Archive for January, 2010

What If We Had to Start From Scratch?

January 25th, 2010

The unexpected happened and Massachusetts elected a Republican to the Senate seat long held by Democratic lion, Ted Kennedy.  Beyond the far-reaching implications for BOTH parties as to how this instructs them to respond the electorate, Scott Brown’s election breaks the fragile 60 vote Democratic Caucus in the Senate, putting healthcare reform as we have come to know it in dire peril.

Many, including myself, do not think that this is a bad thing necessarily. What if we had to start from scratch?  What if we unraveled all the convoluted provisions and the waivers and side deals connected to them and created a bill that truly reflected the needs of patients and healthcare practitioners?  What would this look like?  We’ve come so far away from first principles that it may be hard to recall or recapture, but here’s my short list.

  1. Real cost savings – Few things actually reduce overall costs in healthcare rather than just shift them.  A new healthcare bill should include a) Medical malpractice reform, and b) Payment based on a coordinated care model.
  2. Expanded coverage – We will never get to 100% without automatic universal coverage so stop using that as a goal if we don’t plan to go that far.  We would be able to get closer, more easily by raising the income and category limits on Medicaid and lower age limits to buy into Medicare.  Incentives for small businesses, tax deduction for individual coverage, and allowing children to stay on their parents policies until age 26 would make a significant difference.
  3. Meaningful coverage – accept the insurance company proffer to eliminate pre-existing conditions, guarantee issue, remove lifetime caps, etc.
  4. Improved quality – See 1 and add supporting practices of all sizes to adopt and use electronic medical records (with patient access to their data) and accelerated translation (uptake and adoption) of evidence-based medicine.

Then walk away. Put the pen down. Leave the exchanges, mandates, Louisiana Purchase, state opt-outs in the dust bin of history and bask in the feeling of getting something done.

The Fundamentals of Pharma/Patient Group Interactions

January 8th, 2010

The end of 2009 and beginning of this year have been spent on determining how pharmaceutical companies in particular and corporations in general can engage effectively and appropriately with consumers and patients in online environments whether social media or static.

Lost in the conversation is that pharma has not yet perfected how to engage effectively and appropriately consistently in the real world with patient groups and communities.  As my basketball coach/father would always say, “Never forget the fundamentals”.

I believe the fundamentals of working with patient groups and communities (as well as their physician counterparts)  can be captured by my three R’s of strategic alliance development.

Strategic alliance development is the cultivation and active engagement with select stakeholders in a manner that is (1) relevant (2) respectful, and (3) recurrent.

Relevant – Engage in a fashion that reflects you understand what the mission, priorities, and capabilities of the organization.  What are the needs, gaps, and concerns of that patient population?  Make sure your science, messaging, and outreach meets those.  Likewise, relevant organizations and opinion leaders will be those that have the visibility, credibility, and capacity to advance your specific business objectives.  Every organization is not an appropriate partner for every objective.

Respectful – Patient groups are not waiting to do your bidding and patient advocates and association leaders are important players in healthcare.  Organizations are often eager to co-create meaningful programs, events, and informational experiences when treated as full partners or leaders of the process. Also, don’t send junior marketing people or your agency minions to senior level meetings.  Vice president-level or medical affairs participation may be necessary to demonstrate a serious commitment and substantive intent.

Recurrent – Frequent and consistent interactions and communications are valued by patient groups beyond financial contributions and differentiate mere corporate sponsors from true community members.

The ultimate goal in strategic alliance development is to be valued by the community as a member of the community. Membership validation translates into positive market share and share of voice.

Let’s get it right in the real world 1st.