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This is a compiled list of stories that we found interesting. They are from external sources, and we think they provide novel perspectives on the digital health industry at large. Happy reading! 

Alphabet’s laid-off health tech employees on where their work heads next

Jan 31, 2023

(STAT): Big Tech has gone through a rough stretch of layoffs — between Meta, Amazon, Alphabet, and Microsoft, 51,000 people have lost their jobs since November 2022, including 12,000 cuts this month at Alphabet alone.

Alphabet’s layoffs didn’t hit its health care teams head on: Rather, laid-off employees told STAT, the cuts were scattered across the company. But given the sheer scale of the layoffs, and the span of teams they impacted, there’s now a spate of ex-Alphabet employees with health expertise now on the hunt for jobs. In interviews with STAT, former employees said ex-Googlers’ expertise could come in handy for health care organizations increasingly trying to bring their technology systems up to speed.

“Most of health care is about 15 to 20 years behind us in terms of infrastructure modernization,” said Esteban López, a physician at Hopscotch Health and healthcare and life sciences market lead at Google, who was laid off this month. “Data tends to be siloed, and it’s either unstructured or unorganized.”

Pfizer Expects Drop in Revenue as Covid Vaccine Demand Wanes

Jan 31, 2023

(WSJ): Pfizer expects revenue to drop by as much as a third in 2023 as demand for its Covid-19 vaccine and treatment declines and countries adjust to a new phase of managing the virus, The Wall Street Journal says. The company is projecting revenue this year of between $67 billion and $71 billion, falling from approximately $100 billion last year, a record high for the drugmaker. Stripping out Covid-19 products, Pfizer expects its overall 2023 revenue to grow 7% to 9%, while revenue from Covid-19 products is expected to reach a low point this year due to a significant government stockpile on hand and then rebound in 2024.

The race of the AI labs heats up

Jan 30, 2023

(Economist): Every so often, a new technology captures the world’s imagination. The latest example, judging by the chatter in Silicon Valley, as well as on Wall Street and in corporate corner offices, newsrooms and classrooms around the world, is Chatgpt. In just five days after its unveiling in November the artificially intelligent chatbot, created by a startup called Openai, drew 1m users, making it one of the fastest consumer-product launches in history. Microsoft, which has just invested $10bn in Openai, wants Chatgpt-like powers, which include generating text, images, music and video that seem like they could have been created by humans, to infuse much of the software it sells. On January 26th Google published a paper describing a similar model that can create new music from a text description of a song. When Alphabet, its parent company, presents quarterly earnings on February 2nd, investors will be listening out for its answer to Chatgpt. On January 29th Bloomberg reported that Baidu, a Chinese search giant, wants to incorporate a chatbot into its search engine in March.

Focused exclusively on life sciences, three top investors set out on their own

Jan 25, 2023

(STAT): Almost a year ago, three top investors at Lux Capital and Obvious Ventures announced they were leaving the firms, teasing on Twitter that they were starting “something new.”

That something is a new venture capital firm, which launched Wednesday with $350 million for its first fund.

The trio plans to start companies and invest in seed, Series A, and Series B rounds, giving out anywhere between $1 million and $20 million at a time.

Dimension is led by Zavain Dar, Adam Goulburn, and Nan Li, who were some of the most senior investors with an eye on the biotech industry at their previous firms. Lux and Obvious’ investments span technology apps, meat alternatives, therapeutics companies, aerospace startups, and more. In a notable departure from the founders’ former firms, Dimension will focus entirely on life science companies.

AstraZeneca boosts heart, kidney business with $1.8 bln CinCor deal

Jan 9, 2023

(Reuters): AstraZeneca has agreed to buy CinCor in a deal worth up to $1.8 billion, as it seeks to expand its pipeline of heart and kidney drugs, Reuters writes. Central to the deal is an experimental therapy baxdrostat, which Cincor is developing to treat a range of conditions including high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease. AstraZeneca is hoping to combine baxdrostat with its own Farxiga, a diabetes drug whose sales have risen sharply after the medicine was also shown to benefit patients with heart failure as well as kidney disease. About a third of AstraZeneca's business is based on cancer drugs, but its roster of heart, kidney, and diabetes drugs is its second most lucrative unit by sales.

Public Health Agencies Try to Restore Trust as They Fight Misinformation

Jan 4, 2023

(Kaiser Health News): By the summer of 2021, Phil Maytubby, deputy CEO of the health department here, was concerned to see the numbers of people getting vaccinated against covid-19 slipping after an initially robust response. With doubt, fear, and misinformation running rampant nationwide — both online and offline — he knew the agency needed to rethink its messaging strategy.

