Posts Tagged ‘pharmaceuticals’

JiboLet me begin by saying that I find Jibo (a little household robot/servant) to be cute, creepy, and provocative.

We’ve been fantasizing about robots for decades, and the connected internet of things joined to intelligent software make these little digital companions a future certainty. This type of device/platform isn’t a fanstasy. It’s inevitable.

The privacy issues make me cringe; though, in reality, this is only an evolutionary step from our existing world of smartphones and other connected devices.

So, what does this Wall*E-like platform do? Watch this video, and then let’s discuss one application that could be pretty significant – patient compliance with taking medications:

Now, imagine an older person – perhaps living alone – that needs to take one or more meds in sequence during the day. If Jibo is there, with a prescription schedule(s) programmed in, then it’s much easier to deliver friendly reminders.

Create digital bridges to wearables (such as Apple’s iWatch and other body-monitoring devices), and some really interesting possibilities open up. Tie this into glucose monitoring devices for diabetes, for instance, or into an on-board blood pressure monitoring device. Pharmacies could interface Jibo to one of those fancy digital pill-bottle caps that can send a signal when it’s time for another pill.

Now you have a (multi-functional and kinda friendly) companion that can talk to you and provide reminders.

Of course, there is the expanded possiblility of video medical consultation, since a device of this sort could both store and upload digitally-gathered body systems data. Jibo becomes the in-house medical information conduit.

Patient–Jibo–Cloud–Doctor. Connected.

The fact is, all of this is coming – we have the various tools and toys already in place for it. Something like a servant-robot could easily tie it all together from an interface point of view.

What do you think? Is Jibo potentially one of the new faces of medicine?

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ID-10087536I know, I know – we’ve seen lots of articles with titles like this in past. For many years, the imminent death of the pharmaceutical salesperson has been forecast.

And, for good reason – taking into account increasing government takeover of healthcare decisions, past shady sales practices, and the unwillingness or inability of many doctors to even see reps anymore, these are not great times for the pharma sales industry. I’ve seen incredible cutbacks in staff over recent years.

But, for now, the role of the sales rep continues. So we come to the question: what does the future hold?

I think the best way to approach this question is to broaden it and link it to the larger movements (I call them trend currents, as opposed to current trends) that are shaping business and culture.

So, let’s consider this question: What is happening to the role of face-to-face information exchange in all of life and business? Especially, what will be the role of person-to-person exchanges of information that can be easily accessed by other means?

If I want to know about a drug, do I have to wait for the right sales rep to drop by? Or can I, with a few clicks on a tablet, find what I need in real-time (without a potentially biased presentation)? How many of us research information on-line now, that we used to discover only through person-to-person interactions?

If I can use a (free) search engine to point out the facets of knowledge I’m seeking, do I need someone to point out those knowledge bits on a glossy piece of paper, or on their company-issued tablet?

If I can get an e-detail whenever I want it, why would I prefer the model of having people interrupt the office flow in the middle of the day to give a pitch?

Take these principles and apply them to every industry outside of pharmaceuticals, and you’ll see that we are undergoing a major change in the way we communicate and do business. It’s called disintermediation (removal of non-value-adding layers between us and what we need). Every time you use Amazon.com, and not a brick-and-mortar store, you are living in this trend current.

It’s not that face-to-face interactions don’t have value (they do), it’s just that the broader trends across the entire landscape of our culture are driving us to real-time connectivity to whatever we need – especially in the realm of knowledge.

Is pharma sales dead? I don’t think so. But I think it’s losing the race of relevance in our current technology and business climate. Which means we’re going to have to re-think the model – fast.

Your two cents?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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This week, I was privileged to take part in the 9th annual ePharma Summit, put on by the folks at IIRUSA. This event had the misfortune to be located in Philadelphia during the Smomaggeden III incident, so a number of folks (including me) felt compelled to bail out before the worst of the storm hit on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, the conference was exceptionally well-attended – sold out, in fact. This was encouraging after seeing such slim crowds at pharma events last year.

I went to the Advanced Social Media Boot Camp the first day (Monday), which featured such speakers as Shwen Gwee (Vertex Pharmaceuticals), Mel Halkyard (Eli Lilly), Fabio Gratton (IgniteHealth), and Lance Hill (Within3). Most helpful in my mind were the group exercises, led by Fard Johnmar (Enspektos), where we broke off into roundtables and brainstormed social media approaches to various scenarios. The discussions were lively and creative. The Within3 folks kindly hosted a very nice networking reception that evening (thanks, Lance and team, and congrats on the launch of the ACG GI Circle community!), which was followed by a wonderful Tweetup on the ship/restaurant Moshulu, generously hosted by Pixels and Pills.

Pixels and Pills also conducted a series of mini-interviews during the conference; I had a chance to give my 2 cents here. They also recently launched a cool application recently called the Health Tweeder – check it out!

