Lisa Banket
Cofounding Partner/Publisher
Taren Grom
Cofounding Partner/Editor-in-Chief
Heather Hummel
Project Coordinator
Dan Limbach
Producer, Webcast Network
Denise Myshko
Managing Editor
Kim Ribbink
Features Editor
Robin Robinson
Senior Editor
Marah Walsh
Cofounding Partner/New Business Development

PharmaVOICE Editors' Blog

Monday, January 28, 2013

Getting in Front of Disease using Social Media Data and Search Data

Get the treatments where they are most needed, quickly
Beat the bug before it becomes an epidemic
One of the worst fears in health care is not having enough product in the right locations when an outbreak occurs. What if we had newer and better ways to view outbreaks as they are happening, and reduce the possibility of massive epidemics? Drug manufacturers could have a head start boosting production and tweaking distribution, and be ready when the need for treatment is at its highest. Often, even a heads-up of a couple weeks could make a huge difference to large numbers of patients.

Where can we find the data that can be used for these predictions? Two sources are social media and Google searches. There are billions of data points to mine using predictive analytics programs.

Let's look a influenza. Google has a dedicated web site called Google Flu Trends, which tracks search verbiage, analyzes the context, and tallies the results geographically. For example, today, flu indicators are minimal in Argentina, and Australia, low in Hungary and Bulgaria, moderate in Spain and Germany, high in France, Scandinavia and Russia, and Intense in the U.S., Japan, and the Netherlands. This information can help the supply chain match their activities with global demand for treatments. You can drill down from the global perspective and view individual countries.

Did you get your flu shot?
Two views of the current U.S. influenza situation
Other services look at social media posts. MappyHealth analyzes tweets and identifies health trends.

The CDC partners with Google and MappyHealth in an effort to obtain more accurate and more timely information than they have been able to obtain in the past.

HealthMap scans news websites, government alerts, and other data sources, aggregates the information, and provides stats and visualizations in real-time. They do a great job using Google Maps in their visualizations. They also have a mobile app called "Outbreaks Near Me."

Google Maps is used very effectively by this tool
HealthMap identifies diseases from 11 alert sources
There are more sources of data than ever, and better ways to crunch the data. The industry is utilizing Big Data and today's immense computing power to provide a better understanding of health, from a global perspective, all the way down to the local level. As analysis tools further improve, health care will have even more weapons against outbreaks and epidemics.

What do you think? Have you seen or used any other tools that provide useful information from social media and other data sources?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Digital Health Solutions are Going Mainstream

Getting healthy through digital apps and devices
Health apps and devices are rapidly growing in number and adoption rates
We're in the early stages of an explosion in digital health products.

One of my Christmas presents was a Fitbit personal fitness monitor. I clip it on my clothes, and it tracks how many steps I take, how many floors I climb, and how many miles I cover on foot. It also estimates calories burned, and provides an "Active Score." The Fitbit also knows my weight goal and my age and height. The always-on device monitors my sleep, so I can see if my nights are restless or restful, and I can see how long I sleep each night (no more tricking myself into believing I got a good 7 hours). My data is collected and wirelessly beamed to my personal Fitbit web dashboard. I can also access my data through a smartphone app. Do I need an app to tell me I am sometimes a slug? Not really, but it has its upside.

Will it motivate me to be more active? Yes. Will it shame me into going to the gym more regularly? Possibly. At the very least, this knowledge may help me make better decisions, such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator, because I want the Fitbit points.

Don't let it go through the wash
My Fitbit device is clipped on my shell's zipper
People want to know more about their health, and innovative digital products are answering this need. Entrepreneur magazine covered this topic in its December 2012 issue.
Market research firm Parks Associates reports that the digital health technology market will be worth $5.7 billion by 2015--up from $1.7 billion in 2010--with chronic care, wellness and medication management leading the charge.
Digital health products can be used as a preventative aid, and/or for tracking various health conditions, such as diabetic foot ulcers or cardio health. Some products come in the form of apps, others are wearable or ingestible devices, and some are a combination of both. They can track the efficacy of a given treatment or condition 24/7.

Wearable wireless health monitoring devices are growing quickly, especially in the senior in-home care market. This market alone is expected to grow from under 3 million units in 2011 to 36 million by 2017 (ABI Research).

Over the next decade, chances are you will wear, swallow, or have inserted, some kind of device that will monitor one or more aspects of your health. Collecting data and sending it to the cloud could eventually affect everything from prevention to early warning systems to disease management to insurance coverage. I'll forgo the debate about Big Brother for another post.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Is this Jeopardy Champion Smarter than a Human Doctor?

