Category: Thoughts

semiconductor industry

Health Economics and the Reimbursement Landscape in Healthcare

The uncertainty in the United States healthcare market has made it rather imperative for the medical practitioners and service providers to understand the nitty gritty of the evolving reimbursement landscape. While traditionally the focus of manufacturers remains on getting regulatory approval to push their products in the market, the scenario has changed hugely in the past five years. Today with an increase in patient access, it is not just the physicians but other stakeholders like health care organizations as well as the insurers who decide the future of drugs and medical devices.

Influence of the latest trends in the healthcare landscape

The emergence of bundled payments, tiered narrow networks, along with high demand for price transparency from the patients’ end are some of the major trends which the healthcare sector is witnessing now. These trends are sure to impact reimbursement programs like ASC (Ambulatory Surgical Center) Payments. It is therefore critical for ASCs to optimize their payment strategies to protect their financial footing.

Similarly, patients are no longer just a group of end-consumers in the healthcare industry. Rather the patient community has emerged as a financial class which demands transparency in pricing and are forming pressure groups to prevent surprise billing. Only last September, the California Health, and Safety Code was approved which mandates the providers of out-of-network at in-network facilities to treat patients as if they are part of the network itself.

Another critical element which is changing the face of the reimbursement landscape is the bundled payments system. According to one of the latest studies conducted by ORC International, by the year 2021, 17 percent of reimbursements will take place in the form of outsourced bundled payments system. This means that reimburses like ASC must collaborate with the third-party providers of the payments system to stay relevant in the competition.

Infiniti’s take: Health Economics to the rescue

The basic premise on which health economics works is improving the overall delivery of the healthcare services without any major spike in the health care costs. One of the best ways in which this can be attained is by integrating the healthcare services and the reimbursement process seamlessly. The therapies, be it traditional or innovative ones, should be aptly targeted to improve the clinical outcomes as well as optimize the healthcare costs.

Experts in health economics believe that changes in the commercialization strategy by integration of new therapies is sure to improve the overall reimbursement landscape. This can be possible only if there is a nuanced understanding of the clinical conditions, related treatments, and the most appropriate healthcare delivery model.

Market Intelligence

Top 5 Healthcare Breaches… So Far

Year 2017 is half way through, and internet security breach is perhaps one of the topics which has made the maximum headlines – of course after the usual news on political bickering. Just like the past year, this year too hackers have made the most of the fragile online infrastructure of the healthcare industry. In fact, the healthcare sector has emerged as one of the easiest targets for hacking due to its rather weak and obsolete security systems.

In the past six months, the top five healthcare breaches which shook the medical fraternity throughout the globe are:

1.    ABCD Children’s Pediatrics

The San-Antonio based healthcare center was the target of the recent ransomware attack, which breached data of as many as 55,447 patients. On investigation, it was found that Dharma virus, a variant of the Crisis ransomware, had afflicted the files.

Medical records are often used for dark web dealings, pediatric patient records are high commodities in the dark web. The files which were affected by the recent attack included details like medical records, lab results, social security numbers, as well as procedure technology codes.

2.    Harrisburg Gastroenterology

In March 2017, Harrisburg Gastroenterology noticed suspicious activity on their system which led to the compromise of 93,323 patient records. The incident pointed out the loopholes in the website maintenance, which made the Pennsylvania-based institute to notify its patients regarding the breach in data. Critical diagnostic, clinical, as well as insurance information was compromised in this case.

3.    The National Health Service in England and Scotland

In case of hospitals under The National Health Service (NHS), it was the ransomware variant Wanna Decryptor which breached the private information. Wanna Decryptor is one of the most lethal ransomware variant on the dark web, which is why the damage caused was rather huge. The attack crippled the delivery of healthcare services in at least 16 organizations under the NHS. Patients were warned to avoid certain departments, ambulances were diverted, and worst of all, in many cases the hospital staff were unable to access patient data.

4.    Molina Healthcare

Another major Medicaid and Affordable Care Act insurer, Molina Healthcare, had to shut down its patient portal due to security flaws. With a simple change in the URL, the portal provided easy access to all the medical claims data of patients. The breach made news due to the fact that the basic Security 101 flaw was not taken care of. Thus, even though the exposed data did not contain social security numbers, other details like disease, diagnosis, and other medically critical patient information were compromised.

