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Embracing the Digital Transformation in Life Sciences

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The era of simply selling pharmaceutical products is over; the age of enabling care has arrived. That was one of the clear messages that came out of CSC’s recent breakfast meeting with CIOs from six leading Spanish pharmaceutical companies – Almirall, Kern Pharma, Isdin, Esteve, Ferrer and Grifols. The meeting was held to discuss the digital transformation taking place across the life sciences industry and how leaders need to respond to these changes through innovation to drive business growth.

By Philippe Blanco, General Manager, Healthcare and Life Sciences Nordics and South and West Europe

The digital transformation is both an opportunity to enable capital efficient innovation and a challenge. Increasingly patients are more connected and are participating in their care by accessing information online, and by monitoring their own health through apps and wearables devices. Information is flowing between all stakeholders through the use of devices, sensors and patient portals, resulting in more interaction between healthcare providers, life sciences companies and patients. New models of care are being driven by predictive medicine – the right therapy for the right patient at the right time – personalized medicine and personalized care.

Innovative, forward-thinking life sciences companies can tap into this connected world in order to strengthen the relationship with the patient and drive better health outcomes and more agile businesses. For example, progressive companies are making use of the next wave of business process automation enabled through intelligent software, advanced analytics, the Internet of Things, cloud capabilities and mobile access.

Stacked pebblesA Holistic Approach

Getting to that point of embracing digital transformation, however, requires a new way of thinking and operating. These are some of the key discussion points that emerged during the CSC meeting with CIOs:

  • It’s about culture. Achieving a business model transformation requires a company-wide culture shift away from siloed, individual goals and toward common objectives. While the goal of developing products that save and improve lives remains the same, how those products reach patients, where and when they need and want them has to change.
  • Break down silos. There is a need to align all areas of the organization around digital innovation, but this can be challenging for more “traditional” pharma companies than for those that emerged in the digital age. To break down silos, companies need to encourage people to embrace innovative thinking.
  • Think start-up. People need to be encouraged to think differently and to be willing to innovate, which also means to take risks, test their ideas and then start again. A failed idea is better than being afraid to innovate.
  • Flexibility is key. Companies need to prepare their people for change and to prepare for some disruption without being blindsided. New technologies present opportunities, but only where they fit the business model. Know what the business model is, what the priorities are and what you need to do to improve through capital efficient innovation – both in terms of technology adoption and process change.
  • Infuse business agility. In addition to preparing for the digital model, companies need to be ready to react quickly to compliance and industry changes, as well as rapid change in the commercial landscape including internationalization, mergers and acquisitions and split strategies.
  • Think long-term. Too often companies become fixated on ROI, but digital innovation transforms companies over the long term and so pinpointing the short-term ROI of such changes is difficult and not beneficial.
  • From the top. Digital transformation will only be achieved if it has the support of the leadership team and is driven from the top.

While every life sciences company needs to innovate and embrace the digital transformation, the technologies they adopt and the way they innovate will differ from company to company. Life sciences companies first need to develop their strategy in light of the new models of care, the engaged patient and the healthcare/life sciences convergence, and plan their investment and resource commitments in line with the strategy.

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