A conversation with Seyed Mortazavi, IMS Health

August 29, 2014
Pharmaceutical Commerce, Pharmaceutical Commerce - September/October 2014,

Pharmaceutical Commerce sat down with Mr. Mortazavi recently; here's what he had to say.

IMS Health (Danbury, CT) is a giant in the healthcare data field, best known for its comprehensive reporting on global pharmaceutical prescribing and sales, but now complemented with a growing array of software analytics and consulting services. It re-entered the public arena earlier this year with a successful IPO and is now listed on the New York Stock Exchange as IMS. Founded in 1954, the company boasts around 10,000 employees worldwide, and gathers data from 100,000 suppliers covering 45 billion healthcare transactions annually.

IMS Health is organized into nine regional business units, plus IMS Consulting, Clinical Trial Optimization Solutions, Government and Payer Provider Solutions, and Real-World Evidence Solutions. Seyed Mortazavi is President, US.

Pharmaceutical Commerce sat down with Mr. Mortazavi recently; here’s what he had to say.

1. Many people know IMS Health for its data services on pharmaceutical sales but the company has been going through some changes and now describes itself as a healthcare technology company; what’s been going on?

Without a doubt, many people know us for our data and analytics and we’re tremendously proud of this heritage. It’s still core to what we do but the reality is the healthcare industry has become exponentially more complex: new stakeholders, an explosion of new data sources and, of course, the Affordable Care Act. On top of all of this, clients are still working hard to cut costs. The IMS Institute recently completed a study showing that the largest 17 multinational pharma companies will have to reduce annual operating cost by $36 billion from their 2012 levels in order for that margin level to be maintained in 2017—while also maintaining current levels of R&D activities. Our clients need help. So we’ve been busy investing in new capabilities to address the complexity and provide practical solutions to assist them as they transition to where healthcare is headed in the future—demonstrating the value of medicines.

The transformation of our US business, which mirrors the rest of IMS Health, is in three key areas: New data sources, an intelligent technology infrastructure and the expansion of our service capabilities across the broader healthcare industry. We believe this delivers tremendous value to our clients. In fact, at our recent client conference in June, we presented and demonstrated these new capabilities to hundreds of our customers and the feedback was very positive. Across the board, our clients see IMS Health as a strategic partner providing information, technology and services across the healthcare industry.

2. Part of the transformation is the expansion of your services across the broader healthcare landscape like healthcare insurance companies and healthcare providers. Should life sciences clients expect to benefit from this broader focus? And is there a potential conflict of interest here?

Historically IMS Health focused on pharma customers, primarily in the commercial space, offering data and analytical services. As the industry converges and seeks answers to common questions it made sense for us to expand our business into the payer and provider space. We made a couple of acquisitions along with significant organic efforts in RWE, and we now sit squarely at the intersection of these healthcare stakeholders. There are no conflicts of interest because all stakeholders are asking the same questions and redefining their relationship around value instead of volume. We see value manifesting itself in the form of improved outcomes, lower costs, better quality and risk reduction. For instance, payers, increasingly under cost constraints, want to understand the real-world performance of treatments and the true cost and quality of providers. Providers and hospital systems (IDNs) are forced to take on risk, and also need to understand cost and outcomes of treatments. Payers are holding providers accountable and we help them measure, benchmark and track physician performance. As payers transfer risk to providers, we help providers better segment and profile their patient populations and understand fully costed patient pathways.

Life sciences companies also want to control costs and provide greater value. To address these areas we’ve made significant investments in our Real World Evidence practice to understand the real-world performance of drugs and prove their value. For example, we can help clients make better R&D pipeline decisions; plan more efficient clinical trial recruitment; address payer demands for comparative effectiveness; develop outcomes-based reimbursement models; and improve patient drug adherence.

In essence, we are helping to show how each stakeholder connects with each other—providing insights to help address their fundamental questions.

