Mark Milton-Edwards talks with Jill Donahue, Author EngageRx
I’m often struck by how the leaders in our industry—people with the most experience and accomplishment—offer us the most compelling and human testimony about where we are and where we need to go.
Mark Milton-Edwards spent many years at AstraZeneca, as Senior Product Manager, International Product Manager, R&D Project Director, International Marketing Manager, VP Marketing and Director Strategic Planning, Business Development & Licensing, in several countries. In short, he has covered a lot of territory in many sectors of the business. He has consulted with several other major companies, and has served Teva as Global Commercial Director and Senior Global Brand Director. Mark has also filed for numerous patents for respiratory products. When I sat down with him at eyeforpharma Barcelona, one of the things I asked was how he inspires his team to do the things that will advance their work and that of the products Teva manufactures. His answer was “Bring yourself to work.”
What he means by this is that you have to be your authentic self—not just an employee or an executive or whatever your title is, but the person who also experiences what we all do in the real world. Someone with your own health challenges, and with caretaker responsibilities for others. That’s what will really motivate you to do your best.
Mark told me he has spent the last ten years using hardware and software to solve real patient problems. He wants to deal with how we adapt and learn from and serve what he calls “the digital native,” a person at any stage of digital knowledge who has to leap hurdles to solve problems. He noted that his sister, in her sixties, is always looking for advice from him—and his daughter, in her 20s—about how to navigate the digital realm, as we all are. And healthcare has to understand and respond to those needs.
On a panel at the conference, he spoke alongside a brain cancer patient who talked about how her condition affected her as a complete person—referencing wellness and healing, not just the medication or the cure itself. This was a window into the broader perspective about how she needed to heal as a person. Mark said it leads to the subject of continued care—not just acute or medium-term care as delivered by healthcare professionals, but the long-term care necessary for many diseases and conditions.
Communication in our industry has blazed new paths as a result of the digital revolution, and this is a challenge for regulators. How do they deal with brief notifications as well as the mice-type product inserts that cover every aspect of a medication’s MOA, side effects and other mandatory issues? A pharma company’s responsibility is to offer help on many levels and platforms, and the industry is racing to keep up with these new forms of interaction while still adhering to the rules. Mark works on adapting to these new challenges.
“We are trying to create a broad, complete solution for patients,” he says. One of the ways Teva is dealing with this is their recent acquisition of a start-up software company. He smiled as he noted that all the employees “are kids in jeans,” a different environment than the one he’s used to, but a valuable kind of team to help Teva go where it’s headed.
Mark also talked about Teva’s partnership with Amwell, a company that offers an app whereby you can have a consultation with a doctor or nurse via your smart phone. This is another new horizon that demands a paradigm that will serve patients properly while not violating necessary restrictions. “Consultations need to change,” says Mark. Not just with respect to the technology that delivers them, but in how physicians “use analytics and objective data—and keep thinking we have a person in front of us.”
Mark saw his mother struggle with lung cancer, trying not to let the disease take over her life. He says “It would have been fantastic” if he and his sister had had some of the technology available now, to help his mother through her anxiety and confusion. This experience is what led him to do fund-raising for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.
And that’s what informs the kind of attitude we mentioned at the beginning. “We all have a story,” says Mark. Bringing that story to work makes a real difference. Not only does he share his personal experiences with his colleagues, but he encourages them to share theirs as well. And he has been moved and surprised at some of the stories he’s heard, as well as by the effect that sharing has had on the team as a whole. It makes a real difference in their engagement at work. While he admits that we have to jump the hurdles of reimbursement and regulation, he is certain that understanding the life of the patient, the “truth,” that ultimately leads to creating value for the patient— and the company.
Mark calls this “Spreading the fire,” and I think that’s a great term to express how we all work together at our best to push this industry ahead. “It’s like a shining light— you have to follow it.”
Author, Engage Rx: The 3 Keys to Patient-focused Growth
Co–founder, The Aurora Project
Jill, HBa, MAdEd, is a keynote speaker, author and thought leader who has authored two books on Influencing in patient-focused ways and cofounded The Aurora Project, a global patient-centricity group. She also serves as Associate Editor of Healthcare Sales & Marketing.