Beyond The Pill is moving to Game On!

Can conservative Pharma companies becomes Gamers? Although a large investment by Merck and AMGEN was announced several months ago, the repercussions are now being felt. This could help open up the long pent-up demand for innovation by Pharma manufacturers.

The investment news came last summer, as quoted in FierceBiotech: “Akili Interactive Labs, the Boston-based startup developing nonpharmacological therapeutics for various cognitive disorders like autism and Alzheimer’s disease, got an $11.9 million boost in funding, raising its total Series B proceeds to $42.4 million.” Basically, they use gamification to improve cognitive function.

Recently, the new Pharma and gamer partners announced their first accomplishment, EVO, the game:

The first game application for children with a cognitive disorder has proven highly effective. This gives the marketers a differentiating aspect to their Rx. Being a fact-based industry, this is big news.

Why is this hot?

  • The terms “Beyond The Pill” has become the industries code for “innovation” — trying to offer some technology or service to make their drug stand-out in the minds of doctors and consumers. “Innovation” is a word that is intensely frightening to most Pharma marketers. For several years, as more and more blockbusters (drugs with sales over $1 billion) become generics (70% of ALL drugs are now generics), Pharma has been haphazardly explored partnerships and technologies, but has often failed due to cultural entropy and conservatism in the C-suite. This is a first.
  • Change needs to come from the C-suite: $11 million is a lot of money, especially for an industry so conservative and ROI-obsessed.  Every company, even MRM-McCann clients, are looking for ways to engage patients from clinical trials through drug adherence — the entire product lifecycle.
  • I have been “selling” into one of our Pharma clients an Artificial Intelligence platform from a company that did Sgt Star on the U.S. Army site; we have had several meetings to try and issue AI as their Beyond The Pill strategy for launch of a new ADHD drug; this success with Akili may make that path easier.

Cameras in the body. (Get my good side!)

Body Sensors Daso 3.9.16

There have been several Sci-fi movies over time that tell the story of people being shrunken down to then ride the blood stream and fix some horrific problem someone is suffering from. Well, forget shrinking people, the healthcare industry device manufacturers and many small start-ups have started an upward swing in using micro-cameras and sensors to help play the first line of defense in detecting diseases.

Examples? Sensors that are either ingested or inserted under the skin that can detect breast cancer, COPD, sight degeneration: that is just a sample of the Gold Rush to get a sensor or camera in your body.

One camera, created in Scotland, is using infrared to detect cancer growths in certain parts of the body. Said research associate Dr. Mohammed Al-Rawhani, in a university news release:  “The system could also be used to help track antibodies used to label cancer in the human body, creating a new way to detect of cancer.”

As of today, the FDA approved PillCam COLON2 (you really have to wonder who picks these names) which will be used for hi-risk colorectal cancer patients, a disease which is the 2nd biggest killer in the U.S.

HS Medtronic pill 4.1.16

Why is this hot? For two reasons: first, it is a sign that the reliance on technology is changing the observational role of the doctor — they are trained to watch your every gesture, emotions, words, all weighed against experience and intuition to lead a doctor down the detective path to a diagnosis. Sensors and cameras start to make them health technologists. Second, this will also enable to get ahead of many diseases, not behind. Don’t we all secretly, in some dark moment, wonder if a tumor is growing somewhere in your body, unknown and lurking?  That fear and the thousand shadows of uncertainty will be gone in a decade or less.

For Healthcare, empathy is THE strategy in a cynical customer-centric world

HCP empathy 2.19

Empathy is considered one of the high attributes of emotional intelligence; it is the foundation of strong relationships. These days, great brands work hard to align their message to provoke some emotion — joy, aspiration, sadness, outrage — but the hardest emotion to communicate is empathy. While it is used as a means to bond with a brand, it usually is packaged with cause-related marketing like raising money for a disease research.

What more apropos industry to embrace empathy as a differentiating strategy than Biopharma and healthcare? It is an industry that ranges from high science to high emotion. Why not use empathy to say to patients, “We get you. We care. Trust our medication. Trust our hospital.” What’s more is the government is rewarding doctors and hospitals on empathy.

Let’s go through some examples of how technology is creating the path to applying empathy as a business strategy. In fact, at many hospitals, they are training doctors to be mor empathetic. Patient satisfaction scores are now being used to calculate Medicare reimbursement under the Affordable Care Act. And more than 70 percent of hospitals and health networks are using patient satisfaction scores in physician compensation decisions.

