Digital health perspective: Sven Awege
Rebecca Aris interviews Sven Awege
We speak with Sven Awege about his passion for digital and social media within the healthcare space and his thoughts on the rise of the independent patient.
Our latest digital health perspective is that of Sven Awege. Formerly from within pharma with a focus on digital, Sven founded Pharma Strategic a year and a half ago.
Sven shares his thoughts on patient independence and why he thinks the rise of the empowered patient will contribute to brining democracy to health.
RA: You’ve spoken before on the topic of patient independence, can you explain what you mean by this?
SA: Patient independence is the concept of having empowered patients.
We all know that the system is broken, the governments can’t afford to pay for healthcare anymore, and that’s only going to get worse.
We also know the demographics are changing. There are more of us getting older and needing more care, which has consequences. Also there are less healthcare professionals around.
Technology is having a big impact. There are quite a few interesting things around, around the concepts of quantified self, and also social media.
All of those are coming together at the same time, meaning that the patient actually doesn’t have much of a choice but to become independent and empowered.
RA: How do you think increased access to information has impacted patients’ knowledge and involvement in their own health?
SA: This is critical, and I think we’re seeing a lot of it.
People are continually looking up information about health, and that’s going to change how healthcare is dealt with from many aspects, from healthcare providers to the pharmaceutical industry.
There will be a huge change over time, and we’re heading towards the trend of staying healthy. If we can stop ourselves getting ill that will have a much bigger impact than constantly having to treat ill people.
“…the governments can’t afford to pay for healthcare anymore, and that’s only going to get worse.”
RA: What would you say the challenges are that are associated with patient independence in healthcare, and perhaps you can comment as well on how you think those could be overcome?
SA: It depends on who the actor is. You’ve got obviously the payers, the healthcare providers, and you’ve also got the surrounding communities. Each is being impacted differently and has their own associated challenges.
Historically, healthcare providers were considered the gatekeepers of knowledge, and patients just accepted what the doctor said, and followed whatever advice they were given. That’s changed dramatically with access to all this information. Patients no longer just trust their doctor blindly. So the challenge to doctors is that they have to change their behaviour. Behavioural change is always difficult, but they have to start to dialogue and discuss with patients rather than just telling patients.
“We need to start engaging with communities and with patients, and actually listening to our customers.”
From the payers perspective, we can see patients becoming much more powerful in pushing their wants and needs, and so the payers (governments and insurance companies), all have to sit up and listen to patients much more than they used to.
Then there are also the challenges associated with the pharmaceutical company. Pharma doesn’t want to do anything with the patients in the social media sphere until they’ve got clear guidelines. My perspective is that’s a bit of a smoke screen. We need to start engaging with communities and with patients, and actually listening to our customers. It will be difficult in such a heavily regulated environment, but I’m convinced there are ways that we can do that.
RA: What are the advantages of patients gaining this independence in healthcare?
SA: One thing that really strikes me, is that it actually makes a more democratic system.
Healthcare today it’s a two or three tier status, there are individuals who can afford high cost healthcare and also the cost of staying healthy. If you come from a wealthy background you tend to eat better and you have more facilities, and so you have less heart problems etc. Social media helps to create the empowered patient and will bring more democracy to our health.
“Social media helps to create the empowered patient and will bring more democracy to our health.”
Patient-focused healthcare is also a result. Doctors have to start listening more, and structures need to be designed to consider the human aspects of patient interaction.
Figure 1: Patient independence: advantages and challenges
Another advantage is that it will reengineer how we think about healthcare, and that will have positive cost implications.
About the interviewee:
You can find our more of Sven’s thoughts on digital within healthcare here.
Sven has over 20 years work experience spanning several industries, functions and roles. He is one of the early “digital pioneers” helping blue-chip companies embrace eBusiness in the 90’s through the strategic consulting company he created at that time.
The last 10 years Sven has been deeply engaged in the Pharma industry, having worked for Eli Lilly in Sales, Marketing (and multi-channel), Finance and Consulting across Europe, the last two of which he has deepened his knowledge and expertise as a subject matter expert on social media and mobile in this unique industry, through “Pharma Strategic” to help healthcare stakeholders deliver innovative solutions.
Channel experience includes:
Sales force, congresses, newsletters, eDetailing, Healthcare portals, Disease awareness websites &, media promotion, web conferencing, mobile, social media and community management.
What advantages are there to patients developing independence?