Healthcare, Digital Marketing and Market Access Strategy - John G. Baresky
New healthcare apps overwhelm the market
The shelter-in-place and social distancing elements of the pandemic escalated the growth trajectory of healthcare mobile applications around the world. Smartphones have more than proven their usefulness prior to COVID-19 and now developers continue to churn out new health and wellness apps daily.
Numerous technology companies have recognized these opportunities and invested considerable staff, financial and technical resources to pursue the enormous commerical opportunities involved. They have committed themselves to the health and wellnes sector with their advanced and convenient to use software applications and devices from Amazon, Apple, Google and others.
Healthcare provider organizations have followed suit by developing numerous applications supported through various digital means to demonstrate their ability to innovate, account for tech-friendly consumer needs and compete against other patient care providers. Some are merely "mobile friendly" to enable patients to access website resources more easily. Others are more sophisticated and specialized -many with unproven ROI track records.
A lineup of patient care and consumer health & wellness app examples:
Patient demand continues to encourage more customer-centric mobile apps that help with a myriad healthcare tasks:
- Schedule appointments with clinicians at medical groups, hospitals, health systems, specialty practices, urgent care centers and even retail pharmacy clinics
- Virtual apppointments (telehealth and telemedicine) conducted in a "Facetime" setting between patients and clinicians
- Prescription refill requests at retail, mail order and specialty pharmacies that also include deliveries
- Exercise and activity fitness trackers abound that span smartphones and wrist-bound wearables
- Numerous apps focused on specific healthcare conditions and patients including asthma, diabetes care, heart health, oncology
Healthcare provider organizations reap the benefits or shoulder the burden from the apps they develop
Apps are a great way for healthcare provider organizations to extend their care and promote their services. It's an opportunity to generate data that a consumer or patient can benefit from whether it's for their eyes only or if the data is also shared with their clinicians. Depending on the level of clinical involvement and patient data capture nuances involved, medical professionals are being reimbursed by commercial and government payers for this additionl patient care support.
Considering the array of care even modestly sized medical groups offer, hospitals and health systems deliver an even greater abundance of patient treatments that apps could be developed for.
The benefits of apps are attractive but there are immediate and ongoing costs to provide them. Once apps are developed they need to be sustained through upgrades as enhanced accuracy, improved technology performance, privacy, security standards and threat levels change. Healthcare provider organizations have to consider the cost, time and technical resources necessary to develop, launch and manage apps their own apps through the duration of their clinical and technical lifecyvle.
Questions for healthcare providers to ask themselves in advance of developing new apps
The increasing use of healthcare apps is going to continue by consumers and patients. Healthcare provider organizations need to evaluate what opportunities suit them and their patients best in terms of care and cost.
Key considerations for medical care providers to be informed of when assessing the development of a new app:
- What is the estimated numer of consumers or patients that will benefit from it?
- Is the critical medical need involved for the app at a high enough level to warrant its development costs and use?
- Are there free or low cost apps already available in the marketplace that provide comparable data and care support for consumers, patients and clinicians to use?
- Can the clinical, financial and technical elements requirements to develop and support the app be sustained by the healthcare provider organization's resources?
- Is there an application the healthcare provider organization already has that can be enhanced with additional features to avoid having to develop an entirely new app?
The future holds greater opportunities for patient care innovation
Technology continues to outpace itself as smartphones, fitness trackers and highly portable FDA-approved medical devices become more sophisticated and less costly. Remote patient monitoring, telehealth and telemedicine are additional catalysts in creating more demand for apps by consumers, patients and medical professionals.
Moving forward, healthcare provider organizations need to carefully think about where they deploy their resources to be certain they are allocating them to support the care needs they can best serve and rely on other stakeholders to account for the others.
Merck continues its aggressive 2020 business strategy with landmark Seattle Genetics collaboration
Through a major clinical and commercial initiative focused on the development and marketing of oncology therapies Merck (MYSE: MRK) is investing heavily in a partnership with Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN).
Kenilworth, New Jersey based Merck is acquiring $1 billion of Seattle Genetics’ stock at a 30% premium based on its current share price. Merck is also committing over $600 million in funding to help develop Ladiratuzumab, a monoclonal antibody (mAb) that Seattle Genetics is working on with the intent for it be approved by the FDA for use in oncology. Merck and Seattle Genetics are intrigued by the possibility the novel mAb could be paired with Merck's blockbuster Keytruda oncology drug as a co-therapy in breast cancer treatment and perhaps others.
In addition to the investments in Seattle Genetics' stock and Ladiratuzumab, the agreement includes the rights for Merck (who is committing up to $200 million in this arrangement) to market Tukysa (a Seattle Genetics mAb that is already FDA approved for use in treating breast cancer) in global markets. Merck will commercialize Tukysa in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
All in, the strategic partnership with Seattle Genetics may push Merck's financial commitment to over $2 billion if certain product development and approval milestones are met that are additional elements within the collaboration deal.
Merck is undergoing a major corporate transformation
Merck emerged from 2019 on a positive note and has not taken its sights off of achieving significant planned and unplanned 2020 goals involving partnerships, new product launches and major business unit divestitures.
