Happy 10th birthday to the Health Business Blog!

Happy 10th birthday to the Health Business Blog
Happy 10th birthday to the Health Business Blog

The Health Business Blog has turned 10 years old! Continuing a tradition I established with birthdays onetwothreefourfivesixseveneight and nine I have picked out a favorite post from each month. Thanks for continuing to read the blog!

March 2014: All 9 Candidates For Mass. Gov: Where Do They Stand on Health Care?

I did my part for democracy by persuading each of the nine candidates for Governor of Massachusetts to be interviewed by me about healthcare policy. We had some notable healthcare bigwigs in the race including (now Governor) Charlie Baker and CMS head Don Berwick.  I interviewed everyone, posted audio, transcripts and an e-book. WBUR wrote an article about my effort.

April 2014: Hooray for high-priced hepatitis treatment Sovaldi

I don’t mind that people are getting rich from a drug that can cure hepatitis C. In fact I’m glad there are incentives in American healthcare for breakthrough products. Our cost problem in the US is not due to expensive products that work, the problem is expensive products, procedures and services that don’t.

May 2014: Should you trust your doctor more than Wikipedia?

A BBC article found errors in 9 out of 10 Wikipedia entries for medical conditions, a story that got a lot of play at the time. But there were serious flaws in the study and the BBC headline was misleading. My advice? Find a good physician and develop a relationship with him or her. To understand your condition in depth use UpToDate (there are reasonably priced 7-day and 30-day subscriptions for patients) and read the peer-reviewed articles referenced there.

June 2014: Hospital Clowns meet the Boston Globe

The Hearts & Noses Hospital Clown Troupe, where I’m chairman of the board, is a great organization that provides professionally trained volunteer clowns to hospitalized children in Massachusetts, and trains other hospital clowns from around the US and the world.

The Boston Globe ran a big feature article about the troupe, which I thought was great!

July 2014: eVisits: The 30 year march?

When I first started working in healthcare I was told that innovations can take a long, long time to be adopted. Now I’m old enough to have experienced it for myself. Case in point, eVisits, which we worked on in 2001 and are just now creeping into the mainstream.

August 2014: The Medical Marijuana Mess

The thin veneer of “medical” marijuana has been stripped away in Colorado, where stores originally providing remedies for patients have been quick to plaster themselves with new signs touting recreational use for all adults. I posted my vacation photos and the implications for “medical” marijuana in my home state of Massachusetts.

September 2014: Apple Health App: A first taste

I tried out the new Health App when it came out. It’s pretty basic but has the potential to be really big as more apps are developed and HealthKit takes off. I will probably wait for the second generation of Apple Watch, but I’m also eager to see how the first adopters fare.

October 2014: Telehealth at Mercy Health: Podcast interview with CFO/EVP Strategy Shannon Sock

I sat down with Shannon to talk about Mercy’s 10-year journey in telehealth. The big, midwestern integrated delivery system has made telehealth a strategic priority since at least 2006. That commitment is ramping up further with the construction of a 120,000 square foot, $50 million virtual telehealth center, slated to open next year.

In this podcast interview Sock described Mercy’s telehealth approach and accomplishments as a first mover. He also touched on the challenges of getting his colleagues to approach telehealth as a strategic asset, the opportunity to diversify Mercy’s revenues by providing services to other systems, direct contracting with employers, and the exciting new possibilities of patient engagement arriving with Apple’s HealthKit and similar initiatives.

November 2014: The making of a moron

Are decision support tools turning doctors into idiots? They might, but if physicians are smart about it they will be able to use the new tools to leverage their skill sets and experience to great effect.

I spoke about the topic of automation recently with my business school section-mate Mike Maples, a “super angel” investor, as we contemplated whether our kids would be able to make a living in the brave new world. He suggested that there would be an increasingly stark divide between those who find ways to leverage technology to do bigger things and those who are displaced by technology.

Physicians and other highly-skilled professionals would do well to keep that thought in mind.

December 2014: In praise of FDA collaboration: the cardiac safety example

The Food and Drug Administration gets a lot of grief. Some think the FDA is too restrictive, keeping useful drugs and devices off the market and thus harming patients. Others complain that the agency is too lax, letting dangerous products get through. What many people don’t realize, however, is that FDA has established an excellent track record of collaboration with stakeholders that’s leading to better, faster development pathways.

I’m directly aware of FDA’s longstanding constructive, collaborative efforts in the areas of HIV and HCV through the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research. Those efforts are now expanding into liver fibrosis and beyond. Most recently, FDA has been a key participant in the Cardiac Safety Research Consortium. which is leading to better, faster, and less expensive ways to test drugs for cardiac safety issues.

January 2015: Do health plans have a future?

Not to be cynical but in the insurance business the best way to make money is to discourage risky people from becoming policyholders and to exclude from coverage anything that a policyholder is likely to file a claim for. Health plans are increasingly not allowed to act in this manner. Are there other ways they can add value and make a profit?

February 2015: Pfizer and Hospira: It’s not about generics

Despite what you’ve read elsewhere, Pfizer’s acquisition of Hospira is not about getting into the generic drug business. What Pfizer is really doing is returning to the strategy that led to its Lipitor heyday: making “me-too” versions of existing drugs and differentiating them through marketing backed up by clinical research. This is not about intensive competition on pricing.


Thank you dear readers for a wonderful decade of blogging! Stay tuned, I’m still going strong.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


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


March 2, 2015

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