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Dealing with the Growing Power of “Medical Googlers”

November 7th, 2012
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The increased use of the internet by healthcare consumers has led to at least two types of medical conversations ironically illustrated by two different online features sharing a name: the “DocTalk” here, in which Arizona kidney specialists share treatment information on smartphones, and another “DocTalk,” where Ontario physician Stuart Foxman discusses such communications issues as the risks of physician’s giving too much information, and the growing irritation among physicians with patients who research conditions and treatments online.
 
Like it or not, these two “doc talks” are merging. While physicians and other providers are busily keeping up with changing practice parameters, medical literature and patient management (increasingly by computer, smartphone or tablet), patients are trying to keep up, too. WebMD receives more than 40 million hits a month, and anywhere from half to 80% of all Americans have used the internet to research a medical condition or symptoms. Even larger medical providers like Kaiser Permanente encourage the use of websites for gathering medical information. In addition, consumers increasingly have the ability to research and share opinions on their providers through sites like www.vitals.com.  Interestingly, the ability of consumers to rate and offer opinions on providers is not growing quite as quickly as other industries, due to reasons we’ll cover in a future post.
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The Physician’s New World of Consumer-Driven Healthcare: A View from Eric Topol

September 25th, 2012
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We’ve had a lot of discussions about the waves of changes happening in healthcare, thanks to smartphone- and internet-fueled consumer power. In a recent Popper and Company post, Caroline Popper discussed how consumers’ access to information, expectations from the medical profession, focus on wellness (instead of disease) and determination of value are changing the industry.
 
Dr. Eric Topol, author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine, presented another face of this consumer-driven change; the effects on doctors. In this Medscape video presentation, Dr. Topol suggests that doctors, no longer the sole holder of personal health information, will need to change how they approach their practices as well as their patients.
 
Consumers are getting health information from many sources. For example, companies like Walgreens are increasing the information content of their consumer interactions. By educating its customers on the data generated by the devices Walgreens sells, patients have more knowledge of their own condition – and a knowledge base that does not start with the physician. Thus, the patient enters the doctor’s office with a more thorough basis of information and more challenging questions. This information base may make physicians uncomfortable, just as direct-to-consumer ads from the pharmaceutical industry have discomforted many. But, as Dr. Topol points out, physicians will continue to have an important role; it’s just going to be a different one.’
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A New Healthcare Model Rising from Tradition’s Ashes (and Tim Berners-Lee)

September 10th, 2012
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Marketing is dead,” proclaims a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, adding that traditional marketing (i.e., advertising, corporate communications, PR, overall branding) doesn’t work anymore. Consumers are finding more personal ways to make buying decisions and increasingly do not value general “push” efforts (other than perhaps to become aware of a product/service).
 
But what of healthcare? The perspective in the HBR post helps us understand that traditional provider-dominated sharing of healthcare services is also dead. We’re beyond the point of believing what we’re told, particularly if the person doing the telling is a representative of a company and thereby being paid to endorse a particular product or service.
 
Instead, the model has shifted to one of validation. Consumers conduct research, join online community groups, and listen to trusted influencers. These developments are everywhere now:  discussion groups (e.g. PatientsLikeMe), which connect people by diseases, can often provide more information on an individual’s specific symptom/disease than physicians who, limited by time, tend to be more generally focused.
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Can “Portfolio Theory” Be Applied to NIH Funding Decisions?

May 17th, 2012
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The National Institutes of Health has faced some critical fire lately: for funding studies that don’t turn into treatments, for not paying enough heed to the “valley of death” (the stage between bench science and clinical trials), and for not funding enough basic research because of budgetary constraints. But few have asked: how could the agency better select prospective projects?
 
Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston published an intriguing theory: base NIH funding similarly to how investment companies handle portfolios, complete with return on investment calculations. But what would a rate of return be in biomedical research? Years of life saved per dollar spent, say Andrew Lo and his colleagues in their paper published in PLoS One.
 
But as the authors and others admit, “years of life saved” is probably an overly simplistic measure. Perhaps the authors were trying to make a point in the most extreme way possible.

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Optimizing Digital Health’s Future Calls for New Regulatory Vision: A Discussion with a U.S. Congressional Aide

May 11th, 2012
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Washington, DC, is an impressive city. But too many times, one leaves our nation’s capital scratching one’s head. Understanding how large, complex agencies deal with equally large, complex issues is puzzling enough, but issues that change on an almost-daily basis—such as optimizing the potential of advances in digital health—call for much faster solutions than our bureaucratic system is designed to address.
 
