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Beyond the Pill: How Pharma is Being Challenged to Innovate for the Patient
Episode

Amy West, Head of U.S. Digital Transformation & Innovation at Novo Nordisk

Beyond the Pill: How Pharma is Being Challenged to Innovate for the Patient

We have moved past the time when pills and medications are the only sources of treatment. The increasing demand for digital treatments and supplemental services shows the need for pharma manufacturing companies to be willing to let go of the “traditional” models and embrace new solutions.

In this episode, we are privileged to host Amy West, head of U.S. Digital Transformation & Innovation at Novo Nordisk. Amy discusses Novo Nordisk’s vision of identifying the true pain point of end-users and developing solutions to meet the needs of customers beyond pharmacotherapy. She shares how innovations in tech touch pharma and reasons why pharmaceutical companies should move beyond the pill. She emphasizes the importance of taking a patient-centric approach to deliver value and discusses some examples of wraparound services to address challenges. This is a fascinating conversation you don’t want to miss!

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Beyond the Pill: How Pharma is Being Challenged to Innovate for the Patient

About Amy West

Amy is head of U.S. Digital Transformation Innovation at Novo Nordisk. She leads Novo Nordisk in identifying transformational digital opportunities and breakthrough innovations that enhance patient health care experiences and outcomes. She oversees opportunity exploration, testing, and market validation through Novo Nordisk internal incubator, as well as with partnerships including startups, entrepreneurs, and third-party accelerator incubators to test pilots and scale viable solutions. She has over 25 years of strategic marketing and business development experience, including work in both the client and agency environments across a broad range of disciplines. She is a 2018 MM&M Top 40 health care transformer. In 2013, she was awarded the PM 360 Trailblazer Award in the diabetes metabolic disease category.

Beyond the Pill: How Pharma is Being Challenged to Innovate for the Patient with Amy West, Head of U.S. Digital Transformation & Innovation at Novo Nordisk: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Beyond the Pill: How Pharma is Being Challenged to Innovate for the Patient with Amy West, Head of U.S. Digital Transformation & Innovation at Novo Nordisk: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
Everyone, this is Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney, host of the Outcomes Rocket Pharma podcast, and today I have the pleasure of welcoming Amy West back to the show. Amy is head of U.S. Digital Transformation Innovation at Novo Nordisk. She leads Novo Nordisk in identifying transformational digital opportunities and breakthrough innovations that enhance patient health care experiences and outcomes. She oversees opportunity exploration, testing, and market validation through Novo Nordisk internal incubator, as well as with partnerships including startups, entrepreneurs, and third-party accelerator incubators to test pilots and scale viable solutions. She has over 25 years of strategic marketing and business development experience, including work in both the client and agency environments across a broad range of disciplines. She is a 2018 MM&M Top 40 health care transformer. In 2013, she was awarded the PM 360 Trailblazer Award in the diabetes metabolic disease category. Amy, welcome back to the show. Thank you for coming on.

Amy West:
Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
Awesome. Amy, maybe to kick things off. Tell me a little bit about yourself. What drew you to working in the pharmaceutical value chain?

Amy West:
Sure. So it really kind of goes back to something I’d shared on an earlier podcast that I did with you guys a couple of months ago. But it really speaks to the fact that I’m a patient, just like we all are. And when it comes to whether or not you’re working in the health care space or not, you are a patient and you have your experiences. And I think engaging in the health care ecosystem has never been like a wonderful, pleasant experience. There’s a lot of red tapes, a lot of challenges there. And it can be very frustrating. And I’m actually going through some things now with my aging parents and trying to manage their sort of journey right now, even being in a couple of states away. It’s very challenging and there’s a lot of opportunities to make that experience better. When we think about what’s happening with digital virtual data disruption, and it’s we’re seeing a lot of it, obviously, with what we’ve been through with COVID, that acceleration has really taken off. But I would say that we’ve got a lot of work to do because there’s still all with all that progress, it’s clunky. It’s still not really working the way we needed to, but there’s a lot of opportunity there. And it’s those two things that make me really passionate about being a patient myself and being a caregiver to others who are patients but then also seeing that this opportunity that we have with innovation, whether it’s technology or a combination of high tech and traditional, there are ways that we can make engagement in the health care ecosystem so much better, so much more productive and so much more efficient from a time resource and money and cost standpoint. So trying to find those solutions are it’s what really excites me and what I’m really passionate about and what I have the honor and pleasure of leading Novo Nordisk for our U.S. organization.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
I love that you think about ways to leverage technology, to really focus on the patient and make a better experience for them, because at the end of the day, in health care, it’s all about the patient, or at least should be. Yeah.

