Friday, April 25, 2014

In Case You Missed It

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Facebook and the future of app design

By Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

Does Facebook’s pivot towards discrete single-function apps have implications for healthcare app developers? The social giant’s announcement that it will discontinue support for the chat function in its flagship product – a prelude to a planned “unbundling” — was doubtless motivated, in part, by a need to establish new revenue streams and fend off the pack of one-trick apps nipping at its heels. But it also reflects, in the words of one VC quoted by Wired, a vision of a mobile-centric world in which “we see simple, clear, snackable experiences winning.”

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Friday, April 18, 2014

In Case You Missed It

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  • Facebook is jettisoning the chat function from its mobile app as Silicon Valley’s cool kids look toward a future of discrete single-function apps that deliver simple, “snackable” experiences. Thus spake Zuck: “on mobile, people want different things. Ease of access is so important. So is having the ability to control which things you get notifications for. And the real estate is so small. In mobile there’s a big premium on creating single-purpose first-class experiences.” Are there implications for single versus multi-function app design for pharma, or is this just a case of a media giant that would sooner have three revenue streams than one? Regardless, big news coming on the heels of Twitter’s Facebook-philic redesign and talk of dumping the hashtag!

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#NotJustAGadget and the cost of treatments

By Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

The most recent installment of The Times’ generally excellent Paying Till It Hurts series looking at medical costs sparked the ire of diabetes patients, who sent the Twitter hashtag #NotJustAGadget trending. They felt the article, on pricey diabetes treatments like cutting-edge pumps, cast them as spendthrift rubes duped by evil drug and device makers into paying way too much for nice-to-have but unneeded products (with insurers and taxpayers footing most of the bill). The Times’ public editor acknowledged these concerns broadly and conceded that the headline was questionably-worded, but highlighted “the key role that several industry-backed patient-advocacy groups have played in heating up the protests.” Grey Lady burn!

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Friday, April 11, 2014

In Case You Missed It

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Is the risk pool half-full or half-empty?

Some noteworthy news items on things digital and health-y:

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Green shoots in specialty drug uptake for ACA exchanges

By Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

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Seems a little unfair that the career epitaph for Kathleen Sebelius’ stint as HHS chief is doomed to be an HTTP 404 Error message on Healthcare.gov, but that’s politics for you. However, her resignation comes amid some hopeful signs for the Affordable Care Act – perhaps most notably, for pharmas, an ExpressScripts analysis of prescription claims data which found that, as of January and February, exchange enrollees were getting significantly more prescriptions filled for specialty drugs than were Americans with traditional employer-based insurance. Specialty drugs accounted for around 1.1% of exchange plan prescriptions, versus .75% for commercial health plans.

Those numbers may seem small, but that’s a 47% difference. Of course, you can read that data a couple ways.  

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Friday, April 4, 2014

In Case You Missed It

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Some digital health news items that got our attention this week:

  • The March 31 deadline for 2014 health insurance through the ACA exchanges has come and gone, and the original (pre-Healthcare.gov fail) goal of 7 million sign ups was met. The mix of healthy to sick enrollees seems sustainable, if not ideal, and the Medicaid expansion is already spurring double-digit increases in prescription volumes (mostly generics, no doubt, but still, welcome news for pharmas).
  • Incidentally, here’s the latest in a series of excellent Timesian dispatches from Kentucky looking at how the ACA is playing out there.

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And they’re off! The ACA’s big number — and what it means for pharmas

By Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

imageSo, 7 million. After a shambolic start with the Healthcare.gov fail foibles, the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges signed up just enough people by March 31 to surpass their original goal for 2014 coverage. Only time will tell how warm the water in the risk pool is for insurers and how that impacts premiums, but at first glance, the number of younger enrollees looks doable, if not exactly desirable.  

It’s a big milestone for the ACA, but healthcare reform is a long and wooly process, not some signal event or legislative action with a tidy beginning and end. We now have proof of concept for the law’s insurance provisions, and we can turn to worrying about intangibles like how the health system will absorb the newly-insured, whether employer-sponsored insurance becomes a thing of the past and what happens when high-deductible plans hit the fan. In particular, I’ll be following these topics of concern to pharmas:    

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Friday, March 28, 2014

In Case You Missed It

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Some interesting news items of recent days:

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Will pharmas be ready for Healthbook?

By Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

imageThe healthcare industry has been something of a laggard on the mobile marketing front, and that goes double for pharmas. Our maiden Digital Competitive Landscape survey last fall found that less than a third of pharma U.S. consumer-facing websites were mobile optimized.

Not that pharmas don’t appreciate the importance of mobile – and they should, because while most prescription drug information-seeking is still driven by desktops and laptops, the use of smartphones and tablets for Rx drug info is rising fast, and covers a wide range of activities and decision points. Most do, but getting their budgetary and regulatory ducks in line takes time (of course, these speed bumps will be lost on consumers that have come to expect a smooth user experience and seamless transitions from screen to screen).

So as much of the industry plays catch-up, it’s nice to see a company thinking big, and on a global scale, about potential applications for improving medication adherence and condition management through mobile devices, as AstraZeneca is through a partnership with UK-based wireless giant Vodaphone.

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