Innovation in healthcare is about bridging the gap between patients and physicians
“We’re learning that innovative, interactive technology is something that both patients and physicians really enjoy.”Brian Klee Global Medical Lead for Eliquis, Pfizer
Colette Balaam: Let’s dig in. Can you please tell me a little bit more about what your main objectives and goals are at Pfizer, especially in the context of improving the overall healthcare experience of your customers?
Brian Klee: I’m the Global Medical Lead for Eliquis, which means I’m responsible for the overall medical affairs that relate to the Pfizer side of the business. As you know, we’re an alliance with Bristol Myers Squibb. We have the responsibility of being the medical caretakers, the scientific caretakers of the brand. And that forces us to wear a lot of hats, different hats at different times. Working with our commercial colleagues, working with our research colleagues, and working with our legal and regulatory colleagues as well.
A big piece of what we do is educating the physicians. Educating them about our medication, where we see them fitting in, what the benefits are, and what the potential adverse events or risks are.
More and more, it’s about putting the patients at the center of the dialogue, making sure that they too have enough information. That they’re not just looking at the internet and reading all the scary stories. But really finding some accurate information about products. And then enabling them to have a thoughtful discussion with their providers. This whole concept of shared decision making is something that’s being taken a little more seriously.
Trying to understand how to do that is requiring some real innovative thinking to make sure that the physicians have all the information they need and that the patients have the right amount of information. Even trying to facilitate those discussions between the patient and the physician is important. The way we learn and the way we communicate is all changing. So trying to figure out the best way of doing that in the current environment is one of the big deliverables that we face.
CB: That’s actually a great lead into my next question… Can you give us your perspective on what it might look like and feel like to be your customer in five years? What do you think might be the same, and what do you think might be different?
BK: The way we consume information is changing. For physicians, a lot of it has traditionally been reading journals and going to conferences. But also, a heavy role of learning about specific products by direct visits from medical or commercial representatives from pharmaceutical companies. I think patients have also read what they can in the press. They’ve more recently gone to the internet and looked things up, either on Wikipedia or hopefully something a little bit more scientific. Whether it be from some of the offerings at the MAYO clinic, WebMD, or Medscape type places, they can go online to understand things.
We’re really trying to figure out how to meet them where they are. Making it available when they are available, as well as suitable for each and every person that’s looking for it. We’re learning that innovative, interactive technology is something that both patients and physicians really enjoy. I think if we make it short but detailed enough, we can get across important pieces of information, but still, retain people’s attention in today’s distractible environment. That sort of hits the sweet spot for us.
CB: So in the current environment, there’s a lot of talk about digital transformation and the changes that are affecting all industries. Given the nature of healthcare, the focus on patient’s lives and general human-centered care, what do you think are the biggest challenges with the concept of digital transformation? And equally, what are some of the biggest areas of opportunity as they pertain to the healthcare industry?
BK: I would say there are two things. One is accuracy. This information is going to directly impact physicians and patients in deciding what might be the best treatment for them. I think 100% accuracy is paramount. And that really leads everything else from there.
The other is compliance. We work in a highly regulated industry. Making sure that we’re following all the rules and regulations about getting the information out there is the second piece that is essential for us.
From there, I think that’s where creativity and, dare I say fun, comes in. Trying to understand the best way of getting information out there. Interacting with new technologies, whether it be augmented reality, whether it be virtual reality. It just seems to me that the more exciting a piece of information is made, the greater the likelihood of someone will actually be drawn to it, and want to use it as part of their learning experience.
CB: Being a physician yourself, and working in the industry, there’s a lot of different technologies. What technologies do you believe will have the greatest impact on healthcare over the next three to five years? And how do you approach new technologies, to have that discerning sense to know if it’s something that’s just a fad, or if it’s something that may have to shift to really improve patient care?
BK: There’s a lot out there. Trying to sort through it and figure out what is more likely to resonate, or stick, is something that I just don’t think we all know the answer for. I’m a big believer, as you know from some of the work we’ve done, that you don’t have to get real fancy to be innovative. Moreover, I think it’s finding the right piece of technology at the right time.
I think virtual reality will absolutely still be here in five years. However that said, I think the process and the user experience could still be improved, and probably will be over the next five years. You have people who get dizzy from the experience. You have people who get claustrophobic wearing the glasses. Things will continue to evolve and will probably be a little bit easier and perhaps more palatable as we move forward.
But I should caution, we shouldn’t always need to think that we have to have the best of the latest. The simpler, more commonplace technologies of right now are still extremely effective.
CB: The next question, which is more of a personal perspective for your end would be, what would you like your long-term contribution to be in terms of improving the health ecosystem as a whole?
BK: For me, it’s very straight forward actually. I want to bridge the information gap so that physicians and patients have the information that they need, and that the information actually facilitates a dialogue between the two. I think if we only provide information to physicians, and not also the patients, we’re only doing part of the job. I think we owe the medical community and patients information in easily digestible ways.
If I can, I’ll do my part to help ensure that the information is there on both sides of that equation and that the tools actually help facilitate ongoing interaction and ongoing learning.
I think that will really be very important. “If we only provide information to physicians, and not also the patients, we’re only doing part of the job.” We’re okay at the information side, getting it to physicians, getting it to patients. But I think there’s still room for improvement. I think the facilitation of those dialogues, this true construct of shared decision making, is an area that still needs improvement. If I or we at Pfizer can play a small piece in making that occur, I will feel really good and really successful.
That’s great. Lastly, a lot of what we talk about from a healthcare technology perspective is designing the experience or making sure we understand the patient experience, the patient journey. Whether that’s a clinical journey or their day-to-day. Could you give us your thoughts on how important it is to understand that patient journey?
BK: A lot of us in this industry are healthcare providers like myself. Being a physician, we sort of understand how they think and what pieces of information they need. I think that we also have been doing it long enough that we understand those interactions.
We sometimes forget what it’s like to be a patient, because we’re all patients as well. And in fact, I remember back when I thought about going to medical school, my mother once said something very important, and that is just don’t forget what it feels like to be a patient. And that includes everything from feeling scared, feeling like you don’t have enough information, feeling like you’re not sure if this is the best treatment, or if the doctor is giving you the best advice.
Trying to synthesize information that gets the patient to the appropriate point in time in their journey is so important. Because their needs on day one, when they have a symptom, are different from their needs when they get the diagnosis, which are different from they’re needs when they get the treatment, and then hopefully the cure.
Our job is to try and understand that journey, to ensure that the patients have the information that’s suitable for them at each stage as well as help them understand not only what we know about the illness but also about the use of the medication or medical device.
The hope is a facilitation of that dialogue and providing information at the different touch points along that journey for both the physician and the patient. And furthermore, facilitating the conversation that they then need to have in order to help them both decide on the best outcome.
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