Amy West:
And I think we all mean that. We all say that. But when you really get down to the nuts and bolts, a lot of the time the approaches that we take, really there are so many factors to include. I think sometimes when the business considerations come into it, the logistical considerations come into, the resource considerations come into it, the patient need really gets lost at times. And I think that’s kind of where we are. We are we’re kind of at this precipice right now trying to really chip that point back to how do we really build an opportunity, a regimen, a pharmacotherapy, and services that are going to really meet the needs of the end-user first, and then all the benefits to the broader ecosystem will follow.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
Yeah. I love that focus on the patient. And so tell me about what’s most exciting come today in your day to day work. What are you focused on at Novo Nordisk?

Amy West:
Sure. So, again, my area of focus is not really on anything that’s going to deliver a solution in the next couple of years. We’re really looking at that longer-term disruptive era of innovation. When we think about all the changes that are impacting health care and the demands that we’re seeing from our customers. So what I’m looking to do is in some ways take off the Novo Nordisk Pharmaceutical Manufacturers hat and see what is the true pain point of our end-user customer and how do we develop and experiment with hypothetical solutions that are going to meet the needs of the customer essentially beyond pharmacotherapy. And so that’s where you’re thinking about when I think about the place that I’m coming from with Novo Nordisk. We are a very strong portfolio in diabetes, obesity, chronic metabolic disease, areas that there are so many great medications, pharmacotherapy solutions that are life-saving and important. But these disease states are very behaviorally-based as well. And so medication alone isn’t going to be enough to get us to the right quality of life for the individual and the rights outcome for those in the ecosystem who are paying for this stuff. So how do we think beyond pharmacotherapy? And I would say that obviously, the traditional business model for pharmaceutical companies is to manufacture and sell medication and pharmacotherapy. But now there is the strong impetus to move beyond the proverbial pill. And that’s coming from a couple of different considerations that this is really where my team is focusing. So it’s based on these notions that medicine alone is not enough for the patients to achieve their optimal clinical outcomes and improve quality of life, particularly in these chronic health disease states. Another notion is that beyond the pill, services are becoming an important element of achieving differentiation in a very competitive market. They become essential because many of our pharmaceutical products are not highly differentiated from their competitors based on the clinical data alone. So these adjunct and support services can enhance the value and provide a competitive edge for the product potentially into the future. And then really, thirdly, our pharmaceutical pipelines are being challenged. Beyond-the-pill offerings can deliver new and diverse value and potentially new sources of revenue that we can then invest into future innovation. We really only need to look at what’s happening in other parts of the health care system, where digital leaders that weren’t your traditional health care players like the Amazons and Googles are really seizing these opportunities to develop virtual platforms for personalized, convenient, patient communication and coordination. They’re not playing in the pharmacotherapy space, but they’re playing in the server space because they know that that is an integral part of getting to the right outcomes. And I would also say we can also look at a lot of disruptive alliances that are happening in this space, too, like the merger of CVS and Aetna, where they are really forcing traditional health care companies to bring patient services to the forefront in addition to the medication.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
I absolutely love that. You know, this is subtle but significant transition from pharmaceutical manufacturers just developing these great products and assets have a significant impact to ensuring that a patient takes it. And then also, how do we provide wraparound services to really make sure that the patient’s health is the key outcome that’s focused on. And it’s not just taking a pill. And that’s not enough. There can be more that’s provided to the patient to ensure that they stay healthy and stay out of the hospital.

