Digital medicine is poised to transform biomedical research, clinical practice and the commercial sector. Here we introduce a monthly column from R&D/venture creation firm PureTech tracking digital medicine's emergence.
Technology has already transformed the social fabric of life in the twenty-first century. It is now poised to profoundly influence disease management and healthcare. Beyond the hype of the 'mobile health' and 'wearable technology' movement, the ability to monitor our bodies and continuously gather data about human biology suggests new possibilities for both biomedical research and clinical practice. Just as the Human Genome Project ushered in the age of high-throughput genotyping, the ability to automate, continuously record, analyze and share standardized physiological and biological data augurs the beginning of a new era—that of high-throughput human phenotyping.
These advances are prompting new approaches to research and medicine, but they are also raising questions and posing challenges for existing healthcare delivery systems. How will these technologies alter biomedical research approaches, what types of experimental questions will researchers now be able to ask and what types of training will be needed? Will the ability to digitize individual characteristics and communicate by mobile technology empower patients and enable the modification of disease-promoting behaviors; at the same time, will it threaten patient privacy? Will doctors be prescribing US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared apps on a regular basis, not just to monitor and manage chronic disease but also to preempt acute disease episodes? Will the shift in the balance between disease treatment and early intervention have a broad economic impact on the healthcare system? How will the emergence of these new technologies reshape the healthcare industry and its underlying business models? What will be the defining characteristics of 'winning' products and companies?
These are just some of the questions we plan to ask over the coming months. In the meantime, we introduce here some of the key themes shaping R&D in the digital medicine field and focus on what they might mean for the biopharmaceutical and diagnostic/device industries.
DIY Healthcare is set to be one of the top trends of 2015, according to PwC. And they may be on to something. We’ve noticed an uptick in garage-made medical devices recently. In addition, the so-called Maker Movement is beginning to focus more on healthcare applications.
Among the 50 largest drug makers in the world, more than half still aren’t actively using social media to engage healthcare consumers or patients. Most of them primarily use social media as a broadcasting channel, and no more than 10 are on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.
Even with drug makers’ recent increases in digital spending, the pharmaceutical industry is repeatedly said to be a laggard in adoption of social media.
Drugmakers’ common excuse for remaining social media wallflowers is largely due to the regulatory uncertainty and the doubts on how to measure social ROI.
1/ The rise of the empowered patient
With the role of social media rapidly expanding, patients are increasingly turning to popular social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and forums obtaining and sharing information related to their health.
In the US, for example, over one third of consumers manage their own health and are using social media to help them make important healthcare decisions.
The consequent empowerment of the patient in making decisions around their treatment has led them to be more aware and have a greater say in the treatment process.
But it’s not just patients who go to social media to voice their opinions. The pharma industry has multiple stakeholders who actively research and discuss online, including patients, physicians, payers, caregivers, providers and advocacy groups.
This trend only heightens the imperative need for pharmaceutical companies and regulators to take notice and contribute to the overall healthcare discussion, particularly to the appropriate use of medicines.
But how do you actually know what physicians are saying about your drug? Can you identify your patients’ primary concerns about your market leading product?
What are the conversation themes around managing the disease? How does the online reputation of your brand compare to competitors? Are patients switching brands and if so, why?
2/ Using social media as a research tool
The most immediate benefit that social media has to offer pharmaceutical companies is as a research tool.
The answers to the questions above require a more proactive embrace of social media analytics tools by pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Social media analytics tools, such as Brandwatch Analytics, can mine not only Twitter but also public forums, blogs, news sites, Facebook and other social networks to uncover patients and physicians’ sentiments and opinions.
One of our clients, Creation Healthcare, did exactly such a thing not too long ago. They indexed half a million healthcare professional profiles across thousands of sites using Brandwatch Analytics to understand how treatments and products are perceived by those who may prescribe them every day.
The online market research consultancy was able to spot healthcare trends and concerns months before others did. Offering unrivaled insight into the views of healthcare professionals, Creation Healthcare’s research business attracted six times more clients than before.
Identifying the opinions of healthcare professionals and patients is, indeed, a complicated process, particularly because of the amount of noise and spam surrounding pharmaceuticals. With boolean operators and rules, you can filter out spammy websites and irrelevant views.
3/ Using social media to foster discussions with your stakeholders
Understanding the kind of people who make up the conversation in your niche can prove far more insightful than listening only to those who mention your product or brand.
In a recent report we analyzed thousands of mentions online using social media analyticsto understand people’s attitude towards HIV treatment and to inform targeted messaging.
Their target audience is often seen as being the healthcare professional. But when analyzing all HIV discussion on social media, it turns out it’s the patients, caregivers and those that actually aren’t directly affected by HIV who offer the most powerful insights.
The general public spoke nearly three times more about HIV treatment than healthcare professionals, suggesting a general interest in the topic and that online influencers may differ from offline.
