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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 1/18/24

January 18, 2024 Dr. Jayne 2 Comments

The Lown Institute has released its 2023 Shkreli Awards, highlighting “the worst in healthcare profiteering and dysfunction.” The selection panel includes clinicians, journalists, patient advocates, and health policy experts.

In case anyone doesn’t recognize the name, the award is named after so-called “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, who earned notoriety and scorn by purchasing the rights to manufacture a well-known antiparasitic medication and jacking up its price by 5,000%. Full descriptions along with the judges’ comments can be found on the Lown Institute website, but the winners are below. Given the nature of the activities, I can only imagine what was going on in those that didn’t make the cut.

  1. Columbia University interferes with patients filing sexual assault complaints against one of its physicians.
  2. Stunning CEO salaries at nonprofit hospitals (CommonSpirit Health is specifically called out, but they’re far from alone).
  3. Pharmaceutical companies claim that price negotiations for Medicare drugs are unconstitutional.
  4. Hospitals partner with private equity-backed companies to offer high-interest medical credit cards with rates up to 26%.
  5. Vascular specialist allowed to continue to practice despite discipline in numerous states and failing to be able to write the essay needed to pass an ethics course.
  6. GlaxoSmithKline hides evidence that its heartburn medication Zantac may cause cancer.
  7. Indiana cardiologist accused of implanting unnecessary cardiac stents, including 80+ stents in a single patient.
  8. Hospitals “dump” homeless patients who are unable to fully care for themselves.
  9. Device manufacturer Medtronic incentivizes surgeons to implant devices in patients that may not benefit, all in the name of education.
  10. Lehigh Valley Health – Cedar Crest Hospital threatens to medically deport a comatose patient receiving expensive care


From BlackBerry Forever, iOS Never: “Re: BlackBerry. I appreciated the picture of your old-school device. I also had the Torch and it was the best of both worlds – touch screen with a keyboard. Did you see the buzz about add-on keyboards at the Consumer Electronics Show?” Clicks Technology is offering the keyboard, which comes in either “Bumblebee yellow” or “London Sky,” which is decidedly grey. The accessory connects via the standard charging port and will start shipping on February 1. I haven’t met anyone who is remotely interested in buying one, so if you like the idea, feel free to weigh in. Personally, I loved the tactile BlackBerry keyboards and could type on them way faster than a touchscreen model. The roller ball mouse thing, not so much. There have to be others out there like me, so we’ll see if this results in an appreciable number of sales.

Another reader clued me in that BlackBerry is exhibiting at CES 2024, accompanied by a Monty Python-esque “I’m not dead yet” meme. Indeed, the company even has a website highlighting its participation, and it looks like it’s mostly tied to automotive technology. I have to admit I haven’t followed the company since my former employer killed off its BlackBerry server back in the day.


Other interesting items coming out of CES include the Withings BeamO multiscope device. Although it reminds me a bit of an early generation Wii remote, it’s designed to quickly produce vital signs data for use during non-office healthcare encounters. It can deliver temperature, oxygen saturation, heart rate, and electrocardiogram data that can be sent to healthcare providers using an app. Withings has an application in for FDA approval of certain features, such as detection of atrial fibrillation. The device is expected to hit the shelves in July and will retail for $250.

Speaking of cool devices, I see all kinds of wearables out on the trail and at the local YMCA. A recent Stat opinion piece calls for a “data diet” to help curb the growing obsession with data. I’m sure there’s a boom in sales during the early part of the year as people seek digital help tracking their progress towards various New Year’s resolutions and annual goals. The article confirms this, noting that fitness app downloads are more than a third higher in January than at other times. It also notes that the fitness tracking industry rakes in $45 billion annually and that there are 400 personalized nutrition companies out there. The article questions the role of fitness trackers in trying to curb the obesity epidemic and the increase in chronic diseases. It suggests that we’re tracking the wrong data, and that in order to harness technologies like AI to better use our data, we need higher-quality data in the first place. The author shares vignettes of several patients gaming their fitness trackers, one sitting in a meeting but waving his arm trying to clear an alert telling him to move. It will be interesting to see how the fitness tracking movement evolves and whether we start getting better data or just more mediocre data.


I’m always looking for interesting new companies and was excited to run across CareLuminate. Their premise is straightforward: if one understands how nurses feel about the care being delivered in their workplaces, one can better understand clinical quality and help reduce healthcare costs. CareLuminate can help those who are paying for healthcare (such as employers) steer their workers towards facilities with higher quality. The company’s founders have background in clinical outcomes and industry research, coming from the nursing world and from KLAS Research and specifically its Arch Collaborative. By interviewing nurses directly, the company generates independent and current data that they note hasn’t been “gamed” by health systems. Some of the measures captured in interviews and through available data include nurse perceptions of care safety, patient satisfaction, infection rates, and readmission rates. I’ll be watching them closely to see how they gain traction in the industry. They’re worth checking out.


Speaking of checking companies out, I was happy to book my first celebrity Booth Crawl for HIMSS24. Since I’ll be the only member of the HIStalk team in attendance at the show, I feel particularly responsible to capture the glitz, glamour, and exhaustion of the event. It’s my first time to schedule a booth crawl on the opening day of the exhibit hall when people are fresh and should be eager to chat.

What are your hopes for the HIMSS24 conference? Is there anything you’d recommend as can’t miss opportunities? Leave a comment or email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Really appreciate the shout-out for CareLuminate here! Thank you.
    We’re excited by the energy we see for this kind of practical, usable cost/quality data!

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