AliveCor loses Patent Office ruling with Apple; three patents invalidated

Apple prevails in the patent infringement suit by AliveCor–and got three AliveCor heart monitoring patents invalidated as ‘unpatentable’. In the duel of patent infringement claims dating back to May 2021 between AliveCor and Apple, the US Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) not only ruled that Apple did not infringe on AliveCor’s patents, but also threw out the AliveCor patents that were the basis for the infringement. AliveCor had sued Apple for patent infringement on their ECG technology in three US patents: No. 10,595,731 (“the ’731 patent”); No. 10,638,941 (“the ’941 patent”); and No. 9,572,499 (“the ’499 patent”) in their Apple Watches 4, 5, and 6. [TTA 29 Apr 21, 9 July 21

The term ‘unpatentable’ is used when the PTAB deems the patent, even when granted in the past, too obvious or too general. When the PTAB finds that, they throw out the patent and it is no longer valid.

Apple of course crowed that they developed their own patents fully on their own, and not from the time when AliveCor’s ECG monitoring was incorporated into earlier Apple Watches. Apple is up to the Series 8. AliveCor has already announced it will appeal and await the pending ruling from the International Trade Commission (ITC) to block the import of Apple Watches. The ITC’s initial determination in June was positive [TTA 28 June] and AliveCor of course is ‘cautiously optimistic’ on the Final Determination due in a few days (12 December). With the PTAB’s finding, it is far less likely that the ITC will impose an import block when AliveCor’s patents have been invalidated.  9to5Mac, Mobihealthnews

AliveCor has moved forward with its KardiaMobile series, including a credit card-sized device (left), and has enjoyed substantial investment, with an August Series F (amount undisclosed) round led by GE Healthcare. 

Patent invalidation is a danger in any patent infringement lawsuit. In 2015, Bosch Healthcare, which had bought HealthHero, an early RPM platform marketed as Health Buddy, and ViTelNet, was a serial patent challenger. They went after Philips, Viterion (while owned by Bayer), both to a draw, and won against a slew of barely-out-of-the-cradle companies forgotten by nearly all of us such as Alere Health, MedApps, Waldo Health, and Express MD Solutions. Then they sued Cardiocom in 2012 with the same expectation. Except that a year later, Cardiocom was acquired by Medtronic. Deep-pocketed Medtronic fought back hard–and by 2015, the PTAB invalidated most of Bosch’s key patents. Bosch withdrew from the US market abruptly in 2015. TTA 19 June 20157 September 2015 primarily about the ongoing Teladoc-Amwell dustups

Given their funding and device development, AliveCor will likely not face Bosch’s fate, but such invalidations have consequences yet to be determined and litigated. 

“Big Story” update: where Elizabeth Holmes will spend 11 years, Cerebral sues former CEO Robertson, Amwell buying Talkspace?

Where will Elizabeth Holmes serve her sentence, whatever it is? A story that got lost in the Thanksgiving shuffle was Bloomberg News’ (paywalled) report that Judge Edward Davila recommended that she be remanded to a minimum security Federal women’s prison in Bryan, Texas, outside of Houston. What has previously been mentioned in the press and by legal commentators is that she would likely serve her time in a northern California minimum security prison about an hour from her present home, the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California. According to commentators, the larger Bryan facility may be better than Dublin, which is a satellite camp. Bryan  “…compared to other places in the prison system, this place is heaven. If you have to go it’s a good place to go,” Alan Ellis, a criminal defense lawyer, told Bloomberg. The final say will be made by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The selection is important because Federal inmates typically serve a minimum of 85% of their time, unlike time served in state prisons. Gizmodo reports on Bloomberg’s reveal

Holmes’ reporting to prison is scheduled for 27 April 2023. Her appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals must be filed within two weeks of sentencing, which by this Editor’s calendar is 2 December but may be later due to the holiday. Holmes may be permitted to stay out of custody pending appeal if it extends beyond the surrender date if the judge permits. 

Editor’s commentary: One wonders whether Holmes’ appeal will be successful. One factor is what Judge Davila acknowledged: “What is the pathology of fraud? Is it the inability to accept responsibility?” Even in her personal statement during the sentencing, there is evasion. Holmes did admit some sorrow about patients and investors relating to her own failings (back to her again), but sorrow is not responsibility. Moreover, Holmes did not refer to making amends for that sorrow created by the Fraud That Was Theranos. Her defense continues to blame others, like Sunny Balwani, former president and live-in. Even the 130 character letters, many from others who knew her only briefly, blamed others including Balwani, almost tracking to the defense’s talking points. The case proved conspiracy with Balwani, who will likely be sentenced on 7 December for what is expected to be something close to the full 20 years as convicted on all 12 counts.

The tables are turned by Cerebral on co-founder/former CEO Kyle Robertson. Only a week or so ago, Robertson (through his attorneys) reportedly sent a letter to Cerebral management demanding access to documents detailing “possible breaches of fiduciary duty, mismanagement and other violations of law.” [TTA 18 Nov] Now Cerebral is suing Robertson for his default on a $49.8 million loan taken this past January to buy 1.06 million shares of common stock in the company. According to the filing in New York Supreme Court, he is personally liable for $25.4 million, plus interest and attorney’s fees. After his dismissal 18 May, he had six months to repay the loan or direct Cerebral to repurchase or cancel the shares. According to the lawsuit, “Robertson repeatedly asserted that he would not repay the loan.” The troubled company laid off 400 or more in October and is now valued at a fraction of last year’s $4.8 billion valuationStay tuned. HealthcareDive, Mobihealthnews

A cracked SPAC may get itself sold. Talkspace, which has had a year of challenges since its SPAC, apparently is in talks to be acquired by Amwell. According to Calcalist, an Israeli business publication, Amwell is in advanced talks to acquire it for $1.50 per share, or about $200 million. This is quite a comedown from when Talkspace was valued in January 2021 at $1.4 billion. It executed its SPAC in June [TTA 25 June 2021] and hit Nasdaq at $8.90 per share. Today it closed at $0.88, so Amwell’s offer would be close to double. It would also remove another problem. Nasdaq notified Talkspace on 18 November that they were on the verge of delisting their stock, as it was trading for over 30 consecutive business days at under $1.00 per share.

The ‘advanced’ term is interesting because this past June, reports indicated that Talkspace rejected overtures by Amwell and Mindpath. The amount bandied about at that time was $500 million and a sale was expected during the summer. (What a difference six months of economic uncertainty makes.) 

