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Simplifying HCP access to digital information

New industry-standards group launched

digital

The life science industry’s commercial model has transformed significantly over the past decade. The growth of specialty drugs to treat complex diseases means biopharmaceutical companies are delivering more information to healthcare professionals (HCPs) to prescribe drugs and treatments to patients. Today, there are greater expectations among HCPs for engagement with life science companies to be digital. For companies, there is significant potential to leverage digital technologies to reach more HCPs.

Despite the rise of digital in the life science industry, 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 organisations for educating and informing doctors. In addition, each life science company provides digital information differently, across many portals and channels. This creates a significant burden for HCPs.

Digital has also created higher expectations among HCPs for data to be at their fingertips. They simply do not 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 science companies.

Studies have shown that when doctors need information about a medication, they often go to Google, Wikipedia or other second-hand sources before turning to the actual life science company responsible for creating the product. In fact, a 2014 report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics (now IQVIA) revealed that both doctors and patients use Wikipedia as their top source for healthcare information, with 50% of physicians saying they use the community-edited online encyclopaedia - especially for information on specific conditions.

To address this growing challenge, the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies have come together to form an industry-standards group called Align Biopharma. The goal of Align Biopharma is to make it faster and easier for HCPs to connect with life science companies using universal technology standards that will simplify access to information. Ultimately, it is the patient who will benefit.

“Our goal is to improve the overall customer experience for healthcare providers,” said Scott Cenci, vice president of global therapeutic operations IT at Biogen, one of Align Biopharma’s founding members. Other founding members include Allergan, AstraZeneca, Biogen, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Pfizer. “We are partnering with this group to architect industry standards, which will help us to achieve that vision,” added Cenci.

Align Biopharma will define standards that are open and global to streamline digital interactions with HCPs. Initially, the group is focusing on two new standards to facilitate seamless digital engagement and simplify the HCP experience: identity management, and consent and communication preferences. The first standard was released in October and will make it easier for HCPs to access online content across life science companies by enabling single sign-on.

Streamlining identity management

As it is a highly regulated industry, most life science companies maintain rigorous registration processes 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 grows, 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 with which an HCP engages, 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. “It’s difficult keeping track of all the username and password combinations required to access information from biopharma companies,” said David S Wernsing, MD, FACS, bariatric surgeon at Penn Medicine. “Having a fast and convenient way to log on to various digital sites and applications will dramatically simplify how I connect with the life science industry and deliver care to patients.”

A standardised process to deliver the right information to life science companies’ common customers will remove current roadblocks for HCPs. To start, Align Biopharma recently finalised and introduced an identification and authentication standard to enable single sign-on for HCPs to access online content through many different channels across companies. This new standard will improve how life science companies interact with their customers, and help to streamline HCP access to the drug and treatment information required to facilitate patient engagement.

The standard represents a major step forward for the life science industry, and a watershed moment for collaboration. It will allow biopharma and technology companies to align around a common way to provide HCPs with easy access to online content, and validate that the right licensed providers are getting what they need quickly. Put simply, it will replace dozens of passwords with only one.

“The industry, working together, can harmonise digital engagement and information access and create a better experience for our shared customers,” explained Patrick Retif, vice president 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. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is scheduled to come into force in 2018, requiring life science companies to develop models for HCP consent and preference management. Violations of the GDPR can be costly, reaching as high as 4% of revenue.

A forthcoming standard from Align Biopharma will create a common definition for consent and preference management, and help drive consistency in how HCPs specify communication preferences with each life science company. This will also provide clarity to what it means for HCPs to opt into or out of receiving information, so HCPs can get the drug information they need, in the format they want. For example, one HCP may want to receive information via email from a life science company, but not a phone call. Align Biopharma will greatly simplify this.

Industry collaborations are picking up steam

Collaboration in the life science industry is not new. TransCelerate Biopharma and the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC) are examples of successful industry collaborations.

On the other hand, Align Biopharma is tackling long-standing challenges in the commercialisation of drugs and treatments, and how HCPs engage with life science companies. And companies are coming together to solve these challenges because they recognise that the industry has a common goal to make things easier for their shared customers.

“Technology standards will solve a significant business problem across the industry by helping to get information to stakeholders when and where they need it,” said Ed Kloskowski, VP, head of commercial IT at Shire. “At Shire, we are focused on meeting the needs of underserved patient communities. Joining forces in Align Biopharma to work together to harmonise digital engagement in a way that will ultimately help patients is one more path to serving our patient community.”

Initially formed with six founding companies, Align Biopharma’s membership currently stands at 23, including 14 leading biopharma companies, plus technology and service providers. And regardless of whether a company is an Align Biopharma member or not, everyone will have access to standards published by the group, including all pharma companies, service providers and technology vendors.

“Align Biopharma represents the industry coming together to put the customer first and transform the HCP experience,” said Henry Levy, president of Align Biopharma. “With our first standard now available, our goal is to deepen collaboration to build technology solutions and encourage their broad adoption in the life science industry so we can better connect companies and HCPs.”

As digital transformation charges forward in the life science industry, companies will find new and innovative ways to continue to collaborate and improve engagement with HCPs. Face-to-face interaction will remain important, but the transition to digital is happening fast - and common standards will be key to enabling a transformation for all life science companies.

Article by
Jan van den Burg

is VP of commercial strategy, Europe at Veeva Systems

30th January 2018

Article by
Jan van den Burg

is VP of commercial strategy, Europe at Veeva Systems

30th January 2018

From: Sales

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