This MAPS webinar features Todd Neuville, Worldwide Leader – Life Sciences, Amazon Web Services presenting a case study of Amazon’s approach of “working backwards,” in discussion with our expert panel.
Through this course you will recognize terms such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), deep learning, and neural networks to arrive at best decisions and insights needed for success.
By: Stephen Casey & Michael Caso, Managing Partners of Omni Healthcare Communications
Disseminating research data and clinical concepts to the right audience has demonstrated significant value, not only to biopharmaceutical organizations, but across the research and healthcare industries.
To conduct scientific exchange, a comprehensive set of strategies and tactics have been developed, with the most common forms being stakeholder engagement and publication in a peer–reviewed journal. However, the publishing landscape has shifted from traditional offline media (ie, print journals) to more online media (ie, digital journals). The digital shift is changing how we need to conduct scientific exchange. To present the science in a digital environment, we must engage the community where they are or bring the audience to the science.
“Online content is more and more the key priority as digital data dissemination and scientific exchange is spurred even faster with COVID-19. A medical digital strategy on electronic scientific publishing will be essential for the communication of new data and scientific advances moving forward.”
—Paul O’Grady, Head of Global Oncology Scientific Communications and Strategy, GSK
This article is intended to introduce the concept we refer to as Audience Amplification, or increasing the awareness and access to your scientific exchange. Using publications as an example, we will discuss the process of increasing scientific data awareness in today’s environment and the need to digitally optimize, actively engage, and measure outcomes of your digital scientific exchange efforts across the community over time.
The print version of medical journals has not died completely as was once predicted, but the move to digital has occurred, driving a much different paradigm for scientific publication. We are currently still in a crossover period between print and digital, yet eventually it will likely go fully digital at some point. A clear example of this is the august New England Journal of Medicine, which has a print subscription of 113,433. Yet its site, NEJM.org, generates over 2.4 million unique visitors per month (including 1.1 million unique visitors from the United States, as well as 1.2 million registered US users).1
This shift is not just happening at The New England Journal of Medicine, it is happening across all medical journals as younger, digitally native healthcare providers become more prevalent. According to a 2017 survey, 46% of healthcare providers 35 or younger read articles or abstracts online, compared to only 25% of healthcare providers 55 or older.2 Due to demographic shifts, by the end of 2020, 70% of HCPs in the European Union will be digital natives,3 and the trend is similar in the United States.
As the HCP audience becomes more digitally native and their educational consumption is conducted in new ways, scientific publication and all scientific exchange must evolve with that trend. However, as many have found during the COVID-19 crisis, when using digital dissemination techniques, simply developing and publishing a scientific communication does not necessarily engage the audience. To improve audience engagement rates, scientific communicators must understand the audience(s) and identify optimal digital channels (digital communication interfaces) for increasing awareness of the scientific communication.
“There is greater demand for communicating increasingly complex scientific data associated with changing biopharma product portfolios and the development of personalized medicines. It is critical for Medical Affairs to reimagine the publication processes through a digital lens that will drive knowledge retention and more active engagement focused on science.”
—Shaji Kalathil, Executive Director, Head of IT for Global Medical Affairs, Bristol Myers Squibb
The shift to digital scientific publication and dissemination, whether through open access journals or paywall journals, is not something to fear. The digital environment delivers opportunities for engagement and much more meaningful metrics for project analysis, both in real time and post hoc. Traditional metrics on scientific publications have been based on the specific vehicle (i.e., journal) utilized. In the case of digital vehicles, it is possible to identify not only how many eyes view your communication, but also to whom those eyes belong. Using specialized techniques and digital programs, it is possible to optimize the rank of an individual communication within results pages among both medical/scientific and general search engines.
PUBLICATION SEARCH OPTIMIZATION
In the digital publishing world, there are some specialized optimization techniques that can enhance the visibility of any digital content. Publication Search Optimization (PSO) is simply applying those techniques to the development and dissemination of a publication. PSO is a process for increasing the readership of your publication and delivering on Audience Amplification by increasing awareness of a publication for users of a search engine, both general and medical/scientific. The major steps in properly employing PSO for a publication are described below.
