Breaking–The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes, ch. 16: guilty on four charges of 11

Breaking. Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, was found guilty on four charges of wire fraud of the 11 charges brought by the prosecution. The guilty charges are, according to the reports in the New York Times and the Mercury News (paywalled, but keep refreshing), all related to wire fraud against investors. Counts six through eight are fraud against specific investors. The TTA articles relating to each are linked.

  1. Count one of conspiring to commit wire fraud against investors in Theranos between 2010 and 2015
  2. Count six of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $38,336,632 on or about Feb. 6, 2014. This was part of the $96 million PFM Health Sciences investment detailed in Chapter 9.
  3. Count seven of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $99,999,984 on or about Oct. 31, 2014. This was the DeVos family trust investment (RDV Corp.) in Chapter 5.
  4. Count eight of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $5,999,997 on or about Oct. 31, 2014, made by Daniel Mosley, a financial advisor to Henry Kissinger. Mr. Kissinger was an early investor and sat on the Theranos board (Chapter 6).

Each one of these charges carries time up to 20 years, but in Federal financial fraud cases, time is usually served concurrently. Judge Edward Davila of the US District Court, Northern District of California, will sentence at a later date to be announced.

It’s expected that Holmes will appeal. The issues of emotional and physical abuse, with Svengali-like control on her judgment, at the hands of Sunny Balwani were not enough for this jury to dismiss the key financial fraud charges. They clearly decided that Holmes was fully capable of engineering fraud, not just once but several times. But with the defense having seeded a backdrop of abuse, it may prove mitigating on appeal. (No, this Editor does not believe that Judge Davila will even refer to that during sentencing, having strictly advised the jury to not consider that during deliberations.)

Holmes was found not guilty on three fraud charges against patients and a fourth relating to advertising and marketing services to patients:

  • Count two of conspiring to commit wire fraud against patients who paid for Theranos’s blood testing services between 2013 and 2016
  • Count 10 of wire fraud in connection with a patient’s laboratory blood test results on or about May 11, 2015
  • Count 11 of wire fraud in connection with a patient’s laboratory blood test results on or about May 16, 2015. These two counts pertained to false results on HIV and prostate cancer.
  • Count 12 of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $1,126,661 on or about Aug. 3, 2015 to Horizon Media for advertising and marketing services for the Walgreens launch.

Given the above, was The Verge (Chapter 15) correct in stating that patient fraud, with the concomitant distress and potential for injury, is less important than financial fraud? Or was the case less well made? 

No verdict was reached on an additional three charges relating to wire transfers in December 2013 by other investors. These apparently were the charges that the jury deadlocked on earlier today: 

  • Count three of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $99,990 on or about Dec. 30, 2013. This was part of the investments made from 2006 to 2013 by private investor Alan Eisenman detailed in Chapter 8. Eisenman was a contentious and offputting witness, and will not have any satisfaction.
  • Count four of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $5,349,900 on or about Dec. 31, 2013. This was an investment by Black Diamond Ventures headed by Chris Lucas, nephew of Don Lucas who was on the Theranos board (Chapter 6).
  • Count five of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $4,875,000 on or about Dec. 31, 2013. This was an investment by the Hall Group.

One additional charge (nine according to the Times, 10 according to the Mercury News) was dropped. The Times article also provides a preview on the next trial–Sunny Balwani. Man of Mystery, or just a lucky sod who made a bundle of money from a dot.com?

The trial started on 8 September and concluded just before Christmas. Deliberations took about 50 hours. 

Also CNBC and ABC News. Let the opinion slinging begin!

Does the digital telecom switchover threaten the lives of the most remote old and disabled? (UK, updated)

The UK’s recent preview of winter (which officially starts today), Storm Arwen followed by Storm Barra, was yet another exposure of the downside of the digital telecom switchover. As our UK Readers know, BT Openreach has been aggressively proceeding with the full conversion to VOIP by 2025 and closing the ‘broadband gap’ in rural and remote areas. Connecting them to the internet and more feature-filled VOIP service, including telecare services, has major advantages, especially where mobile service is sketchy or blank. 

Here’s the problem–power outages. According to the Energy Networks Association, 1 million homes and businesses in the northeast of England and Scotland lost power for days after Storms Arwen and Barra in late November, making it the worst storm in 15 years. Many of these homes were in rural villages and isolated areas. Power lines in these areas go down frequently in lesser storms that don’t have 100 mph winds and snow. When the power goes out, the VOIP goes out unless you have backup power. Phone lines no longer have their own power, as in the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), equivalent to the US POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service or “copper”).

Add to this BT’s shortage of backup batteries. Digital phone systems in the US are usually installed with a backup battery, which isn’t cheap but sustains about 24 hours of basic voice service. Older models had special ‘brick’ batteries that you ordered from your phone provider that were around $50, newer models are powered by 12 D cell flashlight batteries that at least you can buy at the supermarket. Apparently, BT’s backup units are not only unavailable due to a global shortage, but also cost £85, a substantial charge to a pensioner–unless you live in a ‘not spot’ area without mobile service, in which case it’s free.

No power, no phone, no telecare, no PERS. But plenty of danger to thousands of older isolated adults, plus the frail, alone, and disabled. No connections to friends, carers, and emergency services for days, during a late fall snowstorm which made roads impassable. The storm may be early, but if this is a galloping start, there’s a whole winter to get through.

What about mobile service as a backup? Rural areas are, in bright sunny weather, plagued by spotty service. Supposedly nearly all areas in England have a minimum of 2G service sufficient to call 999. But when the cell phone masts go down, as they did in the storm, and the power to charge the phone is out, the backup is out of commission. One unnamed resident of Grizedale in the Lake District put a molto fino point on it. “It’s embarrassing that a supposedly world-leading country has such a shonky infrastructure. I had full 4G in the mountains of Transylvania a few years ago.”

Ofcom, the regulator, positioned the storms as exceptional. “Even in those circumstances, our rules are clear that there should be protections in place for people to call the emergency services” (999). Rules are one thing, reality another. Judge for yourself as we head into winter. BBC News Hat tip to Editor Emeritus Steve Hards.

Editor’s note for our US Readers: The situation is not that different for us. Nationally, POTS service is deteriorating and not being replaced by providers, forcing changes to VOIP. (I can personally speak to this–20 miles from NYC.) And if you believe that we’re well covered everywhere by cell phone service, you haven’t been to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, much less further west in the area the locals call ‘Pennsyltucky’. That area also skews older–18.2% of state residents are age 65+. The US also has a wide variety of extreme weather–ice storms, blizzards, ‘snow bombs’, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tropical storms.

(Breaking) Sold! Cerner to Oracle for $28.3 billion. And is Epic next?