Amy West:
Yeah. And I would add there too, that what you’re saying is that the really important point of this service offering, again, is it has to take a person-centric approach in order to deliver the value that the end-user is going to recognize, acknowledge and use and need. You know, beyond the pill solutions cannot be a business solution. It requires a clear understanding of our patient customer’s needs. And to get to that, we have to take an empathetic, human-centric, not patient or business-centric approach to develop the services that are going to really meet the needs and end the pain point for the end-user. And that means we have to start with the individual customer’s problem to solve first. And as pharma, we have to start thinking of involving our end user patient customers in areas that we never considered before, like get them involved in early clinical trial design, decision-making processes, obviously within the confines of the regulatory space. We certainly want to be. We’re going to be compliant with all that. But we can bring those mindsets into that development process because they’re the ones that going are to have to work for at the end of the day. So it’s important to bring them into all these different aspects that are part of the pharmaceutical value chain of development.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
I absolutely love that. And so maybe you could speak a little bit about some of the challenges that you have specifically identified and then some of these wraparound services that you have created. To address those challenges?

Sure. I mean, obviously, there are

Amy West:
Tons of challenges out there, but when I think about the work that my team and I are doing in this sort of disruptive innovation space and looking at, you know, one of the top challenges that we see, challenges are also opportunities so it’s this rise of consumerism in health care. Again, you know, digital technology has really gone a long way to create these great experiences for people as customers in other industries, whether it is retail or financial services, travel, leisure, all that good stuff. But it really hasn’t taken hold in health care yet because of the complexities that we have. But there is an expectation that this changes. People want a better health care experience, and especially as I’d mentioned earlier, you know, as we’ve seen the acceleration of digital and virtual because of COVID. That’s not going to go away. And I expect a better experience as do our customers. How do we respond to that and how do we acknowledge that and make it easier for them because our patients are vulnerable and they’re being asked to spend more money towards their health care spend. And, you know, pre-COVID, you know, poor patient experience and rising financial burden necessitated people to be more engaged in their health care management and decision-making. But again, that’s only accelerated now as we are emerging or we’re trying to emerge from this, you know, this Covid haze. But by virtue of this, we’re seeing increased engagement by end-users as they’re navigating the system, making choices based on personal preference, convenience, and desired experiences. So this again, this is consumerism. This is an expectation that they’re now applying to health care. And this is where I see we have a lot of opportunities and we can learn a lot from those players that are not traditional health care. You know, the Amazons and the Googles, because they understand customer expectations and actions. They know how to use data and insight to create a good experience now and into the future that can support things like better habits, their behaviors that can support prevention, and things like that. And there’s a lot to be learned also from the telecommunications industry because they’re getting into the space. They have a lot of understanding from a business to consumer point of view, and they’re looking to see how can they leverage their technology in this space, because they know their customers, what that journey and experiences and they understand speed and they’re trying to go for that versus, you know, they’re trying to eliminate all the red tape and all the things that we’re always stumbling around in the health care space. So I think taking those B2C type of mindsets and applying them to health care and transferring that is a huge opportunity. And that’s where when I think about that challenge of the rise of consumerism, I kind of, you know, how can we leverage digital mobile IoT, AI technology and create what I kind of call this portable ecosystem for the individual so that we can shift the locus of control from the health care clinic setting. Who’s calling the shots as to when you can come in when you can talk to the doctor when you’re going to get your lab results to shifting that control to the patient? Hey, I’m going to engage when we’re in how I want to because of my connectivity in my home environment or, you know, because of my remote patient monitoring access or my voice technology. I can now engage in a way that puts me more in control. It’s a better experience for me. It’s more convenient, it’s less intrusive, and it creates a better relationship for me with my health care team. Now, I think that we’ve got a long way to go to get there, but that is sort of in my mind, my vision for how we can start to really address this rise of consumerism, address the expectations around convenience. You know, I don’t want to think about my health all the time because I’m now conveniently surrounded by this technology that can capture information and help coordinate the care that I need without me having to really even do a whole lot.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
You know, it’s such a challenging problem. Many people are saying how health care is archaic technologically and from a consumer experience. Well, I think there are real aspects of regulation and complexity around, including doctors in decision making and patients don’t always have all the information necessary to make a decision that it just creates more complexity around how to design a world-class experience. But at the end of the day, this is going to have an outsized impact on an individual’s life. Amy, when you solve this problem, it’s going to have a far greater impact than, you know, the one-click purchase on Amazon through their website. And this is really transformational.

