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Author's profile photo Joseph Miles

Going Digital in Life Sciences: What Does that Really Mean?

The digital economy is alive and growing in a market near you. Leading companies in all industries are using digital technologies to change their processes and disrupt their value chains. Why? Because they want to create competitive barriers through exceptional experiences. Think Uber, a company that has transformed the taxi and limousine industries. Or take Apple, which has changed the way consumers access and listen to music. These companies have used disruptive digital technologies to transform their respective sectors.

But how can life sciences companies do this when they operate in a regulated market? What can they do to transform when approving a drug or product can take more than a decade and billions of dollars?

To answer these questions, let’s take a step back. What are some of the key trends driving the digital transformation?

  • Empowered patients:  This is one of the biggest drivers of change in the life sciences industry. Patients are more accountable, informed and connected than ever before. 75 percent of patients expect to use digital services to help make decisions about their health. By sharing data and experiences with other patients through social apps, they are able to get the best results at the lowest cost.

  • Scientific advances:   Technology companies continue to make advances in science, increasing the pace of innovation across the industry. By adapting these technologies to life sciences, firms are creating new, innovative drugs and devices, especially in the area of personalized medicine. Continued advancements in the study of genomes, proteomes and metabolisms, combined with the huge processing power of today’s information technology, are driving a great many innovations.

  • Healthcare reforms. Healthcare reforms have made it critical to focus on cost-effective therapies, higher efficacy and improved patient outcomes. We’re seeing a huge push for value-based care and outcome-based payment models. These are fundamentally different from traditional fee-for-service models.

  • New competitors. We’re also seeing new competitors emerge from across the technology landscape. Companies such as GE, Apple and Google are disrupting traditional health markets as industry boundaries begin to blur.

Clearly, these trends suggest a major change from today’s blockbuster drug and fee-for-service health market. But are you prepared to adapt your business models and processes to compete and thrive? To do so, you’ll need to be ready to leverage a digital health sciences network using the latest digital innovations. For example, patients are more connected than ever, as sensors and devices capture data and provide new insights. When this data flows through the network, it enables unprecedented collaboration between patients, physicians, providers and producers, which can dramatically improve outcomes.

At the same time, digitization makes it possible to drive insights across value chains. For example, using sophisticated analysis techniques on large amounts of data makes many things possible, including:

  • Predictive health alerts and notifications.

  • Detection of adverse reactions.

  • Remote device or patient monitoring.

This type of analysis can also provide new therapeutic insights, which are essential in an outcome-based economy. Meanwhile, the rapid growth of personalized medicine creates a “segment of one” therapeutic focus as opposed to traditional mass-marketed products.

Interactions among research and development, manufacturing, and clinical care are moving to new, cloud-based platforms, where numerous organizations, physicians and patients can connect for faster, easier, and more cost-effective collaborations. New security technologies are making it much safer for digital organizations to operate — which is key for life sciences firms that must protect sensitive patient, clinical and product data.

Forward-looking companies are using these digital innovations to reimagine new, holistic business models where patients, physicians, providers and producers work together to achieve improved patient outcomes. Some of these new business models include:

  • Outcome-based healthcare solutions:    Life sciences companies are marketing health outcomes by using their products and services in more holistic and innovative ways. The focuses is now on patient outcomes rather than cost. For example:

    • Amgen recently announced an outcome-based payment for its new cholesterol-lowering drug Repatha.

    • Merck recently agreed with Cigna to create diabetes drug pricing based in part on whether health-outcome data shows that patients can better control their blood sugar levels.

  • Medical information solutions:   Manufacturers are now providing medical devices and equipment as a service instead of using the more traditional unit-cost model. The service model includes infrastructure to allow devices or equipment to operate more effectively. Manufactures are able to integrate the product and market knowledge into the solution that helps differentiate it from the competitors who may only focus on cost.   

  • Personalized medicine solutions. Companies are developing holistic therapies that provide highly effective treatments for specific patient populations based on biomarkers. This allows manufacturers to create personalized treatments that are likely to have much higher success rates than previous protocols while also becoming the framework for many outcome based reimbursement models.

It is truly a remarkable time in life sciences. For more detail on the digital transformation taking place across the industry, please read the white paper, “The Digital Health Sciences Network: Collaborating in a Digital World to Improve Outcomes” and have a look at Life sciences: Collaborating in a digital world.

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