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Why Healthcare Companies Shouldn't Shy Away from Tech Partnerships


Risk is inherent, one Takeda exec said. But the potential is clear.

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Nicole Mowad-Nassar uses a rubric to judge would-be tech partners. Depending on the grade, the Takeda Pharmaceuticals executive either knows to walk away or sign on. At the least, she said, she knows what she’s taking on.

But why should established healthcare companies assume any risk at all? The world and the industry are changing, Mowad-Nassar said, and innovation is crucial. Plus, existing blue-chip alliances prove just how much potential lies in collaboration.

Takeda’s vice president and head of US business operations and external partnerships outlined some of those success stories this week at the Digital Pharma East conference in Philadelphia. She pointed to them to illustrate how companies that unite—and commit to service, value, and outcomes—can change the industry.

Take Apple. A couple of years ago, the Silicon Valley giant teamed up with more than a dozen top medical institutions—including Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins, and Mount Sinai—to roll out its HealthKit suite.

The effort, which includes projects like ResearchKit and CareKit, aims to leverage technology to gather data for a number of health-related purposes. The initiative is built around the iPhone and Apple Watch and their powerful sensory tools—and partnerships, according to reports.

“I would put a bet on Apple for winning in healthcare longer-term,” Mowad-Nassar said in regard to the smartphone industry and the company’s connections to both institutions and its dedication to open-source data. “That, I think, will really change the way we do healthcare in the future.”

Other unions do big work in small ways. Uber and the HIPAA-compliant digital platform company Circulation joined forces last year to bring people to their doctors.

The partnership benefits low-income patients whose health insurance plans provide for medical transportation. So far, Mowad-Nassar said, the marriage has cut administrative travel costs by 70%.

“But more importantly, they’re getting to those appointments,” she said, “so that the patient can continue their care.”

Then there are the kinds of partnerships that streamline existing processes. The pharma outfit Sanofi and Science 37, which shoots to automate clinical trials, aligned earlier this year. They hope to reduce the time of the average clinical trial by 30%, Mowad-Nassar said.

In doing that, the two companies are providing patients with sensors, wearables, mobile nurses, and more. Those resources mean the clinical trials can take place virtually, she said.

“And you can only imagine if they’re successful,” she added, “how much more quickly our pipelined products will get to market—and how much more quickly patients will get new and novel treatments.”

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