Health Business Blog

Health care business consultant and policy expert David E. Williams share his views

LinkedIn scam a.k.a. Revenge of the self-employed research associate

In late 2015 I received a lot of spam LinkedIn invitations, many from people who listed their positions as “Research Associate at Self-Employed.” It’s a weird title for a self-employed person.  As I wrote at the time (How many self-employed research associates does it take to change a light bulb?) I think it was some kind of phishing attempt. In particular, the aim seemed to be to build an impressive network and gain access to contact info and credentials. Maybe it was related to the 2016 election. The profiles were pretty bare and obviously not of real people, if you bothered to look. But I noticed that quite a few of my contacts were connected with these accounts.

I haven’t heard from any self-employed research associates in a while, but I got a message recently that reminded me of those days.

This one was a little more clever. It said, “We have done some truly path-breaking work in Healthcare using AI and Machine Learning which has resulted in significant savings and benefits for Healthcare Institutions. Would love to share more with you. Please let me know when we can talk.” The invitation came from Sonu Gandhi, listed as a “Manager” in Albany, NY.

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Screenshot 2019 04 18 07.31.07

This message is similar to legit ones I received, usually pitching story ideas for my blog. But something seemed a bit off.

LinkedIn gives two options in the email: View profile or Accept. I clicked “view profile” and saw that this is a nothing person –no photo, no current or former employer, no education, but a member of several healthcare related groups and someone with 237 connections, including with 8 of my connections.

Screenshot 2019 04 18 07.31.23
Screenshot 2019 04 18 07.31.23

Sonu, if you’re out there for real I’d love to talk. And in any case I have access to several self-employed Research Associates in search of a Manager.

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

You’ve come a long way baby! And thanks to Ovia, your mom’s employer knows all about it

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The Denver Post (Tracking your pregnancy on an app may be more public than you think) has published an interesting and disturbing article about the rise of Ovia, an app that collects detailed and personal data from pregnant women and those hoping to conceive. I’m not surprised that the business model is to provide data to employers about their workforce in order to save on medical costs and reduce time away from work. But I am a little surprised at how much data employees are willing to enter on topics like their sex life, color of cervical fluid, miscarriages and so on, while the app also track things like what medical conditions they looked up.

“Maybe I’m naive, but I thought of it as positive reinforcement: They’re trying to help me take care of myself,” said [Diana] Diller, 39, an event planner in Los Angeles for the video-game company Activision Blizzard. The decision to track her pregnancy had been made easier by the $1 a day in gift cards the company paid her to use the app: That’s “diaper and formula money,” she said.

As I remind people using “free” apps –or ones they are paid to use– you’re not the customer, you’re the product. There’s plenty written on this topic so I won’t bother to rehash it here, but it’s worth remembering that the data provided by Diller and others can be combined with tons of other data from their use of Google, Facebook, Waze, exercise trackers, and more to create incredibly detailed and personal profiles.

In 2008 I wrote a brief blog post called Baby formula in the mailbox. “Honey, is there something I should know?” I was puzzled to see that it still gets a lot of hits in 2019 and that readers are still commenting about their own experiences. Back then, an au pair who worked for us had received baby formula from Abbott Nutrition. Somehow, some marketer thought she was pregnant. It was kind of embarrassing and of course could be problematic for a family relationship or if the pregnancy had ended prematurely.

Online data gathering has come a long way in the past decade. If Abbott once guessed you were pregnant, imagine how much more they –or many others– knows about you now. Maybe the users of these apps aren’t naive, just fatalistic about the idea that everyone knows everything anyway, so why not just take the formula and diaper money and run?

In a few years, Diller’s child will probably find the Denver Post article or maybe even this blog post. If that person is you, I’d be interested to know how you feel about it.

#CareTalk March 2019: Gottlieb’s out. What’s next for FDA?

The latest edition of #CareTalk is out. CareCentrix CEO, John Driscoll and I explore the departure of FDA Director Scott Gottlieb and other pressing topics.

Here’s what we covered:

(0:28) Scott Gottlieb is out at FDA. Are you sad to see him go?