PSO is currently all about enhancing the publication’s searchability in the digital environment. The more websites or digital communications connect to or reference the publication, the more it moves up in its search visibility. PSO will change in the future as search engine algorithms are modified and evolve, but in today’s digital world it is all about keywording, quality content, and links.
Active engagement is the process of creating awareness of the publication. It is important to remember that our desired audience is being hit with communications via multiple vehicles and channels. Contemporary audiences are not only bombarded by endless communications, but they now have the option to choose when and where they view those communications.
In the past, our means of communicating were limited, and the audience was somewhat limited by the communication vehicle, such as the subscription distribution of a medical journal. However, now medical journal metrics are not only about their print subscriptions, but also their digital subscriptions and/or unique monthly visits.
Some approaches to properly integrating Active Engagement for a publication are described below. (Note: Always be sure to obtain Legal review where required)
Successful active engagement starts during the planning stage while a publication is in development and continues through post publication. As defined in contemporary strategic communication plans, active engagement for any one publication normally continues for a set period of time post publication.
In the past, scientific publication metrics were all about references and citations. Medical journals were chosen based on their editorial focus and subscription size. Eventually, the Impact Factor became a metric to identify target journals and determine the best fit for various scientific publication objectives. The old model, normally conducted on a journal level, could be used to project the scientific quality of a publication, but it did not give any readership or actual audience metrics.
Today, digital publications can deliver far more detailed measurements of audience engagement. In the digital world, it is possible to measure the success of both the publication project effort and the Audience Amplification effort.
Digital publication metrics should be considered from the strategic design of the communication plan all the way through post publication. Quality metrics will maintain focus on the objective and can assist in development and proper placement of a publication, as well as deliver real–time data on readership, downloads, and citations. We can also measure key performance indicators through:
- Comparing the number of links to a publication from other web locations, including institutions, author websites, etc.
- Counting digital mentions using social media analytics and other analytics packages
- Using badges and bits of code to monitor and track real–time access to gain metrics on the viewing and digital discussion of a publication
- Benchmarking against other comparator publications
- Aggregating information to identify patterns in audience awareness, enabling strategic adjustment to improve awareness trends
By using digital metrics, it is possible to determine how many eyes see the publication, whose eyes they are, and when they viewed it. All of these metrics will help Medical Affairs develop a much smoother transition to individual HCP dialogue. Use of digital metrics can also enable real–time responses to those HCPs who show an interest in the scientific development.
Scientific publications have been the primary vehicle of scientific evidence for over a century. Within the scientific archive, it is estimated there are almost 50 million scientific papers that have been published, and the number of papers published annually continues to increase.4 Although simply publishing the data gives a reference point for future use, the more stakeholders that are exposed to the data, the more fruitful the scientific exchange can be.
As the digital age matures, the capability to define, disseminate, and measure the audience for scientific communications has expanded. This new capability should be embraced by Medical Affairs and always integrated into scientific communication plans, both today and in the future.
This Webinar demonstrates how to generate insights through digitally-based interactions without directly engaging HCPs. We discuss and share various ways that MSLs can generate insights through digital mechanisms, from attending “live” virtually-broadcast panel sessions to following influential KOLs on Twitter.
Topics Discussed in the Town Hall Include:
-Managing Individual Performance Remotely
-Virtual Leadership Mindset & Skills
-Effective Team Engagement in the Virtual Space
-Engagement of KOLs Virtually
VP, Medical, Intercontinental Region
Field Medical Strategy and Execution Director
VP, Head of Medical Affairs, International Markets and Greater China
Corporate Officer/VP, Head of Japan Medical Affairs, OBU
WATCH IT HERE:
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Bill Strickland, AVP, US Field Medical at Allergan, speaks on “demystifying artificial intelligence” at the MAPS 2020 Global Annual Meeting in Miami, and how AI can enhance daily life in this new frontier for Medical Affairs professionals. Dr. Strickland also touches on patient centricity and his leadership philosophy.
