A report from the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions focuses on how drug companies can become more patient-connected. (Deloitte Report) As the authors note, pharmaceutical manufacturers are under pressure, cost and price pressures, more regulatory scrutiny, competition, patent expirations, etc. Unfortunately none of this seems to dent the extremely high profitability of the industry, so I am thinking the pressures aren’t all that great. Nothing that some-placed dollars with politicians can’t fix. Deloitte’s solution is for the companies to move to a more patient-centric and connected model. I am curious if that might involve lower prices? The authors surveyed patient advocacy groups, the literature and twelve large pharma companies to find out what could be done to use digital technologies to further this patient-centric vision. The authors find a big gap in what companies are doing and what they could do. They identify several barriers, some internal cultural ones, but others such as regulatory certainty about use of apps and other technology to interact with patients; lack of digital and health literacy among patients, data privacy and security concerns, and, heaven forbid, concern that drug manufacturers’ reputation may undermine their credibility.
Deloitte’s proposed responses to the challenges include changing corporate cultures, building new pricing and contracting models, automate digital processes, partner with digital pioneers and leaders and build collaborative relationships with patients and payers. Any of this involve lower prices? And of course, there is the obligatory nod to gathering more data, big, big data undoubtedly, and using analytics to personalize treatment, etc. Here is the real bottom line on the drug industry’s use of digital technology to connect with patients–it will be used solely to push more patients to use more of the company’s drugs and to engage patients as advocates with doctors and payers, and it won’t do anything to lower costs. Just another form of direct-to-consumer marketing to drive demand. It should all be banned, except for provision of completely neutral and fully accurate information about the actual products, including all possible side effects.