From the floor at PhRMA's Annual Meeting

From the floor at PhRMA's Annual Meeting

04.14.11 | By Kate Connors

This is a guest post from Brian Reid, Director at WCG.

Judging from the agenda, the PhRMA Annual Meeting was about leaders: yesterday's Session started with an introduction by PhRMA chairman and sanofi-aventis CEO Chris Viehbacher, followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and others. All spoke about the importance of investment and the need to have clear, thoughtful regulation to nurture that innovation.

Yet the views that are most likely to shape the future of the industry didn't come from the all-star lineup of household names, but rather the very first panel of the day, which brought together a number of individuals speaking for the patients, including Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, Gail Hunt, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving and James Firman, CEO of the National Council on Aging.

The panelists all reiterated a similar version of the same message, articulated most clearly by the AHA's Brown: "It is now all about the patient." I've yet to run across an organization that didn't aspire to be centered on the patient, but the lines of communication between different elements of our dizzyingly complex health care are not often clear. A patient that takes a life-saving medication often has only a tenuous connection to the company that makes the drug: the patient receives the prescription from one part of the system (a doctor), received the medication from another (a pharmacist) and, often, has it paid through another (an insurer).

But communication technologies have evolved to the point where all parts of the health care system are closer than ever, tied by a growing web that ranges from electronic health records to email to social networks. With a few clicks of a mouse or a few swipes of a finger, any wired patient can access a world of information that would have been unimaginable when President Clinton first took office less than two decades ago.

The challenge will be to use all of the tools that have emerged -- tools for education, tools for analysis, tools for communication -- and use them to better understand patient needs and better engineer products, services and processes that bring the patient to the center of the health care web.

"The way to change the world and change the country is to create a partnership of government and consumers and industry," Firman told the standing-room-only crowd today. And by that standard, today's panel -- and the hundred smaller efforts taking place across the globe in which patients and industry are partnering on everything from medical research to policy change -- shows that industry is ready to meet that challenge.

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