Enhancing care through the physician-pharma connection

Drug errors occur for any number of reasons but one thing that could help reduce them and improve patient care in general is communication between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

"Physicians and pharma need to come together and communicate. There needs to be more information and education on drug safety issues, more samples, more integration with the electronic health record," said Donato Tramuto, CEO and vice chairman of Physicians Interactive, a provider of mobile and web-based clinical resources and solutions for healthcare professionals.

Tramuto was recently recognized as one of The Boston Globe's 12 most innovative people in Massachusetts for 2012 for founding the non-profit organization Health eVillages.

Tramuto outlined seven areas in which physicians can engage with pharma to improve overall patient care.

1. Use of mHealth
"If you were contagious or too sick to go into the doctor, how great would it be to just snap a photo of your malady with your phone and send it?" Tramuto asked. Integrating pictures and videos can help doctors make diagnoses for cases that aren't as significant as a heart attack. Pharma can also help doctors by creating platforms like e-prescribing, that directly fit into a physician's workflow. And mobile health is extremely beneficial in developing countries, Tramuto noted. Instead of guesstimating dosages – a reality in these regions of the world – there are programs and technologies that help educate medical students via mobile options in makeshift ERs.

2. Altered reimbursement systems.
Whether it's mobile, mail or web, pharma needs to meet the demand and expectations of developing a communication workflow regarding the reimbursement system that physicians actually want.

3. Online buzz
Physicians have been hesitant to jump online to conduct more of their healthcare business. "This reluctancy is confusing to me. Is it about confidentiality?" asked Tramuto. Physicians' thinking about conducting business online contradicts the current world where people bank online and buy goods from websites. Online activity can do so much for physicians at the point of care, Tramuto noted. Informed decisions can literally be made at the click of button.

4. Medical apps
Not many of the current medical apps available were created by people who truly know what physicians need and want. Very soon, the industry should see a wave of new applications from qualified doctors who are contributing to this evolving and important market. Doctors will be able to share the everyday challenges in a practice to help make these apps better.

5. Compliance and inclusion
Physicians and pharma alike owe it to the patient to adhere to and be consistent with compliance issues. Moving forward, it may be worthwhile to work together on some kind of online forum that would allow the consumer to do things like receive daily emails about medication reminders. This would get patients more involved with the reporting of their own health, something they shouldn't be completely removed from to begin with.

6. Shared data and collective partnerships
Developing individualized data centers isn't nearly as effective or economical as centralizing them. "Think of the different avenues of people you could have involved, the algorithms that could be created and the shared clinical research," observed Tramuto. Pharma companies, hospitals, payer systems, etc., shouldn't each be focused on their own separate solutions. When one develops something for themselves, the others are going to miss out on what could potentially be beneficial for all – which ultimately serves the greater needs of the patient.

7. Changing pharma's reputation
Pharmaceutical companies are often seen in a negative light. Sales reps could alter that perception by shifting their focus to items like promoting the effectiveness and use of online tools, or even partnering up with physicians to encourage patient treatments that aren't drug-based. Prescribing medication isn't always the answer, and there's a major difference between what's appropriate to give a patient and what's actually a necessity for patients. "Sometimes physical rehab and a dietary regimen can do more good," commented Tramuto.