TAKE Solutions: Converge 2012 conference – Trends in Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences (Part 2)

Please click here for Part 1 of this post.

The Converge conference had a broad range of topics centered around disruption. We had the pleasure of listening to Michio Kaku (a physicist along the lines of a modern day Einstein) and his thoughts on what the future might hold. It was fascinating, albeit slightly untethered from our daily lives at the moment. Later, John Underkoffler gave an equally fascinating (and more practical) presentation around his work with advance computer input methods that do away with the keyboard, mouse and window paradigm that is holding back our computer utilization at the moment. John's firm Oblong Industries was behind the 3D interface that Tom Cruise's character used in the movie Minority Report. Most interestingly, this was not a pure CGI creation! John showed how they have actual solutions that work with exactly the methods ("g-speak," aka gesture-speak) used in the movie – albeit not quite as flashy, and without any future prediction capabilities. A fascinating presentation of what is likely right around the corner.

News flash, Oblong has just made product headlines elsewhere

Life sciences analyst firm IDC Health Insights presented their findings around various industry trends. I found the drive toward product serialization particularly interesting, even if the when question is not completely set in stone, California and the EU as well as others are champing at the bit to start to require this. Social media – and the loss of information control this brings – is very scary to regulators and therefore to life sciences. The term "risk averse" doesn't begin to cover it.

Ann Grackin from Chainlink Research also participated, sharing her perspective on supply chain technologies and trends. An additional topic was the convergence of life sciences with supply chain technology for serialization/pedigree initiatives. This dovetailed nicely with TAKE's product focus, of course.

ASTER project
The use of the MedWatch form – how the adverse event (AE) reporting of pharmaceuticals can be made better. It is a complicated process (estimated at 36 minutes to complete each time, likely longer) and has not made much of an impact because of its onerous nature. Mobile devices and more user-friendly apps provide hope for better data gathering and doctor participation. The latter is a huge bottleneck at the moment, with doctors simply not having time to fill out forms unless it is part of a bigger study. The problem sounds quite similar to the challenges we have in getting supply chain users at any level to complete forms and reports, but with a health-threatening twist.

The pharma industry has yet to embrace Facebook and other social media approaches to letting consumers "report" their medical experiences. A bit of the ostrich principle at play, where the mindset is that just because "X is not a 'validated' system – let's not collect data from it" which, as a whole, means that too little gets collected too late. Regulators are still stuck in the old way of thinking, believing that they can get a complete snapshot of the entire EHR (Electronic Health Record) at the time of the incidence. This is unfortunately a futile assumption with social media these days. Organizations are still stuck in disbelief mode and struggling to understand. This "deer in the headlights" phase obviously cannot continue indefinitely, but it is where this portion of the life sciences industry and its regulators seem to be stuck at the moment. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and it was a great eye-opener to a problem I wasn't even aware existed.

TAKE delivered an interesting conference with seriously forward-looking thinking by Dr. Kaku and Mr. Underkoffler as well as more near-term outlooks by industry analysts.

TAKE's procurement angle was also interesting. My personal supply chain bias (we all have one!) is often tilted toward the corporate perspective. The strong focus on the direct side, i.e. business unit procurement and operational issues that was present in TAKE's conference was a good reminder about what procurement is ultimately all about: getting good products out the door, on time and at the right price. So, regardless of whether you live in the trenches or look at those activities through corporate binoculars, there were takeaways for both.

Personally, I learned a good deal about the space and its unique challenges. For life science industry professionals working in the areas covered by TAKE, I would suggest that you participate in their next conference, or at least let them give you a demo of what they do. It should be worth your time.

- Thomas Kase

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  1. Jeremy Engdahl-Johnson:

    Business intelligence can help hospitals get a better return on investment for their electronic medical records. http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=5893

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