7 Questions: Vincent Varlet on digital technology for health


pharmaphorum spoke to the executive director for marketing and communication at Novartis Pharma in France about his views on digital healthcare and technology.

What is your involvement in digital healthcare/healthcare technology?

I began introducing technology into the pharma industry 20 years ago, as I wanted to increase communication to healthcare professionals and patients. I am pleased to say that there have been many successes, including websites (education, services, ordering, e-learning), PDA and smartphone applications to improve diagnostics or follow-up (medical algorithms), podcast and rich media for doctors or patients, social media, gaming, SMS and rewarding models.

What problems can digital healthcare and technology address?

Pharma is still a conservative industry. Innovation focuses more on drugs and R&D (in a new proof of concept way) rather than going beyond the pill. Some companies are trying to transform but are held back by ignorance or uncertainty around fear of legal or regulatory issues, or choose short-term ROI in a period of heavy workload, turnover and crisis (health care system and payer negotiations).

What problems can't be solved through digital health and technology?

I see it as a real solution: adapting to demographic (ageing) and pathological (chronic conditions) changes. No one loses money, as savings of energy and resources go hand-in-hand with solutions that offer a better quality of life.



What obstacles are there to greater/better use of technology in healthcare?

Fears, misunderstandings, confusion and the loss of power of the 'old vision'.

Do you use social media? If so, what is the secret to getting the most out of it?

Yes, but it's difficult to moderate without expertise and technology for curation. We need to change how we communicate and the channel of communication as, increasingly, patients and doctors are using social media rather than newspapers.

Do you own/use a 'wearable' technology?

As an emergency doctor, I think it's a marvellous opportunity to secure monitoring for patients in the ER. But actually providers are more focused on sport and wellness because the technology is moving faster there than it is with assessment tools. The fixed mind-sets of the authorities and regulators are operating to the detriment of patients and public health.

Outside healthcare, what digital/tech pioneers do you admire?

Actually I try to focus on pioneers who can transform their innovations for healthcare... GPS, mobile apps, RFID, monitoring devices are great but for me it is more about finding an opportunity to bring better lives to patients. That's the reason why I'm an early adopter of new technology that will find another way or target.

About the author:

Emergency doctor and MBA graduate, Vincent Varlet is both executive director for Marketing and Communication at Novartis Pharma in France, and a volunteer for causes relating to children with chronic conditions. Vincent promotes innovative communication that will enhance the dissemination of information on quality of life and physician-patient relationships. Since the mid-1990s, he has been involved in new technologies in multi-channel communication, paving the way for innovation in a conservative pharmaceutical industry.

He will be speaking at the Doctors 2.0 & You conference in Paris, taking place on 4-5 June, on the topic of: 'Quality of life, medico-economic impact, relationships with Healthcare professionals and patient benefits using connected objects'.

Read more on digital technology in health:

7 Questions: Digital healthcare & technology

Linda Banks

30 April, 2015