In November 2021, founders Roni and Oren Frank stepped down and their COO resigned shortly thereafter on a conduct-related allegation. Shareholders started to sue starting then. YTD results have also been dismal, with losses of $61 million on revenues of $89 million.

Talkspace would bolster Amwell’s mental health capabilities in telepsychiatry with a DTC and enterprise product. If the company hung on to most of their $184 million in cash reported in June (of the SPAC’s $250 million), for Amwell it also would be a deal that almost pays for itself. HealthcareDive, FierceHealthcare

The Theranos denouement: ‘Humble, hardworking’ Elizabeth Holmes sentencing Friday; prosecution and defense paint different pictures (updated)

Elizabeth Holmes finally faces the music and perhaps the mercy of Judge Edward Davila on Friday, 10 am PT. Convicted on four felony counts of 11 and defrauding investors of over $144 million, the prosecution has called for Holmes to go to Federal prison for 15 years of the maximum 20, plus three years of supervised release. Restitution of $804 million would go to investors plus a fine of $250,000 for each charge. In US Attorney Stephanie Hinds’ 46-page pre-sentencing memo to Judge Davila, the prosecution states that she was blinded by ambition. “She repeatedly chose lies, hype and the prospect of billions of dollars over patient safety and fair dealing with investors. Elizabeth Holmes’ crimes were not failing, they were lying—lying in the most serious context, where everyone needed her to tell the truth.” They called her crimes “extraordinarily serious, among the most substantial white collar offenses Silicon Valley or any other district has seen.” and that her actions damaged the trust and integrity that is needed for Silicon Valley investors to trust companies to fund ideas before profits are seen. The cut: “She stands before the Court remorseless. She accepts no responsibility. Quite the opposite, she insists she is the victim.”

In all fairness, her defense has relentlessly painted Holmes as exactly that, from young, naive, battered, psychologically and sexually abused Trilby to Sunny Balwani’s Svengali. Their argument in their 82-page sentencing memo argues for mitigation to the point of no sentence at all, or a minimal sentence of no more than 18 months in home confinement plus her continuing service work. Supporting her character as a ‘humble, hardworking, and compassionate woman who deeply wants to give what she can to the world” and not motivated by greed or personal gain were character testimony letters from Billy Evans, her partner, as one would expect, but also from some unexpected places: the Senator from this Editor’s home state of New Jersey, Cory Booker, who knew her starting in 2012, and a former EPA head, William Reilly, who worked with Holmes’s father back in the George H.W. Bush administration. Their memo cited 130 letters.

Also revealed by the defense: Holmes is not only the mother of a year-old son but also pregnant. Evans’ letter contains another heartbreaking fact. Her beloved ‘wolf’ of a husky dog, Balto, was tragically killed by a mountain lion while she and Evans were living in seclusion in a rural area. While they lived in San Francisco, according to him, they were harassed by reporters, ordinary people, and threatening letters, so they hit the road for at least 6 months living in a camper.

Holmes’ ability to pay $804 million to the likes of Safeway and Walgreens seems to be a bit of a reach, as Holmes never cashed out of Theranos stock–at its peak valued at  $4.5 billion–is unemployed with no prospects, and is widely assumed to be, as they say, flat broke as are her parents. As to her sentence, what is widely expected is a multi-year sentence. If that happens, the defense will request that she remains free on bail (a motion for stay) while the filing to the Federal Appeals Court is made, a process that can take a year or more from filing to a decision. 

Judge Davila’s record has been to take in all the circumstances and to be measured in sentencing. After several years, he is intimately familiar with Theranos to the likely point of dreaming about it at night. Factors he may consider in sentencing, start of her term, where it will be served, restitution and fines: lack of flight risk, Holmes’ young child, and her current condition both physical and financial. Savvy court watchers have noted that if Federal law enforcement is in the courtroom, Holmes may initially be taken to prison and held, then freed on bail pending appeal. The jury convicted her on only four out of 11 counts (and threw out the 12th), but it remains that the prosecution proved and the jury decided that she was fully capable of engineering fraud, not once but several times, leaving Balwani’s Mesmerizing Influences aside.

Balwani’s own sentencing on 12 charges, with the same maximum of 20 years in Federal prison, is scheduled for 7 December, Pearl Harbor Day, at 10 am PT.

The Mercury News articles, while thorough, are paywalled: 11 November (defense memo), 11 November (Billy Evans letter), 14 November (prosecution filing). FierceBiotech, MedCityNews

The US Attorney, Northern District of California summary: U.S. v. Elizabeth Holmes, et al.  District Court documents here.

NBC Bay Area will cover the sentencing live here at 10 am PT, 1 pm ET, 6 pm GMT.

News roundup: cybersecurity benchmarking study, Tyto Care’s Home Smart Clinic, Long Island’s $2.6B life sciences hub, Singapore’s Speedoc raises $28M, NantHealth’s sinking feeling, Hims & Hers revenue up 95%

Censinet, the American Hospital Association (AHA), and KLAS Research announced at industry confab CHIME22 Fall Forum a benchmarking study on health system cybersecurity. The study, currently enrolling hospital and health system participants, according to the release will enable a comparison of cybersecurity investments, resources, performance, and maturity to peer organizations across key operational cyber metrics. It will also cover NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) and Health Industry Cybersecurity Practices (HICP). Censinet provides healthcare risk management solutions, consolidating enterprise risk management and operations capabilities. Hat tip to HISTalk 9 Nov.

TytoCare’s latest is the rollout of the Home Smart Clinic, a platform that combines TytoCare’s FDA-cleared handheld for remote physical exams; Tyto Insights, their AI-powered diagnostic support that aids diagnosis in remote physical exams; Tyto Engagement Labs, a suite of user engagement services including behavioral science-backed blueprints, consulting services, and marketing tailored to each specific program and cohort; and support for multiple provider models and different patient populations. The new platform is targeted to health plans and providers. Release (Yahoo)

Long Island NY’s proposed Midway Crossing project, creating a life sciences hub in quaintly named Ronkonkoma, would cost about $2.55 billion, but create an estimated 4,300 science, technology, engineering, and healthcare positions. They’d also be lucrative, with salaries mostly well over $100,000 a year. The proposal was authored (sic) by Michael Dowling, president of Northwell Health, and James Hayward, PhD, president and CEO of Applied DNA Sciences, and appeared in Newsday (paywalled). Its 179 acres would include a STEM educational center, research labs, biotech manufacturing facilities, health care offices, a hotel and convention center plus connect to the LIRR and Long Island-MacArthur airport. While approved by local authorities, it now needs funding. Becker’s

Traveling to the far Pacific…Speedoc, a home health company based in Singapore, raised $28 million. Speedoc offers app-based video consults and home visits, non-emergency ambulance transport, and remote monitoring for several chronic conditions. It is available in nine cities in Singapore and Malaysia. According to Mobihealthnews, it is also one of the technology partners for the two-year pilot of the Mobile Inpatient Care@Home initiative by the Ministry of Health’s Office for Healthcare Transformation. The pre-Series B funding round was led by its new investors Bertelsmann Investments, Shinhan Venture investment, and Mars Growth. Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, which led its $5 million Series A funding round in 2020, also participated. 

