Pharma gets help with marketing, narrowing gap between health and social care, and ‘The Lost Art of Healing’

February 11, 2016

In order to bring you more of the news you want to read, RightCare Weekly summarizes and interprets three important articles and provides headlines linking to the many other articles and editorials you’ll find interesting. As always, RightCare Weekly presents articles related to moving our healthcare system toward the right care for all patients.

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Marketing of pharmaceuticals and medical devices to health care providers is nothing new. For long, pharma has been able to keep tabs on physicians’ prescribing habits to gauge how successful sales pitches were. Shannon Brownlee, MSc and Jeanne Lenzer in Slate detailed the issue a decade ago. And Carl Elliott, MD, wrote in The Atlantic about drug reps helping to influence prescribers with lavish gifts. But recently, it has become more difficult for industry to engage with clinicians, given federal bans on elaborate dining engagements and travel junkets. Helping industry to reach valued (read: high) prescribers is a new startup that identifies the clinicians and hospitals most likely to prescribe certain drugs and devices. Noted in Bloomberg Business, Zephyr Health, a global data analytics entity, is able to identify prescription patterns from data clearinghouses and other sources, building digital dossiers on individual health care providers and selling the information to drug and device makers. What doctors might be most useful to industry? Key Opinion Leaders, or KOLs—providers who write lots of scripts, regularly speak at top medical conferences, write important medical journal articles or sit on guideline writing boards. Zephyr’s website boasts that it helps its clients “make confident decisions faster across the entire product lifecycle with precise and predictive customer and market insights.” Already the service has 10 major clients, including GlaxoSmithKline and Stryker. It’s hard to believe that pharma and device makers need more help with marketing—and it’s data that is becoming its shiniest tool.


Although health care and social care have historically been siloed in the United States, CMS recently announced that it will spend $157 million over five years on grants to “entities that will screen patients for unmet social needs and link them with services that will help with housing, hunger, interpersonal violence and other social ills,” reports USA Today. This is part of the Accountable Health Communities model—which will “address a critical gap between clinical care and community services… by testing whether systematically identifying and addressing the health-related social needs of beneficiaries impacts total health care costs, improves health, and quality of care,” according to the CMS website on the program. Elizabeth Bradley, PhD, MBA, author of the book The American Health Care Paradox, told the paper, “American health care is really expensive and not enough to keep us healthy. We’re not really dealing with the social and economic problems that make us sick.” You can hear Bradley’s co-author Lauren Taylor, MPH, discuss these issues as a panelist at the 2016 Lown Conference in April.  One question remains: Why so little money? $157 million is not going to go very far given the size of the need.


As Andrew Lomback of The Los Angeles Review of Books writes, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the publishing of Dr. Bernard Lown’s book The Lost Art of Healing. Lomback says “the most refreshing part of Lown’s memoir remains his optimism about what a doctor can do for his or her patients simply by taking a genuine interest in their well-being.” Many stories and studies support the notion that genuine caring and a strong doctor-patient relationship, by whatever mechanism, may promote better health outcomes. In stark juxtaposition to this point, a 2015 Salesforce study reported that “nearly half of people age 18 to 34 do not have a personal relationship with their physician,” indeed, “40 percent of respondents surveyed also believe that their doctor would not recognize them if they crossed paths while walking down the street.” A majority of surveyed millennials indicated that they would be interested in telehealth options, and some even say that they do not want to visit their doctor in person. How will millennial preferences and technological advancements shape the future of health care and health?



  • Thank you to everyone who submitted a vignette for our second annual Right Care Vignette Competition.  In all, we received 37 excellent submissions. Now we have our work cut out for us. It will certainly be difficult choosing just two finalists, who are eligible to receive scholarships to the 4th Annual Lown Institute Conference.






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RightCare Weekly is made possible through the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.