A digital revolution for patient care


The digital maturity of life sciences companies will change significantly in the next three years as digital technology yields a wealth of data that provides opportunities to drive more innovation, improve patient outcomes, and deliver increasing value to healthcare systems. Maturing digital technologies will help the industry personalise therapeutic approaches, better engage patients, and optimise products and services that improve health outcomes at lower cost.

The growing prevalence of new data sources, including health, biometric, genomic and lifestyle data, combined with the growing interconnectivity of devices, is driving new ways to research, treat and cure diseases, as well as spearheading greater interaction throughout the healthcare system, including patients and physicians.

"The industry needs digital to 'pivot to the patient'"

Innovation matured from an internal perspective alone can limit access to the specialised knowledge required to address new and broader therapeutic areas in an organisation. The industry needs digital to 'pivot to the patient', much as retailers use digital to 'pivot to the consumer', and thus provide a broader, more holistic view.

Digital technologies are helping life science companies use data to understand and anticipate customer needs. Now, life sciences companies can seamlessly connect information about patients across the entire healthcare system, leveraging the many sources and types of data that have been trapped in silos in the past. These include being able to:

• Improve the identification of specific patient populations that are strong candidates for therapies and treatments.

• Better understand the precise combination of treatments, services and care that delivers the best patient outcomes, increases overall healthcare ecosystem value, and reduces overall costs.

• Design and deliver a new level of personalised coordinated services to healthcare professionals (HCPs), care givers and patients, which provides treatment support and incentives that improve patient outcomes.

• Shorten supply chains and increase transparency and efficiency.

• Create ongoing feedback that is evidence-based and helps clarify the treatment and services that provide value.

However, becoming a digitally-enabled business does not mean incorporating technology into enterprise activities. It is about reinventing and redefining the business to take advantage of the game-changing opportunities that technology can create. For example, Baxter International's new VIVIA hemodialysis system is designed to deliver more frequent or extended-duration dialysis, and allows physicians and nurses to remotely monitor home therapy through a physician portal and an alert dashboard.

The system incorporates remote device management to handle maintenance and gather non-patient data in real time for product enhancement and service development. These capabilities make it possible to treat patients with end-stage renal disease in the comfort of their homes, improving their outcomes and quality of life, and freeing capacity in acute care centres, benefiting payers and risk-bearing providers.

Life sciences companies that create new, digitally-enabled business models can be agile enough to bring drugs and patient solutions to market faster, target treatments on focused patient populations and enhance the effectiveness of patient engagement and care management.

"Companies will have to change their organisational structures, capabilities and performance metrics to put an emphasis on patient outcomes and health system value"

With launches of new therapeutics, devices and diagnostics expected to hit unprecedented levels, there is significant opportunity for companies to rethink their business models and the critical role of digital in this new environment. But this won't be easy, as companies will have to change their organisational structures, capabilities and performance metrics to put an emphasis on patient outcomes and health system value.

A digitally-enabled life sciences company excels in four specific areas:

Collaboration: Developing solutions in collaboration with partners and stakeholders, introducing the capabilities and digital prowess to facilitate interactions and activity beyond the walls of the traditional life sciences company.

Such collaboration allows companies to maintain their scientific focus, while incorporating external best-in-class capabilities. In R&D, life sciences companies and their venture-capital arms will seek new ways to collaborate with academic centres and early-stage companies to nurture innovation. Cloud-based technologies will enable 'outside-in' operating models that allow collaborators to develop new therapies efficiently. The cloud eliminates geographic restrictions, allowing companies to work together in discovery, targeting and monitoring of appropriate patient populations worldwide.

Real world patient data: Treating patient data as an asset and letting it flow through the healthcare ecosystem will build a more complete understanding of patients.

Historically it has been almost impossible to combine patient electronic medical records (EMR) data from providers with patient genomic data to define new biomarkers and clinical diagnostics, or to combine EMR and payer claims data with the results from clinical trials to further validate outcomes and the value of new therapeutics and devices. But this is changing. The announcement of Cerner's partnership with Claritas Genomics is a strong example of how genomic data can be successfully integrated into clinical records.

Value analytics: Integrating and analysing data and information about patients to gain novel insights into the precise combination of treatments and services has delivered the best health outcome for patients with similar profiles.

For example, a physician treating diabetics could create individual treatment plans, informed by specific information pulled from patient health, insurance and pharmacy records, plus medication preferences. This data would be compared against information about other patients with similar profiles. The physician wouldn't just rely on the immediate experience, but could consult an app that provides prescribing information about different drugs, and outcomes data of a product's performance within a patient's overall treatment regimen. The physician would also be able to prescribe other services to help the patient improve diet and exercise regimes and adhere to taking medications.

Patient and HCP services: Improving the patient experience and providing physician and care support in order to optimise health outcomes.

Both HCPs and patient services may welcome applications that link to a broader set of services. For instance, Merck's Merckengage.com website addresses patients' needs for support and resources to improve their overall health, and HCPs' needs for resources to educate patients and establish better relationships with them. It is estimated that patient services enabled by mobile applications will save more than $23 billion a year in the US alone by controlling chronic disease.1

The potential for digital technology to enhance and prolong lives and rewrite the boundaries of the competitive landscapes is profound. But life science leaders will need to carefully define their vision and the role their companies will take, reassessing their relationships with their stakeholders, customers and partners and rethinking the organisational silos that currently limit collaboration and sharing of data.


Fig1: Potential for Digital Technology



1. Mobile Apps Can Save Billions in Health Costs http://www.medpagetoday.com/PracticeManagement/InformationTechnology/43397


About the author:

Sunil Rao is Global Managing Director, Accenture Life Sciences, Technology Lead and Life Sciences APAC lead. Rao has been with Accenture for 10 years and is responsible for complex global system integration programs and large global application outsourcing engagements.

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22 July, 2014