Amy West:
I think what’s really interesting, too, about this concept of portable health is that. Everybody’s different, and so when you mentioned, you know, the decision-making piece. When we think about digital technology, that’s all about collecting data. And there are people that are going to want to have that data so they can use it for better decision-making for their own personal reasons. And then there are the people that don’t want to make the decisions. But you can still capture it into your care team or give it to, you know, give it to your doctor, give it to your son or daughter that’s helping you and let them make good decisions. But the choice is yours because the connectivity is there and it’s going to work for you based on when, where, and how you want to engage. And that’s the beauty of it. I mean, it’s a big ask. And it’s certainly isn’t something that I’m going to be able to solve on my own. It’s going to be a lot of these players across the ecosystem coming together and working together and kind of even displacing some of these siloed business models that we have. It’s really going to be an integrated sort of cooperation and collaboration process can be very interesting to see how it all comes together.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
Yes, absolutely interesting to say the least. But it’s going to be very exciting nonetheless. And so when you think kind of in the future for Novo Nordisk and from your perspective, how do you think this is going to transition? What are some of those integrated solutions that are going to have to be provided to really support the patient through their health care journey?

Amy West:
Well, and I think this is where, again, you know, it’s kind of like, you know, it’s not a one size fits all. It’s about how do we create the connectivity that everybody can benefit from. And a lot of it, in some ways, an example I would give is to imagine a future where we all live in a smart home or smart city. And the environment in which we live is connected to capture information about us from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we put our heads down to go to sleep. And then even while we’re sleeping, the environment around us is capturing this information, whether it’s a wearable, it’s an environmental sensor of some sort or a robotic type of component or voice technology, but it’s going to be a way to capture information across all these different sorts of modalities that can then bring it all together and consolidate it in a way that’s going to give a data picture of what’s happening with me. And then you marry that up with potentially DNA, genetic information, and your social factors, the environment in which you live. And those aspects of who I am as a person, again, the social determinants of health. Because those are all things that have an overwhelming influence on your health, your potential health outcome as well. And so I see it as this connected world. The challenges that are part of that, though, is if we’re collecting this data, you’ve got to consider the privacy elements, the interoperability permissions, those types of things as well. There’s a long way to go there. And data can be a very tricky area because if this information is being collected, how is it being used? Yeah, if it’s being used for me, if I truly own my data and I’m giving you access to it, what am I going to charge you a fee for that? Because you are now using my information for these reasons? Or is it going to be the way it is now or I as an individual, in theory, I own my own data, but I have no way to monetize it or own that. It’s just kind of out there being used. And we all certainly know that there’s a lot of sort of the various side of things where people are reaching data and using it for things that are going to cause problems. So there’s a lot to be challenged there. But I think over time, as we advance this and the advancements are really growing exponentially, we’ll be able to get to this place that, again, that the information is going to be collected in a very convenient ambient way so that we’re not having to take so many actions and being so conscientious about what we’re doing. And then we can use that information for different decision-making, whether it’s health-related or wellness-related or whatever.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
Yeah, in this future that you’re describing right now when data is ubiquitous, there are opportunities to prevent diseases from progressing, to really focus on those individuals and ensure that the right decision is being made to keep them out of the hospital, to keep them from progressing to high-cost specialty drug. Any thoughts on that transition?

Amy West:
Yeah, it’s that whole notion of well-care versus sick-care or health versus sick-care. And I definitely think that the industry is talking about a lot of prevention and proactivity, however, the reality is the U.S. health care ecosystem is still primarily incentivized based on reactive acute care reimbursements. But we are headed toward, I think, a significant paradigm shift, more toward that prevention and proactivity model. Right now, it just hasn’t been prioritized or compensated. And recently, I attended a Reuters health conference and there was a great quote from Matt Eyles, who is the CEO of AHIP, which is the National Association of Health Insurance Plans. The payer side of things. And he said it’s all about moving from sick care to health care, shifting care upstream with preventative health care models. The payer bets on the future of US health care are things like leveraging digital to address the social determinants of health, emphasizing preventive care, population health management, and home person health care. And those are all requiring us to think much more holistically about our customers and how we’re going to support them again beyond just the pharmacotherapy or the pill. We have to do more than that because we can’t achieve any of those focused areas or those priorities for those who are paying for it if we don’t do that.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
Yeah, I think that’s going to be so critical as the U.S. health care system and really health care in general progress and tries to move forward. And I think we just highlighted at this conference is going to take collaboration between payers and pharma manufacturers. It’s not just one entity or part of the value chain that will be able to solve this. It’s really going to have to be a group effort.

