Futureproofing the Pharmaceutical Industry through Technology

April 13, 2016
Partho Bhattacharya

By focusing on laying strong technology foundations, pharmaceutical businesses can make informed decisions, equip themselves with the capabilities to eliminate threats, and future-proof operations.

The future of pharmaceutical organizations has never looked more promising with socioeconomic, scientific, and technological changes expected to provide a wealth of opportunity over the coming years. However, whether businesses have the capabilities to act on this opportunity poses a significant threat to their future performance.

PwC refers to the next few years as a period of ‘vision to decision.’ By focusing on laying strong technology foundations, pharmaceutical businesses can make informed decisions, equip themselves with the capabilities to eliminate threats, and future-proof operations.  Legacy systems that hold copious amounts of disparate data need to be overhauled and joined-up. And it is crucial that pharmaceutical organizations act now to drive innovation and attract potential investors.

Changing business models, however, is very different. Time is of the essence and we believe that businesses have a maximum of two years to implement change before they begin to suffer business failures as a result of poor innovation. It is, therefore, imperative for pharmaceutical organizations to make a concerted shift by modernizing infrastructure and planning in the short term in order to continue to be successful over the next 10–15 years. But how?

Ensure an integrated  supply chain
Pharmaceutical organizations are complex given that they often span geographies and disparate technology systems, and have to account for different legal processes. This unsustainable, expensive, and clunky business model poses a significant threat to future growth and success. Coupled with mergers and acquisitions across the industry and wider technology innovations such as smart technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), the pressure is on businesses to make operational changes now.

A holistic view of the organization is, therefore, required. Achieved through implementing the right technologies, an integrated approach across the supply-chain, finance, and planning allows greater access to data from all sources, improves R&D, reduces time to market, and drives overall operational efficiency. The right tools enable this better integration and visibility, inform decisions, and streamline the supply chain through real-time access to data. With every drug requiring a unique identifier code, a prescriptive recall and destruction process for quality control, and a typically lengthy end-to-end batch monitoring process, pharmaceutical organizations need to act quickly to be future-proof.

Use data analytics to support R&D
Pharmaceutical organizations are going through a period of exploration and discovery with regards to what can be done with big data. While there is a good understanding across the industry about the benefits and importance of gathering data, there is still work to be done to ensure that the data are actually being utilized to better inform R&D activities and shorten time to market.

The first obvious step is to implement the right technologies. With most existing legacy systems,  the process of data consumption is simply too slow or in some cases, not possible. For example, through some technologies, it is possible to track data in real-time to inform the R&D process. Businesses can be empowered to solve questions such as: Is there demand within the market? Is the drug being created fit for purpose? How is patient care/treatment advancing in parallel with drug development? It’s at this stage that pharmaceutical organizations need to understand if the medicine is profitable and if the ability to yield is significantly higher than the cost to produce.

More so, the clear disconnect between data available in pharmaceutical and healthcare organizations is a significant threat to R&D. Treating these data in silos is a missed opportunity. Healthcare organizations have a wealth of data from consumers that pharmaceutical organizations simply don’t have access to otherwise. For example, understanding what side effects actually occur once a drug is available to the general populous needs to feed back into the R&D process for future development. It is crucial that businesses implement technology that helps provide this holistic view across the entire pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.

Pharmaceutical companies are facing a complex battle to drive operational efficiency and achieve a consolidated view of the entire business. Legacy systems and processes make this challenge even harder, slower, and in some cases, near impossible. Through the effective implementation of technology, however, business can go a long way in ensuring they are futureproof for the next 10–15 years.

About the author: Partho Bhattacharya is MD and President of Invenio Business Solutions.