The co-evolution of healthcare provision and the pharmaceutical industry

A snowy and sunny start to the year here, hopefully you too are off to a good start, despite the global challenges ahead.

Todays blog topics:

  • Healthcare provision is changing, does that change pharma’s stakeholders?
  • Thoughts on Medical Information online resources
  • When a pharmaceutical company is a central point of contact
  • Leadership: The future of remote working

Healthcare provision is changing, does that change pharma’s stakeholders?

Historically pharmaceutical companies focused on research and development, producing medicines, providing information on these products, and closely engaging with physicians to discuss the science, run clinical trials and to develop new products.  Physicians were provided with access to all the information they needed, ensuring, that patients receive the right medicine at the right time. Physicians engaged with patients and pharmacists monitored and filled prescriptions which in turn were reimbursed by the insurance companies. 

However, how healthcare is provided is changing across many markets with historical roles being relaxed and a broader range of individuals engaged in providing healthcare services. 

Key drivers of the change include financial pressures on healthcare systems, insufficient numbers of healthcare professionals in primary care in many markets, and the evolving role and emancipation of patients in research and development. Additionally, patient expectations have changed. Most patients now want to discuss their treatment options, rather than simply being informed of the next steps. Also, used to 24/7 access to services patients are increasingly expecting expanded access to healthcare services and products. This is possible thanks to the internet, and companies providing content online, and telemedicine, which experienced a surge in acceptance  from patients and physicians during the pandemic and is now commonplace. But not only “the what” and “the how” have changed, the key players “the who” have also changed. 

Who provides care has changed. In emergency wards a nurse may admit the patient and perform a first triage of the waiting room. This used to be the remit of a physician. And today, in many countries basic healthcare services, including some vaccinations, blood pressure tests etc. can be provided by a pharmacist and some pharmacists  also provide access to a telemedicine service in their pharmacy. In Switzerland, prescription only medicines can be provided to patients, without a physician’s prescription, at the discretion of a pharmacist, reducing the pressure on emergency services.

As authorities around the world navigate how to provide healthcare to patients, while stabilising costs and reducing pressure on healthcare professionals, pharma companies may need to review their stakeholder engagement approach. And perhaps authorities may reflect on whether there is any value in giving the pharmaceutical industry an expanded role in providing information on medicines with the aim to reduce  pressure on front-line healthcare professionals and improve care. One example might be this: Why hospitals should adopt a Medical Information approach, an article I wrote in 2022 (link) .

Key takeaways: As systems change stakeholders change. Are you ready?

Thoughts on Medical Information online resources including PhactMI and MILE

The internet has changed everything. Patients consult the internet, or ChatGPT, before they consult a physician, and many arrive at their doctor’s practice seeking confirmation, and potentially a prescription, for a condition they have self-diagnosed. 

Medical Information experts have long been concerned about patients being exposed to erroneous medical information online.  This concern prompted collaboration among pharmaceutical industry Medical Information professionals, leading to the formation of two organizations committed to ensuring stakeholders, both patients and healthcare professionals, can access up-to-date and evidence-based drug information. In Europe: Medical Information Leaders Europe (MILE) and in the US the Pharma Collaboration for Transparent Medical Information (PhactMI). 

The idea behind MILE and PhactMI is compelling: provide stakeholders with a single location where they can search for product medical information and then route them directly to the manufacturer’s medical information website, provided the manufacturer is a member of the association. Where the pharmaceutical company is a member the solution provided by both MILE and PhactMI is great. The links directly to the medical information site of the manufacturers are excellent. Where companies are not members their products do not appear, however, so that, for example, a search for a monoclonal antibody on the MILE website returned a single  product from a member company, instead of the many results I was expecting. In this situation, it would have been nice to have a pop-up on the search page reminding me that only member company products are available via MILE. This information can, however, be found elsewhere on the website.  My search in the PhactMI self-search database for the same monoclonal antibody, in combination with “use beyond progression” returned a document for the same product as on the MILE site,  again, only the one, and the use of filters. 

These two hiccups aside, both MILE and PhactMI are evolving and growing. They provide many excellent free materials, provide publications and links to other resources on their websites. In addition, they provide access to a great Medical Information expert network. If you are a Medical Information professional it is worth exploring the MILE and PhactMI website and potential membership if you do not yet know them. 

Beyond MILE and PhactMI in most markets regulatory authority websites provide healthcare professionals and patients with some product specific information. In fact, some markets have extensive product specific offerings in place. In the US the FDA provides information for patients and consumers via MedlinePlus “an easy to use resource for the NIH with side-effects, dosage, special precautions and more for prescription and OTC drugs”. 

If you are looking for a holistic European resource for product information the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has a brilliant site. Their website provides access to information, on medicines for human use, medicines for veterinary use and herbal products that have been approved centrally across the EU. In addition, for products that have been authorised for use only in certain member states, links to national registers are provided. The database is searchable and provides access to the European Public Assessment Reports, which are “specially written to be understandable by patients and members of the general public” and are shorter versions of the full document EPARs that are written for health care providers (link). 

In summary, there are many sources of product specific information. The challenge for non- healthcare provider customers is, that if they don’t know exactly what they are searching for and where to find it, they are unlikely to find and identify a reliable source amidst all the offerings online. 

Key take-away: There is a lot of medical information available online. Make finding and accessing your content easy for your customers.

LillyDirect: When a pharmaceutical company coordinates healthcare

How healthcare is provided and how customers access information is changing. In this context, the LillyDirect website in the US, which is designed as a “one stop solution” for patients with diabetes, migraine, and obesity, is fascinating.

The website states “LillyDirect can be your connection to care. With many services and resources to explore, LillyDirect can help you find care that works best for you.” Using the site patients can find independent healthcare providers for telehealth or face-to-face consultations and order their Lilly medicines directly from a pharmacy. 

All activities are coordinated on one website. The provider states  “LillyDirect is designed to offer simple, direct options for independent online and in-person care services so you can more easily start and stay on your treatment plan for the best results”. From a patient’s perspective managing one site instead of many is compelling. From a company perspective supporting visitors to transition from interested viewer to diagnosed patient that is potentially treated with Lilly products is obviously interesting. From a company perspective, supporting visitors in transitioning from interested viewers to diagnosed patients potentially treated with Lilly products is also obviously interesting. Possibly of even greater relevance is that through offering this service Lilly gains insight into consumer behaviors across target groups of interest and various touchpoints, derived from their usage of the website and the connected services.

Key take-away:  Healthcare access and provision, data use and capture and how pharmaceutical companies and customers engage are co-evolving.  

Leadership: The future of remote working

There have been many discussions on remote work since the pandemic. Some companies have permitted their teams to keep working from home; however, many companies have returned to mainly on-site work. Ultimately, it depends on the type of team you are managing. For co-located teams, the benefits of having them working on site at least some of the time, are obvious. For international teams, who dial in to teleconferences, either from the office, or from home, the benefits are less obvious, especially as these team members often dial into calls late at night or very early in the wee hours of the morning. 

 A recent article from Forbes Advisor looks at remote work statistics and trends in 2024 (link)

Personally, I believe in assessing performance based on productivity, not by hours spent in front of a computer.  I also believe that a manager should know which of her team members is working and productive and which team members are less productive, regardless of where they are seated. 

Key take-away: For remote working there is no one size fits all.

I hope today’s post provided you with useful insights. If you have a project you need support with, or are interested in coaching, please contact me to discuss whether I can support you. To find out what clients and coachees say about working with me, please follow this link.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: Markus Frieauff