The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the pharmaceutical industry in many ways by delaying routine treatments, derailing drug development, straining healthcare budgets, and causing supply chain disruptions. Pharma leaders are aware of the disruptive potential and are experimenting with a wide range of digital initiatives. Yet many find it hard to determine what initiatives to scale up and how, as they are still unclear what digital success will look like five years from now.
Pharma organizations must adopt digital technologies according to their business needs and develop a robust digital transformation strategy as it is critical for improved patient care, cost-effectiveness, greater transparency, improved production, and drug development.
The pharmaceutical sector in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12 percent from $41.7 billion to $130 billion by 2030. To align with this growth, pharmaceuticals executives require ways to improve efficiency, uncover new business opportunities, and build better relationships with patients. Digital transformation will help them to design and achieve those strategic objectives.
There are various ways in which pharma organizations can embrace digital transformation. Let’s look at few of them.
- Data Analytics
Pharma organizations analyze data from various sources such as clinics, laboratories, sensors, apps, social media, and more to generate real-world evidence about a drug’s efficacy and clinical practices. This data helps them to understand the upcoming health challenges that people may have to deal with. The pharma organizations can understand the impact of their new drugs and multiple other factors that affect their research and development, production, sales, and marketing. Leveraging digital technologies such as AI and advanced analytics, organizations can make insightful decisions about various business aspects ranging from product planning, designing, manufacturing to clinical trials etc. to improve collaboration, information sharing, productivity, cost optimization and more.
- Accelerated Drug Discovery
The drug discovery phase is particularly tedious and prone to error. According to the NCBI, only one-third of all pre-clinical studies ever enter Phase 1 of clinical trials. Drug development cycles typically last very long and incur significant costs. By leveraging Machine Learning, they can establish patterns and predict the molecular properties of chemical compounds. Neural networks will help them to:
- Predict pharmaceutical absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion properties of molecular compounds and targets for drug discovery,
- Predict how chemical compounds will behave in the potential drugs, and
- Help to accelerate drug discovery and production
- Clinical Trial Digitization
Digital transformation offers considerable benefits toward clinical trial expansion. Smart devices such as wearables, health monitors, ingestible sensors, mobile apps can help the pharma industry to digitize clinical trials. For instance, patients that are suffering from low motor skills can be given an ingestible sensor to monitor vitals as opposed to physical trials that are difficult to carry out given the circumstances. According to a 2019 Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications survey, patients showed a readiness to use a variety of digital technologies if they are practical and easy to use. This will help the industry to wider their reach in terms of participation and will also see a surge in participation from the community due to ease of use.
- Digital Care
In pharma, personalize interactions and digital care can be realized using sensors and digital services to provide tailored care round the clock. This ecosystem will help to 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. WellDoc, a healthcare technology company, has launched BlueStar, the first FDA-approved mobile app for managing Type-2 diabetes. Patients take their own readings, which can be reviewed by a remote expert without the cost and delay associated with seeing a specialist.
- Augmented & virtual reality
AR and VR technologies have become an important part of every industry now, and pharmaceutical organizations can use these disruptive technologies to bridge the gap between its business and consumers. With the help of AR and VR, organizations can perform interactive drug research, impart experiential information, and demonstrate a complete drug/product catalog. These technologies can help patients to participate actively in their healthcare courses.
- Cloud computing for pharmaceutical workflows
Some of the processes involved in drug manufacturing requires surreal amount of computing and can sometimes take months to complete. For instance, a virtual compound screening might take weeks to process in small to medium performing CPUs. With cloud-based high performing computers, these tasks can be performed in minutes which enables laboratories to process tasks faster, helping them to accelerate patient’s care and recovery.
The other reason to adopt cloud computing is its cost efficiency. Cloud-based solutions can easily scale up to address the computational demands. Pharma organizations can accelerate their business results using high-performance cloud services and pay only for what they use.
Digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry is helping organizations to have greater transparency, better patient interaction and care, cost-effectiveness, improved drug development, rebuild its business model, enhance production processes, etc. The dynamics of competition in the pharmaceutical industry are changing, with new players raising the bar of competition as advanced technological capabilities are quickly adopted.
Innovative technologies such as neural networks, natural language processing, machine learning, wearables and IoT optimize the workflows in pharmaceutical organizations, and help to automate redundant and manual tasks, speeding up drug discovery, safety, and supply processes. The industry is already benefiting from digital adoption and can tap into innovation and leverage the power of technology to better serve their patients. This will immensely help the pharma industry to embrace care computing and be proactively ready for the future.