First, Healthloop, an App that is in beta but has great promise. Hospitals in the post-Affordable Care Act world, have new metrics for both reimbursement and are rated (yes, up to 5 stars!); Biopharma companies are being judged by insurers on Outcomes (did the treatment actually work?) — it all comes down to being gaining competitive advantage for doctors, hospitals and even Biopharma.

This video for Healthloop says it pretty well:

Next is…a mental health support App. This is an amazingly human digital experience; unlike so many (abandoned) Apps, this one actually covers a 360 degree view of your day-to-day mental health. It stays relevant. It offers contact and human contact; advice that is simple, exercises that are based in cognitive behavioral sciences.

Giiger io HS 2.19.16

Calm down kit HS 2.19.16

The Calm down Kit (above) is the best! How human can you get? If I were in a depressive funk, “watching cute puppies” may seem frivolous but it is reinforcing the need for positive thought.

Why is this hot? For CXM, how do we account for this? How do we understand that this is core emotional driver for patients in choosing hospitals and doctors — even treatments. Technology and good UX is finally enabling the ability to deliver an emotional experience. But all good strategies need measurement for validation and optimization: Do we need to evolve the definition of ROI? Should it be ROI which accounts for Empathy and UX? Return on Empathy? Can we measure this? Is this the ultimate Engagement metric? Healthloop caring, helpful content and interaction is reminding us who really cares. The patient testimonial on Healthloop says it all:

HL HS tstiminal 2.19.16

IoT and Health…magic answer for health or privacy hell?

The Internet of Things is here. While it seems so inevitable and welcome, in many ways it is a nightmare waiting to happen. In an article on and a report from Goldman Sachs, the authors outline the positive impact IoT/Big Data on transportation and healthcare. One author, Bruce Horsham claims a utopian — and a rather naïve — view of the IoT: “Far from being a gimmicky way to collect more data on customers – and sell them more things – IoT technology has the power to transform industries, manage costs and deliver quality outcomes to up and down the supply chain. Here’s how two industries are doing just that.”

While the advances IoT is doing for transportation is noteworthy, the risk/reward equation for healthcare is still to be determined. Consider this fact: Goldman Sachs recently estimated that Internet of Things (IoT) technology can save billions of dollars for asthma care. If 1/3 of all healthcare spending is on disease management, this is also a place where IoT can have the biggest, most immediate impact on cost and quality-of-care. The chart below shows how Goldman views it:

IoT Goldman savings H sauce 12.11

Why is this hot? Are we focused on the wrong thing? With 80 million wearable devices already being used, the flood of data is here, it is only the interconnectivity of all the healthcare systems that prevents its use. While everyone may rush to saying such data will provide savings and better health outcomes, the bottom line is we live in an era of data flood and data theft. At this time, there is NO widely accepted privacy policy or hack-proof software that protects us, our parents, our families. Why is privacy and theft an issue? Because of scale!

Example: Excellus, a health data provider, got hacked. If each individual health record is valued at $50, then the theft is worth $500 million.

Example: if true connectivity occurred, then millions of users with implanted monitoring devices, or those who use remote insulin devices or remote monitoring of their heart could be hacked and killed. It is that ugly and that simple.

This is a fast-evolving topic…the Goldman Sachs IoT inforgraphic is one we should all marvel at and hope that someone is watching our back.

IoT Goldman infg 12.11


Interoperability? THE weak link in the ever-changing healthcare system.

HS Why connected health 10.15

In a recent article in Medical Economics, Edward Gold, MD, makes a compelling argument and call-to-action on one of the most complex demands of the Affordable Care Act: Interoperability. A topic with enormous impact, but little discussed.

Simply put it means every Electronic Health Record, every doctor’s office, every surgery center, every patient App, all have to be sharing data and centralizing it for the better care and healthier outcomes for patients. Cost control is a big part of this, too. But the bottom line is cost control comes from coordinated, proactive care and an engaged patient. What is difficult is that so much venture money and rush to install non-compatible systems have been done over the past 5 years and wasted billions of dollars. As Dr. gold puts it: “I don’t think we’re more interoperable than we were three or four years ago,” he says. He still can’t exchange secure messages with most other doctors, he notes, and a local health information exchange (HIE) initiative has come to naught so far.

