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Interview: Nikolaos Tsitiridis, Value Communication Expert

First of all, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you say a little about your background?

Thank you for having me. I’m originally from Greece. I did my bachelor’s in economics there, and then my master’s in health economics in the Netherlands. I worked for a medical device company before working as a consultant in health economics and value communication.

How do you help improve payer engagement?

I help create apps to communicate the value of drugs or medical devices to payers and other decision makers in the healthcare industry.

We take a health economic model, usually in Excel, and turn it into an interactive and tailored value presentation. We create something that looks nice on the iPad, with a pretty and usable interface, so that the people who need to make decisions have an easier time doing so.

How do you do that, do you use programming?

No, actually working with [app development platform] BaseCase Interactive is easy and has a very small learning curve. You just drag and drop all the elements and then link the Excel file to the inputs and outputs. Any person who has used PowerPoint and a little bit of Excel can use BaseCase to create apps.

What kind of HE models are you working with?

We usually work with budget impact models, cost effectiveness models and cost calculators. We have also had apps that are more like presentations, with no underlying model, that just present information in an interactive way, accompanied by a well-designed user interface.

Who are your clients?

We’re working with most of the big pharmaceutical and medical device companies. I usually work with HEOR managers and people from the marketing department. We have also worked with universities in the past.

The apps are typically created to be used in the field by key account managers and medical science liaisons. Building an app is really a cross-functional exercise. The best way to create an app is to combine input from the HEOR department as well as to get feedback from the KAMs and MSLs. In this way, you can make sure the app is compliant with all the regulations but also meets the needs of the field team. It is important to involve the people that will actually use the app.

Why do they use you rather than custom app vendors?

Creating apps is usually a process that involves programming. This means that it requires more time and money. Also, in these cases, the end user can never modify the app without having great technical expertise.

With BaseCase it’s much quicker, and after a little bit of training you can update apps yourself. You have absolute control over the apps, down to the last pixel. BaseCase also has a great localization feature. You can just download the text in an Excel file, translate it, re-upload, and all the text is translated. This allows you to reduce the time and costs needed to share the app with all the countries significantly.

Can clients build apps themselves?

Yes, that’s what the software was built for. In the longer term, once clients have trained staff internally, they get a subscription and carry on building apps themselves. In the short term, there is often a pressing need for an app and that’s where I come in, because we can build apps for them straight away.

Actually some of the best apps I’ve seen were not created by me or my colleagues here, but by our clients. There are teams worldwide that create really amazing apps at the moment that do not work for BaseCase. We had the chance to meet with a couple of app developers from a top-20 pharma company the other day and the work they have done on BaseCase is really amazing. I think that if a person has some imagination and basic technical skills, they can create really great apps. Of course, an important part of building the apps is having a great design, so support from a graphic designer in this case is always welcome.

I understand you’re a bit of a technology addict is that right?

That’s correct! I seem to spend most of my money on new gadgets - I should stop doing that at some point! Whenever there is something new, like now with all the new wearables, or VR headsets, I have to get involved.

One of the reasons I am very happy to work with BaseCase is because the platform is so unique. Nobody does what we are doing, in the way we’re doing it. I am very excited to be a part of that.

I’m always thinking of ways that BaseCase could make use of these new technologies. Actually one of the really strong points of BC is that it’s cross platform. So you have a full choice - you can use BC on your computer, your iPad, your Android or Microsoft tablet.

What did you find interesting about BaseCase technology?

I’m interested in ways of presenting data to make really complex information clear. What I really find interesting is that it’s very easy to use but it’s also a very sophisticated platform that has so many capabilities. So you can do something very simple within an hour - we’ve seen clients create agendas for conferences on the way to the conference for example, or you can make something really complicated that can take weeks or months even to finish.

What is the key to good value communication on an iPad?

The key is to first of all make it easy to use. If it’s not easy to use - it won’t be used! All the buttons and controls should be logically placed on the page and be big enough to tap easily. The navigation elements should be clear and intuitive.

You also have to control the amount of information on the page. Many times we start with a model that has 50 inputs, but the KAM will tell us that they mostly use 10 or 15 of them. So we put these in the foreground and put the secondary inputs in a popup.

The app should focus on the key message and have a natural flow, a story flow, and it should end usually with a summary of the value messages. It should say - ‘based on what you’ve entered, this product is cheaper, or more effective, than the alternative’. It’s very important to base the app around center-specific inputs, so the payer has ownership of the results.

What do you think is the best hardware for this kind of value presentation?

At the moment, I would say the iPad, because it’s very easy to maintain centrally. However, BaseCase is very versatile so even if you don’t use the iPad you can use the apps in their full functionality. The content will not become obsolete as hardware evolves. At the moment the iPad is king, but in five years, who can say?

I see from your smartwatch you are an early adopter. Do you see any other kinds of hardware in the future that could help with this kind of customer engagement?

Yes! I am an early adopter. Sometimes it’s a lonely thing to be an early adopter because there’s nobody to discuss my new gadgets with. I am always happy when I meet people that like trying out cool new technology.

There are some technologies that could be interesting in combination with BaseCase. For example, I’m wondering how the Chromebook or Microsoft Surface will be used in the future. It’s interesting that it can combine a touchscreen with a keyboard. Also Android is really picking up right now with Android 5, especially the Nexus 9 which will have a nice keyboard functionality that will double as its cover. So all these new hardware options allow BaseCase to be used in more environments.

We have a VR headset in the lounge, just for fun, and we sometimes joke how cool it would be to run BaseCase on it - to have 3D graphs and things like that. I am not sure how easy it would be to convince a payer to wear a VR headset in a meeting though!