Up to Your Eyeballs in Digital Innovation

March 31, 2014
As the lines between healthcare, technology and pharma continue to blur, pharma finds itself with more opportunity than ever before.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said out loud, “What will they think of next?” while scrolling through my industry RSS feeds. It’s even crazier to think that some of these seemingly far-fetched ideas could quite possibly become part of everyday patient care in the not-so-distant future.

Google announced in January that it is testing prototypes of a smart contact lens that is built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor. Google says it is working with the FDA to turn these prototypes into real products and taking it a step further by looking for partners to develop apps that would make the data from the lens available to patients and doctors.

In February, the Israeli company, Given Imaging, announced that the U.S. FDA cleared the company’s “Pill Cam COLON” as a new modality to provide visualization of the colon. The company’s ingestible technology uses a battery-powered camera to take high-speed photos as it winds its way through the intestinal tract. The ingestible pill camera can be used for the 750,000 U.S. patients who are not able to complete colonoscopies each year due to anatomical reasons, previous surgery or various colon diseases.

A future that is potentially free of pricked fingers and colonoscopies? Who wouldn’t sign up for that?!

So what do cameras in colons have to do with the pharmaceutical industry? (There is a joke in there somewhere.) The convergence of digital technology and medical devices opens new doors for several industries. This represents a new class of customers for pharma — those who are looking for convenience and are willing to step out of the box in a non-traditional way to find it. Today’s patient is digitally savvy and operating in real-time. He’s a “guy on the go” — using everything from mobile apps to Twitter to smart pills.

Changing healthcare policies has shifted more responsibility onto patients. This shift presents pharma with an opportunity to increase patient adherence and subsequently produce better results for its products. The door is now open for pharma to directly educate and communicate with its customers — and the customers are listening.

I recently read an interview with prominent business school director, Valérie Sabatier, regarding the changing pharmaceutical business model. Sabatier says, “The value proposition is no longer based on a single product aimed at very large markets but on providing services and solutions. The industry is now looking to develop a care ecosystem, for instance, with medicines plus video games. This change in the value proposition is affecting the whole industry.”

I like the concept of a “care ecosystem” — an interacting community of components all with a unified goal — in this case, patient care. As the lines between healthcare, technology and pharma continue to blur, pharma finds itself with more opportunity than ever before. Opportunities to educate and innovate are everywhere — literally, right in front of people’s eyes and even … coming out of their colons.

About the Author

Karen Langhauser | Digital Content Manager