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Healthcare Companies Sitting On Lots Of Cash…What Will They Do With It?

In the September 8-15 edition of Time Magazine, they have a whole article about data and numbers.  One of the pages is on which companies have the most cash.  Apple is number one and the one you always hear about.  As we’ve all seen, there are lots of rumors about Apple, Google, and Amazon and what they’re doing that is health related. 

At the same time, I was intrigued to see all the health related companies on the list:

  • Medtronic – $13.7B
  • Abbott Labs – $8.1B
  • Merck – $27.3B
  • Pfizer – $48.8B
  • Johnson & Johnson – $29.2B
  • Abbvie – $9.9B
  • Eli Lilly – $12.7B
  • Amgen – $23.1B
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb – $8.3B

You have several other non-healthcare companies which are doing things in healthcare that are also on the list:

  • Walmart – $8.7B
  • GE – $14B
  • Procter & Gamble – $8.5B
  • Qualcomm – $31.6B

If you look at the Rock Health recent report, you can imagine how these companies could leverage all this money to really change healthcare.  They could fund companies.  They could buy companies.  They could invest in orphan drugs.  They could create new technology standards.  They could educate consumers.  They could push technologies like the Internet of Things. 

Dynamic Journey Mapping and P2P

I’ve talked several times about what P2P (peer-to-peer) healthcare is.  We have examples of PatientsLikeMe and CureTogether.  This is something that Pew has talked about several times over the years.  Additionally, here’s a blog post by Susannah Fox on this.  The point is that people turn to Dr. Google and social media often before they talk to a healthcare professional.  That’s critical to understand. 

Interestingly, as I was reading the IMS whitepaper on Journey Mapping, it really got me thinking about how all this social listening and patient content can influence and shape the Patient Journey (see example).  We’ve already heard about the influence this channel is having on clinical trials.  And, we know that Big Data trends are driving lots of new data sources for analysis and insights.  I think this JAMA list is a good starting point.  But, as Jane Sarasohn-Kahn points out, we can’t forget about the Open Notes initiative and the power that it will bring with it. 

The question of course is how this will all be reflected in the way we think about the consumer in all the “patient experience” and “consumer engagement” hype in healthcare.  For example, this image from a Deloitte whitepaper shows some of the ways a health plan can influence the consumer experience.

Consumer Experience Payer

We all know this is tricky, and it’s critical to establish trust between the consumer and the entity influencing the journey.  Health plans and pharmaceutical companies are usually not high on the trust scale. 

That being said, the IMS whitepaper does a good job of pointing out the need to expand beyond the traditional effort of focusing on key influencers.  It’s important to understand the payer view and the patient view in new ways.  It’s also important to understand what matters to each group.  While adherence may seem like the right metric, I would argue that it’s simply the easy metric.  It’s important to really understand the overall health of the patient.  They care about their experience.  They care about their quality of life.  These all need to be factored into the patient journey

Gilead’s Sovaldi Is The $5.7B Canary In The Coal Mine For Specialty Medications

In case you haven’t been tracking specialty drug costs for the past decade, the recent news with Gilead’s Sovaldi ($GILD) is finally making this topic a front page issue for everyone to be aware of.  I think Dr. Brennan and Dr. Shrank’s viewpoint in JAMA this week did a good job of pointing that issue out.  They make several points:

  • Is this really an issue with Sovaldi or is this an issue with specialty drug prices?
  • Would this really be an issue if it weren’t for the large patient population?
  • Will this profit really continue or are they simply enjoying a small period of profitability before other products come to market?
  • Based on QALY (quality adjusted life years) is this really quick comparable cost to other therapies?

If you haven’t paid attention, here’s a few articles on Sovaldi which did $5.7B in sales in the first half of 2014 and which Gilead claims has CURED 9,000 Hep C patients.

But, don’t think of this as an isolated incident.  Vertex has Kalydeco which is a $300,000 drug for a subset of Cystic Fibrosis patients.  In general, I think this is where many people expected the large drug costs to be which is in orphan conditions or massively personalized drugs where there was a companion diagnostic or some other genetic marker to be used in prescribing the drug.

The rising costs of specialty medications has been a focus but has become the focus in the PBM and pharmacy world over the past few years.  This has led to groups like the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing.  Here’s a few articles on the topic:

Of course, the one voice lost in all of this is that of the patient and the value of a cure to them.  Many people don’t know they have Hepatitis C (HCV), but it can progress and lead to a liver transplant or even ESRD (end state renal disease) which are expensive.  15,000 people die each year in the US due to Hep C (see top reasons for death in the US).  So, drugs like this can be literally and figuratively life savers.  These can change the course of their life by actually curing a lifetime condition.

This topic of specialty drug pricing isn’t going away.

At the end of the day, I’m still left with several questions:

  1. What is the average weighted cost of a patient with chronic Hep C?  Discounted to today’s dollars?  Hard dollars and soft dollars?  How does that compare to the cost of a cure?
  2. What’s the expected window of opportunity for Gilead?  If they have to pay for the full cost of this drug in one year, that explains a lot.  If they’re going to have a corner on the market for 10-years, that’s a different perspective.  (Hard to know prospectively)
  3. For any condition, what’s the value of a cure?  How is that value determined?  (This is generally a new question for the industry.)

And, a few questions that won’t get answered soon, but that this issue highlights are:

  1. What is a reasonable ROI for pharma to keep investing in R&D?
  2. What can be done using technology to lower the costs of bringing a drug to market?
  3. For a life-saving treatment, are we ready to put a value on life and how will we do that?
  4. What percentage of R&D costs (and therefore relative costs per pill) should the US pay versus other countries?

Otis Brawley’s Book – How We Do Harm

Brawley book cover

Let me start by saying…DON’T read this book if you enjoy having your physician up on a pedestal.  It will change your perceptions and skepticism of the system.

DO read this book if you’re frustrated by our US health care system and wonder why we spend so much money without necessarily seeing differences in mortality and outcomes compared to other developed countries.

“Proponents of science as a foundation for health care have not come together to form a grassroots movement, and until this happens, all of us will have to live with a system built on pseudoscience, greed, myths, lies, fraud, and looking the other way.  Patients need to learn that more care is not better care, that doctors are not necessarily right, and that some doctors are not even truthful.”

(Quote from the book pg. 27)

Let me start with an abbreviated bio on Dr. Otis Brawley from the American Cancer Society’s website:

Otis W. Brawley, M.D., F.A.C.P., chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, is responsible for promoting the goals of cancer prevention, early detection, and quality treatment through cancer research and education.

Dr. Brawley currently serves as professor of hematology, oncology, medicine and epidemiology at Emory University. From April of 2001 to November of 2007, he was medical director of the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, and deputy director for cancer control at Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University. He has also previously served as a member of the Society’s Prostate Cancer Committee, co-chaired the U.S. Surgeon General’s Task Force on Cancer Health Disparities, and filled a variety of capacities at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), most recently serving as assistant director.

Dr. Brawley is a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women. He was formerly a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection and Control Advisory Committee. He served as a member of the Food and Drug Administration Oncologic Drug Advisory Committee and chaired the National Institute of Health Consensus Panel on the Treatment of Sickle Cell Disease.

Dr. Brawley is a graduate of University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine. He completed his internship at University Hospitals of Cleveland, Case-Western Reserve University, his residency at University Hospital of Cleveland, and his fellowship at the National Cancer Institute.

I would put this book on my must read list for anyone working in healthcare.  I have two other books there:

Here are some things I highlighted as I read the book:

  • People diagnosed with cancer who had no insurance or were insured through Medicaid were 1.6x more likely to die within 5 years than those with private insurance.
  • “No incident in American medicine should be dismissed as an aberration.  Failure is the system.”
  • “Our medical system fails to provide care when care is needed and fails to stop expensive, often unnecessary, and frequently harmful interventions even in situations when science proves these interventions are wrongheaded.”
  • He introduces the concept of the “wallet biopsy” as a term to describe the difference in care we get once it’s determined what type of insurance we have.
  • While he points out and is clearly an advocate for health discrepancies and the issues of the un- and under-insured, he also points out that “wealth in America is no protection from getting lousy care”.
  • He hits on a point that I agree with in medicine and everywhere else which is teaching people to say “I don’t know”.  He later says “If you truly respect the patients you treat, you will not obscure the line where your knowledge stops and your opinion begins.”
  • He makes a key comment “Can the health-care system make itself trustworthy, become accessible and driven by science?”  (This reminds me of another book on trust in the healthcare system.)
  • “In most cancers, the quality of the surgery is the most important factor in the ultimate outcome.”
  • He talks a lot about the motivation of physicians in determining treatment and how that can be misguided over time.  While some of this can be explained away with Defensive Medicine, he points out that many other times this is simply the business of healthcare with people making money off these treatments.  Or, as he also points out, sometimes it’s simply unwillingness to challenge the status quo of over-treating the patient.  [This is something that I’ve heard other oncologists who provide second opinions point out.]
  • I learned about “gomers” which stands for get out of my emergency room which are patients who come to the emergency room just to interact with someone without any real symptoms.  He also introduces several other terms apparently all derived from a book The House of God about an intership at Beth Israel Medical Center in the 70s.
  • He brings up an important issue that us as Americans and many physicians believe to be true which is that “death is a failure of medicine”.  I’ve talked with several physicians about this.  I believe it’s one of the things that contributes to the enormous amount of money we spend on people in their last 90-days of life.
  • He gives a great (but sad) story of the “moral hazard” scenario of a family trying to care for their parent in the last days of their life and all the “senseless acts of medical torture” that they put him through.  This is one of his classic examples of where the physician knows better but is actually instructed to do harm.
  • He talks about one of the physicians he was assigned to work with during a rotation.  I thought this summary of his rules was great:

“You don’t deviate from the science.  You don’t make it up as you are going along.  You have to have a reason to give the drugs you are giving.  You have to be able to quote literature that supports what you are doing.  You have to tell patients the truth.”

