As an infusion pharmacist, Dr. Theodore (Ted) Search discovered an unmet need all HCPs and physicians face: How to connect with like-minded specialists to communicate and collaborate on patient care—quickly. In 2009, he founded Skipta, an online social network for verified healthcare professionals that now includes 30-plus specialized communities allowing specialists to connect—anywhere, anytime.
Ted discusses his discovery, how it spawned a technological solution and the type of information that HCPs and industry stakeholders can contribute to improve patient outcomes—the ultimate standard by which the entire industry is increasingly measured.
PM360: Your work as a pharmacist led to the founding of Skipta. How did this come about?
Ted Search: I was a specialty infusion pharmacist and while on call one Saturday morning, an oncology patient was discharged into my care. A new, innovative treatment was prescribed by specialists I worked with at the hospital.
It was new to the market, and both the oncologist and myself had questions. Number one: What is the appropriate dosing for this patient? Two: What are the appropriate protocols to establish to ensure adherence? Finally: What would reimbursement be and could my patient afford this treatment? I wondered why there wasn’t a channel to reach out to a specialist in my field and collaborate on these questions quickly and effectively. Ideally, I’d be able to couple expert insights from my peers with information from the manufacturer.
Where did these questions lead you?
Instead of thinking, “Someone should figure this out,” I investigated. I considered the technology landscape, the unmet need to engage with credentialed peers and crowdsourced information quickly. That’s when Skipta was born.
We knew other specialized colleagues—oncologists, cardiologists, medical directors, etc.—had the same need and set the course to enable technology to eliminate communication and collaboration barriers within their professions and networks. Rather than trying to gather the entire healthcare professional audience in one place, we found a way to deliver relevant access per specialist at any time or place through our technology platform.
This became a highly effective way to drive the meaningful and trusted collaboration that leads to better patient care. We offered a connection to the exact, like-minded specialists who could answer questions and solve problems in an effective and efficient way.
So, how can this now help pharma marketers assist HCPs in achieving better outcomes?
As a clinical pharmacist, the big things I needed to make more informed decisions about were dosing, reimbursement content, adherence protocols and outcomes data. All the content pharma marketers are looking to reach HCPs with, right? But the problem? Marketers often send out this information with a traditional advertising mask. Immediately, HCPs and physicians turn off.
When marketers leverage the power of social media, however, through HCP and physician communities in which audiences are broken down by verified specialists, they become contributors. They then can provide HCPs and physicians with information and access they will actually welcome. That means marketers must provide very specific content. What a physician specialist needs is very different from what a pharmacist needs versus what a medical director needs. Stay specific. Get targeted. Contribute.
Can you expand on reimbursement and patient access issues?
Absolutely. In the evolving healthcare market, HCPs have very limited time with patients. Yet everyone is expected to not only drive the same or better outcomes, but they are also being rated and measured on outcomes. Thus, it is important for HCPs to have quick and effective access to reimbursement information to make the most appropriate decisions for patients leading to compliancy, affordable care, and as a result, superior outcomes.
How are these juggled? What is most important?
Juggling is exactly right. Physician and HCP needs require leveraging technology to access trusted content and connecting with their specific specialty peers to make treatment decisions—more quickly and effectively than ever before. That’s paramount now. When we need to prescribe and adhere to the right product and reimbursement protocols, we can turn to trusted product information and reach out to our number one trusted resource very effectively: Our peers within our specialty. These better-informed decisions lead to better adherence and the improved patient outcomes everyone seeks, which is very much key to our livelihoods as professionals. That’s how we will be reimbursed, both now and even more so in the future.
So physicians and HCPs need the ability to access the latest, pinnacle scientific data. A comprehensive understanding of exactly what’s going to benefit patient outcomes and new product reimbursement is so important. Marketers and physicians must always keep this in mind because there’s so much uncertainty around reimbursement and access. As a result, marketers have a massive opportunity to connect with HCPs to provide them this needed information directly from the source and in a way that leads to more informed decisions. This is how companies like ours, that can directly connect manufacturers to HCPs, offer the help that is truly needed.
Having met this need, do you view it as your greatest accomplishment—and what drives you to push your professional horizons?
Just knowing when I had a chance to make a difference and acted on it, I was able to have a positive impact—one that’s continually becoming more positive for both my peers and physicians around the world—is an accomplishment that makes me proud. Ultimately, knowing that this ties into better patient outcomes as a result humbles me—and drives me to grow Skipta.