In fact, during our June Client Conference we had a four-person panel of health systems and payer experts discussing how pharma and hospital systems can better collaborate, sharing real-world evidence to improve the value of their decisions and ultimately the performance of the healthcare system. It was one of the most popular presentations of our two-day meeting.

3. IMS Health has made several acquisitions over the past year including the recent announcement of Cegedim’s Customer Relationship Management and Information Solutions Businesses. Is there a common element to all of it? What should IMS Health clients expect from this?

Over the past few years, we have continued to invest globally in technology and services to bring our information and analytics closer to decisionmakers and make it more actionable. This is a large part of our transformation plan. Last year, we introduced IMS One—our intelligent cloud-based technology platform. This was a direct response to our customers’ need to improve their commercial infrastructure.

Around the world, many life sciences companies are adapting their commercial models to address today’s demands, but often face fragmented and incomplete data that can’t provide the business intelligence and insights needed to stay competitive. Many customers also struggle with legacy systems and processes that can’t accommodate today’s substantial data and analytic requirements. The reality is that their commercial functions often operate in silos, leading to colossal inefficiencies. IMS One brings together massive amounts of data in the cloud: IMS Health, third party data and client’s data, into a consistent, orchestrated manner to create a “single version of the truth” for sharing, analyzing and reporting information across commercial functions. The result is better, faster insights and more cost-effective operations. Our customers welcome any solution that will help them reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Clients can also connect all of their disparate applications through IMS One, giving them shared access to common sets of data. So when information changes in one application, those changes are reflected throughout all of the applications connected to IMS One.

To enable clients to gain even more value from IMS One, IMS Health developed and acquired a number of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications and formed an interoperable suite we call the Nexxus Commercial Application Suite. To address the unique needs of Life Sciences companies, such as compliance and transparency and the unique, complex data relationships, all of these applications have been built solely for our industry.

In the spring of 2013 we acquired Appature, a company offering clients an innovative and patented cloud-based relationship marketing application to enable the measurement and optimization of relationship marketing programs across channels. This novel application has become the basis for our Nexxus Marketing application. We made several other strategic acquisitions rounding out the Nexxus Application Suite. They include Nexxus Social Media, a robust set of cloud-based tools that automate the collection of healthcare-specific social media content, providing real-time monitoring for reputation and opportunity management and delivering extensive insights into consumer and physician behavior and sentiments. Nexxus Sales, a cloud-based multi-channel CRM and closed loop marketing application along with incentive compensation, data management and business intelligence applications for more effective, results-driven sales operations. We also have a set of performance management tools called Nexxus Performance, which we developed from the ground up by ourselves. The tools provide a consistent set of key performance indicators across geographies and departments. We just introduced what we call the Mobile Sales Edition as part of Nexxus Performance. This allows clients to take their national strategies and make them actionable at the local level. Reps, using their tablets, get nearly instant access to relevant market data so they can adjust their marketing mix to drive better decisions with their clients on a daily basis. This application received a lot of praise from clients at our recent client conference.

In early July we announced our intent to acquire Cegedim’s CRM offering including OneKey, a leading healthcare professional database. We believe this proposed transaction, once completed, will accelerate our ongoing transformation, bringing together complementary businesses to extend our information and technology services capabilities for our clients. This intended acquisition will create more choice and reduce operating costs for our customers. These solutions used by life sciences organizations in 80 countries, would become part of our Nexxus Commercial Application Suite and connect to IMS One, our intelligent cloud. As a result, IMS Health market information would be readily available within the CRM system, streamlining processes, simplifying implementation and driving savings for clients.

OneKey would join our complementary information assets available through IMS One and deliver insights on nearly 14 million healthcare providers across the globe.

Each component solves specific industry problems and together, as part of the Nexxus Commercial Application Suite, they give clients greater consistency, integral insights to improve decisions and lower operating costs.

