‘To harness the full value of digital transformation there must be a structured methodology in place’
Cybage Software, a global technology consulting organisation is partnering with the life sciences organisation to spur a enterprise-wide digital transformation. Vivek Vig, Vice President – Healthcare and Life Sciences, Cybage Software outlines how IT and digital technologies will be crucial for progress in this sector and details how to harness the full value of these transofmrational technolgies and the role that Cybage can play in this tech-driven era, in an exclusive interaction with Lakshmipriya Nair
As the pharma industry evolves to meet changing consumer needs and stringent regulations, tell us how will investing in IT and digital technologies become essential for sustenance and growth?
New age digital technologies can make immense impact on each step of the drug discovery process. We already see a lot of niche start ups trying out AI driven solutions in the early drug discovery process specifically focusing on information aggregation, synthesis for target identification, deep learning strategies for compound screening, and lead identification.
Investing in IT and digital technologies will only increase the efficiency and reduce the time to market by using machine learning techniques for subject identification in the clinical trials, ensure deploying AI solutions on risk based clinical trial monitoring and intelligent interventions. Likewise, use of mobile platforms for patient engagement and data collection (e.g. apple research kit) will further enhance proficiency in the patient reported outcome process.
Similarly, application of digital technologies will be prominently evident on other aspects of pharma industry including manufacturing and supply chain, regulatory compliance, marketing and outreach, human resources, finance, patient engagement.
What are the crucial steps to navigate and effectively harness the full value that digital technologies can bring to the pharma sector?
To harness the full value of digital transformation there must be a structured methodology in place. The first step which any pharma or life sciences organisation should do is perform a comprehensive digital audit. This involves understanding the business vision, auditing the existing technology landscape, and considering the company’s digital initiatives. Once the gap is identified, then the next step is prioritising the areas of investment. Post prioritisation an overall digital transformation roadmap can be created, with clearly defined milestones.
Having said that, the right governance model could prove to be the single most important contributing factor towards the success of a digital transformation initiative.
This entire initiative needs to be backed by the CXO office with clearly defined milestones, complete ownership and accountability. Regular review with course corrections will steer the initiative in the right direction.
Finally, pharma companies must focus on building the right infrastructure (cloud, analytics, IoT etc.) to execute the plan. It is very important that at all stages, pharma companies ensure that they always own their data and that it is not locked in proprietary vendor systems.
How can Cybage collaborate with the pharma sector to drive the trend of value-based medicine? Which are your major areas of focus?
Value-based medicine as an economic/risk sharing model is witnessing a lot of interest from all stakeholders. It is in the nascent stages and is incredibly tricky to implement. That is because success or the value impact of a given medicine depends on a myriad of factors including the genetic profile of the patient (pharmacogenetics), the severity of disease, patient behaviour, social determinants (geography, ethno-economic profile etc.) and so on. There are a lot of unknowns making it a controversial subject in medical fraternity.
We at Cybage, believe that the paradigm of value-based medicine is best suited to personalised medicine where all contributing factors from genealogy to social determinants of health have been taken into consideration. That said, we acknowledge that pharma organisations will face pressure from insurance organisations to have a portion of payments tied to their performance. This is mostly observed for high cost drugs or for a care episode in an acute care setting.
To help thrive in the value-based era, Cybage can guide pharma companies towards building up the right tool sets. This includes implemented statistical modelling, ML-based solutions to implement predictive risk or pricing models, patient engagement platforms, m-health applications, and data interoperability pipelines with hospitals amongst others.
There are reports which reveal that investments made in emerging technologies are yet to see substantial benefits. What is your take on this issue? To what extent is it deterring the adoption of these technologies in the life sciences industry?
Yes, the investments made in emerging technologies are yet to show substantial results, however, there are some patterns and learnings which can be leveraged. The most important of them is the novelty vs utility aspect. It is when the novelty of the solution gets more importance than the practical utility of it. It is more like a solution waiting for a problem. A prime example in this case is the Proteus digital pill. While the technology is undoubtedly cool, its use case is not strong enough for adoption.
The next issue is preparedness. It includes the organisations, the partners, and the entire ecosystem. For e.g. blockchain based supply chain solutions. Undoubtedly it is a futuristic smart technology, but successful implementation needs technological maturity across the value chain, which is difficult to implement.
The other issue is the limited advancements in basic science. As much as technology can make an impact, it still is largely constrained by advancements in basic science and clinical research. And a clear case of this is Theranos, where science did not support the idea to carry multiple tests with a single drop of blood.
Pharma organisations recognise that innovation is the way ahead, so we don’t see any long-term deterrence in its adoption.
Can you elaborate on the cost advantages that could be generated annually through adoption of digital technologies?
The cost advantages of adopting digital technologies depend on the profile of the pharmaceutical organisation and their ecology of operations. In certain cases, it could be tricky to calculate. A cost advantage sometimes could be as simple as direct savings due to operational efficiency introduced. Say gains due to supply chain optimisations or just-in-term pricing. You could benchmark the current operational costs against the previous reporting period and easily arrive at cost benefits and consequently calculate the ROI. But let’s take the example of the compliance management system. An investment in a robust compliance management system that uses ML-based intelligence to identify potential non-compliance hot spots will greatly reduce the risk. But evaluating the reduced risk often leads to an academic exercise.
That said, it is very important that all IT investments are tied to concrete business outcome parameters. The least that a pharma organization should have is a defined metrics to capture process efficiencies, business outcomes, and IT investments.
What are the factors which will drive the future IT trends in pharma? How is Cybage poised to drive these trends and leverage the growth potential and opportunities that would arise?
One of the primary trends is ‘personalised medicine’. With the advancement in omics, we have now a better understanding of biopathways of medicines and how they impact diseases. Particularly in high impact therapeutic areas like Oncology where companies like Novartis have made remarkable advancements in creating personalized intervention therapies. Pharma companies will continue to leverage advancements in omics research throughout drug discovery and delivery value chains.
It will be fair to say that pharma organisations have embraced the centrality of data in any digital transformation initiative. We expect to continue to see in-house investments in clinical and non-clinical data repositories, big-data technologies, ML solutions and so on. Similarly, there will be continued focus on figuring out best data-driven strategy to engage patients using mobile, IoT and other emerging technologies.
Cybage with its technology and domain expertise is best poised to not only build technology solutions for pharma organisations, but also offer consultation services in deciding the right IT strategy for the right trade-offs.