It’s not often you are asked publicly to comment on a particular investment by an entrepreneur as well-known as Mark Cuban. And although I don’t usually offer such advice, this one piqued my interest—more so because of a larger story than the particular company itself.
Mr. Cuban wrote that he is “really excited about changing the economics and results of healthcare with this one.” I don’t doubt his sincerity, however may I suggest there are some much bigger problems that need to be addressed to meet that noble transformative and audacious goal?
The company in question is called LungDirect. They offer a program that gathers information on CT scans performed for the early detection of lung cancer, analyzes the data and facilitates reports required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for payment under the Medicare program (more about that below). In short, it’s a sophisticated approach to what we call a “medical registry.”
I can’t comment here nor do I know whether their tool is any better or any worse than other similar programs. What I do know is that although registry reporting can be complex, creating technology that assists in tracking patients, collating, analyzing and reporting data is not going to transform the economics health care or assure more effective lung cancer treatment.
I recently posted a blog looking at the complexities of lung cancer screening programs. Low (radiation) dose CT scans save lives by detecting lung cancer early in patients at high risk. Medicare covers the test on an annual basis for appropriate beneficiaries, however requires that the data be entered into a registration system so the information and the patients can be tracked over time.
The American College of Radiology (ACR) has established such a registry. In fact, they are the only organization recognized by CMS as meeting those requirements. They have a 58-page online document that details how to accomplish that task. (Maybe 58 pages gives you an idea of how difficult it is to translate information from one patient into these registries.)
The ACR website also discusses their twelve “certified software partners”—one of which is LungDirect—which can assist radiology practices to get the information from their local office into the ACR registry.
As I wrote above, I can’t determine whether this particular company is any better or worse than the other 11 companies. What I do know is that it is not single-handedly going to transform the economics or quality of health care.
For me, the key to making that kind of transformation means putting the people at the center of the health technology universe. Right now, from where I sit, I feel—as a patient and consumer of health care—like I am an afterthought in this juggernaut we call health care information technology.
My plea to Mr. Cuban and his many friends is that while they are making their investments they should also demand a solution to this informatics mess. Some health-focused organizations are doing the job well. Unfortunately, many are not.
That may not be an investment that is “laser focused” or have an immediate financial return. However, it would be an investment that really would shake the world we live in.
Now, that would be transformative.