  • At one point, he says that he confirms a truth he learned as a kid which is scary – “Doctors try out things just to see whether they will work.”
  • He gives a brief nod to companies using business rules to safeguard patients through technology that requires physicians to document what they are doing and comparing those to guidelines.
  • He spends a lot of time on prevention and survivorship in terms of how people justify some of those numbers.  It’s worthy of an entire post, but the key point is that early diagnosis by itself simply increases the years of survivorship.  It doesn’t actually mean we did anything better.  He also points out that due to all the treatments we give patients some of them die of other issues rather than cancer that “improves” the cancer death statistics.
  • And, for all of my pharmacy friends, he doesn’t miss the opportunity to tell the Nexium story or to talk about Vioxx and what happened in both of those cases.
  • His stories are amazingly similar to some of the physicians that I worked with for the past two years.  He talks about the overuse of radiologic imaging.  He talks about the da Vinci robot.
  • He gives some unique insights into the politics of support groups and government funding which I’d never understood before.
  • A great quote he uses from Willet Whitmore when talking about PSA testing and prostate cancer was:

“When cure is possible, is it necessary, and when cure is necessary, is it possible?”

  • I also liked a quote he gave from another urologist which said:

“There is the kind of prostate cancer that can be cured, but does not need to be cured; there is the kind of prostate cancer that needs to be cured and cannot be.  We all hope there is a kind of prostate cancer that needs to be cured and can be cured.”

  • This leads up to his point that research shows that 1.3M American men were needlessly treated for localized prostate cancer from 1986-2005.  Wow!
  • He was very positive on the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) which I was glad to hear since that’s the group that several of my physician friends have used before for setting guidelines.

Hopefully, you get the point.  It’s a quick read with a good mix of studies, patient stories, and the history of cancer with a focus on both historical and current issues that face us in this time of transformation in health care.

Here’s a few more articles about Dr. Brawley and his book:

 

As a random point of interest, Dr. Brawley uses several references to teachers and his Jesuit education at The University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy in Detroit which is where I also went to school and had some of the same teachers.  Our school was featured a few years ago as the last Catholic college prep school still in the city.

Prime Therapeutics Drug Trend Report 2014 Report

The Prime Therapeutics Drug Trend Report was released yesterday.  Interestingly, they start out the report by making the point that what really should matter is net ingredient cost not trend.  I’ve made the point before that trend isn’t a great number to focus on for many reasons.  And, if you’re comparing trend numbers (which we all do), then you need to understand different methodologies.  I think Adam Fein does a good job of summarizing that in his post.  (BTW – This is a tough discussion to have especially when you’re getting spreadsheeted by consultants as part of an RFP.)

As comparisons, you can see my reviews of the other drug trend reports here:

Their report was short and to the point.  Here’s some of the key data points:

  • 25M members
  • 80.6% generic fill rate
  • 12.7 Rxs PMPY
  • Overall drug trend = 3.3%
  • Specialty drug trend = 19.5%
  • Net ingredient cost trend = 2.2%

Prime Trend Drivers DTR 2013

 

  • The net ingredient cost per Rx = $58.99 (this is net of rebates and takes into account acquisition costs and network discounts)
    • They state that this beats the competition by $6.00 per Rx

Prime Net Ing Cost DTR 2013

 

Of course, anything anyone really cares about these days is specialty.  Specialty represents only 0.4% of the scripts they fill but 20.5% of the spend for a commercial account.  (They point out that this is much less as a percentage of scripts than other PBMs which have closer to 1% of their scripts classified as specialty…which could influence trend numbers.)  The chart below shows how some of the things we all did around traditional drugs apply to specialty drugs.

Prime Trad vs Specialty Rx DTR 2013

 

And, they make a few predictions going forward:

Prime Forecast DTR 2013

 

12 Innovation Lessons from 2014 (Fast Company)

Back in March 2014 (yes I’m behind), Fast Company put out a report on the World’s Most Innovative Companies.  I thought the list of 12 trends or lessons from their research was worth sharing.

  1. Exceptional is the Expected…Google is the case study here, but they make a point that for most companies, the best businesses focus on less not more.
  2. Innovation is Episodic…Innovation ebbs and flows so people don’t stay on the list every year.  This is also known as regression to the mean or the Sports Illustrated curse (of being on the cover).
  3. Making Money Matters…This is very true for mHealth.  I’ve seen so many really cool ideas, but if they’re not self-sustaining, that’s a problem.
  4. Sustainability Has Found A New Gear…”Green” is no longer a gimmick.  Companies are innovating and using alternative fuels and recycling as part of that.
  5. Unlocking Global Talent Unlocks Possibility…I can’t believe companies still don’t get this.  To innovate, you need diversity and a culture which allows those different opinions and perspectives to hash it solutions.  (Just look at the graphic at the bottom of this post for Silicon Valley which makes that point.)
  6. Passion is Underrated…While crowdsourcing sounds like old news to many industries.  I think there’s still a huge patient empowerment push that will happen in healthcare.  (Just look at this article in the WSJ.)
  7. Conflict Isn’t Required…This is the perfect Blue Ocean example.  You don’t always have to try to change the establishment but sometimes you have to figure out a whole new way.
  8. Happy Customers Make You Happy…Not much to say here.  Healthcare is about to learn this lesson with exchanges, but we have a long way to go.
  9. Software Beats Hardware…YES!  A great computer with a horrible data entry process which messes up the physician workflow and consumer experience is bad.  We need outside-in design to develop user-friendly software that takes into account workflow and regulation but improves the overall experience and outcomes.
  10. “Made In China” Is A Compliment…I’d expand this point to say that while we’ve outsourced for years for cost that’s building up knowledge and a middle class abroad.  As their expectations and experience rise, we’re going to see more innovation and quality from abroad.
  11. The Biggest Winner In The App Economy Remains Apple…And, now, Apple is taking it’s “moral obligation” and bringing it to healthcare.
  12. Dreaming Big Isn’t Folly; It’s Required…Eliminating cancer.  Changing payment paradigms in healthcare.  Getting patients to take action.  Changing food at schools.  We have to have some BHAGs in healthcare and make them happen.  (Perhaps some of the HealthPeople 2020 initiatives will get us thinking.)

Silicon Valley Workers

Above: Tech Immigrants: A Map of Silicon Valley’s Imported Talent (from VentureBeat article)

 

Top 25 Wikipedia Health Topics

The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics published a report in January called “Engaging Patients Through Social Media“.

One of the things it highlighted is the incredible use of Wikipedia for healthcare information.  People are typically going to Google and looking for a disease.  Based on Wikipedia’s page rankings, this often leads them there.

Image

 

Now, what makes this more interesting is the article in the BBC News which says that 90% of wikipedia articles on health contain errors.

Of course, the trick in reading the article closely is that it says they found that “90% of the entries made statements that contradicted latest medical research”.  What’s the difference?  Well, we know that it takes years for evidence-based medicine to become adopted within healthcare.  So, how long does it take the latest medical research to get updated on all the sites?  What I would love to see is a comparison of Wikipedia to WebMD, Ebix, and Healthwise.  That would be telling.

Great #BigData JAMA Image Missing Some Data Sources

JAMA image data

When I saw this article and image in JAMA, I was really excited.  It’s a good collection of structured and unstructured data sources.  It reminded me of Dr. Harry Greenspun’s tweet from earlier today which points out why this new thinking is important.

 

But, it also made me think about this image and what was missing.  The chart shows all the obvious data sources:

  • Pharmacy
  • Medical
  • Lab
  • Demographic
  • EMR / PHR

It even points out some of the newer sources of data:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Online communities
  • Genetics

But, I think they missed several that I think are important and relevant:

  1. Structured assessments like the PHQ-9 for depression screening or the Patient Activation Measure.
  2. Communications data like:
    • How often do they call the call center?
    • What types of questions do they have?
    • Do they respond to calls, e-mails, SMS, letters, etc?
    • Have they identified any barriers to adherence or other actions (e.g., vaccines)?  Is that stored at the pharmacy, call center, MD notes?
  3. Browser / Internet data:
    • This could be mobile data from my phone.
    • What searches I’ve done to find health information.  What have I read?  Was it a reliable source?
  4. Device data (e.g., FitBit):
    • What’s my sleep pattern?
    • What am I eating?
    • How many steps do I walk a day?
  5. Income information or even credit score type data

These things seem more relevant to me than fitness club memberships (which doesn’t actually mean you go to the fitness club) or ancestry.com data which isn’t very personalized (to the best of my knowledge).