HS Interoperabiloity 10.15 cost issues

A 2014 study published in Health Affairs found that health information exchange was still quite low, despite the rapid increase in the percentages of providers who had adopted EHRs. Only 14% of physicians, for example, shared information with providers outside their organizations in 2014. There are more reasons for this problem than can be counted — half are just sheer human stupidity, poor User Experience and resistance to change, half are that the government was slow to set standards.

Why is this hot? First, because the ACA demands it and the health economics will not show efficiencies and savings without it. Next, comes the patient/doctor relationship; within a year, doctors will be paid for emailing not seeing patients; but if you had a surgery at one hospital, are at home being monitored, and your doctor is in a private practice, as of now, you are afloat in the world of disconnected data. No one is really watching out for you. Email or visit, no one professional is seeing your entire picture.

Many experts say this will work its way out. But will it? Some systems are light years ahead of others; it is almost as if a digital caste system of have and have-nots is being created due to lack of interoperability. We all need to be our advocates for ourselves, parents, children and ask ALL your healthcare providers: how connected are you?

3D Printing pushes the boundary by creating an entire rib cage

What can’t a 3D Printer do? A 54-year old Spanish man suffering from cancer — chest wall carcinoma it is called — had to have his entire rib cage removed as part of his treatment. But instead of a debilitated and crippled patient, the surgical team had another answer. The Spanish medical team sent his CT scan to a 3D-printing company called Anatomics in Australia.

Here is the story as told on the Doctor’s Channel and YouTube:

Why is this hot? As with so many technologies that are moving from concept to reality, 3D Printing has been a topic of high expectation and wide discussion in healthcare — when will it print skin, organs, how far can we take it? The other trend here is the globalization of healthcare. The digital revolution of communication allows for nearly instant connection between teams that may have never been able to benefit each other — let alone a patient!

Anatomics makes so many types of body implants, replacements, enhancements, it is like looking at the GE of 3D Printing.

anamtomics h. page h sauce 9.18

True, there is a Frankenstein question that one has to ask: how many of my body parts will end up being replaced as I age or get sick? But if you are the patient laying there wondering what life will be like, whether you will have a life at all, a manufactured set of ribs made in Australia seems like a moment of light in the darkness. In the end, all healthcare advances are the advancement of hope.




Beyond the Pill Comes to Life with Digestible Chip Sensor

The FDA’s acceptance of the first digital medicine-New Drug Application took place this week.. It will pair Proteus Digital Health’s ingestible sensor platform with Otsuka Pharmaceuticals’ FDA-approved Abilify drug to treat people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and in some cases for major depressive disorder to monitor adherence.

The Abilify tablet contains an ingestible sensor that communicates with a wearable sensor patch and medical software application. The idea is to measure adherence.

Otsuka CEO for development and commercialization Dr. William Carson said in a statement that patients suffering from severe mental illnesses struggle with adhering to or communicating with their healthcare teams about their medication regimen, which can greatly impact outcomes and disease progression.


The Proteus digital health feedback system combines an ingestible sensor placed on a pill, with a wearable sensor on an adhesive patch, and a mobile application that displays data on a mobile device, such as a smartphone.

The technology behind the embedded sensor is pretty cool. Stomach juices activate an energy source — similar to a potato starch battery. The embedded sensor sends signals to a skin patch electrode, which wirelessly transmits information such as vital signs, body position and verification of medication ingestion.

The sensor would be embedded during the drug manufacturing process as a combination drug-device, communicating with the Proteus patch and relevant medical software. If approved, the combination drug-device could be used to tailor medicines more closely to reflect each of our medication-taking patterns and lifestyle choices, Andrew Thompson, Proteus Digital Health CEO said in a statement.

Why It’s HOT: Abilify recently went off patent; therefore, generic versions of the medication are now available. To combat the loss associated with LOE, Otsuka partnered with a digital innovation company to be a first mover of a new offering to their pre-existing market; although, with a new intriguing competitive edge and MOA associated with the digestible sensor. There is no chemical reformulation of the drug; it simply now has innovative utility that is sure to drive HCP script writing in light of the generic form of Abilify being available without the digestible sensor because it has the potential improve patient outcomes which is the desired end goal for all suffering from mental illness.