Why Partners and Daiichi Sankyo partnered on an AFib remote patient monitoring pilot

By Jonah Comstock
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Greg Barrett Greg Barrett, VP Marketing and Managed Markets at Daiichi Sankyo

The partnership between Daiichi Sankyo and Partners HealthCare's Center for Connected Health to bring mobile device monitoring to atrial fibrillation patients is still in its early stages, so there's no data to share from the pilot. But Partners VP of Connected Care Dr. Joseph Kvedar and Greg Barrett, VP of Marketing and Managed Markets at Daiichi Sankyo, spoke at the ePharma Summit in New York last week about the project, and why now was the right time to work together.

Kvedar said that Partners chose to work with Daiichi Sankyo (DSI) specifically because the pharma company was comparatively bullish about embracing digital technology.

"Daiichi Sankyo really deserves all the credit for this fabulous collaboration," he said. "At the Center for Connected Health we see a lot of folks from the pharma industry, they come in, they’re intrigued by what we’re doing. ... But I have yet to see much stepping up to the plate to really change the way pharmaceutical products are delivered in the marketplace, and DSI did that. They took the lead when they entered into this collaboration."

Barrett said that for Daiichi Sankyo, it's become obvious that the move toward value-based care is happening too fast for pharma to ignore.

"If anybody in pharma thinks we have not passed that tipping point, that we are not rapidly accelerating to a system that is based on value-based reimbursement, they will lose," he said. "They will be left behind. That was the driving factor that caused us to look out beyond our walls for organizations like Partners Health to engage in initiatives that we think will help put us in a place of competitive healthcare going forward."

He also said that working with Partners is more feasible than developing a program in house, both because of the resources available and the skepticism that in-house pharma efforts often meet from provider customers.

"One of the values of us entering into this alliance with Partners is we focus on what we do well, which is research and marketing good products. And in our partnership, Partners focuses on what they do well, which is creating good patient-centric programs. And I think through the combination of the two organizations we can bring an offering to the marketplace that will not only be looked at in a more objective manner, but also deliver greater value."

The two companies will develop a "mobile wrap-around" for a Daichii Sankyo anticoagulate drug prescribed for atrial fibrillation. Says Kvedar, the intervention will be "cross-therapeutic, but largely will help DSI succeed in the marketplace for their anticoagulate." Like some of Partners' other programs, it will involve a wearable monitoring device and an app, through which patients can receive positive feedback from their doctors and from the app itself.

The collaboration has three phases, Barrett said, and the companies are currently only at the beginning.

"We’re in Phase 1 now, which is to create a proof of concept pilot program," he said. "Phase 2 is to measure in realtime, with real patients, the effect. And then Phase 3 will be to leverage the learnings that come out of this program across a whole host of organizations."

The key emphasis here is on collecting robust outcomes data from the program. Speaking to a mostly-pharma audience, Barrett focused on how to sell such a product within the organization.

"When you’re in a pharma company, I’m sure you guys get this question all the time. 'Alright that sounds great, I get it, but tell me how what you’re suggesting is going to move our business forward. Is a 'beyond the pill'/'beyond the brand' initiative worthwhile?' To answer that question, we went out and talked to our customer base, we talked to managed care organizations, ACOs, and we asked them a series of questions."

He said ACOs had two main concerns: that the initiative be unbranded, and that there be hard, reliable data.

"Universally what we heard in every interview we did was 'I haven’t seen anything convincing. You guys come in here with retrospective analyses, you come in here with models and projections. What I want to see is a prospectively defined intiative with real data and real cases that shows me that what you’re talking about has an impact on the healthcare and on the cost of my patients'," he said.

Finally Barrett echoed what Kvedar said at the start of the talk: that the pilot is a not just a speculative venture for Daichii Sankyo, but the beginning of a significant investment in digital beyond-the-pill technologies.

"If a pharma company today is not thinking along these lines about how to integrate, not just use as a tool to promote, but integrate programs and educational resources around the pill and the bottle, you will be left behind," he said "Because we are all going to be measured, not just pharma organizations, by our ability to increase the value, to increase the quality of care and lower costs."