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Download the Presentation
Members may also download a PDF copy of the slides as well as a recording of the session in the Community Portal. Not a member and wish to access the slides? Membership is only $250 USD per year ($425 for a 2-year subscription) and includes access to all new live Webinars, all on-demand Webinars (over 50 Webinars and growing each month), discussion forums to share best practices and questions with over 4,000 Medical Affairs professionals from across the globe, copies of past meeting presentations, white papers, standards & guidance tools and templates, and much, much more. Click here for membership details or to sign up: https://medicalaffairs.org/membership/
Fireside Chat with Mary Alice Dwyer and Shaji Kalathil
Healthcare has the potential to be radically transformed by digital technology and we believe that the most competitive pharmaceutical companies in the coming decade will leverage data and digital technologies to drive differentiating services and will be in the forefront of pushing the boundaries of digital innovation in healthcare. These leaders will generate and analyze vast volumes of research and real-world data to discover transformational medicines and will excel at communicating scientific evidence to stakeholders. They will help physicians navigate in a far more sophisticated and complex healthcare ecosystem and help them make difficult decisions that are the right decisions for patients. Medical Affairs teams can become a strategic force for pharmaceutical companies in this journey with their deep scientific knowledge, disease understanding, and the healthcare technology advancements that aid in the betterment of the entire medical industry.
Mary Alice Dwyer, MAPS Executive Leadership Committee member and Lead of the Digital Focus Area Working Group, Principal Consultant, Medical Innovation and Insights and former Vice President, Global Medical Excellence and Patient Centricity, Global Medical Affairs, AstraZeneca and Shaji Kalathil, Executive Director, Global Head of IT for Medical Affairs, Bristol-Myers Squibb discuss how advancements in transformative technologies are driving a new wave of digital innovation opportunities for healthcare.
“There is a tremendous opportunity for Medical Affairs to be leaders in advancing digital innovation and truly change how they engage Health Care Providers and patients. Through the strategic implementation of digital innovation, Medical Affairs can embrace technology that will transform not only what we deliver, but how we engage with HCPs and patients. Exploring technologies like AI and ML and other innovative tools will further define the impact Medical Affairs can have.” –Mary Alice Dwyer
“These are exciting times in the pharmaceutical industry with fast- paced digital innovation and the potential to transform the Medical Affairs customer engagement model and data generation capabilities with disruptive technologies, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics. I also envision significant advancements in “beyond the product” digital solutions and services for complex therapies in the future that will improve patient outcomes and Medical Affairs becoming the custodian of these services.” –Shaji Kalathil
How do you foresee the evolution of the Medical Affairs customer engagement model in the future and the impact of digital innovation in healthcare?
Medical Affairs leaders continue to expand their role in “customer” engagement, whether the customer is the health care provider (HCP) or the patient. While Medical Affairs has always been responsible for Thought Leader or KOL engagement, it is often viewed from the perspective of what information Medical Affairs could provide to the HCP. As teams begin to explore digital solutions and new ways of engaging, it opens the opportunity to think from the “customer” point of view. This new perspective enables Medical Affairs to approach information exchange from a “customer experience perspective”. Digital Innovation in healthcare enables Medical to engage in scientific exchange in new and unique ways and deliver what the “customer” wants, when and how they’d like to receive it. Ultimately, Medical Affairs needs to anticipate what the HCP or patient needs, so their experience is optimized. We need to plan for a truly personalized approach to our scientific engagement.
The expectation to deliver information in new and innovative ways has been set by the customer and is a high bar for Medical Affairs to achieve. Our customers (HCPs and patients) experience seamless information access in their daily lives and expect that same experience in their professional and healthcare interactions. People expect to search for answers when it is convenient for them, they like multiple sources of information, and they want answers quickly. A key challenge for Medical Affairs is to be easily accessible and be the trusted source of information.