(2:00) Home health spending is projected to grow faster than any other category of healthcare over the coming years. Is that good or bad?

(4:00) Insulin prices are spiking and both Democrats and Republicans are up in arms. What’s happening?

(5:53) Lyft is talking about the social determinants of health. What?!

(8:47) What do you think about FDA approving ketamine nasal spray as a treatment for depression?

(9:10) What did we learn about healthcare from Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony?

(9:33) Medicare has a new app. Have you tried it?

(9:59) Did you hear about the $48,500 bill for a cat bite?

Subscribe to the #CareTalk Podcast
iTunes: https://apple.co/2DIDTcr
Google Play: https://bit.ly/2RobqMB

Interoperability in healthcare 2019: Podcast interview with Rhapsody

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Interoperability has a been a buzzword in healthcare for about a decade, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like we’ve gotten that far. In this podcast, Rhapsody’s EVP of Product & Strategy, Drew Ivan and I discuss interoperability: its past, present and future.

Here’s what we covered:

  • 0:20 What is interoperability anyway?
  • 2:50 Why do we hear about interoperability so much in healthcare? Is it an issues in other industries?
  • 5:11 How does interoperability in the US compare to the situation elsewhere?
  • 6:51 Does interoperability matter to patients?
  • 9:20 Has interoperability failed in the past? What new models are being tried?
  • 11:54 What’s the business model for interoperability?
  • 13:42 Are there any downsides? Does interoperability create any new problems?
  • 14:54 How will interoperability evolve in the coming year?

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Happy 14th birthday to the Health Business Blog

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Happy 14th!

My main job is president of Health Business Group, a boutique healthcare strategy consulting firm I founded in 2003. As a sideline, I write the Health Business Blog, where I provide a behind the scenes look at the business of healthcare, featuring my spin on healthcare topics in the news, interviews with entrepreneurs, and policy prescriptions.

The blog is turning 14 years old this month!  Continuing a tradition I established with birthdays one,  two,  three,  four,  five,  six,  seven,  eight,  nine,  ten,  eleventwelve, and thirteen I have picked out a favorite post from each month. Thanks for continuing to read the blog!

March 2018: Tufts Health Plan CEO Tom Croswell on value baed care (podcast)

Tufts Health Plan CEO Tom Croswell is a veteran of the health plan world. I sat down with him to discuss value based care, collaboration, diversity and how Tufts tries to set itself apart in a crowded market. Tufts is best known for serving Massachusetts but is also expanding into neighboring states. It has a joint venture in New Hampshire and had just announced its entry into Connecticut in partnership with Hartford HealthCare.

April 2018: Ten pharma policy topics in just one article!

Kaiser Health News is a non-profit news service that does a great job of exploring healthcare policy topics. Still I was impressed that one article (How a drugmaker turned the abortion pill into a rare-disease profit machinemanaged to directly and indirectly raise at least 10 important policy topics.

May 2018: Partners and Harvard Pilgrim aren’t really going to merge, are they?

The news was full of stories about merger discussions between Partners HealthCare and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. No one denied the reports, so we can assume there was some truth to the rumors. But why would these organizations contemplate a merger and how likely would it be to happen? I compared it to a scene from a Cheech & Chong movie.

June 2018: Boston Globe and Boston Herald quote David Williams on Harvard Pilgrim CEO departure

A month after Harvard was talking about merging with Partners, the company’s CEO was out. It had something to do with his behavior… Both the Globe and Herald wanted to hear what I had to say about departed CEO, Eric Schultz.

July 2018: Nurse triage lines 3.0. Podcast with AxisPoint Health

Nurse triage lines have gone through three phases of evolution. In phase 1 they were implemented to ‘check the box’  for member education, phase 2 brought “demand management” to keep patients out of the emergency room, and now in phase 3 health plans are creating a gateway to innovative programs and services.

I discussed these topics with a leading company in the field.

August 2018: John McCain. A healthcare legacy

We don’t normally think of Senator John McCain as a healthcare leader, and yet he played a significant role over the years in various policy matters. CareCentrix CEO, John Driscoll and I paid tribute in a short edition of #CareTalk.