Pharmaceutical companies are struggling to keep pace with digital technology changes. Mobile communications, the cloud, advanced analytics, and the Internet of Things are among the innovations that are beginning to transform the healthcare industry in ways that have transformed the media, retail, and banking industries already. Pharmaceutical managers are well aware of the potential for disruption and are experimenting with a wide range of digital initiatives. Yet many find it difficult to determine what initiatives to scale up and how, as they are still unclear about what digital success will look like in the next five years. This article is intended to remedy this. We believe disruptive trends indicate where digital technology will drive the pharmaceutical industry’s most value, and they should guide businesses as they build a digital success strategy.
New competitors are moving in
Information and insights into patients ‘ histories and clinical pathways are no longer the preserve of the traditional healthcare establishment. Where once health providers ‘ paper-based medical records were the main source of patient health data, and drug research and development data were kept within the walls of the pharma companies, today, technology companies such as Apple, IBM, and Qualcomm Technologies are moving into healthcare. Through apps, health and fitness devices, and online communities, for example, they can engage with patients. And they can collect petabytes of data from these and other sources, including electronic medical records and claims for insurance, capturing valuable insights. For example, the IBM Watson Health platform—recently at the center of a partnership with Apple and its health sensor data platform HealthKit—uses advanced analytics and natural-language processing capabilities to support clinical decision making. Pharmaceutical companies will soon have to decide how to compete or collaborate with these new players or build complementary capabilities.
More information is available about product performance
Historically, pharmaceutical companies have both controlled the generation and dissemination of product information. This control has been weakened by digital technologies, opening up a range of new, independent information channels. Online communities are available to share and discuss the experiences, apps and sensors of patients to monitor the impact of therapy on the daily life of a patient, and advanced data aggregation and analysis to link disparate, complex data sets and generate new insights into drug safety and effectiveness. In response, pharmaceutical companies will need to build capacity to anticipate or react quickly to these new sources of evidence and remain the main source of authority on their product performance.
Process efficiency and agility is improving dramatically
Advanced analytics, sensors, and complex decision-making automation are capable of delivering a step change in business process efficiency, speed, quality, and responsiveness across all industries. There is no exception to the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma companies will have to deploy next-generation technologies to streamline their business processes in order to thrive in a digital world. For example, they need to achieve near-real-time transparency of their R&D portfolio of clinical trials, and frictionless supply chain sales and operations planning, as well as meet new customer, employee, patient, and supplier expectations of efficiency and agility.