I am really thrilled about the possibilities for transforming the Medical Affairs customer engagement model with digital technologies. We now have an influx of innovations in the pharma industry, especially in Oncology, making incredible strides toward better and safer treatments for patients. Science is delivering a large amount of knowledge that will help us understand diseases that have until now been beyond our reach. Today, technology is giving us tools to capture vast amounts of patient data and genetic information, which will fuel an unprecedented expansion of biomedical research. This will continue to shift pharmaceutical innovation into higher gear especially with the foray into new scientific innovations such as cell therapy. Medical Affairs is in a prime position to advance the understanding of these highly complex therapies for the healthcare community and support patient centric outcomes. The power of digital technologies, big data and artificial intelligence can be strong drivers to achieve this goal and we need to seize this opportunity.
There are three key areas with great opportunities to apply healthcare technology advancements and transform the Medical Affairs customer engagement model.
1.Delivering exceptional customer experience focused on science through a deeper understanding of medical insights, physician journey, preferences and needs from all digital touchpoints, AI-powered engine to predict best engagement plans & actions, real time digital interaction tools and beyond the product digital services & solutions.
2.Seamless connection of our digital medical information assets with external digital channels for healthcare professionals (EMR solutions, Patient Care Management Solutions, Physician Digital Networks etc.) to communicate highly scientific medical information at the point of care in real time.
3.Use of artificial intelligence models and machine learning technologies to enrich and expand the utility of real world evidence, and generate faster, more precise insights.
There seems to be great interest on the topic of customer insights generation by Medical Affairs to shape strategy and impactful customer engagement. Can you share your perspectives?
Medical Affairs has a tremendous opportunity to impact how our organizations understand the healthcare landscape as well as the HCP and the patient’s perspective. We are in a unique position to engage decision makers, understand the clinical healthcare environment and patient experience. Digital innovation in healthcare would further our ability to not only capture these insights, but to also analyze and identify trends. The insights that Medical Affairs team gathers can improve the understanding of how the medicine is being used and the potential need for further data. These insights can improve clinical programs and launches. Technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, will enable us to gather, analyze and interpret these insights. The growing importance of Medical Affair’s role with Real World Data further cements the need for digital tools to manage this amount of data. For Medical Affairs to shape strategy and impact customer engagement we must capture, analyze and incorporate robust insights. Digital tools will be critical to enable this capability.
How do you think digital innovation can advance the medical insights capabilities?
Digital innovation in healthcare can play an impactful role in transforming the medical insights capability in two areas – the way our customer facing teams in Medical Affairs collect medical insights as well as the approach to analyze the unstructured insights to understand emerging trends on unmet medical needs, and clinical practice. The first part is pure technology automation with the opportunity to create an exceptional digital user experience for the medical insights collection and collaboration processes. The second part of analyzing medical insights for uncovering trends is a classic use case to leverage artificial intelligence capabilities – We can use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to synthesize these insights and understand emerging trends that will speed up the analysis and help drive timely, proactive actions, and impact strategy. The fast paced innovation in the NLP space will help us position this approach to add more business value in the future.
Together these solutions can create a powerful “digital medical insights engine” that will influence Medical Affairs customer engagement strategy and strategic decisions in Commercial and Clinical Development.
If you look towards the future (5-10 years) what areas of Medical Affairs would you see as completely transformed by the digital innovation of healthcare and how will you describe the business impact of this transformation?
I believe all parts of Medical Affairs have the opportunity to transform, both by improving operational efficiency and through delivering a more tailored “customer-focused” engagement. I believe these innovations will improve our communications and engagements. One of the most immediate opportunities is in Medical Information and exploring a move to on-demand information provision. Also, the area of promotional material review is an area that is ready for utilization of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
If I look 5 to 10 years into the future, Medical Affairs will have made great progress, including getting the right infrastructure in place. Important areas such as having a customer master, the ability to tag data and information and having an external web presence will be customary. We’ll be exploring virtual reality and augmented reality in education and training. We’ll be perfecting opportunities in areas like digital publications. We will be increasing the automation of routine functions that enable the highly trained Medical Affairs staff to focus on scientific opportunity. Medical Affairs will be utilizing digital to create websites that create unique opportunities to engage HCPs and patients. Medical Affairs will be a trusted source of information, providing education and optimizing knowledge transfer.
