eyeforpharma Barcelona 2018: Are we getting bolder?

This year's eyeforpharma Barcelona showed signs that fresh thinking is beginning to reinvigorate pharma's approach. The conference presented novel commercial models that are now starting to be implemented, more widespread and innovative uses of technology, and new forms of collaboration.

After years when novel ideas were called for but hard to find, there is reason to be optimistic that things are changing. While practical examples are only now just emerging, many companies do indeed seem ready to work in different ways - and are now looking to be inspired.

Launched at Barcelona: BOLDpharma

Anthill came to Barcelona this year with fresh ideas of our own (the Anthill Academy and Anthill Activator) and to kick off BOLDpharma, another new initiative, launched to encourage everyone to act with more confidence. The project begins with an industry-wide survey to identify what is holding pharma back in its use of new technologies.

Do you have a bold vision for pharma?

The BOLDpharma survey is now live. It just takes a few minutes to share your views and, once the survey is closed, we’ll send you a personal benchmarking showing how your experiences match those of the wider industry.

One clear message from Barcelona was that the industry needs to act now because other kinds of organisations are moving into healthcare. The recently announced Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan partnership was, for many, a signpost for what's to come. Indeed, Christina Busmalis from IBM in her presentation on their Watson AI product noted, "Healthcare is ripe for disruption with technology."

Appropriately then, in a panel discussion at the close of the event, eyeforpharma polled the audience on what pharma's primary response to the tech disrupters should be. Almost no one thought that doing nothing was an option.

Tech companies see healthcare as the biggest candidate for major disruption. What should pharma’s primary response be?

Develop multiple experimental joint ventures
Mirror their processes: agile & iterative
Something else
Avoid distraction and remain focused
Wait. Acquire / license tech solutions once developed

A related audience poll in the same session, asked whether pharma was capable of responding to these challenges in the next three years. Again, the results showed belief in pharma's own capabilities to work in more innovative ways - once internal barriers are overcome, and the right organizational structures were created to enable it.

Are pharma companies capable of creating faster time-to-market and innovation lifecycles (outside R&D), within the next three years?

Yes, in general: it's just internal attitude / process
Yes, but only in smaller innovation units
No, we don't have the staff / culture / skills
No, our business model requires perfection
No, the burning platform isn't there yet

Three bold trends from Barcelona

Most people acknowledge that pharma needs to go further and be willing to act in new ways. Companies that have already started, are now beginning to see results. Here are three big bold trends that caught our eye:

AI-enabled personalisation: Turning data into services was a repeated theme and artificial intelligence is seen as a way to make that happen. IBM showed an interesting project with Medtronic: an app that provided diabetes patients with information personalized to their specific needs. So, for example, asking it 'what should I eat?' would result in different answers for different users, depending their personal situation.

Smart channel strategies: Pfizer presented how they now apply different channel combinations to specific situations. For major product launches, it's "surround sound" in which F2F reps and supporting digital channels are used. In other occasions, it's "flex engagement" which opens up alternatives to F2F reps i.e. remote technologies. Finally, a "digital touch" model is used for established indications, which has full remote coverage plus digital channels orchestrated by a remote rep.

New commercial models: It's not just technology; pharma is also looking to rethink how it engages with its customers. One case from Daiichi Sankyo showed an innovative 'sales' organisation being built in oncology that seeks partnership with HCPs through a strict focus on demonstrating value to the customer. Interestingly, the HCP engagement process preceded product development and customer insights are used to inform scientific research.

BOLDpharma survey: benchmark your digital excellence position

Once you take the survey, you can sign up to get a personal benchmarking that will be sent to you when the survey closes, and all the data is crunched. Your personal report will give a picture of where you are today - and help pinpoint what might be holding you back.

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