Our Readers with very long memories will remember that transformative health darling, NantHealth. This Patrick Soon-Shiong NantWorks company, originally in genetic sequencing for cancer research, was caught en flagrante in a ‘pay to play’ scheme with the University of Utah funding NantHealth and providing data that would prove useful to other Soon-Shiong companies [TTA 18 April 2017]. It’s long since pivoted to payer/provider data solutions (NaviNet). What’s not improved is their bottom line. It lost $13.7 million, or $0.12 cents per share, increasing loss by 26% from 3Q 2021. Shares on NasdaqGS are trading at $0.31. Yahoo!Finance/SimplyWallSt. Another tip of the cap to HISTalk 9 Nov.

And who said all of telehealth is suffering? Online direct-to-consumer marketer Hims & Hers posted a third consecutive $100 million+ quarter in revenue. Their Q3 revenue was up 95% versus Q3 last year, reaching $144.8 million. They also gained 70,000 new online subscribers for a total of 991,000, up 80% year over year. Q4 guidance is up to $159 million to $162 million, with a full-year revenue forecast of $519 million to $522 million. And yes–they’re profitable. Their embarrassing TV spots notwithstanding, they seem to have found The Magic Formula. FierceHealthcare

Oracle’s Big Vision will be missing a lot of people; layoffs hit Cerner, customer experience, marketing staff

‘Healthcare Transformation’ will ring hollow for the many employees at Oracle and Cerner who will be getting 60-day notices — or less — to depart.

One group is within Oracle in the US customer experience division and marketing, and apparently more. According to Bloomberg, the customer experience area that provides analytics and advertising services had been lagging for some time and has been reorganized, losing in the process junior sales employees, a division sales director, and marketing positions. Numbers are not provided, nor information on severance. Also Becker’s.

On the Oracle thread on TheLayoff.com, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) North America has been substantially downsized effective 15 August, especially those supporting a Startups product. 

More extensive are the Cerner cuts. This Editor has been following postings as they happen on both the Reddit r/cernercorporation and TheLayoff threads (Oracle thread here). Areas mentioned appear to be primarily internal/non-customer facing: technical project management in population health, enterprise change management, enterprise process improvement, multiple VPs, sales engineers, application services/support, marketing (of course), talent acquisition, and other areas. People ranged from new hires who had offers pulled, to those under one year, to highly experienced employees with a decade or two in the company. UK tech site The Register has an estimate from one posting of 10,000 layoffs. Given that Cerner has about 20,000 employees, that is close to 50%.

As is typical of mass layoffs, those at Cerner reported that they were notified en masse by managers on Monday through snap meetings. Their packages were cleverly designed to skate through the 60-day WARN notice to the state in the US, providing for an end date in 60 days, just before the official cutover to Oracle on 1 October. Severance packages without insurance or benefits after the 60 days were two weeks for every year at Cerner, not particularly generous given the uncertain economy and freezes all over tech. If the individual sought and was offered a position at Oracle, the severance package would be pulled, which is the usual maneuver to discourage any internal job-seeking from this group.

There is no indication of any cuts to Cerner outside the US, yet. The Independent, citing The Information, indicated that further Oracle cuts may come from Canada, India, and Europe. Oracle has a goal of saving $1 billion.

In this Editor’s view, Oracle is erasing Cerner as fast as it can [TTA 19 July] and doing internal housecleaning (bloodletting) at the same time. As to the former, Mike Sicilia’s testimony to the Senate committee about Cerner at the VA [TTA 28 July] had a distinct tone of cleaning up the previous regime’s mess–this should be no surprise. Yet Cerner’s tippy-top management remains in place, with generous compensation and separation arrangements in place [TTA 19 July with links to prior articles]. Cerner’s healthcare customers should take note, either way.

Having been there and done that more than once, our best wishes to everyone affected. Remember that you are not your job, pack up your learnings in your kit bag for a new journey, and you will land a good job soon.

Hat tip to HISTalk as well for covering this story and reaching many on the provider and partner side in the industry that we do not.

Oracle’s ‘new sheriff’ moving to fix Cerner EHR implementation in the VA: the Senate hearing

Last week’s (20 July) hearing on the VA’s increasingly wobbly EHR transition from VistA to Cerner showcased Oracle’s executive vice president for industries Mike Sicilia. His testimony to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs had a heaping helping of ‘the new sheriff has arrived in Dodge City’.  As of six weeks ago, after the Transformational Big Vision kvelling faded, Cerner’s painful stumbles became Oracle’s VA Migraine [TTA 21 July, 21 June]. Cerner is now part of the Oracle Global Health business unit that falls under him.

First, the pledge made in his statement: “Unlike Cerner alone, Oracle brings an order of magnitude more engineering resources and scale to this formidable challenge.” After outlining the work that Oracle has done for CDC and NIH on Covid-19, he testified:

You should consider that in effect the VA, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Coast Guard obtained a new, vastly more resourced technology partner overnight to augment Cerner. We also strongly believe in this mission and consider it not only a contractual obligation but a moral one to improve healthcare for our nation’s veterans and their caregivers. We intend to exceed expectations. 

Of the list of 36 issues detailed by the committee to VA Deputy Secretary Remy, Sicilia condensed them into three main areas: performance, design, and functionality. The concrete moves are:

  • Oracle will move the implementation to the cloud and rewrite Cerner’s pharmacy module, completing both tasks within 6-9 months
  • They have set up a ‘war room’ consisting of Oracle’s top talent of senior engineers and developers, working on the entire DoD/VA EHR systems as priority #1, with the first order of work a top-to-bottom analysis. While integrating with the Cerner team, the statement makes it clear that Oracle “brings an order of magnitude larger engineering team than Cerner”.
  • The Cerner EHR system is currently running on a dated architecture with technology that is in some cases two decades old and thus will be moved within 6-9 months to Oracle’s Generation 2 cloud. (That must be reassuring to thousands of hospitals and practices!)
  • Shortly after the closing, Oracle fixed a database bug that caused 13 of the last 15 outages, and as of last week there were no further outages. 
  • Testifying on the status of the “unknown queue”,  he stated it was designed to account for human error rather than to mitigate it, so it will be redesigned–it will be automated more on the front end and on the back end will have a better process.
  • Oracle will “start over” with the Cerner pharmacy module, rebuilding it as a showcase of a cloud-optimized web application.