What are the most promising innovations you are seeing in the technology landscape that can transform Medical Affairs?
There is no better time than now to embrace disruptive digital technologies in the pharma industry. I am most excited about three technology trends with the potential to transform Medical Affairs digital capabilities and help improve patient outcomes.
1. Advanced digital customer engagement technologies that can deliver personalized experiences and innovative services for the healthcare professionals based on their needs and preferences in real time will have a profound impact on accelerating their understanding of safe and appropriate use of our medicines and the underlying science.
2. The pace of advancements in AI and specifically natural language processing/understanding (NLP/NLU) will dramatically increase. We are going to see some major breakthrough innovations in the NLP/NLU space in the coming years that will surprise everyone and mimic the advancements in image recognition/deep learning, powering the driverless car revolution. This will also have positive implications on how we use the voice technologies to enhance personalized services for customers. We will transition to an “AI-fueled” customer engagement model in Medical Affairs with more matured customer intelligence datasets that will leverage next generation digital tools. This will help the Medical Affairs colleagues in engaging with their customers more effectively by better understanding their needs and by providing access to the most relevant scientific data at the right time.
3. Patient data analytics will become key to clinical decision support, quality measure performance, improved patient care and demonstrating value. We will need to position scientific exchange with the ability to combine, analyze, and interpret disparate data sets to support the interactions with stakeholders and ultimately to improve patient outcomes. This will involve use of real-world evidence, electronic medical records, curated sets of aggregated data on various disease types and novel sources of data, such as genomics in combination with innovative ways of mining and interpreting that data.
There is a lot of buzz about the possibilities with artificial intelligence in pharma. How do you envision the digital innovation of healthcare impacting Medical Affairs with advancements in artificial intelligence?
Medical Affairs is consistently being expected to work with growing amounts of data, whether this data comes from insights, Real World Data, or working with the “data lake”. Artificial Intelligence is critical for analyzing large data sets and it will be important for Medical Affairs to have the capability to utilize these tools. I believe these technologies will transform how we understand the clinical environment and decision making, how we deliver information, and engage HCPs, Payers and Patients. These technologies will enable us to improve our ability to deliver a more tailored approach to everyone we interact with because we are basing those interactions on evidence.
Artificial Intelligence has great potential to drive up productivity and enhance several core aspects of the pharma business from disease diagnosis and drug discovery to more effective scientific exchange with healthcare professionals. Specifically there are opportunities in Medical Affairs to leverage natural language processing and machine learning AI capabilities for analyzing trends from medical insights, generating insights for precision treatment & improved patient outcomes with real world evidence, engaging with the healthcare professionals using voice technologies, and helping the customer facing medical teams to present the most value-added scientific information based on customer needs and preferences. Advancements in machine learning and high quality customer data for Medical Affairs can lead us to “Scientific Engagement Advisor” digital solutions akin to the ”Next Best Action” concept in Financial Services and “Recommendation Engines” concept in Retail/Streaming Media. This will help predict effective customer engagement strategies to empower the MSLs (medical scientific liaisons) based on previous engagement experiences, medical insights and all customer data points. The importance of having good quality data to drive your AI solutions should not be underestimated, especially given the fact that the customer data for Medical Affairs is largely in unstructured format. I am very optimistic about these uses cases for Medical Affairs that should redefine positive customer experience and ultimately help the patients.
We should be mindful about the tendency to blindly chase after shiny technology objects without really connecting them to real business problems. Often times this is highly visible in the artificial intelligence space with exuberant claims on possibilities and the result is a major gap between visionary/lofty discussions on on the digital innovation of healthcare and actual delivery of digital solutions for customers and patients on the frontlines. We need to be very cautious about falling into this “innovation bubble trap” and rather should focus on driving impactful ideas to reality with a fail fast approach.