Diving deeper into this data, we noticed that the different stakeholders are chatting about HIV in entirely different places.
Data like this could dramatically impact how a drug manufacturer develops its communication strategies and targets its messaging.
4/ Building tailored marketing strategies
As shown below, social media analytics can be applied at various stages of a drug lifecycle; right from your drug discovery stage (understanding unmet needs) to the launch (improving your brand messaging) to the maturity stage (monitoring brand reputation and intimately connecting patients and physicians).
Insights generated during each stage can be utilized across all departments in your company.
If you’re still analyzing the conversation about your own brand or products, then now is the time to rethink your social media activities.
While social media is not a panacea, it provides an arguably underused opportunity across the business to research, understand and boost discussions with all healthcare consumers.
There’s no such thing as having a remarkable drug without having tailored strategies to appeal to your own target audience.
Qmed (formerly Medical Device Link) is the world's first completely prequalified supplier directory and news source for medical device OEMs. Find medical device suppliers and IVD suppliers who are FDA-registered, ISO 13485- and ISO 9001-certified. Qmed is also the home of Medical Product Manufacturing News and the most relevant breaking news for the medical device industry.
Leonard Kish’s first eBook titled, “Patient Engagement is a Strategy, Not a Tool. How healthcare organizations can build true patient relationships that last a lifetime.”
This eBook explores the following patient engagement topics:
What Is Patient Engagement?The Quest for AttentionFrom Technology to MotivationThe Rise of Contextual MedicineAligning Goals with Effective MessagingAlignment Through Social StrategyEstablish a Patient Engagement Strategy
Leonard Kish is a long-time contributor to HL7Standards.com who writes about patient engagement topics as they relate to healthcare technology, the government’s Meaningful Use requirements, and how proven behavior economic models should be considered by healthcare organizations and companies focused on developing patient-facing technology
IN the late 17th century, the Dutch naturalist Anton van Leeuwenhoek looked at his own dental plaque through a microscope and saw a world of tiny cells “very prettily a-moving.” He could not have predicted that a few centuries later, the trillions of microbes that share our lives — collectively known as the microbiome — would rank among the hottest areas of biology.
These microscopic partners help us by digesting our food, training our immune systems and crowding out other harmful microbes that could cause disease. In return, everything from the food we eat to the medicines we take can shape our microbial communities — with important implications for our health. Studies have found that changes in our microbiome accompany medical problems from obesity to diabetes to colon cancer.
The big uptick in medtech megamergers is just the beginning of a profound set of changes facing the medical device industry, according to a new report from ATKearney. The industry’s profit margins are set to fall drastically, falling nine points from 25% in 2012 to 16% by 2020, the report predicts.
Today’s digital social age presents an incredible opportunity for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. For years, the struggle to understand evolving patient needs in order to strategically align and address them has been at the forefront of the value proposition for healthcare. However, gaining deep, trustworthy insight into the journeys patients traverse has been a daunting challenge.
Today the dynamics have completely shifted in the “open social age.” With millions of patients broadcasting their experiences, reactions, behaviors, decisions and attitudes on their conditions, treatments and providers, there is an incredible wealth of “big data” available. With this, however, the daunting challenge has shifted from a lack of detailed insight to a tsunami of real-time information.
As society approaches a complete digital state, technological advances have transformed the way people work, learn, communicate and share. And consumers freely share their opinions and experiences on social networks, blogs, micro-blogs, message boards, forums, mainstream news sites and a variety of other online platforms. They do this on practically every topic spanning their lives, including their health.
On-Line All the Time
According to a study conducted by Morgan Stanley, 91 percent of mobile users keep their device within three feet of them 24-hours per day. These mobile devices are now widely a standardization of life; people watch TV with them, shop with them and yes, make their medical decisions with them in-hand.
This ‘always on’ state that mobile online accessibility facilitates is enhancing the way healthcare decisions and activities are undertaken, from understanding symptoms and diagnoses to learning about treatment options and side effects. This, along with the all-time accessibility of mobile devices has made the wealth of information ubiquitous in the ‘offline’ world.
An Ever-Changing Journey
The empowerment patients have with this information access presents a challenge for pharmaceutical and health brand managers to keep pace with the ever-changing journey the patient (and caregiver) takes. The massive flow of information from a myriad of sources, including those across the open social universe, creates a wide array of paths patients can take towards their treatments. This wealth of information also increases the velocity of health decisions, including compliance, often compressing the time between demand moments and decision points, making it even more challenging for the treatment provider to identify and influence the decision with messaging or education.
The key to driving success with care is for these treatment providers to deeply understand patients, caregivers and healthcare providers by continually mapping each party’s journey as it shifts with their experiences and attitudes. Leveraging this insight to drive messaging, education and innovation to align with the patients’ needs (met and unmet) is critical in enhancing their overall care.
