Posts Tagged ‘healthcare reform’

Two seemingly unrelated events occurred at 8 pm on Wednesday, February 16. Each breaking new ground in information technology.

  1. IBM’s supercomputer Watson handily trumped human champions Ken Jennings  and Brad Rutter in the final episode of Jeopardy‘s three-day “Man vs. Machine”.
  2. AstraZeneca (@AstraZenecaUS) hosted the first ever pharma tweet chat (#rxsaves) on patient assistance programs.

The timing of these milestones is not their only synchronicity. Far more significant is the impact that Watson’s brainpower could have on the central issue of AZ’s chat (and of our entire health care system, for that matter): getting the right health care information to the right people, right when they need it. Watson’s ability to communicate in natural language, while applying 1000’s of algorithms to the content of a million or more books in the blink of an eye, could well be the answer—a prospect not lost on the folks at IBM.

Next stop for Watson is not American Idol. It’s the doctor’s office.

On the heels of Watson’s Jeopardy! success the NY Times reported, “IBM will collaborate with Columbia University and the University of Maryland to create a physician’s assistant service that will allow doctors to query a cybernetic assistant. The company also plans to work with Nuance Communications Inc. to add voice recognition to the physician’s assistant, possibly making the service available in as little as 18 months.”

Wow! Just add a smartphone app and you’ve got a superhighway of medical education straight to the point of care.

Patients need cybernetic assistants, too.

AstraZeneca’s tweet chat opened with a simple enough question: “What is best way to increase awareness of prescription savings programs?” But as the ensuing discussion proved, the answer is far from simple.

Too much disparity in eligibility criteria from state to state, pharma to pharma.

Too many touch points. Should providers be responsible? Or pharmacists? Too little time.

And too few of the really needy and elder populations are within reach of online patient advocates and disease-specific social media, as this infographic from the PEW Internet and American Life Project shows.

However, everyone (soon, I hope!) will have an EHR.

The reasonable use requirements of health care reform have spurred the long overdue adaptation of electronic health records. Why can’t prescription savings resources be tied to these records? Then I could give Watson a ring to find out what’s available for all the drugs I’m taking and find out if I’m eligible. And while he’s at it, maybe he could help me find the best Medicare Part D plan for me? Or that might be a frontier too far.

Heck, we crossed two frontiers in one night. Let’s go for one more!

For social media junkies and pharma followers, there are good reviews of the AstraZeneca #rxsaves tweet chat by John Mack and Wego Health, and a transcript of the entire chat here.


Nov. 12, 2010, Chadds Ford, PA.   Endo Pharmaceuticals CEO David Holveck was the guest speaker at today’s Executive Women’s Breakfast hosted by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Greater Philadelphia chapter (HBA GP). His talk focused on how Endo’s core strategy is evolving in response to the changing U.S. health care environment, but many of the points he made in “Our Industry Through a Different Lens” are applicable to the pharma industry at large.

“We in the pharma industry have been privileged for decades in that we didn't have to innovate beyond products." David Holveck, CEO, Endo Pharmaceuticals

Holveck sees three key drivers of change that pharma must respond to: 1.) economics; 2) access; and 3) outcomes. “We in the pharma industry have been privileged for decades in that we didn’t have to innovate beyond products,” he explains. “Now we have to move beyond products to cost-effective solutions that broaden access and improve outcomes.” The future innovation that’s needed is a new business model that adds value across the entire care pathway.

For Endo’s transformation Holveck staked out a therapeutic area—quite literally—the pelvis. Then he acquired Indevus (urology and endocrinology drugs), HealthTronics (urology diagnostics and services) and Qualitest (generic pain meds) to build his pain franchise into an integrated solution for urology and endocrinology. He foresees broadening distribution beyond physicians and hospitals to specialized urology clinics, where there is a clear start and finish to therapy and consumer-driven incentive to deliver the best and most cost-effective results. “We’re talking about consumers putting money on the table wanting an outcome.” There he envisions Endo offering a full range of products, from diagnostics and devices to branded and generic medications, which touch every step in the care pathway to produce reliable outcomes.

This products-plus-solutions model is the first step toward what Holveck sees as a fully integrated system—a distributed health network of management, diagnostics and therapeutics—with Endo providing a value-added service, not just products. To get there, he readily admits, “We have to own the outcomes,” which historically have been the province of the payers. “Until the pharma industry gets a better handle on data and outcomes, we’re going to be discounted pretty quickly in the healthcare system,” he warns.

The evolution from products to products-plus-solutions to fully integrated system is an intriguing idea, and truly a sea change for the pharmaceutical industry. It means becoming an integral part of the health care system, rather than merely a supplier to it. It means switching from a manufacturing to a service model. It means adding value and owning outcomes to have its services welcomed. But the end result—a consumer-centric model that improves access to affordable quality care for everyone—could be just what the doctor ordered.