK9 inhibitors).  Given the history of PCSK9 inhibitors, the development path of this asset will be interesting to follow. Of the 6 trials listed on clinicaltrials.gov not one has anything close to a clinical endpoint – it’s all biomarker based. That will probably

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We are back and catching-up: An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for Sep, Oct, and Nov 2020

Small but real progress in ALS: Despite enormous public attention and significant effort, ALS remains a disease for which the development of new therapies has been challenging. Animal models showed potential activity against ALS by sodium phenylbutyrate and taurursodiol, both old (generic) molecules. Now, their effect in combination therapy has been confirmed in a randomized controlled trial.  What’s especially interesting is that the effect at 24 weeks (the original duration of the trial) was a modest though statistically significant improvement in functional scores. However, the trial was extended with all

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How does OptumCare manage its physician staffing once the big deals are done?

OptumCare’s acquisitions usually make headlines.  But what happens when the reporters leave? How is clinical capacity managed? What role do micro-acquisitions, recruiting and retirements play in advancing OptumCare capabilities?  This is important because OptumCare is a risk-taking engine.  Perhaps by understanding post-acquisition moves, we can reverse engineer United’s view on how clinician capacity and specialty mix can maximize value.   We looked at two mature OptumCare geographies, Nevada and Texas with large physician presence and healthy United Medicare Advantage market share (just below 50%).  Our analysis primarily uses the Medicare

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A tale of two cities: Referral networks of orthopedic surgeons in Miami and Seattle

Summary: We conducted a comparative analysis of the referral networks of orthopedic surgeons in King County (the area around Seattle, WA) and Miami-Dade County. Similarities Bigger systems are better at keeping referrals internal So, the level of fragmentation in the referral base is associated with the level of fragmentation in the specialty market structure Despite this, a consolidated referral base does not necessarily mean that systems are able to keep orthopedics referrals internal   Miami-Dade Independent physicians make a significant proportion of referrals (9.4%) So, independent surgeons receive a significant

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An ADC renaissance: a resurgence of antibody drug conjugates for cancer

PDF:  An ADC renaissance: a resurgence of antibody drug conjugates for cancer Summary: Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) have seen a record number of approvals in 2020. This comes after a first era of intense activity in the early 2000s followed by a period of relative quiescence from the late 2000s to mid-2010s. To understand how the nature of the ADC pipeline has changed over time, we have reviewed all 88 ADC oncology programs that have reached phase 2 development and beyond from 1997 onward. We found that, currently, the main contributor

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A slow summer: An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for August 2020

A cheap, low tech intervention for a common Achilles’ heel When I am out and about, for instance at the grocery store, I am always surprised at the number of people I see with swollen legs. About half a million times a year in the US, these folks end-up in a hospital bed with cellulitis (a skin and subcutaneous infection) of the leg. In a single center randomized trial with 84 patients who had an episode of cellulitis, an Australian group tested whether compressive stockings would make a difference in

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An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for July 2020

Stunting and the microbiome Stunting (low growth for age) affects > 20% of children across the globe and has major impact on the brain, on health, and on opportunities for success in life. The precise mechanism of stunting has remained elusive. Sanitation and diet diversity play a role but targeted interventions in these areas have had less impact than hoped for. Jeff Gordon from WashU has spent the last decade exploring the relationship between stunting and the microbiome, and now his group reports on a study that shows a clear

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Covid, medical education, and a bit of RNAi: An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for June 2020

What’s your blood type? The first report of a genome wide association study of Covid-19 severity on approximately 4000 patients and controls conducted in Spain and Italy identifies a locus on the 3rd chromosome that spans 6 potential genes for which polymorphisms appear to drive severe disease. Once the culprit gene is determined, this may help us think about drug targets. Reassuringly the study also recovers the correlation of severity with blood group that has empirically been noted in the past (on chromosome 9 although the signal is not as

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AI in healthcare III: COVID-19 applications and implications

COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of AI in healthcare. AI based tools and solutions can work quickly, be deployed at scale, and respond to the dynamic nature of the crisis. Use-cases span all facets of responding to the pandemic, from diagnosis and triage, to treatment and combating new transmission. A wide range of players—including startups, established companies, universities, and more—are bringing their capabilities and perspectives to the table. Startups like Current Health, a UK-based remote-monitoring company supporting Mayo Clinic and Baptist Health with their COVID-19 response, are benefitting the industry’s

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Covid, iPSCs, and ADCs: An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for May 2020

Remdesivir works… but not enough to change the public health perspective The eagerly awaited results of the remdesivir NIH trial are out, and it’s solid but not smashing, although this is a partial read since the study was interrupted before completion because of evidence of benefit (and we should get more data in the coming months).  Overall, the primary end-point of faster improvement in the treatment group was met while mortality showed a benefit that was just short of statistical significance. Also important is that remdesivir is clearly safe. But

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Buying kit for a leadership position in the @Home revolution? Implications of Optum’s acquisition of naviHealth

Summary NaviHealth is a leader in post-acute care management; since it manages but does not provide care, its impact is constrained by quality of available providers By aligning with Optum clinical and technology assets, naviHealth can raise the capabilities of post-acute providers, direct more cases to be discharged directly to the home and speed up the return home for others Given inpatient stays often mark the start of sustained needs for help in the home, a post-acute navigator like naviHealth could be well-positioned to orchestrate longer-term “aging-in-place” support Overview of

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Covid’s backhand blow: payer mix degradation and the threat of renewed payer/provider rate brawls

Among Covid’s many repercussions, the recession shock will drive a sustained degradation of provider payer mix.  I estimate that each 5% added to unemployment will incrementally reduce hospital[1] operating margin by 1.0-1.5% and hospitals would need to charge 3-4% more on commercial care to maintain margins[2].  Given that hospital costs make up 40-45% of commercial total cost of care and we are facing unemployment scenarios of 15-20% (per Robert Wood Johnson – see table and source notes), we could ultimately expect this hospital rate pressure – if not averted or moderated

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Medicare Advantage’s durable – but underexplained – post-acute care advantage

Health Affairs has put out another study – this one by Skopec and team (subscription access) – comparing post-acute care (PAC) among Medicare Advantage (MA) vs. traditional Medicare (FFS). And, once again (see earlier study here – subscription access), we learn that MA beneficiaries use a lot less PAC than FFS with no major differences in outcomes. The pattern varies by type of PAC: far fewer post-acute MA members spend time in an inpatient rehab facility (IRF) but, when they do, they stay just as long as their FFS counterparts;

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Covid and the rest: An opinionated take on NEJM highlights for April 2020

Hydroxychloroquine does not seem to help much in Covid-19 (with caveat) There has been significant attention to the use of the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19, but data on impact has been scarce. In the absence of clarity, New York Presbyterian Hospital left the use of this drug to the discretion of individual treating physicians from mid-March to early April. This has led to two cohorts of Covid-19 patients which can be compared in retrospective analysis: patients treated with hydroxychloroquine (N=811) and those who did not receive the drug (N=565).   The

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