Digital Transformation’s Impact on the Pharmaceutical Lifecycle
Traditionally, the pharmaceutical industry has been relatively slow to adopt and commit to digital transformation initiatives. However, in-part due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, these organizations have begun to make investments into digital technologies designed to streamline processes, enhance innovation, and maximize efficiencies. Now, we’re seeing digital innovation become a top priority for pharma leaders, with more than 70% of biopharma organizations reporting that they are re-platforming scientific data to the cloud to enable scale, resilience, and faster time-to-market. In this article, we’ll examine how digital transformation is impacting pharma throughout its lifecycle—from research and development through clinical trials, supply chain management, and commercialization—and provide actionable next steps for starting the transformation journey.
Enhancing Innovation in R&D Activities
The pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on research and development to bring new treatments to market — and behind all R&D work is a significant level of coordination between people, processes, and technologies. In an industry where speed and efficiency is key, digital capabilities, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics, are helping to drive innovation at a much faster rate. In fact, a survey of pharma executives claimed that 72% feel that digital transformation is critical to achieving R&D imperatives.
However, moving the needle toward full-scale adoption of digital R&D initiatives is easier said than done. While a carefully-applied combination of digital technologies has the ability to speed up the drug discovery process and improve the way we capture, analyze, and use data to fuel scientific innovation, it ultimately depends on the organization—and the people within it—to realize a successful transformation effort. Therefore, it is vital that digital initiatives are specifically designed to improve the way R&D teams operate by adopting tools and approaches that are both useful and intuitive. Doing so will help clear the path for advanced technologies to drive the efficiency of scientific workflows and enhance access and usability of data, ultimately leading to faster approval times and the delivery of more effective treatments for patients.
Paving the Way for More Effective Clinical Trials & Stronger Patient Engagement
The use of digital technologies is also changing the way clinical trials are conducted. Beyond optimizing workflows and creating avenues for better data management and usage—both of which are also valid in the case of clinical trials—digitized medicine can improve access to treatment, personalize care for patients, and enhance monitoring capabilities—all while driving down costs. Capabilities such as electronic data capture, wearable biosensor devices, real-time remote monitoring, and telemedicine save time and effort for both patients and clinicians while significantly increasing the number of data points that can be used to make better, more proactive care decisions. With fewer in-person visits for patients without sacrificing their access to clinicians, pharmaceutical companies can use these digital technologies to create a better overall experience that enhances patient recruitment, diversity, and retention.
Gaining More Visibility into Supply Chain Management
The pharmaceutical industry has a complex, global supply chain which can be exceedingly difficult to manage and monitor. And while the industry has been slow to adopt digital technologies for pharmaceutical supply chain management, enormous opportunities for improvement are on the horizon. Advancements in blockchain, IoT, and data capture are bringing into view a unified picture of the supply chain that enables near-end-to-end visibility by breaking down operational silos. Things like drug production, inventory management, order processing, and distribution can all be augmented using digital technologies that remove manual effort, improve accuracy, and deliver products more quickly. Advanced data analytics, driven by AI, also play an enormous role in these improvements for pharmaceutical companies. With the ability to track and manage products throughout their lifecycle, organizations can use the data to make better decisions, minimize drug shortages, and drive down costs across the board.
Easing the Process of Commercialization
Bringing drugs to market is yet another area where the pharmaceutical industry can benefit from well-placed transformation efforts. Given the inherently competitive nature of pharma, organizations need to find ways to bring their products to market quickly without compromising the need for transparency and communication with their customers. By leveraging digital communication channels, pharmaceutical companies can interact virtually with healthcare providers (HCP) and reduce the need for face-to-face meetings. This enables pharmaceutical sellers to have more frequent contact with physicians, paving the way for more individualized offerings. Pairing these benefits with a customer relationship management (CRM) system and targeted digital marketing efforts will allow pharmaceutical companies to reach more customers, build stronger relationships, and increase sales.
Making It Real
With digital technologies poised to reshape the way that the pharmaceutical industry functions, there has never been a better time for organizations to start their transformation journey. Of course, talking about digital transformation is always going to be easier than operationalizing it. In getting started, pharmaceutical organizations should:
- Set specific transformation goals that tie back to the overall strategy of the enterprise and consider what it will take (e.g., moving data to the cloud, cultural shifts, etc.) to achieve them.
- Create a realistic portfolio of digital technologies (e.g., AI, wearables, IoT, etc.) and approaches that will enable the type of transformation laid out in the strategy phase.
- Develop an operating model that clearly identifies the ways in which success is measured (e.g., resource management, reporting, process optimization, etc.)
- Enlist the help of trusted, strategic partners to assist with the transformation and help fill gaps in resources, tooling, talent, etc.
All of these actions—in tandem with teams of motivated individuals throughout the organization—will help pharmaceutical companies make the transition from reactionary and event-driven ways of working toward data-driven, predictive, and evidence-based operations.
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