Pharma’s Digital Journey: Still a Way to Go

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Pharma companies no longer view digital as a “nice to have” add on, but as an integral part of their business, yet there are still quite a few hurdles to overcome. Insights from pharma industry digital transformation leaders.

Industry is on a dedicated and focused journey to leverage data and technology.

Shobie Ramakrishnan, Chief Digital and Technology Officer,  GSK

Gone are the days when digital processes were optional. Pharma companies are more than aware of the need to integrate data and technology into everything from drug discovery through to patient journeys. At a recent FT webinar on the industry’s digital revolution, industry stakeholders from Sanofi, Bayer, GSK and Ipsen who are actively involved in digital transformation shared use cases and the challenges involved in digital adoption.

“Industry is on a dedicated and focused journey to leverage data and technology,” said Shobie Ramakrishnan, Chief Digital and Technology Officer at GSK. She also expressed the view that digital must be core to company strategy and not just a back end or IT approach. All of the digital movers present agreed.

 

Use cases

… it’s all about getting the most data possible.

Diane Wuest, Global Head of Digital R&D, Sanofi

Diane Wuest, Global Head of Digital R&D at Sanofi said of her company: “we’re all in,” explaining that Sanofi’s has brought digital into the R&D value chain, incorporating it throughout the drug discovery and development process from disease modelling and looking for targets through to pre-clinical and clinical trials.

Wuest went on to say that “it’s all about getting the most data possible” and making the most of that data all along the way, giving the example of not only getting a diverse body of patients for clinical trials, but being able to follow them along the way, even when they are off site.

GSK’s Ramakrishnan shared a successful use case from manufacturing, explaining how the company incorporated advanced analytics to improve the manufacturing of their shingles vaccine and maximize yield at a time when there was a huge demand.

Subhro Mallik SVP & Global Head – Life Sciences, from service provider Infosys, gave an example from MedTech company, Medtronic, for whom he developed an app to follow patients and help them control their insulin levels and send the information back to doctors.

Catherine Abi-Habib Executive Vice President, Strategy, Transformation and Digital at Ipsen, said the company was also developing a physician-centred app whereas Bijoy Sagar, Chief Information and Digital Transformation Officer, Bayer AG, spoke about the radiology platform Bayer has launched for doctors that he considers at the intersection between MedTech and pharma.

 

Reasons for failure

Although the participants had successful use cases to share, they did not underestimate the challenges they have faced and that are still ahead. Digital adoption requires new ways of working, building new capabilities within teams and making sure everyone is aligned on how to measure success.

Ibsen’s Abi-Habib highlighted issues such as scaling, lack of alignment on measuring outcomes and change management. Ramakrishnan from GSK said that the real transformation that was needed was in “human software,” meaning changing the way people think about digital, bringing in new talent with new capabilities and training teams in digital literacy.

How pharma structures its digital transformation was another issue discussed and whether this should be a centralised, top-down model, or a more federated structure.

 

Patient centricity

Most digital approaches today are built by healthy people … and there is a digital divide because patients are not necessarily those people.

Bijoy Sagar, Chief Information and Digital Transformation Officer, Bayer AG

Sagar from Bayer AG spoke about using digital to promote a patient-centric focus: “Most digital approaches today are built by healthy people, by technically savvy people and there is a digital divide because patients are not necessarily those people.”

Infosys’ Mallik pointed out that patients have access to more information than ever before and that because of this, the patient experience should be an integral part of any company’s digital journey.


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