Digital Health

Accelerating Pharma Innovation



This past year has been a tremendous shift for the healthcare industry. One of the most important changes that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the acceleration of digital health, with a new rise in pharma innovation. Not only has this been beneficial for use during the pandemic, but it has also demonstrated viability for people living in remote or rural areas where traditional care is not as easily accessible to them. Pharmaceutical companies were no exception in having to strengthen their use of digital health products and services to reach their clients directly.

In this podcast, Rob Havasy, senior director of connected health with HIMSS, spoke with Jim Parshall, director of connected health external innovation at Eli Lilly and Company, on the ways pharma has shifted focus to digital health in this post-COVID world. Parshall helped start the digital health initiative at his organization and speaks to the need for large pharmaceutical companies to partner with innovative companies and startups.

He touched on the COVID-19 pandemic spike in telehealth use and how to take that to the next level by making health data available in real time. They also discussed how digital technology and connected device capability can transform clinical trials, help with patient loyalty and improve medication adherence.

“We believe that combining today's digital technologies with scientific innovation can lead to personalized and actionable insights for patients. It can lead to new channels of engagement to patients and their healthcare providers. And it can lead to improve self-management solutions for patients, all of which of the above can contribute to better health,” Parshall said.

He reflected on the contrast between a typical five-to-10-year drug development cycle versus a digital product developed in months and continually tweaked. They have adapted to this challenge with a collaborative approach to accelerating pharma innovation.

“I think there are opportunities for startups and other small companies to partner with pharma in general,” Parshall said. “Pharma companies have a deep understanding of developing regulated products. Partnering with pharma will provide startups with benefits such as clinical rigor, established quality systems, relationships with health systems, and a very deep quantitative understanding of our medicines and how they work to improve lives of people.”

The conversation concluded with a look ahead, with ideas on how pharma can revolutionize personal digital health by creating potential “nirvana devices” that can collect physiologic measurements and share that information in ways that make people healthier. The challenge lies in balancing the search for a “killer app” with the need to make incremental changes in a highly regulated industry where safety is a priority.

The views and opinions expressed in this content or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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