In some cases, just simply understanding how consumers are using the healthcare system might be revealing and provide a perspective on their health literacy.

  • Do they call the Nurseline?
  • Do they go to the ER?
  • Do they have a PCP?
  • Do they use the EAP?

We’d like to think this was all coordinated (and sometimes scared into believing that it is), but the reality is that these data silos exist with limited ability to track a patient longitudinally and be sure that the patient is the same across data sources without a common, unique identifier.

CVS Caremark 2013 Drug Trend Report (Insights 2014)

The CVS Caremark publication Insights 2014: Advancing The Science Of Pharmacy Care came out the other day. They took a different approach than the detailed trend report which Express Scripts put out.  Their document is more of a white paper about “7 Sure Things”.

The 7 Sure Things are to help you know what to do with your pharmacy benefit and cover:

  1. Prescription trend is on the rise.
  2. Generics have peaked…and you’re going to feel the difference.
  3. Specialty drives trend.  But do you know how much?
  4. Price is King…Not much of a surprise there.
  5. Money matters to members.  Cost share does influence behavior.
  6. Adherence is the answer.  No one said it was going to be easy.
  7. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

If you’re managing a pharmacy program and you’re surprised by any of these, I would suggest you look for another job.

So, let’s drill down into the report to see what it shows us:

  • Their trend numbers were:

o   0.8% for traditional (non-specialty) drugs

o   15.6% for specialty drugs (down from 18.3% in 2012)

o   3.8% overall

  • While utilization was up 2.1%, the primary driver was price which increased 8.2%.  These factors were mitigated by a 6.0% change in mix.

o   They hint at an interesting question of whether utilization is growing due to an improving economy.  (correlation or causality?)

CVS Caremark Drug Trend 2013

  • Their GDR (generic dispensing rate) was 81.4% in 2013.  (I’d love their perspective on a maximum GDR since they say it’s peaked.)
  • I like the chart below which shows trend with and without generics coming to market.

CVS Caremark DTR 2013 -trend wo generics.jpg

  • Of course, specialty continues to be the real story in all the PBM reports.

CVS Caremark DTR 2013 -specialty.jpg

  • They claim that 53% of total specialty medication costs were paid under the medical benefit in 2012 which is in-line with most projections.  (While they give some perspective on what to do here, this would be one thing I would have liked to see broken out in more detail as this is a critical area for PBMs which hasn’t been cracked yet.)
  • They share the AWP trend broken out below and give some crazy examples of AWP price inflation (e.g., 573% for clomipramine) with some explanation for why this happens.

CVS Caremark DTR 2013 -awp trend.jpg

  • Here were their top 10 specialty drug categories.  The top 5 are the same as the CatamaranRx list, but the bottom 5 are in a different order.

CVS Caremark DTR 2013 -top 10 specialty.jpg

  • A scary statistic (in isolation) is that over the past 5 years patient out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions have climbed 250%.  (But, I think their percentage of cost share has stayed the same.  It would be interesting to show this in real dollars and compare this to both price and wage inflation just to hammer home the point.)
  • They talk about CDHPs (consumer driven health plans) and how that is impacting utilization and cost.  (These are often high deductible plans where consumers pay out of pocket until they reach a certain amount…which often really makes the point in early January to consumers.  And, can lead to dissatisfaction when that prescription that was $30 in December is now $350 in January.)
  • They talk about adherence, and they certainly have continued to publish a lot of studies in this space.  (They also know have Dr. Will Shrank on their staff full-time after working with him for years.  I think very highly of Will as one of the best adherence researchers in the country.)
  • They give a real high level mention of some of their new efforts around adherence:

o   Simpler labels

o   Synchronizing refill dates

o   Reminder devices

o   Digital / mobile tools

  • They also provide this nice summary of how costs go up and where the savings come from.  (Of course, the challenge is in drug classes other than these three and getting clients to give you any credit for the productivity savings and also netting out the program costs.)

CVS Caremark DTR 2013 - adherence value.jpg

  • On a scary note, they predict that Rx trends may jump back into the double digits for the next 4 years.

At the end, they give 5 sure strategies that clients should do.

  1. Double down on generics.  (To me, this means – step therapies, formularies, setting copays right, mandatory generic programs, and generic substitution programs.)
  2. Look across benefits at specialty.  (This is a key one as I mentioned above.  You need to think through how specialty drugs are filled and billed under medical.)
  3. Tackle price.  (They are focused on distribution channel here, but I’d also think about copay levels, plan design, and value-based programs.)
  4. Be strategic about cost share.  (They are focused on how cost share affects adherence which is important, but only one component of an adherence strategy.)
  5. Keep the big picture in mind.  (They allude to it here, but I think this is a key point that ultimately it’s about outcomes and prevention.)

Overall, this was certainly the easiest “trend report” to read. It tells a clear story which is probably great for the average client and would drive more discussion with your account manager.

2013 CatamaranRx Drug Trend Report

I just finished reading the 2013 CatamaranRx Drug Trend Report (2014 Informed Trends: Moments of Opportunity) and wanted to share some of the things that caught my eye. (BTW – CatamaranRx was formed by the merger of SXC and CatalystRx.)

One of the early comments in the document caught my eye. While simple, it is still so true in healthcare.

“Bringing consistency through a national perspective on best practices, a “local” understanding of how health care is practiced and deep insights at the individual level, to promote the very best outcomes.”

CatamaranRx Trend

  • They did a good job of tackling the impact of healthcare reform on the PBM marketplace and why this creates more opportunities.

“The looming pharmacy demand is also driving the healthcare market toward expanded cost containment and coordinated care measures. Industry estimates are projecting more than 30 million new PBM customers as a result of the ACA. This influx of new customers will stimulate creative cost management paradigms and entice new entrants into the PBM sector.”

  • 50% of the new drugs approved by the FDA in 2013 were specialty drugs.  (reiterating the fact that specialty is really the focus of the PBM today in terms of opportunity to influence trend)
  • 30% of the new drugs approved were oncology drugs.  (similar to years past)
  • Orphan drugs without competition were 2.6x more expensive than orphan drugs with competition.  (not too surprising)
  • They point out that no true biosimilar has been approved in the US (which I didn’t realize).  They also point out that international experience is that biosimilars will save 10-15% not the 40% projected by the CBO.
  • They have nice clean charts around price inflation (deflation) for brand and generic drugs.

2013 CatamaranRx Brand Rxs

2013 CatamaranRx Generic Rxs

  • The average cost of a specialty drug rose to $2,860 in their book-of-business.
  • The top 10 specialty drug classes represent 86% of specialty drug spend.

2013 CatamaranRx Top Specialty Classes

  • The report talks about medication adherence using PDC (proportion of days covered).  They show some good adherence rates in key classes (which always brings up questions about methodology).

o   Over what time period?

o   Is this all members prescribed an Rx?

o   Is this all members with one Rx?

o   What is the percentage of members with over 80% PDC (versus the average PDC)?

o   (Note: These are the same questions for every PBM that shows you adherence numbers.)

  • Here’s their forecast for the next few years in terms of trend.

2013 CatamaranRx Trend Forecast

  • They are projecting a generic fill rate of as high as 90% by the end of 2016!
  • I like that they break out their highly managed clients to show they got an overall trend of -0.1% even though they had higher specialty trend driven by oncology.  They shared a list of key things that those clients were doing:

o   Member risk scoring and personalized interventions.

o   Tailored clinical programs, including step therapy, quantity limits and prior authorization.

o   Aggressive management of controlled drugs to reduce misuse and abuse.

o   Formulary management tailored to address client-specific, high-cost medication classes.

o   Exclusive specialty through BriovaRx, a high-touch, patient-centric model.

o   Plan designs with copay differentials that promote cost-effective choices.

o   Multi-channel communications that engage members in their healthcare.

  • I was excited to see them dedicate a whole section talking about engagement.

o   The need for the right message.

o   The need for targeting algorithms.

o   The need to vary channel based on preference.

  • They share some details on their hospital discharge program which sounds right from a PBM perspective – focused on medication reconciliation and adherence.  My key question would be understanding if they address the other risks of re-admission while they have the patient on the phone (i.e., treating the patient not the Rx and not the disease).
  • I haven’t heard as much about MTM lately so it was nice to see them talk about it and see some results which seem really good.

2013 CatamaranRx MTM

Two miscellaneous comments here:

  1. This seems to be a much improved document than the one I reviewed years ago from SXC.
  2. My only challenge with the format was that it prints the two pages on one page in the PDF (but that could be user error).

