HIMSS Digital: Future is bright for payer-provider-pharma collaboration

As the Covid-19 pandemic upended the healthcare system, stakeholders found that the only way out of the crisis was to work together.

Payer, providers and pharmaceutical companies have historically not had the smoothest relationships though they have from time to time partnered in order to be successful. But the pandemic spurred a higher degree of collaboration than ever before, according to panelists speaking at a virtual session at HIMSS 21 Digital. 

Perhaps the most prominent example of teamwork during Covid was the vaccine rollout.

“Seeing the amount of collaboration, the number of stakeholders involved, and the willingness of everyone to put roadblocks and barriers aside and work together to get this vaccine out and into the arms of the American people has really been a testament to the way collaboration can occur,” said Saira Haque, senior director of clinical informatics at Pfizer, during the session.

Working together also helped dissipate some of the preconceived notions each player had about the other, which Haque believes will ensure that collaborative relationships formed during the pandemic will last into the future.

Dr. Shantanu Nundy, CMO of employer-focused health and benefits solution provider Accolade, echoed this sentiment during the panel.

“That connective tissue and muscle that we built on that scientifically and clinically led collaboration…is a muscle memory that will continue to benefit us going forward,” he said.

The benefits that come with industry cooperation will not only support the ongoing vaccine rollout but also another area that accelerated during the pandemic: telehealth.

The pandemic caused a seismic shift in the way care is delivered, and virtual visits have now become an integral part of the care continuum, Nundy said. This shift has brought with it an opportunity for the healthcare industry to integrate more services digitally.

For example, if virtual visits are now possible, then why do patients have to come in laboratory tests or why should they come in for counseling?

“Rather than thinking about it as telemedicine or virtual, I’ve been [thinking] about it as distributed care,” Nundy said. “Distributed care to me is the concept of we need to meet people where they are… this idea of [not having] care start in a clinic or a hospital, but [having] it start closer to home, to community, to workplaces.”

Distributed care requires connecting different parts of the patient journey, such as lab tests and getting medications, which means stakeholders will have to continue to work together, he added.

But as payers, providers and pharma companies identify opportunities to join forces, they need to determine measurable goals.

The vaccine rollout benefitted greatly from having specific metrics that needed to be reached, like getting a certain number of shots into a specific number of arms by a particular date, Nundy said.

“Being crystal clear on what the goal is and being as ambitious as we can be to get as close to the outcomes that matter to people is something that we have just been really gun shy to do,” he said. “And I hope coming out of this, that we are much more clear and ambitious and visionary about what we are trying to achieve.”

Photo: alphaspirit, Getty Images