Digital health news update: casting light on the costs of care

September 6, 2018 Matthew Arnold

Price transparency is emerging as a critical issue in the game of musical chairs going on between governments and healthcare industry stakeholders over who will pay the bills. In the U.S. in particular, healthcare consumers are feeling the pain of increased up-front costs, and more than half (54%) expect healthcare costs to increase further in the next two years, according to Manhattan Research 2018 data. As politicians look to demonstrate progress on curbing costs, the task of pinning down slippery prices for medicines and medical services is in the news. To wit:

  • CMS is looking for help in building a hospital price transparency tool, which might benefit from stronger reporting requirements are set to go into effect in 2019. The hospital industry is less than thrilled with CMS’ price transparency moves, arguing that transparency efforts should be targeted to payers, not providers.
     
  • But fear not, insurers – you’re not off the hook yet! Amazon is talking to European insurers about establishing a UK price comparison site for insurance, which would presumably cover supplemental health insurance along with other insurance offerings.
     
  • Meanwhile, Congress is threatening to force DTC ads to disclose the prices of the Rx drugs they’re promoting – which pharmas say would be tricky, given variability based on insurance coverage, rebates and other factors. But the idea has support from the Trump Administration as well as the AMA. The fine print of the proposed rules remains unclear – would manufacturers be required to advertise list prices or post-rebate prices? – but it’s a sure bet that FDA’s power to enforce them would face a First Amendment court challenge.
     
  • On the advertising front, FDA is also prepping a contentious study of consumer comprehension of fair balance info in print DTC ads. One question they’re trying to answer: are companies “overwarning” consumers with too much information, thereby causing them to gloss over important safety info? And the agency is looking at fair balance info in HCP promotions, too.

In other news:

  • Partners HealthCare, the innovative Boston-based health system, is launching an urgent care telehealth offering in partnership with Teladoc. The aim of the program, which will initially be offered to members of Partners’ AllWays Health plan, is to increase patient engagement while decreasing the need for office, ER or urgent care clinic visits.
     
  • Another insurer is partnering with smart inhaler specialist Propeller Health on a mobile health initiative – this one aimed at keeping COPD patients out of the ER. The program, by Anthem BCBS of Ohio, will use Propeller’s sensor tech to track medication use, enabling patients to stay on top of their medication regimen and alerting care managers when use may be predictive of an ER visit.
     
  • Merck and Healthy Interactions are relaunching their beyond-the-pill diabetes patient support app, map4health, an app which collates data from tracker devices and supports remote communication with HCPs. The mHealth market for diabetes support is a crowded one, as Digital Dive notes, including Roche’s MySugr and Medtronic’s Inner Circle.  
     
  • You’ve heard of predictive analytics. How about predictive regulation? FDA has, for a second time, approved a new indication of a cancer treatment based on real-time clinical trial analysis – this time of Merck’s Keytruda in combination with chemotherapy for non-squamous NSCLC.  
     
  • In the wake of its $300m exclusive deal with GSK, 23andMe is dropping the curtain on its data for third-party users.  
     
  • Here’s a look at how J&J (like some of its competitors) is using incubators to infuse its fusty pharma corporate culture with a dose of tech innovation, bringing in talent and identifying potential partnerships with startups.
     
  • FiercePharma finds that payers are increasingly taking their place alongside patients and HCPs as a focus of pharma marketing efforts.
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