Why Life Sciences Companies Need to Rebuild Their Digital Transformation Roadmap

  • mars 14, 2022
Lab technician at a computer

These past two years shall go down in history as years that tested the mettle of industries worldwide. Forced to innovate their business to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, companies were forced to quickly adapt and accelerate their digital transformation. In the blink of an eye, timelines for companies to upgrade their digital capabilities went from years-long plans to “right now.” It was no different for the life sciences industry, which had to strike a delicate balance between delivering on existing therapeutic pipelines and navigating supply chain disruptions while coping with pandemic-focused mandates to deliver vaccines and therapies to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

For the most part, life sciences executives had charted a roadmap spanning 3 – 5 years toward implementing digital transformation across their organizations. However, COVID-19 has forced life sciences organizations to accelerate this transformation and view it as a strategic imperative for business viability and sustenance, primarily driven by the macro changes across the healthcare ecosystem.

As life sciences companies renew their focus on cost optimization across the value chain to drive business continuity, the impending role of digital technologies in transforming the industry has gained significant prominence in the post-pandemic reality.

Life sciences companies need to redefine their digital transformation

More than 80% of major life sciences companies have bankrolled and scaled investments toward digital technologies and initiatives during the past year alone. However, it hasn’t necessarily translated into the intended results. Many life sciences companies continue to struggle with developing a solid digital strategy. An even more significant number of companies are focused on incremental infrastructure transformation that serves their legacy business models.

Life sciences organizations by design have traditionally viewed IT investments as a supportive enabler of their core activities, significantly improving their research pipeline and bringing new drugs to market. This view is mainly because life sciences companies continue to deal with cost pressures and regulatory challenges around bringing new therapies to market even as the cost of R&D continues to increase tenfold. Innovation in the life sciences industry typically involves long gestation times and improving the patent landscape of individual companies, despite the emergence of coopetiton and open innovation models.

Virtualization and data-driven insight: the twin imperatives for digital transformation in life sciences

While many changes have occurred in the industry over the last two years, two specific developments have fundamentally transformed the entire healthcare ecosystem. They should serve as essential points of focus for the digital transformation of any life sciences organization.

Virtual environments: The first is perhaps the most obvious to both patients and clinicians alike is the move to the virtual environment. Patient care had gone from the neighborhood clinic to telehealth and virtual calls almost overnight. The traditional workplace setting in a typical life sciences organization — such as the R&D Lab and the manufacturing shop floor — had made way to a more controlled and automated environment, with minimal and rotational staffing.

Data and analytics: At the other end of the spectrum, however, the virtualization of the care setting brought forward an unforeseen emphasis on systematic data-capturing solutions, such as wearable patient monitors, analytics platforms, and sensor-based equipment that stream tremendous amounts of data back and forth to yield systematic insight across the life sciences value chain.

The twin shifts towards a virtual environment and emphasis on insights have brought about fundamental changes to how life sciences companies have accelerated digitization initiatives across the value chain to adapt to the post-pandemic world. These shifts have been done by evolving toward an insight-driven organization, one which engages across many initiatives, including:

  • AI-driven drug discovery
  • Decentralized clinical trials
  • Smart manufacturing through the use of robotics and IoT
  • Connected value chains
  • Omnichannel marketing
  • Real-time patient engagement through a data-driven approach

In the next part of this blog series, I’ll take a closer look at how the pandemic has disrupted four critical areas in the life sciences value chain. In the meantime, learn more about the different ways that life sciences companies can accelerate their digital transformation in today’s fast-changing business and regulatory landscape.

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Bhuvaneashwar Subramanian

Bhuvaneashwar Subramanian has more than 20 years of experience as a thought leader in the healthcare and life sciences. He has published extensively, including peer-reviewed academic articles on cloud computing in life sciences, digital health and nanobiotechnology commercialization. Bhuvaneashwar is a qualified biotechnologist and holds a master’s degree in molecular and human genetics from Banaras Hindu University India, a diploma in molecular biology from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and an MBA from Edith Cowan University Australia.

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