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Morning Brew March 17, 2023

Healthcare Brew


Happy Friday, and let’s pop the champagne! It’s the end of a long (and anxiety-inducing) Match Week for medical students, who find out today where they’ll serve their residencies. We hope that all the future physicians out there match into their top program. May the odds (and algorithm) be ever in your favor.

In today’s edition:

Google tech

Medical cannabis

Making Rounds

—Amanda Eisenberg, Kristine White


Checking in

Ultrasound devices compared to each other. Courtesy of Google

Google Health rolled out a variety of new initiatives and tools aimed at improving access to care and diagnosing diseases earlier at a Manhattan event on Tuesday.

The tech behemoth is leaning heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and its existing products to address patient-facing issues like Medicaid re-enrollment and diagnostic tools for providers, Google executives said at the company’s Pier 57 office.

“The future of health is consumer-driven,” said Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer at Google. “People will expect a mobile-first experience with more personalized insights, services, and care. That means enterprises, including Google, will need to evolve to meet consumers where they are.”

Healthcare Brew highlighted some of the company’s latest endeavors:

Improved search functions

Millions of enrollees risk losing their Medicaid coverage when the redetermination period begins on April 1. Google executives said the search function will pull up relevant information to help users re-enroll, and that they have also verified the accuracy of the information for hundreds of thousands of providers—notably about hours and contact info. Similarly, Google is partnering with more healthcare providers later in the year to make appointments easier to book through its search function.

Google AI

The company’s “large language model designed to provide high-quality and authoritative answers to medical questions,” known as Med-PaLM 2, performed at an “expert” level on a US Medical Licensing Examination practice test—the highest score achieved by AI, said Alan Karthikesalingam, a senior staff clinician scientist and research lead at Google. Most AI models scored around 50%, while Med-PaLM 2 reached 85% accuracy.

What that actually means is that the technology is capable of answering medical questions with answers that are on par with what a doctor might be able to offer from their own knowledge base.

Keep reading here.—AE

Do you work in healthcare or have information about the industry that we should know? Email Amanda at [email protected] For completely confidential conversations, ask Amanda for her number on Signal.



A healthcare solution powered by proof


It’s time to address the elephant in the room: Despite overwhelming evidence of its importance, behavioral health is one of the weakest aspects of our healthcare industry. Providers are overwhelmed, depression and anxiety go underdiagnosed, and cost of care remains unnecessarily high.

Fortunately, NeuroFlow’s got the solution. Their technology infrastructure empowers organizations to integrate behavioral healthcare into their own programs population-wide. 

How? By weaving consumer engagement solutions and enterprise workflow software into a cohesive platform that meets the needs of all.

Want a peek into the clinical and financial impact of integrated care? Take a look at a case study to learn how Jefferson Health reduced ED utilization by 34% with integrated care powered by NeuroFlow’s SaaS infrastructure.

Take your integrated care programs to the next level with NeuroFlow.


Medical cannabis

A photo of weed and pills next to each other on a shelf. Cappi Thompson/Getty Images

Cannabis may be the newest tool for combating the opioid epidemic.

Chronic pain patients in New York State reduced prescription opioid use by switching to medical cannabis, a recent study from the New York State Department of Health, New York State Office of Cannabis Management, and CUNY found.

Researchers analyzed the data from 8,165 chronic pain patients, who were also enrolled in the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program from 2017–2019 for long-term opioid therapy. Patients were divided into two exposure groups: those who used medical cannabis for fewer than 30 days and those who used it for a longer period.

At the end of the eight-month intervention, patients who used medical cannabis saw daily opioid use decrease between 47%–51% from their baseline, according to the study. In comparison, patients receiving prescription cannabis for fewer than 30 days reduced daily opioid use by 4%–14%.

“These findings have important implications for clinicians and policymakers,” Danielle Greene, a coauthor on the study, said in a statement. “Previous research has shown that abrupt disruption in opioid prescriptions among patients on long-term opioid therapy and high dosages can lead to patients’ use of illicit drugs, overdose, and self-harm.”

Greene also said in the statement that “equitable implementation” of the study’s findings will require more work.

Medicare and Medicaid do not cover medical cannabis because its use is not legal at the federal level (though it is legal in 37 states and Washington, DC), leaving patients to pay out of pocket for the drug.

Patients may also have to pay hundreds of dollars each month for medical cannabis ID cards—in addition to the medical cannabis itself—depending on their state.

Keep reading here.—KW

Do you work in healthcare or have information about the industry that we should know? Email Kristine at [email protected] For completely confidential conversations, ask Kristine for her number on Signal.



Making Rounds

A blonde woman wearing a white doctor's coat smiles.

On Fridays, we schedule our rounds with Healthcare Brew readers. Want to be featured in an upcoming edition? Click here to introduce yourself.

This week’s Making Rounds spotlights Briana Costello, a general and interventional cardiologist at the Texas Heart Institute Center for Cardiovascular Care in Houston. Costello discussed the center’s new location, which opened for patients at the end of last year, as well as the latest technology in cardiology.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What healthcare trend are you most optimistic about, and why?

One of the biggest trends in cardiology is actually in the arrhythmia department, and that is with wearables. I love them. When we talk about wearables, at least in cardiology, most of us are talking about watches or activity trackers, as well as heart monitors, which are usually placed at your doctor’s office and they sit on your chest. I think of them like a little spy into your heart rhythm at all times of the day.

What healthcare trend are you least optimistic about, and why?

There’s been a huge uptick of people that I see in the office, in particular women but also the men, who are being treated with hormone replacement therapy—in particular testosterone. Five years ago, I don’t think I saw a single woman on testosterone therapy in the office, but over the last one, two years that has just skyrocketed. So testosterone again, in particular for women, but also in men, can increase the risk of having arrhythmia, can increase your risk of clotting in the venous system, such as if you’ve heard of a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) or pulmonary embolism.

Keep reading here.—KW



Curiosity Stream

A watchlist that doesn’t miss. Stay informed + entertained about topics like food, science, history, travel, and tech with Curiosity Stream, the entertainment HQ with the deepest streaming collection of award-winning documentary shows and films. With new content added each week, there’s something for everyone and every interest. Start watching with 25% off an annual subscription.


A laptop tracking vital signs is placed on rolling medical equipment. Francis Scialabba

Today’s top healthcare reads.

Stat: One of the largest insulin makers will cut the prices of some treatments by up to 75%. (CNBC)

Quote: “The standard deli sandwich with processed meat and cheese, you’re literally eating a heart bomb.”—Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and professor of nutrition and medicine at Tufts University, on sandwiches as the culprit for poor health in the US (the Wall Street Journal)

Read: Biotech startups still face a bevy of challenges after the SVB bailout. (BioPharma Dive)

Read, watch, advance equity: LetsGetChecked’s Let’s Talk About Health Equity Report examines how Americans really feel about healthcare today. Join their March 30 webinar as experts explore how at-home care can address modern patient challenges.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.


  • More Black babies died unexpectedly in 2020 despite low infant mortality rates.
  • Best Buy is the latest retailer to get into the healthcare space.
  • Couples in med school brace for “Match Day” today—when they find out whether they’ll get residencies in the same cities, or if they’ll have to relocate to accommodate one partner’s new employer.
  • The federal government looks to rein in prior authorization, a process that frustrates both patients and physicians.


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