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Asking tough questions is vital to creativity

Publish Date

31 JAN 2022


Khalid Sabihuddin


Asking tough questions is vital to creativity – let’s push the envelope on innovation for patients: Head of Commercial Operations and Strategic Advisor, Khalid Sabihuddin, reflects on how the pandemic is prompting us to challenge and improve models of care.

Another busy year has given us much to think about. And while the pandemic’s impact on our lives continues to be explored from every angle, it’s impossible to survey the last 12 months without considering its effect on our sector and asking a few questions.

What are we doing well? Where we can we improve? How can we embrace the unexpected to improve things for our partner clinicians and patients?

I think it’s fair to say the pharmaceutical industry has engaged and listened to customers better during the pandemic. But what about the patient experience?

Think back to the early 2010s and the innovation of TeleHealth. Despite sustained effort and investment, uptake was slow. In fact, data showed that in Ontario, TeleHealth drove ER costs and visits up – the opposite of what it was supposed to do.

Fast-forward to 2020, and the initiative began making an impact as the popularity of digital consultations exploded. The upshot?

Wider access to types of care that can be delivered virtually. For many, the struggle to book in-person appointments, journeys to the clinic, waiting in line, were all but gone. A big piece of healthcare delivery seemed to become more patient friendly, overnight.

But as you know, change in our industry is never that quick or simple. Not everyone has access to smart technology, and the proliferation of virtual healthcare may have in fact exacerbated certain societal inequities. Meaning, for some, the patient experience got worse.

So how should our industry react?

For me, this is our cue to probe more deeply. For example, until now, the pharmaceutical industry hadn’t thought much about the delivery of virtual innovation, how to challenge the prevailing model, or our potential role in either of those things.

The pandemic is prompting us to do that. We should use this opportunity to challenge the status quo, by asking two main questions. The first: Is the current model of care making the patient experience better for all – if not, how can we change it? And second: What if the solution lies somewhere completely unexpected?

Frankly, these aren’t questions our industry has been great at asking. EMD Serono Canada’s people-focused and entrepreneurial spirit prompts us to go further, to make sure we continue to dedicate ourselves to answering the unmet needs of patients with new, innovative treatments.    

We now have an important opportunity to listen to patients and customers about this new digital reality, and what patient experiences look like. We should also look for inspiration (from the simple to the complex) for innovations that can support virtual healthcare, inside or outside our industry.

For example, Hewlett Packard recently took its printer troubleshooting into ‘mixed reality.’ With this (wholly unexpected) step into the ‘metaverse,’ they’re aiming to reduce maintenance time and eliminate technician travel. Could pharma similarly defy expectations by exploring how devices could live in the virtual world, for
the benefit of patients?

I don’t see why not. And that’s just one idea. The point is, when we’re thinking about how we can make life better for patients, we should leave every door open. 

At EMD Serono Canada, we believe curious minds inspire each other to deliver on their fullest potential and make a meaningful difference for Canadians. We achieve an important part of that by asking difficult questions.

Being open, and seizing opportunity, is fundamental to creativity. And it’s the only way to truly move the needle on innovation. In planning for next year, let’s resolve to spend more time exploring invention and thinking from unexpected places – it could help spark an idea that improves life for patients everywhere.