Science is data, or is it the other way around?

Is science data or is data science? Riddle me this. Speaking at the recent Nordic Life Science Days, Richa Wilson, Associate Director, Digital and Personalized Healthcare at Roche indicated “data will continue to evolve from clinical trials and registries and in the future from real-time and linked data. There was ~150 exabytes health data in 2015 and in 2020 it’s expected to grow to 2300 exabytes, mainly from digital health apps and hospital scans. Roche recently purchased Foundation Medicine and is working on open-sourcing health information. And just last week, Accenture, Merck, and Amazon announced the launch of a research platform to drive innovation in drug discovery and scientific research. The cloud-based informatics platform enables life sciences researchers and informatics professionals to quickly aggregate, access and analyze research data from multiple applications. Fine, it’s probably just Excel with a slick GUI. Just kidding.

A merger “O.K.” with little delay

Cigna and Express Scripts have received their parents’ the Justice Department’s blessing to go ahead with their wedding merger. The health insurer and pharmacy benefit manager say they’re a good fit for each other since they’ll be able to share information about their customers’ medical expenses that will help them manage patient health better. But the announcement has got to sting a bit for CVS Health and Aetna, who have been waiting on DOJ approval for their merger since before the Cigna-Express Scripts deal was announced. Visual/meme representation of that here. You’ve gotta think that Amazon’s ever-threatening encroachment into the healthcare industry is driving some of these vertical mergers between health insurers and PBMs.

Amazon’s tributary into the pharma market

Yep. Another Amazon story. We promise to dial it back a notch going forward. Unless we don’t. Way back in April it was rumored (and reported by InsightCity) that Wal-Mart would buy the online pharmacy PillPack. Well, that didn’t happen, but don’t cry for PillPack because according to a press release, Amazon just did. While you can’t cry for PillPack, if you watch the World Cup, you can cry for Germany. FYI, PillPack delivers medications in pre-sorted dose packaging for people taking multiple prescriptions. Want to know why we keep harping on Amazon (and Apple and Wal-Mart)? Witness the market power they have via an almost immediate downgrade of Walgreens after the PillPack announcement. In fact, “Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid lose $11 billion” in market cap after the announcement. The question now becomes, what will Wal-Mart do?

Amazon’s grand challenge

Been a while since Amazon has graced the annals of InsightCity, at least a few weeks. They’re back. Not wanting to be left out of the secret healthcare group club, CNBC reported Amazon created a secretive group called Grand Challenge, led by the creator of Google Glass (Babak Parviz). The group, which also goes by the names 1492 and Amazon X (because one code word is not enough), has more than 50 people working for it. What are they working on? First, they are “working with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, attempting to apply machine learning in ways that can help prevent and cure cancers.” Second, “internally dubbed Hera (more code names), which involves taking unstructured data from electronic medical records to identify an incorrect code or the misdiagnosis of a patient.” Cool, but that’s nothing compared to Amazon’s “Interesting Finds” section.

Amazon puts drugs back on the shelf

The healthcare industry can breathe a little easier, at least for now. Amazon has backed off on its plans to sell pharmaceutical products to hospitals. Logistical concerns are part of the pull-back, which is kind of surprising since that’s like Amazon’s whole thing, right? Turns out, cold chain is hard. It’s actually more than just that—while Amazon certainly has brand recognition to go around, not even it can disrupt loyal vendor relationships maintained between hospitals, drug distributors, and group purchasing organizations. Pharmacies and drug distributor stocks went up after the announcement, but they better keep their heads on a swivel—there’s still that health venture with Berkshire and JPMorgan to be worried about. Last we heard, they were on a CEO search.

Apple and Amazon are all over healthcare

CNBC noticed Amazon quietly launched a partnership in August with OTC manufacturer Perrigo to create their Basic Care line of products. While Amazon may not be the ideal fix for when you need that bottle of cold medicine ASAP, the company could be in a good position to corner the market on products that are bought in bulk like nicotine gum. Apple’s healthcare foray is more tech-focused: they’re developing the next attempt at personal, electronic health records. The idea is to use patients’ smartphones as the unified repository for health records that could otherwise be scattered across healthcare providers. More complete records and data could drive recommendations for care, and could even translate into partnerships with pharma companies to pitch their products directly to consumers fitting a certain profile.

It’s good to be in healthcare

According to a recent McKinsey whitepaper titled “The future of healthcare: Finding the opportunities that lie beneath the uncertainty,” it’s good to be in healthcare in the US. And it seems that being a large company in healthcare is better (insert you favorite “size matters” reference here). McKinsey did an economic assessment across various parts of the US healthcare system (insurers, delivery systems, service vendors, and manufacturers & distributors) and found that margins increase with scale. No duh, but what’s interesting is how that scale is being achieved and, in a word, “complexly.” Yep, complexly. The major takeaway is that your organization needs to be agile and actively manage your portfolio across the value chain, not just in your core business. Oh, and they talk about Amazon too, because apparently you have to. It’s a rule now.