That bombshell came in fast! From the rumor mill to reality, from last Thursday to today (Monday), Oracle and Cerner announced their deal today at 9.37am ET. It is a bracing all-cash deal at $95/share plus debt assumption totaling $28.3 billion, expected to be immediately accretive to Oracle’s earnings. Closing is anticipated sometime in 2022. It is subject to considerable regulatory (SEC and likely DOJ) and shareholder approvals. It’s Oracle’s largest deal ever, but so far their share price is not appreciative of the big move.

According to the Oracle release, Cerner and its EHR plus related systems will be organized as a dedicated Industry Business Unit within Oracle. No transition information was included, although towards the end it’s stated that “Oracle intends to maintain and grow Cerner’s community presence, including in the Kansas City area, while utilizing Oracle’s global footprint to reach new geographies faster.”

Both the Oracle and Cerner releases (headlining their home page in gigantic type) are written totally from Oracle’s POV–no shilly-shallying about how Cerner will guide them into the healthcare arena or a meeting of like companies, et al. It’s all about how Oracle will transform healthcare.

Changes will be coming to Cerner. Between the lines, they are not painted in the best light. From the Mike Cecelia (EVP, Vertical Industries) quote, “Oracle’s Autonomous Database, low-code development tools, and Voice Digital Assistant user interface enables us to rapidly modernize Cerner’s systems and move them to our Gen2 Cloud. This can be done very quickly because Cerner’s largest business and most important clinical system already runs on the Oracle Database. No change required there. What will change is the user interface. (Ed. emphasis) We will make Cerner’s systems much easier to learn and use by making Oracle’s hands-free Voice Digital Assistant the primary interface to Cerner’s clinical systems. This will allow medical professionals to spend less time typing on computer keyboards and more time caring for patients.”

There is also no mention of Cerner’s challenges with the VA. What are the implications with the Cerner implementations there and with DOD?

Do anticipate much industry speculation on David Feinberg, MD, who only this fall joined Cerner as CEO, and his role in this. The most logical is that he’ll shepherd the sale till the close and exit stage left, well-rewarded, with his future (only 59) still ahead, unless Oracle sees a role for him. In its way, it broke Cerner out of a corner that they were painted into with EHRs. At the end of the day, will there be a Cerner?

And what about Epic? A more complex picture, as Epic Systems is wholly private, on a roll, and dominated by Judy Feinberg, the founder and CEO. However, she is 78, and both personal and corporate considerations on future planning must loom large. What would Epic be worth to an acquirer? And who would it be? Amazon? IBM? (a terrible fit after the Watson Health debacle), Salesforce? Microsoft? Hmmmmm…. CNBCTechCrunch, HealthcareITNews   Our earlier coverage here.

Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes closes, ch. 15: she believed! in the technology!

The defense returned to their closing arguments on Friday. According to lead defense attorney Kevin Downey, not only did Holmes appoint a stellar board, but also the evidence showed that she believed intensely in the Theranos technology changing the world.

  • Holmes stayed till the end trying to save the company–because she believed in improving healthcare
  • She continued to improve the company and the technology, but after all that she didn’t realize…
  • …that the labs had problems until March 2016, when her very last lab director, Kingshuk Das, MD, invalidated 60,000 lab tests made on Theranos labs in 2014-2015.
    • This happened only after CMS sent a deficiency report notice to Dr. Das’ predecessor with the subject line  “CONDITION LEVEL DEFICIENCIES – IMMEDIATE JEOPARDY.” And that lab directors and techs had already told Holmes about problems with the Edison labs.
  • The proof of her sincerity? If she committed fraud, she would have sold her stock while it still had value, and jumped ship like a scared rat!

Interestingly, Downey made no mention of Sunny Balwani, except that Holmes fired him in 2016. No mention of all the time spent in her testimony depicting Balwani as a mentally and physically abusive Svengali, which led Holmes-as-Trilby to not be in control of herself as CEO, even after he departed.

The prosecution returned for rebuttals. John Bostic countered the defense claim of Holmes’ belief with “the disease that plagued Theranos wasn’t a lack of effort, it was a lack of honesty.” “We see a CEO of a company who was so desperate for the company to succeed, so afraid of failure, that she was willing to do anything.” Bostic also reminded the jury that they needed to put Holmes’ claims of emotional abuse by Balwani aside since there was “no evidence connecting the allegations of abuse with the actual charged conduct.” 

Judge Edward Davila, in winding up 14 weeks of trial, then charged the jury to avoid consideration of or speculation on the abuse, and to disregard both public opinion and Holmes’ place in society. They could consider whether Holmes had a “good faith belief” in the truth of her statements. The jury will return Monday morning to start deliberations. The fraud charges include conspiracy between Holmes and Balwani against patients and investors. Two more charges are related to patients receiving erroneous test results on HIV infection and prostate cancer. One is on fraudulent marketing and advertising. Six more charges are about investor fraud. 

AP, Mercury News (paywall–refresh to read)

Because it’s the weekend, your Editor will include two extra articles. The Verge article reads something like a screed against our legal system valuing money fraud over patient medical fraud. The NY Times article is on the latest Holmes makeover. During the trial, she changed from hard-edged, black turtleneck, red-lipsticked Lady Steve Jobs to suburban-junior-manager-working mom in off the rack wrinkled skirts, peachy pink lip color with curled but messy hair, carrying an inexpensive baby bag. All calculated by her defense to create an illusion of innocence and, this Editor would add, incapability of any dastardly acts, such as financial and medical fraud.

To be continued…

TTA’s earlier coverage: Chapter 14, Chapter 13Chapter 12Chapter 11Chapter 10, (10-13 recap the Holmes testimony); Chapter 9Chapter 8Chapter 7Chapter 6Chapter 5Chapter 4 (w/comment from Malcolm Fisk)Chapter 3Chapter 2Chapter 1

Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes closes, ch. 14: was it fraud over business failure–or building a company, not a criminal enterprise?

The flat spin starts as the trial winds up. On Thursday, the prosecution presented its closing argument to the jury, and the defense began its summary which will finish on Friday.

The key prosecution points made by Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Schenk were:

  • Elizabeth Holmes’ decisions were all hers. She first defrauded investors, then deceived patients.
  • “She chose fraud over business failure. She chose to be dishonest with investors and with patients.”
  • Elizabeth Holmes was not a young, naive CEO. She had headed Theranos for nearly a decade. But it was ‘a house of cards.’
  • A decision about Sunny Balwani’s abuse is not pertinent to the case and does not have to be made to reach a verdict. 
  • That has to be made on whether this was deliberate investor and patient fraud.“Ms. Holmes knew these honest statements would not have led to any revenue,” Schenk said. “She chose a different path.”

