Lack of a clear digital strategy and focus on improving data capabilities can slow the long-term growth of a life sciences company. But when these issues are solved, digital capabilities help life sciences companies:
- Assist patients with adhering to their prescribed treatment plans and provider-caregiver requirements
- Connect through digital channels with stakeholders to improve outcomes
- Empower patients to monitor, record, research and share health-related information
- Support physicians in providing customized therapy solutions to patients
- Moderating costs for payers while improving quality of patient care
- Reduce cost of operations such as research and development (R&D), manufacturing, supply chain and marketing
Leading life sciences companies use digital capabilities in a number of ways
To be sure, there are examples of life sciences companies using digital capabilities in the following ways.
Develop drugs faster through digitalized trials
AstraZeneca plans to use AI to design better clinical studies, finding the correct patients to include in trials by combing through electronic health records and by analyzing data from successful trials to build the best control groups. Within those trials, AstraZeneca is using AI to analyze data from wearable devices to more quickly gauge the effectiveness of treatments.
Merck, along with American drug wholesale company AmerisourceBergen, is working with SAP to develop a blockchain-based solution that curbs counterfeiting. They plan to tag drug shipments with identifiers using SAP’s ATTP (Advanced Track and Trace for Pharmaceuticals). A mobile app will make it possible for SAP to track the package and know whenever it changes hands, and the package’s barcode will allow the manufacturer to verify its authenticity if or when returned.
Enhancing R&D productivity
GE Healthcare has revealed it is working with biotechnology company Amgen to test the performance of a 3D-printed chromatography column. This column has been custom-designed and is undergoing tests to see whether it can be used in Amgen’s research to aid in the development of improved processes for the purification stage of biopharmaceutical production.
Other opportunities include:
- Digitalized commercial models — finding the optimal mix between in-person and digital capability to communicate with the health providers to explain the benefits of their products. Providers are increasingly getting more comfortable in consuming medical content and product benefits through virtual ways, and this trend should inform pharma and medtech companies to experiment, optimizing the appropriate commercial mix for highest return on investment.
- Digital interventions —providing services through digital remote means to help patients adhere to their treatment plan throughout the care continuum. Adherence and compliance are two of the biggest challenges for patients and pharma companies alike, and digital tools are underutilized given the inherit risk aversion of the regulated life sciences sector.
However, for any of these opportunities to reach maximum impact, life sciences companies will need to take a proactive approach to cyber security to protect sensitive data such as intellectual property, clinical data, formulas and employee and patient data.
Life sciences companies can buy, build or partner to boost their digital capabilities
There are several ways for life sciences companies to develop their digital capabilities, depending on what they want to own in-house and what they are comfortable with finding outside of the company. However, operating model issues, misaligned sources of value and an unclear strategy can get in the way of what are otherwise the most successful models for growing digital capabilities, partnering and M&A.
Life sciences companies have long looked to M&A and partnerships to add to their capabilities but have had less success in combining their various investments into new platforms of care that can help drive long-term growth. Operating model issues were cited as the topmost challenge in digital M&A (67%) and partnerships (79%). A focus on how an asset or partnership may fit into the long-term operating model may need to be more of a consideration when evaluating M&A and partnership issues.