Healthcare Hucksters

A huckster is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as one who peddles, sells, or advertises in an aggressive, dishonest, or annoying way.

Last week was JPM in San Francisco.

It’s billed as the globes largest investment symposium in the healthcare industry. It brings together industry “leaders,” emerging and high-growth companies, innovative technology, and the investment community.

It’s basically a meeting of hucksters pushing hugs, drugs, and cures for super bugs.

All in hopes of gaining a few investor bucks.

In all honesty it’s been a few years since I’ve attended in person. With that said, I have continued to follow it via various channels over the course of my absence. In my observation, nothing has changed.

Many of the startups are pitching smoke and mirrors with promises to solve the next big challenge in healthcare.

Many of these companies are led by the “technology gurus” that haven’t spent one day inside of a hospital, let alone eyeball to eyeball in front of a patient.

Yet they claim to have defined the challenge, have the solution, and use marketing buzzwords filled with smoke and mirrors to try and enamor investment dollars.

Some companies have the obligatory “MD” as a Chief Medical Officer. I say “MD” as such because I’ve found many of the doctors (IMO different than a physician) in the CMO position have never completed their residency, spent a day in the clinic, or practiced their specialty. Yet they claim to have defined the problem and discovered the solution.

More smoke and mirrors.

The last time I attended I had a few of the investors ask me, “Can you help us maneuver through the muck of what has promise and what is vapor?”

I actually had a call today on this very topic.

While I admit I’m not as smart (or as educated) as many who attend, I do have practical knowledge on both the clinical, technical, operational and industry side.

Again, of the 5 topics we discussed, only one of the businesses (in my opinion) was rooted in a reality of what is occurring today married with a design in how the future could be for both patients and physicians.

I believe JPM is important.

It’s important to be able to have a space in which we bring the brightest minds in finance, technology, and medicine together. A space that truly allows investment to occur in the life altering innovations that impact the people in our communities and the patients they may become.

While we have the brightest in financial, many in technology, we often are missing medicine. Instead we substitute the insights of medicine with the pseudoscience of healthcare.

This is where the challenge resides.

The people obtaining the dollars are the same people that sold us the bill of goods that has never materialized.

The same people that claimed if we replaced the MD, the PhD, and MSc with the MBA that they would improve quality, increase access, and decrease cost. We bought their BS and allowed them to industrialize medicine.

Instead the MBAs drove clinicians to the mean, scaled mediocrity, and achieved average care by standardizing the patient. We have average quality with high cost and minimal access.

The healthcare hucksters are selling the vapor of technology fulfilling their promise.

Self serve care for all.

Medicine hasn’t, isn’t, and never will be drive up self service.  

Medicine will always care at N of 1.

This isn’t the place where the art of medicine is built and challenges solved.

What JPM needs is an injection of real medicine.

Those physicians, specialists, nurses, and patients that understand the problems occurring on the front lines of care.

The people willing to do the personal and risky work to do no harm, lead with compassion, and to work collaboratively to meet a patients expectation of care.

Healthcare can keep their silver tongued merchants and peddlers of MBAs.

JPM needs the women and men of medicine willing to take an oath to do what’s best for the patient first and last.

To invest in the future that delivers the care that we all want. Care that is high quality, accessible, and affordable.

Care that is delivered between a physician and a patient (enabled by technology).

JPM needs to invest in the future.

The future of medicine.

A future that is delivered at the N of 1.

As always feel free to email me at or follow me on Twitter and Instagram as CancerGeek


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