Digital health news update: Novartis names its first chief digital officer, Aetna and Apple Watch, much more
Author: Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst
- What lessons will healthcare companies learn from the gathering Google/Walmart vs. Amazon/Whole Foods battle royale? Both teams are looking at how to integrate predictive analytics, real-time data inputs, voice search and voice assistants into their businesses.
- Following close on the heels of GSK, Novartis named its first chief digital officer. Bertrand Bodson joins Novartis from UK-based retailer Argos, where he’s credited with bringing a traditional catalogue business online. His remit at Novartis includes exploring big data applications for R&D and improving patient and physician engagement through digital means. His appointment follows GSK’s naming of Walmart exec Karenann Terrell as chief digital and tech officer last month. Takeda has them both beat, having named Bruno Villetelle CDO late last year.
- Aetna and Apple are in talks to make the Apple Watch available to the insurer’s 23 million members. We’ve seen similar enterprise deals involving Fitbit and other less sophisticated trackers, but this is the first for the Apple Watch, which boasts a back end suite of integrated software and is mounting a credible bid to serve as a dominant off-the-rack patient medical data home and a linchpin of tech-enabled clinical trials models. You can imagine the privacy implications of your insurer tracking your every step, as it were, with location data to boot! A former ONC official hails the deal as a big step towards better digital patient engagement.
- Like GSK, Aetna looked to Walmart for digital expertise to lead the partnership on its side. Anthem, too, is looking to the retail world to bring on staff with digital CX experience.
- Novartis is launching a major research effort using iPhones and Apple’s ResearchKit to study MS patients – a first for a pharma. Dubbed evaluateMS, the study will collect movement and symptom data in real time, and Novartis hopes it will provide proof of concept for new ways of measuring disease progression and treatment effectiveness.
- Speaking of Novartis, a major clinical trial of their experimental anti-inflammatory drug canakinumab is being hailed by some as the biggest advance cardiovascular medicine since the advent of statins. The headline-hogging pharma also won FDA clearance for the first CAR-T therapy to make it to market, an emerging class of treatments that involve hacking white blood cells so that they can lock onto cancer cells. Novartis’ therapy, dubbed Kymria, was approved for a type of pediatric leukemia.
- Novartis’ $475,000-per-course CAR-T is as terrifying to payers as it is exciting to cancer patients and oncologists, but the company says it is engaged in a “groundbreaking collaboration” with CMS around indication-based pricing and outcomes-based reimbursement, which would be a milestone in the shift to value. On the other hand, CMS wants to scale back or eliminate several smaller value-based payment initiatives implemented under the ACA – a move experts say will slow momentum toward alternate payment models (though ACOs are safe for now).
- Roche is partnering with Accenture to build a “diabetes data analytics platform” which will inform patient programs with the goal of improving outcomes.
- GSK has extended its smart inhaler partnership with Propeller Health, which created a custom sensor for GSK’s Ellipta inhaler.
- Telehealth actually increases office visits but has little impact on patient health. That’s the big takeaway of a five-year study 140,000 patients and 90 providers.
- Google is adding a screener for depression, created in collaboration with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, that will appear in results on searches for “depression.” Severe scores will feature a link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- Here’s a creative approach marrying gamification and patient education: Pfizer has built a Minecraft mod for children with hemophilia that adds a “village doctor” character they can interact with for disease and treatment info.