What the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods tells us about medical technology

Medical Icons

I’m a big believer in learning business lessons wherever and whenever I can. I may hear a speaker suggest something or read a column that gets me thinking of how to apply that idea or concept to our business. Even when the issue is clearly ions away from our primary interests, I can almost always find a parable or analogy that brings the learning back to what’s in front of me.

Even so, many might say it’s too far a stretch for me to see a lesson applicable to the medical device industry, or even the broader healthcare sector, in the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods last month. Let me explain why this transaction actually teaches a critical lesson for all of us concerned with bringing innovation to the world’s doctors, nurses and, most importantly, patients.

Beyond the almost cliché role of disruptor, which it has been perfecting since the days the company started changing how and where books are sold, Amazon is also showing that it can cross channels to make them more efficient for the ultimate consumer. What Jeff Bezos did by forcing publishers, authors, and everybody else along the book supply chain to cut their costs, he is now attempting to do with groceries.  The outcome for food manufacturers may be as existensially challenging as it was for book sellers.

Apply this lesson of disintermediation and productivity enhancement to the healthcare industry with technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and you have the colliding of disruptors that simultaneously knock existing companies off of their current models.  This has the immediate impact of propelling the patient or end user to the front of the line when it comes to improved diagnosis and ultimately improved outcomes.  With AI and advanced machine learning algorithms, improved healthcare will result from the ability to instanteously reveal intelligent information from totally different data sets.  For example, the marrying of detailed, pattern matching information from Neurology, Radiology and Psychiatry may very well improve optimal clinical and medical solutions for patients.

The AI market for healthcare applications, which is expected to double every two years for the next decade, should also result in reduced treatment costs and the elimination of unnecessary hospital procedures. Soon enough, chronic conditions like cancer, Alzheimers disease, and chronic traumatic brain injuries will be diagnosed in minutes.  This will be accomplished by using AI applications systems that identify and compare all available characteristics in the patients medical history, testing, scanning, blood markers and other available information.  If that’s not an industry disruptor, I don’t know what one is.

The primary question to companies facing this onslaught, like those now assessing the combination of Amazon and Whole Foods, is what can I do to keep up?  A recent column on the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods at Forbes.com captures this perfectly, particularly a few sentences toward the end; “Innovators have already been using Big Data, AI and ML. And if you’re hearing about them now, it might be too late.

John A. Kelley, Jr., is Chairman and CEO of CereScan, a functional brain diagnostics company headquartered in Denver.


Medical innovation and progress don’t have to stop under tight federal budgets


Budget Planning

There has been a lot of discussion about Pres. Trump’s first budget submission, particularly in healthcare channels, leading to more questions than answers. Will Medicaid really be cut by billions of dollars? Are certain research programs and pharmaceutical regulations destined for the scrap heap? Will the CDC and NIH have their budgets slashed? The list goes on.

There is an excellent article in The Atlantic that provides insight into the impact of the budget on healthcare, much of which is negative for many of us in the sector. Instead of reviewing the downside, I want to focus on the opportunities and trend away from simply piling on regarding the issue the proposed budget cuts will create. These opportunities arise from having to make difficult choices based on fewer resources available to address specific challenges. It may sound counter-intuitive, but those choices over diminished fund allocations can actually lead to dramatic advancement of research in health and diagnostics.


The traditional path to innovation in healthcare is for researchers to receive money from the government and other sources, develop a solution to a specific medical challenge, seek approval from governmental bodies and then endeavor to commercialize the pharmaceutical device or process. The creative way to bring innovations to market is to secure private sector funding, then compliant testing and ultimately commercialization. This new approach is obtainable because technology has advanced to the point where data can be shared across boundaries.  This sharing accelerates innovations that are works of collaboration between many different companies and organizations. This is exactly what investors want in a business model, and has been successfully used in many industries.