VA’s EHR leaders also testified at the Senate hearing. Terry Adirim, Executive Director of the Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office at the VA, confirmed that unsurprisingly, Cerner’s next rollouts scheduled for the Boise VA Medical Center and other centers have been postponed indefinitely due to multiple ongoing system stability issues: change control and testing; challenges with increased capacity; basic functionality; its resilience design, and its response in last resort disaster situations. These specific issues overlapped but were more specific than those covered in Sicilia’s statement, which focused on the actions that Oracle would take.

Adirim and Kurt DelBene, the VA’s CIO, were roasted by the senators as painting a “very rosy picture”. The OIG report itemized at least 60 recommendations before going further. Adirim, to his credit, noted that DoD had similar stability issues in its system which was a warning, but the VA’s system is far more complex and care oriented than DoD which presumably exacerbated those issues. FedScoop and especially HISTalk’s Monday Morning Update 7/25/22

Amazon moves to acquire One Medical provider network for $3.9B (updated)

Amazon joining the in-person provider network space for real. Amazon Health Services last week moved beyond experimenting with in-person care via provider agreements (Crossover Health, TTA 17 May) to being in the provider business with an agreement to acquire One Medical. Earlier this month, news leaked that One Medical as 1Life Healthcare was up for sale to the right buyer, having spurned CVS, and after watching their stock on Nasdaq plummet 75%.

  • The cash deal for $3.9 billion including assumption of debt is certainly a good one, representing $18 per share, a premium to their $14 share IPO in January 2020. (The stock closed last Wednesday before the announcement at just above $10 per share then plumped to ~$17 where it remains.)
  • The announcement is oddly not on One Medical’s website but is on Amazon’s here.
  • The buy is subject to shareholder and the usual regulatory approvals. The IPO was managed by JP Morgan Securities and Morgan Stanley. It is primarily backed by Alphabet (Google).
  • One Medical’s CEO Amir Dan Rubin will stay on, but there is no other executive transition mention.
  • Also not mentioned: the Iora Health operation that serves primarily Medicare patients in full-risk value-based care models such as Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicare shared savings, quite opposite to One Medical’s membership-based concierge model. However, Iora’s website is largely cut over to One Medical’s identity and their coverage is limited to seven states.

There is a huge amount of opinion on the buy, but for this Editor it is clear that Amazon with One Medical is buying itself into in-person and virtual primary care for the employer market, where it had limited success with its present largely virtual offering, and entree with commercial plans and MA. One Medical has over 700,000 patients, 8,000 company clients and has 125 physical offices in 12 major US markets including NYC, Los Angeles, Boston, and Atlanta. It has never turned a profit. Looking at their website, they welcome primarily commercial plans and MA (but not Medicare supplement plans).

Amazon, with both a virtual plus provider network, now has a huge advantage over Teladoc and Amwell, both of which have previously brushed off Amazon as a threat to their business. There is the potential to run two models: the current Amazon Care pay-as-you-go model and the One Medical corporate/concierge model. This puts Amazon squarely in UHC’s Optum Health territory, which owns or has agreements with over 5% of US primary care practices, is fully in value-based care models such as Medicare shared savings through its ACOs, and is aggressively virtual plus integrating services such as data analytics, pharmacy, and financial. Becker’s

What doesn’t quite fit is Iora Health and the higher cost/higher care needs Medicare market that is less profitable and requires advanced risk management, a skill set that Amazon doesn’t have. This Editor will make a small prediction that Iora will be sold or spun off after the sale.

This Editor continues to believe that the real game for Amazon is monetizing patient data. That has gained traction since we opined that was the real Amazon Game in June and October last year, To restate it: Amazon Care’s structure, offerings, cheap pricing, feeds our opinion that Amazon’s real aim is to accumulate and own national healthcare data on the service’s users. Then they will monetize it by selling it to pharmaceutical companies, payers, developers, and other commercial third parties in and ex-US. Patients may want to think twice. This opinion is now shared by those with bigger voices, such as the American Economic Liberties Project. In their statement, they urged that the government block the buy due to Amazon’s cavalier attitudes towards customer data and far too much internal access, unsecured, to customer information (Revealnews.org from Wired). Adding PHI to this is like putting gasoline on a raging fire, and One Medical customers are apparently concerned. For what it’s worth, Senator Bernie Sanders has already tweeted against it.   MarketWatch

Whether this current administration and the DOJ will actually care about PHI and patient privacy is anyone’s guess, but TTA has noted that Amazon months ago beefed up its DC lobbying presence last year. According to Opensecrets.org, they spent $19.3 million last year. In fairness, Amazon is a leading Federal service provider, via Amazon Web Services. (Did you know that AWS stores the CIA’s information?)  One Medical is also relatively small–not a Village MD/Village Medical, now majority owned by Walgreens Boots. This is why this Editor believes that HHS, DOJ, and FTC will give it a pass, unlike UHG’s acquisition of Change Healthcare, especially if Amazon agrees to divest itself of the Iora Health business.

Treat yourself to the speculation, including that it will be added as an Amazon Prime benefit to the 44% of Americans who actually spend for an Amazon Prime membership. It may very well change part of the delivery model for primary care, and force other traditional providers to provide more integrated care, which is as old as Kaiser and Geisinger. It may demolish telehealth providers like Teladoc and Amwell. But as we’ve also noted, Amazon, like founder Jeff Bezos, deflects and veils its intents very well. FierceHealthcare 7/25, FierceHealthcare 7/21, Motley Fool, Healthcare Dive

Midweek heat wave roundup: GE Healthcare’s new name, hospital-to-home health trending big, over 2 million patient records hacked

GE’s breakup into three public companies, announced last November [TTA 12 Nov 21], has been formalized with brand names. No surprise, the healthcare business has but a teeny tiny change to GE HealthCare (logo left) and after the spinoff will be trading sometime in early 2023 under GEHC on Nasdaq because “GE HealthCare will benefit from the exchange’s profile and track record as a market for innovative, technology-led public companies, particularly in the healthcare sector. The heritage ‘meatball’ (as we called it in marketing internally, but formally the Monogram) will be retained but the color will change from poison green to “compassion purple” to reflect more humanity and warmth and achieve greater distinction”. The hardest hit part of GE, the energy businesses, will be spun off as GE Vernova and key color an ‘evergreen’. What is left will be GE Aerospace, retaining its name and change its color to an ‘upper atmosphere’ blue that is almost black. Outer space, anyone? GE release, interview on YouTube

Au courant is hospital-to-home (H2H) and home health, digitally enabled mais bien sûr.

