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Avoid These Mistakes to Accelerate Digital Innovation within Big Biopharma and Medtech

Kal Patel, MD, CEO of BrightInsight, a Flex Company
Kal Patel, MD, CEO of BrightInsight, a Flex Company

Kal Patel, MD, CEO of BrightInsight, a Flex Company

Over the past few decades, car manufacturers, cable companies and banks have stumbled as disruptive newcomers beat them to market with digital products. Healthcare is now seeing this same disruption as digital technologies continue to proliferate. Biopharma and medtech companies can learn from these other industries to avoid making similar mistakes – and capitalize on the massive digital health opportunity.

Developing technology in a silo: the auto industry’s failed built-in GPS investment

Built-in GPS is an example of a digital technology investment gone wrong. For a full decade the automobile industry invested hundreds of millions of dollars to create their own GPS products. This was actually the number one customer-facing software investment for carmakers at the time. Today, built-in GPS comes equipped in nearly every car, but globally very few people use these systems. So, what went wrong?

The discrepancy between the pace of digital product development and automobile product development was one major challenge. Carmakers were innovating at the pace of their underlying product and shipping their software innovation at the same pace they shipped new cars. It can take around seven years to develop and launch a new car, so by the time cars with built-in GPS shipped everything about the software was outdated - from the user experience to the content and more. In contrast, car buyers had cycled through up to seven iPhone models in the same timeframe.

Similarly, biopharma and medtech companies have long product development cycles with a new drug taking between ten to fifteen years to develop. It will be paramount for biopharma and medtech to develop, launch and iterate their digital health products at a more rapid pace to ensure consumer adoption.

The automobile industry also made the mistake of developing their GPS product in a silo without considering integration into other platforms, such as  smartphones. For example, most people lookup directions on Google Maps or Apple Maps before getting into their cars and do not want to lookup directions again using the built-in GPS once inside the car. The lack of seamless integration between GPS and smartphones or third-party mapping systems rendered the products somewhat useless.

Cable companies incremental approach to digital innovation didn’t work either.

Last year Netflix added 31 million subscribers, while traditional pay TV providers lost almost three million. How did this shift happen?

During the past seven to ten years, cable companies believed they were shipping a lot of disruptive innovation. They increased their offerings from dozens of channels to hundreds. Their set-top boxes allowed viewers to record not just one but many shows at the same time. Consumers could even pause a show in one room and then continue watching it in another. While these updates seemed like compelling technological advancements, once Netflix streaming came along it became obvious that cable companies’ innovations had been just incremental.

Netflix did not focus on adding more channels. It delivered an entirely transformed viewing experience for its subscribers. Not only did Netflix make thousands of shows and movies available to its subscribers, it also made it easy to watch content anytime, anywhere and on any device.

There are clear lessons for biopharma and medtech on how to best approach innovation.

Biopharma and medtech companies need to move beyond their traditional, proprietary silos and think more broadly about the entire healthcare ecosystem. They need to consider how providers, payers and patients will use their digital products and how to manage the deluge of data coming from the digital health apps, connected medical devices and more. Delivering seamless experiences that integrate and contextualize data will be critical.

For example, let’s think about digital health products from the physician’s perspective. We see many companies investing in building new physician portals that visualize data from their patient’s connected medical devices or apps. However, the average doctor has between 13 and 16 minutes to see their patient, so it doesn’t matter how compelling the portal or data is – doctors simply do not have the time to minimize their EMR window, remember a different portal’s website and their unique log-in and go through all the privacy requirements to get the data for their specific patient. If data does not integrate into the existing clinical workflow of the doctor, the digital solution is not going to ever scale.

Similarly, payers and disease management companies are eager to have access to more data to improve patient outcomes in disease management programs. Today, payers rely largely on delayed data that comes from claims data, so the prospect of real-time data streaming from a patient’s medical devices coulden able payers and disease management programs to make more timely and informed interventions. However, we have seen biopharma and medtech companies launch proprietary portals for their specific device or therapeutic as opposed to integrating data into existing disease management software.

Data integration across various brands of devices and therapeutics is particularly important as patients with chronic illnesses between the ages of 50- and 64-years-old have an average of 20 prescriptions per year. In this scenario, care providers managing multiple patients in disease management programs would need to look across numerous siloed portals just to access pertinent data. And even then the data isn’t contextualized across each therapy, essentially rendering it useless to a provider who needs a holistic view of the patient’s health.

Forward-looking biopharma and medtech companies are forging digital strategies that will help them avoid the mistakes that carmakers and cable companies have made in the past decade. We are beginning to see best-in-class digital health products that take an ecosystem approach, understanding that integration is paramount to achieving scale and driving value for payers, providers and patients.

An example of biopharma taking a more holistic, ecosystem approach is in the Diabetes space. Historically people with Diabetes would have to check their blood glucose levels with a manual finger prick, then decide how much insulin to take, and manually administer their medication. Between the discrete blood glucose checks their levels could vary greatly, with potentially dangerous highs or lows. Today, through connected continuous blood glucose meters, connected insulin pumps and smart apps and algorithms, a person with Diabetes can have access to their blood glucose levels 24/7 and insulin pumps that automatically administer insulin based on smart algorithms that pull their health data in real-time. Biopharma and medtech companies are starting to go even further and are beginning to integrate into disease management programs and with providers and their EMRs. These integrations will provide accurate, timely data so care managers and providers can initiate the right therapies and manage patients in a more proactive, personalized and informed manner. To achieve this seamless experience for all stakeholders, forward thinking biopharma companies are openly collaborating with the medtech companies, payers and providers. By taking an ecosystem approach these companies will deliver better patient care and beat their competitors that are taking a siloed approach to digital.

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