Digitalization is all set to impact the life sciences industry in a big way : Sastry Kuppa

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The government has already spent about $30 billion to subsidize the adoption of digital records by hospitals and doctors.
The government has already spent about $30 billion to subsidize the adoption of digital records by hospitals and doctors.

By Sastry Kuppa
VP – Strategic Services, YASH Technologies.

No industry is exempt from the impact of digitization. The life sciences industry is experiencing unparalleled market and business changes due to the impact of digitization and the inclusion of breakthrough technologies such as the hyperconverged cloud, blog data and mobility, software defined networks and most importantly digital patient engagement. The impact of digitization is on all aspects from the R&D lab, through the distribution channels and to the end product itself, and it plays a critical role in the medical field itself with low cost genomic scanning, machine learning and analytics.

Life sciences companies have always used information technology to efficiently execute their processes, be it their enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, sales force automation, invoicing, financial systems, R&D processes and the likes. But now, forefront technologies like cloud computing, advanced analytics, intelligent software and the Internet of Things are driving the next wave of advanced business process automation of the life sciences industry.

Sensors that collect, analyse and monitor patients for responsiveness and compliance to prescribed treatment plans and wearables are becoming more seamless now. The ability to track health data is becoming more invisible, and a lot of these devices and sensors are integrated seamlessly into daily routines. The simplicity and the ease of access are really driving a lot of value for all involved. Early on some reluctance was expected because there were some very legitimate privacy concerns about sharing personal health data over devices. However, once patients began to understand the power of this data utilisation, they became more comfortable sharing their information to see the improved health outcomes. Digitization is giving patients the opportunity to take more control of their health, to be more accountable, more responsible, and in many cases more knowledgeable.

The amount of information available online, the prevalence of social media and the digitization in all aspects also means that organizations no longer have complete control over their information about their products and services. Though digitization is infiltrating in all zones of the life sciences industry, the practices and products that the companies use may have worked for years but have not evolved in decades and lack the transparency, connectivity and efficiency to adequately support an industry transformation that relies a lot on free flow of data. Considering the speed and scope of change brought about by digitization, many organisations are struggling to adapt and it is very essential to put in systems that support these developments, if the life sciences companies plan to maintain a competitive pace of innovation.

From both cost and technology perspective, the life sciences industry can leverage a variety of devices and sensors that give an opportunity to manage a patients’ health in ways that were never really feasible previously, whether it is with a pacemaker or an insulin pump. Patient and medical device information is now connected through smart technology. What embedded technologies and remote monitoring capabilities can do in healthcare is to move from being reactive towards being proactive – proactive health and prevention. That in itself has massive implications for reducing the overall cost of healthcare, or at least slowing down the pace of increase, but this does not come without its challenges.

DNA and genome sequencing is another essential benefit of digitalization that opens the way to precision medicine. We now can do full genome sequencing. Life science has progressed to a level where we can take a look at our microbial and understand the real workings of our body and what makes us unique. Because of this, we can take actions very early to mitigate our disease states ideally. The ability to be very predictive here or preventative is going to be a big win for our healthcare ecosystem. While patients will benefit from access to the best products available, life science companies gain greater access to health outcomes and patient feedback -a very valuable repository of information that can drive the next cycle of product development.

The interconnections within the life sciences ecosystem are accelerating at an ever-increasing pace.To a large extent, companies in the life sciences industry have already recognized that digital transformation will lead to changing roles in the ecosystem. By 2025, we will be in a consumer-driven global life sciences market. New business models will grow based on digital health services. The life sciences industry has access to the technology to gather data, and new sensors and smartphone apps connect patients and producers like never before. This capturing of data, coupled with the understanding of how an individual is using the drug, will hopefully lead to a better outcome for all. The entire world of life sciences will be connected through the Internet of Things. Faced with these challenges, the industry will need to focus on developing structures to improve internal efficiency and optimize quality and compliance processes. Successful life sciences companies will need to innovate—fast. And in a way that drives cost efficiencies and productivity. The life sciences industry will have to harness the IT industryto enable a smooth transition towards digitization.

The way ahead
For the life sciences industry, in looking beyond incremental innovation, new scientific discoveries, continuing technological innovation, increased global interconnectivity and digital access, the growing availability of new data resources, the industry needs to embrace change at a more fundamental level. Life science industries will have to rethink all aspects of their models—offerings, go-to-market approach, and R&D operations—to capture new sources of value, drive efficiency, and compete in the changing digital market. They should create a platform to collect, integrate, analyze, and report real-world data to prove treatment efficacy, safety, and value.

It is crucial to reimagine and automate end-to-end processes to drive efficiency and unlock new insights. They will have to invest early in promising technologies and risk-sharing relationships with other companies, inside and outside the industry. Life sciences industry should also embrace newer development and operating models, and relying more on data-driven insights to make critical business decisions. Most important, the need is to reimagine themselves as digital enterprises—adaptive, collaborative organizations that can keep pace with changes in the healthcare marketplace. Change is inevitable and approaching fast, and those willing to embrace transformation are the ones who will more likely succeed in the future.

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