Key focus areas for a digitally-enabled life sciences industry

The life sciences industry is poised on the brink of a digital revolution. In the next three years, rapidly improving digital technologies are set to disrupt the industry, as life sciences companies globally rethink how they research, produce,...


The life sciences industry is poised on the brink of a digital revolution. In the next three years, rapidly improving digital technologies are set to disrupt the industry, as life sciences companies globally rethink how they research, produce, distribute, and sell products.

Data will be key to this transformation. New data sources, including health, biometric, genomic and lifestyle data, combined with the growing interconnectivity of devices, will be crucial not only to understanding customer needs, but also anticipating them.

Life sciences companies will benefit tremendously from connecting information seamlessly about patient populations from the many sources and types of data that are currently trapped in silos across the healthcare ecosystem. In order to do that, these companies need to challenge their own organisational structures, capabilities and performance metrics in order to ensure their survival in a rapidly changing healthcare environment. They will need to embed digital in their DNA, with a focus on four key areas.

1. Collaborative Business Models: Increasingly, innovations in the life sciences industry will come from beyond its traditional boundaries, through collaboration with partners and stakeholders around specific therapeutic areas.
The industry is not a stranger to these forms of collaboration. In specific areas like R&D, life sciences companies and their venture-capital arms have been looking for new ways to collaborate with academic centres and early-stage companies to nurture innovation.

2. Real-World Patient Data: In the current climate, there is an urgent need to capture the wealth of data available in the healthcare system, be it social, behavioural, genomic or real-time biometric data, and combine it with a host of traditional data sources. This will enable pharmaceutical and healthcare companies to develop an aggregated view of patient health and their interactions across providers and payers.

For example, the recent announcement of Cerner’s partnership with Claritas Genomics points to the integration of genomic data into clinical records - an exciting development, which will add to the richness of data sources and enable improved diagnostics. Increasingly, it is also becoming possible to track an individual patients’ progress throughout their therapy, which opens new opportunities for developing personalised medicines.

3. Value Analytics: Integrating and analysing data and information about patients across the healthcare system will yield new insights that, when acted on, will improve outcomes for all parties. Advances in analytics—including the ability to access and aggregate data more quickly than before—are enabling digital life sciences companies to deliver customised experiences to patients and healthcare providers, and improve their understanding of these customers.

For example, in response to this changing climate, our own tool, Predictive Health Intelligence, uses cloud-based technologies to help identify, aggregate and analyse data from disparate entities, including patients, payers, providers, governments, and pharmaceutical companies in order to take steps to raise the overall quality of care.

4. Patient and Healthcare Professional Services: Both healthcare professionals and patient services may consider welcoming applications that link to a broader set of services. For instance, Merck’s website addresses patients’ needs for support and resources to improve their overall health, and healthcare providers’ need for resources to educate patients and establish better relationships with them. It is estimated that patient services enabled by mobile applications will save more than $23 billion a year in the U.S. alone by controlling chronic disease.

In conclusion, becoming a digitally enabled life sciences company isn’t just about how technology is applied to the business. Life sciences leaders will need to carefully define their vision and the role their companies will take and reassess their relationships with their stakeholders, customers and partners. They must restructure their operating models to operate in an “outside in” manner focused on patients’ needs and health system outcomes; and ultimately rethink the organizational silos that limit collaboration and sharing of data.

Learn more at: A Digital Revolution in Patient Care

Sunil Rao is global managing director, Accenture Life Sciences Technology

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