  • Mass General Brigham (MGB) is reportedly expanding its current 25-bed program to 200 in the next 2.5 years. Since 2016, MGB has treated nearly 1,800 H2H patients. By end of 2023, they plan 90 hospital-at-home beds managed across Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and Salem Hospital. Their new head for home-based care will be Heather O’Sullivan, who comes from EVP and chief clinical innovation officer spots at Kindred at Home, acquired by Humana in 2021. FierceHealthcare
  • Out in rural Wisconsin, Marshfield Clinic is rolling out a H2H program with DispatchHealth, to coordinate medical care for injuries and illnesses including viral infections, COPD exacerbations, congestive heart failure, and more. The goal is to reduce non-emergency ED visits. DispatchHealth can also perform services such as onsite diagnostics, mobile imaging, and CLIA-certified labs for kidney function, electrolytes, and urinalysis. In March 2021, they closed a $200 million Series D bringing their funding to unicorn level. HealthcareITNews
  • UHG’s Optum has moved closer on its $5.5 billion acquisition of LHC Group home health and hospice [TTA 31 Mar] with shareholder approval on 21 June. Once closed later this year, LHC will be integrated into Optum Health. LHC operates in 37 states and the District of Columbia, employing about 30,000 individuals. Home Health Care News, Becker’s

And what would a week with a heat wave that melts runways at RAF Brize Norton and Luton be without a couple of big data breaches to heat up things? Stolen: an iPad chock full of 75,000 Kaiser Permanente patients’ PHI from Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center’s COVID-19 testing center. While the information on the iPad included first and last names, dates of birth, medical record numbers, and dates and location of service (but not SSN or financial information), Kaiser was able to remotely erase the data. At this point, there is no evidence of theft or misuse. NBC Los Angeles, Becker’s   An even larger breach of 2 million records came via a February hack attack on health provider debt collector Professional Finance Company (PFC). Hackers got into PFC’s computers and accessed patient names, addresses, SSN, health insurance, and medical treatment data. Among the 650 client companies affected were Banner Health and Nevada physician network Renown Health. Healthcare Dive

Cerner’s business now consolidated under Oracle Health

The internal memo doesn’t say so but doesn’t really have to. The sunsetting of the Cerner brand (logo left) has begun. HISTalk this evening reported on Friday 15 July’s Cerner internal announcement posted on Reddit, vetted by the Kansas City Business Journal (paywalled), and it’s not all that surprising:

  • The business unit is now called Oracle Health Global Industry Unit (GIU) or Oracle Health
  • The chairman of Oracle Health will be David Feinberg, MD, late CEO of Cerner and previously of UCLA Health, Geisinger Health, and Google’s last effort at Health. 
  • Travis Dalton is being promoted to run the Oracle Health GIU as General Manager from running Cerner Government Services as Client Services Officer
  • Cerner’s engineering and product executives will be reporting to Oracle’s Don Johnson who runs all Oracle engineering for all applications and platform services. This includes former CTO Jerome Labat who received a stay deal along with Dr. Feinberg [TTA 21 Jan, 26 Jan]. Mr. Labat has at least 11 million good reasons (and Dr. Feinberg 22 million) to stay for the next year and a day from the closing on 8 June.
  • Cerner’s corporate functions, such as IT, finance, legal, and HR, will move into Oracle’s centralized, global teams, which typically means that pink slips will be the order of the day if they haven’t already been received
  • More disclosed to employees at a town hall on that Friday 
  • No external announcement has been made as of 1845 19 July (Eastern Time)

Our Readers who have been following the acquisition and personally been through acquisitions know the stage was set by Larry Ellison’s Big Pronouncements on Healthcare Transformation at the closing [TTA 14 June]. It was all about what Oracle would be doing in building a national health record database and more, with nary a mention of Cerner. The eventual elimination of the Cerner name should thus be no surprise to industry observers. Cerner was a pearl bought at a great price ($28 billion) to make Oracle the Visionary Leader In Healthcare and provide Mr. Ellison with a Grand Finale.

How this will be received by health system and provider customers–including DOD and the ever-troublesome VA–is anyone’s guess. This Editor has previously speculated that health systems with Cerner EHRs were not going to be enthusiastic about replacing Cerner’s current third-party vendors with Oracle services and technology, especially if they worked well or if Oracle costs more. If the move to OCI–Oracle Cloud Infrastructure–doesn’t go as smooth as brand new glass, another black mark in the copybook. The other would be resentment of Oracle’s announced and completely expected hard sell on other services to make up the cost of the pearl. [TTA 15 June]

Almost an ideal scenario for Epic to sell against, one would think. As for the VA, Oracle needs to fix the Cerner Millenium rollout now under heavy scrutiny–fast and right.  

The clunk continues: Q2 2022 digital health funding fades to $4.1B in Q2, down 50% from 2021

Digital health funding continues to take a plunge. Knocked about by the hangover from the pandemic, a grinding war between Russia and Ukraine, gasoline prices jacked up worldwide, and knock-on inflation and looming stagflation, funding continues to slide. The decline in Q2 digital health deals and funding to $4.1 billion more truly reflects the downturn than Q1’s relatively buoyant $6.1 billion, which benefited from the carryover of deals negotiated during 2021’s boom and closing then [TTA 6 April]. Year over year, it was half of 2021’s high of $8.3 billion.

