Working Toward 'Universal Connectivity' in Drug Delivery

Partnership aims to connect as many devices as possible, even a bare syringe, to help improve patient adherence.

HealthPrize Technologies LLC and West Pharmaceutical Services Inc.

Three methods by which devices can be integrated with a HealthPrize-powered program: bar code scanning, Bluetooth, and near-field communication protocols. Image courtesy of HealthPrize Technologies LLC 

A few years ago HealthPrize Technologies LLC and West Pharmaceutical Services Inc. partnered to develop a program for rewarding patients for adhering to injectable regimens. The 2014 partnership integrated HealthPrize’s digital adherence and engagement platform with West’s injectable drug-delivery systems. The companies are now renewing that partnership with a next-generation solution offering expanded options for device connectivity.

Tom Kottler, CEO and co-founder, HealthPrize Technologies, told MD+DI that recent updates include an upgraded user interface, dedicated sales and marketing staff, and additional features and functionality both in the West devices and the HealthPrize platform to which they connect.

“The first three years have been fruitful,” Chris Evans, vice president, global innovation at West, told MD+DI. “It’s been a deep learning experience. We’ve spoken with hundreds of customers on the combined offering. At the same time, patients have been going through an evolution on their own, along with technology adoption.” To better understand patient needs, the team conducted user research on devices and the propensity for patients to interact with a digital interface, he said.

Over the past few years, pharma companies have been building toward a more holistic digital solution, Evans explained. “At HIMSS about 3 or 4 years ago, for instance, pharma wasn’t sure where to go with digital, but they knew how important it was to do something to help improve adherence.” However, “they really didn’t know what they were going to do with the data and didn’t understand the full value it had.” Trends now at HIMSS include “the world around electronic medical records” as well as the notion that “if everything is digital and health data is talking to the patient’s health record (EMR), it could be a boon for patients,” he said. Consequently, “we’ve seen more and more interoperability happening across platforms.”

So, after 3 years of working with pharmaceutical companies and conducting user research, the partners “have a much better idea what is needed,” Evans said. “We found we needed to have some flexibility. We initially thought we needed a self-contained, end-to-end offering and that pharma might not want their own IT departments getting involved. But we found that many pharma companies want more choice and an adherence improvement platform, for example, to work within their existing customer engagement programs or completely separate. If they have disease-state education and copay assistance programs, for instance, they may want our solution to fit in with their CRM and their backend.”

West and HealthPrize have also broadened the technology to be able to interact with other device manufacturers. “We now have a high degree of flexibility, with bits and pieces to help monitor adherence,” Evans said. “We can help those companies connect their device to the HealthPrize platform, even if it is not a West device.” The team is in the process of developing add-on sensors that could be attached to autoinjectors and even a “bare syringe,” he said. The universal solutions can be adapted for non-electronic devices and allow data transfer to the engagement platform via the add-on sensors, smart labels, RFID/NFC, and Quick Response (QR) or bar code scanning, the companies reported in a news release.

Also, the ecosystem for connectivity “is potentially bigger now, to include training devices and on-body injection systems,” Evans added. “We can incentivize training through a rewards program, for instance. When you are asking a patient to do something different, we’ve found that it’s better to incentivize them to help drive behavior change.”

As the partners move forward, their goal is to connect any device, which could help achieve what Evans called “universal connectivity.”

“To result in better patient adherence, we need to connect as many devices as possible, allowing patients to take an active role in their care,” he said. “The goal is to help drive compliance to higher rates for better patient outcomes and overall public health.”

West markets drug-delivery systems such as the SmartDose electronic wearable injector and the SelfDose injector. It also contract manufactures pens and auto-injectors globally, producing more than 100 million of these devices each year.

The HealthPrize platform uses gamification, behavioral economics, and consumer marketing concepts to interact with patients.


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Daphne Allen

Daphne Allen is editor-in-chief of MD+DI. She previously served as executive editor of Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News, which serves as the pharmaceutical and medical device channel of Packaging Digest. Daphne has covered medical device manufacturing, packaging, labeling, and regulatory issues as well as pharmaceutical packaging and labeling for more than 20 years. She is also a member of the Institute of Packaging Professionals's Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee. Follow her on Twitter at @daphneallen.


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