Ripe for Disruption – Reflections on eyeforpharma Barcelona 2017


United for Healthcare. Driven by Outcomes.

Earlier this month, 1000+ industry leaders gathered in Barcelona for the 2017 eyeforpharma event. The event, which is Europe’s largest commercial pharma meeting, featured speakers from big-name companies like Nestle, Google, Sanofi, Merck, Biogen, and more and covered vast topics in the themes of Digital Transformation, Customer Engagement, and External Collaborations and Partnerships.

I was fortunate enough to be part of the Medullan team that traveled to Barcelona to speak and listen to other visionaries in our industry. Over the course of the three-day event, I had the opportunity to network with many people and listen to some great, informative presentations. Overall, the conference material was insightful and evoked many thoughts and questions.

It’s been few weeks since the conference, but it gave me time to reflect on this year’s conference theme of “United for health care. Driven by outcomes.”. I thought it was important, as we look forward from this event, to lay out the challenges that are facing the pharmaceutical industry and to put forward a call to action for all of us:

Collaborating for outcomes

I had the honor of speaking on a panel about how stakeholders can take partnerships to new levels. The topic at hand was how Patient Advocacy groups can partner with Industry to improve outcomes, and the charge was to assure that patients have the opportunity to take part in clinical research, development, and decision-making process.

But despite the theme of uniting for healthcare on that panel and at the event at large, what I observed at the conference overall was anything but united.

We can do better by truly uniting and seizing opportunities to collaborate and develop meaningful solutions for the patient.

True Patient Centricity

Patient centricity was also much-talked about at this conference. At Medullan, we champion a patient-first process, so I’m always glad to see companies talking about patient engagement and behavior change. However, while there was a lot of discussion around this idea, there were few case studies or use cases presenting actual outcomes. We need to break down the barriers and share outcome data so we can truly innovate for the patient.

More worrisome, though, is that the sheer amount of point solutions being generated (or theorized & ideated) for the patient per therapeutic area. We often talk about comorbidities in our patient support solutions. For example, if a patient has one disease – say, diabetes – then they are more likely to have another disease, like hypertension. Point solutions and interventions for each of these diseases are good, but bundled solutions, which only ask a patient to go to one place, rather than two, are much better. I heard little about this idea at the eyeforpharma event, despite the many point solutions being piloted by each company. Collaboration with industry, academia, advocacy, HCPs and payers is critical for pharma, as the need to support the patient first is the new landscape of healthcare.

The Industry is ripe for disruption

The underlying current I picked up from the conference was a feeling of concern: Pharma is ripe for disruption. In fact, if pharma companies aren’t willing to partner with patient advocacy groups, with smaller companies, and with incubators, there’s a real chance that the opportunity to provide patient value will be snatched up elsewhere. Verily, IBM, and others are already coming after the space. Startups are making a move as well, too, especially with their beyond-the-pill therapeutics. So pharma, which has traditionally been slow to move, needs to catch up. Otherwise, pharma risks becoming an industry of commodity pill press providers while others deliver outcomes that improve patient’s lives.

I left eyeforpharma with a clear insight: pharma needs to change. To move forward, we need to break down old ways of thinking and find new ways to revise regulations, explore data sharing and privacy, and form partnerships. We need to truly unite all parties (advocates, pharma, payers, and industry) to empower patients to take control of their own health outcomes. This collaboration and change will allow large companies to be innovative in the truest sense, rather than just talking about it.


eyeforpharma Barcelona 2017 - Jeff Gombala and Ryan Rossier



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