We are seeing an increasing number of technology innovators focusing on healthcare. How do you foresee this external innovation fueling Medical Affairs in driving transformative digital capabilities?
There are considerable opportunities to build more effective partnerships with pure play technology companies that will address complex problems in healthcare. We need to think in terms of bringing each other’s strengths to the table and co-creating digital solutions. Pharma has a unique understanding of the challenges physicians and patients are facing and can help guide these partners. At the same time these digital technology partners can offer new technology capabilities that will help us reimagine the type of solutions we can deliver to our customers and patients. Digital therapeutics is an area where we are seeing success, and there are advancements in improving diagnoses, adherence, disease awareness, and self-management of conditions. Creating strong, co-development partnerships with core technology companies and healthcare technology startups does not happen in a flash. It is important to define a common value proposition with these type of partnerships and we need to look through the lens of co-developing solutions, not just funding startups. These mutually beneficial partnerships can drive a culture of innovation in larger pharma organizations as well.
We also need to closely watch and adapt digital innovations from other industries with similar business capabilities such as
- Retail industry for online & in-store digital customer experience
- Hospitality industry for enhanced service automation tailored on individual preferences
- Financial services for personalized wealth management & virtual customer interactions
- Aerospace industry for operational excellence in predictive maintenance & fuel monitoring through big data analytics
What are the most important factors leaders like you should take into consideration for success in driving digital innovation of healthcare for Medical affairs?
To ensure success in driving the digital innovation of healthcare, many factors need to be in place. Leaders need to be ready to build the right capabilities and this might involve changes in structure. These new capabilities can be built by bringing in external resources, working with internal resources or training current staff. One critical question for the future will be how Medical Affairs will build the expertise to incorporate digital innovation in how we do our daily jobs. I don’t think we can go this alone. We’ll need to partner across the enterprise to leverage unique expertise (eg IT, data analytics, etc). Many Medical Affairs teams are bringing in non-traditional Medical Affairs capabilities by hiring employees with background in areas such as data science. Roles with this expertise bring a unique skill and by embedding these roles in the Med Affairs team and encouraging partnerships an innovative environment is created. Many Medical Affairs teams are also partnering with their internal data and analytics team. This partnership is uncovering new opportunities, especially as companies establish huge sources of data across the enterprise.
A critical area that is often overlooked is the need to free up time for the Medical Affairs leaders and their teams to explore how this new innovation will change how they deliver their accountabilities. Digital innovation in healthcare is a transformational change and how it impacts the team and their work needs to be considered. Another area that requires the investment of time is considering how the team will engage senior leaders to get traction and funding on their projects. These are important aspects that must be considered if Medical Affairs is to be successful in driving digital innovation.
The most important focus with any digital innovation journey should be on driving differentiation and competitive advantage. We need to think beyond the “easy to chase digital innovation concepts” and elevate the innovation thinking process to truly transformative ideas that will address our biggest business problems and significantly improve customer experience. Essentially, we should dial up the emphasis on transformational innovation. In order to accomplish this, the leaders should create an entrepreneurial environment for ideation and development of these ideas. This will require a deeper dive into the core business value drivers for Medical Affairs with the right talent to understand the innovative technologies and an “artistic approach” to imagining the possibilities, often connecting the dots between multiple business value drivers and the disruptive potential of the latest technologies. A deep-rooted culture based incentive system (leaders encouraging to take big leaps forward and providing sponsorship for experimentation with cover for expected failures) is also necessary to drive this shift.
Driving digital transformation in Medical Affairs also requires a broader enterprise mindset compared to other functions. Since Medical Affairs is very closely connected to R&D and Commercial, it is important to visualize the concepts of digital innovation in healthcare through an enterprise lens and have an “outside in” perspective (such as customer experience alignment with touchpoints beyond Medical Affairs) for solutions targeted for customers and patients.
Finally, we will need to educate the executive leadership team on how technology is impacting their business, engage them in imagining the possibilities, and make them strong digital advocates by bringing them along the innovation journey.
