Amgen’s Chief Privacy Officer, Zoe Philippides, discusses COVID’s effect on privacy and ever-evolving privacy laws

For our final Digital Health C-Suite Series™ episode this year, we spoke with Zoe Philippides, Chief Privacy Officer at Amgen. Zoe has been with Amgen for over 15 years, serving as Senior Counsel, then Director of Privacy and was named Chief Privacy Officer in 2015.

With increased personalization and proliferation of data, privacy laws are becoming more complex. This makes identifying privacy concerns and needs early on key to a smoother and more efficient development process. We also talked about the short and long-term effects the pandemic has had on patient behaviors and the global biopharma industry.

Privacy laws are getting more complex

“From my perspective privacy laws are getting more complex and it seems, more restrictive.” Zoe explains that many privacy experts will say that privacy laws are written “looking in the rear view mirror”—that they are written for world in the past. Today, not only is technology more advanced, but patients and consumers are more sophisticated about the value of their data and how that data is managed and shared. As more restrictive laws are layered on, it becomes more challenging to stay compliant.

Bring in your privacy expert early on

Biopharma is driven to personalize every step along the journey—more personalized diagnosis, more personalized therapies, more personalized dosing. That personalization creates more data, and more specific data about the individual. Zoe explains that “privacy can be a strategic enabler for an organization,” and suggests including your privacy lead early on in product development. Your privacy counsel can be there to help co-create the technology and process, so that privacy and compliance are baked in from the start. It moves the process along more efficiently and more thoughtfully.

The global view of privacy laws

In speaking with peers across the biopharma industry, Zoe says that privacy officers are concerned about the fast and furious proliferation of privacy laws. As countries are navigating—in some cases for the first time—having privacy laws, they must consider how are they processing and training for compliance.

With the removal of the privacy shield this summer, “you see almost a protectionist theme around data.” She explains that for an industry where data and sharing of data is so critical, this clamping down on data, or not allowing data flow could impact not just global companies, but global citizens.

COVID’s impact

In some ways, with the increased adoption of telehealth for instance, enforcement of privacy restrictions has loosened. “I think we’re going to see an impact from the pandemic for lots of time to come.” Zoe notes that patients and consumers will likely determine if many of the changes stick since the pandemic accelerated some new healthcare activities and behaviors. Will consumers prefer visiting their doctor over zoom or will they revert back to in-person consults?

She also noted that while enforcement may have laxed somewhat during the pandemic, that is temporary.

And perhaps most importantly, COVID has brought the biopharma industry together with a collective goal. “There’s less about the borders, and more about how do we work together.”

You can listen to our full conversation here (~12 minute video) and the full Digital Health C-Suite Series Playlist can be found here.

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