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December 2, 2015

Pharma Gears Up For Connected Care

Posted by Subhro Mallik (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:04 AM

Pharma Gears Up For Connected Care

Pharmaceutical and medical device industry is on a precipice that's equally exciting and daunting. It's daunting, because many patents that the pharmaceutical industry acquired in the 1990s will expire soon. This, according to a Sanford C Bernstein report, can decrease revenue and cause generic erosion (expiring drug patents impacting revenues of pharma cos) between 2% and 40%, especially for companies without valuable pipelines. However, it's also exciting times. The industry has access to cutting-edge technology to strategically expand pipelines and innovate for better outcomes. From technology that virtualizes research processes and fast-tracks clinical development to those that enable compliance with government's rules and regulations, there are many technological advancements the industry is tapping into.

This gives it the edge to face challenges like expiring patents, and to create a connected and smart ecosystem. It helps companies stay ahead of competition, meet the complex regulatory requirements and align better with the global aim to offer more effective and long-lasting patient outcomes. Companies can achieve these goals with a 'connected care' approach and enablers like digitally-powered tools, technologies and touch-points for information monitoring, recording, storing, accessing and analyzing anytime, by any stakeholder. These enablers allow researchers and other stakeholders to stay connected with consumers, and enjoy benefits like reduced costs, enhanced performance, faster go-to-market, and seamless sales and marketing processes.

Today, customized solutions are taking the industry by storm. Supported by technologically advanced tools, areas like genomics and personalized medicine have revolutionized the industry. Just look at how much has changed since the Human Genome Project was piloted in 1990. Back then, the entire project took close to a decade and cost more than $1 billion. However, today, a person's genome can be sequenced in a few days for around $1,000. Genomics, and more specifically personal genomics, gives researchers complete biological information about each individual - including their predisposition to illnesses and allergies.

This information is especially useful in pharmacogenomics where researchers develop drugs to target problem areas more effectively in each individual. Based on each individual's genetic profile, such drugs will also most likely have minimal side effects. This is the future of drug discovery and manufacturing. How does this lead to connected care? Individuals taking personalized medicines - either clinical trial participants or consumers - can use wearable devices (like Google's smart lens) that monitor physiological parameters (like glucose levels in tears) post drug intake and share the same with researchers (via mobile devices synced to the smart lens) and consumers in real-time.

Based on this, consumers can monitor their own vital signs and manage conditions, while researchers can tweak the drugs and make them more effective. But how will it be possible, if detailed information like this is generated for all the patients, resulting in a data explosion like nothing we've seen before? There will be tons of information to be analyzed and interpreted. Pharmaceutical and medical device companies will have to integrate analytics and business intelligence tools into their systems for this. Also, this is not the only source of information. With more companies investing in connected smart medical devices - new age instruments that detect, collect, store and analyze information - there will be mountains of new data. These devices should have the capabilities to monitor, store, analyze and share insights on this data.

One such smart medical device is the digitally-evolved ECG which identifies, analyzes, and transmits data directly on the cloud, making it easily accessible for stakeholders authorized to use it. Smart medical devices can shrink the cost of managing these issues, as it can detect them before they proliferate into a more complex condition needing expensive medical attention. Mobile-enabled tools are also contributing to this. Companies are developing apps to direct consumers to monitor drug intake for chronic conditions and infections - a key step in reducing the need for emergency care. One such app is Well B, by Bristol Meyers Squibb, for Hepatitis B patients to get reminders for drug intake and monitor their symptoms.

With each passing year, these digitally-enabled advancements are getting smarter and more capable, allowing companies to achieve the connected care goal with less investment or spend, and in shorter spans of time. Connected care is a wake up call for pharmaceutical and medical device companies still struggling with obsolete medical instruments and data entry methods, in a dynamic industry that faces big demands from within, to innovate and accelerate towards a smarter and more Connected care delivery ecosystem. With the right IT infrastructure and systems that support the adoption and use of the new digitally enabled tools, pharmaceutical and medical device companies can make the transition from traditional systems to new age devices more effectively and seamlessly.


Healthcare industry in general, and Pharma in particular, has traditionally been very slow in adopting technology. The increased focus on blockbuster drug development has brought them to the doorstep of irrelevance, forcing them to scamper for consolidation of pipeline through acquisitions. But a more ideal path to follow would be to align their business model to deliver value based healthcare. An easy way to achieve this transformation would be to aid in empowering the ultimate user/consumer/patient. The more we can help him/her stay informed of his/her health, lesser will be the chances of medical disasters at a personal level. Connected care places the end user in driver's seat of decision making. Now he gets to choose which diet is good for his present state, which physician to consult, which medicine to use, and also which of his personal info he would like to divulge and to whom.
Pharma and Med Device sectors can literally drive this transformation, gaining immensely in return.

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