The benefits of adopting a truly digital mindset for pharmaceuticals

digital mindset

Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has been in the laggard phase when it comes to digital adoption. As a generally very profitable sector, many businesses have been focusing on product development and sales figures, rather than the internal inefficiencies of their business. Digital upgrades can often sit on the ‘to do’ list for some time, and understandably so if there is a pipeline of products and new business that need immediate attention. The full focus on delivery of new products is positive, but pharma is increasingly finding itself on the backfoot when it comes to accurately collating data, feedback, and implementing manufacturing efficiencies and accuracies.

It is in these efficiencies and accuracies that pharmaceutical businesses will see the greatest return. Not democratising information pertinent across the entire business could prove an expensive mistake to make. Regulatory and compliance are topics to adhere to, but not to hide behind. 

Precision is the future of the medical industry. All product development, manufacture, and dispensing must be carefully monitored, tested, and catalogued, and digitising these processes ensures that the data is captured and managed appropriately. It is critical to have this information shared from a Single Source of Truth (SSOT) and not stored in multiple places. As a patient or healthcare provider, it is important to have access to the right information and there is a digital expectation due to the experience of the applications that have become part of everyday life.

But because digitisation has not been a priority for the majority of people working in pharma, the industry is hugely under-skilled when it comes to digital capabilities, so is now trying to catch-up and acquire talent to digitally transform their business.

Danger of silos

The danger of silos is that there will be inconsistencies. Doing it in this way increases the likelihood of failure, as information won’t be shared company-wide and so will be laborious, with very little return with regard to business value. Because of a mindset that has not been focused on digitisation across the organisation, it requires a cultural shift to be adopted from the top down within the business, rather than in silos, which creates a patchwork effect. 

While some of these can be performed as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), the organisational alignment is critical. The need for an organisational strategy is evident, given the delays we have seen in the industry.

This siloed approach delays digital adoption as, in many instances when businesses consider a full digital business transformation, the challenge is that the business unit builds or buys to satisfy their current need, but soon realises that it does not fit into the organisational vision. It gets even more complex when large business units build their own individual platforms or systems that deliver similar outcomes, but completely differently. 

Some of these traditional silos need to broken, and this is more of a cultural topic than a technological one. An organisation needs to have strong digital enablement practices in place for this journey. 

Digital expectation

We are seeing more of an expectation from end users of digital capabilities across all industries. Some technically minded pharmaceutical companies have implemented products that automatically request repeat prescriptions, as they detect when patients are coming to the end of their batch of medication. Many people prefer – either for themselves or for family members who are unwell – some of the administration side of medication to be automated or done for them. Pharmaceutical businesses who realise the benefit of digital ahead of their competitors will likely find themselves ahead in the industry. Rather than having to meet end users’ demand for automation or digitisation, businesses who introduce these benefits proactively will boost their brand and most likely increase their market share. 

For those organisations who are digitising and offering these benefits to customers, it is crucial that this is reflected in back-office processes, too, in order to ensure a joined up, seamless configuration throughout the business. A partially digitised business, as mentioned before, or ones that work in silos, will find that there is a substantial gap if all areas of the business are not digitised, and greater margin for error if all departments are not able to collaborate.

Digital business 

Digitalisation offers pharmaceutical businesses incredible potential and those who adapt successfully will have a major competitive advantage. Done right, it should enhance processes to help improve decision-making and make everything from back-end administration to patient-facing services smoother.

Compliance is critical, and digitisation can help ease the burden of compliance through the capture and analysis of data, from discovery stage through to dispensing. Research and development stages can be documented and shared to ensure non-duplication and accurate testing, whilst regulatory stages can be digitised, with sign-off and approvals being instantaneous, allowing products to get to market in record time.

Even the supply chain can be de-risked, with stock checked in real time and the ability to share information on delivery with end users, improving customer experience, as well as business efficiencies and accurate reporting.

Successful digital business is centred on a more agile and pragmatic approach that focuses on bite-sized outcomes essential to accelerating business growth and offering a simplified end-to-end collaborative environment that is independent from the existing complex, siloed environments. 

The pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on an ecosystem of partnerships, external businesses, and regulatory bodies. In the pharmaceutical environment with high-risk areas, such as trial design and drug safety, an agile approach empowers companies to test the effectiveness of new systems and processes before upscaling them.

For pharmaceuticals, digital business transformation is about achieving better outcomes for patients. Implementing new technologies means they can remove barriers and reach a wider, more diverse market. It means that new therapies and treatments can be delivered more effectively, meeting patient needs and helping them to better monitor and manage their conditions. There are monetary benefits to be had too. Successful digital business makes companies more cost-efficient and transparent, accelerating their growth. Overall, pharmaceutical businesses who embrace digital business transformation will reap the benefits both in efficiencies and improved customer experience.

Bipin Bhaskar
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Bipin Bhaskar