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Digital Health and Pharma: Leveraging Healthcare Delivery Models to Engage Patients in New Ways

In such a strongly regulated industry where it is most important to avoid a downslide, pharma is falling behind in digital health. Risk taking and innovation suggests being open-minded for failure. As Robert F. Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” The path to success is filled with risk taking: adventurously shifting the predictive and precise, sustainability, quality-based and patient-centric healthcare delivery models away from the reliance on profitable drugs and moving towards resource allocation in digital health to engage patients in new ways.

Predictive and Precise Healthcare Delivery Model with Data Analytics: Real-world evidence and outcome research not only identifies high risk patients but also anticipates medical issues to create customized care plans for individuals as well as improves patient population health through data analytics in the predictive and precise model. Digitally leveraging this model with telehealth efforts, such as wearable devices, can result in pharma partnering with equipment manufacturers to deliver patient adherence information. Headsets which track brain activity and sleep patterns, and sensored “esmart” clothing which monitors blood pressure and heart rate can allow for medication content to be analyzed and then used to form clinical decisions. mPharma and smart devices can digitally leverage this model with real-time, self-tracking, and progress feedback devices and apps, such as 1) food and movement tracking apps; 2) compliance apps with automatic prescription refills; and 3) sensor supported diabetes apps that create a new demand for test strips.

Sustainability Healthcare Delivery Model with Community and Personalized Content: Fostering digital patient-to-patient interaction instead of information exchange exclusively between patient and physician is a key factor in the sustainability model. Online patient communities, such as PatientsLikeMe, digitally leverage this model by allowing for patient reciprocation of objective medical information that results in resourceful discussions about a patient’s personal experiences with different medications that have proven efficacy. Physician communities such as KevinMD and Sermo also can digitally leverage this model with physicians acquiring value through sharing online information with other medical experts about new and successful drugs. Both communities not only promote certain medications but also create pharma brand loyalty.

Quality-Based Healthcare Delivery Model with Physician Tools: Reimbursement depends on measures which promote clinical expertise in the quality-based model. Physician tools support the diagnosis and selection treatment, increase the efficiency of the care process and improve the rapport between the physician and patient. Digitally leveraging this model with IBM’s Watson shows that physicians are on the forefront of technological care access with virtual assistants to facilitate physician referencing and decision making and also improve patient confidence in the progressive capabilities of their physicians who they believe will prescribe the newest and most effective drugs on the market. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are utilized as cloud-based solutions that integrate data resulting in research and clinical trials that lead to faster results. Patients are engaged via recruitment for clinical trials and the post-market monitoring of safety and efficacy with prescription medication.

Patient-Centric Healthcare Delivery Model with Patient Tools: Consumer experience and understanding patients in their daily lives to achieve patient adherence is the main emphasis of the patient-centric model. Patient tools such as Quick Response (QR) codes that allow patients to interact with chosen information at their own pace can digitally leverage this model. Specific QR codes for each product can be imprinted on prescription bottles and boxes leading patients directly to the online product website. Patient education explaining use, dosage, and safety information can be highlighted through animations, interactivity, and videos from medical practitioners. Remote monitoring support programs can provide information about a patient’s surgically-implanted device that allows constant observation of functioning organs and the skills patients need to manage them. Monitored results can be programmed to text patients’ phones to remind them about upcoming medication doses. The information can be collected and returned to the physician in real-time which would allow for any necessary intervention to be delivered immediately.

In summary, technologically leveraging the predictive and precise, sustainability, quality-based and patient-centric healthcare delivery models with data analytics, community and personalized content, physician tools, and patient tools, respectively, will bring pharma up to speed with current digital health efforts resulting in improved outcomes. Pharma will always invest money where it believes it can secure the highest return, but risk is of utmost concern. At the moment, pharma envisions the highest gain and lowest risk opportunity in developing drugs and not in developing ways of digital patient engagement. By pharma taking a riskier, spirited leap of faith and engaging patients through digital health, greater progress will be achieved.

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Linda J. DiPersio
Freelance Professional Writer
Linda J. DiPersio, MSM, MSHC, is a freelance professional writer and narrator/producer of an oral history video series for the Public Health Museum (estimated completion date June 2016). She earned a Master’s in Health Communication from Boston University and a Master’s in Management from Lesley University. Linda DiPersio has been published in the Journal of Communication in Healthcare. She is a member of the American Public Health Association and Massachusetts Public Health Association.

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