Healthcare reform advocates say true reform will require change from all players who have a hand in the healthcare system. GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) is making its case for the role that Big Pharma can play.

Jack Bailey, GSK’s senior vice president, policy, payers and vaccines, said science is still the core of the Britain-based company’s business of discovering, developing and commercializing new pharmaceuticals. But innovation is more than just developing new drugs. Bailey said changes in how the company operates can lead to changes to the healthcare system. Like many pharmaceutical companies, GSK had looked at the drug development process from the standpoint of regulatory approval. That’s no longer sufficient.

“It can get approved and simply sit on the shelf,” Bailey said. “If it doesn’t benefit the patient, or doesn’t bring demonstrative value to the healthcare system, it won’t be reimbursed.

These days, GSK maintains a running dialogue with payers, a line of communication that includes GSK’s R&D staffers. That information informs GSK about unmet medical needs that need to be addressed.

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A pharma’s role in healthcare innovation can extend beyond drug discovery and development. GSK last year overhauled its pharmaceutical sales practices. Sales representatives, historically compensated by sales, are now evaluated on a range of measures that include the reps’ knowledge of a medication and the ability to effectively and accurately communicate that information to a physician. The changes are part of an effort to end the practice perceptions that pharma reps wine and dine doctors in an effort to boost drug sales. This new marketing model removes financial incentive from the conversation with doctors.

GSK, which operates its U.S. headquarters in RTP, also aims to make a mark on U.S. healthcare reform through changes it is making in how it provides healthcare coverage to its own employees.

Last year, GSK was announced as one of the companies to pilot a new program called “First in Health.” The program brings to the private sector the concept of a medical home, which is used to manage patient care for Medicaid recipients. Under this model, the medical home coordinates a patient’s care with a primary care provider as well as others involved. The concept is particularly helpful for those who have chronic conditions where follow-up beyond doctor visits is necessary.

Managing chronic conditions can prevent more serious — and expensive — health outcomes. An analysis from consultant Treo Solutions found that the medical home system saved North Carolina nearly $1.5 billion in Medicaid costs from 2007 through 2009. GSK made First in Health available to its employees in the 2012 benefits year. Depending on how develops it could become a model for other businesses.