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The Agile Elephant defines digital transformation as “a change in leadership, different thinking, the encouragement of innovation and new business models, incorporating digitization of assets and an increased use of technology to improve the experience of your organization’s employees, customers, suppliers, partners, and stakeholders.”
It's a shift in behavior and processes that is affecting all industries, including the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. Digital is empowering patients to play a more active role in their own care and making processes more efficient for providers. Here are 6 ways that digital is transforming the pharmaceutical and healthcare landscape.
1. The efficacy of treatment is now transparent
No longer are major pharmaceutical companies the sole provider of information surrounding how their products work in the long-term. Recent digital transformation trends provide both patients and companies in the pharma industry with unparalleled access to information surrounding the impact of a healthcare strategy or pharmaceutical product, and how it may impact their overall well-being and everyday life.
Online information platforms and communities enable patients and their loved ones to discuss treatment progress while some mobile apps are able to track how a patient is affected by a prescribed therapeutic measure. These sources provide analytics experts with actionable insights into the safety and efficacy of a drug or therapy. According to McKinsey in an article entitled The Road to Digital Success in Pharma, the first step in adapting to such an influx of valid information is to develop processes to give you the ability to use this new information effectively. By doing so, both old and new pharmaceutical companies ensure that they stay the “main source of authority on the performance of their product.”
2. Data visualization to increase accessibility
Data visualization isn’t just aesthetics, it's grounded in real results and industry findings. With an expanding amount of content available online daily, the way people access and process information is changing. For new pharmaceutical companies in the midst of the digital transformation of their organization, this means that how information is communicated and shared is crucial to the success of the organization. Sharing data-based intelligence must be done in a way that is tangible and accessible to a broader audience, not just the scientifically-minded among us. For example, data visualization could enhance how patient data is communicated to them, or how certain medications and treatments are affecting different areas of the physiological system.
3. Patients are empowered to play an active role in their care
Although healthcare professionals will continue to represent the relationship between patients and the pharma industry, digital trends are demonstrating that an increasing amount of patients are more engaged with their medical treatment plans. McKinsey cites a survey where over 85% of patients were found to feel confident in their ability to take personal responsibility for their health and understand how they can access digital and online resources to assist them.
Because of the sheer amount of digital information accessible on healthcare and pharmaceuticals, people are more comfortable with taking their well-being into their own hands. This information allows patients to develop a better relationship with their health and evaluate the cost of the pharmaceutical products or healthcare services they may need. For new pharmaceutical companies, digital transformation trends like these can be beneficial, as the pharma industry has an opportunity to connect and engage with potential patients online while they are researching the benefits of certain products.
4. 24/7 Virtual Care
In Econsultancy’s 2017 Digital Trends in Healthcare and Pharma report, almost 500 healthcare and pharma industry respondents were involved in uncovering which areas of digital marketing will be “very important” as in the next few years. According to their findings, 74% of respondents from the healthcare and pharma industries stated that “optimizing the customer journey across multiple touchpoints” will be among the most important digital marketing strategies in the near future.
So what does this mean for new pharmaceutical companies, healthcare professionals, and patients? Simply put, it means that there will be broader engagement with patients and physicians from multiple touchpoints of the patient care process. From pharmaceutical sales reps to patient teams, up-to-date and 24/7 virtual care will become the norm throughout the industry.
According to McKinsey, there are already virtual-care apps in existence, including NeoCare Solutions from Aetna, which works to provide on-demand assistance from neonatal nurses after parents return home with their infants previously in intensive care.
Personalization will play a key role in this transformation from restricted office hours to 24/7 access to care. Technology like sensors and apps will allow for unique patient care that is customized to suit their specific needs. Some patients already have access to wireless sensors.
For pharma and healthcare companies, this change in expectation and experience will mean that a customer-centric change is in order for success. However, the Digital Trends and Healthcare report warns of bureaucratic processes and slow growth for large-scale organizations as being the main challenge to survive these digital transformation trends. To best avoid these struggles, it’s time to start considering your company’s digital transformation roadmap and how necessary changes can be streamlined. McKinsey states that rather than simply being a provider of drug-based treatments, new pharmaceutical companies will provide a complete treatment and value as part of a “digital ecosystem.” As a part of a net that includes sensors, apps, and drug treatments, healthcare and pharma industries will combine data and biophysical measurements to optimize patient care.
5. Digital streamlines processes for efficiency
Luckily, digital innovations are allowing large-scale organizations as mentioned above to thrive in the midst of major industry changes. Future-forward technologies like AI that can make complex decisions using in-depth data and analytical calculations are transforming strategic processes as we know them.
For example, as more and more patients are given access to scientific information about their prescribed treatments, the transparency of the research and development (R&D) portfolios behind these treatments will be needed to meet customer and patient expectations, to keep them at the forefront of their industries.
6. Enhanced Drug Development
Not only will patient care be enhanced through analytics, AI, and other advanced technologies, but the pharmaceutical development industry will be transformed, too. With real-time information from both clinical trials and patients, drug manufacturers will gain a better understanding of how a drug affects a user, and how they can optimize its effects and minimize side effects.
The future of healthcare and pharma solutions
Although the pharma industry can be slow to adapt to change due to regulatory restrictions, many top pharmaceutical companies have made significant progress on their journey to digital transformation. According to a report by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions, the number of pharmaceutical apps developed by pharma companies has tripled since 2013, with 305 apps developed in 2013 and 988 in 2016.
In the same report, the importance of the “connected patient” is stressed. With 77% of the U.S. population using smartphones to access information online, people are now able to track their own health with the use of smart applications on a regular basis. In addition, a survey of 190 patient groups found that over 50% of individuals surveyed use a health app “regularly” or “occasionally,” with almost 70% stating that they use at least one health-related app to manage their diagnosed condition.
To succeed in this new digital landscape, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies must develop more personalized patient care that keeps them engaged through the use of accessible visualizations of data and real-time care. Whether they choose to develop the apps that measure biophysical statistics of patients or create multiple touchpoints throughout a patient’s duration of care, an increase in digital innovations in healthcare will impact how they do business, regardless of how they adapt to these changes.
For organizations to survive and thrive in a digitalized healthcare industry, pharma and healthcare companies must start generating ideas and implementing digital strategies immediately to develop a business model that allows them to transform their capabilities and strengths. At the end of the day, it’s vital that pharma and healthcare companies keep their end-goal at the center of their mission: the health and safety of their patients.