Amy West:
Absolutely. And because the current model just is not economically sustainable, and we are going to be looking more toward this predictive, preventive, curative, personalized approach to health care. And it’s going to require partnership. It’s going to require partnerships across pharmaceutical manufacturers, across technology organizations, startups of the world, and maybe even companies that are out there. But, you know, pharma really has to I mean, it’s a scary space for pharma, because that’s not our model but we do have to really think as pharmaceutical manufacturers, we have to decide if our mission is to provide health or provide medication. And if our mission is to provide health and I would argue that that’s what I’m hearing, that we need to move beyond the pill. And in order to do that, we are going to have to partner and we’re going to have to find new models and new ways of working in order to deliver the outcomes and the quality of life and that our customers are expecting. And if we don’t do that and we just stay, we’re just going to stick to pharmacotherapy, we’re going to be very pigeonholed because others are going to take over and those areas that we are not engaging in and whether or not we want to acknowledge it, you can argue that the pharma industry is we’re in the business of behavior also, it’s not just pharmacotherapy. And that’s an uncomfortable place to be. But when you’re playing in these chronic health spaces where behavior and psychology and habit and routine and social factors come into significant play in your ability to engage in your health and wellness, you have to think about your business differently.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
I love it. I love it. I’m excited to see that transition. And so, Amy, maybe to wrap things up, if you could give us a closing thought.

Amy West:
Sure. Well, I would say that, you know, something that I said in the last podcast that I have with you guys, but I think about it every single day. It is a quote that I heard from Peter Diamandis, who is a founder of Singularity University, which is this exponential thinking group organization, which I highly recommend everybody look into is as much a futurist, basically. And he talks about whether it’s health care or any other major global challenge that we have if it’s, you know, disparities in food and energy and things like that, the way to address and identify an opportunity is to become enamored of the problem and not the solution. And that’s what I try to do every day with my team. We really try to embed ourselves from an empathetic approach. What is the problem of our customer? What is their pain point? And use that as our North Star to find to keep us on the path, to find the right things that are going to help them and help Novo Nordisk be and continue to be a trusted, credible partner when it comes to your health and wellness. And so this idea, again, become enamoured of the problem, not the solution that is going to lead us all to success.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
I love it. Amy, thank you for coming on the show and sharing your expertise and have a wonderful day.

Amy West:
Awesome. Well, thanks so much. I really enjoyed talking with you guys and I appreciate the opportunity and stay well and hope to speak again.

Kyle Wildnauer-Haigney:
Absolutely.

Amy West:
Take care.

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Things You’ll Learn

  • There are ways that we can make engagement in the health care ecosystem so much better, so much more productive and so much more efficient from a time resource and money and cost standpoint.
  • Beyond the pill, services are becoming an important element of achieving differentiation in a very competitive market. These adjunct and support services can enhance the value and provide a competitive edge for the product potentially into the future.
  • The really important point of this service offering is it has to take a person-centric approach in order to deliver the value that the end-user is going to recognize, acknowledge and use and need. 
  • People want a better health care experience.
  • We can learn a lot from players that are not traditional health care. 
  • We have to decide if our mission is to provide health or provide medication. If our mission is to provide health then we need to move beyond the pill.
  • We’re going to have to find new models and new ways of working in order to deliver the outcomes and the quality of life and that our customers are expecting. If we don’t do that, if we’re just going to stick to pharmacotherapy, we’re going to be very pigeonholed because others are going to take over.

 

Resources

Website: https://www.novonordisk-us.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amy-west-0b926714