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How Digital Innovation Is Changing Pharma

By: Ginny Cohen


The pharmaceutical industry has been relatively slow to embrace digital innovation, but the strides that have been made promise to transform the industry.

Digital transformation can be a difficult — and at times slow — process, especially in industries where tradition, regulation, or a combination of the two dictate the pace of progress. This has been illustrated particularly prominently by the pharmaceutical industry, which has been relatively slow to adopt cutting-edge digital innovations.

That said, this slow start notwithstanding, in recent years, digital innovation has finally started to take hold in the pharma industry — to the benefit of companies and patients alike. New technologies like big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are starting to transform the broader healthcare landscape, with personalized medicine and patient support systems proving to be particularly promising use cases.

Opening the Door to Personalized Medicine

Though the National Institutes of Health have argued that “the surest path to advancing prevention and treatment of disease has been the detailed understanding of the factors that contribute to health and disease in individual patients,” the vast majority of pharmaceutical treatments are still evaluated based on the “average” patient’s outcome. However, recent developments in data science have made personalized medicine — once a farfetched hypothetical — an increasingly likely possibility.

Advanced analytics and artificial intelligence platforms enable pharmaceutical companies to access and process information from various patient groups in near-real time, facilitating not only faster drug development, but clearer insights into how drugs affect certain kinds of patients. These technologies have also enabled extensive DNA and RNA sequencing programs that allow for the development of therapies intended to interfere with diseases at the molecular level.

These developments have facilitated the creation of highly targeted cancer and cystic fibrosis treatments as well as a more comprehensive understanding of patients’ sensitivities to certain drugs and treatments. They’ve even enabled healthcare providers to diagnose genetic diseases that were previously undiagnosable.

While personalized medicine currently remains the exception, not the rule, these innovations provide a promising glimpse into the future of healthcare. As big data analytics continue to advance and accessing critical research data becomes easier, the widespread adoption of personalized medicine is sure to follow.

Improved Patient Support

In addition to facilitating the production of new treatments, digital tools can enable patients and pharmaceutical companies to work together to achieve better outcomes with existing products and treatments. Research presented to the American Hospital Association in 2016 estimated that the United States’ total net spending on prescription drugs surpasses $300 billion annually — much of which goes to waste. As many as half of the 3.2 billion prescriptions written in the United States each year either aren’t taken correctly or aren’t taken at all.

Even exceptional products won’t work if they’re not used correctly, but predictive analytics make it possible for pharmaceutical companies to foster improved medication adherence among patients. By analyzing everything from a patient group’s demographics to its payer type(s) to a prescribing healthcare provider’s areas of specialty, a pharmaceutical company is able to predict adherence with astounding accuracy.

The ability to predict adherence ahead of time gives companies the opportunity to intervene and prevent churn by flagging high-risk patients to their HCPs and proactively providing these patients with better, more robust support systems (informational hotlines, online patient communities, medication reminder smartphone apps, etc.).

Laying the Groundwork for Digital Transformation

Planning and executing a digital transformation in a highly regulated industry like pharma is always challenging, but it can be much easier when undertaken with the help of an expert partner. At SEI, our consultants have extensive experience working hand-in-hand with major pharmaceutical companies to leverage digital technologies to optimize their operations across the value chain.

With support from our national organization, our seasoned local teams take a holistic approach to every engagement, working with client stakeholders to solve problems efficiently, sustainably, and at scale. No matter the project, our consultants ensure that solutions meet clients’ short-term needs and long-term goals — a dual focus that is essential in the pharma space.

To learn more about how SEI can help your organization, contact us today.

Ginny Cohen


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