Comparing the PBM Drug Trends – Corrected

This is the “exciting” time of year when the PBM Drug Trend Reports come out.  With the exception of last year, I’ve reviewed them every year.  I reviewed the 2013 Express Scripts Drug Trend Report the other day, and I’ll try to do both the CVS Caremark and the CatamaranRx reports this week.  The only one I’m still waiting to see is the Prime Therapeutics report.  And, as far as I know, there aren’t any other PBMs that publish reports annually.  (but please correct me if I’m wrong)

I’ll reiterate several points:

  • The methodologies used by each PBM can and may vary.  Therefore, these are not necessarily perfect comparisons.
  • I would question whether trend is the right metric in isolation to view the PBM.  (more to come in another post on PBM differentiation)
  • The client mix by PBM does matter (see chart below from the CVS Caremark report this year which shows the differences by client type).

CVS Caremark Drug Trend 2013

Here are the summaries from the 3 Drug Trend Reports showing the trend in PMPM costs based on traditional categories, specialty medications, and an overall trend.

PBM Drug Trend Comparisons 2013

International Differences In Wellness Programs

I was looking for a statistic today on wellness programs when I came across this 2010 survey on global wellness from Buck Consultants.  I found the geographic differences really interesting, and I thought I’d share a few of the charts here.

Intl Drivers of Wellness strategy Buck

Top wellness programs by region buck

Wellness Program Objectives - Buck

If you want to see their 2012 report on what’s next for wellness, you can go here.

Fail Fast To Succeed Sooner – The Big Company Challenge

I was reading an article this morning about asking the question “are you afraid to fail?”  It’s an article about innovation which reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from David Kelley at IDEO.

Fail Faster

It also reminded me of another article from 2006 in Business Week about How Failure Breeds Success which was when I left Express Scripts to pursue several entrepreneurial opportunities.

Stefan H. Thomke, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of Experimentation Matters, says that when he talks to business groups, “I try to be provocative and say: ‘Failure is not a bad thing.’ I always have lots of people staring at me, [thinking] ‘Have you lost your mind?’ That’s O.K. It gets their attention. [Failure] is so important to the experimental process.”

BW Failure Cover

It also got me thinking about success rates in companies.  We all hear so much about the success of entrepreneurs and these 20 year old billionaires.  Is that reality?  Here’s a few stats from an article in the WSJ and a study by the Census Bureau.

  • 80% of companies make it to year one
  • 60% of companies make it to year three
  • 50% of companies make it to year five
  • 35% of companies make it to year ten

Sounds pretty depressing.  What about the fact that according to the WSJ article, only 5% of them achieve the projected ROI and 30-40% of them liquidate all their assets returning nothing.

“People are embarrassed to talk about their failures, but the truth is that if you don’t have a lot of failures, then you’re just not doing it right, because that means that you’re not investing in risky ventures.  I believe failure is an option for entrepreneurs and if you don’t believe that, then you can bang your head against the wall trying to make it work.” (David Cowan – Bessemer Venture Partners in WSJ article)

Just watch the show Shark Tank sometime.  There are amazing entrepreneurs with interesting ideas who have sacrificed so much to try to make it work.  I always try to tell people that it’s not just about passion and hard work otherwise people would succeed all the time.  Some things you do learn from Shark Tank along with the book The Art of the Start is how to frame and present your ideas.

So, why is this so important?  We’re on the the verge of huge transformation in the healthcare industry.  I think Oliver Wyman did a good job of discussing this in a whitepaper last year.  You can read article after article about mHealth, telemedicine, and remote monitoring.  (I’ll point you to Rock Health or The Center For Connected Health as two starting points.)

Of course innovation has been the buzz for several years now.  I think Jim Collins does a good job of teeing up this issue in discussing churn in the Fortune 500 list.  With the technology and VC crowd, the more recent term for business model innovation is “pivot“.  I think you’ve seen a lot more Chief Innovation Officers and innovation labs in healthcare companies these days.

I came across an interesting blend of technology consulting, investing, and innovation last night in the BCG Digital Ventures group.  In watching part of a YouTube video by their CEO, I think he does a great job summarizing how consulting maps to the investment paradigm.

  • Innovation is like seed capital
  • Product development is like venture capital
  • Commercialization is like growth capital

Interestingly, I probably get 1-2 calls a week from people in big companies that really want to get out of the big company and come work in the exciting start-up space.  I always tell them that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence so be careful.  It can be great, but it can be really tough.  It’s just a different type of risk and not everyone can take the emotional and potentially financial risk.  On the flipside, I also get people that look at the different entrepreneurial things I’ve done and say “why?”  They want to know why I didn’t just stay in a F500 company.  Sometimes, I think of this 8 years as a boomerang where I’ll end up back in a F500 company, but I’ll be a much more valuable product development, strategy, and innovation executive.  [This idea of boomeranging was one that Gensler introduced me to years ago in architecture where they encouraged people to work at different companies and come back if relevant.]

Depending on the day, I also think about what I’ve learned since I’ve never had one of those huge exits that everyone talks about.  I’m not cashing in on all my options to make money.  I’ve summarized many of those learnings on the blog, but here’s a few that I’ll call out.

  1. Firepond was my first venture into this space.  It was a 20-year company that General Atlantic had invested in to turn around as a product configurator in the CRM space.
    • Learned about CRM (customer relationship management) technology.
    • Learned about how to develop, structure, and manage alliances.
    • Learned the importance and how to structure offshore deals.
    • Learned about global sales and embedding technology into different solutions.
    • Learned about evaluating and buying companies.
  2. CentralScript was my second venture I started it from an idea I tried to sell at Express Scripts (and later was suggested to them by Clayton Christensen).
    • Learned about writing a business plan and financial modeling and projections.
    • Learned about the legal structure of businesses.
    • Learned about raising money and how to work with and evaluate angels and VCs.
    • Learned about building a team and structuring contracts with them.
    • Learned about selling and evaluating partners.
  3. Talisen Technologies was my third venture which was another turnaround where I worked with a friend of mine who had raise some private equity to do a technology services consulting roll-up.
    • Learned about Business Process Management technology.
    • Learned about how to build support companies around a technology platform.  (The opposite of Firepond where I was the technology company.)
    • Learned about the difficulties of transforming an existing company and evaluating new companies.
    • Learned about how to use blogging and create exposure using social media.
  4. Silverlink was my fourth venture (and most successful experience) and first real start-up where it wasn’t trying to turnaround an existing asset but building off what the founders had built.
    • Learned about how to present to and work with the Board of Directors.
    • Learned about managing a sales force.
    • Learned about product development, training, documentation, and product lifecycle.
    • Learned about sales and marketing and being responsible for growth and a team.
    • Learned about account management.
    • Learned the value of using thought leadership, social media, and the press to drive awareness and pipeline.
    • Learned how to develop competitive analysis and differentiation.
    • Leraned about pricing and analytics.
  5. inVentiv Medical Management is my current venture which is part of a broader entity, but it’s still the same concept which is a 20-year old company that we’re transforming into a new platform and new business model.
    • Still in-progress so more to come…

So, I wrote all this to make the point that innovation is difficult.  You have to take some risks.  Like the article said upfront, you have to believe you can fail.  You have to have a plan for what to do if you do fail.  Big companies should provide a safety net to people to fail fast.  I think I’ve learned a ton that I wouldn’t have learned staying in the big company.  At the right time, that will be a huge asset as I look to help drive the transformation and pivoting of a larger entity!

A Few Corporate Wellness Tips

While Al Lewis has become the industry antagonist (in a good way), he makes a lot of great points that anyone working in the industry should understand and consider.

If you haven’t read some of Al’s articles, let me point you to a few:

His writing reminds me of some of the things my former boss pointed out several years ago about the disease management industry.

In one of his posts, he makes several points that I wanted to discuss here:

  1. You should use a source like the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) as the evidence-based reference for appropriate screenings – frequency, age, gender.  Of course, I agree with this.  We need some common source that we all can use that’s based on best practices and evidence.
  2. He argues that you should stop weighing people.  I’d argue that knowing your numbers is important.  As a country and a world, we’re seeing massive growth rates in obesity which is linked to numerous diseases.  We need people to be more conscious of this risk factor especially in our sedentary work environments – see sitting disease infographic.
  3. His third point is about targeting and nudging the right population versus over-sampling everyone.  I couldn’t agree more.  This should be what the Big Data push in healthcare gets us.  How to build predictive algorithms to identify people with multiple risk factors.  How to identify people with gaps-in-care.  How to figure out what someone needs to take an action.  I always say there are 3 factors to consider:
    • Is there value in the intervention?
    • What channel / method is going to get the consumer’s attention?
    • What information is going to get the consumer to take an action?

To follow-up on my points above, here’s some information on obesity and it’s link to other diseases.