To discuss ways to resolve the puzzles inherent in regulating digital health opportunities, Paul Sonnier and I met with Keith Studdard, the Legislative Director to U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn), who has been advocating a clearer, more streamlined regulatory approach to new developments in digital health.  What was our reaction coming home? Instead of scratching our heads, we were pleasantly surprised by the level of engagement and dedication we found.
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Eric Topol’s 9 Steps Toward Better Health Care—We Add a 10th

March 8th, 2012
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There appear to be a growing number of revolutions in health care and the life sciences industry. Whether you’re considering the genomics revolution, the information revolution, or the empowered patient revolution, a strong need to “fix” our health care system – to address the various inefficiencies that cause costs to increase and that put quality of care at risk – seems to be at the root of these movements.
 
Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and scientist at the Scripps Research Institute, recently published a short article on “How to Change Medicine.” The article, which is excerpted from Dr. Topol’s book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine, provides nine key steps to changing health care delivery: from changing focus from populations to individual patients, to using genomic data to help “fit” treatments for each patient, to redesigning the way doctors are reimbursed.
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Introducing Strategic Advisor Paul Sonnier: Digital Health Expert

January 11th, 2012
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Strategic advisors play an important role at Popper and Co. While our core team provides diversity and expertise to resolve problems and create strategies for companies in the life sciences arena, the unique advice and perspectives that come from our advisors is invaluable and often not available anywhere else.
 
Paul Sonnier, our third strategic advisor, already has given us—and you, our clients–invaluable advice on the brave new world of digital health. His perspective is vital to understanding the innovations that are opening doors to new paradigms in consumer health and influencing healthcare across the board.
 
Paul most recently served as vice president of partner development at the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance (WLSA), a global trade organization that is dedicated to creating value and improving health globally, through the convergence of communications technologies, consumers, caregivers and all sectors of life sciences and technology.
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A Strategic Lesson in a Tale of Two Drugstores

November 29th, 2011
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Have you noticed the very different strategic paths taken here of late by Walgreens and CVS, the national drugstore chains? What’s happened so far is a lesson in strategy and the importance of considering unintended consequences and long-term implications. For me, this drugstore case study evokes the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”
 
A recent article in Forbes magazine compares the stock performance of CVS and Walgreens, in an attempt to measure how each chain’s strategic decision around its pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) program affected both how well each could negotiate terms and prices with insurers as well as its overall pharmacy sales. PBMs are designed to help a drugstore chain win a price advantage over competing chains.
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Could Orphan Drugs Turn Health Economics on its Ear?

November 21st, 2011
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When is $100,000 a year more expensive than $500,000 a year? The answer: when developing drugs to treat common diseases (e.g., cancer) rather than rare diseases. According to a new article in Forbes magazine, governments and insurers are willing to pay upwards of $200,000 and as much as $500,000 for new orphan drug treatments that attack rare diseases (usually caused by a single gene). Since people suffering from these diseases have a known genetic profile, these targeted treatments are far more effective than most cancer drugs, for which insurers will usually cover up to $100,000 per patient per year.
 
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins is urging companies to find more treatments for rare diseases. Of the 7,000 diseases that affect humans worldwide, 6,000 are rare. Traditional drug discovery and development methods for mass populations won’t be effective against these diseases. But more targeted approaches, with specific biologics and companion diagnostics, could be.
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What You Need to Know About AdvaMed 2011

September 19th, 2011
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An Interview with AdvaMed Conference Producer Ray Briscuso
 
In preparation for AdvaMed 2011: The MedTech Conference, we had a unique opportunity to interview Ray Briscuso, President and CEO at Life Sciences Conference Group, LLC. Each year, Briscuso works with the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) to produce one of the most important meetings focused on medical devices and diagnostics, and which brings together more than 1,500 key MedTech executives from companies in every sector of the industry. It is the premier conference, exhibition and partnering event for medical device, diagnostic and health information companies. In the past, internationally respected voices, such as former Presidents George Bush (Sr.) and Bill Clinton, have been featured as plenary speakers.
 
I am eagerly anticipating September 26-28 when AdvaMed 2011 will be held in Washington, DC. Following are some insights and highlights from our discussion with Ray about how to get the most out of this year’s event: Read the rest of this entry »

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