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Top Five Reads of the Week

Boston’s Digital Health Innovation Lab and a $26M Digital Health VC Fund: On June 1st, MassChallenge held the ribbon cutting ceremony for their new digital health innovation lab, Pulse@MassChallenge. Pulse will occupy about 8,000 square feet of the Hatch co-working space in Fenway and will house approximately 30 health tech startups. In addition to the the new lab, The Massachusetts Competitive Partnership announced the Massachusetts Innovation Catalyst Fund—a $26 million venture capital fund dedicated to funding local digital health startups and putting Boston on the map as a digital health hub.  Investors include individual investors and companies such as athenahealth, Vertex and Kraft Group. (Boston Globe)

Don’t Panic About The Cell Phone Cancer Study: Last week, headlines were abuzz about a “game-changing” rat study linking cellphones to cancer. But after an initial frenzy, journalists and researchers are starting to question how concerned we should be about the study’s findings.  The study, which has not yet been accepted for publication, exposed  a small number of pregnant rats and their offspring to whole body CDMA or GSM modulated radio frequency radiation. Although male rats (but not female) exposed to CDMA showed a statistically significant higher rate of tumor cells, the cancer rate of the exposed rats was what researchers would expect in a general rat population, while the control rate demonstrated lower-than-normal rates of cancer. Also, the rats exposed to cell phone waves had longer life spans than the control group. Professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, Aaron Carroll,  believes that “this study is likely to have a high false discovery rate, or an increased risk of being a false positive.” (New York Times)

Psychotherapists Less Likely to Offer Appointments to African American and Working-Class Patients: A study published in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior reports that psychotherapists are more likely to offer appointments to middle-class white patients than to middle-class African American patients or to working-class patients of any race. The study, run by Heather Kugelmass at Princeton, found that black men had a particularly difficult time obtaining appointments, especially during ideal time slots.  The Atlantic reports: “If her experiment were to play out in the real world, an identifiably black, working-class man would have to call 80 therapists before he was offered a weekday evening appointment. A middle-class white woman would only have to call five.” (The Atlantic)

The Patient’s Burden When Coordinating Healthcare: In this article, Sarah Kliff of Vox discusses her experience suffering from a chronic injury and the significant time and energy that goes into being a patient. Current quality metrics don’t measure how hard a patient has to work to coordinate his/her own care, and many fail to realize that, in cases where patients don’t have flexible work schedules, “prescribing health care with a high patient work burden can be equivalent to denying health care.” According to Mayo Clinic’s Victor Montori, “the health care system knows that patients are motivated, that they want to get better. So it gains efficiencies by transferring the work.” (Vox)

Doctors Violate HIPAA Responding to Negative Yelp Reviews: Pro Publica keyword searched 1.7 million reviews to find one-star reviews that mentioned HIPAA or privacy concerns. They found that some providers disclosed personal medical information about their patients in response to negative reviews. (The Washington Post)

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