Companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft are investing heavily in the healthcare sector. Is the Life Science industry acting accordingly to the disruption from these digital players?
Overall the life science industry has started to address the digitalization trend in healthcare, but maturity levels differ significantly between companies. While – according to a recent survey – half of the pharmaceutical leaders have so far not responded to these developments at all, the other half has initiated digital programs, made acquisitions and formed strategic partnerships. At the moment 5 of the top 10 pharma companies have appointed a Chief Digital Officer as a visible sign to take the topic seriously. This is certainly a step in the right direction and a trend that will continue.
Why is the digitalization so important for the industry?
In the coming years we will see a significant improvement in patient care through disruptive technologies and novel therapies shifting focus from treatment of symptoms to predictive diagnostic, prevention and cure – enabled by AI. Due to the growing availability of advanced analytics and real-time data, the development speed will increase. Moreover, digital technology opens up a range of independent information as well as engagement channels and may lead to consumerization of health. In order to benefit from these developments, pharmaceutical companies must build up appropriate digital capabilities and technological expertise. Collaboration with digital players may be the way to enable or speed up the transformation.
Which digital technologies should pharma companies focus on?
There is no general answer to this, given the pace of the technological development it is a moving target. A look at current industrial trends can help and provide an initial orientation. Digitalization is affecting the entire value chain of a company – from R&D to commercialization. Focus is extremely important. We suggest developing a portfolio of initiatives with different time horizons. In addition to investing in technology, you should also provide sufficient budget for the integration within the organization.
What are the biggest hurdles to successfully master the digital transformation?
In my opinion, the most critical challenge is the cultural change required as people fear to become incompetent in their jobs or even redundant. Other important internal hurdles are thinking and operating in siloes instead of collaborating in cross-functional teams, a lack of support from the company management, and a digitalization approach that is not aligned with the overall strategy of the company. In addition, there are of course, ethical and regulatory implications that must be considered. Mastering those barriers demand creative solutions, thinking outside the box and agile ways of working.
How can consultants support clients in their digital transformation?
This strongly depends on the digital maturity level and the client needs. If we can help reduce fear and arouse interest in digital topics in a first step, a lot has been gained. Then it is important that the changes are sustainable. This can be achieved through an agile, cross-functional approach, co-creation of solutions, effective governance or leadership coaching. The best way is to have an honest discussion and tailor the approach to the needs to the client.