Add hospital-acquired infections to your list, Google Ventures!

Google Ventures’ Hot 7 [TTA 23 May] should be a Hot 8. Three recent articles have reminded this Editor that we are no further along in controlling nosocomial, or hospital-acquired, infections–and they are getting worse. They annually kill 75,000 US patients in hospitals and 375,000 patients in nursing homes. Those who get it and survive take months to fully recover, if they can.

  • They keep multiplying. The US’ Eye on Infection, Betsy McCaughey, former NY State lieutenant governor, brings to attention a new one called Candida aureus, a fungus which kills 60 percent of patients it infects. It’s been detected in New York (15 hospitals so far), New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Illinois. It is carried on surfaces, sink drains, uniforms, clothing, skin, and devices, the last usually fatal to the patient. Patients can also be carriers.
  • The spread of CRE (carbapenem-resistant bacteria) could be the future of Candida aureus. In 1999, it was first detected at Downstate Medical Center in NYC. By 2008 it reached 22 states and is now a nationwide threat.
  • MRSA and MSSA are widespread, waxing and waning in outbreaks.

The problem has escalated to the point where Mark Sklansky, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has launched a pilot to ban handshakes in two UCLA neonatal intensive care units–and it’s being debated on whether it’s effective or just consciousness raising.

Ms McCaughey attributes this to lack of action by CDC, despite Congress, in staying with outdated guidelines for how to clean patients’ rooms, ignoring the potential of automatic room disinfection to save lives. CDC underestimates the impact through bad sampling. Hospitals under-report deaths from infection. State authorities are no better in their inaction.

A solution far more aggressive than banning handshakes is screen-and-clean. Israel’s drastically reduced CRE by 70 percent in one year from its 2007 outbreak. Even babies are screened. Automatic room disinfection is not a panacea, but architects have been tackling this in designs for future hospital rooms for years. The most recent concept this Editor saw was at last November’s NYeC Digital Health Conference.

GV, where art thou? FierceHealthcare,, NY Post

Want to attract Google Ventures to your health tech? Look to these seven areas.

The GV Hot 7, especially the finally-acknowledged physician burnout. Google Ventures’ (GV) Dr. Krishna Yeshwant, a GV general partner leading the Life Sciences team, is interested in seven areas, according to his interview in Business Insider (UK):

  • Physician burnout, which has become epidemic as doctors (and nurses) spend more and more time with their EHRs versus patients. This is Job #1 in this Editor’s opinion.

Dr. Yeshwant’s run-on question to be solved is: “Where are the places where we can intervene to continue getting the advantages of the electronic medical record while respecting the fact that there’s a human relationship that most people have gotten into this for that’s been eroded by the fact that there’s now a computer that’s a core part of the conversation.” (Your job–parse this sentence!–Ed.)

Let’s turn to Dr. Robert Wachter for a better statement of the problem. This Editor was present for his talk at the NYeC Digital Health Conference [TTA 19 Jan] and these are quoted from his slides: “Burnout is associated with computerized order entry use and perceived ‘clerical burden’ [of EHRs and other systems]”. He also cites the digital squeeze on physicians and the Productivity Paradox, noted by economist Robert Solow as “You can see the computer age everywhere except in the productivity statistics.” In other words, EHRs are a major thief of time. What needs to happen? “Improvements in the technology and reimagining the work itself.” Citing Mr. Solow again, the Productivity Paradox in healthcare will take 15-20 years to resolve. Dr. Wachter’s talk is here. (more…)

FDA tells 23andMe genomic test to stop marketing (US)

Quantified Selfers and the D3H (Digital Health Hypester Horde) are in a swivet. This past Friday, FDA slammed the door shut on the 23andMe Personal Genome Service (PGS) saliva test. This past summer, the company broadly marketed to US consumers, including a TV campaign [Charles Lowe, TTA 7 Aug]. The FDA cease-and-desist letter cites that 23andMe never provided requested data on their July and September 510(k) filings, which are now ‘considered withdrawn’, and cites that “after these many interactions with 23andMe, we still do not have any assurance that the firm has analytically or clinically validated the PGS for its intended uses, which have expanded from the uses that the firm identified in its submissions.” The danger is that people will make medical decisions based on the testing information and that the results produced may be faulty. It appears from FierceHealthcare that the kit has actually been marketed for five years. According to MedCityNews, it is backed by Google Ventures (the CEO/co-founder is the estranged wife of Google head Sergey Brin), New Enterprise Associates, MPM Capital and the Moscow billionaire Yuri Milner. A private citizen is petitioning the White House to overrule the FDA (as if that extra-legal move would be possible, but who knows with the influence of the Googlesphere?) and states that the agency ‘grossly overstates the risks’ (also MedCityNews). As of 2 Dec there are 3,306 signatures of the 100,000 needed; one suspects this administration has bigger slices of uncooked turkey on its plate such as Obamacare and a kind-of-achieved 30 Nov deadline on, which is now clearly seen as just one problem.

The 23andMe website is still fully up and still selling kits.

Editor Donna sorts through the noise for possible reasons why:  (more…)

More color(s) on Calico

Fortune, rolling off sister TIME‘s announcement of ‘Can Google Solve Death?’ [TTA 19 Sep], provides more background on how Calico, Google‘s new company which will focus on aging and associated diseases, came to be. It is the brainchild of Google Ventures’ managing partner Bill Maris who was once in biotech, and saw that this area was missing the root cause of much disease–that we all keep on getting older and experience cellular failure. “Now that the entire genome had been coded, Maris wondered if it was possible to actually study the genetic causes of aging and then create drugs to address them (a question that was heavily influenced by talks with futurist and Googler Ray Kurzweil).” He initially attracted major non-Googly investors, (more…)