  • 2022’s first half (H1) total of $10.3 billion was down 31% from 2021’s $15 billion. Despite this, it is 63% above the pandemic-stricken 2020’s H1 $6.3 billion. 
  • Average deal size has dropped to $31.2 million from 2021’s full-year $39.5 million and even 2020’s $30.6 million, accounting for inflation in the past two years. Looking at funding size by series year over year, Series A funding is flat but funding for Series B, C, and D+ have dropped substantially.
  • No startups went public but four digital health companies announced plans to go public or were reported to be planning public exits. One SPAC was announced in June to close in Q3, that of VSee and iDoc Telehealth with Digital Health Acquisition Corporation. SPACs, as this Editor has noted, have gone from Funding Hero to Zero under 2022’s economics, causing many SPACs to crack (Owlet, Talkspace) and increased scrutiny by the Feds [TTA 9 June]. SOC Telehealth, an early SPAC, went private after a 90% share price drop [TTA 8 Feb].
  • Average monthly M&A has dropped substantially. 2021’s monthly average of 23 has dropped to 20 in Q1 and 13 in Q2, for a H1 average of 16.
  • Most popular funding areas are mental health (a far ahead #1 at $1.3 billion), oncology, and cardiovascular. Diabetes dropped from #2 to #4, skewed last year by Teladoc’s acquisition of Livongo. Oncology rose to #2 from #6 in 2021. For mental health, given increased Federal scrutiny and legal problems of companies like Cerebral plus the expansion of Teladoc and Amwell into the area, this Editor does not expect telemental health companies to continue to attract this level of funding but may be attractive for M&A.
  • Disease monitoring (a/k/a RPM) as a value proposition moved from #8 to #3 in investment at $1.4 billion. R&D and on-demand healthcare remained in their #1 and #2 positions.

As TTA has noted previously, this was all to be expected. Will 2022 funding perk up like 2020’s did through Q3 and Q4, or fall off like in 2019 as money sits on the sidelines? Rock Health does try to put a rosier shine on the retrenchment in its roundup, as has venture capital–reality can be good for you. Another depressive factor is regulatory uncertainty in multiple areas and Federal involvement, which some companies can work to their advantage. The Rock Health summary discusses this at length. Also Mobihealthnews

Thursday news roundup: IBM Watson Health sale closed, now Merative; OneMedical inviting buyers–maybe; worst healthcare data breaches rounded up

It’s a post-Independence Day and early summer holiday relatively quiet week….

It’s Merative, not IBM Watson Health anymore. Francisco Partners‘ buy from IBM of Watson Health closed last Thursday (30 June) but didn’t make the news until after the holiday. The announcement of the new brand, Merative, was splashed on HLTH’s website today (not HIMSS) with the usual language about how their data connects and transforms health through pioneering “cloud, real-world data and industry-leading AI” through health systems, hospitals, health plans, life sciences, and government. Speaking of data points:

  • HQ now in Ann Arbor, MI
  • New CEO Gerry McCarthy from CEO of eSolutions, a former Francisco Partners portfolio company that exited to Waystar in October 2020
  • The former general manager, Paul Roma, will be a Senior Advisor to Francisco Partners
  • Merative will have six product families: Health Insights; MarketScan; Clinical Development; Social Program Management and Phytel; Micromedex, and Merge Imaging 
  • Other investors include True Wind Capital and Sixth Street

Since 2015, IBM had built up Watson Health through four acquisitions and over $4 billion in investment. They sold it for perhaps $1 billion to get it off their books. Once upon a time they were the leader, now they’re up against Oracle and a dozen other competitors like IQVIA that sell connectedness and ‘actionable insights’ across and in chunks of their business (example, life sciences). Given the track record of the controlling private equity partner, Merative needs to become profitable quickly. Merative will not be a long term investment for them. FierceHealthcare. Our prior coverage: 7 Jan, 22 Jan, 25 Feb (Who needs Watson Health?)

Also apparently up for sale to the right buyer is One Medical. The clinic group flirted with but ultimately sent packing CVS Health. One Medical offers concierge in-person and telehealth primary care in seven metros and has over 700,000 members. They bought Medicare value-based primary care provider group Iora Health a year ago [TTA 11 June] but since then their stock (trading under 1Life Healthcare) and valuation has cracked by 75%. Not mentioned in the Bloomberg article is whether Iora is included in the possible deal.

And for those who like their Hackermania on the Wild Side, there’s a massive list over at Wired that racks up the Greatest Hits. It’s only halfway through 2022, but the data breaching and ransomware perps have multiplied. From Russia/Ukraine to extortion gangs like Conti and Lapsus$ to cryptocurrency theft and China, the Old Reliable Healthcare continues to star. Our recent list is here but topping out the Wired list are Shields Health Care Group, Baptist Health System, Resolute Health Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, and Yuma Regional Medical Center. Also Becker’s.

Weekend news, deal roundup: Teladoc CEO’s tapdance interview, VA EHR cost reporting now law, Tunstall-Doncaster Deaf Alliance partner, Cleveland Clinic’s $33M medtech spinoff

Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic’s curious tapdance of an interview. Teladoc has had a rough 2022 to date. Their 2022 Q1 financials [TTA 4 May] were disastrous, their share price has not recovered since it cracked in late April with a 62% year-to-date plunge, the Livongo acquisition is shaping up to be the healthcare equivalent of Eastern Airlines’ takeover by Texas Air Corporation circa 1986, and shareholders are filing class action lawsuits. Now this Editor doesn’t mean to pile on. As a professional in two fields, she does understand the value of the press and leadership being available. But FierceHealthcare’s Heather Landi cleverly got Mr. Gorevic to stake his ground for growth yet again on “holistic, integrated solutions” that combine multiple care services from primary to complex care as the ‘longitudinal’ way to go. Yet Ms. Landi does have the nerve to bring up recent history and their long-time competitors like Amwell and Doctor on Demand (now Included Health) in the same space. Then there are the slices taken by players in the direct-to-consumer and niche target players (she cites troubled Cerebral and Talkspace–I’d offer DTCs like Babylon Health and the ‘white-labels’ like Bluestream Health and Zipnosis, now owned by BrightHealth, which are directly and cost-effectively working with providers). Think of this: in an economic downturn, will providers buy the ‘premium spread’ that requires a big implementation lift, or get by a less comprehensive solution that’s easier to implement and costs less?  Surprisingly, given the ‘everyone wants everything’ strategy, he again blames the cost of paid search advertising and brushes off Microsoft and Amazon. I’m not so sure that so soon after their Q1 bad news in May, with lawsuits centering on statements to investors, and nothing new in good news, this interview was particularly good timing.

