In recent weeks, we’ve seen that only digitalised healthcare can respond quickly to health threats by adapting to the individual needs of citizens and dynamically responding to challenges. The post-COVID-19 ecosystem will also require agile business models and reimagined strategies for the pharmaceutical industry. In the long-term, this reinvention will enable the development of new services and access to new markets. But what does it mean in practice to "go beyond the pill"?
Business models remodeled to the new reality
With its scientific and research facilities and resources, the pharma industry is one of the critical pillars of modern healthcare. However, its role lags behind its potential opportunities as it is still bound to traditions dating back to the 19th century - namely a focus on drug manufacturing.
200 years after the industrial revolution, in a healthcare environment driven by the digital revolution, pharma faces the redefinition of its position. The challenge is to move from the crossroad of drug production, science, and medicine, towards the co-creation of value- and outcomes-based care. This transformation is necessary given changing social expectations, universal sustainable development goals, and the importance of cross-sectorial cooperation in overcoming new health threats. The sector that in 2018 spent $179 bil globally on R&D, contributing to the elimination of many diseases and the systematic extension of life expectancy, still seems to be separated from healthcare in several aspects.
How should pharmaceutical companies align their business strategies with the digital transformation?
Eugene Borukhovich, Chairman & Founding Board Member of YourCoach.Health, former Head of G4A Digital Health at Bayer
“Going beyond the pill” has been an industry term for decades. Part of the challenge of the changing business model for the pharmaceutical industry is that the statement is anchored in the word "pill" – understandably so as it is a core competency. The current crisis has absolutely spurred every industry into digitalisation. In addition, for pharma, it has pushed forward a few critical aspects across the existing value chain: AI in drug discovery, virtual clinical trials, and salesforce e-detailing.
We have yet to see how the pharmaceutical industry will continue "exploring" non-molecular therapies and health consumer services in its diversification strategy. The FDA's enforcement discretion policy – currently for psychiatric disorders only – gives clinically validated and low-risk digital health devices a much-needed pathway to patients. In theory, it is the bolstering of the efficacy of real-world data collection, which will be much needed for final FDA approval. As this gains momentum, I can foresee pharmaceutical companies buying their way into those revenue streams, which are starting to get priced much higher than the typical consumer-facing health apps.
Kirsty Reid, Director of Science Policy, European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations EFPIA
The environment for the pharmaceutical industry is changing rapidly. Substantial changes in industry dynamics will occur over the next decade, including the move towards integrated solutions, i.e., personalized medicines, diagnostics, digital tools, and combinations thereof. There will also be many opportunities arising from technological advances in biological sciences and digitisation.
New data sources and emerging technologies have the potential to make a significant difference to healthcare. For example, a broad range of data sources and techniques could be used to design and run new types of clinical trials, or to create AI systems to carry out or augment healthcare tasks that have until now been completed by humans or have not been possible previously.
Emerging technologies will bring significant opportunities for keeping people healthy, improving care, saving lives, and saving money for healthcare systems. Healthcare professionals will save time and gain more granular data analysis due to automation. The boost in efficiency and efficacy closely depends on how the new data sources and technology are adopted in the healthcare sector. If it is managed correctly, patients will benefit from the more focused work of healthcare professionals, which ultimately results in personalised diagnoss, well-informed decisions, and personalised treatment.
Jutta Klauer, Digital Health & Innovation at Pfizer Germany
The digital transformation has been taking place at Pfizer for a long time, especially in the R&D sector, manufacturing and distribution. No doubt, the current situation has accelerated this transformation further on many levels for example, the way we work and collaborate with our partners and other stakeholders in the healthcare system.
We are here to deliver breakthroughs that change patients´ lives. The digital transformation will help us to do so even faster and more effectively. In Germany, another factor has helped in bringing the digital transformation and the required shift in mindset forward: the long-awaited Medical Health Records (ePA) and the Digital Care Law (Digitale-Versorgung-Gesetz - DVG), which allows for access, prescriptions and the reimbursement of digital applications and therapies in medical care. Since the implementation of the DVG, the positive attitude towards and focus on apps, websites, and devices for patients to support their therapies has increased significantly within our industry.
The digital transformation goes beyond the usage of digital channels and tools; it also means appreciating data and the value of analysing it in order to improve results, processes, user experience, content, and most importantly, scientific research and health services research.
Sanna Lauslahti, Pharma Industry Finland
The pharmaceutical companies are not only manufacturers of medicines but also providers of services. In collaboration with the patient organisations, healthcare professionals, and the private and public health sector, companies have developed, for example, mobile apps for patients to make communication with professionals easier.
Digitalisation has also revolutionised pharmaceutical research. In Finland, for example, patient data can be used in clinical studies. Findata, the newly established authority, grants research licenses, controls the safety of the data, and takes care of the data protection of citizens.
Anish Shindore, Head of Digital Acceleration - DTx at Sanofi
Digital transformation, as a term, has been overused and abused to express potential changes that could happen within pharma. We have overlooked what has already changed to date within pharma, and broadly within life sciences.
Regarding the journey “from molecule to market”, significant progress has already been made in the field of AI for drug discovery, electronic communication and data revision during clinical trials, along with the emergence of Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs) among healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, pharmacists etc.). Go-to-market is happening through multiple channels. Content marketing has taken a big leap in elevating engagement; patients are getting more comprehensive technology-enabled therapeutic solutions, which allows for better control and management of sickness and health.
We can zoom into different parts of this journey, and we will notice that transformation means focusing on how things are done today compared to the past and using technology to reduce the margin of human error or augment experiences in health.
Exploring new perspectives for the pharma industry
Join the upcoming HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Conference to further explore the changing landscape of the pharma industry.
Digital Health Journalist