COVID-19 has made 63% of organizations embrace digital transformation sooner than they had expected as reported in a survey by Celerity.com. A similar number said they were making greater investments in technology sooner due to COVID-19. Forty-nine percent said digital transformation was not a strategic priority prior to the pandemic’s onset, but it is now. Where is the pharmaceutical industry and digital transformation?
The issues brought on by COVID-19 were the same in the pharma industry as they were elsewhere: supply chain disruptions, managing employee engagement and productivity from remote work locations and establishing new delivery channels and business models. Seventy-eight percent of companies believe investment in digital transformation will pay off in the long run, 69% believe it will increase revenues and save money and 71% believe embracing digital technology now is critical to not being left behind. Barriers to this digital transformation include lack of resources, lack of knowledge, not getting up-to-speed as fast as management wants and already being behind.
Big pharma is definitely behind other industries but this can partially be blamed on being heavily regulated, intellectual property constraints and, in general, a conservative culture. COVID-19 did highlight one clear area of opportunity for pharma: online traffic to websites, drug information and advocacy sites and disability and health concern information groups increased by 35%. Accenture research found that “76% of patients think that pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to provide information and services that help patients to manage their health.” The pharma industry must engage with their customers, patients and doctors, physically and digitally. Reaching patients through 3D animation videos to explain difficult processes and therapies is gaining traction. Millennial doctors love new communication channels and using visuals in marketing strategies is critical to strengthening HCP engagement.
Starting with R&D pharma companies are building digital warehouses to translate all of their information and prior results and research into organizational wisdom. Natural language processing is allowing an analysis of historic data to a depth and degree that is not possible with paper records. Not having to relearn what has already been demonstrated frees the lab for new scientific endeavors.
Using advanced artificial intelligence to analyze clinical trial candidates’ genomics data can cut the cost of recruitment and cut out wasteful spending by developing lean and efficient clinical trials. Choosing patients whose personality traits and disease status in known through the big data of patient records also dramatically adds to the efficiency of clinical trials.
Using blockchain to streamline the manufacturing supply chain through real-time access to data through the pharma procurement process and inventory management allows companies to efficiently prepare for an upsurge in demand and maintain a steady flow of products.
Artificial intelligent powered assistants like chatbots are already addressing customer queries and performing crucial tasks for patients. Augmented and virtual reality, as mentioned before, is imparting experiential information to patients helping them participate in their healthcare.
What will the best implementers of digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry have to do? There must be champions of digital in the most senior leaders, a rollout plan that balances ambitious goals with continuous learning, strategic partnerships with the right technology innovators and clear and achievable KPIs clearing defined from the very beginning. Does your firm meet this criteria?