What does a Digital Transformation in the Pharma Industry look like?

October 8, 2022

What does a Digital Transformation in the Pharma Industry look like?

The pharmaceutical industry differs from other industries in that digital transformation is critical for improved patient care, cost-effectiveness, greater transparency, production, and drug development. As the article mentioned above showed, digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry will enable the industry to manufacture counterfeit-proof medications, guaranteeing the medicine’s authenticity.  The industry can comply with GMP regulations and interact with people, procedures, equipment, suppliers, and retailers through a digital transformation via cloud-based information exchange to satisfy an increase in demand.

Opportunities and challenges related to the digitalisation process, changing process in an organisation.

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Reference: Digitalization in pharmaceutical industry: What to focus on under the digital implementation process? - ScienceDirect

The pharmaceutical industry can use automation and intelligent sensors to build sustainable real-time production to analyse drug compliance and estimate demand across the market.

The necessity of a digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry

As current research literature shows, today's pharmaceutical companies are struggling to keep up with the exponential digital technological development. In 2014, we started implementing mobile communication, digital communication, and the follow-up of heart patients through tablets in the specialist health service in Norway. In the same way that today's specialist healthcare services have had to adapt technology to solve today's tasks faster and follow up with patients, the pharmaceutical industry must do the same. Today’s digital development, such as mobile communications, cloud solutions, advanced analytics, Internet of Things, are some of the exponential growth that will transform the pharmaceutical industry forwards.

The research literature today shows that executives in the pharmaceutical industry are aware of the disruptive potential of digital transformations. Still, they are unsure how to take advantage of technological development by bringing the organisation along on the digital change journey. The research shows that many executives find it challenging to decide what actions to scale up and how, as they are still unclear on what digital success will look like. Rather than making a difficult choice, things are often put off until the end, where they often have no choice and are forced to change.

There has been tremendous growth in the pharmaceutical industry in recent years, and the outlook continues to be positive for 2023. The industry is expected to exceed $1 trillion by the following year. This is partly due to thousands of compounds currently in the latter stages of clinical development, coupled with hundreds of new products with approvals anticipated in 2023 and beyond. This level of pharmaceutical products is not customary and has not occurred for about a decade. Let’s closely examine ten trends transforming the pharmaceutical industry in 2023.

To align with the demand and growth, pharmaceutical executives must be able to improve efficiency, uncover new pharmaceutical opportunities, and build better relationships with patients and prescribers. This is NOT possible without a digital transformation. Again, I believe it is better to start a tough race than constantly putting it off.

How do you eat an elephant? Piecemeal and divided over a more extended period. The same applies to digital transformation. The sooner a digital transformation is adopted, the better it will be. But again, it's all about involving employees in a joint journey. The pharmaceutical industry is made up of highly competent people, ranging from researchers and chemical engineers to pharmacists and where there is a master's degree and a doctorate in a row. They must understand why and what needs to change before they can intellectually join a digital transformation journey.

Importance of Digital Transformation in the Pharma Industry

A successful digital transformation will fundamentally change how pharmaceutical companies run their business. In the future, better growth in domestic sales would depend on the ability of companies to adapt to digital marketing.

The benefits of a digital transformation in the pharmaceutical industry:  

1. Ability to produce, deliver and reach potential customers despite all regulations  

The pharma industry is perhaps the most regulated in the world due to the complexity of GMP regulations regarding production and other governmental regulations regarding advertising and marketing. Therefore, a proper digital strategy must be implemented to support the overall corporate strategy. The pharmaceutical industry will then be able to reach out to the right target audience while keeping within the framework of the law. Precision medicine is the future of the pharmaceutical industry. Personalised medicine is when medication is produced based on a specific patient diagnosis. The purpose is to ensure the drug is tailored for optimal effectiveness and patient outcomes.

2. Digital Processes

The digital process needs to gain momentum in the pharmaceutical industry. All the manual methods exist simply because they have become the norm. For instance, many paper processes have been replaced by digital processes, which have enhanced operational efficiency and facilitated adherence to standard operating procedures with greater ease. This is a trend that will continue. It will also help to drive regulatory compliance. Many pharmaceutical companies appreciate the implementation of digital processes because the benefits far outweigh the costs. It also improves transparency and has the potential to mitigate the loss of data.

3. The use of Cloud Technology

Anyone with a computer at home or work is probably familiar with cloud technology. It has been embraced in the pharmaceutical industry, a trend that will continue. Cloud technology enables pharmaceutical companies to partner with multiple stakeholders with greater effectiveness. Implementing a solid infrastructure using cloud technology also offers an opportunity to improve data integrity.

4. The pharmaceutical industry needs to satisfy the information demand of its stakeholders

Pharmaceutical companies are no longer the sole provider of information about how their products work in the long term. Recent digital transformation trends provide patients and companies with unparalleled access to information surrounding the impact of a healthcare strategy or medical development and how it may impact their overall well-being and daily life.  Although healthcare professionals will continue to be an essential part of the pharma industry and patients, digital trends show that an increasing number of patients are looking online for medical information about products and treatments. Through a great digital marketing strategy based on the business's overall company strategy, the organisation can ensure that the correct information about its drugs, products, or services reaches the right stakeholders.

5. Be able to evaluate both customers and the requirements of the market better

Digitalisation allows the industry to know both customer and market requirements better. Adopting today's exponential technologies can extract data from various sources, from health apps to different patients’ data on what people need. These insights will help the industry create new products that patients and the market need. The industry needs to be able to track the performance of its products. Through tracking online patient feedback and data from fitness apps will provide a pharmaceutical company with actionable insights about the safety and efficacy of its medicine. It will ensure that both new and old treatments stay the primary source of authority on the performance of their product.

6. Digital training and adoption

As the research literature shows, it is about getting the company's employees on a journey of change. The employees need to adopt the new technology. This can best be done through digital training to ensure the proper and efficient use of the technologies implemented. This is also to achieve regulatory compliance. As in any other industry, pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy employees must have a keen knowledge of regulations and be able to navigate the different systems implemented in a way that complies with regulations. There’s also the issue of knowledge building to maintain high productivity and overall efficiency. Using digital platforms for training is also cost-effective because you can train personnel on-demand at any time of the day or week.

The pharmaceutical growth projections for 2023

The pharmaceutical industry is expected to increase to $1.5 trillion by 2023. Today’s industry experts expect big data to impact the pharmaceutical industry significantly. Pharmaceutical companies can spend up to $100 million per year on recalls linked to labelling mistakes. This is something that could well have been uncovered with better technology than what is used by many pharmaceutical manufacturers today. There is far too much old equipment that is still in operation.


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Dr. Glenn Hole, Ph.D.

Consulting director and Associate Professor II in Digital Business Transformation || C-level executive & former CEO || ESG (Enviroment, Social, Governance) ||


Original article (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-does-digital-transformation-pharma-industry-look-hole-ph-d-/?trk=pulse-article_more-articles_related-content-card)