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Medical bias: From pain pills to COVID-19, racial discrimination in health care festers

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Actress Alicia Cole developed flesh-eating disease, sepsis and three life-threatening antibiotic-resistant infections after what was supposed to be a minor surgery in 2006. But for all she went through, Cole recalls details of the racial bias she encountered at the hospital as clearly as the physical ones she suffered.  

The experiences of Cole and her family over more than a decade of hospital stays turned her into a vocal patient safety advocate – and one of the very few people of color in the growing movement. 

Whether it’s unconscious, explicit, institutional or research bias, discrimination in the health care system contributes to the stark disparities seen in how COVID-19 sickens and kills patients of color, health care experts agree.

Insurance coverage and access to care, housing, healthy food and transportation all play a role in how diseases affect races differently. When a bias is built-in, Cole said, “People stay away and try to take care of it at home or with a nurse or a doctor at the church.”

“They want to talk to someone who genuinely cares and is not judging them at the same time,” she said. “That’s really important, and not just for Blacks.”

Ask Black doctors or patients if there’s racial bias in the health care system and many laugh at the seeming absurdity of the question. Some of what they point to is anecdotal, but it comes up time and time again. Evidence can be found in the lack of research and innovation in illnesses that mostly affect people of colorand in scientific studies that illustrate inequities in health care.

A study last October in the journal Science claimed an algorithm used by hospitals miscalculated the care needs of sicker Black patients. A 2018 study in Health Affairs found African Americans were more likely to be involved in studies exempted from requiring “informed consent” to fully describe the potential risks of the research to participants. 

Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and former Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary, calls COVID-19 a “fast pandemic being fueled by a slower pandemic” of disparities in chronic conditions. 

“Studies have shown even the most well-intentioned physician or medical professional demonstrate unconscious bias in caring for others,” said Koh. “That’s why explicit and consistent training and education and commitment to cultural competence is absolutely critical for the future of our health care workforce.”

Hospitals including Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Highland Hospital in Oakland, California, are among those focusing on how to rid their systems of both explicit and implicit bias contributing to uneven care based on race.

Margarita Alegria, a psychologist and Harvard Medical School professor, heads the disparities research unit at Massachusetts General. She says the way health care is administeredperpetuates bias with its push to maximize profit by seeing more patients.

Margarita Alegria is a psychologist, Harvard professor and head of disparities research at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“There’s not enough time not to stereotype patients,”  said Alegria. 

This leads to “attributional errors” caused when doctors don’t have enough time to get the information they need “to put themselves in the position of the patient,” she said. 

“You attribute people’s characteristics and behavior based on their group,” she said.

Health care providers doing this might assume a patient doesn’t care about their health, when in fact long work hours and long commutes on public transportation make it difficult to do an appointment. If these patients then feel dismissed and stereotyped, they are less likely to go back until they are very ill, said Alegria. 

“They are not really getting out of health care as much as they need to,” she added. “The investment in time when you are low income is very different.” 

Fibroids become focus for change

Treatment of uterine fibroids, a common condition that’s worse for Black women, is an area where racial bias is especially clear.

About 70% of women will have uterine fibroids – benign tissue masses in or around the uterus – in their lifetimes. Most won’t have to do anything and some may not even realize they have them.

Black women, however, are far more likely than white women to get both uterine fibroids and to be encouraged to have risky surgeries to remove them. Removing the uterus in a hysterectomy is often recommended, sometimes even for women of childbearing age.  

If that sounds like echoes of the forced sterilization of many Black women up until 1972, it feels that way to women faced only with the hysterectomy option. 

Dr. Joy Scott, an Oakland, California, obstetrician and gynecologist at Highland Hospital, has many Black patients with fibroids and describes herself as a “fibroid survivor.” Black women, she said, are “notoriously on record as having them the worst, with the most symptoms, in larger numbers and the worst types.”

Scott went through her medical school residency looking like she was six months pregnant before she could finally have her fibroids removed and surgery was the only option. To improve access to doctors who understand them, Scott co-founded Culture Care to help women of color get second opinions from physicians through telemedicine in California. She hopes to expand nationally. 

‘We’re losing our kids’: Black youth suicide rate rising far faster than for whites; coronavirus, police violence deepen trauma

Bias is part of the reason Black women’s fibroids are often so serious by the time they see a doctor, some physicians say. 