The digital health revolution implies a clear understanding of strategy, using technology as an enabler to create better outcomes for patients and to power value creation across the healthcare ecosystem. As data specialists, Medical Affairs professionals will be at the forefront of this transformation.
The medical world is changing and changing fast. As multiple new technologies start to transform every aspect of the healthcare ecosystem and the lines between biosciences and data science fade, companies need medical leaders who not only understand the latest medical advances but also the potential and scope of data and digital, along with their implications – not least that this new paradigm requires strategists who are comfortable with organizational transformation and who can lead change. Dr Rajni Aneja is one such strategist: she specializes in the crossover between business and technology across a variety of health sectors.
“My training falls at the intersection of business and technology and I have worked across all different healthcare sectors from payer to a consumer digital company to pharma, as well as being involved in an advisory capacity for innovation and strategy in health for MIT and Harvard Innovation Lab, along with Oliver Wyman, and many other start-up companies.
“From an industry standpoint, I am interested in the role of digital facilitating consumer as well as HCP engagement strategies, or patient journeys through a variety of touch points leading to better clinical outcomes, better clinical interactions, better patient experiences, better healthcare provider experiences, as well as better delivery of healthcare.”
Technology as an enabler
This approach is all about strategically using digital as an enabler driven by data. “When we create a strategy around a digital experience, it’s not about the technology. I see the technology as an enabler: when you apply the right technology at the right point and have the right interventions designed – either for the provider or patients – that is when it actually is impactful or meaningful.”
Longer term, advances in bioscience and digital technology have the potential to add value to the system in multiple ways: for example, by transforming the R&D process to potentially make it shorter, more specific, and take out cost; by ensuring better health outcomes for patients, bringing forward new treatments more quickly, and generally improving the patient experience; and by providing opportunities for physicians through new options to advance patient care and offering new ways to engage and learn.
Start of the journey
We are only at the start of this journey today but Dr Aneja points to significant potential that already exists. “As a physician, when you see patients in clinics, you’re only seeing 15 to 20 patients in a day. But if you have technologies like telemedicine, where you are delivering consultations on videos, or you’re delivering care to remote areas, your impact and outreach becomes much wider and much more significant.
“I see telemedicine as one of the technologies to have gained a lot of momentum, not only for its potential in clinical trials but also for prevention and wellness visits, or even acute care visits. But what’s coming next? I think the future is where data is driving or enabling these technologies, and this is where artificial intelligence or machine learning comes into play. However, if the data is not good enough, anything that is going to come out of it is not going to be good enough: garbage in, garbage out. The importance of data as an asset is that you drive intelligent decision-making and that is only done through insights generated by the power of data that is collected from a variety of technology enablers.” As an example, she cites finding the right patient for the right clinical trial at the right time for the right medical condition, while delivering the right care, all of which can be powered and informed by the data.
Data requirement implies collaboration
Today, real-world evidence (RWE) and data – especially continuous real-time data – sits at the heart of where the healthcare ecosystem is headed, not least in the context of value-based health design and care delivery, where (especially in the US) the system is moving from volume to value, and there is more emphasis on better outcomes. This implies that data can be both shared and combined effectively, and also that RWE – including data directly from the consumer, say from wearables – can be integrated with historical data and combined with real-time analytics.
“There’s an evolving trend that we’re seeing: in the last two to three years pharmaceutical companies have started to work very closely with the payers. But the industry is becoming disrupted and I think all these stakeholders can learn from each other to say: ‘How am I going to be a leader in the game instead of a follower?’”
The trend within the healthcare sector is asking for more integration of data and collaboration between organizations – joining the dots – to generate insight from the payers as well as from pharma and from consumers. “This is a collaborative effort around value-based care and an outcome-based approach, which will lead to better patient care and better clinical trials. But there are many challenges remaining before this data utopia becomes reality, including a lack of agreement on definitions of what constitutes value. What is considered good-quality data, data privacy, data governance and data security and many others factors would play a vital role in shaping the thought process as we move along this transformation journey.”