In less than 1 year Merck has undertaken a series of impressive actions that continued even as the pandemic unfolded:
- In December, 2019 Merck received approval for Ervebo, the world's first Ebola vaccine approved by the FDA and CHMP
- Merck's first major move in 2020 occurred in February when it announced plans to develop an entirely new company through a spinoff of several product franchises joined together as an entirely separate enterprise
- The company sold off its StayWell business unit to WebMD in March
- In April Merck's clinical and commercial partnership with AstraZeneca launched Koselugo (FDA approved to treat Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1)) and the same collaboration earned a new prostate cancer indication for its jointly developed Lynparza therapy in May
- Merck formally entered the battle against the coronavirus in May when it launched a COVID-19 initiative that encompasses the development of an antiviral and 2 vaccine candidates plus the acquisition of Themis Biosciences
Telehealth is becoming a competitive edge for medical groups, hospitals and health systems
The benefits of telehealth for patients are well publicized. Healthcare provider organizations that rushed into telehealth as a way to continue patient care at the onset of the pandemic are now capitalizing on telehealth as a way to improve their bottom line. While telehealth, remote patient monitoring and IT technology requires financial investment, clinicians and provider organizations are realizing they can increase revenue streams and wield telehealth technology as a competitive asset.
Clinical and commercial drivers of telehealth and telemedicine adoption and enhancement across the healthcare industry:
- Expands the reach of specialists to treat more patients that are geographically dispersed in metro, rural and remote areas
- Appointment cancellations are less frequent which reduces gaps in billable hour income
- Patients and clinicians have flexibility to schedule appointments outside of standard facility operating hours
- Increased revenue streams through combining telehealth and remote monitoring capabilities
- Facilitates collaboration between clinicians and other healthcare provider organizations for advanced patient care issues including emergency care
- Greater commercial and government payer recognition and formal reimbursement guidelines are in place and being enhanced to reflect the unique aspects of telehealth care delivery
- Extends the reach of care which supports patient retention and continuity of revenue streams
Select healthcare sectors increase hiring
According to the latest Federal jobs data and Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, August numbers showed modest improvement in specific healthcare provider organization categories. Hospitals added about 14,000 new jobs and physician offices filled roughly 27,000 positions. Home health contributed 12,000 new hires and the dental care sector did its part by adding a robust 22,000 workers. Other sectors across the economy showed promising jobs growth as well. Within the healthcare sector, the nursing home and long term care sectors continue to suffer as admissions are down and a higher number of patients are treated via telehealth and remote monitoring (a trend which may last for a while).
COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandates and other public health restrictions hit many healthcare provider organizations harshly and unexpectantly late in the first quarter of 2020 through end of the second quarter. The rapid expansion of the pandemic and shortage of PPE was a double whammy followed by a plunge in the performance of the economy.
Promising indicators for healthcare product manufacturers
The increase of hiring across hospitals, physician practices and dentist offices may also signal an increase of procedures. Pharmaceutical, medical device and other healthcare product manufacturers dependent upon outpatient and inpatient surgical cases have lost revenue during the pandemic as various procedures were delayed or cancelled. As we approach the front edge of the 4th quarter, any pickup in business is welcome.There is likely pent up demand for procedures to be completed due to the slowdown earlier in 20 or in regards to elective surgeries, complete cancellations.
As people seek to optimize their medical and pharmacy benefit expenditures based on deductibles they have met or knowledge of higher out-of-pocket costs facing them in 2021, there could be a moderate surge in the volume of procedures to close out the year. Such a trend will be hugely welcomed by clinicians and healthcare product manufacturers. The clinicians will appreciate the income and the healthcare product manufacturers will closely monitor the lowering of inventories.
Looking ahead to 2021
For those manufacturers that have introduced new products in 2020, a return of activity will revitalize their marketing and sales teams to close out the year on a positive note and go into the new year with renewed purpose. Companies with plans to launch new products in 2021 will be in a much better position to gain early traction if medical care activity is on the increase. Best case scenarios between now and the end of the year involve the approval of one or more COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 antiviral therapies to amplify the clinical and commercial recovery across the healthcare industry.
Privately-owned and publicly held retailers supporting mask requirements nationwide
Appliance & electronics, clothing, grocery, mass merchandisers, pharmacy and other retailers are requiring customers to wear masks on their premises while shopping. Their actions embrace the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. They bring an extra measure of protection and safety to those persons in municipalities and/or states that do not have mask restrictions in place.
Some have exceptions for children and for those persons that have pronounced breathing difficulties while wearing masks.
Mask requirements in place regardless of metropolitan or state requirements
While several states do not have mask mandates, these retailers are still requiring consumers to wear masks in their facilities. By having universal mask wearing requirements across their stores, they protect their employees who are also wearing masks as well as customers.
This is a list of retailers with mask requirements that is steadily growing:
- Albertsons (plus all subsidiaries Jewel, Safeway, Vons, etc.) - NYSE: ACI
- American Eagle – NYSE: AEO
- Apple - NYSE: APPL
- - NYSE: BBY
- - NASDAQ: COST
- - NYSE: CVS
- – privately held
- - NYSE: KSS
- – privately held
- – privately held
- (at company-owned stores) - NASDAQ: SBUX
- (plus subsidiary, Sam’s Club stores) - NYSE: WMT
Summer of 2020 has been challenging to manage for retailers
While numerous communities and states had shelter-in-place mandates and other rules such as mask requirements enforced earlier in 2020, many of these have been rescinded. Retailers want their employees and their shoppers to be collectively protected. The ongoing expansion of the list is good news that multiple stakeholders across the United States can play a leading role in the efforts to defeat COVID-19.