By the time women get to the Atlanta-area office of Dr. Soyini Hawkins, their “options aren’t really options anymore.”  She asks them when they decided to do something about their fibroids and “that’s when I get the stories.”  Their experiences at physicians’ offices are so “disheartening, they don’t do anything and don’t seek a second opinion.” 

“Patients tell me they do feel dismissed,” said Hawkins. “It builds a distrust where they won’t go to anyone.”

Dr. Soyini Hawkins, an OB/GYN outside of Atlanta, learned to perform noninvasive procedures for fibroids after her own difficult surgery.

Hawkins’ own experience with fibroids – missed by her Black male doctor until it was too late for noninvasive surgery – prompted her to specialize in such procedures, including one known as Acessa. Hawkins and patient Theresa Heyward, then 44, thought the noninvasive approach was the perfect solution for her, but after approving it, her insurer rejected it the day of her surgery.  

“I was ready to fight to be able to maintain my uterus and prevent something so life-altering,” Heywardsaid. “But I needed to continue to exist, too.” 

Her fibroids had gotten so bad if she didn’t drink enough orange juice or take enough iron pills, she was warned she might pass out while behind the wheel of her car from all the blood loss. 

“If it affected white women that way, there would be multiple ways to prevent or cure fibroids,” said Scott. “There’s just not the same interest in doing research.” 

Sickle cell treatments long ignored

Dr. Ted Love knows all about how diseases get ignored when Blacks are the principal victims. Sickle cell disease was discovered more than 100 years ago and the cause has been understood for about 5 years, but investment and innovation have been far behind other so-called orphan drugs

Venture capitalists tapped Love to be CEO of Global Blood Therapeutics, which developed one of two new treatments in 20 years for sickle cell disease because he would be so passionate.

“It’s going to be personal for Ted,” Love recalls them saying. 

On Thursday, Love spoke at the virtual annual conference of the pharmaceutical trade group Bio on the importance of diversity in clinical trials and COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on underrepresented populations. He sees parallels in the growing support for changes in policing policies and the growing interest in health care disparities. 

“The truth is many people who benefit from the current system have really not wanted to give it up,” Love said in an interview. “The thing that gives me hope is that there is a broad cross section of our society saying it’s wrong. Even people in groups benefiting from it are saying this has got to come to end.”

Hertz Navaire, who has had sickle cell disease since he was six months old, is shown in his art studio

Hertz Nazaire, 46, was diagnosed with sickle cell disease when he was six months old. Until he started on GBT’s new drug Oxybryta in December, Nazaire and other sickle cell patients’ only options for treatment were pain medication or stem cell transplants. The transplants are risky and require a healthy donor who has the same tissue type as the patient. 

That repeatedly left Nazaire face to face with the health care providers who thought he was exhibiting “drug-seeking behavior” and not in true pain.

“People have a stigma and judge you before they even know you,” said Nazaire, who lives in Bridgeport, Connecticut. “They might take the last person with the same skin color and you are the same person. They don’t treat you like an individual.”

‘Fear, skepticism and distrust’

Alicia Cole, who played a nurse in the 1990s TV series “Beverly Hills, 90210,” watched that happen to her brother in 2016 when he went to pick up her morphine prescription after a sinus infection sent her back into the hospital. She had developed flesh-eating disease and sepsis again.

Cole said the pharmacy clearly assumed he was looking for drugs because he was Black. The pharmacy refused to let him pick up liquid morphine for her, claiming it wasn’t a “legitimate prescription,” until the hospital called.

Alicia Cole is shown being wheeled out of the hospital in 2006 by parents Ron and Betty Cole.

“Even among the patient advocate communities, racism has always been too uncomfortable a discussion to have,” said Cole.  “Our larger society is just now confronting racism. Doctors do not magically check bias at the hospital door.”

Cole’s first experience with health care bias was in that same hospital in 2006 when she was having two small fibroids removed. For every day of what turned out to be a two-month stay due to hospital-acquired infections, her parents were by her bedside. That prompted one nurse to ask what her parents did for a living and how they could afford to be there so often. A white patient wouldn’t have been asked that, Cole said.

When her father stepped into the hall while her wound dressings were changed, almost without fail, someone would mistake the retired Ford Motor autoworker and Marine for a low-level hospital worker, she said. They’d try to hand him dirty laundry or trash.

