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Category: Health Tech

The Future of Clinical Trials at Pfizer

BY JESSICA DaMASSA

From de-centralized clinical trials to real world data (RWD), real world evidence (RWE), and even social media, the future for clinical research at Pfizer sounds increasingly tech-enabled and focused on meeting and engaging patients where they are.

Pfizer’s Head of Clinical Trial Experience, Judy Sewards, and Head of Clinical Operations & Development, Rob Goodwin, drop in to chat about what Pfizer’s approach to clinical research looks like now, after the rapid evolution it underwent to “lightspeed” the development of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The big change? Rob says they are “obsessed” with de-centralized trials, with nearly 50% of clinical trial visits still happening virtually. And, beyond the convenience factor, both point to de-centralization as a critical factor in being able to recruit more patients into trials as well as improve the diversity of their participant groups. In the end, the decentralized approach, says Judy, is “not just a matter of equity, but good science as well.”

And what about improvements to the cost of drug development? Is it too soon to tell if de-centralization will make an impact on the bottom line? Innovation may be expensive to implement at first, but, explains Rob, “If you can recruit your trial faster, overall, the cost of development goes down and speed to the patient goes up.”

We chat through the full suite of benefits that de-centralized clinical trials are bringing Pfizer and its patient populations, and get into the utility of real-world data, which also saw new notoriety when the Covid-19 vaccine was being developed. How is RWD impacting clinical research even when it’s not being used as evidence in a regulatory approval process? Watch and find out more about how data innovation is shaping the future of pharma!

Ribbon Health & Provider Data’s Holy Grail: The Accurate Provider Directory

BY JESSICA DaMASSA

It’s one of the greatest mysteries of the era of health data digitization: Why is provider directory still so hard to get right?? Ribbon Health’s co-founder & CEO Nate Maslak explains how Ribbon (which started out in the symptom-checker biz) pivoted to take on, once-and-for-all, the miserable state of provider data management to not only fix provider directories (which are still wrong 50% of the time!), but also referral management systems, health plan enrollment data, and now, thanks to those new price transparency rules, price lists.

“All of the different use cases we focus on around enrollment, referral management, provider data management for directory…” explains Nate, “These are actually the same problem that use different words to describe it because of the different parts of the ecosystem that we’re in.” So, as Ribbon gets the process right for provider directory by building an underlying tech platform that uses predictive analytics and network effect methodologies to work its magic to validate-and-verify that kind of healthcare data, then it can apply that framework to ANY healthcare data to the same end. And, maybe one day, layer member-facing services – like instant-booking with a doc – on top of them.

Backed by nearly $54 million from Andreesen Horowitz and General Catalyst, and we get into what makes this startup’s take on one of the oldest healthcare infrastructure issues so appealing. From platform to business model (which serves a mix of health plans, provider orgs and patient-facing solutions) to grand plans for the future (which include figuring out how “API as a platform” can further productize provider data management and power care decisions) we chat with Nate on all things Ribbon Health.

THCB Gang Episode 104, Thursday September 15 at 1pm PT, 4pm ET

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Thursday September 15 patient safety expert and all around wit Michael Millenson (@mlmillenson); Suntra Modern Recovery CEO JL Neptune (@JeanLucNeptune); fierce patient activist Casey Quinlan (@MightyCasey); delivery & platforms expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis); &  policy expert consultant/author Rosemarie Day (@Rosemarie_Day1);

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

Meet Voice Tech Start-Up Cardiokol

BY JESSICA DaMASSA

Early-stage health tech start-up Caridokol is developing technology that listens to the sound of a patient’s voice over a mobile phone, landline phone or smart speaker to detect and analyze vocal biomarkers that indicate that the patient may be suffering from disease. The voice tech co is proving its case first in detecting arrhythmias, which are often asymptomatic and usually go undetected until they’ve led to a more serious issue like a stroke.

Cardiokol’s CEO James Amihood explains the tech behind this first use case – which already has one US patent granted and is pending approval on three more – and his plans to expand the company’s base of vocal biomarkers to enter into new disease states and new markets. The company is currently raising a Series A funding round and is planning to expand from Israel and Europe to the US. How could the technology change the game for disease prevention, starting with strokes? James connects the dots to the big vision for the company’s future as he explains how Cardiokol’s tech is already providing those most at-risk of arrythmia a very cost-effective, simple-to-use way to screen and monitor their long-term heart health.

BREAKING: Headspace Health Acquires Shine App, A Diversity & Inclusion Self-Care Platform

BY JESSICA DaMASSA

Headspace Health’s CEO Russell Glass and The Shine App’s co-Founder & co-CEO Naomi Hirabayashi give us the inside story on deal that makes The Shine App’s award-winning, inclusive self-care and mental health platform a part of the Headspace Health family.

This is Headspace Health’s second acquisition this year, and we find out why they chose to ‘buy instead of build’ when it came time to refine and enrich the inclusiveness of their meditation, self-care, and mental health care offerings.

The Shine App brings 45,000 subscribers and 90 enterprise clients to the table, but what Russ points to as ‘stand-out’ is the quality of the content that Shine is built on, and the depth of understanding that their team has realized when it comes to the unique mental health issues that are facing minorities and other traditionally underserved populations. For example? Naomi talks about “representation burnout” which is its own brand of burnout that is often-experienced-but-not-often-named by people who suffer the pressures of being the “lone representative” of a minority population in a vastly homogenous workforce. Wow.

