Apple’s Gift for Specialty Brands

by Yishai Knobel,

Apple just announced a new horizon for health apps: a Health Records API. This move is a breakthrough for patient-centered health management, in general; and specifically for people on specialty regimens, this may be a game changer.

What did Apple announce exactly?

At the start of 2018, Apple updated its Health App to centralize patients’ medical data from multiple providers into a single view on their iPhone. Now they have announced a new API that builds on this, allowing patients to share their personal health data with their favorite health apps. Apple hopes developers and researchers will “create an ecosystem of apps that use health record data to better manage medications, nutrition plans, diagnosed diseases and more.”

With the patient’s iPhone as the focal point for integration, an opportunity arises for anyone offering patient services through mobile to provide even more patient-centric services. In a sense, each patient’s iPhone becomes a personal data center and patients can now give apps different levels of access to their EHR (more on the benefits of personal data in pharma here)

Some specialty brands can win big

So what is the opportunity for specialty brands?

Specialty brands almost always accompany their drug launches with patient support programs, often administered by patient hubs, to support patients along their journey. These programs help patients with deal with insurance coverage, on-boarding to the new treatment and adherence to the therapy.

It’s all in the data

But while striving to support patients, brands and hubs are typically flying blind when it comes to tracking each patient along their personal journey. We already see hubs starting to invest in tools to help better harness patient data, yet actionable patient data throughout the patient journey and in real-time is still a major gap.

Leveraging Apple’s new capability, specialty brands can now expect hubs to know when patients reach critical milestones along their journey. How? By deploying existing patient support programs on mobile data platforms that integrate with Apple’s new EHR capability (see below to learn more on Helparound’s mobile patient intelligence).

What patient milestones can hubs identify given access to a patient’s EHR?

  1. Medicine prescribed: Prescription logs are almost always part of the patient’s record.  Thus once a drug is prescribed, data platforms know it and so can the brand’s hub (provided, of course, that the patient agreed to share such data);
  2. Lab tests available: Many specialty drugs, e.g. biologics or those that the FDA requires a REMS protocol involve a qualifying lab test before the doctor can prescribe them. With the EHR now on the iPhone, and with the patient choosing to automatically share such information with the hub, the case manager can now be notified once a patient has conducted the test (which happens to be good timing to send the patient back to the doctor to review the lab test results)
  3. Dosage change: A hub can also adjust it’s engagement pattern with the patient knowing based on change of dosage or therapy regimen per the iPhone data.

Data privacy done right

Not only is this new API great for patients, hubs and brands, but regulators and legal teams should also be delighted with the trend of turning a patient’s personal phone into their patient data hub. Data sharing decisions are put directly in the patient’s hands; all stakeholders benefit from the ease of sharing data while optimally ensuring privacy.

Data integration done right

Say the term “EHR integration” in a team meeting, and half the room cringes… because the fragmentation, complexity and sensitivity of EHR systems is at an all time high.  

Good news IT folks!  A new integration platform has arrived, and it’s slick, simple, and free! (at least for your organization). Please meet: the iPhone. Oh, and every iPhone comes with a built-in decision maker on which integrations are allowed to take place. Please meet: the patient.

Apple did it again. Just like what the iPod did to Music, and Apple Pay did to payments, it introduced simplicity into a sensitive, convoluted challenge, by giving control back to the consumer.

And specialty brands?  They can win here by gaining visibility into the patient journey, by deploying their patient support programs on mobile platforms that empower patients to first own and then share their personal health data with the organizations that help them the most.