The CDC says that obesity is linked to:

  • Coronary heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Cancers, such as endometrial, breast, and colon cancer.
  • High total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides.
  • Liver and gallbladder disease.
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems.
  • Degeneration of cartilage and underlying bone within a joint (osteoarthritis).
  • Reproductive health complications such as infertility.
  • Mental health conditions.

And, for a fun video by Mayo Clinic on Knowing Your Numbers watch this:

The Boston Physician Dilemna

I often wonder why so many healthcare companies are in the Boston area.  These two set of statistics from the Merritt Hawkins study on physician appointment wait times paint an interesting picture.

First, you have the fact that Boston has the highest ratio of physicians per 100,000 people.  Almost double the US average.

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 6.51.20 AM

On the other hand, it takes you the longest time to get access to a physician.

Image

 

I’m a simple person.  This doesn’t seem to make sense.  I could say that lots of them are working in academia or in companies and not actually seeing patients.  I’m sure that explains some of it, but I can’t imagine all of it.

It’s also interesting that Boston also rises to the top of the list in terms of Medicare acceptance.

Medicare acceptance rates by city

Listing of Medication Adherence Solutions

It’s been a few years since I’ve worked on medication adherence solutions.  It seems to have become a big focus again in the industry both with the Medicare Star Ratings program and with all the emphasis on waste.

As I started thinking about adherence, I thought it would be good to create a list of solutions and vendors.  I couldn’t find one anywhere on the web.  So, here’s my initial list of almost 100 companies.

I’ll make this a dynamic list so please comment or send me suggestions to add.

Here’s some old posts on adherence that I think are still relevant here:

I’ve divided the list of solutions and vendors into the following:

Devices

  • Adherence Solutions LLC – develop programs to create alliances between different players, sell Dose-Alert which is a smart pill bottle cap, and provide a mobile tool
  • AdhereTech – smart pill bottles
  • Automated Security Alert – medication dispensers to complement their medical alert system
  • Biodose – electronic tray for monitoring time and day of use
  • CleverCap – smart cap for pill bottle
  • Didit – manual tracking device that attaches to a pill bottle
  • DoseCue – smart pill bottle
  • eCap – electronic compliance monitor
  • ePill – medication reminder devices
  • eTect – biocompatible tag on the pill with connectivity and a mobile solution focused on clinical trial adherence
  • iRemember - smart pill bottle cap with voice reminder and smart phone synching
  • MedCenter – monthly organizer and reminder system
  • Med-E-Lert – automated pill dispenser
  • MedMinder – automated pill dispenser
  • MedVantx – medication sampling at the physician’s office
  • Proteus – smart pill technology
  • Quand Medical – uses Near Field Communications and mobile to do medication management and reminders
  • SMRxT – smart pill bottle
  • TalkingRx – audio device attached to pill bottle
  • uBox – smart pillbox
  • Vitality GlowCap – smart pill bottle with communication programs

Mobile / Digital

  • 2Comply – patient portal with web coaching
  • ActualMeds – online medication management for consumers, caregivers, and providers
  • AI Cure Technologies – digital health solution
  • AssistMed – web and mobile based adherence solutions
  • Ayogo – social games and apps to improve engagement and adherence
  • CareSpeak - mobile solution
  • Care4Today – two-way messaging platform, app, and website
  • CellepathicRx – mobile solution
  • CloudMetRx – cloud based solution to help caregivers with medication management
  • Dosecast – mobile medication management and pill reminder
  • GenieMD – mobile medication management and reminders as part of broader solution
  • iPharmacy – mobile pill identifier, medication guide, and reminder app
  • Mango Health – mobile medication management with gamification and incentives
  • Medacheck – mobile reminder system that incorporates caregivers
  • MedCoach – mobile medication management and pill reminder
  • MedHelper – medication compliance and tracking app
  • mHealthCoach – reminder based solution creating a digital support system
  • Mscripts – mobile solution
  • MyMeds – mobile and web medication management and pill reminder solution
  • MyMedSchedule – mobile Rx management tool with reminder service
  • Nightingale – mobile solutions for reminders, engaging your physician, and notifying your caregivers
  • PillBoxie – mobile medication management and reminder app
  • PillManager – mobile medication management and pill reminder
  • PillMonitor – mobile medication reminders and logs
  • PillPhone – mobile phone solution with biometric authentication
  • Prescribe Wellness – automated, digital interventions
  • RightScript – platform to manage prescriptions through mobile reminders that connect patients, caretakers, practitioners, and health plans
  • RxCase Minder – mobile medication management
  • RxNetwork – mobile medication management and reminders with rewards
  • Quintiles – building digitally, connected communities
  • Virtusa – multi-dimensional interventions across the patient’s journey

Platform

  • Adheris – adherence suite and advanced analytics (just acquired Catalina Health) [note: they are owned by inVentiv Health who I work for]
  • Avanter – an adherence program for pharmacies in Argentina
  • Capzule – pill reminders as part of PHR
  • Dr. First – embedded tools into EHR
  • HealthPrize – platform with gamification, incentives, education, and communications
  • LDM Group – suite of compliance products
  • McKesson – sampling, coaching, coupons, and messaging
  • MediSafe – mobile medication management app and adherence platform
  • MedPal Health Solutions – platform for medication adherence solutions
  • MedSimple – medication management, pill reminders, coupons, and PAP programs
  • mHealthCoach – care collaboration platform using machine learning to personalize communications
  • Tavie – virtual nurse for improving adherence focused on several conditions

Communications

  • Ateb – multi-channel communication programs for pharmacies
  • Atlantis Healthcare – custom adherence solutions
  • Eliza – multi-channel communication programs
  • Intelecare – multi-channel adherence communications
  • MemoText – messaging platform
  • Patient Empowerment Program – medication adherence program for pharmacies
  • Pleio – adherence solutions for the first 100-days (when most people stop taking medications)
  • Silverlink – multi-channel communication programs [note: this is the company that I used to work for and still use]
  • Varolii (now Nuance) – multi-channel communication programs
  • Voxiva – web and text messaging solution
  • West – multi-channel communication programs

Big Data

Tools / Enablers

  • 5th Finger – assessment and personalization tools
  • GNS Healthcare – using data and predictive models to identify targets and fuel intervention programs
  • HumanCare Systems – creating patient and caregiver support solutions
  • Insignia (PAM) – measure of patient activation for segmentation and scoring
  • MedMonk – help pharmacists obtain funding for patients who can’t afford their out-of-pocket pharmaceutical expenses
  • MedSked – low tech, high impact labeling solution
  • Merck Adherence Estimator – screening tool available as a widget or online at Merck Engage
  • NaviNet – communications network to enable adherence
  • NCPA – toolkit and ROI calculator for pharmacies
  • ScriptYourFuture – tools and text reminders
  • Walgreens API – an application programming interface for developers to use to connect their adherence solutions to Walgreens

Medicare focused

  • Dovetail – pharmacist led programs including MTM, in-home visits, and telephonic coaching (focused on Star Ratings)
  • Mirixa – incorporated into the MTM program
  • Outcomes – data and tools as part of their MTM solution
  • Pharm MD – Medicare STARS program

Condition specific

  • GeckoCap – adherence offering for kids with asthma
  • MyRefillRx – mobile adherence app focused on high blood pressure

Packaging

Pharma

  • 90Ten Healthcare – providing adherence programs in 23 countries
  • TrialCard – voucher and co-pay programs for consumers to stop Rx abandonment
  • Triplefin – customized programs for pharma brand managers
  • Adherence Engagement Platform – a Pfizer program of adherence materials and tools (I couldn’t find it online only in hard copy)
  • RS Associate – a company working with manufacturers in India
  • Rx.com – MTM, pre-edit messaging at the POS, and print-on-demand messaging at the pharmacy

International (recommendations send to me without English sites)

What other companies am I missing?  Send them to me directly or add them in the comments section here.  Thanks.

Should Photos Replace Texting For Healthcare

I’ll admit that several people have asked me about this over the years.  If a picture is really worth a thousand words, would it be better to send someone a picture than a text message.  Perhaps a picture of me in my skinny jeans if I’m trying to lose weight.  Perhaps a picture of my grandkid if I’m trying to get healthy to run around the yard with them.  Perhaps a picture of my favorite vacation location to motivate me to stick with a health goal.  It’s an interesting question.

So, let’s start with tex messaging in healthcare.  When I think of using SMS (or texting) in healthcare, my first example is always Text4Baby which was a unique coalition of companies that worked with Voxiva to get this launched.

Text4baby_522f5f55154ee_w1500

Of course, Voxiva has since expanded to offer other programs:

Voxiva

And, I think there are some business cases out there around using SMS to interact and change behavior in healthcare.  The Center For Connected Health in Boston with Dr. Joseph Kvedar has been studying this in several settings.  Here’s one poster from them on a pilot.  Here’s a good summary of what had happened as of 2012 from MobiHealth News.

Here’s a few other studies:

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  Lots of people have tried using text messaging as a low-cost but potentially effective way to get messages to consumers about a specific health behavior.  Especially in other countries, this can be the preferred method.