Tune in for more on what this acquisition will mean for Headspace, what Naomi and her co-founder Marah Lidey intend to do as new Headspace employees, how Shine will help Headspace’s Leadership Training program, AND some extra surprise bonus gems. Apparently, the BIGGEST DEAL yet for the full integration of Headspace-plus-Ginger is on the horizon and, OF COURSE, I find out if Russ got a chance to meet John Legend as part of Headspace’s Super Bowl commercial shoot.

Deep-Dive Into Availity’s Acquisition of Diameter Health

by JESSICA DAMASSA

“There’s $4-$4.5 trillion dollars of annual spend in the healthcare system. A trillion of that is administrative. And, some big chunk — some BIG number that you measure in the 100’s of billions of dollars – is waste. So, the TAM for what Availity and Diameter Health are going to do together is huge.” Russ Thomas, Availity’s CEO, is clearly excited about his company’s recent acquisition of Diameter Health and we ask him – and Diameter’s President & COO Mary Lantin – why this is such a big deal.

In the end, what this comes down to is making more sense of all the data that flows between providers and payers to automate where possible, find insights to improve business processes and workflows, and, ultimately, cut out that notorious “admin expense” that adds to healthcare cost without creating any value.

For twenty years, Availity’s been in the business of “translating” data from providers into a language health plans can understand, so payors could refine their own business processes and automate pre-auths, pay claims, etc. Diameter, on the other hand, deals in the world of clinical data and “upcycles” it into concepts and “digestible bites” that a health plan can use to automate an administrative workflow process with a provider and – get this – build a longitudinal health record that now Availity’s robust supply of claims and health plan data can fully flesh out.

How excited are Russ and Mary about the idea of this comprehensive, longitudinal, fully-integrated clinical-plus-claims patient record? Much more excited than even I anticipated! Tune in for all the details on the merger and this BIG vision for scaling up the fight against healthcare’s massive spend on administrative waste.

THCB Gang Episode 103, Thursday September 1

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Sept 1st were THCB regular writer and ponderer of odd juxtapositions Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard); the double trouble of vaunted futurists Ian Morrison (@seccurve) & Jeff Goldsmith, and Consumer advocate & CEO of AdaRose, Lygeia Ricciardi (@Lygeia). Great conversation going from the personal (Jeff’s Covid August & Ian’s tour round the wilds of Canada) to the policy and political.

If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version it is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels a day or so after the episode — Matthew Holt

THCB Gang Episode 102, Thursday August 25

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) for the 100th #THCBGang on Thursday August 4 are Suntra Modern Recovery CEO JL Neptune (@JeanLucNeptune); Queen of all employer benefits Jennifer Benz (@jenbenz); Special guest this week is Olympic rower for 2 countries and all around dynamo Jennifer Goldsack, (@GoldsackJen), and Ryan Vega, CIO of Veterans Affairs.

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

THCB Gang Episode 101, Thursday August 18, 1pm PT- 4pm ET

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) for the 101st #THCBGang on Thursday August 18 are medical historian Mike Magee (@drmikemagee); patient safety expert and all around wit Michael Millenson (@mlmillenson); delivery & platform expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis); THCB regular writer and ponderer of odd juxtapositions Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard);

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

Next-Gen PBM Capital Rx Becomes a Tech Co: Inside New PBA Biz, $106M Series C & Big Plans

by JESSICA DAMASSA

What’s the bigger news coming out of Capital Rx: that the next-gen PBM just closed a $106 million dollar Series C? Or, that the health tech startup’s business model has expanded significantly over the past 18 months, from PBM-only to PBM-plus-PBA, meaning that instead of just servicing the pharmacy benefits management needs of employer groups directly, that now they’re also adding to their business by selling THEIR TECH to other carriers and health systems so they can use it to administrate their benefits plans??

Capital Rx’s CEO AJ Loiacono takes those questions in stride, lets us in on which “side” of the business fueled their 200% year-over-year growth in 2021, and gives us the details on that tech that his business developed and why its standout compared to the inefficient infrastructure that currently exists to administrate and process pharmacy claims.

The big deal here is that AJ and team are tackling one of the biggest friction points in the cost of pharmacy benefits: the cost to administer a plan. They reduce that cost, and the “net cost” of every drug is reduced. AJ says its in this way that Capital Rx operates at one-seventh the cost of his competitors, the “Big Three PBMs” (CVS’s Caremark, Express Scripts, and UnitedHealth’s OptumRx) and saves its customers an average 27% on their prescription drug spend.

Now that Capital Rx has their slick enterprise software, will the business continue to operate a dual PBM-plus-PBA model, or will they double-down on the PBA side? AJ lets us know what’s next and (spoiler alert) it sounds like things might go in a surprising direction. If Capital Rx’s software is so effective at doing all the things it takes to manage pharmacy claims — underwriting sequences, implementation management and onboarding, communication, patient portals, network management, reimbursement networks, eligibility checks, etc. – what stops Capital Rx from processing other kinds of healthcare claims? Is a step into the medical claims processing side of the healthcare world on the roadmap? Tune in and find out!

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