5.    Airway Oxygen

It was in April, that the ransomware attack hit the home medical equipment supplier Airway Oxygen. In this case, the hacker gained access to the network and hacked it in such a way that the employees were shut out from the system where the personal information of the patients was stored.

All these attacks only highlight the need for the healthcare sector to move towards better security measures and a proactive IT department which keeps a close watch on suspicious cyber activities. The time to act, is now!

Market Assessment

Chemicals Renaissance in US and Transportation Bottlenecks

The dramatic growth in the chemicals industry has caught the fancy of industry experts, investors, as well as the public. Especially the chemicals market in the US has witnessed a whooping investment of $161 billion in the past 7 years making industry experts predict a renaissance for the chemicals manufacturing industry. Abundance in shale gas, along with low cost of feedstocks are two major factors which has triggered the growth of this market in the US.

Chemistries which has pushed the industry on the verge of renaissance

Methanol, polyolefins, and olefins are the three chemistries which has ushered in renaissance in the specialty chemical industry. For instance, olefins are regarded as building blocks for products like propylene and ethylene. Methanol, on the other hand, is a chemical that is heavily used in manufacturing other chemicals as well. The high availability of shale deposits in the US has not only brought down the cost of production of natural gas, but has also led to immense technological innovations in this area.

The US basically has a cost-advantage over the other producers of shale gas. This is the reason why, even though shale deposits are found in other regions as well, it is in the US that this natural resource has been used in the best possible manner.

How transport infrastructure is critical for the growth of chemicals industry?

As far-fetched as it might sound, the growth in the chemicals industry has highlighted the lacunas in the United States transport infrastructure. Industry experts predict the cost of delays due to transportation to come up to $22 billion. The loopholes in the primary modes of transport like rail, sea, and roadways, will also result in high operational costs which is sure to affect the manufacturers in the chemicals industry in a negative manner.

Roadways is the primary mode of transport adopted by the chemicals industry in the US, followed by the railways and then the seaways. The major bottleneck emerges in the form of regulatory requirements which the drivers for the chemicals industry must adhere to undergo. When it comes to the sea ways, the major problem is that the gulf ports are not regarded as ideal locations by players in the chemicals industry. The non-gulf ports on the other hand often face problems due to disputes between warehouse unions and maritime associations.

The need of the hour is to address the transportation issues by bringing all the stakeholders – chemical manufacturers, shippers, as well as policy makers – on the same platform. Only when the transportation related issues are addressed will the renaissance in the chemicals industry come in full bloom.


Single-Use Technology – Taking Biopharmaceuticals to a Whole New Level

Largely used in the biopharma industry, the single use technology (SUT) has emerged as one of the foolproof methods to bring down contamination and improve the overall quality of the pharma products. Industry majors like GEHealthcare, ThermoFisher, and VWR, have already made major investments in this technology. Cleaning validation is critical in the biopharma industry, and this is what single use technology offers – right from biosynthesis to the formulation process, this technology reduces the risk of cross-contamination, is eliminating the need for cleaning validation altogether.

How single use technology will help the biopharma companies?

Regarded as one of the most important trends in the biopharma space, Single Use Technology helps in:

1.     Bringing down negative impact on the environment

When compared to the carbon footprint created by wastewater, energy, and chemicals, the plastics used in the SUT process are relatively safer. In spite of being incinerated, the carbon footprint contributed by this technology is negligible.

2.     High productivity and low cost

Being used just for a one time, the need to clean and reuse the utilities have come down. This not only saves time, but also reduces the cost of the entire operation. Also, the amount of energy consumed is brought down. When it comes to productivity, Single Use Technology helps in increasing it, as the time spent by the labor on changing the disposable systems, and sanitizing the traditional stainless steel system.

3.     Efficient manufacturing and sustainable process

Sustainability is a major goal which many biopharma companies are working to attain. And this is exactly what is attained through the single use technology process. Also, by making significant reductions in labor, not only does single use technology speed up the manufacturing process, but it also makes product changeovers easier to achieve. Not to forget, adherence to high quality and safety makes it easier for biopharma companies to manufacture products which meet the requirement of the regulatory agencies.

