Pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to use their expertise to play a greater role in healthcare reform, while also revamping their business model. We believe that the key is digital health technology, which will allow pharmaceutical companies to leverage their knowledge and marketing capabilities.
Most pharmaceutical companies are just beginning the process of developing (or participating in) digital health solutions for patient engagement. However, some helpful lessons have already emerged for those embarking on this path:
Take a “patient as a person” view: Early digital solutions developed by pharmaceutical companies focused exclusively on medication adherence. However, a focus on long-term, continuous of care provision is creating big opportunities for pharmaceutical to play a larger role. Digital health eﬀorts must facilitate patient education, behavioral change, and better communication with clinicians. Taking the long view is important if pharmaceutical companies are to truly help shape the healthcare system of the future and gain signiﬁcant adoption rates for their PEP. This takes an opposite approach to evaluating a digital solution on the basis of immediate revenue uptake.
Focus on user experience: In our experience, the design of pharmaceutical digital health solutions has been driven by the objective to reach the broadest segment of patients/physicians at the lowest cost. This mindset often results in a “one size ﬁts nobody” solution in which the features or functionality are not targeted to speciﬁc patient/physician personas. Patients will inevitably compare any ehealth solution to their favorite app or website. A design that has the speciﬁc patient/physician target segment in mind is much more likely to result in adoption and market traction.
Don’t go it alone: Competitive pressures, diﬀerent interpretations of regulations, and a reﬂexively protective posture regarding intellectual capital make the concept of partnering with outside organizations diﬃcult for pharmaceutical leaders. However, successful digital health solutions will need to ﬁt into the complex ecosystems of our healthcare system, and it is impossible for any one player to address all needs. Pharmaceutical companies that embrace collaboration are able to both leverage best-in-class solutions and accelerate time-to-market. For example, there is no reason to reinvent storage solutions
Microsoft’s Health Vault has already solved the issue of maintaining secure, comprehensive patient medical data and has a business model that encourages partnerships. This collaborative mindset needs to extend to skills. For example, using outside legal counsel with expertise in the use of digital health tools and related compliance and regulatory issues may be more eﬀective than using an internal legal staﬀ. On the working model side, we have seen companies succeed by adopting an “excubator” model, in which an outside ﬁrm serves as the development partner to stand up a fully functioning operation. This process includes apps, back-end systems, staﬀ, and partner ecosystems. As the project gains momentum, the external partner transfers knowledge and products back to the pharmaceutical company.
Health care reform still has sizable unknowns, such as the number of additional enrollees, the direction of changes to care provision, and how payment models will be structured. However, it is clear that the pharmaceutical industry must play a more active role in asserting its value within the healthcare system. Using digital health technology to activate patients can help pharmaceutical companies meet the objectives of the triple-aim framework and position itself to evolve its role in healthcare and its commercial model. The only question is whether pharmaceutical companies will step up from their position as mere suppliers and take part in shaping the future healthcare system.