But, we always talk about the fact that people remember pictures better than words.  And, culturally, we’ve become a society that takes pictures of everything.  We share those pictures on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter and other social media tools.  And, in many cases, we’re obsessed with infographics as a means of delivering information.  So, why not use them more in healthcare communications?

There is some research out there to support this topic:

I was thinking about my interview with Aetna about CarePass and what CarePass was doing, and it seemed to create a good example.  Would I rather a text that reminded me about my goal or the picture on the right?

whats your healthy ad2

Additionally, I know in discussions with Vic Strecher, co-founder of HealthMedia, that we’re talked about the value of customizing imagery on letters to personalize and engage consumers.  I just can’t find anything published by them right now to show that they studied that.

So, as we think about motivating people and sending them reminders, I think it would be really interesting to see the results of a picture driven process versus a written communication.  Is it the same effect?  Does it vary?  By age, gender, type of action?  Of course, the one thing I would recommend is letting the consumer upload and pick their picture not picking from some general list of canned photos.

New Harris Interactive Data Supports Focus On Hospitals And Retailers

As I’ve discussed before, trust is critical in engaging consumers.  The question always is “Who does the consumer trust in healthcare?”  We certainly know that individuals like physicians, nurses, and pharmacists are trusted, but they often aren’t the ones doing the big campaigns to engage consumers.  It’s the pharma manufacturers, the hospitals, the PBMs, the payers, the retail pharmacies, and other entities.  In my presentation at the CBI conference, I hypothesized that this is why retail pharmacy should (could) take a bigger role in the future.

The new survey from Harris Interactive reinforces that.  Of course, 42% of people don’t believe any companies, but with some healthcare companies being barely trusted more than tobacco companies, consumer engagement isn’t easy.

Harris Interactive - Trusted Industries 2013

The additional bad news from the survey is that people think more regulation is necessary in healthcare.

Harris Interactive - Regulated Industries 2013

 

Are Sports Good For Kids?

This was an interesting question that I was thinking about this morning.

I could take this several directions:

  • I could look at the benefits of exercise from sports (assuming the kids actually got enough exercise in practice – see older blog post).
  • I could look at the benefits of working in a team which I see from team sports.
  • I could look at the recovery benefits of losing and coming back which is very important in business and life. (how do you handle adversity)
  • I could look at the dangers of sports.
  • I could look at concussions in football and the discussion of helmets for soccer.
  • I could look at the negative impacts of parents on their kids relative to sports.
    • Fighting at sport events.
    • Pushing their kids too far.  (below are some things I’ve heard and seen)
      • Just keep running even if you throw up.  You’ll be fine.
      • If you have to pee, just pee in your swim suit.  You can’t be distracted during the meet.
      • If you do that again, we’re going to get up at 5 in the morning and go to the gym and practice it 100x before school.
      • You need to work harder so you can be in the Olympics at 16.
      • This is our college plan.  They have to be the best at this sport.
      • I pulled them out of school so they could practice more.  (The kid was 7.)

But, I saw an article about the time that kids start school, and it got me thinking about sleep and sports and the impact on kids.

Let’s start with some established facts:

sleep guidelines

Now, let’s assume most grade schools start around 8:00.  (My kid’s school starts at 7:30.)  That means that they likely have to get up by 7:00 at the latest.  So, they should be in bed by 9:00 PM on average probably earlier for most kids and families where people are catching the bus or driving to school.

If their sports are starting practice or games after 6:00 PM, how likely is it that they’re home, calmed down, with their homework finished, and in bed by 9:00 PM?  Even if they are, how many parents are getting their kids to bed by 9:00?

“Sleep may be the most important, though overlooked, contributor to your children’s development and health. The reality is that children can survive without exercise and on little food (though I don’t recommend either), but all children need sleep. It’s often unnoticed because you don’t usually see your children sleeping and its benefits are not readily apparent (though its costs usually are).

The influence of sleep on children is profound. Quality sleep has been found to be associated with improved attention, reduced stress, greater emotional control, better mood, improved memory, greater ability to learn and return information, better grades, improved mental health, lower risk of obesity and other health problems, and longer life.” (From a good article on kid’s sleep in the Huffington Post)

So, just to be clear…I think kids should be in sports.  I just think we (as parents) need to be more concerned about making sure we don’t sacrifice our kid’s sleep on a regular basis for them to play sports and lead them into health issues and school issues.  The tradeoff isn’t worth it.  (IMHO)

Three Recent Specialty Pharmacy Reports

Last week, I noticed three recent reports that have come out about specialty pharmacy.  I haven’t had a chance to really dig in to them , but I thought I’d pull out a few of the PR highlights and share the report links here.

The first report is from the Center for Healthcare Supply Chain Research and Health Strategies Group — “Specialty Pharmacy: Implications of Alternative Distribution Models” — which looks at how providers are using buy-and-bill and white bagging.

Karen J. Ribler, Executive Vice President and COO of the Center, notes, “Distributing specialty pharmaceuticals is complex; curbing costs is just one of the many facets of providing patient-centered healthcare. Site-of-care and day-of administration dosage requirements revealed themselves as determining factors for supporting the use of one method over another. A critical look at unintended consequences leads to our conclusion that Buy and Bill is, for the time being, the preferred model for practitioners of medium to large oncology clinics, but that could change as specialty treatments evolve.”

CVS Caremark just released their report Specialty Trend Management – Where To Go Next.  In there, they say:

Infusions are increasingly being done in a hospital setting where the costs for both the drug and its administration can be the highest of all potential sites of care.  For example, costs for a standard dose of a drug for rheumatoid arthritis can vary from $3,259 for the drug and $148 for administration when infused at the patient’s home to $5,393 for the drug and $425 for the administration when infused as an outpatient procedure at a hospital. In fact, the hospital setting is typically the least cost-effective site of care for infusions. (source)

As I’ve been doing lots of work lately in identifying and segmenting the population for Population Health Management, I found this chart interesting:

Image

http://lab.express-scripts.com/prescription-drug-trends/specialty-drug-spending-to-jump-67-by-2015/

And, last month, Prime Therapeutics released a report on Specialty Pharmacy which I blogged about.

Trajectory Modeling On Adherence By CVS

No one who works with consumers or who studies adherence should too surprised that people are different in how they fill their medications. I think companies are finally getting a better handle on longitudinal member records and ways of studying those patterns to determine how and when to intervene.

Our past behavior is always a great place to learn from about our future behavior but at the same time, people view different drugs and conditions differently. For example, I might be very likely to take my pain medication everyday since it’s a symptomatic condition versus my cholesterol medication since it’s an asymptotic condition. I also may take a different approach yo medications that have significant side effects.

At the same time, these data is well known so the quest for the “best” segmentation approach and behavior change model continues.

With that in mind, I finally got a chance to look at some research from September that researchers at CVS Caremark and Brigham and Women’s Hospital published in the journal Medical Care. They used trajectory modeling to follow statin users for 15 months and came up with six groups:

  • Brief gap in medication use or filled irregularly during the first nine months, but improved during the last six months (11.4 percent)
  • Slowly declining adherence throughout the 15 month period (11.3 percent)
  • Used statins only occasionally across the 15 month study period (15 percent)
  • Rapid decline in statin use after initiation (19.3 percent)
  • Virtually no fills after their initial fill (23.4 percent

They also identified some characteristics associated with adherence:

  • Higher adherence was seen with patients who were older, had higher incomes and held a high school diploma.
  • The highest adherence rates were associated with Medicare Part D clients and people who live in New England.
  • Those with the lowest adherence rates tended to be generally younger, male and less likely to have an initial prescription that provided them with more than a 30-day supply of medication.

Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark:


“The use of trajectory models could help us more accurately identify patients at risk for medication nonadherence so we can develop and implement targeted interventions to help them stay on their medications for chronic health conditions.”

Aetna’s Metabolic Syndrome Innovation Program

I’ve been closely following Aetna’s innovation for the past few years (see post on CarePass and Healthagen).  I had the chance last week to speak with Adam Scott who is the Managing Director of the Aetna Innovation Labs.

Here’s Adam’s bio:

Adam Scott is a Managing Director within Aetna’s Innovation Labs, a group developing novel clinical, platform, and engagement solutions for the next generation of healthcare.  Mr. Scott specializes in clinical innovation, with a focus on oncology, genetics, and metabolic syndrome, as well as “big data” analysis.  His work is aimed at conceptualizing and developing products and services that better predict illness, enable evidence-based care and lengthen healthy lives.  Prior to joining Aetna, Mr. Scott’s 15-year healthcare career has included management roles in consulting, hospital administration, and most recently health information technology.  Mr. Scott holds a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.  Mr. Scott resides with his family in Needham, MA, where he actively serves as a director on community boards.

This is one of my favorite topics – Metabolic Syndrome (although yes…I still hate the term).

Definition of Metabolic Syndrome from the NIH:

Metabolic (met-ah-BOL-ik) syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetesand stroke.

