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Data Protection, the European Market, and Enabling Future Ready Healthcare

17 Sep 2021

Data Protection, the European Market, and Enabling Future Ready Healthcare

I grew up in a researcher's family, my father was a researcher in Bayer in Leverkusen, one of the top pharma companies. Those were the days of silos between research and marketing and also between research and clinical trials. Once a product was approved, pharma companies were disconnected from its later usage. Pharma companies were not in touch with patients. Today, pharmaceutical companies realized not only the value of Medical but also patient data, and pharma is turning to a patient-centric operating model. Of course, this is not an easy journey. Unlike the US or India, or Asia, Europe is not one market; it has 27 different markets in the same geographical territory. Europe's data privacy laws are most stringent compared with other countries in the world. The pharmaceutical industry and legislation have to find a trade-off between data protection and the value of data for patients.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is in play here. But with digital adoption overtaking the pace of GDPR data protection, data protection or legal institutions will always follow digital adoption. They cannot, maybe even should not be too proactive, or else we will all feel much too regulated. Dont get me wrong, I'm personally happy that we have data protection rules, and I do think that personal data will go on to become a fundamental human right. Maybe institutional law will change to allow individuals the choice of data access. People have to have a say in how much and who they choose to share data with or not.

Let's look at the electronic patient record.. My physician friends would consider a treatment or diagnosis as their intellectual property and would not like to give it away on the electronic record. I may say, I paid for it via my insurance that makes me the owner of the research results. Therefore, I should be allowed to bring it to the next specialist or physician. There's an interesting lesson from the regions in the borders between Germany and Denmark. Someone living there may prefer to go 5 miles north of the border to a specialist in Denmark rather than go 100 miles south within Germany. People are already crossing borders, and rolling out electronic patient records will make them accessible to other physicians, even in other countries. This is an accelerator for what could be a role model, at least in Europe.

I also think Europe will become a driver of outcome-based medicine and outcome-based payments, which will need data availability and data sharing. This is less a result of the desired business model, but rather the only way forward in a healthcare system with limited pay-in and an increasing number of elderly people with increasingly expensive and longer treatments. We're already providing enough data to many organizations so why not make it accessible also to the healthcare system?

Personally, I hope to see a real-time exchange of data in the future, up to the patient level. At Indegene, we are helping in virtual clinical trials. Just think about the words "virtual clinical trial." ." Even as recently as 5 years ago, it would have sounded crazy. But now, we are seeing how we can reuse data or how we can have patients being part of an investigation or research without being in the hospital. The real-time exchange of data will dramatically increase the speed of research and the speed of recovery time for patients and reduce costs for society.

How then do you link all these—pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers, hospitals, and patients—together?

This is only possible by a shared environment using the same set of data. An example of how fast we share data and how focused research companies can collaborate is the pandemic where we saw tremendous success in this short time. But remember, the mRNA developers were researching for oncology, not the SARS virus. Therefore, if it is possible for the COVID pandemic, it could be a possibility for other illnesses as well.

I think we will see a huge progress as a result of the pandemic. We are already having excellent discussions with customers who are seeking Indegene's services and industry knowledge to leapfrog this kind of development and directly go to an omnichannel approach. I am talking to companies who are on development, are asking if they should out-license or go into production themselves. Indegene, as a service, can enable this; there are companies who can launch products in Europe without a single-field force. By collaborating with specialists in other European countries, we are capable of enabling even small pharma companies to compete at a European level, where traditionally only large companies could. We enable companies that do not have the traditional spectrum of people and resources to achieve the same power in the market.

It is my personal dream to make Switzerland the hub for Indegene in Europe. It is a cradle of big pharmaceutical companies, and we have access to several very important players in a very small area. Working at Indegene has led me to work with some of the best minds in healthcare and the expertise built by the institution and the impact that our work creates amazes me every day. And I'm absolutely thrilled looking at the future and at the possibilities in Europe!


Volkmar Heitzer
Volkmar Heitzer