There were no apologies. A nurse manager explained simply: “We don’t get many African American patients here.” 

Alicia Cole is shown in her role as a nurse in the former TV series, Beverly Hills 90210.

Like the diseases that disproportionately affect people of color, the amount and nature of discrimination in health care don’t get the focus it deserves. Harvard’s Alegria said no one knows how much disparities can be traced to discrimination because no one has studied why there are so many fewer Black and Latino patients in the health care system. 

“There’s not taken enough attention paid to looking at how racism is perpetuated,” said Alegria. “There has to be some inward reflection, radical action and a willingness to eliminate this systemic racism.” 

Even conditions that have received significant public attention might have different results based on race. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, but researchers found Black women are much more likely to get a late-stage diagnosis that makes the disease far more difficult to treat.  A 2017 study of 26,331 women with breast cancer in Missouri found Black women had 30% greater odds of being diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer compared to white women. 

Marya Mtshali, a Harvard lecturer in women, gender and sexuality studies, said health disparities for Black Americans begin before they enter a hospital or doctor’s office. Black and Latin people are more likely to be uninsured, which makes some wary of seeking care over worries about expensive medical bills or being treated differently.

Predominately Black communities are more likely to have fewer health clinics or hospitals that lack key medical services such as maternity wards. And Black moms are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The experience is being clouded by different layers of racism, in some cases sexism, that can make it a very different experience for a person of color going into the health care system,” Mtshali said.

Researchers reported a U.S. health system commercial algorithm “exhibits significant racial bias” because it calculates health costs rather than health needs. The program misidentified Black patients with chronic health problems as being at similar risk as healthier white patients. In fact, Blacks had fewer means, not less need.

The company that created Optum Impact Pro algorithm disputed the study’s findings. In a statement, Optum said the algorithm is not racially biased and the study mischaracterized it based on one hospital system’s incorrect use. 

Mtshali said some examples of medical bias can be exacerbated by gender, too. She cited anecdotal reports of Black women with illnesses such as flu or severe stomach pain taking extra time to “dress a certain way” to be treated with respect. The underlying fear is they will not be treated equally when they seek care at a hospital or doctor’s office.

“When somebody is doubled over in pain, they shouldn’t have to worry about trying to look presentable,” she said. “There already is this fear, skepticism and distrust entering an institution that you are not going to be treated the same.”

Koh said efforts to address medical bias are inconsistent. Hospital, clinic and health care system leaders must adopt standards to ensure facilities are hospitable for people of all backgrounds. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services adopted policies to address so-called class standards for cultural and linguistic accessibility, Koh said

It’s an issue that will become increasingly important as diverse populations grow and the United States heads toward a majority-minority nation.

“Hospitals are still inhospitable to people of color whether they realize it or not,” Koh said. “We have documented the problem in a very detailed way. The question now is what do we do about it?”

O’Donnell can be reached on social media at @JayneODonnell or email at jodonnell@usatoday.com. Alltucker is on Twitter as @kalltucker and email at alltuck@usatoday.com. 

Source: http://rssfeeds.usatoday.com/~/627437602/0/usatoday-newstopstories~Medical-bias-From-pain-pills-to-COVID-racial-discrimination-in-health-care-festers/

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The Briefing: RVShare raises over $100M, Google disputes charges, and more

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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RVShare raises over $100M for RV rentals

RVShare, an online marketplace for RV rentals, reportedly raised over $100 million in a financing led by private equity firms KKR and Tritium Partners.

Akron, Ohio-based RVShare has seen sharp growth in demand amid the pandemic, as more would-be travelers seek socially distanced options for hitting the road. Founded in 2013, the company matches RV owners with prospective renters, filtering by location, price and vehicle types.

Previously, RVShare had raised $50 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data, from Tritium Partners. The company is one of several players in the RV rental space, and competes alongside Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer RV marketplace that has raised $75 million in venture funding.

