PharmaVOICE Blog Post

Collaboration: why aren’t we making progress toward a healthier world?

Posted By: Dan Limbach
January 18, 2018

by Adele Gulfo
Biopharmaceutical Executive
PharmaVOICE 100 Honoree — 2007 and 2016

As I was on the NYC Subway headed toward the PharmaVOICE 100 Celebration last September to participate on a panel tasked with the following question: “Collaboration: why aren’t we making progress toward a healthier world,” I saw this ad about the health consequences of sugary drinks. While soda has literally become the poster child calling us to action to take better care of ourselves, it made me ponder how we really can make “progress toward a healthier world.”

If we think about one of the real problems, about half of adults suffer from one or more chronic diseases, which account for seven of 10 deaths and 86% of healthcare dollars. Compounding matters, the average patient can take upwards of thirteen medications per day, making for serious compliance challenges. As former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said, “drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” The most difficult to manage, and most expensive diseases include diabetes, COPD, and heart failure. These chronic diseases place a burden on individual, their families and the Health System. Take, for example, diabetes, which affects 415 million adults worldwide and is associated with life-altering complications including vision loss, amputation, cardiovascular disease, and kidney failure.

For our PharmaVOICE panel discussion, I felt compelled to point out that the greatest need for innovation lies not in drug development, but in mobile technology and other kinds of health tech advances which can help address how chronic disease patients can better monitor and manage their health. We need to seek solutions by combining drug therapy with digital therapy. I’m not the only one to catch on to this urgent need – in the first half of 2017, $3.5B was invested in 188 digital health companies, setting a record for the number of companies funded and the total amount invested in digital health, according to RockHealth.

Here are some suggestions for how as a society we can collaborate to address these complex needs.

  1. FROM THE PATIENT PERSPECTIVE: Statistics are overwhelmingly positive that when patients are actively engaged in their disease management, they live healthier lives and have better outcomes. Combining this with a connection back to the healthcare provider, with digital health advances, can trigger interventions based on remote monitoring that can really make an impact. In fact, any of us can improve our health with mobile fitness resources. I am personally passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and making the best choices possible to stay both mentally and physically fit. For some, tools and apps can really make a difference to modify poor behavior and enhance the good. Most of us know about FitBit, mobile activity trackers, and connected fitness equipment like Peloton. With about 260,000 mobile health apps already available, and 60% focus on chronic diseases including heart disease, COPD, diabetes, and depression, we are working to build the right kind of mobile health infrastructure. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, US adults with web enabled smartphones use at least one health or fitness app, and the numbers are increasing.


  1. FROM THE HEALTH SYSYTEMS PERSPECTIVE: More hospitals are adopting proven medical digital tools to help with compliance, monitoring, prevention, and even motivation for patients – all via online programs, apps, video messaging, and texting. We are seeing greater collaboration among health systems – take, for example, the collaboration underway between hospitals in Boston, where Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Boston Children’s Hospital are teaming up to find the most innovative solutions with cutting-edge digital health startups. Digital health innovations are also enabling better collaboration across payers and providers, with the proper incentives around shared financial accountability and penalties from readmission for Medicare patients.


  1. FROM THE DRUG MAKER PERSPECTIVE: Some companies are focused on finding solutions to deliver better health, especially in chronic disease areas where we know a combination of drug therapy and digital therapy can lead to better outcomes. ”Beyond the pill” has become a much-heard mantra and many big pharma and biotech companies are already working to build digital health components into their R&D. Companies are focusing on identifying the right healthcare solutions, services and technologies to complement our vast product portfolio and franchises.


Furthermore, from a government perspective, FDA recently launched a Digital Health Innovation Action Plan, to encourage digital health product developers and drug makers alike to speed collaboration and investments into this important arena.

These collective advancements indicate that we are making progress toward a healthier world. However, in pharma, we need to be more proactive in meeting patients where they are most engaged, in this digital landscape. My hope is that this is just the beginning. Collaboration between multiple players in the healthcare system will result in innovation that will truly deliver a healthier world.

About the Blog Poster: Dan Limbach

1 Comment on "Collaboration: why aren’t we making progress toward a healthier world?"

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  1. Kyle says:

    Because people do not like the taste of real food or the pain of exercising.

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