Mr. Schenk reviewed the testimony of all 29 witnesses and statements made by Holmes herself, with the specific aim of refuting every defense point made about her not being aware that the technology didn’t work, or that she was not in charge of the marketing, advertising, business development, partnerships, and finances. He put a very fine and obvious point on it with a chart for the jury entitled “Knowledge of falsity,” which listed her false statements alongside exhibits.

Enter the defense, represented by Kevin Downey. He started by telling the jurors that they had a high burden of proof in finding Holmes guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”and that crucial information was left out of the government’s case. It was ‘incomplete’ and that their opinion would change with his review of the evidence. Holmes acted ‘in good faith’. In that review, Downey provided illustrations of 11 successful partnerships Theranos had with drug companies. As to the board, he pointed out that they were not cronies who one would expect in a fraudulent enterprise; “She appointed these people, an incredibly illustrious group of people.”

The defense continues on Friday. The jury will be given instructions after the defense concludes, and it’s expected they will have over the holidays to deliberate. MercuryNews (paywalled but refresh repeatedly to view), CNBC, The Guardian

To be continued….

TTA’s earlier coverage: Chapter 13, Chapter 12Chapter 11Chapter 10, (10-13 recap the Holmes testimony); Chapter 9Chapter 8Chapter 7Chapter 6Chapter 5Chapter 4 (w/comment from Malcolm Fisk)Chapter 3Chapter 2Chapter 1

Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes, ch. 13: a crescendo of ‘I don’t knows’ and ‘I don’t remembers’…and the defense rests! (updated)

Elizabeth Holmes returned to the stand in her own defense today, continuing with cross-examination by the prosecution’s Robert Leach. From the coverage published so far of six hours of questioning, Holmes has done everything to deny key statements she made multiple times to writers and investors, just short of ‘taking the Fifth’ (Amendment, which is a Constitutional guard against self-incrimination). 

Starting with the now-infamous 2014 Fortune cover story authored by Roger Parloff, Holmes admitted to Leach that the claim of 200 tests using the equally infamous nanotainers was incorrect, but used what marketers call ‘weasel words’: “I believe that now.” Did she not believe that then? She then proceeded not to remember that she forwarded the article via email to investors on 12 June 2014. “I think I could have handled those communications differently.” 

More not knowing or remembering. Were Theranos labs being used on military medevacs, as witnesses from Walgreens and Safeway, among others, have testified? Was Walgreens told of difficulties with the Theranos labs? Did or didn’t she dismiss concerns raised by Erika Cheung and Tyler Shultz to John Carreyrou of the WSJ as coming from disgruntled employees? Did she present a 2015 revenue projection of nearly $1 billion to investors, especially as the internal estimate was much lower and there were no contracts with pharma companies? Did she listen to her lab directors about problems with the tests?

But regrets, she had a few. The WSJ investigation, for instance. And slapping pharma company logos on Theranos reports.

It all comes down to who the jury believes. The prosecution either will close today or tomorrow (Wednesday). The defense will return to wrap up, either with Holmes or with expert witnesses such as Mindy Mechanic and, possibly, others. The defense will return to the 3 Ds–diffusion, deflection, and diminished capacity. The luridly resonant theme of Sunny Balwani as an abusive Svengali, which led her to be not in control of herself even after he departed, will be the coda. The Guardian, CNBC

Wednesday Update. Boy, was your Editor wrong. The defense rested today (Wednesday).

  • Dr. Mindy Mechanic, the defense’ expert on relationship violence, will not be testifying about the nature of the Balwani-Holmes relationship. By not calling Dr. Mechanic, the prosecution cannot call their psychiatrists who also spoke with the defendants. For his part, Balwani has consistently defended himself from these charges of relationship abuse. The prosecution is also seeking to strike Holmes’ testimony of being sexually assaulted while a freshman at Stanford as now being irrelevant to the case, but it is hard for a jury to unhear it.
  • Holmes was, of course, the star witness in her own defense, joined in minor roles by paralegal Trent Middleton from Williams & Connolly, Holmes’ law firm, who summarized evidence in the case, then former Theranos board member Fabrizio Bonanni, who testified that Holmes attempted to remedy Theranos’ problems–but only after it came under regulatory scrutiny, which was late in the game. He had been offered the COO position but declined as ‘too old for that’.
  • Holmes returned in her final testimony to Balwani. Sunny, she said, was her most important advisor though she was, admittedly, the decision-maker. He was volatile. She “tried not to ignite” Balwani in emails and frequent texts. “Sunny would often blow off steam or vent through text,” Holmes said. “I was trying to be supportive.”
  • Returning to tugging on the heartstrings of the four women on the jury, she stated that breaking up with him was a ‘process’. He’d just show up at places she would go, like church and The Dish near Stanford. 
  • Holmes explicitly denied ever trying to mislead investors, Her own summary was restating her original ‘healthcare vision’ and the impact the company would make on healthcare.

Summaries by the prosecution and defense will be next up. Mercury News (partial paywall), CNBC

To be continued…

TTA’s earlier coverage: Chapter 12, Chapter 11Chapter 10Chapter 9Chapter 8Chapter 7Chapter 6Chapter 5Chapter 4 (w/comment from Malcolm Fisk)Chapter 3Chapter 2Chapter 1

News and deal roundup: Best Buy’s $400M for Current, VA’s Cerner restart 2022, CVS-Microsoft product deal, and Athenahealth (finally) sold for $17B

Whew! Best Buy revealed on its quarterly earnings call that they paid $400 million for Edinburgh/Boston-based RPM developer Current Health [TTA 13 Oct]. It’s near the end of the call transcript published on the Motley Fool. There will be no impact on their financial performance this year and will have a slightly negative impact on the Q4 non-GAAP operating income. Hat tip to HISTalk

Also today in HISTalk is a nifty summary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Cerner implementation timing and restaffing. There’s a graphic on the 2022-23 (FY 2022-24) rollout plus the new organization. VA has appointed a new Program Executive Director, Terry Adirim, MD, MPH, MBA, moving from Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, and established a new EHR Integration Council. VA release. VA also published a 10 page analysis on what went wrong with the initial tests and lessons learned, such as creating an EHR ‘sandbox’ for clinician training.