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This story also ran on NBC News. It can be republished for free.

So, the health department conducted something called an online “sentiment search,” which gauges how certain words are perceived on social media. The tool found that many people in Oklahoma City didn’t like the word “vaccinate” — a term featured prominently in the health department’s marketing campaign.

“If you don’t know how your message is resonating with the public,” Maytubby said, “you’re shooting in the dark.”

HeartSciences & Rutgers Partner to Develop AI-based ECG Algorithms

Dec 2, 2022

(HIT Consultant): Heart Test Laboratories, a medical technology company focused on saving lives by making an ECG a far more valuable screening tool through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), announced that it has entered into a multi-year collaboration agreement with Rutgers University (Rutgers).

HeartSciences and Rutgers will collaborate to develop AI-based ECG algorithms, which are expected to accelerate HeartSciences’ product development pipeline and further expand the clinical value of an ECG for low-cost detection of heart disease.

Google Health inks first licensing agreement for mammography AI tech

Nov 27, 2022

(Healthcare Dive): Google’s health division has inked its first commercial agreement to use its mammography AI research model in real-world clinical practice, with the goal of improving breast cancer screening, Google Health announced Monday. Google Health has partnered with cancer detection and therapy medtech iCAD on the 5-year deal. Under the agreement, iCAD will work to validate and incorporate Google’s mammography AI — which Google has been building and testing for several years — into its products for use in clinical practices. Financial terms of the deal, which Google Health’s head of health AI called an “inflection point” in its mammography work, were not disclosed.

Amazon launches virtual doctor marketplace in newest healthcare play

Nov 15, 2022

(Healthcare Dive): Amazon has launched a message-based virtual health service called Amazon Clinic a little more than two months after the retail giant shuttered its primary care delivery business Amazon Care. Amazon Clinic, which is currently live and available 24/7 through Amazon’s website and mobile app, is a marketplace for telemedicine providers, connecting consumers with virtual doctors who can diagnose, treat and prescribe medication for a range of common health conditions like acne, birth control and migraines, the retail giant said. Amazon Clinic will be available in 32 states at launch, with plans to expand to additional states in the coming months, according to a Tuesday blog post announcing the news.

The Biggest Company in the World

Nov 11, 2022

(A16Z): We think the biggest company in the world will be a consumer health tech company. This may sound crazy to some, but why shouldn’t this be true? Four of the top five biggest companies in the world are consumer companies, and healthcare is one of the nation’s biggest industries. In fact, those massive consumer companies—Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon (GAFA, for short)—are all working to move into healthcare because they realize the size of the opportunity: a $4 trillion American industry that makes up 20% of US GDP (and growing). This is five times the size of the advertising industry globally, which makes up almost all of Google and Facebook’s revenue, and part of Apple and Amazon’s. But healthcare is complex and not GAFA’s center of gravity. They may make acquisitions on the margins, but we don’t expect any of them to win the race to own healthcare.

Single source of pay becoming less common for physicians

Nov 7, 2022

(AMA): The report—“Physician Compensation Methods: The Combination of Salary and Bonus Continues to Dominate through 2020 as Physicians are Increasingly Paid by Multiple Methods”—was written by AMA Senior Economist Apoorva Rama. She examined the different methods used to compensate physicians from 2012 to 2020, such as salary, personal productivity, practice financial performance, or bonus unrelated to personal productivity.

Results were based on data from the biennial Physician Practice Benchmark Survey, conducted by the AMA Division of Economic and Health Policy Research. Physicians in solo practice are excluded from survey questions on compensation methods as their compensation is directly related to practice financial performance, which itself is partly driven by productivity. The division conducts independent research to support AMA federal, state and private-sector advocacy.

“This shift away from compensating physicians by a single method and towards two or more methods was coupled with each compensation method on an individual basis becoming a smaller share of physicians’ income,” the report says.

Exclude race from medical school admissions and students, patients, and the entire health care system lose out

Nov 1, 2022

(STAT News): The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Monday in two cases that could eliminate race as a factor in university’s admissions processes. The precedent established in 2003, when the court ruled that race, along with other factors, could be given limited consideration in higher education admissions when necessary to achieve student body diversity, is now in jeopardy. Should the court overturn its earlier ruling, the implications would be felt broadly across all sectors of society — including the health care system.

From my perspective as chair-elect of the board of directors for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), a position informed by my role as dean of medical education at Georgetown University School of Medicine, the consideration of race as one of many elements in the admissions process is not only appropriate but essential. U.S. medical schools — and health care generally — thrive on the diversity of thought, experience, and perspective made possible by this holistic approach to admissions.

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