Digital technology is shaping pharmaceutical industry trends in new and innovative ways. From blockchain technology to wearable devices, innovative developments from all kinds of industries can be reengineered to treat patients and help save lives.
Survey information gathered by Statista estimates that over 70% of people working in big pharma agree that recent years have seen great developments in the digital transformation of their field (source). It was thanks to modern advances in technology that society was resilient in the fight against COVID-19.
What is pharma digitalization?
Pharma digitalization is the practice of implementing advanced technologies to improve the efficiency of processes in the pharma industry. The digital transformation of the pharma sector can improve both the productivity and comfort of healthcare professionals.
The automation of tasks by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms removes the burden of performing mind-numbing paperwork, while also guaranteeing results free of human error. Considering the amount of stress health workers are subjected to, an AI that helps with their duties is more than welcome.
Likewise, many other aspects of the pharma industry are positively affected by pharma digitalization. For instance, AI’s increased accuracy reduces the use of raw materials and lessens the time it takes to complete assignments. Digitally automated solutions can also monitor for quality, reducing the risk of low-quality products reaching the market and increasing profit margins.
Key health tech trends to look out for in the pharmaceutical industry
Here are the main digital trends in the pharma industry:
- Drug serialization
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Cloud technology
- Precision medicine
- Digital processes
- Big data
- Blockchain technology
- Digital training
- Wearable devices
1. Drug serialization
Drug serialization is the assignment of a unique identification code to the packaging of pharmaceutical products. Pharmaceutical drug serialization is a crucial process to curb illegal counterfeit medicines on the market, and many countries have legislation put in place to regulate its practice. In the United States, for example, drug serialization is overseen by the FDA (source).
Counterfeit drugs are extremely dangerous. It is impossible for someone who consumes a fraudulently mislabeled medicine to know its origin or chemical composition, and this can lead to severe harm or even death. To circumvent this, pharmaceutical companies can use digital technology to trace the location of their products along the supply chain.
Properly tracking and documenting drug serialization can be a very arduous process. Those looking for a solution to drug serialization that caters to the particular needs of their company, business model, and local legislation can rely on Nubinno. With years of experience in the field of serialization, Nubinno guarantees efficient drug serialization regardless of your business type.
2. Artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence is one of the main disruptive technologies of recent times, not only in the pharma sector but across all industries. AI can help pharma companies by simplifying and automating time-consuming tasks. With the help of machine learning algorithms, AI can apply problem-solving logic, simulating the thought processes of humans when performing complicated assignments.
The applications of AI are more varied than one can imagine. During clinical trials, for example, an AI running a Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithm can aid healthcare professionals by translating information to other languages, thereby facilitating research in multicultural settings. Likewise, potential fraud in research agreement documents can be detected by artificial intelligence solutions.
3. Cloud technology
From patient health data to the results of medical research, all this information must be stored somewhere. Using hard drives and other physical storage solutions might work well for an individual, but when working with organizations, especially on an international scale, it is better to have your data stored on a digital platform.
Information stored in a cloud service is safe from physical accidents and can be easily accessed from the user’s preferred devices. Modern cloud service solutions invest a lot of time and effort in improving their infrastructure in order to provide companies with the best in terms of security and reliability.
4. Precision medicine
Precision medicine is a new initiative that takes into consideration a patient’s genetics, environment, and lifestyle to provide more efficient treatment and prevention options. By using this method, healthcare professionals can more accurately decide how to treat each particular patient, instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine.
5. Digital processes
The digital transformation of processes can automate most occupational procedures, substantially increasing the speed at which workloads can be completed. Digital processes become especially useful when a company is making efforts towards regulatory compliance. Information becomes more transparent thanks to the accuracy of digital technology.
6. Big data
Businesses nowadays produce large amounts of data but most of it is wasted due to the lack of efforts by companies to capitalize on it. In fact, the Corporate Renaissance Group estimates that more than 70% of the data collected by businesses goes unused (source). However, when put to use, big data can change the way a company is run.
Big data analysis can help a company understand the patterns behind all operations, and its applications are limitless. Digital health data can be used in the development of new drugs, while customers’ opinions can be gathered from online sources to gauge customer sentiment towards a product or brand. Artificial intelligence solutions are able to automatically provide visual representations of data, further facilitating its use.
7. Blockchain technology
Blockchain technology is one of the latest digital trends and it is gaining increased notoriety in many industries. Blockchains keep a permanent record of every transaction performed, improving transparency for all parties involved in a transaction. This clear transmission of information can benefit patients, hospitals, doctors, and even stakeholders.
8. Digital training
Training is always indispensable in the pharma and health industry. While in the past providing employees with training required them to attend physical courses, modern coaching alternatives present a cost-effective way to easily prepare employees from home.
