The collaboration combines Merck's scientific expertise and market knowledge with Premier's performance improvement technology and provider membership, executives say. Their first goal is to reduce fracture rates for patients at risk of osteoporosis, a disease that makes bones weaker and more likely to break.
The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The companies are not forming a joint venture or any other kind of corporate entity.
Kenilworth, N.J.-based Merck and Charlotte, N.C.-based Premier want to help physicians prevent fractures, said Lisa French, Merck's associate vice president for strategy and commercial model innovation. To this end, they've partnered with the National Osteoporosis Foundation to develop and test educational materials and evidence-based interventions.
The deal makes use of the analytics capabilities of CECity, a Homestead, Pa.-based ambulatory software vendor that Premier acquired in 2015. The platform gleams data from clinical registries and helps physician practices and professional organizations with performance management, pay-for-value reporting and professional education.
“Premier has the opportunity to really bring to the table this whole performance improvement framework in analytics,” said Simone Karp, Premier's vice president of business and product development. “It brings together an opportunity to collaborate at the population health level.”
Researchers from Premier and Merck will work with a group of 20 health systems to determine a core set of metrics for osteoporosis care and fraction prevention that align with established National Safety Forum and Medicare quality measures. They'll also use what they learn from CECity data. The physician tools that result will be implemented through a cloud-based application tested by Premier members.
Osteoporosis affects over 10 million people, causing two million broken bones every year, according to the NOF. The companies hope to put a dent in the $19 billion spent annually on treating the condition in the U.S.
The solutions won't steer providers toward any specific Merck products, French said. In fact, Merck doesn't promote an osteoporosis drug in the U.S., she said.
Untreated osteoporosis is a “public health crisis,” said Dr. Andrea Singer, clinical director at NOF, in a statement. Only 26% of patients who sustain their first osteoporotic fracture are evaluated and treated, according to NOF, which puts the majority of patients at risk for future, potentially more dangerous fractures.
“We hope this pilot program will help us to identify and prevent primary fractures,” said Singer, who heads women's primary care and bone densitometry at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
There's potential for further partnerships down the line, French said, including a possible initiative to increase adult vaccination rates. Merck is a major producer of vaccines, including drugs used to guard against Human Papillomavirus, Hepatitis A and B and Pneumococcal disease.