It is due to these advantages that industry experts regard the single use technology as a major game changer in the biopharma industry. With growth of the global market for biopharmaceuticals, the demand for SUT is also on a rise – which is good news for both the producers as well as consumers of the biopharma products.

semiconductor industry

Top 3 Strategies Pharma Companies Must Employ to Mitigate Risks in Emerging Economies

The rapid economic growth in the emerging economies did give a lot of hope to the western pharma and health sciences companies for growth and expansion. But in the recent years, as the fizz around the emerging economies being the land of opportunities has waned out, major names in the pharma industry are having a tough time finding a hold in these unsteady markets. Competition from regional players, fall in commodity prices, complying with the regional laws, and importantly, hiring the right talent, and building a productive workforce, have emerged as major bottlenecks for a majority of the pharma companies.

How do you bell the cat?

Industry experts at Infiniti Research believe that the emerging markets will witness a positive turn in the upcoming years. In fact, there are huge prospects for the pharma revenues to almost double in the next ten years. Therefore, even if the mature markets in the Americas and Europe seem to be a better option now, pharma majors should concentrate on building a full-fledged business strategy for the emerging economies.

The three major ways in which pharma companies can make a lasting impact in the emerging markets are:

1.     Going beyond the commercial model

The basic commercial model is largely hinged on sales and marketing strategies. Perhaps this is where most pharma majors are going wrong. One major error, which many pharma companies commit is not going beyond this model. To make an impact in the emerging economies, one must adapt to the local conditions and come up with solutions which meet the local demands and constraints. Building a supply chain which is attuned to the local licensing nuances is sure to provide a competitive edge to the manufacturers. This is especially true in the case of pharma markets in Africa and the Middle- East.

2.     Expansion of Patient Access

Most emerging economies are constantly struggling with undertreated and underdiagnosed diseases. This situation provides a great platform for the pharma companies to launch their drugs as well as expand their patient access. At the same time care needs to be taken that the drugs manufactured are easily available to lower-income patients in these regions. Pharma heads should work towards striking a fine balance between pricing strategy and market access. Usually opting for voluntary licensing deals play a critical role drawing incremental revenues, broadening patient access, and most of all building goodwill.

3.     Not letting go of innovation

For some reason, pharma majors do not think of emerging economies as suitable hubs for innovative programs. However, there is a lot of scope and need for innovation in this geographical area as well. With a huge number of undertreated diseases, countries in Africa and Asia can, in fact, be converted into a test bed for innovative technologies and drug solutions. Right from digital health, to providing local solutions to health problems – the emerging markets provide a huge scope for experimentation to the pharma manufacturers. The winner in the long-run is going to be the company which leverages these advantages to disrupt the existing market.


Big Data Promises Big Opportunities for the Chemicals Industry

It has been more than a decade that the chemicals industry has adopted IT and related solutions to keep track of raw material spend, freight, and logistics. Fast forward to 2017, big data and analytics have emerged as vital processes for enhanced business activities, better execution of operations, and improved marketing strategy. Most chemical companies are now looking for comprehensive solutions which bring together data on suppliers, sales & marketing, lab information, as well as inputs on the third parties. Today, major players in the chemicals industry strongly believe that people, process, and technology are not the only pillars of modern business – rather big data and data analytics too have joined this list.

Big opportunities which big data brings to the chemicals industry

From dishing out products in huge volumes to adding a human face to their products and services, the chemicals industry have come a long way in the past two decades. Manufacturers are expanding their product portfolio to cater to the new demands of the consumers, and gain a competitive edge in the global market. Due to these reasons industry experts are looking for ways in which big data will open new opportunities for the chemicals industry.

Improved pricing, smart production, move towards greener industry, and better management of the workforce are some of the block-bluster opportunities which big data has brought into the chemicals industry.

Smart production

Through platforms like Hadoop, big data seamlessly integrates multiple data sources to provide real time information on asset utilization which in turn enhances the operational decisions. Data analytics further helps in monitoring the amount of energy consumed, bring down the volume of waste, and boost the overall ROI. A major area where big data has brought big change is that of product distribution. Distribution optimization is a major challenge for manufacturers in the chemicals industry. Through real-time tracking, big data enables companies to transfer products from manufacturing facilities at the right time to various destinations, thereby bringing down the inventory holding costs. This way by bringing together data from various departments in the chemical industry, analytics helps in making smarter and quicker decisions.

