The Takeaways: Week 5 of 2022

Digital networks, healthcare takes, and a story about a sonic visionary (it's not as contradictory as it sounds).


Julia Angwin, Hello World/The Markup. A Kinder, Gentler Social Network (February 5, 2022)

[Michael Wood-Lewis, founder of the Vermont social network Front Porch Forum:] We host an online forum in every community in the state of Vermont, and we have had amazing traction levels. Many towns in Vermont have about 1,000 households, and our average is about 750 participants in our forums.

So at the basic level, what we’re trying to do is have people, instead of using Uber to get a ride to the airport or Yelp for restaurant reviews, go on their local forum and say, “Hey, neighbor, I need a ride to the airport” or whatever it is. Having all those simple exchanges about everyday stuff with clearly identified neighbors leads to an increase in social capital among neighbors.

If we can do this, then when trouble comes, we will be stronger. Studies on disaster response have shown that it’s the communities that have strong social cohesion—where people know each other and are used to working together—that they’re the ones who bounce back quickly. So the goal is to use this online electronic tool to bring people into more regular contact in real life.

Ted Gioia, The Honest Broker. The Magical & Musical Research of Hans Jenny, Creator of Cymatics (February 4, 2022)

But [Jenny's] most dramatic research focused on making sound visible to the human eye. He invented a new piece of scientific equipment, which he called a tonoscope, that allowed him to pursue these enigmatic transformations with a depth and precision no previous scientist had brought to the field. Under his guiding hand, not only sand and particles, but even fluids could be shown responding to music. In his laboratory, Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony revealed its capacity to reshape liquid into a delicate lace pattern, worthy of an artisan’s workshop. Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” demonstrated its power to create an extraordinary mosaic of byzantine intricacy.

Chas Roades and Lisa Bielamowicz, MD, Gist Healthcare. The Weekly Gist: February 4, 2022

The pandemic has made a long-term, lofty aspiration for many health systems—managing community health—an urgent priority, as an increasing number of facilities struggle to maintain sufficient staff in expensive acute care settings. While COVID will eventually recede, the larger challenge of recruiting, retaining, and paying for clinical talent may prove to be the factor that finally forces health systems to redesign their basic delivery and financial models around lower-cost, lower-acuity, community-based care.

Jan-Felix Schneider, Health Tech Stack. Health care is a team sport, but passing the baton often fails (December 7, 2021)

Hard to excerpt, worth reading in full.

Because referral management is ripe for disruption, let's have a look at a typical referral journey, what is broken at each step of the way, and who is currently trying to address these problems.

Olivia Webb, Acute Condition. Dr. B and the unbundling of patient data (June 10, 2021)

A vaccine sign-up form turns out to be a genius way to acquire a list of all the people with autoimmune conditions within certain zip codes, along with their age and other demographics. These, I’m sure, are extremely valuable lists for payors and pharmaceutical companies.


Emily F. Gorcenski. The Myth of Decentralization and Lies about Web 2.0 (January 7, 2022; updated January 8, 2022)

The problem is that by telling a lie about the intentions of Web 2.0 and promoting the myth of decentralization, web3 advocates are attempting a razzle-dazzle maneuver to distract from these very important matters. By making web2—even going so far as to renaming it—about centralization and web3 about decentralization, web3 advocates claim it is virtuous because it is starting out with better intentions.

This is a fallacy. One cannot compare the promises of web3 to the problems of web2. It would be more appropriate to compare the starting point of web3 to the starting point of web2. There are no guarantees that web3 will not repeat the same mistakes that web2 made, or that it doesn’t have the same vulnerabilites to exploitation prevalent in web2.

Casey Ross, STAT. How a decades-old database became a hugely profitable dossier on the health of 270 million Americans (February 1, 2022)

The implications of the data trade, and its privacy risks, become even harder to understand as ownership of patient information changes over time. MarketScan has been sold several times during its history — first from Medstat to Thomson Corp., which later combined with the media company Reuters, and then to a New York-based private equity firm named Veritas Capital. In June 2012, Veritas re-branded the company as Truven Health Analytics, and its executives promised to make the databases even bigger and more broadly sourced.

By 2015, thanks to its steady expansion by different owners, MarketScan held detailed medical data on more than 200 million patients nationwide from more than 8,000 clients. Its impressive size and scope made it an ideal target for technology companies with grand designs to disrupt the nation’s $3.5 trillion health care industry.

“This is going to be a goldmine of insights,” John Kelly, a senior vice president of cognitive solutions and research at IBM, told Forbes after announcing the deal [to acquire Truven].

His description underscored what MarketScan had become — a commodity to be traded among companies looking to monetize its sensitive medical data. IBM wanted to merge its contents with datasets of medical images and patient records obtained through other acquisitions. Watson, IBM promised, would use that data to give pharmaceutical companies a new way to discover drugs and help hospitals cut unnecessary costs while targeting patients in need of more care.

Bram Sable-Smith, Kaiser Health News. Faxes and Snail Mail: Will Pandemic-Era Flaws Unleash Improved Health Technology? (February 1, 2022)

Missouri’s safety-net technology woes are well documented. A 2019 McKinsey assessment of the state’s Medicaid program noted the system was made up of about 70 components, partially developed within a mainframe from 1979, that was “not positioned to meet both current and future needs.” In a 2020 report for the state, Department of Social Services staffers called the benefits enrollment process “siloed” and “built on workarounds,” while participants called it “dehumanizing.”

Noreen Whysel, Me2B Alliance. Consumer Perception of Legal Policies in Digital Technology (January 18, 2022)

  • People don’t understand that the Terms of Service is a contract
  • Consumers are aware of the existence of legal policies on connected technologies
  • People have a weak understanding of what the legal policies of digital technologies are or whom they protect
  • None of the interview participants were aware of the existence of tools they can use to evaluate legal policies
  • Half of the interview participants said that a score wouldn’t change their behavior