New technologies for evidence-based care are boosting patient outcomes

At Health 2.0 this month, seven disparate companies will show how their apps and platforms are being put to work leveraging clinical and social data to drive innovations in care delivery.
By Mike Miliard
02:20 PM

As healthcare data proliferates by the nanosecond, the challenges of aggregating and analyzing it all have never been greater – but neither have the opportunities when innovative applications are put to work mining and harvesting it for more rigorous evidence-based care. 

Leaders from seven data-driven healthcare companies, some of them startups, some of them stalwarts, will take the stage in a session at Health 2.0 on Sept. 17 to show and tell how their technologies are helping stakeholders across the industry – consumers, providers, payers, biopharma and life sciences companies, other IT vendors – make more valuable use of clinical, behavioral, social and other health data.

These panel members and presenters will include:

  • Ashish Atreja, founder of NODE.Health, a clinical validation network that convenes academic innovation centers, clinicians, investors and entrepreneurs and deploys emerging tech to shared and standardized data to build a body of evidence-based digital medicine.
  • Carolyn Magill, CEO of Aetion, whose platform helps biopharma companies, payers, at-risk providers and others by taking real-world data, collected outside of clinical trial settings, to create real-world evidence to help inform strategic decisions about safety, efficacy and more.
  • Brian Russon, vice president of corporate development at InTouch Health, which helps enable more effective care for telehealth use-cases of all shapes and sizes with its scalable and configurable virtual platform.
  • Brian Pelkowski, global head for oncology strategy at Genentech, a Roche subsidiary that continues to innovate on its four-decade track record on evidence-based cancer care and pharmaceuticals for other diseases.
  • Thomas Goetz, chief of research at GoodRx, who will offer a presentation on the challenges of unregulated drug prices, and how transparency about cost and insurance coverage can lead to better health outcomes through better medication adherence.
  • Sean Duffy, CEO of Omada Health, who will demonstrate how its combination of health coaching, digital devices, peer groups and interactive lessons offer community and connection to help address social factors that lead to chronic disease.
  • Ken Cahill, CEO of SilverCloud Health, who will showcase its behavioral health platform, and discuss how using evidence-based tools to tackle socioeconomics, mental health and other root causes of unhealthy behaviors will lead to improved outcomes for patient populations.

Better data for better health

As the focus for Healthcare IT News this month is on social determinants, it's worth remembering how much bigger most people's conceptions have become, only relatively recently, about what leads to better health – and how much valuable data that, when harnessed, can lead to better outcomes is generated outside of clinical settings.

"It's fantastic the progress that has been made over the past sort of short couple of years, in terms of the recognition that mental health is such a key and core component of healthcare," said Cahill. "We're seeing a huge number of organizations make big strides toward that, both in terms of appreciating it, and implementing steps to enable mental health to be part of the care pathway."

The challenge, unfortunately, is that while the value of mental health – and the importance of addressing the many external environmental factors that impact it – is "a universal truth across all sectors of society and population," he said, "unfortunately, access to mental healthcare isn't as universal."

That's why increasingly innovative and intuitive digital tools, able to be as widely deployed as possible, scaling up to increase access to evidence-based delivery of mental healthcare, are key to better outcomes. They offer a "leveling of the playing field," said Cahill, "getting access for people to behavioral healthcare that perhaps was denied to them."

For its part, a company such as Aetion does not deal with SDOH challenges, per se, but it concerns itself intensely with data from out in the real world. "Our platform takes real-world data – data collected outside of a clinical trial or controlled setting – to create real-world evidence at scale," said Magill.

"Most of our clients are biopharma and they are licensing the platform to assess the safety, effectiveness and value of medication," she explained. "They're really trying to understand how to get a better sense of how their medications work for specific patient populations that aren't always represented in a clinical trial.

The company also works with insurers, large employers and at-risk providers, she added. "They want to ensure they have the right drugs on their formularies for the specific populations that are on their plans. So they use the platform to do formulary optimization."

The overarching aim is to use all that real-world health data – from all those people in all those walks of life – to help healthcare stakeholders better understanding how well medications work for specific patient populations, and what the impact is on outcomes overall, she explained: "What's the impact on the total cost of care? The aim is to tip the discussion away from fee-for-service, and toward paying for drugs that actually work."

Among the many social factors affecting health and wellness, income and access to care are two of the biggest. When it comes to the ability to afford and maintain a regimen of needed medications, it's easy to see how key they are.

The GoodRx app, with its ability to offer price transparency, comparison shopping and discounts for some of the most common prescriptions, is harnessing data to put it into the hands of consumers.

Opaque drug pricing is in the news a lot, thanks to ongoing outrages about triple-digit hikes in an array of brand-name prescriptions or, infamous cases such as Martin Shkreli's gouging of Daraprim users (it went from $13.50 per tablet to $750).

But while those instances may garner the big headlines, "the day-to-day trauma of high drug prices is really around generic drugs, and the (insurance) coverage on them, which is getting more and more restrictive," said Goetz.

"They're related: As the brand drugs get more expensive, it's harder and harder for insurers to cover the entire pharmacopeia, which leads to restricted formularies. We've done a good deal of research laying out that phenomenon, and that's what GoodRx is trying to solve. Most of the discounts we make available are for generic medications.

"One of the tensions around prescription drugs is the status quo of paying with your insurance benefit is increasingly not the way to do it," he added. "With copays and deductibles, it's often the case that people can pay less if they go around their insurance – that's something people need to know and be aware of."

Any chance to bring some transparency to the process – and to boost access and affordability wherever possible for those patients who need it most – will be beneficial to population health, said Goetz.

Drug pricing's impact on health outcomes is clear after all: "If people aren't able to afford their medicines, they don't take them. That affects outcomes."

Focus on Social Determinants of Health

In September, Healthcare Finance News, Healthcare IT News and MobiHealthNews will take a look at the SDOH and how varied health systems, IT companies, Congress and others are addressing it.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.