The Future of Virtual Healthcare

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Publication Date:
October 2019
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What strategy should pharma be pursuing in virtual healthcare?

Applications for virtual healthcare engagement are quickly evolving beyond websites and apps towards advanced tools such as virtual assistants and virtual reality devices. With tech giants ambitious in this space, what role is there for pharma? Which virtual health services will deliver commercial benefit as well as patient, physician and payer satisfaction? Experts warn that pharma will not be able to develop credible virtual health services alone, so what would an ideal pharma-tech relationship look like?

As the virtual health sector develops, pharma needs a clear focus on the virtual health products and services that align with its business model. That is why, in The Future of Virtual Healthcare, we interviewed leading experts to help you understand the current status of virtual healthcare, the technologies of note and the key issues that pharma should consider when formulating strategy.

Experts explore the emerging virtual health sector

  • Is pharma culturally and technically equipped for a future in virtual healthcare?
  • How must companies shape their social marketing strategy to fit into virtual healthcare?
  • How will advancements in virtual healthcare affect the roles of KOLs, physicians, payers and regulators and how should pharma collaborate with them in a virtual ecosystem?
  • How will prescription digital therapeutics affect the future business model of pharma?
  • In which therapeutic areas will virtual reality have the most future applications?
  • What role will chatbots and virtual assistants play in the future of healthcare delivery and what are the implications for pharma?

What our experts say…

"Whilst pharma is good at developing drugs, as an industry we have an opportunity to better develop patient-centred services that accompany a drug or therapy. This is where we need to look at things from a strategic standpoint and truly understand how digital and concepts like virtual healthcare can evolve the business model. Digital capabilities and services need to enable new revenue streams rather than just consider them as add-on features to a pharma's brand. To achieve this, pharma must embrace value-based care and understand virtual healthcare from a reimbursement standpoint, patient and provider need for these services and the measurability of outcomes (financial, clinical, and life)."
Vyom Bhuta

"Pharmaceutical companies could seize upon this trend and start incorporating chronic care management models along with their drugs. They could in turn leverage these offerings as they negotiate value-based contracts with payers. Imagine a pharmaceutical company with a drug for heart failure that has been shown to reduce 30-day readmission rates in a Phase III clinical study. In today's healthcare marketplace, the payer is reluctant to grant access to therapy outside of those patients who participated in the Phase III trial as the conditions in the real world are markedly different from that in the randomised controlled trial setting. However, by working with regulators and payers to identify a suitable chronic care management programme, which could be run virtually and could help save payer costs and improve patient outcomes, this could give the pharmaceutical company leverage in the negotiations on the price of its product while simultaneously granting access to its therapy to a vast number of patients."
Emmanuel Fombu

"Chatbots are essentially conversational AI, which are powered by the same algorithms that are used for virtual diagnosis. Virtual assistants such as Alexa and Google Home are also powered by those algorithms. Therefore, when looking at chatbots' and virtual assistants' role in the future of healthcare delivery, pharma needs to think about how such platforms can be used to enhance patient and provider experience. In other words, how can some of this technology be incorporated into the normal workflow of a physician or a patient? This means pharma needs to look at existing digital platforms that consumers are already interacting with rather than build their own conversational app or chatbot from scratch. For example, we use Alexa in our personal lives to ask it to turn the lights down or what is the weather going to be like. Pharma needs to also think about how they could integrate their chatbots into apps such as iOS and Android."
Vyom Bhuta

Case studies included in the report

  • Virtual clinical trials: Novartis' partnership with Science 37
  • Understanding inflammatory diseases: Gilead's partnership with Verily
  • Boehringer Ingelheim's social media presence
  • Adding the patient voice to the drug development process: Takeda's collaboration with PatientsLikeMe
  • How Pfizer helped young boys manage their haemophilia
  • Butterfly's portable ultrasound for seamless collaboration
  • McKesson's digital services for connecting patients, providers and pharmaceutical companies
  • Roche's partnership with Accenture to improve how diabetes care is managed and delivered
  • How Virta Health developed an online coaching platform to reverse type 2 diabetes without drugs or surgery
  • AdviNOW Medical uses AI and AR to simplify patient-provider engagement
  • Using VR for treating fear of heights
  • Project EVO – Akili Therapeutics video game for paediatric patients with ADHD

For the purpose of this report, disease interception is defined as:
Medical and behavioural interventions that target disease biomarkers in asymptomatic individuals, thus stopping or slowing down the development of symptoms.

What to expect

  • A detailed report examining the rapid development of virtual health technology and products and the issues pharma needs to address if it is to prosper in the virtual healthcare space and avoid pitfalls
  • An examination of 9 key issues which pharma and developers need to understand and respond to
  • 19 targeted questions put to the experts
  • Their perceptive responses that provided 37 insights supported by 73 directly quoted comments

About the Expert contributors

The report harnesses critical insights and opinions from industry experts who have:

  • Expertise in the field of virtual engagement, multi-channel marketing, digital channel management, or virtual healthcare
  • Over 5 years' experience in fields relating to virtual engagement
  • Responsibility for developing and shaping strategies and initiatives for virtual healthcare
  • Direct experience of assessing customer interactions and influencing the delivery of virtual healthcare in various digital channels, either as part of a committee or as the lead decision-maker, in the last 12 months

Contributors to the report

  • James Bates is the Chairman, CEO and Founder of AdviNOW Medical, a healthcare company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) to provide automated medical visit systems for patients. Apart from conceptualising the vision for the company, he also created the product strategy, developed the core AI and AR technology and drafted the 12 patents owned by the company. For more than 20 years before the launch of AdviNOW, Bates was involved in research, technical design processes and marketing. He has also served as senior management in several multimillion-dollar companies dealing with semiconductors, radiofrequency technology and the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • Emmanuel Fombu is a pharmaceutical executive at Johnson & Johnson. He has over 15 years of experience within the fields of clinical medicine, drug development, medical affairs, digital medicine, and business development and licensing. Dr Fombu is a bestselling author The Future of Healthcare: Humans and Machines Partnering for Better Outcome, physician and keynote speaker, as well as a leading authority on the successful introduction of digital technologies into the healthcare industry. He is a champion for the implementation of the IoT, machine learning and AI to revolutionise healthcare. Opinions expressed within this report are his own and not that of J&J.
  • Vyom Bhuta is a Global Consulting Partner in Commercial Life Sciences at Cognizant. Cognizant is one of the world's leading professional services company helping transform industries and companies by getting digital done at scale and speed. Bhuta leads the Digital Commercial team that helps Life Sciences companies convert scientific innovations into incredible products and connect with customers. He brings a learning mindset to his work by observing business models, consumer behaviour and technology trends and using these to predict direction within the industry. In life sciences and healthcare, he is passionate about using digital innovation to detect high-risk patients early, improve access to therapy, and increase engagement and effectiveness of providers and care teams, and driving real world outcomes for patients.

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