PM & IT: R U Ready?

Ryan Keeling

IT will play a key role in internally embedding personalized medicine, enabling pharma executives to be fully equipped with the knowledge to develop and launch a commercialization strategy for the targeted therapy. Ryan Keeling of Diaceutics highlights how IT will maximize the therapy opportunity.

It seems everywhere I look recently I see headlines suggesting that personalized medicine is going to turn the pharmaceutical business model upside down. Industry luminaries touting that ‘breakthroughs in pharmaceutical innovation are poised to change the prevailing business model of the industry’ or that ‘the age of massive blockbuster drugs is over’. One could indeed argue that a convergence of factors is leading to this. The pharma industry, buffeted by the possibility of price controls, declining drug development productivity (higher costs, fewer drugs), stricter regulatory scrutiny and competition from a growing number of ‘me-too’ drugs, is in a state of turbulence. This instability is putting financial pressure on all the industry players, not just the weaker ones. It seems that companies must rethink core business processes (such as drug development and commercialization) and seek new ways to increase their yield and productivity. It is very clear this is already happening: there are a number of companies adopting personalized medicine models, none more vocal than Roche which continually highlights Personalized Medicine as Key Area for Future Growth.

Of course, for many of us this is old news. It very clear to all in the industry that with the introduction of many new stakeholders and with a prominent role being granted to those stakeholders, things are set to change. Before I joined Diaceutics I worked in the telecoms industry. I see striking similarities with what is happening in pharma today with what happened in the telco industry 10 to 15 years ago. Back in 2001, you had a small number of very large telecom operators, household names such as AT&T, BT and Deutsche Telekom, who more or less ruled the roost. Their business model had not changed in 50 years and revenue from voice calls and a small number of services generated a handsome revenue – life was easy! At that time, Google was a search engine, we used our mobile phones to call and text each other and Apple was only emerging from the darkness with the very first Ipod. Life rapidly changed for big telco as a number of smaller (for now), more agile technology companies started generating revenue from ‘over the top’ services. Big telco still owned the network—the actual wires and transmitters that connected everyone together—but they could not compete with the exciting new offerings. The very large, well-established national operators had to move swiftly to protect, and in many cases re-win a market share. What is happening to the pharma model today is not dissimilar to this. The power is being placed in the hands of the consumer and behoves pharma to build an awareness of personalized medicine and adopt a business model that will allow it to compete.

We know that a number of pharmaceutical companies will adopt the personalized medicine paradigm. They recognize the competitive advantage that could accrue from a segmented customer base with structures, processes and capabilities to match. They are just unsure about how to leap ahead into practice. At Diaceutics, we have grappled with this exact problem for the last six years [2013] and see IT as a key tool in ‘leaping into practice’. In a time of budgetary constraints and often a lack of senior management buy in, the challenge of embedding personalized medicine in an organization is a tough one. It is imperative that pharmaceutical company executives develop a common understanding of the changes ahead, so a cohesive strategy and set of actions can be implemented across the entire enterprise. If not, pharmaceutical companies run the risk that each function and therapeutic business unit will develop its own, unaligned set of strategies and actions to address personalized medicine.

At Diaceutics we see the need to plan for implementing personalized medicine. To be successful, pharma will need to take into account three elements of its current reality; firstly, the capabilities needed to deliver on that proposition, second, the right value proposition and third, the prospects for innovation. We have developed the IT solutions to enable pharma in these distinct areas.

Capabilities needed to deliver

The capabilities that distinguish a company in personalized medicine are a combination of processes, technologies, knowledge, skills and organization that have been developed over time. To meet this ‘enterprise-wide’ capability requirement for a common understanding of personalized medicine, we see IT as the only vehicle by which pharma can rapidly and comprehensively get its primary asset, its people, trained in the personalized medicine paradigm. The idea of gaining knowledge through an IT tool is not new anymore; most people when they need information now go straight to Google. Even in pharma, which has traditionally crawled its way to new information technologies and been notoriously resistant to many of the latest trends in IT, is showing signs of changing the way it consumes new tech, and one prime example of this shift is the industry’s well-documented affection for Apple’s iPad. Pharma companies are buying the tablets by the thousands, doling them out to sales reps and executives, some of whom probably already own the popular devices. It is this apparent mind-set shift which allows us to deliver our knowledge, the [php slug=GetLink param=”id=5220&title=Diaceutics Diagnostic Launch Planner for Targeted Therapies&useTitle=true”] which provides pharma executives with a robust overview of key aspects to consider when designing and implementing diagnostic strategies. We supplement this with a checklist to ensure that teams go through a comprehensive assessment of all relevant parameters before making decisions on diagnostic strategies. It also works on the iPad!

We do not, however, merely provide knowledge. After years of business process re-engineering, most pharma company managers understand how to make structural changes. But personalized medicine also requires changing hearts and minds because it affects the character of an organization. It is this change management that is at the heart of everything we do at Diaceutics, without it we would just have a collection of training materials when, in reality, what we provide is a very specific, process-driven set of solutions to help pharma organize and gel around this new paradigm.

The right value proposition

The rise of personalized medicine provides pharma companies and health care providers with a value proposition different from the one they’re accustomed to. The standard pharmaceutical mass marketing approaches, with global distribution and advertising, are often not appropriate for personalized therapies. Moreover, decisions about the use of personalized therapies are made by a relatively small number of sophisticated payers—hospitals, major providers, or large payers—and not by general practitioners, who may be disinclined to prescribe drugs that will not be reimbursed through ‘normal’ avenues.

Again we see IT as playing a pivotal role in drawing together what is now a business model ecosystem, with multiple, varied stakeholders, as opposed to a single pharma model. We are seeing the need to consider and understand each of these stakeholders and their respective business models when accurately assessing the value proposition for a therapy. It is this convergence of many differing models that we have focused on to develop our personalized medicine model. We have created a series of solutions to help pharma executives understand the personalized medicine value proposition, combining large data sets and many disparate models into one that helps articulate value. We believe that it is only through the use of IT that these many, converging industry models can be managed and modelled.

The prospects for innovation

It is obvious to me that, like the telecom industry of 10 years ago, the need for innovation in pharma is paramount. Personalized medicine is moving at an incredible pace: if you think how long it took the internet to go from version 1.0 to the much hyped 2.0, personalized medicine is moving ten times faster. It’s interesting that this is happening in an industry that often moves at a glacial pace in IT terms. At Diaceutics, we are currently working on data-intensive IT tools to enable pharma to be at the forefront of PM 2.0., tools that will help create and manage collaborative partnerships in converging industries, tools that will road test novel access and reimbursement models and tools that bring all of the stakeholders together to plan and implement personalized medicine strategies of the future.

One must also not forget the primary reason for personalized medicine and that is to help patients and empower them to be involved in their own treatment and overall health. We are working extensively with patient groups to develop IT tools, consumer tools such as apps and websites, to bring them to the forefront of what will ultimately be an industry centred on them.

When we discuss the use of IT in personalized medicine, most people immediately think of the big issues such as personal health records and organizing all the data that exists around reimbursement and access to therapies. These are indeed huge issues that will need to be resolved before personalized medicine can have its time in the sun but do not dismiss the role of IT in empowering patients and physicians and in getting pharma, and the other industries in this ecosystem, operationally ready to avail of the opportunities that lie ahead.


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