Mapping the Journey
The basis of understanding the patient journey today is mapping it with advanced social intelligence. To adequately accomplish this, it must be derived from the ‘big data’ mining of millions of daily patient social conversations. This is simple in concept, but challenging in technical execution. This is why so many leading brands are turning to advanced, streaming ‘big data’ solutions to deliver deep insights on a rapid basis of patients as well as their caregivers and healthcare providers.
In the following example the patient journey is mapped for a specific treatment option for low testosterone. The journey spans stages from symptoms and diagnosis through treatment and management of the condition. This map also reviews the patient journey based on a multidimensional view of factors ranging from lifestyle impact and cost to efficacy and compliance.
This provides a valuable view of the demand moments, decision points and influencing factors for the patient. This allows the brand team to understand when and how to engage and influence the patient’s path in order to enhance aspects like compliance and ultimately efficacy of the treatment.
The level of detail that can be constructed within the online patient journey gets as granular as patient feelings, lexicon, attitudes and behaviors at each of the identified journey stages. This delivers powerful insight into the patient’s state of mind to drive strategic aspects of the treatment from education to messaging and in turn can influence compliance and overall efficacy of the treatment.
An Intelligence Impact
Today, with advanced social intelligence, accurately mapping patient journeys has never been easier, more accurate or powerful. As compliance and efficacy continue to be a focus to improve patient care, having the ability to view, understand and influence the patient journey becomes increasingly critical for health and pharmaceutical companies. Extracting unprecedented insights within millions of daily social conversations from patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals now facilitates this, allowing pharmaceutical providers to align their treatments, education, messaging and innovation with the needs of the patients like never before.
Hear more from ListenLogic as well as new ideas about the Patient’s Journey and Social Media from Industry Leaders
As new technologies within the industry progress, we must also advance our message and utilization of the social technologies available to create a complete user-centric experience for the patient. See how you can learn from leaders in this movement at 6th Digital Pharma West, taking place in San Francisco, CA in the United States on June 1-3, 2015.
The current state of 3-D printing—while it is becoming to be an ever more common tool for prototyping, it’s real potential hasn’t been tapped yet by the medical device industry. But the groundwork has been laid for 3-D printing’s big break.
We are seeing a major shift in healthcare brought on by cultural and socioeconomic forces. The population is aging, chronic conditions that require management during patients’ daily lives are on the rise, and Accountable Care is putting pressure on healthcare systems to measure and quantify results. Alongside these issues, we are seeing widespread connectivity emerge across all economic classes. Portio Research estimates some 6.9 billion cell phones are currently in use worldwide. That’s up from 2 billion in 2005, according to Wireless Intelligence.
Advances in materials and propulsion methods are allowing for such wonders as tiny bio-compatible motors that could deliver drugs in a highly targeted fashion, or nanomotors that could etch out nanoscale electronics.
via This is a question that we healthcare communicators have been fielding from clients (and, frankly, discussing among ourselves) since the advent of social media as we try to engage with healthcare professionals. Some have maintained that physicians’ level of tech-savvy rivals the quality of their handwriting – not so great. Forced to be connected only by the mandate of electronic health records, physicians aren’t active online due to packed appointment schedules, privacy concerns or the desire to remain unbiased as related to their health system or practice.
A new report by my colleague Greg Matthews, called “Missing the Forest For the Trees”, lays this old stereotype to bed. According to a 2012 study by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, cited by Matthews, 61% of physicians scan social media for medical information weekly, while another 46% contribute to that information on a weekly basis. In addition, online social channels are having an impact on clinical decisions – according to a Manhattan Research study also cited in the book, 39% of doctors say that the information they receive from social channels is influential to very influential on their clinical decisions. I don’t want to give away too much of “Missing the Forest For the Trees” – it’s a quick, worthwhile read – but all these stats point to our need, as healthcare companies and communicators, to be online learning from and engaging with doctors. Physician-directed content strategy for platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn, will be seen by physicians, and sponsored ads make it easier than ever to target the right ones. Matthews makes another critical point – there is a tremendous opportunity for companies to harness the power of online physician advocates, engaging them to spread the word about our therapy, device or awareness building effort. Physicians are our “citizen” journalists.
Matthews has led the development of MDigitalLife, a database that has indexed the digital footprints of nearly a half-million physicians around the world. This data can be harnessed by healthcare companies in a myriad of ways including influencer identification and conversation analysis. MDigitalLife is also a great source for research about physician online activity with a treasure trove of free resources on its website. Social media is not new, but this way of thinking about physicians on social media is, and healthcare companies who engage physicians through social media very well may find a new partner in spreading the word. - See more at: http://brewlife.com/insights/doctors-really-social-media/#sthash.517J8QKg.dpuf
Whether it’s striving for simplicity in design or recognizing that people are capable of countless mistakes while using something, Qmed has collected feedback from our audience and added it to our list of dos and don’ts.
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