Funding news

  • BrightFarms closes on $100M: Indoor farming company BrightFarms said it secured more than $100 million in debt and new equity capital to support expansion plans. The Series E round of funding was led by Cox Enterprises, which now owns a majority stake in the company, and includes a follow-on investment from growth equity firm Catalyst Investors.
  • Anyscale inks $40MAnyscale, the Berkeley-based company behind the Ray open source project for building applications, announced $40 million in an oversubscribed Series B funding round. Existing investor NEA led the round and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital and Foundation Capital. The new funding brings Anyscale’s total funding to more than $60 million.
  • Klar deposits $15M: Mexican fintech Klar closed on $15 million in Series A funding, led by Prosus Ventures, with participation from new investor International Finance Corporation and existing investors Quona Capital, Mouro Capital and Acrew. The round brings total funding raised to approximately $72 million since the company was founded in 2019. The funds are intended to grow Klar’s engineering capabilities in both its Berlin and Mexico hubs.
  • O(1) Labs rakes in $10.9M: O(1) Labs, the team behind the cryptocurrency Mina, announced $10.9 million in a strategic investment round. Co-leading the round are Bixin Ventures and Three Arrows Capital with participation from SNZ, HashKey Capital, Signum Capital, NGC Ventures, Fenbushi Capital and IOSG Ventures.
  • Blustream bags $3M: After-sale customer engagement company Blustream said it raised $3 million in seed funding for product usage data and digital transformation efforts for physical goods companies via the Blustream Product Experience Platform. York IE led the round of funding for the Worcester, Massachusetts-based company with additional support from existing investors.Pillar secures another $1.5M: Pillar, a startup that helps families protect and care for their loved ones, raised $1.5 million in a seed extension to close at $7 million, The round was led by Kleiner Perkins.

Other news

  • Google rejects DOJ antitrust arguments: In the wake of a widely anticipated U.S. Justice Department antitrust suit against Google, the search giant disputed the charges in a statement, maintaining that: “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
  • Facebook said to test Nextdoor rival: Facebook is reportedly testing a service similar to popular neighborhood-focused social Nextdoor. Called Neighborhoods, the feature reportedly suggests local neighborhood groups to join on Facebook.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-10-21-20/

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Syte Sees $30M Series C For Product Discovery

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Online shopping has become the norm for most people in 2020, even coaxing traditional retail brands to up their presence to stay competitive. However, now that shoppers can’t see and touch products like they used to, e-commerce discovery has become a crucial element for customer acquisition and retention.

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Enter Syte, an Israel-based company that touts creating the world’s first product discovery platform that utilizes the senses, such as visual, text and voice, and then leverages visual artificial intelligence and next-generation personalization to create individualized and memorable customer experiences, Syte co-founder and CEO Ofer Fryman told Crunchbase News.

To execute on this, the company raised $30 million in Series C funding and an additional $10 million in debt. Viola Ventures led the round and was joined by LG Technology Ventures, La Maison, MizMaa Ventures and Kreos Capital, as well as existing investors Magma, Naver Corporation, Commerce Ventures, Storm Ventures, Axess Ventures, Remagine Media Ventures and KDS Media Fund.

This brings the company’s total fundraising to $71 million since its inception in 2015. That includes a $21.5 million Series B, also led by Viola, in 2019, according to Crunchbase data.

Fryman intends for the new funding to be put to work on product enhancements and geographic expansion. Syte already has an established customer base in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and will now focus expansion in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific.

Meanwhile, Syte has grown 22 percent quarter over quarter, as well as experienced a 38 percent expansion of its customer base since the beginning of 2020.

“Since we crossed $1 million annual recurring revenue, we have been tripling revenue while also becoming more efficient,” Fryman said. “We can accelerate growth as well as build an amazing technology and solution for a business that needs it right now. We plan to grow further, and even though our SaaS metrics are excellent right now, our goal is to improve them.”

Anshul Agarwal, managing director at LG Technology Ventures, said Syte was an attractive investment due in part to its unique technology.

“They have a deep-learning system and have created a new category, product discovery that will enable online shopping in a way we never had the ability to do before,” Agarwal said. “The product market fit was also unique. We believe in the strong execution by the team and the rapid growth in SaaS. We looked at many different companies, and the SaaS metrics that Syte showed are the strongest we’ve seen in a while.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/syte-sees-30m-series-c-for-product-discovery/

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GenTech Proudly Secures Deal with TruLife Distribution to Drive Growth in SINFIT Digital Sales

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Denver, CO, October 21, 2020 – OTC PR WIRE – GenTech Holdings, Inc. (OTC PINK: GTEH) (“GenTech” or the “Company”), an emerging leader in the high-end Premium Coffee (www.secretjavas.com), Hemp Wellness (www.hakunasupply.com) and Functional Foods (www.SINFITnutrition.com) marketplaces, along with its SINFIT Nutrition brand (“SINFIT”), is excited to announce that the Company has signed a new marketing, sales, and distribution agreement (the “Agreement”) with TruLife Distribution (“TruLife”) (TruLifeDist.com), a leader in marketing, distribution, compliance, e-commerce, and advisory services in the Functional Foods marketplace. The main focus of the new Agreement will be to accelerate the growth of e-commerce sales of SINFIT products, particularly over the Amazon.com platform.

