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The age of prodices



Susan Josi, Managing Partner, Sorento Healthcare, gives an insight on why healthcare companies must build new models of innovation that are anchored in consumer-centric disease solutions rather than traditional R&D department approaches

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”
Alvin Toffler, American writer and futurist

Susan Josi

Casting our minds back a few years, would any of us have thought that the who’s who in healthcare – besides the Big Pharma companies – would be tech titans such as Google, Apple and Samsung? With the way they are going today, it will not be long before they rule the healthcare business.

So what exactly is causing this tectonic shift in our industry? Convergence of expanded access, speed of innovation, the advent of personalised care and, most importantly, a growing demand for improved health outcomes have created ripples that are already altering the course of economics and operating dynamics of healthcare.


It is becoming clear that the consumer of today is no longer just a sufferer of a disease, but a super consumer whose demands and choices are growing more sophisticated. In other words, they are the reason why healthcare companies must build new models of innovation that are anchored in consumer-centric disease solutions rather than traditional R&D department approaches.

Welcome to ‘Prodices’

At a time when technologies are converging and boundaries are blurring, the once clear divide between product and service is becoming hazier. So how do we create consumer-centric solutions in the context of the brands we handle and the ailments they treat? The answer is to take the best of both worlds – the advantages without the disadvantages.

Welcome to the age of ‘Prodices’, a term coined by pharmacist and author Jordi Bernal Fiego to describe hybrids of products and services, which seamlessly integrate the original advantages and features of each and offer a solid value proposition for the consumer.

Prodices: Examples of product + service hybrids

The concept of Prodices is still in its infancy but some healthcare companies have already implemented these types of services in basic ways. The following are some examples of Prodices currently available to consumers:

  • iCan (Piramal Enterprises). In India, Piramal launched the i-can help webpage to support its pregnancy test brand, which answers common queries about pregnancy and provides details on where to buy the product
  • Elevit (Bayer). In S Korea, Bayer updated the website for its pregnancy multivitamin brand to include information such as how to prepare for pregnancy, as well as an ovulation calendar to help with conception
  • Benza (Takeda). Takeda operates an online pollen forecast to support cough, cold and allergy brand Benza in Japan
  • Calpol (J&J). In the UK, J&J developed a smartphone app for children’s systemic analgesic Calpol, which includes features such as a temperature tracker and symptom checker

I was completely sold on this concept when I heard it for the first time a couple of years ago and, although it is far more evolved in the context of healthcare, we can think of it in a more simplistic fashion while implementing it. We always link service agreements and contracts with the various consumer durables we buy at home. The reason? We are conscious of the high cost and the long-term investment we make in these products. In many cases, our choice of buying a good brand of television or refrigerator is linked to the service provided more than just the features and benefits. The premise of developing a Prodice model for your OTC brand is no different, as you visibly see every consumer of your brand as a return on investment for the long term.

We have in fact implemented such services, even though in very simplistic ways, whether it is a helpline or a website, and now increasingly the creation of mobile apps. While this is certainly a beginning towards building a Prodice model, we treat it as a discretionary service for our brand that is most often implemented as a differentiator when launching in a cluttered market. It is not pursued holistically and, more importantly, non-negotiably.

So, is the status quo a fruitful investment? And will it really serve the purpose if we do not make it a much necessary tool along with our brand? The fact remains that what the world needs today is a service that clearly creates brand engagement for the long term and can provide a good amount of data to help us understand our consumers better and inspire the kind of innovations and new products we need to launch in the future. It is indeed time to push the envelope and explore greater opportunities with this model. Your brands are asking for it.


The future of medicine is in information technology

In the popular TV series Star Trek, Captain Kirk has a handheld device called a tricorder that can immediately assess a patient’s condition and diagnose a disease. This is supposedly 300 years in the future but, in real life, technology is advancing so rapidly that within a decade Kirk’s tricorder will look as primitive as a pager. Just as our bathroom scales give us instant readings of our weight, our smartphone tricorders will monitor our health and warn us when we are about to get sick. The future of medicine lies in this integration of technology and the human body.

Our smartphones already contain a wide array of sensors, including accelerometers that keep track of our movement, high-definition cameras that can photograph external ailments and transmit them for analysis, and global positioning systems that know where we have been. All of these devices can feed data into our smartphones and cloud-based personal lockers – turning it into a medical device, as opposed to a mere gadget.

The ‘Quantified Self’ movement aims to measure all aspects of a person’s daily life with the help of technology. Wearable devices, such as activity trackers, combined with apps allow us to log every step, snack and snooze to bring a better understanding of our body and health.

Continuum of care

A more futuristic prospect is available to create a Prodice model for brands to straddle the continuum of care from diagnosis to treatment adherence and monitoring, to ensure that health outcomes are positive. The key to developing this model is to map the consumer’s journey more intimately in a bid to understand the various interventions needed to help them get a more positive outcome while managing their condition. These interventions can be varied and, in many cases, cannot be addressed by one company alone. Therefore co-creation through collaborations or acquisitions will be the order of the day.

The April 2015 launch in India of Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre Pro Flash Glucose Monitoring System, which provides the ambulatory glucose profile of a diabetic patient, is case in point. The report generated provides a visual snapshot of a person’s typical day – revealing hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic trends to facilitate better patient therapy and education. So, while doctors are able to understand how their patients’ glucose levels change and how to treat them, the important aspect would be to also provide the relevant supportive care in terms of real-time diet and lifestyle modifications needed in the patient’s life. This is an ideal opportunity to build a Prodice model for diabetes brands with Abbott, thus leveraging real-time patient information with its bouquet of products, tied in with a patient advisory service.

Many companies are starting to venture into this space, which is leading to a marriage of sorts between traditional pharma/ medical device companies and technology/ patient care companies that have leveraged technology to manage patients more effectively. A recent development in this trend has been Medtronic’s acquisition of Diabeter, an innovative Netherlands-based diabetes clinic and research centre dedicated to providing comprehensive and individualised care for children and young adults with diabetes. Together the two will develop and expand Diabeter’s model of care so that more people with diabetes can enjoy greater freedom and better health.

Time to own the ailment

It is evident that the most enterprising healthcare companies of today are preparing to embrace a distinctly different future in this domain. These early movers are attempting to secure their innovation and organisational efforts around the concept of “owning the ailment” – as opposed to merely “treating” it – with products, services and solutions across the entire continuum of care. While the number of such companies is small and they are yet to be fully successful, their influence is growing. As their efforts advance, they serve as a harbinger of a new, dominant business model for the industry. One that has consumer centricity as its sum and substance.

“I think the biggest innovations of the twenty-first century will be the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning”
Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs by writer Walter Isaacson

(Nicholas Hall’s OTC INSIGHT Asia-Pacific August 2015)

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