The meals were excellent, though some folks encouraged statin use by overdoing it on desserts. No names (like, for instance, John Mack) will be mentioned about the guilty…

The main conference, running Tues-Wednesday, was packed with a solid variety of presenters. Highlights for me included Dennis Urbaniak‘s (Sanofi) thoughts on innovation, and the presentation of UCB’s Epilepsy community. The most negative twitter back-channel feedback surrounded PBS Health Analyst Susan Dentzler’s overview of the Democratic health plan in Congress – relevance to eHealth was essentially non-existent and the tone was quite partisan.

Most touching on the heartstrings was the description of Acorda Therapeutics efforts to support the MS community, well in advance of the launch of any commercial product.

Kevin Nalty (“Nalts“) talked about video and YouTube, in his usual entertaining way, and comScore’s John Mangano tossed a bunch of intriguing statistics on the screen, though there seemed to be a veil over any raw data underlying it.

I left early the next morning, in advance of the worst of the storm, and experienced something I’ve never seen before – uncrowded major highways between Philly and North Jersey in the morning! For those who stayed (about 100), there was a shortened day of presentations, and for some, an extra night at the Hyatt Penns Landing as it was not easy to escape Philly by any means as Wednesday wore on!

By and large, the audience was fairly quiet throughout the conference – Q&A, discussion, and live engagement were muted for whatever reason, which is a shame. There was a good number of exhibitor/sponsors, including Klick Pharma, MC3, and Kyp – all of whom provide solid pharma eMarketing solutions.

It was great seeing so many members of my pharma network during the event, including (besides those mentioned above) Wendy Blackburn, Sally Church (Sally’s conference review on her blog here), Paulo Machado, Mike Myers, Xavier Petit, Daphne Leigh, Ellen Hoenig, Dave DeBronkart, Phil Baumann, Chris Truelove, William Martino, DJ Edgerton, Eileen O’Brien, Marc Monseau, Zoe Elliott, and others.

What was the tone regarding the use of social media in pharma? By and large, though there is still uncertainty surrounding the FDA stance, I sensed more of an atmosphere of inevitability – a bit less of “if” we’ll use social networking, and more of “how.” That’s a good thing. J&J launched a couple of new initiatives, in fact, in the days surrounding the conference. I’m looking forward to more tangible and creative initiatives in 2010 that will help break down the barriers of fear and demonstrate how these technologies and approaches can ultimately make for better healthcare.


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Do gifts from pharmaceutical companies influence how physicians prescribe? This blog post gives a quick overview of the general angst over this much-flogged question. Let’s forget about the particulars of tchotchkes, samples, dinners, and cheerleaders-as-sales-reps for a moment. Think about the bigger issue – why is there some overhang of “WRONG” constantly overhanging this question of influence and sales? Consider this quote from the post:

“Until these issues are addressed, the drug industry will maintain significant influence over physicians’ prescribing patterns.”

Duh. Who else is supposed to have influence – journalists, politicians, and garbage collectors? Of course drug companies will influence the use of drugs – just as EVERY company in EVERY industry seeks to influence users to use their products. Let’s just change the quote a little bit:

“Until these issues of advertising, speech-making, earmarking, and over-promising are addressed, politicians will maintain significant influence over citizens’ voting patterns.”

“Until these issues of politically-correct agendas, union power, anti-school choice, and undeserved tenure are addressed, teachers will maintain significant influence over students’ learning patterns.”

Some people have very selective views of free markets, free speech, and influence. Just saying…

Medtronic and physician payments. Check out the numbers here. There is a difference between staying (technically) within legal lines, and something that really has an appearance of impropriety. In light of my rant above, I’d like to see a lot healthier dose of good judgment (rather than ten more rounds of regulation). Exposure, in this case, is good for the whole system.

Of course, sometimes things both look bad AND are outside the lines of legality. Allegedly, here may be one of those cases. But this sort of stuff happens everywhere, not just with drug companies. Lest people forget that the problem is corrupt PEOPLE, not simply a single industry.

Bit of a ranting mood this morning. Hopefully by tomorrow there will be some bigger news items to report!


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A long and interesting article from NY Times magazine, about the process a doctor went through as a “recruit” to be a paid spokesperson for a drug company.


    How many doctors speak for drug companies? We don’t know for sure, but one recent study indicates that at least 25 percent of all doctors in the United States receive drug money for lecturing to physicians or for helping to market drugs in other ways. This meant that I was about to join some 200,000 American physicians who are being paid by companies to promote their drugs. I felt quite flattered to have been recruited, and I assumed that the rep had picked me because of some special personal or professional quality…Regardless of how I preferred to think of myself (an educator, a psychiatrist, a consultant), I was now classified as one facet of a lunch helping to pitch a drug, a convincing sidekick to help the sales rep. Eventually, with an internal wince, I began to introduce myself as “Dr. Carlat, here for the Wyeth lunch.”

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