Visit the Healthcare Medical Pharmaceutical Directory homepage for updates on these and other topics:
- 2020 A Robust Year For Contract Research Organizations (CROs)
- AbbVie's Two New Oncology Partnerships
- Centene's Strategic Acquisition of NextLevel Partners
- National Urology & Oncology Practice Formed By Healthcare Private Equity
- Merck's Triple Threat COVID-19 Strategy
- UnitedHealth Group Collaborating With Microsoft
- Eli Lilly's New Oncology Product Retevmo Earns Trifecta Of FDA Approved Indications
For many companies, 2020's marketing and sales goals as well as their strategies drastically changed between March and May
Now that we are officially in the second half of the year, it's time to conduct a simple but definitive assessment of digital marketing strategies and tactics. In-person meetings, medical conferences and other close personal contact venues for marketing and selling pharmaceutical products, medical devices, diagnostics and clinical services have evaporated. Digital marketing resources have already been widely recognized by many companies as the go-to method to effectively communicate with customers and patients.
Is your company doing enough to outpace the competition and if they are, is it sustainable through the end of the 2020?
Now is the time to address the present and future of your digital marketing resources and how they are deployed to engage customers and generate sales to close out the year with profitable sales results.
A few simple questions coupled with data should help determine the actions necessary to propel your organization through the end of the year:
- Are the sales numbers (volume, margin, etc.) ahead of goal, on track or behind; do the figures call for sustaining or improving their performance through the end of 2020?
- If you asked Sales how your company's digital marketing could better support their efforts, what are the top 3 recommendations they would share with Marketing?
- Based on the feasibility of their suggestions, is your digital marketing budget enough to meet 1, 2 or all 3 of their recommendations and if not, where can funding be allocated from and which one of their requests is most impactful to get underway immediately?
- If you strictly evaluated each of your digital marketing instruments (e-commerce, email marketing, PPC, social media and other digital promotional elements, etc.) based on budget versus ROI, which ones are clearly outperforming the others?
- What is the weakest digital link between your company, its product franchises and its most important customers and what is the cost and time required to strengthen it?
- What is your primary competitors' key strength(s) in digital marketing and how do your digital strengths and weaknesses compare to them; what is the optimum strategy and action necessary to leverage your greatest digital strengths against their digital weaknesses?
- If your company has recently or is about to launch a new product, service or program what would your customers say is the best way to introduce it to them digitally in light of COVID-19 and is your company following their advice?
- Are there any digital marketing initiatives planned for 2021 that you can afford to moved up into 2020 to have a greater impact this year and gain early momentum into 2021?
Realistically determine how fast your digital marketing strategies and tactics can pivot based on the answers and the data
As you assess the answers you have collected and interpret the associated data involved, determine which solutions can be realistically implemented in a reasonable amount of time. It is important to avoid churn at this critical point in 2020.
If you can exceed or meet your goals by year-end or at least profitably outperform your competitors, you will be better positioned to advance into 2021.
A breakthrough ADHD pediatric treatment option
EndeavorRx has earned U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactive treatment disorder (ADHD). It is the first FDA approved digital therapeutic software in the format of a video game that is available by prescription only. EndeavorRx was developed by Akili Interactive Labs.
EndeavorRx is indicated for pediatric patients ages 8 to 12 years old with primarily inattentive or combined-type ADHD who have demonstrated an attention issue. The approval is based on its ability to improve attention function as measured by computer-based testing and is the first digital therapeutic agent intended to improve symptoms associated with ADHD. The product is designed for use as a component of a patient care program that may involve healthcare professional-directed therapy, medication, educational programs and other support that address symptoms of the disorder.
EndeavorRx has also been approved by European regulators through Conformite’ European (CE) Mark certification.
The creation of EndeavorRx was based on Akili’s Selective Stimulus Management Engine (SSME) proprietary technology. From the start, EndeavorRx was designed to focus and activate neural networks in the brain responsible for cognitive function. It delivers combined special sensory stimuli and motor challenges that center on activating neural systems associated with attention functions. It is also fortified with adaptive algorithms to customize the treatment experience based on each patient.
A technotherapeutic breakthrough
A video game therapeutic option to help treat ADHD (or any patient care issue for that matter!) will be welcomed by healthcare professionals and patients. It not only augments existing ADHD treatment options, it provides an interactive experience for patients to have a role in caring for themselves.
Another important attribute in any prescribed therapy is patient adherence. EndeavorRx will be able to not only administer the treatment but also record patient interactions with the program to verify compliance and provide data-driven insights at to how the patient interacted with it. This will help parents and clinicians get a better idea of how well a patient is engaging the program. Data can also serve as building blocks to further enhance the product.