VA corralled by Congress on Cerner EHR. The Department of Veterans Affairs now, by Federal law enacted late last week, has to prepare quarterly reports on its transition to the Cerner Millenium EHR to both House and Senate Veterans committees on performance and cost, including a breakdown of program funding sources. The new bipartisan law’s title is the VA Electronic Health Record Transparency Act.  Healthcare Dive

Tunstall Healthcare is now working with a local trust, the Doncaster (UK) Deaf Trust, to provide support for deaf and hearing-impaired children and adults. With Whitley Parish Council, Tunstall is working with the specialist gardening team at Communication Specialist College, part of Doncaster Deaf Trust, to secure over 100 plants for the planters which have been grown at the Trust’s gardens. Tunstall volunteers planted them in the planters across the village. Doncaster Free Press

Cleveland Clinic’s successful spinoff, Centerline Biomedical, closed a $33 million Series B equity financing. Leading it was Cleveland Clinic with participation by GE Healthcare, RIK Enterprises, JobsOhio, Jumpstart Ventures, and G2 Group Ventures. Centerline’s technologies improve visualization and guidance of stents, catheters, and guidewires in endovascular procedures, reducing dependence on radiation and contrast agents with the goal of improving patient outcomes. These include sensors and electromagnetic tracking that create 3-D color visualization and navigation of the human vascular system. Release, Becker’s

Wednesday news roundup: PicnicHealth $60M Series C, can a downturn be good for digital health, Cerebral ran wild, a tart take on HIMSS and where it’s going

PicnicHealth had a bit of one, even in this down market. This company which uses machine learning to build data sets for life sciences by working directly with patients and giving them single-source access to their data raised a $60 million Series C via new investor B Capital Group, with existing investors Felicis Ventures and Amplify Partners. The new funding will be used to build 30 new patient-centered real-world data cohorts. Adam Seabrook, Partner at B Capital Group, will be joining the PicnicHealth board of directors. Their total raise to date is $97 million since 2014 (Crunchbase). The platform was launched in 2020. FierceBiotech, release

Funding news may be a little light nowadays, and if you’re public, you’re looking at double digit share price losses, but couldn’t you guess–the downturn may be good for digital health founders! That’s the view of Big VC General Catalyst’s Hemant Taneja, said at Collision 2022, a Toronto tech conference. Now before you’ve thought the man has totally gone out of his gourd with $5+ gallon gasoline (US), 10% inflation, and rolling blackouts looming on both coasts and the UK, it is true that businesses founded in downturns tend to be tough–my father’s business was founded at the start of the Great Depression. As Mr. Taneja put it, tighter times make for more mission-driven “better founders, better investors and better executives”. Secular trends are in their favor in tech and digital transformation, but there will be another correction coming as the market is over-capitalized. Is it the dot-com boom/bust all over again? Only time will tell, but the crackups are already piling up. FierceHealthcare

Speaking of crackups, Cerebral. A report in the annoyingly paywalled Business Insider tells a tale of Telemental Health Running Wild. Former employees and ~2,000 leaked documents claim that Cerebral had no more than a nodding acquaintance with clinical standards until the Feds stepped in. For starters, they took on patients they should not have, didn’t train their nurse-practitioners and other employees, pushed prescriptions to 95% of patients, disregarded state regulations putting licenses at risk, and generally had more twists than a barrel of pretzels. And this was a company prescribing Schedule 2 drugs that had at peak 210,000 active patients and 4,500 employees.  HISTalk summarizes the article, with our thanks. But it’s par for the course, according to a new JMIR (Journal of Medical Internet Research) study also mentioned that found that “many digital health companies have a low level of clinical robustness and do not make many claims as measured by regulatory filings, clinical trials, and public data shared online.” 

And returning to HISTalk (29 June news), there’s a group of comments from a “HIMSS insider” about how that organization is being managed that long-time observers of this organization will find interesting. Employees thought that HIMSS22 was “awkward”. New and cool conferences HLTH (which initially faltered) and ViVE (which HIMSS didn’t even bother to scout) have taken much of the ‘must attend’ and buzz away from HIMSS. Now this wasn’t supposed to happen with the buy of hipper Health 2.0, to which your Editor was connected–but H2O was HIMSS-ized and effectively killed off even before the pandemic. Regional conferences have disappeared, along with a fair number of employees. HIMSS Analytics is sold. Now this could be all one person’s opinion–but what do you think?

Wednesday news roundup: March telehealth claims down to 4.6%, state telehealth waivers expiring, UnitedHealth’s Optum bids for EMIS, Talkspace reportedly rejected Amwell, Mindpath bids

Telehealth usage continuing its downward trend. At 4.6%, telehealth medical claims in March were off over 6% (0.3 points) versus February’s 4.9%. Again, 65% of claims were for mental health conditions, and social workers were the leading providers of telehealth at 32% for primarily one hour of psychotherapy at 26%. FAIR Health monthly US tracker.

One possible contributing factor is states pulling back on the broad telehealth provider location and other waivers (such as platforms) that were enacted during the Covid emergency. These waivers primarily permitted out-of-state providers. The expiration of waivers thus return telehealth delivery to in-state licensed providers unless covered by other regulations, for instance Medicaid. Last year, 26 states waived in-state licensure requirements; this year, only 12 states have these waivers. California and New Jersey are due to expire soon.  NBC News with a hat tip to HISTalk.

Optum bids to buy UK health software provider EMIS. The bid of £1.24 billion ($1.5 billion) was announced last Friday. A UK affiliate of Optum, Bordeaux UK Holdings II Limited, is the actual entity for the acquisition, recommended by the EMIS board. The offer is in cash and represents a 49% premium to the current share price. EMIS is a leading provider of software and systems to the NHS, serving primary care, community care and pharmacy, acute care, and the Patient.info website. When completed, EMIS would be UnitedHealth’s largest acquisition in the UK and Europe. FierceHealthcare 

Troubled telementalhealth provider Talkspace reportedly rejected a bid from Amwell pretty much out of hand, leading to speculation that it’s up for sale but being picky-picky-picky.  According to the report in Behavioral Health Business, from Seeking Alpha, their talks did not even reach number discussions. This is after Talkspace rejected another bid in May from another telementalhealth provider Mindpath, backed by Centerbridge Partners and Leonard Green & Partners. Sources were split on whether $500 million was offered or not (Axios).

Talkspace is one of the poster children for Cracking SPACs. It hit the market in January 2021 at a valuation of $1.4 billion, opening above $8, hitting a peak of about $11 per share. Share price declined to as low as $1.06 before rising on this acquisition talk to $1.58. Current valuation is $58 million, but it is sitting on a reported $184 million in cash. Reportedly their CEO search is going nowhere. Much like Teladoc, one year after their SPAC, investor lawsuits were filed against the company for misleading investors. Look for Talkspace to be sold over the summer.

Oracle’s Big Healthcare Transformation: it’s all about ‘better information’ (sigh) (updated)

“Better information is the key to transforming healthcare,” he [Larry Ellison] said. “Better information will allow doctors to deliver better patient outcomes. Better information will allow public health officials to develop much better public health policy and it will fundamentally lower healthcare costs overall.”

