4 Digital Trends Reshaping Pharma Industry

by CXOtoday News Desk    Aug 31, 2015


At a time, when banking, retail and media have already embarked on their digital journey, some even moving on the next level, pharmaceutical companies are struggling to keep pace with changes brought about by digital technology, finds a McKinsey report, which sees that pharma executives are well aware of the changes around, and some even experimenting with a wide range of digital initiatives. Even then many find it hard to determine what initiatives to scale up and how.

The authors, David Champagne, Amy Hung, and Olivier Leclerc see how technologies like mobile communications, cloud, advanced analytics, and the Internet of Things are also changing the industry and examine four possibilities on the digital success for pharma companies five years from now. 

Sensors for personalized care

The ability to personalize interactions with stakeholders is a key value driver from digital technology in any industry. In pharma, this value will be realized in large part through the use of sensors and digital services to provide tailored care around the clock.

Within five to seven years, a significant proportion of the pharmaceutical portfolio will create value through more than just drugs. Many drugs will be part of a digital ecosystem that constantly monitors a patient’s condition and provides feedback to the patient and other stakeholders. This ecosystem will help improve health outcomes by tailoring therapy to a patient’s clinical and lifestyle needs and enable remote monitoring by health professionals of a patient’s condition and adherence to treatment.

“There is already a plethora of wireless sensors on the market to measure a patient’s biophysical signals. Combining these with other data about patients as they go about their daily lives—nutritional information collected by a smart refrigerator, for instance, or exercise information from smart gym weights—will allow real-time alerts to be issued to caregivers and physicians when there is a need for intervention,” said the researchers.

Treatment will be more personalized, targeting the needs of each patient with greater precision than before. Advanced data analytics that mine electronic medical records, including diagnostic results, medication history, and genomic, proteomic, and gene-expression data will help identify optimal therapies and predict how individual patients will respond to treatment.

Omnichannel engagement

Digital-engagement technologies open up a whole new world for marketing, the exchange of information, and recruitment for trials. Pharmaceutical sales reps, medical-science liaisons, and patient-service teams can inform and influence patients, physicians, and caregivers in person or via mobile phones, the Internet, apps, or social media. Patients are already starting to use patient portals for their medical records and to communicate with their physicians, and they use apps to fill scripts and online patient communities to speak to other patients with the same disease.

Anytime-anywhere virtual care will become increasingly commonplace. Specialist virtual-care apps already exist. To realize the values, companies will have to build advanced digital marketing and engagement capabilities similar to those deployed by leading retailers, airlines, telecom companies, and consumer-goods companies.

Data-driven insight

Pharma companies sit on a wealth of data, usually locked away in different technical and organizational silos. Some are already linking and mining their data sets to improve their pipelines, products, and strategies. But there remains a huge opportunity to create further value from data and analytics using internal and external data sources to drive superior results. According to the authors, “Cloud and mobile technology, sensors, and next-generation business intelligence will bring about a new wave of automation in business processes—that is, streamlined, automated work flows with few handovers and end-to-end, real-time transparency on progress, costs, and business value.”

This will drive a step change in the efficiency, responsiveness, and agility of a wide range of complex, often cross-functional, processes, be they in the back office, the supply chain, R&D, or commercial. Also, employee on-boarding, sales and operations planning, launch monitoring, and marketing-content approval would especially benefit from streamlined, automated work flows and increased transparency. Clinical-trial management, from recruitment to submission, is another area that will see dramatic change with advanced automation.

According to the researchers, most pharma companies have started to build some digital capabilities, but talent and resources for their efforts can be fragmented, often across hundreds of small initiatives. The areas leverage digital innovation to make products and services more personalized, physicians and patients more engaged, decisions and product evidence more data driven, and business processes more immediate.

“To capture this value, each company will need to consider how its businesses are set to be affected by the digital changes under way, and then chart its own course accordingly. A better understanding of what digital success looks like will help companies get to their destination: improved innovation and commercial models for pharma companies and better care for patients,” they conclude.