Thursday, July 19, 2012

ePharma West 2012: Complete Coverage of ePharmaSummit West, Day Two

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This week, ePharma Blogger for closerlook, inc. is in San Francisco covering ePharma Summit West.  Tune in every morning for a recap of the previous day's sessions!

Day Two of ePharma Summit West 
July 18th, 2012 

 There are two people who got discussed a lot at today's ePharma Summit sessions. These two people are entities we in pharma (brand or agency side) think about a lot. The problem is that when we think about them, we think aren't all thinking about the same people.

For example, the first person that gets a lot of discussion is a patient. Perhaps you don't know her. According to presenters and audience members, she is motivated/unmotivated. He always and never takes her meds. She knows how to and is scared to talk to his doctor. He loves mobile devices but hates to use them. She has insurance but go to clinics and have the disposable income to spend freely on healthcare. It sounds confusing, but luckily, he has an amazing doctor. She reads journals exclusively, assuming you can classify Sermo posts as journals. He has an iPad and an iPhone but doesn't know how to put a USB drive into a computer. She wants more patient data, but doesn't want daily emails from every patient. He relies on data exclusively to make decisions but can't read a patient's chart. She always and never wants data about patient savings programs. All that's well and good because we marketers use reps who docs love and never let them into their offices.

Marketers use non-personal promotion to talk to people and leverage personalized mass-communication tools. We want data and analytics so long as we don't actually have to make decisions with it. One thing we can all agree on: MLR is the enemy. I'm just kidding about that last one. I promise. It only underlines how complex our jobs are. There is no target, there are twenty and they are commonly contradictory. Threading the needle between such wants and needs would be a walk in the park compared to all this. We all see and hold on to (rightly or wrongly, backed up by data or years of experience) so many biases and "truths" about our respective targets that we've gotten lost in the deep weeds.

But do you want to know the worst contradiction pharma faces? That pharma may only survive if it learns to embrace wellness, preventative medicine, off-the-shelf consumer-grade tech and behavior change. At it's most blunt: pharma can only grow and thrive by not being pharma. At least, that's what I am starting to get from this conference. In a conference filled with plenty of "top influencers and thinkers" and brands who would happily call themselves "conservative," each day so far has ended with a panel of technologists and entrepreneurs who seem hellbent on burning a specific page of the medical and pharma history book and do it all over again the "right" way. It's almost Dickensonian to have invited the Ghost of Christmas Future to our conference to tell us our fates. At least they had the good grace not to gloat. Here's the most galling part about these young upstarts: Their willingness to listen to the data and take action on it.

If there is a Achilles heel within our industry, it's our unwillingness to listen to the data, to play our gut hunches in the face of contradictory data, to elevate the status quo as we bemoan the future in a blockbuster-less world. Maybe the time we spend complaining about how slow and clumsy pharma is could be better spent making it more agile in the few places it can. Maybe we can ask the data answerable questions and commit to acting on the answer, no matter what it says. Strangely, the bright spot for pharma is how many messy steps exist between the now and the pharmaless rosy future painted for us (side note: I call for a moratorium on all conference sessions in which the presenter has to say "one day…" before making a point: if you aren't doing it, you can't talk about it).

Today's panel of technologists and entrepreneurs talked as if the idea of destroying pharma and getting bought up by pharma were equally successful ends. And maybe they are. I say these things to praise pharma, not to bury it. Speaking of praise, I reserve it to presenters who were willing to talk in specifics rather than in vague generalities. Those of us in the audience who are professionals (spoiler alert: all of us) appreciate it.

 My complete notes are at if you'd like to skip my generalizations here and get a more direct read on what was said. Feel free to spread the link.
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