With a shifting regulatory landscape and growing demands from patients and healthcare providers, life sciences companies face significant challenges to differentiate themselves and remain competitive. However, another issue that is often not discussed is that the healthcare and pharmaceuticals industry contribute to 4.4% of total global emissions.
Promoting a conversation for a greener tomorrow, HCLTech’ Tech2Sustain platform was established to bring together industry leaders to share their learnings around the role of technology in driving sustainable consumerism.
In the second edition of this collaborative forum, leaders met to discuss and share insights on championing sustainability across their companies and how technology is driving disruption in life sciences post-pandemic.
Commenting on embracing sustainability, Joe Friedrichsen, IT Managing Director at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, said: “COVID-19 accelerated the concept of telehealth and when you combine telehealth and sustainability, keeping people off the roads is one of the byproducts of telehealth. Though the concept of telehealth was around for years, COVID-19 drove its adoption and it continues to be one of those technologies that people use to maintain their health and wellbeing.”
Innovations around sustainability
Life sciences are undergoing an overhaul to bring in sustainability and cloud transformation togethers as one big step the industry is taking toward a greener future.
Arpita Bhowmick, Global Head of IT and Technology Leader, Moderna, said: “By adopting different technologies across the value chain, through cloud-enabled platforms, moving all of our data centers to the cloud, we are reducing our carbon footprint. As life sciences is moving at a faster speed, technology like automation and bots are reducing human error and repetitive tasks so that manpower can be used for more critical tasks. New Age technologies, robotics and IoT solutions across the chain play a bigger role in driving the sustainability agenda.”
Life sciences and healthcare comprise of the payer and the provider market. Sustainability is now at a stage where it is getting reported as a part of the enterprise’s corporate guidance, and how the organization is achieving the various ESG metrics, sustainability metrics and so forth.
Three themes of sustainability in life sciences
The healthcare industry contributes to a substantial amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Shrikanth Shetty, Chief Growth Officer, Healthcare and Life Sciences, HCLTech explained: “Now we are moving towards a model where population health management must be considered. There are three themes of sustainability:
- Improve access to health care: Can we have affordable healthcare across the entire population? That’s the question we need to address, and again, telehealth is one great way in which technology is helping.
- Running hospitals in a linear mode: Hospitals have extensive areas where a lot of energy-intensive work is done. Can we transform hospitals into ambulatory care models? And the moment you move to an ambulatory care model, technology must step in to enable remote patient monitoring, support and more. Again, technology is the enabler.
- Low carbon alternatives: Cutting the consumption of plastic is key. Insulin pens create a lot of plastic waste. How do you figure out a way of recycling it because otherwise, they land up in the landfill? Organizations are trying to see how they can become more carbon-neutral and be more efficient in the way they do things.
“The biggest impediment, especially in the highly regulated environment that the healthcare industry operates in is the time taken to innovate is long,” added Shetty.
The role of data and regulation
What role does data and its regulation play in this space? The healthcare industry has seen tremendous growth, innovation and focus toward creating a more customer-centric approach, personalized products and services.
The customer is looking for a 360 experience. At every touchpoint of the customer journey, different channels generate a lot of data. The healthcare industry captures that data, mines it, generates usable insights and feeds that back into the business case to enable a sustainable and scalable solution to end customers.
Bhowmick said: “The biggest challenge of data in healthcare is the aspect of regulation in the entire industry. We have to operate within the guardrails, sometimes we are not allowed to use patient data to generate customer insights.”
“For example, when a customer contacts a center through an app or any other channel calling for some health advice, medicine or some educational articles. These customer insights can be profiled in this industry within the guardrails and bring those personalized experiences to build an experience engine—where your CRM, contact centers, field team, technology team and product teams work seamlessly to use that data and utilize it for novel solutions for the customers,” she added.
Mentioning the guardrails and healthcare regulatory challenges, Friedrichsen raised an interesting point on how during COVID, “the government had to change the guardrails around something as simple as telehealth”.
“For instance, the financial services industries share information in milliseconds; in healthcare, there's nothing close to that. That is the reason why healthcare needs transformation and information to be shared openly in a standard way across the entire value chain in real-time,” he added.
“The whole aspect of data storage, data consumption, analytics and the power of servers is really a great use case for why technology needs to sit in a cloud. The ultimate goal of all the information about a member is how we can help them get healthier. The regulations must change for us to be able to easily share information back and forth with everybody,” continued Friedrichsen.
Data demonstrates how organizations can provide better health outcomes for patients.
“From a personal point of view, data is a driver, because all of us are empowered users and have more health data than we used to have before. So, we'll go and challenge adopters, and I'm pretty sure the doctors will ask their technology department—how can you help us, my patients are coming in and asking me to make sense out of there data. That's why the potential of data within this industry is huge,” added Shetty.