The term “metabolic” refers to the biochemical processes involved in the body’s normal functioning. Risk factors are traits, conditions, or habits that increase your chance of developing a disease.

The Aetna Innovation Labs are focused on bringing concepts to scale and staying 2-3 years ahead of the market.  They are looking to rapidly pilot ideas with a focus on collecting evidence.  In general, Adam described their work as focused on clinical, platform, and engagement ideas.  They are trying to collaborate with cutting edge companies that they think they can help to scale quickly.  It’s pretty exciting!

As stated in their press release about this new effort:

“During the course of the last year, Aetna Innovation Labs has successfully piloted an analysis of Metabolic Syndrome and the creation of predictive models for Metabolic Syndrome. This prior work showed significantly increased risk of both diabetes and heart disease for those living with Metabolic Syndrome,” said Michael Palmer, vice president of Innovation at Aetna. “With this new pilot program with Newtopia, we are aiming to help members address Metabolic Syndrome through specific actions, before more serious chronic conditions arise, like diabetes and heart disease.”

Aetna selected Newtopia for this effort for their unique approach toward achieving a healthy weight with an integrative and personalized focus on nutrition, exercise, and behavioral well-being. Newtopia’s program begins with a “genetic reveal,” leveraging a saliva-based genetic test to stratify participants with respect to three genes associated with obesity, appetite, and behavior. Based on the results of this test and an online assessment, Newtopia matches each participant to a plan and coach trained to focus on the member’s specific genetic, personality and motivation profile. Through online coaching sessions, Newtopia will help members achieve results related to maintaining a healthy weight and Metabolic Syndrome risk-reduction, which will be measured by changes from a pre- and post-program biometric screening.

“Newtopia’s mission is to inspire individuals to make the lifestyle choices that can help them build healthy lives,” said Jeffrey Ruby, Founder and CEO of Newtopia.

If you’ve been following the story, this builds upon their project with GNS to develop a predictive algorithm to identify people at risk for Metabolic Syndrome.  As you may or may not know, there are 5 first factors for Metabolic Syndrome (text from NIH):

The five conditions described below are metabolic risk factors. You can have any one of these risk factors by itself, but they tend to occur together. You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

  • A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.” Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.

  • A high triglyceride level (or you’re on medicine to treat high triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.

  • A low HDL cholesterol level (or you’re on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol). HDL sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.

  • High blood pressure (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood pressure). Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup.

  • High fasting blood sugar (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

So, what exactly are they doing now.  That was the focus of my discussion with Adam.

  1. They are running data through the GNS predictive model.
  2. They are inviting people to participate in the program.  (initially focusing on 500 Aetna employees for the pilot)
  3. The employees that choose to participate then get a 3 SNP (snip) test done focused on the genes that are associated with body fat, appetite, and eating behavior.  (Maybe they should get a few of us bloggers into the pilot – hint.)  This is done through Newtopia, and the program is GINA compliant since the genetic data is never received by Aetna or the employer.
  4. The genetic analysis puts the consumer into one of eight categories.
  5. Based on the category, the consumer is matched with a personal coach who is going to help them with a care plan, an exercise plan, and a nutrition plan.  The coaching also includes a lifestyle assessment to identify the best ways to engage them and is supported by mobile and web technology.
    newtopia
  6. The Newtopia coaches are then using the Pebble technology to track activity and upload that into a portal and into their system.

We then talked about several of the other activities that are important for this to be successful:

  • Use of Motivational Interviewing or other evidence-based approaches for engagement.  In this case, Newtopia is providing the coaching using a proprietary approach based on the genetic data.
  • Providing offline support.  In this case, Aetna has partnered with Duke to provide the Metabolic Health in Small Bytes program which he described as a virtual coaching program.

Metabolic Health in Small Bytes uses a virtual classroom technology, where participants can interact with each other and the instructor. All of the program instructors have completed a program outlined by lead program developer Ruth Wolever, PhD from Duke Diet and Fitness Center and Duke Integrative Medicine. Using mindfulness techniques from the program, participants learn practices they can use to combat the root causes of obesity. The program’s goal is to help participants better understand their emotional state, enhance their knowledge of how to improve exercise and nutrition, and access internal motivation to do so. (source)

We also talked about employer feedback and willingness to adopt solutions like this.  From my conversations, I think employers are hesitant to go down this path.  Metabolic Syndrome affects about 23.7% of the population.  That is a large group of consumers to engage, and pending final ROI analysis will likely scare some employers off.

Adam told me that they’ve talked with 30 of their large clients, consultants, and mid-market clients.  While we didn’t get into specifics, we talked about all the reasons they should do this:

  • People with Metabolic Syndrome are 1.6x more expensive
  • People with Metabolic Syndrome are 5x more likely to get diabetes
  • Absenteeism
  • Presenteeism

This ties well with my argument that wellness programs aren’t just about ROI.

Obviously, one of the next steps will be figuring out how this integrates into their other existing programs to address the overall consumer experience so that it’s not just another cool (but disconnected) program.  And, of course, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the program to get clients and consumers to participate.

Two quotes I’ll leave you with on why this is difficult (but yet exciting to try to solve):

“The harsh reality is that scientists know as much about curing obesity as they do about curing the common cold: not much. But at least they admit their limitations in treating the cold. Many doctors seem to think the cure for obesity exists, but obese patients just don’t comply. Doctors often have less respect for obese patients, believing if they would just diet and exercise they’d be slim and healthy.” (source)

Thirty percent of those in the “overweight” class believed they were actually normal size, while 70% of those classified as obese felt they were simply overweight. Among the heaviest group, the morbidly obese, almost 60% pegged themselves as obese, while another 39% considered themselves merely overweight. (source)

10 Healthcare Projects I’d Like To Solve

I always tend to see the glass half full so when I see a problem then I often want to rush in and try to fix it. With that said, here are 10 things that I’ve thought about that I’d like to fix or see as big opportunities:

1. The healthcare experience. While this is the third leg of the Triple Aim, it often seems like the one that is so hard for healthcare companies to get. The system is so fragmented that the patient often is forgotten.

2. Device integration. While devices are better and integration is possible, there is still a huge lift to integrate my data into the typical clinical workflow. This is only going to get much worse with ubiquitous use of sensors and will be the limiting factor in the growth of the Quantified Self movement. (See my post on FitBit)

3. Intelligent phones. This is something that people carry everywhere. They often live life through the phone sometimes missing out on reality. The phone has tons of data as I’ve described before. We have to figure out how to tap into this in a less disruptive way.

4. Consumer preferences. I’m a big believer in preference-based marketing. But the question is how do I disclose my preferences, to whom, and are my preferences really the best way to get me to engage. What would be ideal is if we could find a way to scale down fMRI technology and allow us to disclose this information to key companies so they could get us to take actions that were in our best interest. (see old post on Buyology)

5. Benefits selection. I’ve picked the wrong benefits a few times. This drives me crazy. As I mentioned the other day, the technology to help with this exists and all the data which sits in EMRs and PHRs should allow us to fix this problem.

6. The role of retail pharmacy. This is one of my favorite topics. With more retail pharmacies than McDonalds and a huge problem of access, pharmacies could be the key turning point in influencing change in this country.

7. Caregiver empowerment. Anyone who cares for an adult and/or child knows how hard it is to be a caregiver and take care of their own needs. This becomes even harder with the people being geographically apart. With all the sensors and remote technology out there, I see this being a hot space in the next decade.

8. The smart house. As an architect, I’ve always dreamed of helping create the intelligent house where it knows what food you have. It manages your heat and light. It tracks your movements and could call for help if you fall. I see this being an opportunity to empower seniors to live at home longer.

9. Helping the disenfranchised. For years, we’ve all seen data showing that income can affect health. The question is how will we fix this. Coverage for all is certainly a critical step but that won’t fix it. We have a huge health literacy issue also. Ultimately, public health needs a program like we had to get people to wear seat belts. We need yo own our fate and change it before we end up like the humans in the movie Wall-e.

10. A Hispanic healthcare company in the US. With 16% of the US that speak Spanish, I’m shocked that I haven’t seen someone come out with a health and wellness company that is Hispanic centric in terms of the approach to improving care, engaging consumers, and providing support.

So, what would you like to solve?

Retail Pharmacy As The Digital Medical Home

I’m excited to deliver my presentation on the topic about the retail pharmacy as the digital medical home tomorrow at the intersection of three CBI conferences – Point of Care Summit, Retail Strategy Summit, and Strategic Distribution Planning for Specialty Products.  As always, I’m sharing my slides below via SlideShare, and I’ll set up some tweets to give you the cliff note version.

The key here IMHO is that retailers are best positioned to take advantage of this, but the key points are:

  1. Why retail pharmacy?
    • Retail pharmacies have trust from consumers.
    • Easily accessible.
    • Pharmacy is the most used benefit.
  2. What’s the challenge?
    • Successfully engaging the consumer.
    • Integration with the provider so there are process oriented care gaps.
    • Data.
  3. What needs to happen?
    • Focus on the golden moments for engagement.
    • Systemic model for engagement – e.g., Prochaska.
    • Tools and skills to motivate the consumer – e.g., Motivational Interviewing, Incentives.