CVS Health and Microsoft continue with a new partnership, this time for digital health products. The five-year deal will include development in two areas: personalizing health recommendations that direct consumers to when and where they need a CVS, and operationally to leverage technology and machine learning for automation to reduce waste. Microsoft release, Healthcare Dive, HealthcareFinanceNews

And in the biggest non-surprise of the past few days, Athenahealth’s (or as they prefer, athenahealth) sale closed before the end of the year in a deal valued at $17 billion. The buyers were, as expected [TTA 19 Nov], Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman, along with Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. The 24 year-old Athenahealth, one of the EHR pioneers, was acquired by Elliot Investment Management’s PE arm Veritas and Evergreen Coast Capital in 2019 for about $5.7 billion. Its base is down to about 140,000 ambulatory care providers, having exited the small hospital market some time back. In the EHR market dominated by Epic and Cerner, surely Veritas and Evergreen are relieved to be at least getting some cash back. But there’s Misery Sharing, as they are both retaining a minority investment. (A small hint from a marketer–never lower-case the first letter in any part of your name. You make yourself unimportant and it hasn’t been ‘modern’ for a loooong time. It wasn’t lucky for British Airways, either. Perhaps the new majority owners will get this.)  Healthcare Dive, Business Wire

Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes, ch. 12: all bucks stop with the CEO (updated)

Tuesday was the last day this week of Elizabeth Holmes’ cross-examination by Federal prosecutors. Despite Monday’s excursion by the defense into how emotional and physical abuse by her live-in partner and corporate president could have warped her business judgment (a ‘me-too’ variation on the infamous Twinkie Defense relating to diminished capacity), and perhaps concealed from her the depth of Theranos’ problems, the cross-examination returned to the essentials. Who was the boss? Assistant US Attorney Robert Leach drew from her this: “Ultimately all roads led to the CEO?” “Yes,” she replied. “The buck stops with you.“ “I felt that.” 

The prosecution was highly effective in drawing out of her how Holmes controlled the company, and despite her claims of not knowing its finances, she knew what to say to round up funding. This countered the emotional drama of the prior day around ‘Svengali’ Balwani’s abuse and controlling actions. Holmes confirmed that she was the New Elizabeth in her hands-on role in altering pharma company reports, marketing materials, investor presentations, knowing their financials–and trying to kill unfavorable stories:

  • She added logos to Theranos’ pharma reports about partnerships with Pfizer and Schering-Plough to make it appear that the documents came from them. Add to these an altered analysis that came from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), where Holmes admitted adding a logo but couldn’t recall deleting the conclusion “finger prick/blood draw procedure was difficult (needed larger lancet and better syringe system).”
  • She hired lawyers to review the Theranos website for claims at the time of the Walgreens launch in 2013. The language drew quite the critical eye for its language in their report to her. Our Readers will recognize these walk-backs on superiority claims: replacing “highest quality” with “high quality,” “highest levels of accuracy” with “high levels of accuracy,” and “more precise” to “precise.” Claims made needed to be substantiated. It’s not clear from the articles whether these were made.
  • Where walk-backs on these claims were most certainly not made were the investor presentations, including not disclosing that most testing was done on third-party machines, leaving the impression that Theranos labs were capable of running 1,000 tests.
  • Texts between Balwani and Holmes confirmed she knew that Theranos was in critical financial shape throughout 2013, burning through funding like tinder. 2014 was ‘fake till you make it’ time with sunny (sic) revenue projections–convincing to PFM Management and the DeVos family office, kicking in funds totaling close to $200 million, and then a cascade of funds following them. All of whom should have known better, admittedly.

In 2015, Holmes went directly to one of her investors, Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corporation and owner of the Wall Street Journal, to have John Carreyrou’s investigative reports killed. To Murdoch’s great credit, not only did the stories run, but also Carreyrou was legally defended against the mad-dog attorneys of Boies Schiller snapping at his heels. Boies Schiller also harassed and tracked former employees-turned-whistleblowers Erika Cheung and Tyler Shultz. Holmes also approved hiring the killer ‘oppo’ research of Fusion GPS. The latter became infamous a year later in sourcing and promoting now-debunked ‘evidence’ of Russian ties to then-candidate Donald Trump.

To counter the rising tide of negative news, Holmes went on CNBC’s ‘Mad Money’, hosted by, in this Editor’s opinion, the ever-credulous, often unhinged, and in recent years de trop Jim Cramer, and bald-face lied that “Every test we run on our laboratory can run on our proprietary devices.”–when only 12 did, not even the 15 Carreyrou documented.

It isn’t known yet whether Holmes will return to the stand next week for more cross-examination or a rebuttal by the defense. What is most likely is that the defense will continue with the themes of diffusion and deflection, creating cognitive dissonance in the jurors’ minds that while Holmes acted in control and committed fraudulent acts, Balwani had so thoroughly emotionally abused her that she was not in control of herself even after he departed. Look for expert testimony from Mindy Mechanic, an expert on intimate partner violence and abuse, to show that words of ‘love’ in 500-odd texts isn’t love at all. (Cue ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’)

The Verge, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Ars Technica

Updated: Theranos junkies (Judge Davila’s pronunciation of which is the subject of an entire Mercury News article) may want to follow John Carreyrou’s podcast, epically titled Bad Blood: The Final Chapter. He’s up to 11 episodes and close to 11 hours, so if you think your Editor is focused on this…it’s a deep dive indeed from the reporter who found that Theranos should have been spelled with an F for Fake. The link here is to the ThreeUncannyFour player, but Sony Media has made it available on other podcast platforms such as Spotify.

To be continued…

TTA’s earlier coverage: Chapter 11, Chapter 10Chapter 9Chapter 8Chapter 7Chapter 6Chapter 5Chapter 4 (w/comment from Malcolm Fisk)Chapter 3Chapter 2Chapter 1

 

Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes, ch. 11: Holmes’ widening gyre of diffusion of blame–and abuse

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats 

Elizabeth Holmes’ defense continues its strategy of deflection, diffusion of blame, and now psychological abuse. Ms. Holmes and her defense hit its stride today with Holmes recounting, in this lurid Mercury News headline, “Theranos president Balwani forced sex on Holmes, she testifies” (PDF attached if paywalled). This is far more interesting and clickbaitable than, say, her fan dance around regretting tacking on Pfizer and Schering-Plough logos on falsified reports, or denying that she ever said to investors, repeatedly, that the Theranos labs were being used by the US military in medevacs and in the field. The jury, ground down to numbness by the prosecution’s mile-high-pile of false documents and claims, surely woke up with Holmes’ upset and tears on the stand.

It started with her meeting Sunny Balwani on a trip to China when she was 18 (and he was 38), entering and then departing Stanford because she had been raped, compensating by dedicating herself to developing her high school idea on blood testing, and moving in with him. There was more than a bit of Svengali dynamic here, with her quoting Balwani’s rough talk of transforming her into ‘the new Elizabeth’ who’d be savvy about business and successful, versus “I didn’t know what I was doing in business, that my convictions were wrong, that he was astonished at my mediocrity and that if I followed my instincts I was going to fail, and I needed to kill the person who I was in order to be what he called the new Elizabeth”. She needed to work seven days a week, eat prescribed crunchy vegetables and grains (reading like a trendy SF restaurant menu), and see her family less. He would guide her and tell her what to do.

