Eyeforpharma Barcelona took place last month and was the biggest yet. Here are some of my thoughts and observations, a few weeks later but that is because I’ve been busy with efp follow-up opportunities!
The exhibition hall was more vibrant than last year. Roundtable meetings taking place within the hall, together with ‘guided tours’ of the exhibition and a stage with presentations at one end made it a more lively and interesting place to be. Good job, eyeforpharma!
Here are my takeaways:
1. The next big healthcare leader may not be a pharma company
Ordering drugs by Prime? Paul Simms boldly predicted in his opening address that ‘the fastest growing health company isn’t a health company’. He tapped into a big question on everyone’s mind: will pharma become irrelevant as an industry in the future? As you’d expect, this was a major topic of conversation running through the days.
Amazon’s business model is famously about customer service. In the early days, each new customer was not profitable for the company because they invested more in service than the initial customer purchase – but of course over time this investment has been a winning one. This is a mindset that applies equally to healthcare, and either pharma needs to get the ‘Amazon’ mindset, or Amazon Health might be the future.
2. Patients are experts in their long-term conditions
Patients live with their conditions every day. Involving them adds value from the earliest point of drug discovery to the ongoing support of therapy. It was great to see that this year patients were delegates alongside everyone else, integrated into the conference.
It was particularly refreshing to see a panel of young patient representatives, who spoke with vision and clarity – the voice of future patient advocacy.
Matt Eagles, who chaired the Patient Track, has young onset Parkinson’s. He read out his medical notes from the last 30 years or so, hilariously pointing out that, no matter why he’d gone to the doctor, the comment appeared each time like a diagnosis – ‘Parkinson’s’, as if this were new… ‘So apparently I still had Parkinson’s in 1998’ etc. He used this to make the point that he has Parkinson’s every single day, hour and minute – that is his experience, whereas the healthcare professionals only experience Matt’s Parkinson’s two or three times a year.
3. Big companies are making a strategic effort to transform
It’s a fun three days, but eyeforpharma is far from an industry ‘jolly’ nowadays. Some companies sent large cohorts this year and organised session attendance and ‘congress reporting’ back to colleagues.
They came to the ‘roundtables’ with notepads and devices at the ready, keen to learn from each other. Presentations, too, were focused on the practicalities of transformation, with top tips and to-do lists in abundance.
Companies know transformation is imperative for future survival and teams are eager to make this happen. But there is work to do – in one poll (IQVIA) only 7% of the pharma professionals said their customer experience is integrated across channels.
The presentation from Google highlighted that we still have much do. 86% of patients search for information after receiving a diagnosis. Both they and HCPs often look for ‘side effects’ relating to their medication, but companies do not always highlight this information in a useful and visible format. Ryan from Google also pointed out that social listening is helpful, but keyword analysis can give a different perspective on what users are really interested in:
4. Twitter conversation enriched the event (about time!)
Happily, more delegates were ‘walking the talk’ and engaging on Twitter this year. This fostered useful sharing at the conference – I chatted with a few industry colleagues in person and discovered new opportunities as a result of enlightening Twitter exchanges – our customers are, of course, doing the same.
5. The role of Big Data and AI
Artificial Intelligence in healthcare is growing up. Otsuka showed the impact of data collection through DigiMeds, wearables and patient apps, leading both to better patient management and accelerated drug discovery.
Watson Health has plenty of examples of what they refer to as ‘Narrow AI’ where a specific question is answered through use of big data. They also introduced ‘Broad AI’ – in which multiple types of data are used – for example in diabetes using glucose levels, insulin dose, lifestyle factors, food consumed – different data types together can predict an outcome – such as a hypo – 4 hours in advance.
This is the shape of things to come as innovation becomes less about ‘what new shiny thing do I want to make?’ but more ‘how can I harness data to learn more about my customers and patients?’