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“We’ve proved out the cost savings and are watching the advance of bundled [insurance] payments and value-based care,” Smith says, referring to the shift away from traditional healthcare payment models that charge fees for each service rendered. “We’re kind of riding that wave, along with the data we’ve brought to bear, to drive adoption.”
Startups aren’t the only companies blazing trails in digital health. ResMed (NYSE: RMD), a 30-year-old medical device company best known for selling continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines that help people manage sleep apnea, has invested heavily in digital tools in recent years.
In 2014, it connected all of its sleep apnea treatment devices to the Internet to enable remote monitoring. Today, more than 8 million ResMed devices are cloud-connected, and more than 1.5 million customers track their device usage with the company’s myAir app, a spokesperson says. The goal is to help caregivers better monitor and guide patients. The emphasis on remote self-monitoring has helped push the rate of patients adhering to their sleep apnea device usage plan to 87 percent, which is much higher than typical adherence to device and pharmaceutical treatment plans, the spokesperson says.
ResMed, which generated $2.3 billion in revenue last year and is valued at nearly $15 billion as of this writing, has also looked to outside organizations to boost its digital strategy. In 2016, it bought healthcare software developer Brightree for $800 million. And last year ResMed struck deals to buy MatrixCare, a maker of software for long-term care providers, for $750 million, and Propeller Health, a developer of connected inhalers and related software, for $225 million. ResMed also formed a joint venture last year with Verily, the life sciences subsidiary of tech giant Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL), to develop software products that improve diagnosis and treatments for people with breathing-related sleep disorders.
Add it all up, and the medical device giant has become a major player in the emerging world of “connected healthcare.”
Bringing a new drug to market takes years and billions of dollars. But some of the costs and wait times are avoidable.
A 2016 Tufts University study of more than 800 clinical trial protocols—the documents that establish a study’s objectives and design—found that 57 percent of them had at least one significant amendment, and 45 percent of the amendments were deemed avoidable. Protocol amendments cause delays in drug testing and commercialization and cost the pharma industry $20 billion a year, the study estimated.
Trials.ai is using machine learning-enabled software to help drug developers more effectively design clinical trials and avoid protocol changes. It helps with decisions such as choosing criteria for patient recruitment, creating the drug dosing schedule, and picking clinical sites to run the tests, says Trials.ai co-founder and CEO Kim Walpole.
“Billions of dollars are getting squandered on preventable mistakes,” Walpole says. “This process needs to be automated and data-driven. Right now, it’s incredibly manual.”
She says she was driven to start the company after her best friend was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died while waiting to enroll in a clinical trial of a potential new treatment.
Trials.ai, previously known as Catalyst eClinical, initially aimed to use software to help manage clinical trials. The company later shifted its focus to earlier in the clinical development process, helping to plan trials. Much of the startup’s artificial intelligence technology was developed in-house, Walpole says. She says one of the company’s differentiators is that it has built its own ontology specific to clinical trial data, which is intended to make its natural language processing and other A.I. tools more effective.