The long view of pharma and digital health

At the HIMSS Connected Health Conference, Bob Coughlin, president and CEO of Mass Biotech Council, offers his expert view of how these two areas of healthcare will impact each other in the future.
By Bill Siwicki
01:43 PM
The long view of pharma and digital health

Digital health tools are shifting the paradigm for companies developing new therapeutics or medical devices, from early-stage innovation through the entire lifecycle of a product – with potential to make innovation more efficient, extend business lines and enhance provider and patient relationships.

Bob Coughlin, president and CEO of Mass Biotech Council, will be speaking on this subject and the long view of pharma and digital on October 16 at the HIMSS Connected Health Conference.

Integration of digital health into the life sciences

The first trend Coughlin identifies when it comes to the long view of pharma and digital is better tracking of patient outcomes to demonstrate the long-term value of therapies.

“As an industry, biopharma companies have been under attack for the cost of drugs, especially for gene and cell therapies and other breakthrough innovations that are a completely new class of medicine,” he said. “These treatments offer immense value to patients, but often come with a higher upfront cost – or even a one-time cost in the form of a cure – that payers are reluctant to cover.”

Many healthcare stakeholders do not yet understand just how valuable these therapies are, and cannot measure the costs avoided in the rest of the healthcare system such as keeping people out of the hospital and off other chronic therapies, and to patients, in terms of being able to lead productive and healthy lives, he added.

"Having better tools to track patient outcomes will also make it easier to implement value-based arrangements that reimburse for a drug based on specific patient outcomes – the value it brings."

Bob Coughlin, Mass Biotech Council

“The potential for digital health to better track outcomes of patients to prove this value in the long term is huge and can help address access issues for these newer therapies,” Coughlin contended. “Having better tools to track patient outcomes will also make it easier to implement value-based arrangements that reimburse for a drug based on specific patient outcomes – the value it brings.”

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

The second major trend Coughlin sees is around transforming drug discovery and development with new digital technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“The cost to bring a new drug to market is over $2 billion and takes some 10-plus years – not to mention that nine out of 10 drugs fail,” he explained. “These new technologies have the potential to create new efficiencies in this process, potentially saving money and time so drugs can reach patients faster.”

For example, digital tools can help streamline and improve clinical trials, allowing companies to better find and track participants – even helping to diversify the pool of patients they enroll, Coughlin suggested.

“Even more advanced AI and machine learning promise to make the entire drug discovery and development process more efficient and less costly,” he added. “While we may not be there yet, I expect to see more around that front in the coming years – with tested AI and machine learning players partnering with and making a big impact on biopharma innovation.”

Patients manage their own care

One of the most impactful ways digital health is boosting the life sciences currently is providing patients with the tools to help manage their own care, Coughlin said of the industry today.

“Providers and manufacturers are creating their own apps to track patient adherence to medication, relay important information about their care, communicate directly on any follow-up or symptoms, and more,” he noted. “This empowers patients to be more involved and intentional about their healthcare, which will ultimately help them lead healthier lives.”

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com
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