Prashansa Daga, Asia Leader Life Sciences, Marsh, looks at new technological advancements that affect different stakeholders of the life science sector—manufacturers, distributors, and consumers—and the risks associated with such changes
Life science companies have always operated in a world of uncertainty. Challenges around cost and pricing, clinical and operational innovation, customer and consumer engagement, and regulatory compliance issues have existed for decades. In addition, new and evolving technologies and processes, including blockchain, digital supply networks (DSN), and data analytics have meant that the life science sector is a prime candidate for disruption.
Most life science companies face the challenge of focussing on cutting edge research and development and innovation. At the same time, they need to keep costs low, without compromising on patient safety in all the geographies that they operate in. They also have to be compliant with local and global regulations.
How should life science companies invest and operate to thrive in today’s world of uncertainty? What capabilities do they need to leverage the large (and growing) electronic health information data across the enterprise, from R&D through product commercialisation? How can they develop incremental and breakthrough strategies that de-risk clinical, business, and operating models and create added value for patients, manufacturers, and shareholders?
Emerging technologies and strategies in the life science sector
Some of the technologies that manufacturers in the life science and healthcare industries are likely to adopt are the following:
Manufacturers and suppliers
1. Digital supply network: The DSNs integrate information from different sources and locations to drive production and distribution. Many life science organisations are now trying to use DSNs to focus more holistically on how the supply chain can better achieve business objectives, while informing corporate, business unit, and portfolio strategies.
2. Blockchain: Blockchain technology has the potential to drive life science innovation, strengthen security efforts, and increase company and industry accountability. As drugs are manufactured, patents filed, and clinical trials carried out, blockchain technology could be used across the product lifecycle and provide visibility among pharmaceutical companies, clinical research organisations, regulators, distributors, and patients.
3. Health care digitalisation: The collection and electronic exchange of vital biological and clinical data (e.g., disease statistics, patient population statistics, electronic patient dossiers) among life science companies, providers, health plans, and patients can improve drug and device R&D, manufacturing, distribution, adoption, and use.
4. Artificial intelligence (AI): Technical advances by collaborating robotics and medtech companies are enabling semi-autonomous patient care and robot-assisted surgeries.
5. Big data and analytics: Sophisticated data sharing, processing, and mining techniques can support the development of personalised medicines, rapid commercialisation of new drugs and devices, and create a competitive advantage.
6. Digital platforms: Digital platforms have the potential to substantially lower the cost of patient-physician engagement.
Consumers of life science products and health care services
Social media: Peer-to-peer reviews through closed groups and open groups of friends and relatives, as well as social media platforms open to all, are rapidly emerging as a useful tool in consumers’ choices of life science companies’ offerings. Almost everyone uses these platforms to inform their decision making on almost each field of the life science sector, from drugs to which doctor to consult.
Life science companies may need to adapt to the new reality
Given these trends, life science companies need to strengthen their interaction with the users of their products and services by developing online information resources, mobile applications, and personal health devices. In addition, streamlining and harmonising all their digital channels to provide a consistent customer experience and reduce costs is important.
Other strategies driven by emerging technologies
1. Evidence management model: An insight-driven E2E (end-to-end) evidence management model is becoming a necessary operating strategy in the life science sector. The advantages include better data transparency; the design of less expensive, targeted clinical trials; and the acceleration of product approvals.
2. Lifetime patient data management: Lifetime patient datasets can be used to develop an integrated understanding of patients and help de-risk the process of discovery through a better focus on unmet needs; improve selection of biomarkers/ sub-populations; and support earlier/ faster identification of trial patients.
3. Collaborative product development: Life science industry is joining other industries in which companies have turned to open innovation (OI) and other collaborative models as a way to fill in-house capability gaps and overcome R&D and marketplace challenges by externally sourcing innovative ideas, knowledge, skills, and technologies. It has become an effective way for biopharma and medtech companies to offset mounting R&D costs, funding shortfalls, increasing disease complexity, and rapid-fire technology advances.
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2. Economic times
3. 2017 Deloitte Life Sciences outlook; http://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/life-sciences-and-health-care/articles/life-sciences-outlook.html.