An important milestone reached by the FDA
The FDA continues to evolve as the healthcare industry continuously innovates. Every drug therapy, medical device and other products subject to FDA approval have their own nuances and complexities. By reviewing and approving EndeavorRx, the FDA achieves a breakthrough as a progressive organization that provides an objective evaluative forum dedicated to safety and efficacy that embraces entirely new approaches to advancing patient care.
Akili Interactive Labs has accomplished a remarkable achievement
Founded in 2011, Akili Interactive Labs is based in Boston, Massachusetts. EndeavorRx is the first product the company has launched that has earned FDA and CE regulatory approval. Akili has a distinguished and diverse lineup of organizations that are involved in its success. Some of its supporters and partners include Amgen, Autism Speaks, Canepa Healthcare (funding), Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pfizer, PureTech Health (funding), San Francisco VA Medical Center, University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and University of Washington.
Epic Systems and Health Care Services Corporation Launch A Breakthrough Electronic Health Record Initiative
Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) is developing an electronic health record (EHR) information platform with Epic Systems that will form a patient/member data network with its five Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) plans. It is described as “a secure, interconnected and efficient health system and information exchange between insurers, providers, and patients.”
Based in Chicago, HCSC is one of the larger BCBS holding companies in the nation
HCSC operates five BCBS plans:
- New Mexico
Better patient care and member services with better quality healthcare data and plan performance
The proposed platform will better integrate patient data from healthcare provider organizations like hospitals, health systems, medical group practices and other point-of-care sites with the payer/insurer members' plan data. The goal is to accelerate the secure sharing of patient healthcare and cost information between medical professionals and their organizations with the patient's BCBS plan administration by using Epic Systems EHR technology.
This will reduce claims processing errors while enhancing medical and financial reporting. Costs will be reduced and the conduit between plan member/patient, medical provider organizations and BCBS will be more efficient.
Epic Systems is a leading contender in the EHR data marketplace
The arrangement between privately-held Epic Systems and BCBS is highly strategic. Epic Systems has typically centered its sophisticated EHR programs with users in hospitals, health systems and other larger patient care provider entities. By partnering directly with large scale managed care organizations like BCBS plans, Epic Systems branches out of its traditional market sector. It is an admirable and effective brand extension strategy.
Epic Systems' largest competitor, Cerner, will soon likely develop countermeasures
Epic Systems primary rival, Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN), will be seeking ways to counter this competitive threat as will the distant 3rd largest EHR company Meditech. There is no doubt Verona, Wisconsin-based Epic Systems is contemplating how to quickly and successfully replicate this business arrangement with other BCBS plans across the nation as well as with other managed care organizations –potentially Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Molina, UnitedHealth Group/Optum or other payers.
Cerner, headquartered in North Kansas City, Missouri, is a well-established and savvy EHR technology leader. It has the necessary resources to drive innovation and strong relationships across the healthcare industry to support a more robust customer strategy transformation.
Gilead Sciences is becoming a household name
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a lot of new things to everyday life like personal protection equipment (PPE), work from home (WFH), telehealth, social distancing and other elements. It has also put the spotlight on the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Typically vilified by the media, these organizations are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the research and development of products to combat COVID-19.
One of these lesser known companies to the general public but well respected in the healthcare and biopharmaceutical community is Gilead Sciences.
Key facts about Gilead Sciences:
- The firm was founded in Foster City, California in 1987
- Its stock is traded on NASDAQ: GILD
- The company generates over $22 billion in annual sales
- Roughly 11,000 persons are employed by the organization
- Its product portfolio is diverse but centers largely around these categories of medicine: cardiovascular, hematology/oncology, HIV/AIDS, inflammation, respiratory and liver disease
- The portfolio's top selling products include Biktarvy (bictegravir, emtriciabine and tenofoviral afenamide), Genvoya (elvitegravir, cobicistat, emtricitabine, tenofovir alafenamide) and Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate)
- Its experimental drug, Remedesivir has been given emergency use authorization (EUA) status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat COVID-19 patients
Key facts about Remedesivir:
- The agent is still considered experimental, it does not have established safety or efficacy for the treatment of any condition, it has not completed a successful clinical trial and been officially reviewed by regulating authorities
- It is an antiviral drug whose development began based on research started in 2009
- Also known as GS-5734, it is a nucleoside analogue pro-drug based on a synthetic molecule in the antiviral class of medications targeting RNA synthesis
- The product has shown in vitro and in vivo activity against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) viruses (which are also coronaviruses) in the laboratory setting and has shown some activity against COVID-19
- It is an injectable therapy although Gilead Sciences is exploring other formulations for the drug including inhaled powdered forms
- The product is being further evaluated as a tandem therapy against COVID-19 with Eli Lilly's (NYSE: LLY) Olumiant (baricitinib) and with Cytodyn's (OTCMKTS: CYDY) leronlimab -a monoclonal antibody mAb that is still is development
Blood plasma therapy innovation driven by academic, healthcare and technology enterprises is confronting the COVID-19 challenge
Multiple clinical research initiatives are underway to learn more about the potential of blood plasma as a therapeutic approach to combat COVID-19. A pivotal assumption is a patient who has recovered from COVID-19 has produced antibodies to it. By using plasma from these patients and introducing it into patients who are critically ill from COVID-19, the plasma will fortify their systems with antibodies and provide them support to survive COVID-19 as their own immune systems develop COVID-19 antibodies.
