Avoiding the Impending Cambridge Analytica of the Pharmaceutical Industry

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Richie Etwaru, Human Data Ethicist, and CEO of Hu-manity.co issues a warning to the pharmaceutical industry: Build trust with the consumer and change the narrative of public perception, before it is too late.

 

There is a ¼ trillion-dollar torpedo pointing at Pharma’s biggest weakness, the pharma industry never had or bothered to build a trusted and transparent relationship with consumers at scale.

Pharma is in an industrial crisis. Formidable entrants such as Haven, Alphabet’s Verily flush with 1B of capital, and a thundering herd of healthcare startups with 30B of venture capital investments in 2018 are all probing with industrial focus into Pharma’s biggest weakness, it’s “Achilles’ Heel” if I may. Pharma does not have a compliant substrate on which communication, engagement, and value can be exchanged with large communities of consumers at scale.

 

If we include the venture capital investments in healthcare startups in 2017, private equity bets in rollups in healthcare, the global capital from oligarchs and monarchs all interested in healthcare, and the investment focuses of Apple, Microsoft, Salesforce and others; there is a ¼ trillion-dollar torpedo pointing at Pharma’s biggest weakness, the pharma industry never had or bothered to build a trusted and transparent relationship with consumers at scale. The target of the centre of gravity of this ¼ trillion-dollar torpedo is pointing exactly at hijacking the “healthcare consumer relationship” away from anyone, or everyone who may have it or may be attempting to build it.

 

The earthquake has happened under the healthcare sea, and pharmaceutical executives are dangerously mistaking the ensuing tsunami as just another storm. It is no longer about building better blockbuster stores or creating streamlined late fees for movies not returned on time, that game is over, the only way to win is to build Netflix.

 

From CES to HIMSS to SXSW, pharmaceutical executives trade up pinstripe suits for cool looking startup-ish outfits stepping on the stages one after the other bragging about transformation. Citing precision medicine initiatives, digital health initiatives, prevention services, new clinical trials, and patient engagement. Each missing the reality, and blind to the crux of the matter. Neither precision medicine, digital health, prevention, new clinical trials, or patient engagement can work without a compliant substrate on which communication, engagement, and value can be exchanged with large communities of consumers at scale.

 

Consider that you don’t have a relationship with consumers at scale, you are not known, in the areas where you are known you are distrusted, the press and media continue to drag you through the mud, politicians are increasingly scolding you, and everyone from billionaires to the homeless are cheering for Haven, Alphabet’s Verily flush with 1B of capital, and a thundering herd of healthcare startups with 30B of venture capital investments in 2018 to “disrupt” you; what good evidence or rationale do you have that you will survive, much less thrive? What, are you telling your board of directors?

 

If you are a pharmaceutical executive today, you’re standing on the wrong side of history. And if you don’t know or realize it, you have the added benefit of a laser beam pointing right at the back of your head.

 

You only have one way out. You have to build a compliant substrate on which communication, engagement, and value can be exchanged with large communities of consumers at scale. And the debate that consumers care about the most that can help you enter into the conversation with a relevant narrative upon which you might start building a relationship (at a minimum get their attention), is the debate on your ethical and economic posture around consumer healthcare data privacy regulations, and consumer healthcare data ownership rights.

 

You didn’t see that coming, and it’s not your fault. This is why the board of directors exist, to alert executives when industrial crises are impending.


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