Paul Shawah, VP, Commercial Cloud Strategy, Veeva Systems and President at Align Bio-pharma
The life science industry’s commercial model has transformed significantly over the past decade. The growth of specialty drugs to treat complex diseases means that biopharmaceutical companies are delivering more information to Health Care Professionals (HCPs) to prescribe drugs and treatments to patients. Now there are greater expectations among HCPs for engagement with life sciences companies to be digital. For companies, there is significant potential to leverage digital technologies to reach more HCPs.
Despite the rise of digital in life sciences, the ability to provide the right information to doctors quickly and effectively remains a challenge. This is partly due to complex and siloed processes that exist across internal commercial and medical organizations in educating and informing doctors. In addition, each life sciences company provides digital information differently, across many portals and channels. This creates a significant burden for HCPs.
Additionally, digital has created higher expectation among HCPs for data to be at their fingertips. They don’t have the time to wade through a sea of websites and portals to get critical product information. This friction consequently lowers providers’ digital consumption from life sciences companies.
To address this growing challenge, seven of the largest pharmaceutical companies have come together to form an industry standards group called Align Bio-pharma. The goal of Align Bio-pharma is to make it faster and easier for HCPs to connect with life sciences companies with universal technology standards that will simplify access to information. Ultimately, the patient benefits.
“Our goal is to improve the overall customer experience for healthcare providers,” said Scott Cenci, VP of Global Therapeutic Operations IT at Biogen, one of Align Biopharma’s founding members. The others include Allergan, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Pfizer. “We are partnering with this group to architect industry standards, which will help us to achieve that vision,” added Cenci.
"The industry working together can harmonize digital engagement and information access across the industry and create a better experience for our shared customers"
Align Bio-pharma will define standards that are open and global to streamline digital interactions with HCPs. Initially, the group will focus on two new standards to facilitate seamless digital engagement and simplify the HCP experience: identity management, and consent and communication preferences.
Streamlining Identity Management
As a highly regulated industry, most life sciences companies maintain a rigorous registration process for access to their branded sites and portals. As such, a physician may need a dozen different registration Identifiers (IDs) with a single company. As the number of sites, portals, webinars and other channels grow, so does the number of access points, making it acutely difficult for providers to quickly access what they need. Multiply this across all the various drug manufacturers an HCP engages with, and the problem grows from a minor inconvenience to a significant burden.
This complexity often causes HCPs to use spreadsheets to track user IDs and passwords, or avoid these sites altogether and turn to other sources. In fact, one study indicates that Wikipedia has become a top medical information site, with up to 50 percent of HCPs using it to educate themselves about a medical condition or treatment.
A standardized process to deliver the right information to life sciences companies’ common customers will remove current roadblocks for HCPs. To start, Align Bio-pharma will define identification and authentication standard to enable a single sign-on for HCPs to access online content through many different channels across companies. These standards will allow bio-pharma and technology companies to align around a common way to provide HCPs easy access and validate that the right, licensed provider is getting what he or she needs quickly. It will replace dozens of passwords with only one.
“The industry working together can harmonize digital engagement and information access across the industry and create a better experience for our shared customers,” explained Patrick Retif, VP of IT, Global Commercial at Allergan.
Managing Consent and Communication Preferences
Due to industry regulations, managing consent and preferences can be one of the most difficult aspects of digital communication with HCPs. To complicate the matter further, the European General Data Protection Directive (GDPR,) is scheduled to take effect in 2018, requiring life sciences companies to develop a model for HCP consent and preference management. Violations of the GDPR can be costly, ranging as high as 4 percent of revenue.
A forthcoming standard from Align Bio-pharma will create a common definition for consent and preference management and help drive consistency in how HCPs specify communication preferences with each life sciences company. This will also provide clarity in what it means for HCPs to opt-in or opt-out for receiving information so that HCPs can get the drug information they need, how they want it. For example, one HCP may want to receive information via an email from a life sciences company, but not a phone call. Align Bio-pharma will greatly simplify this.
Industry Collaborations Picking Up Steam
Collaboration in the life sciences industry is not a new. Trans Celerate Bio-pharma and the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC) are examples of successful industry collaborations in clinical.
On the other hand, Align Bio-pharma is tackling long-standing challenges in the commercialization of drugs and treatments and how HCPs engage with life sciences companies. And companies are coming together to solve these challenges because they recognize that the industry has a common goal to make things easier for their shared customers.
As digital transformation charges forward in life sciences, companies will find new and innovative ways to continue to collaborate and improve engagement with HCPs. Face-to-face interaction will still remain important, but the transition to digital is happening fast and common standards will be key to enabling a transformation for all life sciences companies.