Two clinical strategies are involved in COVID-19 blood plasma therapy
While there is differentiation between researchers and healthcare provider organizations exploring the attributes of COVID-19 blood plasma therapy, there are two approaches that presently have the most traction:
- One option is to transfer the blood plasma from the recovered COVID-19 patient to the ill COVID-19 patient by direct transfusion
- A second option being assessed is to collect the blood plasma from recovered patients and process it to create hyperimmune globulin that can be administered via IV transfusion to patients
Timing is important. Medical professionals and researchers are most interested in the blood plasma from discharged COVID-19 patients within two months of their recovery as the presence of COVID-19 antibodies are likely at their peak.
Each COVID-19 blood plasma strategy has solid merit to further explore
The direct transfusion route is a simplistic approach however the hyperimmune globulin could treat a wider number of patients by producing more doses. Other hyperimmune globulin therapies that have been developed include:
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV) (typically for use after bone marrow transplants and solid organ transplants)
- Hepatitis B (HBV)
- RhoD (typically administered to prevent hemolytic disease of newborns or "HDN")
- Biomedical Advance Research And Development Authority (BARDA)
- CSL Behring
- Johns Hopkins University
- Mayo Clinic
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
Initial evaluation results of COVID-19 immunization are good
- The trial patients were males and females ranging in age from 18 to 55 years
- Clinical results indicate the vaccine produced antibodies in 45 out of 45 trial patients
- Three different strengths (25, 100, 250 microgram doses) were featured in the trial and all performed well
- 3 groups of 15 each were administered one of the 3 strengths twice that were spaced 28 days apart
Tabrecta is a highly specialized oncology therapy
The oncology portfolio of Novartis (NYSE: NVS) continues to expand with the FDA approval of Tabrecta. The FDA made its decision through its accelerated approval process. Tabrecta is indicated for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with METex14. Only 3 to 4% of lung cancer patients have this diagnosis but up to now there were not any targeted therapy or other treatment options available for it.
Tabrecta is an oral MET inhibitor for adult patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumors have a mutation that leads to MET exon 14 skipping (METex14) as detected by an FDA-approved test.
An important attribute of Trabecta's is that it is approved for first-line and previously treated patients --regardless of prior treatment type. This greatly reduces any issues with managed care organization (MCO), prescription benefit management (PBM) and specialty pharmacy formulary rules and prior authorization requirements. Novartis will benefit from more direct and streamlined market access for the product as will oncologists and their patients.
It is available by prescription only and comes in 150 mg and 200 mg strength tablets. Oncologists will be embracing this unique and valuable treatment option to better care for this group of patients.
Incyte is the company that originally developed Tabrecta and Novartis licensed the rights to it
Novartis has exclusive global rights to Tabrecta and based on its commercialization success will be paying Incyte (NASDAQ: INCY) a milestone fee of $70 million. Moving forward, Incyte is in line to be paid an additional 12% to 14 % of net sale royalty fees of Tabrecta by Novartis.
Incyte was founded in 1991 in Palo Alto, California and is officially headquartered in Alopacas, Delaware. The company generates about $2.16 billion in annual sales. Novartis is based in Basel, Switzerland; established in 1996 it produces about $48.7 in yearly sales.
Celebrate National Nurses Day 5/6 and National Nurses Week 5/6-12!
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
- Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP)
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Basic Life Support Nurse
- Certified Hemodialysis Nurse
- Certified Pediatric Nurse
- Certified Peritoneal Dialysis Nurse
- Critical Care Nurse
- Emergency Room Nurse
- IV Therapy Nurse
- Medical-Surgical Nurse
- Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse
- Oncology Certified Nurse
- Pediatric Advanced Life Support Nurse
- Perioperative Nurse
- Pharmacology Nurse
- Psychiatric Nurse
- Public Health Nurse
- Surgical Nurse
- Wound Care Nurse
Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (Nasdaq: WBA) continues its commitment to consumers, patients, the healthcare industry and investors
The Walgreens’ board of directors recently announced a quarterly dividend of 45.75 cents per share, unchanged from the previous quarter and an increase of 4 percent from the year-ago quarter. The dividend is payable June 12, 2020, to stockholders of record as of May 20, 2020.
Financial performance of Walgreens is largely unmatched in the healthcare sector
Founded in 1901, Walgreens (Walgreens Boots Alliance) have paid a dividend in 350 straight quarters. This translates to over 87 years of rewarding its investors. What is vastly overlooked in the healthcare commercial sector and investing communities is Walgreens has increased their dividend for 44 consecutive years.
