Pharmaceuticals set for digital disruption

Posted Apr 8, 2018 by Tim Sandle
Digital transformation has affected many sectors of the economy, and this includes healthcare and related activities, such as new technologies. A new report signals some major changes coming for pharmaceuticals.
A collection of pills
A collection of pills
Procsilas Moscas / (CC BY 2.0)
The headline from the new study is that pharmaceuticals will soon begin to feel the main disruptive impact of digital transformation if, as expected, major U.S. based companies push ahead with their transformational projects. These projects include reforming operations from within and adopting digital health technologies.
The report comes from DTechX, which is a market analytics company. The report is headed “Digital Health 2018: Trends, Opportunities and Outlook”. Within the report the primary drivers for the uptake of digital health as outlined. These drivers include changing consumer preferences, an increased use of health technology devices, and an increased in the use of mobile health applications. Also helping push through change are a growth with fitness apps and digital therapeutics.
Electronic healthcare records
To add to this, PharmaPhorum reports, some healthcare companies are developing innovations in terms of electronic healthcare records, electronic prescribing, and new ways of delivering healthcare, especially to remote areas through the use of telehealth services. Telehealth involves the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies.
The U.S. government has also helped to push the implementation of new devices, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approving the first wave of digital therapeutic devices. Under a new scheme the FDA regulates companies rather than individual devices, which is set to speed up the release of new digital health machos and applications.
A second example is with the U.S. government encouraging the use of telemedicine and telehealth. Here, the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has altered its processes for payments for telehealth services, and the organization has put greater funding aside. This includes new payments to medics if they carry out additional checks on digital health devices held in the homes of patients, with the data transmitted to a doctor’s computer.
A sign that big players are taking technological developments seriously comes from the fact that $4.7 billion was invested in digital health devices in 2017. While this pales in terms of drug development spend, it represents a step change on previous expenditure levels.
Internal structuring to meet digital challenges
In addition to these more outward facing measures, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies occupy a highly competitive market place. This is has held to internal pressures to seek cost reductions in terms of manufacturing and operations. Pharma has been slow to respond to the disruption of digitisation; now, according to The Financial Times, the sector is seeing the importance of digital technology, especially in the context of "pricing pressures, ever-vaster quantities of patient data and more empowered consumers".
The report goes on, in its concluding assessment, to note that for those pharmaceutical and healthcare organizations that are not adapting to the digital health sphere then they are set ti be placed at an economic disadvantage.