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Over one in five life sciences companies have launched a digital initiative to enhance customer experience

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Capgemini’s research institute recently released its report, ‘The health fix’ that describes how COVID-19 has transformed consumers’ attitudes to health and accelerated the future of digital healthcare. In the same light, Aashish Chandorkar, Vice President, Capgemini Invent India explains the impact of digital transformation in the life sciences and pharma sector to Raelene Kambli

How do digital technologies create myriad opportunities for the life sciences companies?

There is a need for these companies to collaborate and form a holistic platform that meets patients’ needs throughout the patient journey, from gathering research, symptom tracking, diagnosis to treatment and disease management. Customer relationships for life sciences companies are driven by the release of new medical devices, therapies, and drugs, where the process is linear and measured in years. With COVID-19, life sciences companies urgently need to accelerate the development process for vaccines, antibodies, and other potential treatment medications. 

At the same time, there is an urgency to support patient and healthcare operations with digital offerings such as telemedicine services, testing, contact tracing apps, and clinically validated software to enhance or replace existing therapies. 

Capgemini Invent has launched tailored solutions for life sciences companies to launch a healthy recovery from the pandemic across the value chain – business impact mitigation and recovery, R&D clinical trials, manufacturing and supply, HCP engagement, patient engagement.

What should biotech and pharma companies do to seamlessly adopt and integrate digital technologies into their operations?

Even before the pandemic, biotech and pharma companies were keeping an eye on digital health technologies. That has only been accelerated during Q1 (2020). 

Life sciences companies, for example, made significant AI bets in areas such as drug development, R&D, and diagnosis. They are investing in technology to make sense of expanding datasets, drawn from genomics and “real-world data” (e.g., data from wearables, social media, clinical trials, electronic health records, etc). Companies can leverage the data from remote monitoring devices to improve the effectiveness of clinical trials and speed up drug development cycles. Many pharma companies have already started collaborating with health tech companies and startups to leverage the power of data to make clinical trial recruitment processes more efficient, improve compliance of prescriptive medication and monitor patients remotely. 

Top use cases in AI, for example, include understanding disease better-using knowledge graphs and machine learning and prioritising molecules with higher success probability using predictive analytics. In diagnostics, companies have already implemented AI in products for diagnostics scans using image recognition software and remote monitoring of patients. This and other technologies will help improve patient outcomes and reduce hospitalisation rate, as well as help pharma companies, become more patient-centric. 

Companies in the sector need to set up strong data governance to build data trust and scale innovation. They also need to establish the necessary technology foundations to remove data silos. Furthermore, to institutionalise innovation, companies need to deploy the right operating model to facilitate adoption, scaling and optimise resources.

How will they benefit from this digital integration?

Apart from the operational efficiencies due to a data-intensive approach, these companies set to gain increased cost-efficiencies and reduced time to market from R&D to launch of drugs. It will also drive patient-centric innovation, leading to better adherence, treatments and outcomes. Furthermore, in the ‘new normal’ life sciences companies are expected to invest resources in disease prevention using digital. Research from the Capgemini Research Institute has found that over 1 in 5 life sciences companies (21 per cent) have launched new initiatives since the onset of the pandemic to transform business, culture, process or technology. The biggest focus area is in improving customer experience and engagement.

This would also bode well for healthcare providers as it will lead to better health outcomes and lower hospitalisation rates, leading to cost savings. Consumer empowerment is improved through digital integration, which further leads to consumers being able to take greater control of their own healthcare, leading to lower pressures on the healthcare system. So, it is not just the biotech and pharma companies, but the whole healthcare ecosystem is set to gain from digital integration. 

How can life sciences companies advance their capabilities and take a more holistic view of their digital strategies?

Digital transformation of the life sciences companies had been quite firmly on the radar during the decade. There was always talk about the pace and the extent of the transformation, but it has been significantly accelerated due to the pandemic. The new normal will demand more collaboration and sharing of data to accelerate drug discovery and therapies, clinical trials, and the repurposing of existing drugs. The changing consumer behaviour and the associated increase in trust and comfort towards using digital technologies have prompted life sciences companies to accelerate the process. Life sciences companies can advance their capabilities through various means: in-house digital transformation including a reinvention of product offerings and a cloud-first/data-driven approach; partnership development with healthcare startups and health-tech companies, especially to promote tele-mental support and telehealth, among others; holistic improvement of patient experience through emerging technologies such as augmented reality and through low-touch healthcare; harnessing the power of AI and automation in healthcare offerings, to name a few.

A data-driven, cloud-first, and partnership-based approach are the key parameters of a holistic move towards digitalisation. Associated strategies include creating platform-based solutions that enable remote healthcare. With the healthcare ecosystem working as closely as ever, the time is ripe for consumer-grade healthcare platforms – seen in online commerce, for example, – to emerge. Such platforms can address a substantial part of the patient journey (symptoms tracking, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, disease management) independently. 

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