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The next step… how digital systems need to evolve for life sciences to flourish

According to Bhaskar Sambasivan, SVP and global markets leader, Life Sciences at Cognizant, digital systems need to evolve in order for the UK’s life sciences industry to flourish. Here, he tells us more…

Britain’s £64 billion life sciences sector is in line for a boost.1 In August, the government pledged funding to areas such as R&D, manufacturing and skills, as well as facilitating better relationships between drug companies, academia and the NHS, as part of its plan to reinvigorate its industrial strategy. Funding started to trickle through for some areas in October,2 with further investment pledged in November’s Budget.3

This move has been welcomed, by industry leaders such as GlaxoSmithKline,4 which has said better collaboration is much needed if Britain is to remain an attractive location for drug makers.

Key to delivering better collaboration across life sciences stakeholders will be bringing about a digital revolution, underpinned by data sharing and analysis. In fact, over half of respondents (53%) of our recent Life Sciences Work Ahead research recognise that data mastery, in the form of big data analytics, will be critical to their digital success.5 The good news is that the report found that data is already starting to supercharge opportunity across the industry, especially with the changing nature of patient care. Smart medical devices, intelligent pill bottles, wearable bio-sensors, digestible microchips and other digitally enabled treatments, are all creating a trail of data that can be analysed for meaning and value.

So how can those in the UK’s life sciences industry make sure they are fully taking advantage of new technologies and devices, as well as the explosion of data — and not simply ‘doing digital’ but ‘being digital’?

Recognise the value of digital transformation

Convincing leaders on the value of digital — not just data, but cloud, mobile and social media — can often be an initial hurdle to adoption. However, in the life sciences sector, many business leaders (64%) do recognise the importance of the digital transformation journey. The biggest prize for them is the potential impact it could have on margins. The research found that by 2018, digital could help increase revenues of global life sciences businesses by 8%. This is driven by the explosion of diagnostic data flowing into and around process workflows across R&D, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals supply chain.

It is clear that the future of life sciences looks very different to how it looks today. And this shift to digital could also bring about reductions in costs. By 2018, respondents expect that new digital tools and techniques will help reduce costs by just under 3%. When averaged across the surveyed companies, this comes to $974 million in savings per company.

Platforms are needed to make meaning from data

However, to see these far-reaching benefits, companies will need to collect and examine data across several different processes, such as drug R&D and manufacturing, supply chain and patient care, as well as a whole range of other sources, including sensors, wearables and apps, that will unleash even more process data. For many, this calls for strengthening master data management architectures and strategies, and having the right people to support them.

They will need a platform — layers of software that gather and connect multiple data sources, and synthesise the information to create meaning from them. To unlock true business value though, this platform must become an open data exchange. This requires new relationships in the life sciences eco-system, so that data can be marshalled across the industry value-chain — from scientists, clinicians and regulators, through to pharmacists and patients — so that a whole host of industry stakeholders have the capability to index data, experiment and collaborate to improve drugs, treatments and outcomes, all the while complying with the data regulations in force.

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