Lawrence Fernandes, Director, Asia Pacific Human Health IT, MSD
Surgical robots, glucose-monitoring contact lenses, implantable devices that send electrical signals along your nerves – these are examples of “sci-fi” technologies that are currently being researched on by high tech companies. These same companies are also investing heavily on health projects involving applications and wearables.
Indeed, it is an understatement to say that tech giants are making forays into the healthcare industry. Thus, it is important for us to question the role which Pharma IT leaders play in healthcare amidst these movements today.
Understanding Consumer Habits
Digital technology has enabled more patient-centric care. It has improved consumers’ ability to self-manage their health, alert their care providers when there are changes in their condition, and support medication adherence. With these technology advances, consumers are demanding greater control over their personal health.
IT leaders need to understand how consumers in different countries are using technology regarding their healthcare needs. They need to understand how consumers are looking for information, if that information can be trusted and what roles technology plays. Critically, they need to understand the value of social networks and how they differ. For instance, people in China prefer to use WeChat as a communication platform, while the Japanese prefer LINE.
Recognizing these habits will help Pharma IT leaders learn how they can implement innovative measures to reach out to the consumers. A text reminder for a diabetic patient in Thailand to take their medication – this can go a long way to improve a patient’s health.
Leveraging Social Media as a Healthcare Engagement Platform
Social media plays a key role in helping consumers in their healthcare decision making process. [CIOS_QUOTES_REPLACE] It facilitates information sharing, (educational videos on general health topics such as vaccine safety, early detection of heart attack) which can encourage behavioral changes, or save a person’s life.
Therefore, Pharma IT leaders need to be able to leverage the various social media platforms and channels as a listening tool to gather customer feedback, and better understand healthcare topics and issues.
Using Data to Understand Each Market’s Challenges
The Asia Pacific region’s diversity is a challenge for the industry. Each country is at a different stage of healthcare development, and the market needs in the regions are also highly heterogeneous.
Success hinges on a deep understanding of each market, and the onus is on Pharma IT leaders to work with their colleagues to use the data available to design solutions for better delivery of healthcare and patient outcome.
Being the Bridge for Collaboration
With the expanding role of Pharma IT leaders, it is essential to understand that these challenges cannot be addressed alone.
Collaborations are essential.
Picture an insomniac sharing data on his sleep pattern and exercise regime recorded on his tracking device with his doctor. The doctor then shares it with a data scientist who aggregates this to study and gather new insights that could be used to derive new treatment methods; or he shares it with a healthcare manufacturer who can come up with new tools to help the patient sleep better.
These solutions are only made possible with partnerships.
As tech players continue to eye a slice of the healthcare market, Pharma IT leaders must seek alternative ways to support and grow their businesses. One example would be partnerships with external players to find, develop or co-create more effective customer solutions. This requires IT Leaders to ensure their teams have the right mix of skill sets such as relationship management, ideation, an innovation mindset, and rapid problem-solving.
But Approach with Caution…
However, with so much information and data movement, Pharma IT leaders must also consider the risks involved. Cyber-attacks, patient’s personal data protection, and medical ethics are some of the key concerns that they must look into.
Today’s healthcare challenges are too diverse for a single organization to tackle alone. Pharma IT leaders can no longer focus solely on medicine developments; we need to proactively and constantly source for partnerships and collaborations. Only then can we address today’s healthcare challenges more quickly, and effectively.