As we enter 2022, Dr Andrew Rut shares his thoughts on the biggest challenges facing professionals in the life-sciences industry currently and the most significant trends to look out for in the coming year.
Ensuring that patients have confidence in their medications is paramount and we’ve seen a real shift in the focus of pharmacovigilance teams over the past 12-18 months. The industry is continuing its drive towards greater patient engagement thus providing a much more compelling consumer experience: immediate access to trusted sources of information coupled with clear and simple ways to report problems. Not only does this improve trust, it enables pharma to access more data, fast and thus build a more robust picture of safety and efficacy – uncovering the true impact of an intervention on disease, potential issues that may arise, and variations across different populations and subgroups.
One of the biggest advances we saw in 2021 was the ability of pharma to introduce different modes of communication for patients. Clearly, the pandemic caused a sea change in approaches to patient communication as a whole, but industry has also recognised the importance of capturing information directly from patients. Pharma is now successfully implementing technologies that are new to the industry, such as chatbots and voice interaction to provide consumer-like experiences that engage the user while ensuring information is gathered in a meaningful way.
We’ve also seen an enormous shift in data analytics capabilities over the past few years. The combination of these advances means pharma now has the ability to capture more data and do so in a structured format so that it needs minimal human intervention, and then leverage the power of analytics to make meaningful assessments more accurately and rapidly than ever before.
When it comes to technology decisions, I expect the ‘buy vs build’ debate to rage on in 2022, but I believe we are seeing the trend tip back towards ‘buy’ once again. Over the past few years, we have seen many pharma move away from purchasing solutions instead utilising in-house teams to build technologies that appear to address their specific processes and objectives. However, while the initial build has often been very impressive, industry is now discovering that maintaining and updating these systems is challenging, especially when it’s not a specialist skill or focus area, and that’s where these technologies fall down, whether due to system performance, obsolescence, or security.
Overall, I think ‘Actionable Digital Transformation’ will be the term for 2022. Digital transformation has been a buzzword for the past decade, but now all companies will have to be ‘cloud’ companies. I believe the strategies that are proven to be successful will be those that sought to manage transformation in smaller stages, with an eye on the end goal, rather than those that sought to make broad changes simultaneously.