Steve Jobs predicted that the biggest innovations of the 21st Century will be at the intersection of biology [health, medicine] and technology [digital]. From an industry that was a reluctant laggard on the digital train at one time, pharma is now making up for lost time. Cutting-edge technologies such as AI, blockchain and robotics are steadily transforming this industry. The fast pace is being driven by the power of smart devices in the patient’s hand and impacts every touch point in the ecosystem, from patient interaction to treatment options to drug development, production and distribution.
Let us take a look at how technology will shape the industry:
Patient Interaction – Make it Personal: Nothing works better than personal touch when dealing with the end customer. Technology has made it possible for warm personal interaction to be delivered even through remote interfaces. We are seeing all this in the form of remote diagnosis that makes use of artificial intelligence, predictable mobile apps and much more. Wearable technology is making it even easier to monitor patients in the most minimally invasive way possible. Pharma companies are designing their own applications to reach out to their end customer (patient), case in point, Abbott Healthcare has introduced Knowledge Genie, an app for heart and liver, and another for vertigo exercises, which make use of technology to engage with patients and doctors.
Treatment Options Customized: Today’s customer-patients are well informed. They are aware of themselves and will not hesitate to access the nearest screen to gain more information, especially when it comes to treatment options and medical procedures. With the use of cloud computing and AI, it is now possible to gather an individual’s data and predict future medical outcomes – making personalized medication a reality. Mobile health, spearheaded by the wearables, is making sure that patient monitoring and data gathering is on 24×7 – paving the path to future virtual trials and modernizing drug development.
R&D and Drug Development: As treatments get tailored to the individual characteristics of patients, early intervention and preventive medication is becoming much more effective and successful. Powered by data analytics and integration out of multiple sources, not only are the research cycles reducing, so is the time-to-market. In an industry where failure rates are very high, automation, miniaturization, AI and other pathbreaking technologies are impacting how drugs are developed; how patients are diagnosed and treated; and how health care delivery resources can be channeled to maximize patient benefits.
Distribution Disrupted: In the US, of every $100 spent on prescription drugs, $41 goes to intermediaries in the supply chain, according to a 2017 report from USC. As pharmaceutical spending is projected to reach $500B in the US by 2020, the focus has shifted to making the supply chain cheaper, more efficient, and more transparent.
A key challenge faced by the pharma industry is that the current cold-chain management is done through passive data management devices that occasionally have GPS and reporting capabilities. This can lead to gaps in the “chain of custody” and “chain of condition” requirements.
Technologies such as GPS (Bluetooth, WiFi, IoT), next-generation data loggers and enhanced manufacturing management software capabilities, are now being used to make the movement of the pharma products more transparent and also maintain a more rigorous chain of custody and chain of condition
Way Ahead for Pharma
There is no denying that the global pharma industry has been completely disrupted. The industry is facing pressure to become more efficient, transparent and streamlined, as the era of blockbuster drugs gives way to personalized medicine.
Innovation is the name of the game, as the pharma industry gears up to see annual compound growth of over 6% and reach $1.2 trillion in 2024, with R&D spending at 16.9% of prescription sales in 2024. It is time for you to see how best you can prepare your business to face the winds of change.