More Technology, More Engagement, More Trust
In part two of our report on Deloitte’s annual industry outlook, we explore how technology is remodelling the life sciences landscape.
What lies ahead for pharma in 2016? Along with price sensitivity, innovation is one of the principal factors inexorably reshaping the healthcare landscape – both in terms of digital technologies and therapeutic approaches. A recent report from consultants Deloitte sets out the key business, technology, and regulatory issues facing life sciences companies in the second half of this decade.
2016 Global life sciences outlook – Moving forward with cautious optimism is a new 28-page report that sets out the opportunities and challenges for the life sciences industry under four broad headings (see part one of this series).
Zeroing in on the outlook for hi-tech in healthcare and pharma, one of the report’s author’s Greg Reh, Global Sector Leader, Life Sciences at Deloitte, sums up the situation. “I think it’s pretty clear that digital technologies are going to become more active participants in the healthcare ecosystem,” he tells eyeforpharma.
Technology is influencing everything from R&D methodologies and new product solutions through to consumer engagement and pharma companies’ business models, sometimes with surprising results. For instance, building engagement with consumers using digital and other innovative approaches has yielded benefits in terms of building trust between companies and consumers.
According to Reh, trust in life sciences companies has doubled over the past five years– albeit that it’s still low on a comparative scale – having gone from being trusted by 9% about five years ago to almost 20% today. For comparison, providers enjoy the highest level of trust, with a percentage in the low 40s.
Partnering with providers – More consumers today prefer to partner with doctors instead of relying passively on them to make treatment decisions: 34 percent of survey respondents strongly believe that doctors should encourage patients to research and ask questions about their treatment, and 58 percent feel that doctors should explain treatment costs to them before decisions are made.
Tapping online resources – Consumers’ trust in the reliability of information sources is rising: 52 percent report searching online for health or care-related information; additionally, use of social media, patient portals, and performance scorecards is growing. One-quarter of consumers say they have looked at a scorecard or report card to compare the performance of doctors, hospitals, or health plans compared with 19 percent two years ago. Among millennials who have needed medical care, scorecard use has grown from 31 percent to 49 percent.
Relying on technology – From 2013 to 2015, consumers’ use of technology to measure fitness and health improvement goals has grown from 17 percent to 28 percent. Use is highest among millennials, at 45 percent of that group. Among consumers with major chronic conditions, tech-based monitoring has jumped from 22 percent to 39 percent in the past two years. More than 60 percent of tech users say that utilizing health technologies has had a significant impact on their behavior.
However, some groups are transforming into engaged consumers faster than others:
1. Poor health status– Consumers with major health issues generally show the highest levels of engagement and the biggest increases in the three areas mentioned above, indicating that those who may have the greatest need to be more engaged are, in fact, moving in that direction.
2. Younger– Younger consumers are on a fast upward trajectory, starting at a higher level of engagement and showing greater gains on several measures than the other generations.
3. Higher income. Although engagement appears to be rising across all income levels, higher-income groups are more engaged than lower-income groups. This may reflect differences in access, awareness, and education.
The consumer report’s authors argue: “The pace of consumer engagement could pick up if health plans, providers, life sciences companies, and other stakeholders accelerate the development of online resources that provide the trusted, accurate, and easy-to-understand information consumers want and the types of health technologies consumers find most useful. Adapting retail-oriented strategies from other industries and improving customer interfaces like websites and call centers may also be helpful.”
Turning to the topic of how rigid IT systems are affecting areas such as R&D and compliance, Reh declares: “I think it comes down to data sharing – whether for translational research in R&D or the ability to share information in a secure and compliant way to gather and utilize that information. It’s an ongoing challenge and it’s something we’re seeing many in the industry addressing.
“Even topics such as data governance in the context of real-world evidence, and how and who within the enterprise manages the process, and what platforms are used to manage it is something we’re actively working on with a number of our clients. I see this becoming more and more prevalent.”
Many biopharma companies have adopted open innovation but the degree of adoption at the most open end is still low; however, it appears to be the more cost- and time-effective way to bring drugs to market.
Although compliance constraints can make the IT architecture very rigid, the advent of secure cloud-based platforms is helping to address the situation. “We’re working with a number of clients to enable a secure data-sharing environment,” Reh adds.
He sees cloud-based technology as being able to address some of the interoperability issues between organizations and internally across organizations. Issues such as data normalization and ensuring a flexible environment will continue to be an ongoing challenge. However, he adds: “There are traditional methods that can be used even in the aggregation of real-world evidence with other clinical and genomic data that is currently possible. It’s the efficiency by which it’s aggregated that’s going to improve.”
Making R&D more efficient
In terms of reducing costs in R&D processes, greater adoption of open innovation models is the way forward, according to Reh. “Many biopharma companies have adopted open innovation but the degree of adoption at the most open end is still low; however, it appears to be the more cost- and time-effective way to bring drugs to market.”
So, what are the various OI models that can be adopted? Reh cites familiar approaches such as outsourcing to CROs (contract research organizations) and a variety of collaboration and licensing variants – acknowledging that these are not completely new – although the “far end of the spectrum where it’s a complete open platform-sharing technology, and capabilities is where the biggest potential exists.”
2016 Global life sciences outlook – Moving forward with cautious optimism is published by Deloitte. You can contact author Gregory Reh, DTTL Global Sector Leader, Life Sciences, via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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