Hacking third-party apps, Amazon’s lobbying strategy, & FDA’s next steps on AI

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Amazon’s health strategy in DC

As Amazon sets its sights on growing its digital pharmacy and health care businesses, the tech giant is making hires to influence health care policy, reports STAT Washington correspondent Rachel Cohrs. Already a lobbying powerhouse, the company disclosed earlier this year that it has 11 lobbyists working on health care issues. And it has more positions open for advocates focusing on federal health care policy, health devices and services, and state-level health policy. Leading the charge is Claire Winiarek, who recently joined Amazon as director of health policy after serving as a top policy official for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.


“Someone like Amazon, when they set out to hire four more health care lobbyists, that’s an indication of their priorities,” said Ivan Adler, a D.C.-based headhunter specializing in lobbying. “There’s no doubt that health care is a growth area for them.” Rachel has the full story.

Hack the aggregator


Cyberattacks don’t have to target individual hospitals to jeopardize the security of patient records. In a new report, hacker and cybersecurity analyst Alissa Knight was able to access more than 4 million patient and clinician records by exploiting vulnerabilities in third-party apps and APIs that tap into the country’s biggest EHR vendors. She found basic security flaws in the apps and APIs from data aggregators, which standardize medical codes and generally clean up records so they’re more usable. It’s a double whammy of data vulnerability: By putting records from multiple EHRs in one data lake with lackluster security, these systems also become a prime target. “Why go after the individual health care providers when I can just hack the aggregator and steal the data from them?” said Knight. Read more in Katie’s story.

How FDA can illuminate AI’s black box

The FDA should publicly disclose more data on the testing of AI products, require diversity in training and validation datasets, and carefully monitor products after they are put into use. Those were a few of the suggestions that arose during a daylong workshop hosted by the agency on the transparency of AI tools used in health care. While most participants agreed on the need to ensure devices that rely on AI are fair and demonstrably improve outcomes in the real world, there was considerable debate over how to achieve those goals. Casey has the full story.

HLTH kicks off in Boston

  • Former Merck CEO Ken Frazier took the stage in his newly minted role as head of “health assurance initiatives” at the VC firm General Catalyst.  “The reality of the world is I don’t know anybody who wants their health disrupted,” Frazier said. “People want to know that if, in fact, they’re going to be cared for by someone or through something, that they can trust it.” Read the full story from Mario and our colleague Matt Herper.
  • Doctor on Demand and Grand Rounds unveiled their combined company’s new name — Included Health — and detailed plans to help customers get hard-to-access medical services, such as psychological counseling and behavioral health. Matt got a download from CEO Owen Tripp.
  • UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest insurer, rolled out a health plan built around virtual care, promising more convenient care with no copays and 15 percent lower premiums. Mario has the full story.
  • The digital therapeutics company DarioHealth announced its next big product, a physical therapy product that aims to address musculoskeletal problems that commonly rack up costs for health plans and employers.

Let’s partner

  • Blue Shield of California and Google Cloudare teaming up to automate and simplify medical building. The companies said they will use machine learning to process claims in real time and immediately calculate out of pocket costs.
  • Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina are forming an artificial intelligence hub to build AI tools to improve public health, advise physicians, and cut costs. It is one of many such partnerships across the country.
  • PathAI has inked a deal with Roche to distribute its AI diagnostic tool through Roche’s enterprise software platform.  The partnership gives PathAI a more direct route to potential customers.
  • Garmin unveiled software that will allow people with diabetes who use Dexcom’s continuous glucose monitor to see their glucose levels and trends on Garmin’s smartwatch. Garmin is the first company to take advantage of an API that allows third-party platforms to hook up to Dexcom’s device.

Tapping new talent

  • Big Health hired Namisha Balagopalas senior product manager. She previously worked for Twitch and Hewlett Packard.
  • The remote patient monitoring company Veta Health tapped James Sutcliffeto be its new CEO. Sutcliffe most recently worked for the RPM company DaytoDay Health.
  • Headspace, fresh off its merger with Ginger, appointed cybersecurity expert Myrna Soto and Everly HealthCEO Julia Cheek to serve on its board of directors.

What we’re reading

Source: STAT