Pharma, Digital Technology and Patient Centricity

Posted by Graham Buchanan on Jul 27, 2017 12:01:18 PM

 Last week the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions released its report on ‘Pharma and the connected patient: How digital technology is enabling patient centricity’. The report explores the “transformation of healthcare from a provider-driven marketplace to a patient-centric health ecosystem”. It looks at the drivers, the challenges involved and the role of digital technologies in a successful transition. 

In producing the report, Deloitte conducted primary research on 12 top pharma companies and surveyed 190 patient groups. InnoCentive is featured as a case study.

In this article, we’ve highlighted some of the report’s key findings and offered our own thoughts about the role of Challenge Driven InnovationTM in enabling pharma to become more patient centric.

Drivers of patient centricity

Pharma, and the life sciences industry in general, is experiencing increasing demands from an ageing population, a rise in the amount of health data, more informed and connected patients, and heightened expectations for personalised healthcare. Furthermore, personalised healthcare is recognized as key for doctors to make the right interventions and improve medical outcomes. As a result, pharma needs to become “more agile, acquire new capabilities and adopt new business models”. Digital technologies play a fundamental role in this, allowing pharma to directly engage “patients and partner with them across the entire pharma value chain”.  This patient centricity can help “bring drugs that reflect patient needs to market, align the reward-for-outcomes that governments and payers require, and help patients and providers achieve better outcomes.”

Obstacles to patient centricity

The report identifies six main obstacles to pharma becoming more patient centric. These include the traditional product-based and risk-adverse culture of pharma, which means organizations can find it difficult to be sufficiently agile, cross-disciplinary, and attract talent with the necessary digital skills. The other obstacles include regulatory uncertainty, data safety and privacy, low public confidence in pharma, and low health and digital literacy among patients.

Strategies for achieving patient centricity

Five strategies are identified for addressing these obstacles. These include changing corporate cultures and structures to promote agility, foster innovation and attract and retain appropriate talent, as well as building collaborative relationships and partnerships with stakeholders and technology providers. The other strategies include creating new contracting and pricing models that are underpinned by patient information and insights.

The role of Challenge Driven InnovationTM

Challenge Driven Innovation can play an important role in advancing some of the strategies promoted in this report – in particular, changing corporate culture, building collaborative relationships and attracting talent. It can help remove risk aversion as an obstacle by allowing organizations to pay for results rather than efforts and have an external network share the risk. It can instil a new way of thinking into an organization that is inherently collaborative: getting to the core of a problem or need and decomposing them into sharable units of work. It can connect organizations both with patient groups and a diverse virtual workforce made up of smart and creative minds. What’s more, it can accelerate the R&D process (as Roche discovered).

Applications of Challenge Driven Innovation can be found throughout the drug development pipeline, e.g. identifying new biological targets (early stage), seeking novel compounds (mid stage), developing risk assessment tools (late stage) and seeking new product uses (post launch). Challenges have also been used specifically to help organizations become more patient centric and directly engage patient groups – here are some examples:

Harvard Catalyst: What Do We Not Know to Cure Type 1 Diabetes

This Challenge was run by the Catalyst community in Harvard’s Clinical and Translational Science Center. They work in what is sometimes termed ‘the valley of death’, where there is a lot of data missing and it’s hard to make leaps between some of the fundamental biological discoveries and the pragmatic discoveries that can lead to an actual therapy that benefits patients. For this Challenge, Harvard Catalyst wanted insights from patients and caregivers on the problems or areas requiring further research in order to better address Type 1 diabetes. Despite the perceived unlikelihood that it was going to produce results, there were nearly 200 submissions. After an extensive review process, they identified 12 winners from a diverse range of backgrounds, some of whom were entirely new to diabetes. As a result of the Challenge, a whole new set of diabetes research targets and funding opportunities were established. You can read more here.

Cleveland Clinic: Build an Efficient Pipeline to Find the Most Powerful Predictors

This Challenge was looking for an algorithm able to predict cancer survival outcomes of patients with accuracy equal to or better than Cleveland Clinic’s reference algorithm and in less than 15 hours. As one of InnoCentive’s Prodigy Challenges, Solvers were able to test their code in real time and see where they ranked against other Solvers on the online leaderboard. Over 1,000 Solvers worked on the Challenge and all 20 shortlisted algorithms performed better than the reference algorithm. Cleveland Clinic estimated to have saved 2-3 years’ worth of development resources through this Challenge and the solution was immediately available for them to take into production. You can download the case study here.

National Institute of Health: Follow that Cell

All cells are different, even within a particular type. The ability to monitor a single cell and predict its behavior and function over time is crucial for, among other things, personalised healthcare. It can reveal valuable information such as how cells transition from a healthy to diseased state, or identify changes that influence a cell’s responsiveness to treatment. In addition, non-destructive methods for monitoring single cells could assist with early disease detection and allow doctors to better tailor therapies to cells as they evolve throughout the course of a disease. NIH ran a $500,000, two-stage Challenge looking for tools and methods that would allow for these tracking and prediction capabilities, ultimately awarding two biological engineering researchers. You can read more here.


In summary, pharma needs to become more patient centric. To make this happen, cultural, structural and operational changes within organizations are needed. These changes can enable pharma to build the necessary connections and better understand and respond to patient needs. We at InnoCentive hope that by providing the supporting methodology, network and purpose-built platform, we can play a role in bringing about a truly patient-centric model of care.

You can read the full report here. The InnoCentive case study can be found on page 27.

Download our white paper for further information on how open innovation and crowdsourcing can be used through the drug development pipeline here.

Topics: Innovation Insights, Challenges

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