Digital technology is influencing the life sciences landscape and is driving a life sciences digital ecosystem. Many life sciences companies are connected to a digital fabric and a global network that impacts all aspects of their business. Already, many life sciences companies are pursuing opportunities that digitize the customer experience and their operations.
Accenture estimates that this digital disruption could unlock more than $100bn of commercial value for life sciences companies, just in the US, over a five-year period through the incorporation of new digital business models. But who will capture the lion's share of the market - and revenue? Will it be traditional players in life sciences, players from other segments of the healthcare industry, or from consumer products, high tech or communications? More radically, will entirely new companies emerge to seize the prize?
Accenture Technology Vision 2015 surveyed more than 1,000 C-suite and D-suite executives across industries worldwide about technology trends. From the life sciences industry, more than 100 senior executives participated in the survey across key developed and developing markets. Accenture assessed key digital trends and their likely impact.
Digital's growing influence
According to the survey, nine out of ten life sciences respondents believe that 'industry boundaries will dramatically blur as (digital) platforms reshape industries into interconnected ecosystems'. But to capture the bigger prize, life sciences companies need to embrace digital technology in a holistic way to improve patients' quality of life and capture commercial value.
In reality, 70% of respondents to the Accenture survey believe that the next generation of platforms will be led by industry players and leaders, and not necessarily by technology companies. Moreover, 60% of respondents plan to engage with new digital partners in the next two years. Meanwhile, 45% of respondents in developed markets are already using industry platforms to integrate data with digital business partners, and 26% are experimenting with these platforms.
For instance, AstraZeneca and Vodafone are developing mobile health services for cardiovascular patients. The partners will create mobile and internet-based services to support patients on medication adherence and self-management.
Life sciences companies need to create a bond of trust with the patient for service adoption to flourish
Five trends show how digital is influencing the industry today, and will do so into tomorrow.
1. Healthcare Personalised
There is a significant opportunity to digitally engage in disease prevention, monitoring and treatment. Apps and wearables are fostering general wellness, treatment and prevention. About 73% of surveyed life sciences IT and business executives report either using or experimenting with wearables to engage customers, employees or partners.
Meanwhile, the emphasis is now on patient journeys and creating engaging digital experiences.
But to succeed in creating highly personalised experiences, life sciences companies need to create a bond of trust with the patient for service adoption to flourish.
2. The Hardware- Based Outcome Economy
Intelligent hardware is bridging the last mile between digital enterprises and the physical world. The Internet of Things is generating opportunities for companies to understand what customers are really trying to achieve and is also providing feedback on value. New intelligence in embedded hardware and sensors is leading to better health outcomes.
Smart, thoughtful patient services are now possible using accessible, competent hardware. With sensitive, less expensive sensors and highly connected hardware, it is becoming less difficult to personalise care, measure value and target desired outcomes. Cloud-based real-world big data and real-time patient monitoring will drive value analytics, providing insights into patient outcomes that will drive successful value-based pricing.
Digital hardware is reinventing life sciences research. With diagnostic apps, smart pills and patient wearables, almost every aspect of the R&D process is ripe for focusing on outcomes. Moreover, coordinating care through collaboration and data exchange is receiving increased emphasis, providing opportunities for life sciences companies to participate in the outcome economy.
According to 86% of life sciences respondents, embedded intelligence will deliver better outcomes for customers. For example, a pressure sensor in a smart contact lens monitors and controls intra-ocular pressure levels as well as identifies early cases of glaucoma. The device monitors this pressure for 24 hours and provides a record for physicians.
3. A Revolution Hardware Platforms
Platform businesses are transforming the business world. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 'In 2013, 14 of the top 30 global brands by market capitalisation were platform oriented companies - companies that created and now dominate arenas in which buyers, sellers and a variety of third parties are connected in real time.'
Healthcare IT platforms capture data from wearables, phones and glucometers, and connect them, creating a new era of personalized treatment. For life sciences, Accenture sees potential for disruptors to emerge in four key ecosystems:
Already, 80% of the life sciences survey respondents are strengthening digital capabilities through open innovation, exchanging data and technology to deliver better outcomes to partners and customers.
4. The Intelligence Venture
With an influx of big data and advances in processing power, data science and cognitive technology, software intelligence is helping machines make better informed decisions, driving new levels of evolution and discovery. More than 40% of life sciences companies that Accenture surveyed expect to see data volumes increase at least 50% in the coming year. However, only 28% of businesses believe they are generating strategic value from collected data, and 40% need a plan to take advantage of big data.
This surge illustrates how a data explosion, accompanied by advances in processing power, health analytics and cognitive technology is fueling software intelligence. Medical devices and wearables now recognize, 'think' and respond to make rapid informed decisions.
The life sciences industry should establish a data supply chain that would offer payers real world evidence of drug value; improve predictive models that would evaluate patient risks based on a wider set of sources; and improve the safety of patients by rapidly detecting adverse events. Moreover, the industry should invest in software to improve big-data analytical capabilities and incorporate a growing volume of data, including laboratory results and remote wearables data. The FDA is investigating how patient-reported data can give new insights into drug safety.
5. The Digitised Workforce
The emphasis on digital is amplifying the need for humans and machines to do more together. There will be a shift from a labour-driven, technology-enabled paradigm to a digital-driven, human-enabled model. This evolution will present new opportunities for companies to empower their workers through technology.
Smart devices and immersive technologies are providing more portability, insights and contextual data for research and clinical trials. Life sciences companies must determine how to train and certify human and machine interfaces for R&D, manufacturing and sales. Actually, 74% of life sciences survey respondents believe that companies must focus on training their machines as much as they do on training people, using intelligent software, algorithms and machine learning.
So essentially, industry executives understand the urgency to capitalize on digital. But life sciences companies must design and build entirely new business models that embrace digital. They must take a fresh look at their capabilities and business models and find entirely new ways to meet the needs of consumers.
Brags Srinivasan is managing director, Life Sciences - Technology, Accenture