Holmes looked up to Balwani as a successful entrepreneur; he had joined a reverse auction startup called CommerceBid, eventually becoming president, and cashed out with $40 million as part of its $200 million sale to Commerce One in 2002. Between that and Theranos a few years later, however, Balwani left nary a shadow on Silicon Valley. At Theranos, Holmes became the public founder/face and Balwani the behind-the-scenes business planner–plus a bare knucks ‘enforcer’ on the daily life of the company, according to John Carreyrou. Business Insider

The rest of the story is about Balwani’s getting rough with her when she ‘displeased’ him, rough enough to be hurt, swollen, and not able to get up, in her account from a 2015 incident. She moved out the following year and he left the company in May 2016. Not all Pygmalion stories end well and all too often, they end like this.  

Yet the prosecution has provided another pile–of texts between Holmes and Balwani which, in between the mundane, are effusive in pronouncements of eternal love and support. These continued after his departure. Business Insider and full texts here

The defense has its own pile of deflection going, with the aim of creating doubt that Holmes was really at the center of the fraud, and more of a pawn, in Holmes’ own words:

  • Balwani was in charge of the financial projections and operations. Holmes testified that Balwani’s financial modeling produced discrepancies in revenue projections in 2014 and 2015. The Walgreens relationship also cratered at that time. This reinforces the defense opening back in September that relying on Balwani as president was one of her mistakes.
  • Validation? Adam Rosendorff, a former lab director, was less than competent [TTA 6 Oct]
  • Not disclosing about using third-party devices? A ‘trade secret’ recommended by legal counsel.
  • And the marketing/PR claim about Theranos using only ‘a single drop of blood’? (And all that ‘passionate intensity’ Holmes exhibited at investor conferences and interviews?) Blame TBWA/Chiat/Day, the ad agency! And Patrick O’Neill, who went from executive creative director there to creative director of Theranos and prepped her for the press including her 2014 TED speech. (Take a trip back and watch a few Theranos spots, courtesy of Refinery29. High on image, low on reality.)

Diffusion of responsibility is common in fraud cases. Wired quoted David Alan Sklansky, a professor of criminal law at Stanford. “It’s probably the most common kind of defense mounted in cases involving allegations of large-scale financial fraud,” he says. “Whether it works depends on how credible it seems to the jury.”

The hazard is that it makes Holmes appear incompetent, but incompetence beats 11 counts and 20 years in Club Fed.

What is the jury to believe about her competence? From the Mercury News again: “Asked by Downey whether Balwani ever forced her to make statements to investors or journalists that the prosecution has focused on, or whether he controlled her interactions with board members or executives from companies Theranos sought to work with, she said no. Asked what impact her relationship with Balwani had on her work, she responded, “I don’t know. He impacted everything about who I was, and I don’t fully understand that.” Holmes made statements on her own, frequently and over many years. She stated she wasn’t controlled by Balwani when it came to the board or business partnerships–and continued running the company after his departure and attempting to fix a myriad of problems. But what will the jury take away from this day? This, or Sunny getting blue on her?

Also Fortune 23 Nov and 25 Nov

To be continued…

TTA’s earlier coverage: Chapter 10, Chapter 9Chapter 8Chapter 7Chapter 6Chapter 5Chapter 4 (w/comment from Malcolm Fisk)Chapter 3Chapter 2Chapter 1

Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes, ch. 10: Holmes testifies about the salad days of Theranos, setting up cognitive dissonance

Setting up a defense of cognitive dissonance. Today, in a brief appearance in Federal District Court in San Jose, Elizabeth Holmes returned to the stand to testify in her defense after a start last Friday. Her attorney Kevin Downey walked her through Theranos’ salad days, when the labs were numbered 1.0, cartridges stuck together, and the drug company studies were preliminary. Returning to her deep voice according to reports, she recalled Theranos’ Completed Successes, circa 2009, as many, and the performance as “really good.”

But 2009 was before the fraud with investors really got going. The falsifying of reports from Pfizer and Schering-Plough, for instance, was later. But every single drug company approached for the preliminary studies in those early days, including AstraZeneca at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital, never followed through with Theranos for more, such as a clinical trial or advanced study. Whether Holmes knew from an employee that Constance Cullen of Schering-Plough was less than enthusiastic about Theranos and found Holmes ‘cagey’ is beside the point, when the company later forged the Schering-Plough logo on a report to make it look as if Schering found Theranos’ labs acceptable. Downey took some care with Holmes not to introduce the later forgeries. Yet she was nothing if not persistent with other companies. Holmes pursued a partnership with Pfizer as late as 2015, in conjunction with Walgreens’ Theranos locations as clinical trial sites. 

She also testified that the series 4 lab could run any test, despite testimony from her last lab director Kingshun Das, MD that the series 3 could run perhaps a dozen at best and not reliably, leading him to void all tests made in 2014 and 2015. Earlier testimony stated that the series 4 never ran tests on patients.

Holmes’ testimony will continue tomorrow. Then the courts will be in recess for the Thanksgiving holiday until the 29th, which is when the prosecution will have its turn to cross-examine.

“Trying your hardest and coming up short is not a crime,” Lance Wade, another of Holmes’ many attorneys, said during opening arguments. But Holmes has already admitted to a repeated fraudulent claim of legitimacy–having the Department of Defense as a customer where the labs were on medevacs and the battlefield. But if the defense can introduce enough reasonable doubt, also known as cognitive dissonance or plain confusion, about Holmes and her ‘long con’ in the minds of the jury–that she was an entrepreneur with a dream just ‘trying harder’ and she didn’t know or mean to defraud investors as the prosecution claims but caught up in pursuing her noble aims–and add to that mind control by Sunny Balwani, Holmes does not have to be innocent to, as they say downtown, skate. CNBC, The Verge, FT, Mercury News (paywalled)

TTA’s earlier coverage: Chapter 9, Chapter 8Chapter 7Chapter 6Chapter 5Chapter 4 (w/comment from Malcolm Fisk)Chapter 3Chapter 2Chapter 1

News and deal roundup: Amazon Care lands Hilton, Lightbeam buys CareSignal RPM; aptihealth’s $50M, MedArrive’s $25M, Ribbon Health’s $43.5M

