WebMD: The Patient Value Equation - Pharmaceutical Executive


WebMD: The Patient Value Equation

Pharmaceutical Executive

PE: What factors precipitated the DXY deal in China?

Schlanger: China is probably one of the most important growth markets for Western pharma because China is adopting Western medicine. But China's a gigantic country. There are a lot of numbers tossed around, but on the high end, I've heard there are four million doctors in China. Only about a million and a half are classically trained. Some of the rural physicians are more like "my father was the doctor, now I'm the doctor." The government in China is really trying to train these people. But in the cities there's an exploding middle and upper-middle class, so we wanted a greater level of penetration and to be able to reach more doctors. DXY is a very credible, highly academic and highly scientific site; very much in keeping with our brand. We trust them, so that really opened it up for us to expand our reach in China, and we may do that in other places too—the worldwide opportunity for Medscape is definitely one that we are optimistic about, and are pursuing as aggressively as possible.

PE: How important is it to have a local partner—as opposed to going it alone —in navigating the regulatory system, or local compliance issues, for example?

Schlanger: In the UK, we leveraged some third-party content, and we approached the British Medical Journal. Well, the British Medical Journal wasn't so keen on just saying, "Here, take our stuff, you're a US company." In fact, when I first met the CEO, he was very skeptical. But when you go in with the CEO of Boots, and they say "Hey, these are our partners and we trust these guys"—Boots is a 150 year-old British company—it's a lot more impactful. We've had no problems with regulators in the UK. The NHS loves us. I think that's in part because we didn't go in there and just say, "We're Americans, we know what we're talking about, you don't."

PE: WebMD created a non-sponsored educational site to help people navigate the health exchanges and to understand the Affordable Care Act. What are some of the challenges your visitors are facing with respect to that law, and what business opportunities does it present?

Schlanger: Most people have never bought health insurance directly before, almost everybody got it through their employer. Now a significant amount of people have to shop for health insurance on their own, and that's a daunting task. And it's daunting for the health insurers because they're thinking, "I've got a bad favorability among consumers because for the last however many years, my relationship with my consumers has been that I'm the denier of care. People hate their health insurance. Now those companies have to be consumer marketers, and no one knows their brands, and if they do, they don't like them. So that's an advertising segment for our public piece of the business.

PE: Transparency is another key element of the Affordable Care Act, even though the current administration, in many ways, hasn't been as open as voters expected. Is it risky to expect that people will share all of their information digitally, given the developments with the NSA, for one example?

Schlanger: We're very, very sensitive to HIPPA security and privacy. WebMD has been an industry leader from the very beginning in setting standards and holding ourselves to the highest level. One of the reasons we're working with Qualcomm to enable device data to be onboarded into our [Healthy Target] app is that Qualcomm created a compliant way to take data from a glucometer, load it up into the cloud, and have the cloud send it to your device. HIPPA compliance is a guide for everything that we do; everything is architected in a way to make sure that the highest standards of privacy and security are maintained. That's not trivial, making sure that all those communications are private, secure, and in accordance with all the regulations under HIPAA. We have always believed in the importance of privacy, just like everyone who has come to trust WebMD and the programs we provide.

Ben Comer is Pharm Exec's Senior Editor. He can be reached at


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