Internal budgets ‘holding back pharma’s digital evolution’

Graphite Digital report
Graphite Digital

Digital investment in the pharma sector is continuing at a steady pace but could fall behind what is needed to deliver true transformation of their businesses.

That is the conclusion of a just-published report from Graphite Digital, based on interviews with senior industry executives, which suggests that companies are struggling to measure the impact of digital transformation and that is limiting the scope for improvement.

More than a third (36%) of the approximately 100 executives surveyed said that funding is the biggest internal barrier to digital adoption and transformation, even though 51% of them said they planned to increase investment in this area and none indicated they would reduce it.

Demonstrating a return on investment is a key challenge, cited by 100% of those polled, and that could stem from a lack of alignment between delivery teams and senior stakeholders, according to Graphite Digital. All told, around two-thirds (64%) of respondents also said that project metrics are often not aligned with wider organisational goals.

“Securing additional budget often requires senior leaders and project managers to demonstrate return on investment or proof of concept, which means finding ways to quantify success in projects that can often take many years to deliver tangible results,” said Rob Verheul, Graphite Digital’s chief executive.

“It is critical to manage expectations for milestones and what success looks like when it comes to long-term digital projects and product development – especially when seeking to build confidence and securing additional funding,” he added.

Along with linking data to actionable insights, among the ways that improved connection can be delivered are joining up internal teams, improving interactions between end users and providers, connecting digital systems and platforms, and aligning long-term goals with short-term priorities, according to the Disconnected Pharma report, which can be downloaded here.

Other findings are that 77% of executives felt that omnichannel strategies were not working as hoped, citing problems with handling data, privacy concerns, and issues with strategy and execution. And more than a third (37%) said making sure robust data security and privacy measures are in place was their top priority for the next five years.

One in five (20%) said that prioritising more collaborative ecosystems and partnerships within the industry is a priority, while integrating emerging technologies (13%) was also labelled a key disruptor.

Looking at the types of digital health products in the pipeline, the top category, cited by 40% of respondents, was internal tools and systems. That was followed by digital therapeutics and software-as-a-medical device (SaaMD) at 29%, patient engagement (19%) and healthcare professional engagement (12%).

In a foreword to the report, Verheul notes that, while investment in digital infrastructure continues to increase, the findings suggest these strategies are falling short of delivering their predicted benefits.

He points, however, to encouraging signs – particularly in the area of user experience research – which point to “a shift towards more empathetic and user-focused healthcare solutions [that] as far as we’re concerned, is far more likely to yield the results that people need.”