Dear fellow digital health enthusiasts, 

The time of VC mega funds is not over (yet): Investment giant Blackstone joins the game ready to write USD 500mn checks. Great timing – WeWork is apparently looking for funding.

«Medical price roulette»: When you think you are insured, have surgery and then end up with a USD 600k bill. We’ve mentioned the lack of price transparency in health care in previous briefings. It’s an intentional abuse of patients by healthcare providers using strategic opacity and a quasi-monopoly position. Surprise bills are especially common if a patient is treated outside his (insurance covered) network, which is often a) not known to him b) in emergencies not possible to change. Not all providers are guilty though; 15% of hospitals are responsible for 80% of medical surprise bills. [≈ 6min]

Walmart opened up its first Walmart Health Center. The new center comes equipped with primary care, counseling, home care, eye and hearing exams, and dentistry. As mentioned in previous briefings, Walmart’s clinic concept launches at a time when other competitors are also expanding into the healthcare sector (CVS plans to open 1,500 HealthHub locations by the end of 2021). Walmart, with over 250mn customers per week, could be an interesting new entrant to the healthcare game. [≈ 4min]

A recent study published in the Biomedical Signal Processing and Control Journal, used Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) to detect congestive heart failure (CHF), a condition affecting 5mn people in the US alone. Their model used ECG data to detect heart failure based on just one heartbeat – with 100% accuracy. You can find the complete study here. [≈ 2min] 

The U.S. will spend USD 3mn to research CBD and its impact on pain. While marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, it is widely used in more than 30 states especially to treat chronic pain. The goal of the grants is to focus on CBD, which has the potential to offer pain relief without intoxication (in contrast to THC). «The science is lagging behind the public use and interest.» CBD could provide a good alternative to the strong opioids currently prescribed. [≈ 3min]

Closing as always with the quote of the week: «The U.S. healthcare system is a ‘national disgrace’ and should be replaced with a single-payer model. The whole damn system is going wrong. And the amount of unnecessary tests … is a national disgrace.» – Charlie Munger, VP of Berkshire Hathaway and right hand of Warren Buffet. 

If you come across an interesting study / article, please feel free to share with us. Highly appreciated.

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Have a productive week,Dominik & Min-Sung