4. IMS Health also stands out for its global perspective and you mentioned that most of your technology acquisitions are global in nature. What’s your take on the commonality of issues inside the US as compared to the rest of the world?

While each global region has its own set of market challenges, there are more commonalities than differences across countries because at some level, every health system is tackling issues of affordability, access and quality.

Across the world we’re seeing pharmaceutical companies looking for new ways to cut costs. They’re turning to IMS Health for help to streamline operations to improve the bottom line without impacting R&D, market focus and the delivery of medicine.

Healthcare companies also want to create new approaches to their commercial strategies so they have better access and engagement with their own customers. This is where our investments in real-world data and technology acquisitions are helping to give clients the information they need, when they need it and how they need it.

Lastly, security of information and privacy remain paramount concerns across the global healthcare community. We are dedicated to protecting individual patient privacy and only utilize anonymous healthcare data to deliver real-world disease and treatment insights. It’s these insights that help our customers identify unmet treatment needs and improve overall health outcomes around the globe.

5. IMS Health had a successful IPO in April 2014. Give us an overview of what the IPO means for your customers and how it may have impacted your focus as a company.

Becoming a public company again is a great recognition of how far we have come over the last four years. It is an acknowledgment of our leadership position as a leading worldwide provider of information, technology and services dedicated to making healthcare perform better. Our customers were not affected by the IPO; going public changed our capital structure but not our day-to-day operations or the way we interact with our clients—it’s business as usual. We remain focused on our customers, delivering value while expanding our technology and services footprint to help clients drive cost savings and operational efficiency.

6. You’ve had a lengthy career at IMS Health, and before that, additional involvement in healthcare information. From your vantage point, where is healthcare headed in the US? What have the major turning points been over the past couple of decades?

In terms of significant, transformational changes impacting our clients, you have to start with the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The ACA is fundamentally changing the US healthcare landscape, which affects a fragmented group of stakeholders—from physicians, patients, insurers and health exchanges to value-based care delivery entities like integrated delivery networks (IDNs) and accountable care organizations (ACOs). The growth in complexity isn’t just a US phenomenon, it’s global.

In the more than two decades I’ve been working in this industry, blockbuster drugs carried the day, but that’s coming to an end. Today our customers need to understand the nuances of their markets and the interdependencies and interactions among customer segments. One size no longer fits all, so they need to be able to deliver the right messages to the right audiences at the right time and more efficiently run their businesses. For instance, targeted therapies and a focus on improving the efficiency of R&D are motivating life sciences organizations to invest in innovative new technologies. During the past 10 years, targeted therapies have dramatically increased their market share, especially in mature markets. The focus on more efficient clinical trial enrollment has led to the emergence of specialized organizations such as our own Clinical Trial Optimization Solutions (CTOS), which is designed to identify patients for enrollment based on a specific geographic area. This helps accelerate the results process, while eliminating time and expense from the entire trial.

As I noted earlier, the changing healthcare stakeholder landscape in the US is actually part of a global phenomenon that IMS Health has observed for some time, and we believe we’re in a unique position to help. While the US market is bigger, more competitive and complex, the changes being ushered in by the Affordable Care Act in some ways are analogous to my experiences in the late 1990s in the UK, with the emergence of primary care organizations. PCOs that were highly sophisticated had the greatest level of success in terms of driving decisionmaking and realizing better patient outcomes. And by sophisticated, I mean they set up common IT systems, established centers of excellence and efficiently worked with multiple stakeholders to outline optimal treatment paths. We’re seeing the same thing today in the US. The more sophisticated IDNs are the ones taking advantage of technology, EMR systems, and new sources of data like real-world evidence and treatment protocols.

Pharmaceutical companies have to adapt to this changing landscape. That’s where IMS Health comes in to play: advising customers on the new stakeholder landscape and how to interact with it, guiding them to better information and insights, helping them operate efficiently, and allowing them to leverage sophisticated and centralized data and common IT systems.