The future of diagnosis
Watson sets its sights on saving lives
I read a very interesting article in the November issue of Fast Company magazine.

Watson, IBM's wunderkind supercomputer, achieved a milestone when it won a game of Jeopardy in 2011 against human opponents. But the folks at Big Blue weren't going to rest on their laurels. They had bigger mountains to climb.
Watson never goes on vacation. And it never forgets a fact. On the contrary, it keeps learning.
Watson can review, assimilate, and store more data in a day than any human can do in a lifetime. One example given in the article is that Watson can ingest all of the world's medical journals in the time it takes a physician to drink a cup of coffee.

Obviously, for the foreseeable future, human physicians will be a key part of the diagnostic and treatment process. But when it comes to the grunt work that can break open a perplexing case, you simply cannot beat a computer, even if you are the enigmatic doctor in the TV show House. Armed with every medical article, info on every drug, every treatment option, and the ability to cross-reference all this information in minutes, is intriguing. Watson will not give us a single answer in most cases. It will give us a range of options, and levels of confidence for each option, but the final decision will rest with a living, breathing physician.

Doctors at Sloan-Kettering are prepping a Watson computer for real patients. A diagnosis that could have taken weeks, and resulted in merely a best-guess by a physician or a medical team, may only take minutes by Watson. That may mean the difference between life and death for many patients.

Insurers are tapping into Watson, too. Wellpoint is using a Watson to aid in approving medical procedures.

Watcon represents what IBM calls the third computer age: Cognitive Computing. True artificial intelligence. Machines will learn to speak in our language. It's a huge leap over tabulating machines, and programmable systems, which represented the first two ages of computing.

Imagine what this technology will be like when we will have it on our smart phones. "Watson, can you take a look at this growth on my arm?"

Monday, January 14, 2013

Demystifying Routine Care Coverage in Trial Budgeting

clarify standard of care issues
Experts on Standard of Care
In this episode, we discuss standard of care in clinical trials, challenges for sites and sponsors, and how standard of care issues affect day-to-day work in trials.

For more information about Medidata Solutions Worldwide, visit

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Women's Health Issues in Clinical Research: Key Post-approval Challenges

Clinical research and women's health
Clinical Studies on any continent

In this episode, our experts discuss the primary challenges regarding women's health in clinical research. They also cover pregnancy registries and lactation studies, as well as available regulatory guidance related to this type of research.

For more information about INC Research, visit

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Informed Targeting to Healthcare Professionals - instant download

Targeting, authentication, matching
Effective HCP targeting techniques
In this podcast, we discuss how pharma can better connect with HCP audiences using authentication, list matching, and other techniques. He also covers how effective communications can impact prescription writing, and how to overcome hurdles from Medical, Legal, and Regulatory (MLR) departments.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thought-provoking Health Videos

Inspiring health videos
Some interesting videos on health issues

Here are a handful of videos that inspired, tantalized, or just hit me the right way and I had to share. I hope you learn as much from them as I have.

How Seduction Artists, Cult Leaders, and Con Men can Save Health Care – a Physician’s Story (over an hour)

Technology as a Preventative Weapon against Poor Health and Bad Behavior

The All-terrain Wheelchair – A Study in Design and User Feedback

Amazing Anatomical Paper Sculptures

Can we treat Alzheimers 20 years early?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Big Time Innovators in Health Care

Fast Company magazine published their 50 most innovative companies in March of 2012, including 10 related to health care. I thought I would revisit the list now that we've turned the page into 2013, and try to imagine what innovations will be in this year's list.

Some of these companies are big dogs, such as IBM, Walgreens, and 3M, while others are much smaller pups. Innovations come is all shapes and sizes, too. Innovations include an online tool that helps patients find the right doctor at the right price, medical intelligence software for disease surveillance and identifying health risks, a "Smart knee" motorized prosthesis, and a stethoscope that can stream high-quality audio to a specialist anywhere in the world (even from the International Space Station).

Every business can learn something from these companies. Anyone can innovate. If you're not innovating, you're falling behind.

How will you innovate in 2013? Check out these companies for inspiration.

1) National Marrow Donor Program
2) Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospitals
3) Walgreens
4) Castlight Health
5) AssistiveWare
6) IBM
7) Ă–ssur
8) Heritage Provider Network
9) Esri
10) 3M

See the detailed write-up of each company's innovations

Happy New Year!