Amazon Care nabs a big one in Hilton Hotels (US). Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. will now offer Amazon Care to its US employees on a corporate health plan starting in 2022.  Text chats will be free, with virtual or home visits with providers available for a small fee. Availability will depend on where the employee is. Care Medical will provide national virtual visits, while house calls are in limited metro areas: greater Seattle and the Washington-Baltimore metro area at present, with expansion plans to Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Boston. Hilton is only the second company (after Precor) disclosed by Amazon. At the end of 2020, Hilton had 141,000 employees, but that includes worldwide properties so the US number remains in Amazon style–opaque. Amazon’s Kristen Helton announced it at Reuters Total Health on Monday. FierceHealthcare

Lightbeam Health buys CareSignal. Lightbeam, a population health analytics and management platform, closed its acquisition of CareSignal, a ‘deviceless’ remote patient monitoring (RPM) system that uses phones for patient reporting via SMS and (hold your beer or wine!) interactive voice response (IVR). CareSignal adds direct RPM reporting data for chronic conditions, behavioral health, social determinants of health, maternal health, and additional monitoring to the Lightbeam platform used by ACOs, payers, provider groups, health systems, and other healthcare organizations. Financial and organizational terms were not disclosed. Lightbeam’s backers are Hearst Health Ventures and 7wire Ventures through a Series A and undisclosed venture round five years ago (!), with CareSignal barely out of seed with $7.5 million invested. Release

And Series A and B raises continue… 

Behavioral health tech continues to attract substantial investment. Boston-based aptihealth’s (not a typo) $50 million Series B will be expanding its clinical science, technology, and services for higher acuity behavioral health conditions. Funding was from Takeda Digital Ventures, Pivotal Life Sciences, Vista Credit Partners, Olive Tree Ventures, Claritas Capital, and What If Ventures for total funding of $65 million. aptihealth coordinates patient access to care teams from any point of care. The company has signed 27 health plans, health systems, and physician practice customers to date. Release

MedArrive’s $25 million Series A continues home care’s hot streak. Section 32 led the round with participation from new investors, 7wireVentures and Leaps by Bayer, and existing investors Define Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, and Redesign Health. MedArrive connects telehealth from payers and providers to a network of EMTs, paramedics, and other skilled healthcare workers for hands-on care. The New York-based company currently operates in California, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Texas, partnering with SCAN Health Plan, Clover Health, Bright HealthCare, Molina Healthcare as well as ACOs and government entities such as the LA Department of Health. Release, FierceHealthcare  Hat tip to HISTalk for this and aptihealth

Ribbon Health’s Series B funding of $43.5 million will be used to further develop team expansion and technology investments around their API layer, using data on doctors, insurance plans, costs, and quality of care for predictive care decisions. The raise was led by General Catalyst, with participation from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), BoxGroup, Rock Health, and Sachin Jain. Since 2016, the company has raised $53.8 million. Release, FierceHealthcare

Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes, ch. 9: the cold $96 million (updated 19 Nov)

On which may well hang how many years Elizabeth Holmes spends in prison. Yesterday’s testimony by Brian Grossman, chief investment officer at PFM Health Sciences, may be the prosecution coup de grace in drawing a picture in bold colors, no pale pastels, of deliberate deception and fraud.

Previous testimony spun tales of family offices and highly wealthy individuals such as Rupert Murdoch (and not so wealthy such as Alan Eisenman) being easily lulled by the Social Network spinning. They were gulled by the whiz-bang technology–Elizabeth Holmes’ and Sunny Balwani’s nanotainers, miniature Edison labs–as well as their fake claims of Theranos labs on Army medevacs and false letters from multiple international pharmaceutical manufacturers vetting their technology. Safeway and Walgreens executives had a more complicated tap dance, coming on board at not much past the idea stage, and staying in through a combination of Wanting To Believe, Competitive Embarrassment, and Heads Wanting To Stay In Place at having to write off hundreds of millions of dollars in public companies. 

Mr. Grossman in fact was and is the managing and founding partner, as well as CIO, of PFM. It’s located not on Sand Road but in (relatively) sober San Francisco. Founded in 2004, PFM specializes in early-stage and diversity health-focused investment, and currently manages over $2 billion in public and private funds. Lark Health is one of their recent investments [TTA 14 Oct]. Their Crunchbase profile demonstrates active investment in multiple operating companies. He and his firm are of some substance.

Something about Theranos got his attention–not the social networking, but the all-in-one miniature labs that condensed thousands of feet of lab into a small box. He was told that the entire Phoenix market could be served with labs fitting into about 200 square feet. Grossman knew a competitor, Quest Diagnostics, would need hundreds of thousands of square feet of space to match that. 

What caused him not to be skeptical? Of course, the mythical military involvement and pharma endorsements first, but then….

  • Projections of $30 million in 2014 income from pharma companies–alone. Needless to say, no income in 2012 or 2013 would raise a red flag for some, but not necessarily for PFM in early-stage companies.
  • Four-hour turnaround on lab results in retail, one hour in hospitals–carefully concealing the wildly uneven results from the Edison labs resulting in third-party labs being used for retail, and his own personal result of over a day on a full venous draw, not a finger stick.
  • Holmes was “very clear that this technology was not a point-of-care test, not a point-of-care testing platform, it was a miniaturized lab,” he said. That alone smelled like a 20-ounce porterhouse steak off the grill. 
  • While Balwani nixed Grossman speaking with Walgreens and UnitedHealth, Channing Robertson of Stanford, who helped Holmes start Theranos, vetted their labs as extremely advanced technology–one with which competitors would spend years catching up–for a serious investor, sauce, potato, vegetables, and trimmings on that sizzling steak

Unlike the picture the defense is painting of Balwani controlling Holmes, Grossman took care to note that Holmes, not Balwani, did most of the talking at the time. While he found the company highly secretive, he, unfortunately, discounted it. So in went PFM’s $96 million in February 2014, which included $2.2 million from a designated ‘friends and family fund’ which had investments from low-income people.

Three years later, PFM also won its own fraud case against Theranos, settling its lawsuit for about half–an estimated $40-50 million (WSJ; CNBC claims $46 million). The timing was good–it was while the company still had some money to claw back [TTA 26 June 2017].

What happened to PFM and other investors shook up Silicon Valley for years and, as much as some may deny it, health tech investment plus tarnished the image of women heading health tech companies. Some of the reasons why this case has received international attention. CNBC, The VergeNBCBayArea

Updated. Where the prosecution would go in its final days of its case–they may be wrapping this week–would they have trouble topping this for the jury, after piling similar fraud high and wide? But, in this Editor’s estimation, they brought it all back home for the jury by putting Roger Parloff, author of the 2014 Fortune cover story, ‘This CEO Is Out For Blood”, on the stand. His articles, recordings, and notes put into sharp relief and in summary the full fraud–all the fraudulent statements the company presented, versus the reality presented by the witnesses and evidence in the courtroom. At the time, the Fortune article fueled the current investors and served to bring in more, such as the DeVos family. Parloff over a year later wrote a column stating that he had not only been misled, but also failed to get to the bottom of what he termed “certain exasperatingly opaque answers that I repeatedly received”. Parloff was also the “beating heart” of a 2019 HBO documentary, “The Inventor”. CNN Business

Updated 19 Nov: But now it will be the defense’s turn to surprise. 