So, what are the hurdles? The regulatory environment is one, but regulators and government are increasingly aware of the need to advance. We have seen the introduction of the 21st Century Cures Act; as well as statement from FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb about the importance of digital health and real-world evidence, and there are efforts now around guidance from the governing bodies. Commercial sensitivity is another issue, but industry is increasingly acknowledging the need for collaboration – perhaps through neutral consortium – to harness the power of data and analytics. As an example, Dr Aneja cites the NEWDIGS project, through MIT’s Center of Biomedical Innovation, which brought together various pharmaceutical partners in a neutral, non-biased, cohesive setting. However, she acknowledges that “we’re taking baby steps and are in exploration mode with a desire for more collaborative models, and not yet ready for prime time yet.”
And what about the benefits? There is clearly substantial value in a system that encourages us to learn about the patient – not least, greater customization, personalization, and simplicity for the patient. This encompasses patient-reported outcomes, behavioral profiles, social, and other demographic data leading to consumer segmentation, which in turn can deliver on targeted interventions and interactions.
Dr Aneja elaborates: “I’ll give you an example. Rajni is a 40-year-old female who runs every day and is pretty healthy and motivated and doesn’t take any medicine, but is very interested in her well-being. Because of the combination of data from different sources, we can create a profile of what Rajni wants, what Rajni needs, how we engage her, how we motivate her and do that on a continuous long-term basis; and data can enable targeted, personalized interventions – interactions that are actually applicable to Rajni, not one-size-fits-all. Data can help you get to that level of granularity, but I always say that with a word of caution: we’re not there yet. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t get there; it’s just that we’re on our way to this kind of transformation.”
And this opens up a whole world of further possibilities: Rajni might be part of a cohort that you could segment in the context of preventative health and screening, and so on. So there’s an opportunity to gain a depth of insight into individual patients within a population. “Imagine if you could understand, in your population, who are my well people? Who are my sick people? Who are the people who are very, very motivated? Who are people that actually need a lot of nudging because they’re not motivated? With the years of data, you have the ability to be not only predictive but at some point can be prescriptive, especially for precision medicine.”
Beyond this, digital needs to make life simpler and more convenient for patients. Healthcare is already becoming more consumer-centric. “I think it’s already happening. You already have Uber Health; we have telemedicine solutions; we have remote monitoring; we have wearables and sensors. I think the trend that we see is consumers becoming more involved in taking responsibility for health; they’re becoming more informed. Consumers want to manage their health, want to see their healthcare data, and want to be equally responsible for decision-making.
What needs to happen going forward? “I think it’s an industry shift.” There is recognition that we need to accelerate this process, according to Dr Aneja. In conclusion, she sees a significant role for Medical Affairs within this new environment – as the conduit of the digital transformation. MA can help define the problems we are trying to solve, along with the data sets and technology that will enable a solution. “They are absolutely vital. You would not create an initiative in a silo; technology is an enabler. Ultimately the insights coming from MA about what problems we need to create an effective solution for will lead to better patient outcomes as well as better patient experience.”
“It actually allows you to apply the right interventions to the right patient at the right time, which is critical.”
Rajni Aneja is an MIT Connection Science Fellow, healthcare strategist, public speaker, and transformative change agent with expertise in population health management and digital health. She serves as an adviser to a variety of health and wellness organizations. Dr Aneja encompasses various vantage points as a clinician, executive, adviser, entrepreneur, speaker and technology advocate serving in senior leadership roles. These include Chief Medical Officer for WebMD health, EVP of Joslin and a strategic executive and transformation leader at Humana. Most recently she contributed to the building of a digital consumer strategy at Novartis. Dr Aneja received her MD from Research Medical Center in Kansas City and her MBA from the University of Massachusetts.
This MAPS podcast introduces listeners to social listening to gather insights and discusses implementation, value and technologies.
This Webinar provides perspectives on the evolving role of Digital Opinion Leaders in medical education and shares approaches for identifying, monitoring and engaging them in a compliant manor with relevant examples.