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Pharma's digital transformation: revolutionising healthcare access and outcomes

Pharma leaders discuss digital priorities at the LSX Congress

According to a recent report by the World Economic Forum, 85% of organisations across 45 economies are investing in frontier technologies to enhance digital access and transform their operations. This picture is no different for pharma; of the many current trends facing the industry, how firms consider and expand the digital scope is one of the most prevalent. Increasingly, companies are shifting their focus from mere product offerings to comprehensive digital platforms, with Chief Digital Officers recognising the need to cater to customers’ requirements in diverse ways.

We were delighted to see healthtech’s role in pharma on the agenda at the LSX Congress recently, where Sans Thakur, Chief Growth Officer at Medable, chaired an enlightening panel discussion on digital transformation, subtitled ‘Revolutionising Healthcare Access and Outcomes’. The guests were:

The panel considered pressing questions that drive their digital agendas across the entire value chain. From managing data more effectively to leveraging internal datasets for new insights, the guests spoke of their desire to embrace external collaboration, accelerating the development and deployment of patient and physician-facing solutions.

Ozcan outlined his current priorities for the digital health landscape: the launch of multiple connected devices, as well as new products for MS and cancer treatment. This poses a challenge when balancing between global development and local enterprises must be considered, however. There are many other crucial convergence points for the digital health industry on the horizon; for instance, Durán noted the importance of digital data and AI in shaping AstraZeneca’s strategy. ‘How do we accelerate the portfolio of the pipeline of medicines to help patients get better outcomes? [...] How do we collect symptoms, information from patients?’ she asked. There is no easy answer given the international, regulatory-heavy nature of pharma.

For Banks, ‘the top three priorities are around people, they’re around process, and they’re around technology,’ balancing the need to meet patients’ demands while ensuring their offering ‘isn’t going to be out of date by the time the product is launched.’ Banks went on to note that in the first quarter of 2023, GSK had generated an astounding 1.2 billion terabytes of data. She stressed the need for data to be available across areas – R&D, medical, and commercial components – as well as the importance of data hygiene, with data governance being a field that GSK will look to invest in significantly over the next 12-18 months.

Thakur asked the panellists what they would invest in if they could look five years into the future. They agreed on the necessity of developing digital health to detect disease earlier, with Ozcan describing their industry’s approach as being ‘very good at planting flowers, but not building gardens’. This is yet another area in which AI is an increasingly important topic; Banks notes that ChatGPT ‘came out very well’ in a diagnostics test compared with human physicians. Given the need for increased patient adherence and engagement, this could well be another area in which we see artificial intelligence come to the fore.

How can the industry reach the best outcomes for value-based healthcare systems? Is it a question of clinical factors, or issues around access, equity, and cost-effective solutions? Banks reflected on the sensitive nature of healthtech given the trust patients place in pharma companies, and the responsibility of handling their data with care. Durán, meanwhile, noted that human health and the planet unite us all; with 4% of global carbon emissions coming from the pharma, she called for the industry to embrace sustainable production, as well as ways to reduce patients having to ‘move around’ to receive their data, with up to 70% of tests collectable from home.

To conclude, Thakur asked the panellists about the cost of not investing in digital. For Banks, it simple: ‘not doing this means that you will fall out of the race. This is the future; this is the direction [where] things are happening.’ This may come at significant financial cost to the overall healthcare system – but, as Durán notes, having the right talent will pay dividends. ‘The reason why you need a team that is not only talented but extremely resilient is that there is no extra cost,’ she notes. ‘There is a benefit, and you need to prove that.’


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