The healthcare sector has operated with a margin of error that can now be reduced by deploying the latest in information systems technologies.  These new advancements enhance an organization’s ability to move new products and procedures through to commercialization more effectively. Data analytics is a great example of technology that has consistently been advancing to the point where stakeholders can fully coordinate intelligent information to better understand the needs of each patient. These stakeholders can realistically implement artificial intelligence, machine learning and other analytic technologies to fill the void and continue to be proactive in helping drive that more comprehensive view of the patient.

This research to personalize the care process is more important than ever because any potential cuts at the federal level will require more efficient use of treatment resources. If doctors can combine data sources at the point of care delivery to more precisely and immediately diagnose and treat illnesses, they can potentially save billions of dollars a year for the healthcare system.

As Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christiansen has said, machine learning is going to happen in a big way in the healthcare provider channel whether the channel likes it or not. The change will happen either through disruptive innovation, a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, or through a more gradual evolution that is spurred on by existing stakeholders responding to the changing marketplace. Given those potential budget cuts, stakeholders should plan for disruptions but innovation that will be positive for the healthcare industry.

John A. Kelley, Jr., is Chairman and CEO of CereScan, a functional brain diagnostics company headquartered in Denver.

CereScan’s Ability to Accurately Show Presence of Mild to Moderate Traumatic Brain Injuries Provides Value in Legal Process

While traditional approaches to traumatic brain injury detection can be inconclusive, including MRI and CT scans, another technology is gaining notoriety with legal and medical professionals.

MRI vs CereSCanReferred by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a “silent epidemic,” traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects millions every year, but this invisible injury is often difficult to diagnose.  Traditional imaging results are generally inconclusive for people with concussions – or mild TBI – as the damage associated with the injury often impacts cellular function and MRI and CT scans only analyze the structure of the brain.

However, an advance technology utilized by CereLaw called qSPECT (quantitative Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) is aiding attorneys and medical providers.  The qSPECT process establishes the existence of mild- to moderate-TBI and its effects through SPECT imaging, advanced imaging software, detailed medical history and clinical assessments. SPECT imaging measures and analyzes blood flow levels throughout the brain to pinpoint the exact area impacted by the injury.

Lead by Brett Green, Esq. the CereLaw team is increasing awareness of TBI detection technologies available to attorneys through industry conferences such as the 2016 BIACAL Med-Legal Conference on Nov. 18 – 19 in Napa, California, and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association’s Annual Meeting on Dec. 8 – 9 in Dallas, Texas.

“Industry conferences are a great way for us to increase education around some of the advanced diagnostic tools for brain injuries that can help correlate or distinguish brain-based disorders,” said Brett Green, vice president of CereLaw. “We also had the opportunity to meet with experts from various market segments and share best practices. The experiences and key learnings were invaluable.”

CereLaw is a division of CereScan, a functional brain diagnostics and data analytics company. The company has been involved in over 300 legal cases and has developed an unmatched success rate from cases in more than 30 states. With over 25 years of experience with brain injuries, CereScan’s team provides unparalleled expertise and support not found at other brain imaging facilities.

“The technology and team at CereScan has become a critical component to our TBI practice,” said Ronald W. Armstrong II, attorney at The Armstrong Firm, PLLC, San Antonio, Texas.  “Additionally, the quality of the results and professionalism exhibited by them is second to none.”

For more information about CereLaw’s brain forensic services please contact Brett Green at bgreen@cerescan.com or Lisa Teitelman at lteitelman@cerescan.com or call toll free at  (855) 838-2241. Connect with CereLaw on Twitter @CereLaw or online at https://www.cerelaw.com.

CereScan Poised to Change Brain Diagnostics as it Expands into Alabama


CereScan®’s functional brain imaging and analytical services are now available at the Helen Keller Hospital’s Imaging Center in Sheffield, Alabama. A Center-of-Excellence hospital, Helen Keller is strategically near major metropolitan areas, such as Nashville, Birmingham and Memphis and several military bases.

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