In contrast to traditional methods, training provided by digital solutions can be personalized to the specific needs of every trainee. Digital training can be accessed from any device and at any time of day, giving users much more flexibility on how and when they want to use it.
Pharmaceutical industry trends have always drifted towards the need for research and development, but in the digital age, these efforts can easily be multiplied. Various innovative models for funding and cooperation have developed online, from crowdsourcing to open-source software. Adoption of these development models can help scale operations at a minimal cost since several of these solutions can be acquired or pursued for free.
Public-private partnerships (PPP) are also gaining notoriety. Just like highways and airports, drug development can be driven forward by the joint efforts of the public and private sectors. For example, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, recognized worldwide as the developer of a vaccine against covid-19, relies on public-private partnerships to pursue new research and treatments (source).
3D printing allows for the construction of objects based on computer-generated models. When a piece of machinery fails and no spare parts are available, 3D printed alternatives can print the necessary additaments. In the same vein, bioprinting is meant to use biological material and 3D printing to create innovative treatments.
By combining cells, growth factors, and other biomaterials, specialized printers can produce tissue-like structures, which can work as substitutes for natural human tissue and organs. The technology is currently in its infancy, but promising research like the construction of thick vascularized tissue by Harvard researchers shows that in the near future it might revolutionize the way we treat some diseases (source).
11. Wearable devices
Implementing wearable health tech devices in treatment can revolutionize the way doctors understand their patients’ health. Akin to how pedometers gather data of steps taken, wearable devices collect information about the human body, but to a whole new level. A device placed on a patient’s wrist can collect a full dataset of body functions, which in turn can be used by healthcare professionals to produce more accurate assessments.
Data that can be collected and analyzed by wearable devices includes:
- Body temperature
- Body movement
- Blood pressure
- Blood oxygen
- Breathing rate
- GPS location
- Electrical activity of body organs
Key challenges in pharma health tech
Adoption of technology might bring many benefits to the pharmaceutical sector but it does not come without its share of challenges to overcome. The healthcare industry has developed in a separate environment from the technology industry, and there are many differences between the two. These use divergent methodologies when approaching issues, have distinct workplace cultures, and face varying security concerns.
A technology company is accustomed to working fast. Advanced technologies are constantly being developed and released at a very quick pace. The desire to be the first to reach the market is so strong that the practice of releasing unfinished products, only to patch them later, is quite common. In contrast, the healthcare sector requires a lot of care and patience.
Drug discovery is not like developing a new gadget. Successful drug development requires years of hard work. Delicate processes, like performing clinical trials, must be performed before release, and there is no way to patch out any adverse health effects a faulty product can have on a patient.
The digital transformation of the pharma industry is inevitable, so it is necessary to adapt to new technologies and digital trends. Proper understanding of potential threats and challenges to the healthcare sector can help us deal with them before they affect the performance of healthcare companies and professionals.
Also known as computer security, the purpose of cybersecurity is to defend computer systems, networks, and sensitive information from digital attacks. According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach is USD 3.86 million (source).
Smart devices have been widely adopted by society, making cybersecurity not only a concern for computers but for any device that uses the internet or a wireless network, such as Bluetooth. While many cyber-attackers are thrill-seekers who wish to cause harm just because, the practice also attracts people with radical socio-political agendas or a profit motive.
Due to its high value in the current market, data will be a major target of cybercriminals. When it comes to the healthcare sector, having information such as electronic health records compromised means that patients’ names, addresses, national IDs, and even their credit card information may be accessible by criminals. Failure to properly respond to a cyber-attack can lead to regulatory fines, loss of trust from patients, and legal action.
Supply Chain Management
A supply chain is a system built within any kind of organization to guarantee the delivery of products and services to customers. Activities involved in a supply chain range from the acquisition of raw materials to the shipping of a finalized product.
There are many potential concerns along the supply chain process in the pharmaceutical industry. Health products are delicate, expensive, and meant to save lives, making their handling and care a major concern. It is therefore very important that the supply chain of pharmaceutical goods runs efficiently, with a minimal margin of error.
Pharma companies can improve their supply chain management efforts by implementing smart tools and systems into the supply chain. Companies can rely on machine learning algorithms to improve operational standards and a well-defined structure supported by artificial intelligence can increase productivity while also minimizing errors. AI solutions can also improve performance via real-time data analysis.
Keeping up with pharmaceutical industry trends
It might be hard to keep up with the technology trends shaping the pharma industry. Some technological advancements become obsolete rather quickly and a large number of snake oil salesmen in tech can be a major hindrance to those new to digital technology. Nonetheless, the current business environment makes adopting the latest pharma health tech trends a necessity.
Pharma companies that don’t have proper guidance are left in the dark about what technologies are worth their time and money. For this reason, Nubinno has made it its mission to support pharmaceutical companies during their digital transformation. With over 15 years in the industry and a global reach encompassing 3 continents, Nubinno can reinforce your global pharmaceutical operations.