Improved pricing

Pricing in the chemicals industry is a rather complex phenomenon. It is often seen that the factors on which the prices have been announced are based on data that turns outdated in a short span of time. By considering accurate data from a variety of sources, big data helps in building pricing strategies which are highly competitive in nature. There are chemicals companies which employ big data to integrate marketing information with production strategy to initiate better contract negotiations and arrive at competitive pricing. Big data also enables easy revision of existing prices, so that manufacturers can build their procurement strategies.

Enhanced management of workforce

With several companies resorting to employee intelligence and HR analytics to manage their workforce in an effective manner – big data is being employed to gather information from third-party sources, and from front-line managers to forecast workloads as well as measure job satisfaction and employee engagement. It also helps to consider least visible contextual insights to improve the hiring process and improve employee retention.

Big data, therefore, is not just a new technology which is helping the chemicals industry grow – rather it is a force which is all set to reign in strategical changes in the global chemicals industry.

Product research

Top 3 Strategies to Boost the Performance of the Chemicals Industry

After an anemic growth of 2% in 2016, major players in the chemicals industry are struggling to bring profitable expansion to their businesses. In the case of the chemical companies involved in petroleum-based products, the decline in the prices of oil has had a negative effect on their sales. Industry experts believe the next few years too will be rather rough for the chemicals industry, given the changes in the economic structure, the inherent uncertainty in the market, and hyper- competition between the players.

It is in this scenario that established names in the chemicals industry are looking for strategies which can be converted into actionable plans. Strategies which can act as a catalyst for growth in the chemicals industry are:

1.    Striking a fine balance between pricing and volume

It is the time that chemicals companies understand that high volume of chemicals sale will not necessarily fetch them higher profits. The structural weakness of the chemical industry provides a limited scope for high demands from consumers. Except for renewable products like biopolymers, the demand for conventional chemicals has rather dipped at a significant pace. Manufacturers will benefit if they shift their focus from increasing the volume of sales, to improving their pricing strategies. Pricing excellence, the most overlooked aspect of sales strategy, has now emerged as a major driver of short-term value-capture benefits.

2.    Revamping product portfolio

One of the best ways to stay relevant and competitive in the industry is to revamp and expand one’s product portfolio. Major names in the chemicals industry like Bayer, Dow, and DuPont have already entered into mergers and acquisitions to gain a better position in the market. By expanding the product portfolio, manufacturers are moving into lucrative areas which are sure to enhance the overall profitability of their business.

3.    Adoption of digitization

Digitization has emerged as a panacea for many businesses. The chemicals industry too has woken up to the advantages of going digital. Right from operations, to present themselves as solution providers – digitization has touched almost all the aspects of the chemicals industry. It has enabled manufacturers to move ahead from just being ‘product sellers,’ through the integration of manufacturing and business processes, and optimizing the sales and marketing strategies. Machine learning and artificial intelligence have further enhanced the overall functioning of the chemicals industry. Not only has it downsized the workforce, but the entire process of operations, redesigning work strategy, and adding an element of localized control has given a competitive edge to manufacturers in the industry.

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Loss of Net Neutrality and its Effect on Telemedicine

If telemedicine is the future of enhanced of healthcare services, then net neutrality is the lifeline on which this process functions. Net neutrality basically means equal treatment of all data in the online space. However with the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) move towards overturning its 2015 mandate on net neutrality, many in the healthcare sector are concerned about its negative effect on the delivery of medical services.

Telemedicine: Economical route for better health services

Providing easy access to healthcare facilities even to those in the remotest part of the country has been the goal of several governments throughout the globe. By bringing telecommunications and information technology on the same platform, telemedicine makes it easier for the physicians to overcome the geographical barrier and reach out to their patients. One of the best innovations in the healthcare industry, telemedicine has emerged as one of the most cost-effective means to provide high-quality health services.

Last year a survey conducted by the leading telehealth company American Well, found that 60% of patients would prefer to see a doctor online for managing a chronic condition. Similarly 79% of caretakers prefer using multi-way video telehealth service to take care of their aging relatives. It is not just the patients and caretakers who find telemedicine feasible, but stakeholders too believe that investments telemedicine is sure to provide them a competitive advantage in the upcoming years.

Loss of net neutrality: A major setback for telemedicine

With FCC moving closer to ending the era of net neutrality, the momentum of digital healthcare is sure to slow down. An open and unbiased internet is, in fact, the foundation of online medical treatment. Industry experts believe that health services will surely suffer and turn expensive if the FCC fails to classify ISPs as “common carriers.” The control over the speed and access to online content is sure to hurt beneficiaries in the rural areas, as well as low-income Americans and the colored population.

