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Deloitte's Life Sciences & Health Care Blog

Realizing the promise of health information technology to support innovation and demonstrate value in life sciences

I am at the annual HIMSS trade show this week, where – as the largest health care IT trade show – the state of health IT is on showcase. I’ve been attending HIMSS now for over 15 years, and when I reflect on the overall progress we have made as an industry in the use and adoption of information technology, the progress is in many ways remarkable.

Much of the focus and dialogue around health information technology often focuses on interoperability among care providers, health information exchanges, workflow, and more recently patient engagement, analytics and population health. And based on everything I have observed this week in Las Vegas and the work we do every day with clients, despite myriad of remaining challenges, good progress continues to be made on these fronts.

However, one of the less discussed but potentially most transformative areas of health information technology to the overall health care system is the insights that can be gleaned to support sustained innovation in life sciences. This is quickly moving from a nice to have promise to an imperative for life sciences innovators as the industry moves to more outcomes based reimbursement models as well as the continued progress towards personalized, targeted therapeutics.

To survive and thrive in a value based, personalized health care paradigm, life sciences will have to more quickly answer what I like to call the “hard questions” in health care – what works, for whom, why, in what context and at what cost? This is only possible via health care information technology and the secondary analyses of the information that is captured in these systems – whether electronic health records, patient self-reported, collected in mobile devices, social networks, claims data sets, and other sources.

So where do things stand? The reality is the transformation that enables the secondary use of broad health care data as a catalyst for life sciences innovation is lagging the progress made in other industries such as finance and retail where secondary use of data is essential for innovating new products and services. But life sciences companies have opportunities to leverage the progress made by the adoption of health care information technology to drive innovation in strategies, support new business models, accelerate clinical development, and demonstrate the real world value of medical innovations in patient populations.

One opportunity for life sciences companies is to directly engage with stakeholders around their products and innovations. They can do this through new digital health and patient service initiatives, or incorporate new technologies into specialty products and “beyond-the-pill” strategies. In a recent Deloitte publication, Patient Engagement Strategies in a Digital Environment, we explored how life sciences companies are pursuing these strategies – and whether they are responding fast enough and moving in the right direction to bring about productive real-world outcomes. For example, after one company’s treatment for cystic fibrosis (CF) was approved, it also introduced a patient service program (dubbed GPS, for Guidance and Patient Support), to help patients not only improve medication adherence but also with the physical interventions needed like airway-clearing techniques.

A second opportunity is to effectively leverage what we like to call the digital exhaust of the health care system, or the secondary use of health care information to drive insights. Think about the range of digital technologies that are available to capture complicated pictures of what’s occurring in the “real world” e.g. the world of health care information that exists outside of the traditional health care data that has been available to life sciences innovators like clinical trials. This data has applicability across the innovation value chain from R&D to safety to market access to commercial insights.  I’d invite you to watch our new video, Patient Engagement for Life Sciences Companies for a perspective on this secondary use of data to understand a patient’s journey.

However, because of regulations and privacy concerns, fully taking advantage of this health care information often requires novel business model innovations and not just technological innovations.  For example, Deloitte is working with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) to establish an integrated knowledge platform designed to centralize and aggregate patient information – with linked biosamples – across multiple research efforts. The new initiative, called IBD Plexus, is designed to speed progress toward precision medicine through novel research, leading to better diagnostics, treatments and, ultimately, cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

In another example, progressive, forward-looking life sciences companies are increasingly entering into new novel collaborations with their stakeholders ranging from health care systems to patients.  Deloitte, through ConvergeHEALTH, is collaborating with global pharma company Allergan and leading health care system Intermountain Healthcare on a number of initiatives that advance translational research, real-world evidence and effective outcomes, and the development of personalized medicine.

In summary, I will leave HIMSS this year encouraged by the progress that has been made to date in terms of the use of health care information technology, but also leave with a renewed sense of urgency to help our life sciences clients realize the still largely untapped potential to use it to drive a new wave of medical innovation in the future.

Author bio

Brett Davis is the General Manager (GM) for ConvergeHEALTH by Deloitte, part of Deloitte Consulting LLP’s innovation group (DCI). As the GM, he leads ConvergeHEALTH on its mission to support the information-based transformation of health care. In addition, Brett serves on the board of directors of the tranSMART Foundation, and the external advisory boards of both the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and the Jefferson School of Population Health.