OMG – Prescription Coupons Could Cost Consumers More

Talk about an article that seems a few years late to the party…

Anyways, I was reading a link from the PCMA today about an article on philly.com about copay cards.  It stresses several points:

  • The cards are typically only for 90-days.
  • The cards get people started on brand drugs not generics.
  • People are less likely to switch to generics after they use the brand.
  • This costs people more money over time.

I’ve talked about copay cards many times and presented on this topic at the PCMA conference a few years ago.

Let me give some quick thoughts here.

  1. The cards may typically be for only 90-days, but most people that drop off therapy or titrate to other strengths do so in the first 90-days so perhaps this is saving some money.
  2. Of course, it’s for brand drugs not generics.  That’s the business model we’ve created in this country where generics are priced at pennies so there is no marketing to support those products.  It’s the PBMs and pharmacies that do the marketing for generics since they are the ones making money here.
  3. I think it’s a fair generalization that people are less likely to switch, but this is the problem.  If the drugs are the same (per the FDA), why is this an issue?  Is it an educational issue.  Or, is there really a difference?
  4. I’m not sure the consumer cost is the issue.  That’s marketing 101.  Don’t most consumers understand this issue that sales and coupons drive you to build loyalty often to higher priced products.  I think the debate here needs to stay on the payer who pays 70-80% of the drug costs.  They are the ones who really have an issue here since they don’t control the decision made in the market.

This one doesn’t seem to be going away, but I’m not seeing any net new information.

Diet Soda Versus Regular Soda – Ongoing Confusion

I view this as one more example of how the average consumer gets confused by all the information out there.

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Should I focus on calories?

Should I focus on the ingredients?

Should I just drink water?  (of course)

Now, “new” research shows that the artificial sweeteners in the Diet drink can actually fool your body making it worse for you over time.  This isn’t completely new if you look at this blog from a few years ago.

But, we often wonder about why consumers don’t take responsibility for their actions and then get upset when more aggressive measures have to be taken.  (See the recent Penn State uproar.)

Consumers don’t know who or what to trust.

Should I drink alcohol?  Is it good for me in moderation?

How much exercise is needed?  New research shows that it can’t all be done at once.

Only 15% Of Workers Leave The Office Every Day

Have you noticed that you eat lunch more at your desk every day?  I certainly have.

With 7 hours of meetings (at least) every day plus 300+ emails every day, we’re busy.  I’d argue that most companies these days are busier than they were historically.  At the same time, everyone is focused on wellness and healthier choices.  When sleep, diet, exercise, and stress are all related to health, it’s hard to separate those from the workplace.

That being said, I wasn’t too surprised by this recent poll I saw which highlights this.

Exercise at work

Did You Know? Chronic Kidney Disease (#CKD) From The National Kidney Foundation

I was reading a document from the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) the other day.  Some of the facts jumped out at me.  I thought I’d share them.

  • 83,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant
  • 1 person dies every 2 hours while waiting for a kidney transplant
  • 26M Americans (1 in 9 adults) have chronic kidney disease (CKD) and most don’t know it
  • 367,000 people depend on dialysis for survival

It also reinforced some things that many people may know:

  • Once kidneys fail, patients need a transplant of dialysis to survive
  • People with diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of these conditions are at risk for CKD
  • African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and the elderly are at increased risk

You can also find more information about CKD from the CDC.

There was an article this week in the NY Times about this silent killer.  Here’s a paragraph from there.

Only 1 percent of participants with no lifestyle-related risk factors developed protein in their urine, an early indicator of kidney damage, while 13 percent of those with three unhealthy factors developed the condition, known medically as proteinuria. Obesity alone doubled a person’s risk of developing kidney disease; an unhealthy diet raised the risk even when weight and other lifestyle factors were taken into account.

CarePass, Another Aetna Innovation – What’s Your Healthy?

Have you seen the new “What’s Your Healthy?” campaign?  Here’s a few shots.

BTW – My healthy is keeping up with my kids in sports and moving down a belt notch.

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As many of you know, I consider Walgreens and Aetna to be two of the most innovative healthcare companies today (out of the big, established players).  [And, full disclosure, I own stock in both.]  I’ve talked about Walgreens (see Walgreens post on innovation) several times along with Aetna (see Healthagen post).

That being said, the new campaign along with the press caught my attention.  I was glad that I was able to get some time with Martha Wofford who is the VP and head of CarePass.

“We want to make it easier for everyone to engage in their health and hopefully shift from thinking about health care to taking care of their health,” said Martha L. Wofford, vice president and head of CarePass from Aetna. “CarePass helps consumers connect different pieces of health data to create a fuller, more personalized picture of their health.”

I spent some time talking with Martha and team about their initiative.  Here’s some highlights that stuck out to me.

  • There use of goals was really easy and intuitive.  If you log-in to the CarePass site and get started, you have 3 options or you can create your own (see below).  We spent some time talking about the importance of making these relevant to the individual not focusing on “healthcare goals” like adherence or lowering you blood sugar.  Most of us don’t think that way.  As they described them, they picked “motivation centric goals”.
    Aetna Carepass goals
  • I was also really interested in how they picked which apps to recommend.  There are so many out there, and many of you know that I’ve been fascinated by the concept of curating apps or prescribing apps to people.  They had a nice, simple process:
    • Which apps are most popular?
    • Does the app have “breadth”?  (i.e., national applicability)
    • They also spent more time pre-screening apps which collect PHI to understand them before listing them on the site.
    • They’re using the consumers goals to recommend apps to them.
  • The other big question I had is why do this.  It certain helps build the Aetna brand over time, but there’s not direct path to revenue (that I see).  They described their efforts as “supporting the healthcare journey” through connected data.  Ultimately, it’s about making Aetna a preferred consumer brand which may be very relevant in the individual market and exchange world in the not too distant future.
  • I like the idea of companies being “app agnostic” as I call it.  Walgreens is doing this.  Aetna is doing this.  I plan on doing this in my day job.  This allows the consumer to pick the app that works for them and as long as the data is normalized (or can be normalized) and the app provides some type of open API (application programming interface) it’s much easier to integrate with.
  • We talked a little about what’s next.  Metabolic syndrome is something they brought up.  This is something that Aetna’s been talking about in several forums for a while now.  They launched a new offering earlier this year.  (I still hate the term metabolic syndrome from a consumer perspective, but it seems to be sticking in the healthcare community.)
  • We also talked about new goals to come around smoking cessation, medication, and stress.
  • Another discussion I have with lots of people is how this data gets used.  (see a good article about what’s next for QuantifiedSelf)  I personally really want to see my data pushed to the care management team to monitor and send me information.  (Eat this not that type of suggestions)  Martha talked about how the data belongs to the member and they have to choose to push it to the coach.  She also talked about how they’re integrating with their PHR (Personal Health Record) first and then looking at others.  (see old interview with ActiveHealth)

In summary, CarePass is a nice additional to your #QuantifiedSelf toolkit.  As you can see from the screenshots below, the GUI (graphic user interface) is simple.  It’s well designed.  Integration with your apps is easy.  It provides you with goals and motivation.  They help you navigate the app world.  And, it helps you bring together data from multiple sources.  Once it can pull in all my Rx, medical and lab data along with my HRA data and my device data, it will be really cool!  But, I know that I’m a minority in that effort.  I’m really intrigued by the lifestyle questions they ask and wonder how those will ultimately personalize my experience.

Carepass lifestyle questions Carepass dashboard

So, what apps do they share?  Here’s a screenshot, but you really should log-in and try the site and see the full list.  It’s simple and worth the effort.

Carepass apps

As an added bonus, I’m adding a presentation I gave with Aetna at the Care Continuum Alliance two years ago.  I was searching for my past interviews with Aetna people and found this online so I added it to SlideShare and put it here.

Prescribing An App vs. An Rx – Why Are People Surprised?

A staggering 90 percent of chronic patients in the US would accept a mobile app prescription from their physician, as opposed to only 66 percent willing to accept a prescription of medication, according to a recent survey from health communications firm Digitas Health.  (source)

Is this surprising to anyone?

I don’t think it should be…and here’s why:

  1. In general, most apps don’t cost anything while prescriptions generally do.
  2. I don’t know of any apps with side effects.
  3. It’s unlikely that your app will have a negative interaction with another app (like a drug-drug interaction).  It may give you conflicting information, but that’s about it.
  4. You don’t have to wait to get your app.  You can probably download it while you’re at the physician’s office.  A prescription can take time to get either waiting in line, waiting for it to get filled, or sending it in through the mail.
  5. You don’t have to refill your app.  You may have to update it every once in a while, but it tells you when and all you have to do is press a button.

Of course, most (all) apps won’t have the same likelihood as Rxs in improving your health.  Of course, Rxs only work if people take them…which they don’t.

Still surprised?

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