Digital transformation: Pharma’s pivot for post-pandemic success

Shashank Kumar, Senior Consultant, Cloud Engineering Studio, Brillio, explains how digital and data analytics tools are helping pharma businesses

Digital evolution has led to a fundamental shift in the way pharmaceutical organisations conduct business with a focus on patient experience across all the stages of value chain.

India’s pharmaceutical industry is estimated to reach $65 billion by 2024, according to the Indian Economic Survey 2021. With the increase in demand for prescription medicines, vaccines and medical devices, this sector has struggled with attending overwhelmingly large patients and identifying therapeutic interventions for COVID-19.

Technology disruption is helping organisations to improve patient interactions and experience, gain greater visibility, innovation of improved drug, cost-effectiveness, rebuild the business model and aim for upgraded production processes.

Due to this shift in focus amidst the pandemic, different segments of the pharma value chain have been affected divergently. Firstly, an increase in demand has led to shortages of active pharmaceutical devices, medicines and other finished products due to supply chain inconsistencies. Secondly, research and development concentrating on the ongoing over 1800 COVID-19-related trials and many non-COVID-related trials have been halted currently. Lastly, the drastic shift of communication and promotions to remote interactions through telecommunication and telehealth. These are three major short-term impacts on the pharma industry due to COVID-19, while delayed approvals of non-COVID-related drugs, consumption changes in health-related products and a movement towards self-sufficiency are few long terms impacts.

Progressing India pharma R&D

On average, an Indian pharmaceutical company tends to spend 13 per cent of its annual turnover on research and development (R&D). One of the key strategic priorities for the pharma industry, including R&D, is to establish a presence in global markets and transformation functions using digital technologies.

According to a survey of top pharma companies, the main purpose of digital investments is to gain insights into the execution of business strategies and improve the efficiency of R&D prowess.

Last year, we have witnessed the combined tech power of the internet, data science, connected devices and AI, which resulted in expediting the digital transformation in pharma organisations to improve the quality and productivity of software and product solutions. Skilled manpower in AI, machine learning (ML), cloud computing and robotic process automation (RPA) have helped in speeding up drug repurposing and the development of biomarkers.

Strategic booster for the pharma industry:

  • Expediting the drug discovery- Al algorithms, big data and early-stage experiments using new-age technologies are helping to reduce the cost and improve the time to market for the new drugs.
  • Digitisation and automation- Robotic technology and AI have been reducing manufacturing downtime and significantly reducing product wastage.
  • Connected virtual and self-monitoring inpatient care- Connected devices, with AI and the internet, are providing the first-level diagnostics, that has empowered both patients (customers) and doctors to be connected virtually. This has led to a system of healthcare integrators and aggregators bringing experts and patients on a self-monitoring virtual healthcare platform.
  • Collaboration at a global level in compliance and regulatory condition- COVID-19 has ushered in collaboration, and not competition, amongst each country’s pharmaceutical regulatory bodies, and automation software for common standards and compliances are going to be implemented globally since it impacts humanity at large.
  • Rethinking the business model- COVID-19 has forced pharmaceutical companies to think more creatively and flexibly about how their business model can accommodate the new normal such as home working, travel bans, supply-chain bottlenecks, slowdowns in clinical-trial recruitment, diversion of healthcare funds and resources and closer scrutiny of drug reimbursement as pressure mounts on healthcare budgets.

Many industries have struggled to identify a suitable response to COVID-19. However, the healthcare sector has the infrastructure in place, with technologies such as remote patient monitoring, automated manufacturing facilities, and AI in drug discovery innovations are occurring at lightning speed to fight COVID-19. The crisis has largely acted as a catalyst for transforming the sector, making it sustainable and better prepared for future exigencies.

Organisations that are looking to rebound quickly after the pandemic, need to consider how digital and data analytics tools can be deployed in every area of their business. The introduction of automated analytical tools and the accuracy and speed of data collection can be increased resulting in sharpening patient interface, cost-effective methods and products to boost the industry.

BrillioData analyticsdigital toolsPharma R&DShashank Kumar
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