PBMs and retail pharmacies are battening down the hatches in preparation for Amazon’s entry. CVS is in talks to buy Aetna, one of the nation’s largest insurers (whose attempt to merge with rival Humana collapsed under antitrust scrutiny back in February). Part of the logic of this marriage is that an Aetna acquisition would deliver a huge new customer base to CVS’s PBM, giving it more leverage over pharmas. Amazon hasn’t even decided whether or not it’s getting in, and it’s already roiling the marketplace, fueling an already-turbulent wave of consolidation.
Apple is reportedly exploring a move into bricks-and-mortar of its own, eyeing a possible acquisition of Crossover Health, which runs on-site medical clinics for large employers including Apple and Facebook. Such a move could complement Apple’s investment in healthcare applications for the Apple Watch and its suite of health apps.
Apple is also giving advertisers and agencies angina by disabling most cookies on its Safari browser through what the company calls Intelligent Tracking Prevention. For Apple, it’s a means of throwing an elbow into a competitor – Google’s Chrome – by grabbing some more market share in a mobile browser space it already dominates. I found this meditation on the dynamics and implications for digital publishers instructive.
Pharmas are following P&G’s lead in looking to trim digital marketing spend by rooting out ineffective online advertising, such as ads served to bots or those with problematic content adjacencies. It’s like the old aphorism, variously attributed, about knowing that half your ad budget is being wasted – only in an age of big data and targeted advertising, it’s increasingly possible for advertisers to know exactly which half is wasted.
Pharma is also raiding big tech for talent in a big way – particularly GSK and J&J. “GSK alone has more than a dozen former employees from the largest tech companies working under its chief data officer, who was himself recruited from Samsung,” reports CNBC.
Point of care marketing startup Outcome Health has been an emerging star in the digital healthcare marketing scene, attracting major investors and racking up $130 million in 2016 sales to pharma clients, but a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that the company was padding the number of waiting room screens it boasted and inflating ad performance and tracking data.
Point of care is white hot, regardless, with 10-20% of pharma brands moving spend from digital media to digital point of care, according to a ZS Associates survey. It’s one way to reach patients at a key “moment that matters,” to borrow the Googleism.
Anthem launched a new digital health platform, dubbed Engage, in partnership with Castlight Health, incorporating telemedicine, nurse calls and tracker-powered wellness programs. It’s designed to “allow employers to connect to all of their members, not just those with chronic conditions, for engagement and activation efforts,” using machine learning and AI to target individuals that may benefit from an intervention, Mobihealthnews reports. Meanwhile, John Hancock, the life insurer, announced it will make Apple Watches available to policyholders who meet exercise benchmarks for a $25 activation fee, much as insurer Aetna has been considering doing.