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  • Writer's pictureAventria Health Group

How Pharma Can Leverage Health Information Technology

More often than ever before, we hear our pharma clients discussing hooking up with technology companies, from a digital health start-up to players like Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple, or any of the other obvious and usual suspects. You’ve probably seen more than a few articles written about the prospect of Pharma using the capability of these innovators to collaborate with large provider organizations and payers.

Sometimes it’s clear that these articles are authored by people who haven’t actually been involved in such an arrangement. When I run across one of these, I chuckle at the delta between the rose-colored version and the no-filter version; but at a minimum I can say that collaboration is the future and Pharma, just as much as any other stakeholder, would be well served to get good at it.

There are many ways for Pharma to hook up with a health innovator, but I’d like to focus on one kind of collaboration: Pharma working with a health innovator to integrate into the technology of strategic customers (payers and providers mainly) to advance brand, franchise, or corporate core business objectives.

Aventria has had the privilege and pleasure to build (or rebuild) strategies and implementations that enable our pharma clients to reach patients within the clinical workflow at provider organizations, payers, case management companies, pharmacies, and employers. While we have almost 3000 case studies to share representing the 3000 sites of care we’ve successfully integrated into, let me immediately take a nosedive into what not to do. Sometimes it’s easiest to get a bead on the do’s by looking at the don’ts.

If I had to peg the 3 most common misdirections Pharma takes, it would be these 3:

  1. Confusing the ideal integration solution design with the optimal integration solution design. In health information technology, perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of accomplishing absolutely anything. Nine times out of 10 when we are called in because an integration pilot or launch isn’t working out, it’s because Pharma has constructed success parameters that are nearly impossible in the current information technology infrastructure.

  2. Forgetting that the technology piece is just one piece of the strategy. If you build it, you can’t count on them coming. You also can’t count on them agreeing to be trained to use it. Nor can you count on them remembering a month from now it even exists. A best-practice strategy and implementation plan will cover the build, and it also will include the plan to deliver and communicate the why and the how. You’ll also need a feedback loop so they keep coming and you keep your funding.

  3. Not thinking through the varied implications and necessities of a collaboration with not 1, but 2 (or more) entities. The innovative health company or start-up is one entity. The provider organization(s) where the initiative will be rolled out are the others. In our experience, these 3-way alliances can easily stall, short-circuited by serious culture clashes and “lost-in-translation” moments. This is an easy concept to understand intellectually but super tough to negotiate in reality. Do not underestimate.

Luckily, using a process model refined by experience will ensure that you hit all the essentials without falling into the traps. So will making sure the right people with the right experience and decision-making authority are on your team. If you would like more information about these 2 critical success factors, you have a couple of choices:

  1. Listen to this podcast where Dave Dierk and I discuss what it takes to pull off a successful pilot:

  2. If you work for a pharma company, email me at and I will sign you up to receive a free series of 5 timed emails. In bite-sized portions, you’ll get essential insights on how to launch a successful technology integration at a payer or provider organization.

— Stacey Richter is host of the Relentless Health Value podcast and co-president of Aventria Health Group.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by Aventria Health Group.


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