Co-author: Suganya P
Life science and healthcare have been among the most-affected industries due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The silver lining is that the current period can be leveraged as an opportunity for digital innovation for the industry. Identifying and understanding the vulnerabilities and creating and implementing a mitigation plan for those vulnerabilities will be the key to many a pandemic-triggered digital transformation. Since how long the current situation will last and the overall impact of COVID-19 on life sciences remains uncertain, organizations in the life sciences and healthcare industries will have to be nimble and proactively review vulnerabilities and come up with creative contingency plans.
Pharmaceutical companies need to focus on patient-centric ecosystems and also enhance digital tools for sales representatives, HCP, operational managers, and marketing teams to avoid unnecessary travel and time.
Introduction To Digital Sustainability
The term Digital Sustainability refers to the approach a company can take to enhance or modernize its business operations by investing time and money on the latest and trending digital tools. Digital innovation and technology in the life science industry became a key factor for major pharmaceutical companies in the 21st century. Many businesses in the life science industry leverage technology to gain insights and make decisions about key verticals such as marketing communications, sales operations, financial predictions, drug discovery, and patient care.
Key Digital Trends And Impact On Life Sciences
Cloud Technology: It streamlines the complex drug creation process and facilitates more effective communication and efficiency across various clinical departments. Sharing of information becomes easy as clinical trial site managers can access information from various geographic locations.
Robotic Process Automation: It enables pharma companies to perform important repetitive tasks efficiently without human intervention and reduces the chances of error.
3D Printing: 3D printing, which is also known as additive manufacturing, enabled the medical device industry to manufacture items such as finger splints and biocompatible implants such as high-risk devices.
Key Challenges For Digitalization In Life Sciences
Supply Chain Considerations: COVID-19 has impacted the medical product supply chain tremendously, including shortage of critical medical products or potential disruptions to supply.
Drug Shortage Notifications: The shortage of drugs cannot be avoided in this pandemic situation. So, product sponsors must have a proactive shortage notification process. They can consider options like expiry date extension (as far as safe and permissible) to mitigate the shortage.
Business Travel: Commercial activities between representatives and HCPs also impacted as hospitals become highly restricted areas and representatives are forced to stay at home.
Clinical Trials: COVID-19 has impacted clinical trial progress and results. For example, if clinical trial sites are in regions experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, then trial enrollment is likely to be slow in that region and healthcare personnel may be deployed into COVID-19 related activities.
Promotion: Among the emerging digital trends, virtual and social media promotion will consequently become more critical for commercial products.
Future Scope For Digitalization
Clinical Trial Enrollment: The process of clinical trial includes the patient getting enrolled for trial, then screening process takes place where the patient will be screened upon different exclusion and inclusion criteria. After successfully becoming eligible on those respective criteria, the patient will start getting involved in trials.
Digital transformation of clinical trials is necessary especially in times like COVID-19 because due to the urgency of the situation, active execution of clinical trial becomes the need of the hour. Lead time for screening processes can be reduced by filtering outpatients by applying various data analysis models that choose eligible patients based on their medical history details, responses to online questionnaires, and geographic details.
Telemedicine: Telemedicine has seen a steep rise due to COVID-19 among the recent digital trends. Telemedicine refers to the practice where medical support is rendered remotely without direct interaction face to face. There are already some telemedicine platforms that can be further modernized and enhanced to deliver quality care.
Drug Repurposing: Drug repurposing refers to getting access to all drugs and compounds that have already been worked and passed clinical studies. This reduces the time and cost associated with the drug discovery process. Digital innovation on this front can enable researchers to access only the required and relevant information from the existing datasets in storage and further analyze their usability in preparing successful drugs for different maladies.
Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing: Use of digital tools that leverage machine learning and natural language processing techniques on the patient notes that describes the reasons for discontinuation of treatment and switching medications, can help gain insights into factors that motivate patients in their therapy or treatment plan which can further benefit in improving patient support and development of new KPI’s.
Manual Robots: Allowing robots to perform tasks such as delivering medications and food, measuring vital signs will reduce the risk of infection for front-line health workers.
Remote Training: Remote training and coaching and product briefings can be provided to HCP and Sales representatives.