Why Doctors Are Consulting Wikipedia


And how Allergan, Pfizer, GSK and others are changing this

By Patrick Retif, VP of IT, Global Commercial, Allergan and Paul Shawah,
VP Commercial Cloud Strategy, Veeva Systems, President, Align Biopharma

Did you know more healthcare professionals (HCPs) get drug and treatment information from Google, Wikipedia, and other second-hand online sources than from life sciences companies?

Today’s dramatic increase of new and more complex drugs has created a greater need for HCPs to receive more timely, tailored, concise information to treat patients. Yet it’s not easy for doctors to get what they need, because each life sciences company provides information digitally in a different way. Busy doctors are forced to spend an exorbitant amount of time logging in to various web sites and managing dozens of user names and passcodes. In today’s digital world where the expectation is for information to be at our fingertips, HCPs don’t have the time or inclination to wade through this sea of roadblocks in order to get critical information to help their patients. On the other hand, the source of such crucial information must be reliable. As the number of new drugs increases, so does the amount of information healthcare professionals require to facilitate patient engagement. There is significant potential for biopharmaceutical companies to use digital technology to inform HCPs on new or more complex treatments. But, until now, that hasn’t happened with the ease it requires.

“I had to create a spreadsheet of 60 IDs.”

A physician on Veeva’s HCP panel


The answer—something you would think an IT genius should have created years ago—is to make it easier for doctors to get through a streamlined vetting process so they can access data quickly.

Finally, this is happening. A new initiative, Align Biopharma, has been founded by six of the largest global life sciences companies: Allergan, AstraZeneca, Biogen, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Pfizer, in cooperation with Veeva. Align Biopharma is a new industry standards initiative. For the first time, we are coming together to make it easier and faster for healthcare professionals to connect with the companies that provide the products and services.

Align Biopharma is defining an identification and authentication standard to enable single sign-on for HCPs to access online content—including websites, portals, virtual events, or webinars—across all companies. Once the group develops and publishes its standards, they will be made available to other technology vendors to use in building their products. Veeva will lead the industry standards group and be responsible for group management, operations, and communications.

Doctors treat patients with multiple disease states and conditions, and use drugs from many companies. Because we are a highly regulated and very technologically-inclined industry, this leads to a rigorous registration process. A physician may need ten or 15 registration IDs at a single company. The number of branded, unbranded, and collaborative sites is exploding. When you add in the portals, webinars, CME sites and more, it can be overwhelming. Companies expend a lot of energy and effort to drive traffic to a digital site. So it becomes important not to frustrate HCPs once they’re there. You want them to get info ASAP. Yet that’s not happening. And because doctors are already pulled in numerous directions in the midst of an over-scheduled day, they often choose to find their information elsewhere.


Align Biopharma was founded on the idea that, for everyone’s sake—HCPs, companies, and especially patients—there has to be a better way. Obviously this is a complex equation. What is the easy way? What questions do you ask, how do you register and verify them under one sign-on? How do you satisfy the protocols each company wants in place? That’s why it took the efforts of many industry leaders to arrive at a set of standards.


“Common industry standards can make it more effective and efficient for life sciences companies and healthcare professionals to connect. Working together can help harmonize digital engagement and information access across the industry and create a better experience for our shared customers.”

Patrick Retif, VP IT, Global Commercial at Allergan

“With the proliferation of advanced treatments and digital channels, adhering to industry standards will simplify the challenges doctors face in getting the right information quickly.”

Align Biopharma will enable a single sign on, in one place. Standards will be published in 1Q 2017. This initiative involved the cooperation and wisdom of people from all disciplines in the industry, including IT, security and brand people. Once the first set of standards is published, the group will solicit industry feedback, then update and revise.

Initially, we were concerned about being able to get agreement quickly from so many participants, but we are moving fast, and are productively engaged on all issues. Each company is getting the protocols approved. This not only serves the companies and the doctors, but it ultimately drives better patient outcomes. We expect life sciences companies, vendors, and consultants to sign on. In the case of a pre-commercial company, sign-on can be immediate, allowing them to start from day one with improved standards.

Initially, Align Biopharma will focus on developing two new standards to facilitate seamless digital engagement and simplify the HCP experience:

• Identity management —definition of an identification and authentication standard to enable a single sign-on for HCPs to access online content—including websites, portals, virtual events, or webinars—across all companies

• Consent and communication preferences —definition of standards for consent and preference management so that there is consistency in how HCPs specify communication preferences with each company.

Align Biopharma plans to publish the Identity Management standard early this year. It will continue to evolve over time as we solicit feedback and companies adopt it over time. This opens up incredible opportunities for companies to gain insight on HCPs that will allow the industry to further personalize their interactions and create a seamless digital engagement experience, ultimately benefitting patients with much-needed products much faster.

The ultimate goal is to streamline communication between the industry and its customers, the physicians, removing barriers and creating a more fluid conversation. This will improve messaging and marketing efforts, and increase trust and reliance on your company’s outreach to its most vital audience. •


Patrick Retif

VP of IT, Global Commercial, Allergan Patrick has enhanced customer engagement by deploying Veeva to 8,000 reps in 52 countries in 52 weeks. He has also innovated in social media technologies that yielded revenue in just a few months. Patrick has also unleashed digital capabilities at Allergan by implementing a digital factory platform supporting over 450 websites. He has successfully supported over 15 product launches in two years, plus completed the largest 2015 M&A integration of Allergan Commercial IT in just 3 months. He has also led over a dozen integrations and divestitures that included redesigning IT organizations, harmonizing hundreds of systems, establishing news trusted relationships with new Allergan executives, and maintaining business as usual through responsiveness and innovations.


Paul Shawah

VP Commercial Cloud Strategy, Veeva Systems; President, Align Biopharma Paul Shawah is shaping advances in cloud-based software to enable modern multichannel communications between life sciences companies and healthcare providers. He has been driving digital innovation in the life sciences industry for decades, and was named one of PharmaVOICE’s Top 100 Industry Innovators in 2012. Shawah is also published in dozens of respected life sciences trade publications and journals and is a regular speaker at industry conferences. At Siebel, Shawah pushed the envelope to incorporate mobile technology in the company’s CRM product that would enable feedback directly from the field during a physician call. He quickly became an evangelist for what is today known as closed loop marketing or CLM, igniting a movement in the life sciences industry as he set out to change the mindset of pharmaceutical marketers and sales operations. Now, he’s leading another transformative initiative as president of Align Biopharma.

Align Biopharma

Align Biopharma is an industry standards group comprised of leading pharmaceutical companies dedicated to making it faster and easier for healthcare professionals to connect with the life sciences industry and get the drug and treatment information they need to deliver improved care to patients. For more information, visit



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