Walgreens well ahead of other pharmacies and retailers to embrace the COVID-19 challenge
Walgreens is one of the few pharmacy and retail store companies that was readily able to support patients from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Coronavirus testing expansion has now rolled out to 49 states plus Puerto Rico; the company anticipates weekly testing volume to reach 50,000
- The company has over 7,300 drive-through pharmacies so patients can conveniently pick up their prescriptions without leaving their car
- In addition to prescriptions, more than 60 additional products can be picked up via the drive-through pharmacy windows
- 78% of the U.S. population lives within 5 miles of a Walgreens store
- On-demand delivery service from more than 7,000 stores nationwide
- An enormous online e-commerce presence featuring thousands of products
- Launched in 2012, Walgreens immunization services is a recognized wellness leader and offers more than 20 different vaccinations for adolescent, adult, senior and travel medicine patients
There is limited access to many medical professionals and other healthcare decision makers due to COVID-19 restrictions
Digital marketing has taken on new priority in driving healthcare sales as hospitals, health systems, professional buildings, medical practice groups, dialysis clinics, surgery centers, pharmacies and other medical facilities are limiting access to "patients only" due to COVID-19 issues.
Mobile marketing is an essential go-to pathway to reach healthcare professionals and medical administrative leadership
The role of mobile marketing and e-mail marketing as a digital marketing tandem is expanding. For healthcare product and healthcare service companies communicating with doctors, nurses, pharmacists and clinical or organization administrative leadership, it needs to be effectively orchestrated to account for costs, commercial effectiveness and customer engagement.
Email marketing opportunities via mobile have advantages and challenges
Email marketing is an optimum way to engage healthcare customers. It is important for healthcare marketing professionals as well as digital marketing and advertising agencies to deeply optimize email marketing strategies and tactics for targeted medical desktop and mobile phone user respondents.
Use this checklist of pivotal elements to fortify email marketing initiatives deployed via mobile:
- Be certain speed is maximized for landing pages, downloads or website forwarding
- Minimize all steps necessary for the audience to register for a download or to subscribe
- Optimize images so they are clear and position well within the confines of mobile displays
- Streamline and format all content carefully so it can be rapidly comprehended via scrolling
- Bullet points are an ideal way to feature key concepts, attributes, value propositions, deliverables, dates and costs
- Campaign calendar management needs to be on point so targeted audiences receive emails at appropriate times and at the right frequency to increase engagement --while minimizing opt-outs!
- A/B testing of email subject lines and critical content must be exercised with precision to save time and money while increasing the value of data and how it is applied to improve campaign outcomes
- Target your healthcare professional and administrative audiences appropriately, be certain what you are offering specifically aligns with their interests and needs otherwise you are in effect spamming them and their opt-out will prevent further opportunities to engage them
- Be cognizant of your competition, they are jockeying for position in the digital space just as you are, take all measures to distance your digital marketing initiatives from them and disrupt the competition with more effective and innovative measures
Mobile apps are no longer a slam dunk success in healthcare
- It's getting more difficult each day to earn an icon spot on a user's phone. Medical professionals, healthcare executives and consumers are much more selective now. The impulse trigger to automatically download an app or engage an offer has been modestly blunted and almost leans towards apathy.
- The competition is fierce. The medical and business community plus households are presented with a storm of apps, offers and other messages each day via their phones. Unless an app is truly dedicated to niche purposes, there is overlapping competition that new apps must hurdle to get into place on a phone and even then there position is far from secure as rivals enter the space.
- Poor strategic decisions upfront launch the development of apps that get user buy-in and use but don't generate revenue. The user sticks to the pure utility of the app but doesn't act on any features that enable the developer to earn more revenue from it. The developer is now stuck with maintaining an app that generates a lot of data that may or may not be useful nor is the app positioned well enough that an upgrade will automatically turn things around.
- The design of the mobile app is outmaneuvered by a wearable option. Given that wearable technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, they are getting a piece of the mobile action. While some wearable and phone apps can be considered a tandem, this is not always the case. Even if they disparate, a user may prefer what the wearable does for them in terms of utility, data, display, mobility or other factor that the mobile app can't duplicate.
- The app is feature rich and/or feature poor. It may do a couple of things really well and miss their mark on others so much that the app is abandoned even when there is not another one available from a rival. If the app can't seamlessly deliver well on all of its features tech-savvy users may find it unforgivable and give it the heave-ho. On the flip side, fickle users may find it has too many features and determine that it's too complicated and decide it's not for them. Even the simplest app with the highest expectation can fail based on poor integration of user experience and design concepts.
- Clumsy upgrades are another main reason why apps fail. Users get in a groove on how they use their apps and when changes are not well thought out, users abandon ship. Developers believe what they are doing will make their app easier to use or provide even more value through new uses and features. What happens are the "enhancements" disrupt the user's comfort level enough that they decide to figure it out later and never use the app again or just decide they automatically don't like it and jettison it from their phone.
- Standards change and present apps don't measure up. If a healthcare app can't meet the standards of what a clinician requires or what has changed on their end that mandates a new level of performance, data management, security or other benchmark, apps become obsolete quickly. The tough part is if it's a sweeping change that is required due to organizational or regulatory decision makers, the app will be abandoned en masse even if users are reluctant to part with it.
Alphabet/Google introduces a new resource to generate further insights about COVID-19
Google has developed an intriguing tool for consumers, healthcare professionals, researchers, government and other stakeholders to benefit from. Called the COVID-19 Community Mobility Report, it features data compiled by sourcing location information collected from Android mobile phone users around the world.
The purpose of it is to correlate the concentration of people in different areas in relation to COVID-19 and lockdown regulations or shelter in place guidelines. It is a handy accessory to other COVID-19 mapping and tracking data resources such as the one from Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center or the World Health Organization's Coronavirus COVID-19 Situation Dashboard.
