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Necessity is the Mother of Invention with Paul Simms


In this episode of the Real World Talk podcast, Zoe Li talks to Paul Simms, a Managing Partner at Impatient Health. For 17 years, Paul was running a company called eyeforpharma. As he says, it was helpful because it put him in touch with everybody in the industry and allowed him to understand the trends and the beliefs. Paul and Zoe discuss why the pharma industry is science-centric and not patient-centric. Paul also says if we want to understand the problem, we need to experience it.


[00:13] Introduction — Zoe Li introduces Paul Simms, a Managing Partner at Impatient Health.

[04:19] Pharma industry is not patient-centric — Pharma companies are science-driven, so they are science-centric, Paul explains. These companies are trying to find chemical and biological formulas that work for patients. On the other hand, patient advocacy and patient engagement are much more definable from the industry’s perspective.

[08:20] The patient engagement — Paul says immersion and closeness are the solutions because if you want to understand the problem, you need to experience it. So, if pharma companies want to deliver value, they need to immerse themselves in patients’ lives or simulate certain conditions.

[12:22] The importance of systematization within the industry — The goal is to find formulas that work for patients, so even uncaring personalities working within the pharma industry must be interested in the best solutions. ”You don’t have to care to be patient-centric, which sounds almost paradoxical, but it should be systemized to such a degree that that is the case,” Paul states.

[15:05] Leadership and healthcare — The issue with healthcare and leadership is that everyone talks about past or present actions, and no one wants to talk about the future and innovations.

[18:10] Setting the goal — Innovation and creativity within the industry is of the utmost importance. Even though these actions draw attention, it is not the wrong kind of attention. The public will want to know how far you come because movement differentiates you from others. ”Ambition is not just saying let’s move in the right direction, but let’s say we’re going to go here.”

[20:45] Patients and data — It sounds arrogant to say that patients shouldn’t have all of their data because they don’t know what to do with it. One of the things Paul learned was never to underestimate patients.

[27:17] Safety first — The pharma industry is necessarily conservative. Drug development doesn’t allow irresponsible experiments and compromises.

[29:11] Who’s responsible for innovation in our organizations? — The explosion of science and discoveries, especially within medicine, are ”truly mind-boggling”, Simms says. However, the pandemic came and changed the priorities. Now, there is less money in the system. ”We need to refocus who’s responsible for innovation in our organizations. Is it just the R&D department, or is it all of us outside of R&D?

[33:17] Heroes from the frontline — When the world needed a COVID vaccine, experts united. However, heroes are on the frontline. Unfortunately, they are a minority. The truth is, 90% of the industry has not transformed. That’s not acceptable, Simms concludes.

[35:23] The internet became faster and more ubiquitous — We are still exploring the digital space, Paul notices. Everything we’ve done so far is just the first version. ”We’ve only explored the conversion of what happened offline into an online picture.”

Key Points

  • Four A’s. One of the problems, Paul says, is a lack of imagination and creativity within the industry. Leaders usually talk about the past or current events in their companies, but no one talks about the future. That’s why he brings up four A’s. ”If our leaders actually spoke with a bit more ambition about what it is that we could do for patients, that would attract a bit more attention from our industry and the larger patient populations. That would then create the accountability that we need to drive that stuff. So not, it doesn’t just become lip service, or it doesn’t just penetrate only the outer layers of an organization. And finally, that’s what creates the action.
  • We shouldn’t underestimate patients. There are many discussions about whether patients should have full access to their health data even though they don’t know how to analyze it. Paul says patients are willing to learn and understand more than experts would expect. He even predicts patients will create their own medicine in the future. We all use social media, and algorithms determine our actions. A system collects our choices and gives recommendations. It is something, Paul thinks, that could happen within the pharma industry as well. ”And that’s why I think that it’s quite likely, not even that far ahead of from where we are today, that patients will passively be able to upload their information into some form of system. And that will help personalize some care for them.”
  • We are a necessarily conservative industry. Safety is the number one priority in the pharma industry. Paul explains. The industry itself does not allow compromises and irresponsible experiments. Instead of starting from chemistry and biology, and medicine, Paul suggests focusing on the patient. ”It could be something as simple as dosage. It could be something as simple as where and when they take their medicines or the fact that they could take them in a home environment rather than the hospital environment. I’m very interested in the movement towards making that happen.”