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JPMorgan, Berkshire Hathaway, and Amazon could build the Healthcare Expedia

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Healthcare’s expensive. On a whole, the US now spends $3.5 trillion annually on healthcare, or 18% of the economy. That’s twice as much as some other developed nations.

And a lot of it is estimated to be wasteful, about $910 billion, according to a 2012 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In a note dated Wednesday, analysts at Morgan Stanley projected that number to balloon to $1.6 trillion by 2025.

One thing that could fix it, the analysts said: an online shopping solution that acts like Expedia for Healthcare. Ideally, that could reduce waste by 50%, or roughly $800 billion of that projected $1.6 trillion. While those tools exist in pieces, they haven’t caught on in a big way, or done much yet to control health spending.

“We expect the ‘Healthcare Expedia’ to empower people to take ownership of their care, choosing cheaper sites for care and preventative medicine,” the analysts wrote.

The “Healthcare Expedia” in their eyes looks like a place where consumers can compare prices and read reviews, similar to how Expedia functions for travel shopping. It could also include ways to book and pay for the visit or treatment as well. The analysts said they expect the tool to start in Medicare, especially amid a more tech-friendly aging population.

Morgan Stanley’s analysts are betting the joint healthcare venture that JPMorgan, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway are forming could be the force that brings the vision to light, with new tech entrants and incumbents including insurance companies also potentially making a dent. The government, the analysts argued, won’t be the ones to pull this off.

Read more: Waiting for its Uber moment’: America’s biggest companies are shaking up the healthcare system

The venture, announced in January 2018, is aimed at lowering healthcare costs for the companies’ employees, though there haven’t been many details about what that looks like. At the time, news of the partnership sent healthcare stocks plummeting, especially health insurers and members of the pharmaceutical supply chain who might be impacted by the three business giants getting into their lines of work.

Combined, Morgan Stanley noted, the three organizations prove health insurance for about 2.4 million people in the US, including workers and their families, spending an estimated $13 billion each year. While we still don’t know much about what shape the joint venture will take, Morgan Stanley doesn’t expect it to look like a new insurer.

“We do think that they will find a way to innovate and create the next generation of healthcare consumption,” the analysts wrote.

Because of Amazon’s consumer-focused background, Berkshire Hathaway’s diversified employee base, and JPMorgan’s experience so far with trying to drive consumers to make better healthcare decisions, the analysts argued, the three are set up to build an Expedia-like tool.

“[JPMorgan CEO] Jamie [Dimon]’s comments from JPM’s February investor day suggest that one of the key areas that the joint venture is working on is data that consumers can use to better inform their decisions on where to go for what procedures, including cost and likely outcomes,” the analysts wrote.

Regardless of who builds it, the “Healthcare Expedia” will go up against some big challenges.

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That includes finding a way to positively change the behaviors of patients so that they can find high-quality healthcare at a lower price. One worry is that if forced to shop and spend more of their own money, patients will skip appointments or stop taking medications because they can’t afford them. Research has shown that’s already happening in in some health insurance plans that require patients to spend lots of their own money on care.

Another issue is the difficulty of connecting fragmented information about patients, with doctor’s offices holding one piece, insurers another, and pharmacies another. The systems often can’t talk to each other, making it hard to exchange information about care or costs. Doctors, worried that patients will skimp on quality in favor of cost, are resistant to transparency tools.

And to be sure, building a “Healthcare Expedia” has been attempted by companies in the past. Companies like Castlight, for instance, have price transparency tools for medical procedures, while Zocdoc has reviews for doctors and helps patients book appointments. But none are yet nearly as mainstream as travel-shopping sites like Expedia.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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