Using Digital to Co-Design Healthcare with Patients

Kristian Hart-Hansen, CEO of LEO Innovation Lab on how experimentation with digital is crucial to success.



Kristian Hart-Hansen thrives on being at the cutting edge of change and talks with passion about disruption and the importance of constant advancement. He will be sharing this passion at eyeforpharma’s  Patient Summit Europe, 17th-18th October 2016, where he will be presenting a case study on bridging the gap between digital and physical solutions to improve patient outcomes.

The role of digital in improving patient outcomes

Hart-Hansen’s team at LEO Innovation Lab focuses on ways to improve treatment outcomes for those living with a skin disease. Central to their efforts is the belief that treating a disease needs to be holistic rather than simply providing medicine to treat symptoms. “Disease is partly a result of genetic dispositions on the one hand, and on the other, it is due to overall well-being,” he explains. “This would include a person’s diet and nutrition, fitness, mental health, the amount of sleep they get, and their stress levels.” As an example, some people with a skin disease isolate themselves, leading to low self-esteem and possibly depression. “A vicious cycle can set in and drive poor lifestyle choices. This means that an initial chronic condition will simply worsen,” says Hart-Hansen.

Whatever LEO Innovation Lab develops can be used by anybody, even by our competitors’ products, because our focus is not just pushing a specific brand. If you’re truly focused on the patient, solutions have to be standalone to be sustainable.

In a situation like the one Hart-Hansen describes, mental health becomes the real driver of the disease, which is when health practitioners need to help the individual get back to equilibrium. To assist this holistic approach to health, Hart-Hansen feels that digital solutions are extremely useful. “When it becomes possible through new technology to acquire information on a person’s lifestyle and to know what they’re eating, as well as how much sleep they’re getting and the quality of that sleep, it becomes much more likely that a health practitioner will be able to assist a person in predicting and avoiding the triggers of psoriasis or other skin diseases,” he points out, adding, “Through technology, it’s also possible to connect people in communities of others with similar skin diseases, so there are many solutions through this channel.”

Building an effective business model using digital

“Everything we do in pharma is on brand,” says Hart-Hansen, who feels that pharma should create solutions entirely with the end user in mind, rather than to enhance a product. For example, “A company will make an app or design a platform, but this is done in isolation,” he explains, “So, if an individual doctor has a patient taking 5 different medications, he may need 5 different apps and 10 different platforms to access all the information needed, which isn’t at all user-friendly.”

It means that we have an obligation to run a very efficient and optimized business in order to be able to invest the resources where it matters the most for the patient –  otherwise we will be letting patients down.

In contrast to this brand focus, Hart-Hansen shares, “Whatever LEO Innovation Lab develops can be used by anybody, even by our competitors’ products, because our focus is not just pushing a specific brand. If you’re truly focused on the patient, solutions have to be standalone to be sustainable.”

How a digital, patient-focused approach affects the bottom line

According to Hart-Hansen, it is a misconception that creating digital solutions is cheap and fast. At LEO Innovation Lab, building a digital solution is not the difficult part per se, but rather it is the testing process and making something work that takes time. “Obviously, the process of experimentation with digital is costly,’ he says, “but this is the way of the future, and if it improves patient outcomes, it’s an investment that is not just necessary but crucial to future success.”

Any sustainable business model requires that someone buys the services at the end of the day - be it the patient, the health care professional or the payer - but the entire raison d’être of LEO Pharma is to help people achieve healthy skin. “LEO Pharma is owned by a foundation, which means that all the profits LEO Pharma generates are reinvested in the company,” explains Hart-Hansen. “This means that we do not help patients in order to make money, but we have to make money to help patients. There is a very big difference between the two. Because it means that we have an obligation to run a very efficient and optimized business in order to be able to invest the resources where it matters the most for the patient –  otherwise we will be letting patients down”.

The challenges that need to be overcome with digital solutions

Gitte Aabo,  CEO, LEO Pharma founded LEO Innovation Lab and believes that if we do not listen to the patients – the end user – we will not be able to develop the right solutions and ensure a sustainable business in the long-term. “LEO Pharma knows that we need to go beyond medicine to help people and that we need to try new things to stay relevant,” says Hart-Hansen.

It’s much better to have a separate part of the business operating in experimental mode, which doesn’t challenge the existing model until something is proven successful.

It is for this reason that LEO Innovation Lab operates completely separately from the rest of LEO Pharma, while relying on its support and infrastructure. He believes that when you’re innovating, you need agility and to be allowed to try very different things, so it’s important to be away from the main structures, processes, and politics. “Disruption will always hurt a business in the short-term,” he explains, “which is why it needs to be approached by a different team with a different mindset. It’s much better to have a separate part of the business operating in experimental mode, which doesn’t challenge the existing model until something is proven successful.”

Co-designing solutions with patients

Hart-Hansen feels that pharma, traditionally, hasn’t truly collaborated with run-of-the-mill patients: “We usually talk to ‘professional patients’ who belong to a patient association and are much better informed than others. This means that the information you get is only valuable for a small segment of the patient population.” LEO Innovation Lab brings in five or six people every two weeks to test various products. Hart-Hansen explains, “These people have never been part of patient research or a patient organization, so they are difficult to find. What is even harder is that we use them a few times and then they may start to become more professional in their responses.” Social media helps locate new people for these discussion groups. “For many of these people, it’s the first time they’ve been able to talk to another person with psoriasis or eczema,” he says. The company has user-experience designers and anthropologists who refine their products through this constant communication.

One product that was co-designed resulted from a request for a reminder that would increase medication adherence. A simple clicker device was produced that could be next to a bed, on a tube, or anywhere convenient. “You clicked when you took your medicine and it reminded you if it wasn’t activated,” says Hart-Hansen. He stresses that the entire digital process is a moving picture and requires constant monitoring and dispassionate evaluation. Since September 2015, ten products have gone to market in countries around the world and five are currently being closed down. “Kill your darlings,” he urges. “You have to prototype and see if it works and call a halt if it doesn’t.”


Kristian Hart-Hansen, CEO, LEO Innovation Lab, is speaking at the 13th Annual Patient Summit – London, 17-18th October.

If you want to find out which other industry leaders are speaking at this year’s event, download your copy of the Patient Summit brochure here.


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