Pharma Wakeup . . . Digital Medicine Needs You

digital medicine wake up

The debate surrounding the theory of evolution continues to this day. Recently, Bill Nye (The Science Guy) defended the theory of Evolution in a debate with creationist Ken Ham.  The theory of evolution takes place over millions of years and many people do not acknowledge the supporting evidence.  There are other examples of evolution that are easier to see and are happening all around us.  Sports is a good example.

With all the concerns around concussions today, it’s hard to think that it was only 35 years ago that NHL made helmets mandatory.  Could you imagine players attempting to play without helmets today?  Fans would look at the players and say “that is not crazy, it’s stupid.” Alcohol was once used as the anesthesia. However, today our doctors hand us a nice list of instructions which usually tell us no eating or drinking anything 24 hours before our procedure.  Evolution is a bit easier to see today. With each passing year we see the rapid changes in technology.

Pharma’s Focus

So why aren’t we seeing it happen faster in pharma? Look at the healthcare industry.  The speed of evolution in some areas, such as telemedicine, is fantastic.  Not only is the technology changing quickly, but also the adoption rate in healthcare is high as well…and that’s cool.

What about the pharmaceutical industry?  We find that the speed of evolution is fast in very few areas. GSK has invested $50 million in a strategic venture capital fund created to invest in companies that are pioneering bioelectronic medicines and technologies. But in general, most industry members are not aware of how technology can evolve the industry as it converges with healthcare.  This I find unbelievable.

Digital Medicine in Pharma

Take digital medicine.  How many pharma members could even define digital medicine?  I have had meetings with many pharma executives who know little about it…let alone have even heard of it.  Digital medicine in pharma would bring about innovation and disruption to the pharma business model.  When this type of disruption occurs, I typically ask myself two questions:

  1. Does the industry have revenue and cost pressures…and ultimately profit pressures?
  2. Are there startup companies providing tools and new business models that would be the platform for disruption?

The answer to both is a resounding yes.  The overwhelming majority of pharma colleagues would say that patent expirations, the end of the blockbuster model, and the call for reimbursement based on outcomes has actually been applying pressure for a few years now.

Our infrastructure model is saddled with an out of control cost structure.  There are too many resources and systems in place that are costing too much money. They also reinforcing the idea that the traditional pharma ways are best.  If you want more evidence of cost pressures, look at the number of layoffs occurring.  Given all this, it’s safe to say that profits are not as rich as they were decades ago.

So what about the disruptive technology?  Are there companies out there jumping up and down saying we have solutions for you if you adopt them?  Hell yeah.   In fact, this area is booming.  The question is are pharma colleagues listening, looking for them, and willing to change?

Digital Medicine Future

I started the digital medicine journey about two years ago. I continue to be fascinated by the usefulness of the technology and its potential use to change healthcare. But, it won’t be easy. A s you start to embark upon the digital medicine journey, think about how it can be applied to your pipeline for commercial products and medicines in development.  Then ask yourself, “If I had a chronic condition, could digital medicine help me, along with my standard of care I am currently receiving?”

It’s not even a debate in my mind.  Digital medicine can help pharma evolve to the point where we take the focus off the pill. Instead, we will focus on wellness, such as diet, exercise, education, stress, sleep, medication, and more. So please, take the time to learn about digital medicine.  The pharma industry needs to evolve, and most importantly, patients need it now.

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