Data is the black gold of the 21st century. This is perhaps no truer than in the healthcare industry, where data has the potential to help address some of the biggest challenges individuals face.
As in just about every industry, the companies that need data the most aren’t always the ones that collect it. In some cases, valuable data is generated and owned by third parties; in others, companies need tools and technologies offered by third parties to collect data that they have the potential to generate.
Here are five examples of how healthcare companies are acquiring data.
Roche bought an EHR
Last month, Swiss pharma giant Roche announced that it is acquiring health technology company Flatiron Health for $1.9bn. Flatiron Health, which Roche already owned a minority stake in, is the maker of an electronic health record (EHR) platform that is specifically tailored to the needs of oncology providers.
Because of its oncology focus, Flatiron Health was in a unique position to collect data that could be used for cancer research, and that was a key reason, if not the primary reason, that Roche shelled out $1.9bn to buy the company.
As Roche CEO Daniel O’Day explained, “This is an important step in our personalised healthcare strategy for Roche, as we believe that regulatory-grade real-world evidence is a key ingredient to accelerate the development of, and access to, new cancer treatments. As a leading technology company in oncology, Flatiron Health is best positioned to provide the technology and data analytics infrastructure needed not only for Roche, but for oncology research and development efforts across the entire industry.”
UnitedHealthcare is paying its customers to use a fitness tracker
In early 2017, UnitedHealthcare, one of the largest health insurers in the U.S., began a wellness program called Motion that paid individuals it insures up to $1,500 to complete fitness goals while wearing a Fitbit device. Just this month, it was reported that UnitedHealthcare expanded the program to include Apple wearables, namely the Apple Watch.
While the primary goal of the UnitedHealthcare Motion program is to reduce the company’s costs by encouraging its insured to live healthier lifestyles, make no doubt about it: the tracking data it gathers from participants could be worth its weight in gold. For example, by correlating fitness tracking data with costs and demographic information, the company could develop more robust wellness models and programs.
Genentech and Pfizer partnered with 23andMe
Genetic testing and analytics company 23andMe gives individuals the ability to learn about their ancestry, genetic health risks and overall wellness through a simple saliva test.
Not surprisingly, many people are interested in learning more about who they are genetically and that has helped the company collect more than 2m samples, giving the company a database of genetic information that is extremely attractive to pharma and biotech companies.
The pharmas and biotechs that 23andMe has worked with include Pfizer, which acquired 23andMe DNA data “to help find new targets to treat disease and to design clinical trials”, and Genentech, which partnered with the Google-backed company to conduct in-depth research on Parkinson’s.
Amgen got cozy with an insurer
For pharmas looking to acquire data, partnerships with health insurers are an obvious fit for a number of reasons, including the fact that insurers have access to large patient populations.
An example of a pharma-insurer tie-up can be seen with Amgen, which teamed up with Humana, a large American insurer, to create research initiatives targeting multiple conditions by applying technologies like wearables, mobile apps and Bluetooth-enabled drug delivery services.
Boehringer Ingelheim integrated a sensor from Propeller Health into an inhaler
One of the biggest challenges in the healthcare industry is getting patients to take their medicine. In an effort to better understand how patients interact with its products, Boehringer Ingelheim partnered with digital asthma and COPD management platform Propeller Health to create a sensor that attached to one of its inhalers.
The sensor enabled Boehringer Ingelheim to collect data about usage, not only helping the company identify reasons for nonadherence but to develop ways to help encourage adherence.
As Propeller Health CEO David Van Sickle explained:
“It means things like being able to deliver subtle audiovisual cues when the medication hasn’t been used and the time for a dose has passed. Or predicting when someone is leaving their home and giving them an alert so they can take a moment to go back and get their morning dose. It means the sensors sort of knowing how much medication is remaining and suggesting an appropriate time for refilling the prescription. And it means thinking about ways to put information about the daily use of these medications to work, to think of ways we can reward individuals intrinsically and extrinsically to motivate better adherence.”
Similar approaches are being explored for treatments delivered in pill form and if the research proves that adherence is improved, expect to see connected inhalers and pillboxes become common.