Large scale worldwide data collection and insights
Mobile data from 131 nations is covered in the reports. Data from China and Iran is not featured as that information is blocked in those nations.
Google has clearly communicated privacy is paramount
Google has made it a point to communicate the focus of the report is centered only on geographic location data. Personal identity and other data from users is not shared in any way within the reports. Plus, only data from Android users who have activated the Location History setting on their phones can be featured in the data profiles.
COVID-19 Mobility Reports provide insights into locations of special interest
The data featured in the reports is at least 48 hours old. Of particular interest are the business and consumer centers, transit hubs and other locations frequented by people and at what times. These may include inner city business districts, office campuses, shopping centers, hospitals, pharmacies, parks and other recreation areas.
This helps to provide insights as to the compliance of populations in lockdown or shelter in place nations, regions, states, cities and suburbs. It also helps to keenly illustrate concentrations of people and the correlation to a rise or fall in COVID-19 cases depending upon when the virus first presented itself in patient cases.
Google's plans for COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports
Based on feedback from multiple stakeholders, Google may add or revise certain data currently featured. This is something new from Google and there are numerous ways it can be applied now and moving forward to better understand how COVID-19 spreads and how quickly it peaks and drops.
It is also valuable to know about the effect social distancing has on reducing the ability of the virus to propagate. In the future, these types of data sets can be aptly generated when new pandemics and other large scale medical emergencies erupt.
Walgreens and Tata: a 10-year $1.5 billion deal
2020 is a pivotal year of transformation for one of the world's largest healthcare companies, Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ: WBA). The company has announced it is widening the scope of its partnership with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and accelerating the innovation behind its global IT strategy. The $1.5 billion deal allocates a massive portion of Walgreens IT operations to TCS paid out over a 10-year time span.
Based in Mumbai, TCS (BSE: 532540, NSE: TCS) is a recognized leader in business solutions, consulting and information technology services. Founded in 1968, TCS employs over 420,000 associates.
How Walgreens and Tata Consultancy Services will work together
The Walgreens global IT organization will center on initiatives aligned with improving digital resources and services based on business platforms. TCS will provide dedicated managed services comprised of application infrastructure resources, IT operations, security and other advanced support.
TCS will be implementing an array of technology strategies, applications and tools. This includes artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, software engineering and cloud computing. The goal of the program is to put the already highly sophisticated Walgreens IT infrastructure ahead of the curve in terms of innovation and performance. This will reduce costs while improving productivity and ROI.
2020 is a year of transformation for Walgreens
In 2019 Walgreens shared that it was considering options to take the organization private and announced it was pursuing major technology improvements and cost cutting measures to improve the company's balance sheet. Walgreens has several strategic alliances already underway with Kroger, McKesson, Microsoft and Prime Therapeutics.
While it remains to be seen what direction Walgreens will take in terms of its public versus private corporate status, the organization continues to forge ahead as it always as an industry leader and respected competitor.
So far in 2020, Walgreens has:
- Hired Dr. Kevin Ban, M.D. as Chief Medical Officer
- Promoted 28-year Walgreens' veteran Richard Ashford to President
- Launched delivery services in 15 major U.S. cities coast-to-coast
- Inked a $1.5 billion deal with a Tata, a global leader in IT and digital services
Walgreens continues to build its success
Founded in 1901 and based in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Walgreens is ranked at number 17 in the Fortune 500, it operates more than 14,000 stores and has over 400,000 employees. The company has paid shareholders a dividend for 85 straight years. Its new deal with Tata signifies just part of Walgreens ongoing commitment to earnings and competitive growth through transformation in the new decade.
COVID-19 is a worthy opponent for the world's healthcare community: medical professionals and the pharmaceutical, diagnostic, medical device and technology companies that support them
There is an array of organizations deploying substantial clinical, financial and technical resources to develop a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic. Different approaches are being explored as COVID-19 is a new and complex threat. Although it may share similarities to other viral pathogens, its unique characteristics, unknown biological attributes, contagious mobility and varying impact on individuals makes it an unwieldy foe to weaponize bioscience against.
A shared challenge to mitigate or eliminate the threat of COVID-19
Medical professionals, hospitals, health systems, universities, research institutions, government laboratories, biotech and pharmaceutical companies are hotly pursuing a victory against COVID-19. Their playbooks include conventional vaccine development, use of biological therapies including monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) as well as basic and advanced antiviral medications.
Experience and education fueling the effort
Those working on an answer to COVID-19 are applying their experience and knowledge based on past and ongoing threats including Cholera, Dengue, Ebola, H1N1, H5N1, H7N9 Hendra, HIV, Herpes, Marburg, Measles, MERS, Mumps, Nipah, Polio, Rubella, SARS, Typhoid Fever and Zika. The clinical researchers and healthcare data scientists plus medical professionals working with patients and healthcare authorities are sharing their knowledge and learning on-the-go.
$50 Million From The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The lineup of clinical intellect is impressive; the amount of support from governments and even private citizens and charitable groups is admirable. A leading example of enormous generosity: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $50 million to 12 pharmaceutical companies to advance COVID-19 research.