The New York Times, in a well-padded piece, speculates on the obvious–whether Holmes will be put on the stand to directly testify about  “how Sunny made her do it”–Sunny Balwani’s private psychological manipulations, all of which seemed to be well-hidden at the time. Stand by, it may get lurid.

But first for hilarity. The prosecution rested. The defense’s first move was to request that the court acquit Holmes on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Then amazingly, Holmes took the stand. Judge Davila dismissed one fraud count against Holmes, leaving only 11. We’ll pick this up next week.

To be continued….

TTA’s earlier coverage: Chapter 8, Chapter 7, Chapter 6Chapter 5Chapter 4 (w/comment from Malcolm Fisk)Chapter 3Chapter 2Chapter 1

Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes, ch. 8: choosing investors with more money than sense a winning strategy

The prosecution continues to pile up defrauded investors–but this one may backfire on them. Alan Eisenman invested about $1.2 million in Theranos in 2006 on behalf of himself and his family–after a five-minute phone call with Elizabeth Holmes. As an early investor, he also believed he was entitled to special treatment, such as direct talks with Holmes, frequent enough to the point where she offered to buy out his shares for five times their value and cut off contact. 

Later, he had other opportunities to sell his shares up to nearly 20 times their purchase price, but held on stating he didn’t have enough information on what was apparently a ‘liquidity event’. Lack of information was a persistent red flag, with gaps in communication from 2010 to 2012 and a contentious relationship with Sunny Balwani. Despite this, when Theranos needed money in 2013, he then invested an additional $100,000 despite no audited statements since 2009. This last investment became one of the government’s counts of wire fraud.

In his testimony, Eisenman testified that like others, he was initially impressed that Oracle founder Larry Ellison was involved with the company and that Theranos had contracts with six international pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer and Novartis–which was blatantly false.

This incredible narrative becomes more understandable when you understand Holmes’ strategy of choosing only ‘high-quality investors’ of the family fund sort. She targeted funders who weren’t knowledgeable and meticulous in examining the company books and the technology. The funders were also oh-so-socially connected. According to The Verge, Eisenman was ‘wired’ into Theranos–“he was friends with the Holmes’ family’s financial advisor [David Harris], who had also invested. Plus, his wife’s father, who had also invested, was friendly with [Bill] Frist, who was on the board.” Eisenman contacted Frist as well when he was essentially cut off from Holmes about 2010. 

Surely Eisenman was entitled to be upset and more than a little embarrassed, as a former money manager and financial planner. But then his actions dealing with the prosecution left a Mack truck-sized opening for the defense on the cross-examination. He sent an email to the prosecution team perhaps 15 hours after he finished his direct examination last Wednesday, strictly against instructions. He did it again on Friday, ostensibly about travel plans. An assistant US attorney called him to remind him not to contact them again. The defense leveraged this into the compromising position of being biased against Holmes beyond his actual loss, for instance a purported statement he made “upon entering the courtroom” about wanting Holmes to go to prison.

Coming so late in the trial–the prosecution may rest this week–the abrasive impression that Alan Eisenman left may leave an opposite impression on the jury that favors the defense interpretation of naïve investors who didn’t do their due diligence homework, and by extension, deserved to lose their money. CNBC 15 Nov, 10 Nov

To be continued….

TTA’s earlier coverage: Chapter 7, Chapter 6Chapter 5Chapter 4 (w/comment from Malcolm Fisk)Chapter 3Chapter 2Chapter 1

Short takes: Now J&J splits up, a Color(ful) $100M, Cue Health goes DTC, Amwell’s busy Q3, Teladoc’s Investor Day 19 Nov

Breaking up seems to be the thing this month. Now Johnson & Johnson is spinning off its consumer brands into a separately traded public company, retaining the pharmaceutical and medical device businesses. The consumer business includes such J&J global signature products such as Band-Aids, Neutrogena, Q-tips, Baby Powder and Shampoo, and the Listerine line of products. It’s expected to take 18 to 24 months. The pharma/med device business will retain the J&J brands, sub-brands like Janssen, and development in AI and robotics. The consumer products divisions will have to hunt around for a new one. Outgoing CEO Alex Gorsky must be heaving a sigh of relief and dreaming of a long vacation, as he won’t have to shepherd this one– incoming CEO Joaquin Duato starts in January. Pharma/med device is much larger, with $77 billion in revenue. Consumer accounts for $15 billion, with four products alone accounting for $1 billion each. The reason behind it, of course, are the talc lawsuits around Baby Powder and Shower to Shower which have been adroitly hived off, but continue. CNBC, Reuters

Population health and genomics is more Color(ful) than ever, with the company’s $100 million Series E topping off last year’s $167 million Series D for a total of $497 million since 2014 (Crunchbase). Valuation of the company is now at $4.6 billion. Color’s platform is targeted primarily to the public sector–health agencies, research institutions, employer organizations, health systems, and others for custom-built software that can integrate patient information and genomics with lab results and education.  It previously teamed up with the National Institutes of Health for the ‘All of Us’ project collecting research data from a broad scope of the US population. Mobihealthnews

San Diego-based Cue Health, which up to now was known for a molecular COVID-19 at-home test, is expanding its direct to consumer market with a virtual health platform featuring their COVID-19 test (on FDA EUA, CE marked) starting on 15 November. It’s expanding ‘on cue’ with a membership offering, Cue+, with 24/7 online medical consults, e-prescriptions, what they term CDC-compliant test results for travel through in-app video proctoring, and same-day delivery of their products. Membership starts at $49.99 per month for the lowest level plan, escalating to $89.99/month for supervised COVID-19 testing. To make this work requires a Cue Reader that costs $249 along with testing packs priced at $225 for three. Cue also has in development testing for other factors–where it started prior to the annus horriblis of 2020. Not for those on a tight budget, but if you need it…. Cue release, Mobihealthnews

Amwell’s busy Q3 in visits reflected the uptick in the ‘delta’ variant of COVID-19, but was disappointing on the earnings side as urgent care brings in less revenue than behavioral health or specialty care. Amwell’s year-to-year revenue was down less than 1% to $62.2 million, but the decrease is forcing a revision in 2021 full year forecasted revenue. The Converge platform [TTA 29 April] has reached 4,000 providers and 43 enterprise clients which was far more than forecasted. Newly acquired SilverCloud and Conversa Health [TTA 29 July] are integrated into Converge and already cross-selling. Amwell, however, remains in the red with a quarterly net loss of $50.9 million. Healthcare Dive  

The Telehealth Wars continue to see-saw, with Teladoc’s Investor Day on Thursday 19 Nov next week. According to Seeking Alpha, a stock analysis site, “Bank of America is cautious on TDOC ahead of the event, citing questions about the near-term margin trajectory and competition. Shares of Teladoc rose 22% in the three weeks following its last investor day.”

Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes, ch. 7: Edison labs consistent–in deficiency and strange results

And Elizabeth Holmes knew. The last two years of Theranos’ existence, were, to put it mildly, fraught, for anyone honest. Job 1 for the very last in a parade of lab directors, Kingshuk Das, MD, was to respond to CMS on substantial deficiencies found in a November 2015 on-site inspection. The CMS deficiency report, sent to the prior lab director in January 2016, two months before Dr. Das’ start, had a subject line that would grab anyone’s immediate attention: “CONDITION LEVEL DEFICIENCIES – IMMEDIATE JEOPARDY.”

The report went on to say that it was determined that your facility is not in compliance with all of the Conditions required for certification in the CLIA program.” and concluded that “the deficient practices of the laboratory pose immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety.”

Dr. Das found some interesting things in his early days on the job, such as the Edison labs producing results detecting abnormal levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA)–in female patients. When he brought this to Holmes’ attention, she quoted a few journal articles stating that certain rare breast cancers in women might present that result. This didn’t seem quite plausible to Dr. Das. Holmes then told him that it wasn’t an instrument failure, but rather a quality control and quality assurance issue. Nevertheless, Dr. Das went back and voided every Edison lab test made in 2014 and 2015, stating to Holmes that the Edison labs were not performing from the start. Most Theranos results sent to patients were produced on third-party machines made by Siemens and others, often on inadequately sized blood samples. 

As Dr. Das testified to the defense, many skilled people at Theranos earnestly tried to fix the problems with the Edison lab machines, but, as The Verge put it in part, if Holmes didn’t believe Dr. Das, other employees, or multiple preceding lab directors that the machines were really, truly broken, did it matter?

The defense is maintaining that Holmes didn’t really understand the lab details and was heavily influenced (ahem!) by president Sunny Balwani. However, the Babe in the Medical Startup Woods defense falls apart when there’s no Sunny to blame–he departed shortly after Dr. Das’ arrival. 

The actual theme–a long-term pattern of deception aimed at those who wanted to believe, and ponied up Big Bucks--was reinforced by a witness before Dr. Das. Lynette Sawyer was a temporary co-lab director for six months during 2014 and 2015, but never came to the Theranos site. It seems that her main duties were signing off remotely on documents using Docusign and backing up then-lab director Dr. Sunil Dhawan, Balwani’s dermatologist who came to the lab a handful of times. Even more amazingly, she was unaware of Theranos’ signature ‘nanotainers’ and the backup use of third-party devices. After her six-month contract was up, she departed, uncomfortable with Theranos’ procedures.

Kicking off the day was Judge Davila’s regular admonition to those in the public section of the courtroom to type vewy, vewy quietly. Then the video display for exhibits broke down. This led to a two-hour delay while the court found an antique projector to show the images to the jury and the public on a blank wall.

One wonders if the tapping plus the tech breakdown topping off the Parade of Fraud is leaving the jurors numb–or wanting to jump into the well above, even if there is no bottom. CNBC, Wall Street Journal (15 Oct), 5KPIX

TTA’s earlier coverage: Chapter 6, Chapter 5Chapter 4 (w/comment from Malcolm Fisk)Chapter 3Chapter 2Chapter 1

To be continued….

 

 

News & deal roundup: Oak Street adds telespecialty RubiconMD, ATA plumps for wider telehealth access, yet claims fall to 4%, West Suffolk NHS adds Zivver mail/file security, Northwell’s $100M for AI–and miss industry shows yet?

Primary care network Oak Street Health acquired virtual specialty telehealth provider RubiconMD for $130 million. Oak Street is a 19-state network of physicians in care centers who specialize in Medicare patients. RubiconMD has 230 specialists who provide doctor-to-doctor teleconsults (eConsults) in 120 specialties, with an emphasis on cardiology, nephrology, and pulmonology, which is a strong fit for Oak Street. RubiconMD also has separate offerings for specialty care panels and behavioral health. The $130 million includes up to $60 million in cash or cash/stock, subject to achievement of defined performance milestones. Management transitions were not disclosed. Release, FierceHealthcare

The American Telemedicine Association wants to preserve wider telehealth access into 2022–even if the public health emergency (PHE) for Covid has to be extended. Although the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed by CMS for 2022 includes areas of wider telehealth access and reimbursement (temporary access under Schedule 3 added in 2021) into 2023 regardless of the PHE, Congressional action is required to permanently expand telehealth beyond the existing programs mostly for rural areas. If necessary, ATA is advocating that Health & Human Services (HHS) extend the PHE through 2022 so that telehealth access and reimbursement are preserved. ATA releaseFierceHealthcare

While this Editor can understand ATA’s frustration and the sincerity of its aims, it distorts the emergency meaning of a PHE that is just about nonexistent except for mandates. And telehealth claims, even with current access, have sunk down to a tick above 4%, 60% of which are mental health codes (FAIR Health July national data). Too many providers, too little demand? 

The West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) has selected Zivver UK to secure its mail and file transfer systems, as it migrates from NHS Mail to Microsoft 365. It includes encrypted email to patients as a core requirement meeting NHS digital standards, and ease of use for both sender and recipient in MS Outlook. 4,800 staff at WSFT, which covers 280,000 people who live in West Suffolk. Release. Hat tip to HISTalk for this and the next two stories.

Northwell Health backs AI health startups via joint venture with Aegis Ventures with $100 million stake. The JV between the two New York-based companies “will ideate, launch, and scale AI-driven companies to address healthcare’s most challenging quality, equity, and cost problems” with stakeholders across Northwell’s extremely large system. According to the release, “Northwell has a track record of success in AI research, including the development of a landmark algorithm that predicts patients’ overnight stability to reduce the need to wake them for vital sign checks.” Nice to know that a health system appreciates patient sleep. 

And finally–miss the grip and grin of a F2F industry trade show and presentations? Your Editor, who was once a habitué of meetings from Boston to Florida, does. Really! Virtual conferences, once fun, are now tedious. So enjoy this walk through of HLTH21 by Ben Rooks, the Investor Man, at the Boston Seaport (a great venue, though not precisely central), right down to the barbers, puppy rescue, disco ball, and juice shots. Courtesy of HISTalk