Novartis, Pfizer join with Big Biopharma peers to create tech standards that streamline how HCPs access info

Troy A. Pentecost has been appointed to the additional positions of president and interim senior executive officer, effective immediately.
Align Biopharma aims to use tech standards to streamline communication with HCPs

Novartis, Pfizer and four more major biopharma companies have teamed with cloud computing player Veeva Systems to make it easier for healthcare professionals to access information about drugs. The partners are creating a single login for HCPs to use to access all online content, instead of having to enter a different username for each company.

To advance the single login idea, Novartis, Pfizer and Veeva have joined with Allergan, AstraZeneca, Biogen and GlaxoSmithKline to establish a new industry standards group, Align Biopharma. The group was born out of a belief the current system is preventing HCPs from easily accessing the information they need to make decisions.

Drugmakers need to verify a HCP is really a HCP before granting them access to information they store online. But each company has approached this task separately, resulting in HCPs having a laundry list of logins. In some cases, HCPs need multiple logins to access all the information held by a single biopharma company.

“HCPs find these things burdensome,” Scott Cenci, VP of global therapeutic operations IT at Biogen, said.

Some HCPs, used to having information on tap outside of work, will fall back on Wikipedia and Google searches to access the details they need. These sources provide some information, but fall short of the level of detail drugmakers make available to HCPs. And, in an era of complex, targeted therapies, there is particular value in HCPs having access to detailed, tailored information.

Align is working to ensure HCPs can access such information.

“The goals are really how do we ease the administrative burden for the HCPs in being able to get the information when and where they want it,” Cenci said.

Align is aiming to publish its standard for single sign-ons in February or March, at which point it will seek feedback from people who aren’t part of the group. And, with Align hoping the standard will homogenize the experience for HCPs across all companies, it is encouraging non-member drugmakers and tech vendors to use it in their operations.

This open approach is central to the group’s ethos.

“We believe the more a standard is used, the more valuable the standard becomes,” Paul Shawah, VP of commercial strategy at Veeva and president of Align, said.

Once the first standard is published, Align will move on to its next project. The second initiative is aiming to bring consistency to how HCPs set communication preferences with each drugmaker.

Align is holding off on starting work on the second standard until it has published the first. This one standard at a time approach is intended to keep Align moving forward quickly, a factor that also shaped its list of initial members.

The group wanted to keep numbers down initially to cut the risk of progress getting bogged down, but it is open to accepting other large pharmaceutical companies into its fold. This start small then grow approach echos that followed by Johnson & Johnson when it teamed with Eli Lilly and Merck to create a database of investigators back in 2011. Involvement in that project increased when it was folded into another consortium, TransCelerate BioPharma.

Align is unrelated to TransCelerate—which is focused in accelerating R&D—but most of its members are also involved in the other consortium. And both organizations are testament to a growing willingness among Big Biopharmas to team up to fix shared problems.

In the case of Align, those shared problems relate to communication with HCPs. The significance of these problems has increased over the past five years as HCPs and drugmakers have stepped up their use of digital communication. Align exists because this shift to digital communication hasn’t always had the desired result.

“It should be easier to get information digitally but it's become more difficult,” Shawah said.

Collectively, the six Big Biopharmas aim to counter the complexity they and their peers have inadvertently created in moving HCP communication online.