Life Sciences Companies Converge on Healthcare
Pharmaceutical companies are expanding beyond their traditional role as suppliers and getting directly involved as partners in healthcare — a move that brings important benefits to patients while reshaping the healthcare ecosystem.
Take the example of a large pharma company that decides to establish an integrated health business focused on holistic disease management. To start, the company selects a specific therapeutic area: pain. It’s often a complex area to treat. Practitioners don’t always have a clear view of what triggers the pain, and they have limited time to investigate possible causes.
The company has a specific approach to pain management; namely, the one its product supports. But it wants to understand more about the pain patients experience and how to improve patient compliance. So, the pharma company builds a disease management program driven by a mobile application.
Better care through data
Participating physicians are provided with the application and a mobile device. When patients come to the practice complaining of pain, they use the mobile device to fill out a questionnaire. Questions focus on what kind of pain the patient experiences, how strong the pain is, when they experience it and so on. The data gives the doctor information that helps him or her make a clearer medical deduction and prescribe a suitable drug.
At the same time, data (stripped of identifying information) is uploaded to the pharma company’s database with details such as patient symptoms and the drug prescribed. The database allows the company to assess how its drug works and whether it is the preferred choice in its drug class.
From the data, the pharma company can also provide insights to the patient about the condition he or she suffers from, its causes and how to address it. The company can go a step further and establish a call center from which patients receive feedback and reminders. Family members can also access the call center to help loved ones manage their conditions. The critical element of engagement becomes a key element for helping patients manage their pain and for improving outcomes.
Converging around the patient
At the heart of the convergence trend described here are the patient and a patient-centric view of care. True patient centricity requires the breakdown of silos and a focus on what’s optimal for the patient as he or she moves through the system. And this is made possible with technology.
The importance of data and analytics in this new interconnected healthcare ecosystem cannot be overstated. And real-world, evidence-based data will become even more critical in enabling population health management on the healthcare side and the formulation of unique products on the life sciences side. Added to this are health information exchanges that enable data to flow from the hospital to primary care, to the rehab facility or even to pharma companies.
In addition to technology, the requirements for this model include processes that bring together those disparate sources of information — hospitals, primary care practices, payers and drug manufacturers — to understand and provide what’s best for the patient.
Hospitals can’t sit in the driver’s seat anymore, and neither can primary care practitioners, nor indeed any single stakeholder. Optimal results require care teams made up of multiple stakeholders, including the patient. These teams have different names and goals in different places, but driving this worldwide phenomenon is the united desire to better manage the patient on the healthcare pathway.
While pharma companies converge in healthcare, healthcare systems are undergoing their own convergence.
Traditionally, healthcare systems have been separated into three types:
- Beveridge systems, or national healthcare, such as the structure in the United Kingdom
- Bismarck systems, or social health insurance schemes, such as those found in Germany and Austria
- Privately funded systems, of which the best-known example is in the United States
Each of these has different financing models, regulations and variations in how care is delivered. But market forces are blurring the lines between these different ways of doing business. As times and needs change, once drastically different healthcare models are adapting — and they’re beginning to look more and more alike.
For example, the U.S. system, which was traditionally wholly privately financed, has been altered in a major way by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare. The law arose from a growing desire for government intervention in the private healthcare system to stem rising costs and limited access. At the other end of the spectrum, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service has been looking at third parties to bolster the delivery of care, and it’s seeking support with technology, as well as managing processes for important developments, such as coordinated care.
In Germany, both trends are growing: The hospital sector is increasingly turning to private hospitals, which can provide higher-quality care, while the state is also gaining influence in the direction of care delivery in different counties within Germany.
Sven Jansen is DXC's general manager for the healthcare and life sciences industry in Central and Eastern Europe.