Immunizations: the ideal long term solution to COVID-19
A vaccine to prevent COVID-19 or assertively mitigate its ability to cause significant illness is a perfect solution but challenging to come by. It has to be evaluated for efficacy as well as suitability for mass production. A pathogen like COVID-19 will likely require millions of doses of a vaccine to protect those at risk.
Once a vaccine candidate clears those hurdles a manufacturing facility has to be identified that can produce it and additional test batches produced to assure quality standards are met. The creation of a new vaccine can take considerable time, funding and other resources.
Exploring a COVID-19 solution based on mRNA characteristics
CureVac, BionTech, Moderna are three companies with an even more exacting strategy to developing an effective COVID-19 immunization. Their development experience and focus centers on messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutic dynamcis that align well with the characteristics of COVID-19.
An added plus to this approach, depending on the final formulation if found to be effective, is that the approved candidate could possibly be ramped up for mass production in a short amount of time.
This is a list of leading firms engaged in the development of a COVID-19 immunization:
- BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX)
- Clover BioPharmaceuticals (Privately Held)
- CureVac (Privately Held)
- Fosun Pharma (OTCMKTS: SFOSF)
- Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD)
- GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK)
- Inovio Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: INV)
- Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)
- MIGAL (Research Institute)
- Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA)
- Pfizer (NYSE: PFZ) – partnering with BioNTech and Fosun
- Regeneron (NASDAQ: RGN)
- Sanofi (NASDAQ: SNY) – partnering with Regeneron
- Takeda (NYSE: TAK)
- VIR Biotechnology (NASDAQ: VIR)
Monoclonal Antibody versus COVID-19
Another approach is the potential of Regeneron’s Kevzara (sarilumab), a monoclonal antibody, against COVID-19. Kevzara is an interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antagonist. Kevzara is presently indicated for severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA). IL-6 could be triggering the overactive inflammatory response in the lungs of patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.
Regeneron and Sanofi are partnering to manage clinical trials of Kevzara and closely study the ability of an interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antagonist to combat COVID-19’s effects. The use of mAbs is also being explored in the treatment of Ebola virus and Malaria.
Regeneron’s and Sanofi’s exploration is based on the initial signs of success another IL-6 receptor antibody, tocilizumab, had in China against COVID-19. While tocilizumab is still being assessed, China added it to their formal COVID-19 treatment guidelines.
Tocilizumab, developed by Chugai, is marketed as Actemra by Genentech/Roche in the United States. Actemra has four FDA approved indications: moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, giant cell arthritis, Polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
A monoclonal antibody agent effective against COVID-19 would be a welcome answer. They are complex therapies to develop and produce but if highly targeted could bring about the desired results no matter the cost.
Antiviral Medications versus COVID-19
Flu, herpes, HIV and other viral pathogens have large patient populations. They have fostered the development of numerous brand and generic formulations of antiviral medications plus more in pharma pipelines or castoffs from earlier clinical failures against other viruses.
New, old or on the clinical trial scrap heap, there is great potential to align them with COVID-19 to find selections most likely to demonstrate efficacy at a therapeutically acceptable level against it. By inhibiting a viral pathogen's ability to replicate, they slow or stop its progress and enable a patient to better withstand and outdistance its effects.
An antiviral product or a combination of therapies including an antiviral agent, could be a solution to COVID-19. Presently, a combination of a protease inhibitor, Prezista (darunavir) and cobicistat (a pharmacokinetic enhancer), are being evaluated in tandem against COVID-19. Remdesivir, an investigational nucleotide by Gilead, is an example of another antiviral treatment pathway being explored.
Johnson & Johnson has issued a warning regarding use of Prezista for COVID-19. The product was used for treating SARS patients; while SARS and COVID-19 have some similarities, the differences between the two mean Prezista may not be effective against COVID-19.
Data that may indicate its effectiveness against SARS does not convert to efficacy against COVID-19. This is an instance where close clinical study of an agent like Prezista and any adjunctive therapies used to treat COVID-19 is required to confirm level of effectiveness.
Just as with vaccines and mAbs, an antiviral therapy solution must demonstrate efficacy and have the right attributes to be mass-produced then facilities and production processes come next that are rigorously fortified with quality reinforcements.
This is a list of leading companies that develop, manufacture and commercialize antiviral products:
- AbbVie (NYSE: ABV)
- Arbutus Biopharma (NASDAQ: ABUS)
- Aurobindo Pharma (NSE: AUROPHARMA)
- Bristol-Meyers Squibb (NYSE: BMY)
- Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD)
- GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK)
- Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)
- Merck (NYSE: MRK)
- Roche (OTCMKTS: RHHBY)
- Sino Biopharmaceutical (HKG:1177)
Vaccines, monoclonal antibodies (mAb) and antiviral therapies are just 3 of the options being explored to find an effective agent to deploy against COVID-19. Upfront experience and analytics in qualifying and identifying options is part of the process, critically assessing their activity and outcomes is the next step. It's still too early to tell which of these 3 or other routes to a solution will emerge as the first primary contender.
These approaches, along with many others, are making progress towards an answer to this global threat.The discoveries and advancements made along the way are the building blocks for future healthcare breakthroughs.