Archive for October, 2014

Is Big Pharma Losing Its Innovation Brand? Not so fast…

The list of leading consumer electronics and telecom companies that have embraced digital health this year are all household brands: Apple, Qualcomm, Google, Amazon, Samsung, Verizon and AT&T. Funded startups in the tough guymobile health sector number in the hundreds.

We’re seeing a phenomenon in which the tech industry, specifically tech entrepreneurs, are spearheading health innovation, replacing the traditional players like biotech, pharma and medical device companies. And pharma seems to be acquiescing to these newcomers, despite the fact that there is no other industry player as intrinsically linked to both innovation and the delivery of healthcare as pharma.

Health tech leadership evolving
Pharma has always been a health tech player. But in just the last few months as health tech has been redefined as digital, it’s become blatantly obvious that health technology leadership is now in the hands of big brand consumer electronics companies. And while the focus of companies like Apple, Qualcomm and Samsung has initially been the largely unregulated health and wellness sector, there’s nothing inherently limiting them from moving to the clinical side.

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The Land of Oz

Dr. Oz and celebrity doctors like him have stirred up the medical community. Regardless of what you think about the accuracy of Dr. Oz’s claims and advice, he has created a huge audience of four million viewers who look to him for medical, health and nutrition advice.

While I don’t have the clinical background to judge the truthfulness of Dr. Oz’s advice, I do know that he’s leveraging media and technology in a very fresh and powerful way to enable and support patient empowerment. His platform puts medical and health information into the hands of millions of consumers. Dr. Oz’s approach is filling an unmet need in the medical community: helping patients to truly learn and understand their health.

OzThe Perfect Storm
It really is a perfect storm of trend, technology and media. Patients really want to understand how to live healthier, and cable television and digital media and apps have made access to fresh content cheap, convenient and ubiquitous. But this shift has upset the natural order of traditional patient-doctor relationships.

Physicians working in the traditional health care system are often overburdened and don’t really have the bandwidth to create new ways of doing things. So along comes a physician, Dr. Oz, who is able to break down health, healthcare and medicine in very simple ways that make it accessible to the population – and consumers are embracing that. The magic of Dr. Oz’s approach is that it’s engaging, accessible, simple and motivating.

What can we learn from Dr. Oz?
While there has been negative press about Dr. Oz’s endorsements of weight-loss products, there are people, particularly those who may not have a primary care physician, who use his advice to make decisions about their health. So before we attempt to silence or disparage him, I think it is better for us to look at what Dr. Oz is doing right and what we can learn from his success, especially at the physician level. What can physicians learn from Dr. Oz’s simple, clear explanations of what’s happening in the body, and how can they incorporate that into their patient relationships?

The patient empowerment movement isn’t going away, and we shouldn’t want it to, so it is important for physicians to embrace the patient’s willingness to learn and understand medicine and how it affects their bodies.

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