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Why Connected Digital Health Matters… to the Biotech Community

May 23, 2014
The WLSA is a San Diego based international association of companies and organizations that are committed to the acceleration of wireless and digital technologies in health care. Formed in 2005, we fostered many of the early innovations in the field, such as CardioNet (mobile cardiac telemetry), Proteus Digital Health (wirelessly observed therapy) and a variety of remote patient monitoring and adherence services. Under an arrangement with BIO, WLSA is bringing the best thought leaders and companies to the BIO community, beginning with the BIO 2014. This is timely since the financial landscape within which biotechnology operates is changing so rapidly.

Health care spending in the US flattened in the great recession and it will not return to pre-recession growth patterns due to weaknesses in the US economy and structural changes in health care spending. At more than 18 percent of GDP, US health care spending is considered to be unsustainable in a competitive global market. It is twice that of other wealthy nations but delivers worse population health outcomes that have captured the attention of policy makers and payors. An influential report in 2012 from the Institute of Medicine and a series of analyses by the Milken Institute on chronic disease supported the wide spread belief that up to one-third of health care spending is “wasted” or otherwise avoidable through a variety of tactics.

Many of the cost reduction strategies described in these and other analyses are based on the utilization of digital and communications technologies to personalize therapeutic interventions and fully leverage available information from outcomes in the real world use of advanced therapies. It is said the “era of blockbusters” is over. Payors of all types are changing their programs to pay for outcomes. This is rapidly creating a new environment for the sale and distribution of pharmaceutical products.

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies are examining how to adapt to a health care landscape where the best prospects are for companies offering solutions for disease, not just components of a solution. Some companies such as WLSA member Sanofi have restructured their corporate organization based on this market shift, and are establishing business partnerships that would have been unprecedented 10 years ago. Others are examining their portfolios and development schedules to assess the viability of current and planned products in a new age of health care. All companies should be actively engaged in determining how to take advantage of connected health technologies to shorten the clinical trials process and to monitor outcomes after receiving market approval.

Connected health platforms are also critical to meeting the expectation of patients. The voice of the patient is increasingly important in a world of personalized, outcomes-oriented medicine. The pharma and biotech communities must learn how to embrace this new reality.

The Digital Health Zone and Forum at BIO 2014 will accelerate the learning curve for the biotech community. This is just a start – larger efforts are planned for BIO 2015 in Philadelphia and BIO 2016 in San Francisco.

Robert B. McCray is the President & CEO of the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance, Chairman of Alliance Healthcare Foundation, Special Adviser to TripleTree LLC, Member of Midmark Corporation Board of Directors, Member of Board of Directors of CONNECT and an active adviser to several companies. Rob leverages over 25 years of experience as a business owner, senior operating executive, and legal and transactional adviser to private and public companies.