Houston is No. 13 in a recent study about credit card debt. Photo courtesy of Local Government Federal Credit Union

Many Houstonians are taking it to the limit — the credit limit, that is. A study published by LendingTree's CompareCards website finds that Houston ranks Houston ranks 13th nationally for the share of cardholders with at least one maxed-out card (28.4 percent). Ten percent have maxed out two or more cards.

Experian says the average credit card debt in the Houston metro area was $7,205 in the second quarter of this year, up 3.1 percent versus the same time in 2018. Houston ranks 11th for the highest level of credit card debt among major metro areas.

For its study, CompareCards analyzed an anonymized sample of credit reports from 1.3 million My LendingTree users with active credit cards. In the Alamo City, 29.2 percent of credit card holders have maxed out at least one card, meaning the balance is at least equal to the credit limit, according to CompareCards. Eleven percent have two or more maxed-out cards.

A report released November 4 by Experian, one of the major credit bureaus, shows the average credit card debt in the San Antonio metro area stood at $7,210 in the second quarter of this year, up 2.6 percent from the same period in 2018. That put it in 10th place for the highest amount of credit card debt among major metro areas.

Elsewhere in Texas, San Antonio ranks seventh with maxed-out debt. "The biggest reason for San Antonio appearing near the top of the list is probably income," says Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards. In 2018, the median household income in the San Antonio metro area was $57,379, compared with $60,629 in Texas and $61,937 in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Dallas lands at No. 43 (25.2 percent) and Austin at No. 66 (23.6 percent) on CompareCards' list of places for where cardholders have maxed out at least one credit card. The study indicates 8.7 percent of cardholders in Dallas and 7.6 percent in Austin have maxed out two or more cards.

Cardholders in Dallas-Fort Worth had average credit card debt of $7,291 in the second quarter of this year, up 1.8 percent from the same period in 2018, Experian says. DFW ranked eighth for the highest amount of debt among major metro areas.

In Austin, the average credit card debt in the second quarter of this year was $7,329, up 1.9 percent versus the year-ago period, according to Experian. That was the sixth highest amount among major metro areas.

Schulz points out that lower-income consumers tend to have credit cards with relatively low credit limits, making it easier for them to max out their cards.

At the top of the heap for maxed-out cardholders is Bridgeport, Connecticut, where 32.3 percent of consumers have maxed out at least one card, CompareCards says. In addition, 10.4 percent have maxed out two or more cards. Not surprisingly, cardholders in the Bridgeport metro area carried the highest average credit card debt in the U.S. during the second quarter of this year ($8,679), according to Experian.

The place with the lowest share of maxed-out cardholders is Provo, Utah, according to the CompareCards study. There, 17.9 percent of cardholders have maxed out at least one card, and 6.1 percent have two or more maxed-out cards.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston-based health tech startup is revolutionizing patient selection for clinical trials

working smarter

On many occasions in her early career, Dr. Arti Bhosale, co-founder and CEO of Sieve Health, found herself frustrated with having to manually sift through thousands of digital files.

The documents, each containing the medical records of a patient seeking advanced treatment through a clinical trial, were always there to review — and there were always more to read.

Despite the tediousness of prescreening, which could take years, the idea of missing a patient and not giving them the opportunity to go through a potentially life-altering trial is what kept her going. The one she didn’t read could have slipped through the cracks and potentially not given someone care they needed.

“Those stories have stayed with me,” she says. “That’s why we developed Sieve.”

When standard health care is not an option, advances in medical treatment could be offered through clinical trials. But matching patients to those trials is one of the longest standing problems in the health care industry. Now with the use of new technology as of 2018, the solution to the bottleneck may be a new automated approach.

“Across the globe, more than 30 percent of clinical trials shut down as a result of not enrolling enough patients,” says Bhosale. “The remaining 80 percent never end up reaching their target enrollment and are shut down by the FDA.”

In 2020, Bhosale and her team developed Sieve Health, an AI cloud-based SaaS platform designed to automate and accelerate matching patients with clinical trials and increase access to clinical trials.

Sieve’s main goal is to reduce the administrative burden involved in matching enrollments, which in turn will accelerate the trial execution. They provide the matching for physicians, study sponsors and research sites to enhance operations for faster enrollment of the trials.

The technology mimics but automates the traditional enrollment process — reading medical notes and reviewing in the same way a human would.

“I would have loved to use something like this when I was on the front lines,” Bhosale says, who worked in clinical research for over 12 years. “Can you imagine going through 10,000 records manually? Some of the bigger hospitals have upwards of 100,000 records and you still have to manually review those charts to make sure that the patient is eligible for the trial. That process is called prescreening. It is painful.”

Because physicians wear many hats and have many clinical efforts on their plates, research tends to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Finding 10-20 patients can take the research team on average 15-20 months to find those people — five of which end up unenrolling, she says.

“We have designed the platform so that the magic can happen in the background, and it allows the physician and research team to get a jumpstart,” she says.” They don’t have to worry about reviewing 10,000 records — they know what their efforts are going to be and will ensure that the entire database has been scanned.”

With Sieve, the team was able to help some commercial pilot programs have a curated data pool for their trials – cutting the administrative burden and time spent searching to less than a week.

Sieve is in early-stage start up mode and the commercial platform has been rolled out. Currently, the team is conducting commercial projects with different research sites and hospitals.

“Our focus now is seeing how many providers we can connect into this,” she says. “There’s a bigger pool out there who want to participate in research but don’t know where to start. That’s where Sieve is stepping in and enabling them to do this — partnering with those and other groups in the ecosystem to bring trials to wherever the physicians and the patients are.”

Arti Bhosale is the co-founder and CEO of Sieve Health. Photo courtesy of Sieve

Houston nonprofit unveils new and improved bayou cleaning vessel

litter free

For over 20 years, a nonprofit organization has hired people to clean 14 miles of bayou in Houston. And with a newly updated innovative boat, keeping Buffalo Bayou clean just got a lot more efficient.

Buffalo Bayou Partnership unveils its newest version of the Bayou-Vac this week, and it's expected to be fully operational this month. BBP Board Member Mike Garver designed both the initial model of the custom-designed and fabricated boat as well as the 2022 version. BBP's Clean & Green team — using Garver's boat — has removed around 2,000 cubic yards of trash annually, which is the equivalent of about 167 commercial dump trucks. The new and improved version is expected to make an even bigger impact.

“The Bayou-Vac is a game changer for our program,” says BBP field operations manager, Robby Robinson, in a news release. “Once up and running, we foresee being able to gain an entire workday worth of time for every offload, making us twice as efficient at clearing trash from the bayou.”

Keeping the bayou clean is important, since the water — and whatever trash its carrying — runs off into Galveston Bay, and ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico. The improvements made to the Bayou-Vac include removable dumpsters that can be easily swapped out, slid off, and attached to a dump truck. The older model included workers having to manually handle trash and debris and a secondary, land-based vacuum used to suck out the trash from onboard.

Additionally, the Bayou-Vac now has a moveable, hydraulic arm attached to the bow of the vessel that can support the weight of the 16-foot vacuum hose. Again, this task was something done manually on the previous model of the Bayou-Vac.

“BBP deeply appreciates the ingenuity of our board member Mike Garver and the generosity of Sis and Hasty Johnson and the Kinder Foundation, the funders of the new Bayou-Vac,” BBP President Anne Olson says in the release. “We also thank the Harris County Flood Control District and Port Houston for their longtime support of BBP’s Clean & Green Program.”