Digital health news update: Rise of the Empathic Chatbots

June 12, 2017 Matthew Arnold

  • A SaaS-y startup out of Stanford has developed a wholly-automated chatbot to provide support to sufferers of depression and anxiety via Facebook Messenger on a subscription basis. Dubbed Woebot, the chatbot, developed using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, “replicates decision-making the way a clinician makes decisions” and can serve as a disease-agnostic platform for provision of emotional support, according to the CEO behind it.
     
  • The behemoths of cloud computing – Amazon, Microsoft and Google – are pitching cloud-based, AI-powered services that “automates mundane tasks including data entry, consulting work like patient management and referrals, and even the diagnostic elements of highly skilled fields such as pathology,” according to Bloomberg.
     
  • Facebook held an inaugural day for pharmas and their agencies last week, and their head of health vowed to “educate internally to move faster for them—or set any type of guardrails that they might need so that they’re feeling safe and are compliant with all the regulatory and policy constraints that they face.” Per Klick Wire’s notes, there was a lot of talk about data and analytics, and a discussion of ‘lean forward’ and ‘lean back’ approaches to user experience design.
     
  • Novartis Oncology is partnering with IBM Watson to provide clinical support to oncologists around breast cancer therapies using real world data and AI.
     
  • Otsuka has just refiled their application for a Proteus + Abilify combo and now a Chicago medical center is using the Proteus smart pill system to detect nonadherence in hypertension patients – and send automatic text reminders to take their meds.
     
  • Here’s a look at Nestle Skin Health’s Itch Tracker app for Apple Watch, which can track scratching while sleeping. The data is being used to study itching and scratching in the general population and among Alzheimer’s patients.
     
  • Our friends at Klick surveyed U.S. adults about digital innovation and found high hopes for digital technologies in healthcare, particularly wearables – but they’re not very impressed with the current state of things.
     
  • Later this week, the AMA will vote on a resolution calling for a requirement that direct-to-consumer drug ads include a manufacturer suggested retail price. It wouldn’t be the first time doctors have taken a swing at DTC advertising, but the proposal, if ever adopted by FDA (a big ‘if’), could have a huge impact on pharma marketing and pricing practices.
     
  • Meanwhile, Pfizer raised the list price on 91 of its drugs for a second time this year, so that many drugs are 20% more expensive than they were in 2016, the Financial Times reported (Pfizer notes that rebates and discounts will offset those increases for many patients), and the Times has a colorful account of Mylan’s chairman telling critics of the company’s EpiPen pricing strategy to go pound sand. In, er, so many words and gestures.
     
  • A few years ago, there was talk from some pharma critics of ‘counter-detailing’ doctors to promote the use of lower-cost generics over branded drugs. Now, at least a handful of payers have reportedly begun hiring pharma reps to do so.
     
  • The FDA asked Endo to pull its pain drug Opana ER off the market due to danger of addiction – a first for an opiate drug and a sign that the FDA is prepared to move aggressively to address the opioid addiction epidemic.
     
  • A bill that would amend the Prescription Drug User Fee Act to allow drug companies more communication with HCPs around off-label uses is moving through congress and is expected to get a vote this summer.
     
  • Afrezza-maker MannKind is sponsoring a reality show in which a handful of Americans with diabetes gather at a swanky Jamaican resort and try to combat the disease with diet and exercise under the guidance of Bob Marley’s nephew, who conceived of the show as ‘The Biggest Loser meets diabetes.’ MannKind gets ad slots on the Discovery Life show in the bargain, and perhaps a mention.
     
  • This week in ad-blocking browser whack-a-mole: Google’s next version of Chrome will have some robust ad-blocking features and Apple’s next generation of Safari will block autoplaying videos

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