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The ripple effects of piecemeal privacy laws

A growing patchwork of state-level privacy laws could pose a challenge for upstart health tech companies. After California led the way with its consumer privacy law in 2018, Virginia and Colorado followed suit, and now Massachusetts has advanced its own data privacy bill. Each independent piece of legislation could impact consumer-oriented health apps that don’t fall under HIPAA — leading digital health companies to worry about mounting costs to navigate the regulatory thicket and declining revenue for resale of consumer data, Mohana reports.

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One simplifying strategy: Just build apps to the most rigorous standard set by a state, said Carmel Shachar, executive director of Harvard Law School’s Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics. “That can be a good thing, in that it will encourage the maximum privacy protections for everyone.” Read more from Mohana.

Health tech on the first STATUS list 

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There’s been no lack of opportunities for leaders in biomedicine to make an impact in the last two years. In the first STATUS list, announced today, we aimed to highlight just 46 of the people that have built important bridges in health, medicine, and science — with solid representation from diverse fields in health technology.

There’s Regina Barzilay, the MIT professor whose own breast cancer diagnosis factored into her lab’s development of an AI-based risk assessment for mammograms. Vocal AI proponent Eric Topol — who crucially, is also frequently a critic of health tech deployments — makes an appearance. And academics-turned-founders are a common feature in the list, including Daphne Koller, the Stanford computer scientist who founded AI-based drug discovery firm Insitro in 2018.

Another familiar founder face is Anne Wojcicki, whose 16-year-old company 23andMe is doubling down on its own drug development efforts, built off its massive database of genetic information, after last year’s IPO. But there’s room for the people funding the next set of household health tech names, from the research stage (Cori Bargmannhead of science for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative) to startups (Kenneth Frazier, chairman of Health Assurance Initiatives at General Catalyst, which has invested in 15 companies aiming to rebalance the cost and value of care.) Read more about their stories and their peers on the list here.

How to train your AI to predict bad outcomes

Periods of rapid Covid-19 transmission left many hospitals without enough resources to care for overwhelming numbers of sick patients. A new study published in BMJ describes an AI tool developed by researchers at the University of Michigan that could accurately predict which patients were likely to become severely ill to help manage scarce resources. Using a small number of physiological measures, the tool outperformed a widely-used product developed by the electronic health records giant Epic Systems.

As Covid-19 spread, many hospitals scrambled to re-purpose Epic’s model with mixed results, exposing the need for more rigorous evaluation. In the BMJ study, Michigan researchers tested the tool across 13 health centers, in different demographic groups, and across time to examine the potential for dips in accuracy. Its ultimate impact on patient outcomes remains to be seen, but the thoroughness of the validation seems a step in the right direction.

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