Friday, May 30, 2014

In Case You Missed It

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GSK’s bet on bioelectronics

by Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

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If you missed last week’s Times Magazine piece on the emerging field of bioelectronics and GSK’s (modest) bet on it, you should go read it because it’s a great read, full of whiz-bang sci-fi-sounding stuff that will make you feel excited about the future of medicine again.  The short version is that there’s this startup called SetPoint that’s working on using electrical stimulation to talk to the nervous system – to tell it, in RA patients, to shut down production of inflammation-causing TNF, for example. Early results from clinical trials on humans are looking promising.

Bioelectronics is new enough that most large pharma analysts on Wall Street probably haven’t heard of it, but it’s got an influential proponent in GSK R&D chief Moncef Slaoui:

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Friday, May 23, 2014

In Case You Missed It

The going’s been tough for the pioneer ACOs




Yelping health

By Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

The proliferation of physician ratings sites is one aspect of the growing consumerization of healthcare in the U.S., and websites like Vitals and Healthgrades have the attention of doctors, The Wall Street Journal reports:

Many doctors remain wary of online reviews, concerned that negative comments can damage their reputation. Being a good doctor can sometimes mean giving patients hard advice. And some doctors fear comments from disgruntled patients or ex-employees could drive other patients away.

Some reviews “can be pretty brutal,” says Andrew Pasternak, a family physician in Reno, Nev. However, he says, “part of being a physician now is having to deal with these.”

Indeed, according to Manhattan Research data from 2013, more than a quarter of U.S. consumers had accessed or posted ratings or reviews of healthcare providers, hospitals or products over the previous year. Throw cost transparency tools like Castlight into the mix, and you can see consumers getting much more comfortable comparison-shopping online for healthcare products and services much as they would a pair of chinos or a new laptop. For many physicians, this probably seems like one more little ding against their professional stature and authority, but it’s not all bad:

Some reviews are constructive. When a patient noted on an online site that Dr. Pasternak was spending too much time jotting notes on his tablet computer, he says he made an effort to make better eye contact and appear more attentive.

For all parties in the healthcare industry, it’s a time of greater accountability — to payers and, increasingly, to consumers – fueled by policy and technology.  




Friday, May 16, 2014

In Case You Missed It




Here comes telemedicine

By Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

Photo: Mercy Health

It’s still pretty early days for telemedicine, but that could change fast as large regional health systems build out the necessary infrastructure. The Wall Street Journal has a look at the mammoth operation that Mercy, the St. Louis, MO-based health system, is constructing:

Mercy, with 42 acute-care and specialty hospitals, 700 clinic and outpatient facilities and more than 2,100 doctors in four states, is breaking ground this week on a $50 million virtual-care center. When it opens next year it will house 75 telemedicine programs staffed by 300 medical professionals linked to Mercy facilities and partner hospitals.

The Journal says hospitals and health systems are looking to interactive video consults as a solution to the severe shortage of specialists and “give patients high-quality ongoing care for complex problems without requiring them to travel long distances or wait months for an appointment.”

While the percentage of U.S. physicians doing video consults is still in the single digits, two in five report using digital technology to communicate with patients more than they did a year ago, according to Manhattan Research’s Taking the Pulse U.S.® 2014 report, and two in five also agree that using digital technologies to communicate remotely with patients will improve patient outcomes. And with ACOs seemingly here to stay, outcomes is the new true north across the healthcare industry.




Friday, May 9, 2014

In Case You Missed It

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CART treatments for blood cancers: less cat, more cost

  • Google Ventures plunked down a cool $130m on oncology data aggregator Flatiron Health.
  • More Big Pharma horse-trading as Merck sells its OTC division to Bayer for $14.2 billion.
  • Forbes has a long and completely worth it piece on Novartis’ Joe Jiminez and the company’s quest for a revolutionary CART cancer treatment. Interesting bits include Jiminez’s thinking about A.) How the tidal wave of aging Boomers is going to blow up government healthcare spending and force “brutal,” industry-disrupting cost controls, and B). How, then, to price cancer treatments (bundling’s one idea, ACO-like shared savings is another).

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Patient engagement is what’s next for healthcare reform

by Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

InformationWeek has a smart story fitting together all the pieces of the health IT policy and patient engagement puzzle. They look at the trend toward accountable care organizations (ACOs), wherein members are reimbursed for aggregate patient outcomes but cannot discriminate on the basis of health behaviors or force their patients to use in-network providers and services. This puts the onus on participating providers to keep their patients engaged through patient portals with “stickiness” that keeps them coming back like Amazon.com does. Sharp Healthcare CIO Bill Spooner tells InformationWeek:

“Given I can’t make them accountable, I’ve got to be able to attract them. I have to show them we’re the most viable provider in town, so they want to come to us.”

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Friday, May 2, 2014

In Case You Missed It

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Merck is figuring out how to play in EHRs

by Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

This look into Merck’s Practice Fusion partnership is exciting news for all of us who’ve been wondering what pharma engagement of physicians and patients through electronic health records (EHRs) might look like. Merck is giving users of Practice Fusion’s EHR a dashboard through which they can identify patients who are behind on their vaccinations and notify them that it’s time to get their shots, Forbes reports:

Alerting doctors or patients for an overdue vaccination or test has long been the job of payers. Merck’s intervention through an electronic health record is a first for a pharmaceutical company as it harnesses newly emergent technology and data to get closer to patients.

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