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  • Google launched DeepMind Health, a medical vertical of the London-based AI powerhouse that Google acquired for $550 million or so in 2014. Their first offerings include Streams, an app to help doctors and nurses detect acute kidney injury, and Hark, a clinical task management app that Google says increased clinician response times by 37% over pagers.
  • Oh, and in another sign of mobile’s ascendance, Google’s search division has quietly put the kibosh on “right hand rail ads” for desktop – in order to make their desktop experience more closely resemble the mobile experience. 
  • A Commonwealth Fund study of 1,046 health apps addressing chronic illnesses found that “43% of iOS apps and 27% of Android apps appeared likely to be useful.” They offer a breakdown of why apps were struck from the “useful” list and give a few examples of good ones, including Mango Health’s adherence app. 
  • How to put a price on an extra month of patient life? The process of developing new cancer drugs and prolonging survival is a painfully slow, iterative and expensive one, and there’s mounting pressure on pharmas and payers to price drugs based on performance. However, there are huge cultural, commercial and institutional barriers to setting a standard value.
  • The failure of physicians to disclose ties to pharmas when plugging drugs over social media was put under a harsh spotlight by Stat. There’s no “Sunshine Act”-style provision mandating disclosure for Tweets and such, though the Massachusetts Medical Society recently required that all members divulge any financial relationships relevant to products and services discussed online.
  • This week in election year grandstanding: a bill that would ban consumer advertising of prescription drugs unless they are determined to have “affirmative value” to public health is moving through Congress. It has virtually zero chance of passage and would be challenged on First Amendment grounds, but it will make for more political theater.
  • Dr. Robert Califf was confirmed as FDA commissioner last week, despite a lot of sturm und drang over his ties to pharma, and a threatened ‘hold’ on his confirmation by Bernie Sanders and several other Senators. Califf is a cardiologist, but he brings a clinical research background – rather than the usual public health cred – to the job, perhaps reflecting the President’s push for personalized medicine. Califf has had some very interesting things to say about patient engagement (“The great thing I learned when I got to the FDA was how deeply the device and drugs and biologics groups already are [involved in patient outreach]”) and drug pricing.
  • Speaking of that precision medicine push, some good news on that front – “Big companies are falling over each other to claim to be more open, and to collect patient data, to share it and to give patients a voice in the process,” writes Forbes’ Matthew Herper.
  • Point: “In recent months, however, there has been a growing sense on Madison Avenue that digital advertising doesn’t always move the needle on sales. The precision advertisers get with commercials delivered via the Web and mobile devices is welcome and allows big marketers to aim more finely at consumer bases, but some form of TV advertising remains necessary to move mass quantities of product. In 2016, there is a growing sense on Wall Street and among media companies that the coming TV upfront market could be healthier than it has been in several years, with advertisers committing more money to TV in advance than has been typical.”
  • Counterpoint: “With these changes coming to healthcare from precision medicine, it may no longer be acceptable to do generic or broad marketing campaigns in hopes of catching the small group of people who may benefit from a device or treatment.”

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