Larry Ellison’s Big Vision, now that Oracle’s acquired Cerner, has a distinct and familiar ring. ‘Better information’ was also the mantra of IBM Watson Health. It’s the meme of every healthcare company, from education to data analytics, that better and more accessible information means better outcomes and lower cost of care. For those of us who’ve hung our caps in healthcare for the past decade, it’s the dawning promise that like Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, is on the top of the beautiful hill, within our sight, yet out of our reach. But we keep trying.

Mr. Ellison is smarter and richer than most of us, so let’s defer to his Vision and what seem to be the most obvious obstacles to interoperability and mass scaling:

  • A national health record database, in an open standards-based system, will be built by Oracle. It will sit on top and pull information from thousands of hospital and presumably practice-based EHRs. Once completed, in the non-defined future, a hospital or practice anywhere would be able to access patient information.
    • Obstacles: data fragmentation, health records not in an EHR, cooperation in providing information, security, Federal/state privacy regulations, and buy-in from other EHRs which were at last count 500 or so with hospitals running at least 5-10 different EMRs/EHRs.
  • From the national database, disease-specific research using anonymized data from it and AI-enabled analysis
    • This is potentially a big winner, as smaller models are already in use, e.g. between Ronin, a clinical decision support solution, and MD Anderson to create a disease-specific AI model for cancer patients in treatment. 
    • Gathering, anonymizing, and securing the data are the main challenges, plus those above

Big Visions don’t thrill us the way they used to because other than the newest among us, the new Big Promises sound all too familiar. It’s not that long ago that first EHRs, then health information exchanges were supposed to be the clearinghouses to make information interoperable. 21st Century Cures, which allowed members/patients to obtain their health information from payers and providers to the individual, was supposed to fix that portability gap in its next phase. The government also has its own national data exchange framework as part of the Cures Act. So what about that?

Updated. Lest this Editor be considered an outlier, a skeptic, and a general killjoy, there are other smart people far better grounded in IT Reality who are equally skeptical. Patrick Murta, who is now with BehaVR but formerly was co-chief architect for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s FHIR at Scale Taskforce (FAST), is quoted in FierceHealthcare. “Saying that you’re going to build a national database and bringing that to fruition is a different story. This particular model is going to face the same barriers that have been there for many years and there’s no easy path to overcome those barriers quickly.” His opinion is echoed by at least three others in the article. In short, Oracle is actually behind other vendors in the data interoperability area and the goal to knit together thousands of systems that don’t talk to each other may be admirable, but is likely to be the classic Bridge Too Far.

Tony Blair and his nonprofit Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, already partners with Oracle to use its cloud technology to tackle health issues.

Oracle did not answer queries on timing, cost, and access. 

The cynics among us will need no reminder that Cerner is having interoperability issues between DOD’s MHS Genesis and VA’s Cerner Millenium, both national systems that Oracle has now inherited.

In the short term, Cerner will be updated to include a built-in voice interface, more telehealth capabilities, and disease-specific AI models. It’s nice to have the short-term needs recognized while the Big Vision is being built. Healthcare Dive, FierceHealthcare

Thursday legal news roundup: Oscar Health accused of IPO securities fraud; Venezuelan cardiologist moonlights as cybercriminal, faces slammer; Change Healthcare sues former employee now at Olive AI

To use a cliché, what a difference a year makes. In March 2021, insurtech Oscar Health successfully raised $1,4 billion in its IPO with shares at $39. Heady times didn’t last long, with shares tumbling to $5.67 as of this writing. Now the shareholder lawsuits have begun, with the complaint stating that negative effects of COVID-19 on Oscar’s business were not disclosed, specifically the growing cost of the pandemic on testing and treatment costs they would cover, and “Oscar would be negatively impacted by an unfavorable prior year Risk Adjustment Data Validation (RADV) result relating to 2019 and 2020 [and] that Oscar was on track to be negatively impacted by significant SEP membership growth”. The lack of forward-looking disclosure at an IPO is a violation of the Securities Act. The initial lawsuit has been filed in the US District Court for the Southern District Court of New York by shareholder Lorin Carpenter. Multiple law firms have invited shareholders to join in the suit — example from PR Newswire. Also named in the suit are Oscar Health co-founders CEO Mario Schlosser and Vice Chairman Joshua Kushner, plus several investment banks.

Oscar started the year with a Q1 loss of $0.36 per share versus an estimate of a loss of $0.40, but this is less than half of last year’s loss of $0.98 per share. They are also exiting the Arkansas and Colorado markets in 2023. Healthcare Dive

Cardiologist, master cybercriminal, a new Dr. Mabuse? Accused of the creation, use, and sale of ransomware is one Venezuelan doctor and practicing cardiologist, Moises Luis Zagala Gonzalez, a dual citizen of Venezuela and France. The charges by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Eastern District of New York also detail his “extensive support of, and profit sharing arrangements with, the cybercriminals who used his ransomware programs.” SaaS can’t hold a candle to the RaaS–ransomware-as-a-service–operation he created to sell what he dubbed ‘Thanos,’ allegedly named after a fictional cartoon villain responsible for destroying half of all life in the universe. Turns out that Iranian state-sponsored hackers and fellow ransomware designers really liked it too. If convicted, he faces 10 years in Club Fed–five years for attempted computer intrusion, and five years for conspiracy to commit computer intrusions. Designing criminal software really does test the limits of moonlighting. DOJ release, TechCrunch

Change Healthcare sues former employee at competitor Olive AI. While their merger with UnitedHealthcare is tied up in the US District Court in DC [TTA 23 Mar], Change Healthcare is not letting any courtroom grass grow under their feet. They are suing a former employee, Michael Feeney, with violating the non-compete clauses of his employment contract. The suit was filed in Tennessee Chancery Court, its HQ state. Mr. Feeney has countersued in his state of residence, stating that the non-compete violates Massachusetts law. He was VP, strategy and operations at Change handling physician revenue cycle management. At Olive AI, he is currently SVP, provider market operations. Information is a bit scarce on this and the free article this Editor has found reads machine-translated. If you have access to the Nashville Post or Modern Healthcare it’s probably more decipherable.

As to the lawsuit affecting non-competes due to the tight labor market–don’t count on it. It’s a conflict between the state the company is in enforcing non-competes, versus a state which restricts (or negates) them that is the former employee’s state of residence and work. What wins out will be the interesting part and affect many of us in the US.