Today, the two major drivers of change in the healthcare industry are technology and free access to information– repealing of net neutrality will be a major roadblock for digital healthcare. It is essential that the opinions and concerns of all the major stakeholders in the healthcare industry be considered before rolling back the net neutrality policy.

IT services industry

Remote Patient Monitoring: The New Tool for Enhancing Healthcare Systems

Taking healthcare services to the masses in the most cost-effective manner is the prime focus of governments across the globe. Stakeholders in the healthcare system have realized that the traditional healthcare models fail to provide effective medical services. It is in this scenario that technology is seen as a possible option to improve the overall functioning of the medicare systems. Telehealth, remote patient monitoring (RPM), and mHealth are some of the examples of how technology can provide value-based medical care.

Remote patient monitoring: Filling the distance between patients and doctors

Through RPMs, the health related data of patients in one location is digitally transmitted to health care providers in a different location.  the patient need not travel all the way to a clinic to consult the doctor. Rather from the comfort of his home he can interact with the healthcare professional and get timely help. The system is extremely beneficial for those who are physically handicapped or cannot travel alone due to old age and other disabilities.

By leveraging cloud and big data, RPM systems make it easier for the healthcare providers to access all the medical details of a patient. Right from the management of diabetes and hypertension, to helping cardiac and asthma patients, RPM has touched all the major areas of the healthcare industry. The technology also plays a vital role in bringing down the cases of long hospital stays and cuts down the cost of clinical trials as well.

From the point of view of hospitals and clinics, medical professionals can now dedicate more time on patients who need very close physical monitoring. Timely detection and quick intervention also reduce the hospitalization and readmission rates. Just by providing their services through the online medium, hospitals gain additional revenues. Most of all, the data collected for RPM can be used in clinical trials for new drug discovery.

Infiniti’s take on remote patient monitoring

Our market intelligence shows that in spite of several advantages, there are some major challenges which are hindering the adoption of RPM throughout the globe. Though at present its quite in demand in the US, the initial investment in this technology is quite massive. Also, regulations like HIPAA, make it rather difficult to access information which falls into the category of protected health information. At the same time, there is no denying the fact that RPM is the future of the healthcare industry. By bringing medical help right into the homes of the patients, this technological innovation has emerged as a powerful tool in the healthcare industry.


Exchange Traded Funds and the Growing Market of Medical Devices

Investopedia defines exchange traded funds (ETF) as a marketable security which tracks bonds, commodities, or a basket of assets like an indexed fund. In layman’s language, ETF is a fund which owns assets like stocks, bonds, and gold bars, and divides their ownership into shares. The shareholders in ETFs, therefore, have only indirect ownership of the assets. Also, though a lot similar to the mutual funds, ETFs have lower fees and higher liquidity when compared to the mutual funds.

Medical devices ETFs

The medical sector is the latest industry to open up to ETFs. Medical devices ETFs involves investment in the stocks of those companies which are involved in manufacturing and distribution of medical devices. The main focus of ETF is to encourage manufacturers of medical devices to venture into technological innovations so as to come up with better quality medical products.

Just like the pharma industry, the medical devices companies too struggle with the high costs involved in long testing processes, R&D activities, as well as getting approval for their products. This is one major reason why many manufacturers prefer using the existing technologies rather than investing in R&D activities. Through ETFs, manufacturers who do not fall under the category of public companies too can take the risk of investing in R&D projects.

As of now iShares US Medical Devices and SPDR S&P Health Care Equipment are the two medical ETFs available in the market. IShares was launched in 2006, and at present holds 50 big names from the medical devices industry. For instance, Medtronic PLC, Abbott Laboratories, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Danaher Corp are some of the major companies under iShares. SPDDR S&P Health Care Equipment, on the other hand, is much smaller than iShares – but has some major names like Globus Medical, Alere, and Varex Imaging under it.

Infiniti’s take on medical devices ETFs

ETFs, no doubt, are not as intimidating as mutual funds. By bringing a variety of companies under a single stock trading market, ETFs makes it easier for players in the medical devices industry to gain access to the stock market. It also allows investors to keep a track on the companies which are performing well in the share market, and thereby helps in boosting the credit inflow.