TruLife provides direct access to sales on Amazon, Walmart, Rakuten, Wish, TopHatter, and other top e-commerce platforms, allowing clients to instantly list, ship, and sell products through any major platform, with an experienced team of experts and a proven track record of success in brand placement and digital sales strategies.

“We have already demonstrated a significant & expansive growth curve since taking control of the SINFIT brand in June,” commented Harold Vaca, VP Domestic Sales of SINFIT. “But the vast majority of that growth has been driven by large purchase orders from major distribution partners, both domestic and international. We are also committed to aggressively pursuing end-market consumer direct purchases through our e-commerce footprint, which will provide additional growth and diversify our cash flow ecosystem, making our overall strategy less dependent upon any one source of demand, while driving further growth in total sales.”

Management notes that e-commerce sales represent a sizeable portion of overall retail sales growth worldwide, with more than $3.5 trillion in online sales accounting for over 14% of total pre-pandemic global retail sales. Since the onset of the global health crisis, that ratio has shifted decisively further in favor of e-commerce sales, which is not likely to entirely revert back upon the advent of a viable and widely accessible vaccine.

Vaca added, “We have seen an epic process of market penetration for e-commerce platforms this year as major online retailers have begun to reach a much wider base of consumers – people who haven’t ever shopped much online, but have been forced to during recent months out of personal health concerns. Many of them will almost certainly continue to make use of e-commerce now that they have tried it out, at least to some extent, making e-commerce an essential sales channel for SINFIT products. TruLife has the network, team, experience, and resources to dramatically augment our e-commerce performance.”

SINFIT branded products registered over $2.2 million in global sales in 2019, and are now approved for sale and available for purchase on the Walmart.com and Amazon.com e-commerce platforms as well as in over 2,500 GNC locations in North America and over 10,000 global physical and e-commerce stores across more than 10 countries around the world.

SINFIT products as well-positioned relative to peers and to the long-term macro tailwind defining the functional foods market, which saw sales top $267 billion in February of this year on a global basis, with sales in the US reaching $63 billion, according to Euromonitor 2020. This trend is part of a larger supportive momentum in the general category, with global sales of organic food and drink topping $105 billion in 2018 (Ecovia 2019). U.S. organic food sales also reached $47.9 billion, up 5.9% in 2018 (OTA 2019). In 2019, 77% of U.S. adults used dietary supplements, an all-time high (CRN 2019). U.S. supplement sales are estimated to have reached $49.3 billion in 2019, up 6.2% (NBJ 2019).

About GenTech Holdings, Inc.:

GenTech Holdings, Inc. is a publicly traded company under the symbol GTEH. The Company launched a high-end Coffee Subscription service in early 2020 called Secret Javas, owns a Functional Food company, SINFIT Nutrition and recently closed its acquisition on Products-Groups’ “Hakuna Supply”.

Forward-Looking Statements
This press release may contain forward-looking statements, including information about management’s view of GenTech, Inc.’s future expectations, plans and prospects. In particular, when used in the preceding discussion, the words “believes,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans,” “anticipates,” or “may,” and similar conditional expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Any statements made in this news release other than those of historical fact, about an action, event or development, are forward-looking statements. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, which may cause the results of GenTech, its subsidiaries and concepts to be materially different than those expressed or implied in such statements. Unknown or unpredictable factors also could have material adverse effects on GenTech’s future results. The forward-looking statements included in this press release are made only as of the date hereof. GenTech cannot guarantee future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements. Accordingly, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Finally, GenTech undertakes no obligation to update these statements after the date of this release, except as required by law, and also takes no obligation to update or correct information prepared by third parties that are not paid for by GenTech.

Corporate Contact:
invest@gentech.group

www.gentechholdings.com

Source: https://otcprwire.com/gentech-proudly-secures-deal-with-trulife-distribution-to-drive-growth-in-sinfit-digital-sales/

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