3 reasons the life sciences industry is ready for disruptive technology

Sameer Attharkar

Sameer Attharkar

Traditionally, the life sciences industry has been a conservative adopter of information technology, but the last several years have introduced the most dramatic shake-up the industry has seen in decades. Now healthcare companies stand at a crossroad: adopt new technologies or risk being left behind, with consumer technologies leading demand. In parallel, there’s also a tremendous change happening in how healthcare companies do business, with the lens zeroing in on the patient. Put both the shifts together, and what you see is one giant inflection point. Companies that can catch the wave promise to reap the benefits.

That said, there’s always new considerations shaping, making, and breaking healthcare business models, including the patent cliffs, regulatory and financial full-court press, mergers and acquisitions, or the growth of generic drugs. So why does it make sense for healthcare companies to embrace disruptive technologies now?

I’ll give you three reasons.

Solve existing business problems

Current disruptive technologies promise to solve long existing business problems faster. For example, in R&D, a combination of technologies like high-capacity computing with analytics can speed up the lab-to-market drug pipeline.

Analytics This main stream enterprise technology coupled with big data, has found applications in all the areas of the value chain right from the drug research to post marketing customer analysis.Statistics and applied mathematics, and applications of operations research principles have created targeted opportunities including those of exploratory data analysis and data discovery.
Improving Data Algorithms Better able to co-relate the patient, Rx, HCPs, zip codes, payers and providers data for sales and marketing effectiveness measurements, sales force allocation, targeting and alignment processes.Support real world evidence (RWE) studies by better able to co-relate the hospital, EHR/lab, claims and disease/treatment registries data, as well as in anonymizing and de-duplication of data as required
High Capacity Computing From speeding up iterations of the laboratory molecular assay analysis to running multiple cycles of data correlations processing peta and exa-bytes of disparate information to supporting employee collaboration platforms, the increase in computing power is for one that constantly gives for ever increasing processing demand.

Yarc Data, a sub-division of Cray Inc (the supercomputer company), is one such company that is using big data analytics (actually a specialty called: graph analytics) to speed up discovery of cancer treatment.

Lower costs, higher productivity

This has been (and will continue to be) a management need for as long as corporations are in business. Current technology stacks like SMAC (Social-Mobile-Analytics-Cloud) are bringing this holy grail closer to reality. Enhanced real-time collaboration, familiar user interfaces, systemic efficiencies speeding up go-to-market times, and lower infrastructure costs are just some of the key advantages driving business transformation and increasing both employee and consumer engagement.

Mobile interface and the app ecosystem From providing basic alerts feature based on a set threshold to providing all-encompassing metrics in reports and dashboards, to making full use of the device orientation, location/proximity, timing of the day and delivering context specific informationWith the advent of apps, the ability to perform focused repeatable tasks and workflows has become second nature and the ubiquitous mobile devices have made user adoption an easy task. From anytime-anywhere access, to slowly leveraging the massive computing powers packed in the devices in labs, doctor’s office for reference or detailing, warehouse centers, etc.
Social ‘Social’ is changing not only how corporates engage with the patients but also how the internal knowledge management is structured. From ability to ‘listen’ in to what the patients and HCPs are engaging in, tracking adverse events and off-label drug usage to overhauling the way employees share information and collaborate, the social story is here to stay.
Cloud Cloud technology has been transformational in improving operations by bringing in IT efficiency, lessening pharmaceutical company’s dependence on managing infrastructure while allowing them to focus on their core competencies

Keep pace with regulatory and consumer demands

Keeping up with regulatory and consumer demands has tremendous financial impact on the ability of pharma companies to develop, market, and position drugs. Two technology areas are racing ahead of the pack: big data visualization, coupled with analytical techniques; and wearable tech being made viable thanks in part to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

Data Visualization This promises to bridge the gap factoring the regulatory, geographical and economic factors of drug development, through enabling exploratory analysis and the ability to look at the numbers and trends graphically. This has begun to help uncover recurring business/seasonal patterns as well as better understand and present correlations between the interacting variables.
Wearable tech and BLE BLE technology has put wearable tech on the hot seat for CES 2014 which was reflective of a strong change in consumer trend of being able to measure and take control of their PHR.Life sciences companies are surely taking note of this, by way of portable medical devices that interact using BLE with the smart phones while constantly sending health information to the devices, and even to the health care professional for monitoring and record.

Allied industries, like insurance, are a step ahead and have already begun integrating these technologies into their business models. Take Aetna, for example. In 2013, Aetna released a smartphone app that helps users monitor their own health-tracking data, as a way to encourage healthy behavior using their app called CarePass. CarePass allows the person to enter a personal goal (e.g., fitting into his jeans next month), serves as a portal for an individual’s health-related activity and, if he allows it, his medical records, too. The app can integrate data from wearable tracking devices like Fitbit or Jawbone’s UP, as well as apps like MapMyRun while taking into account doctor visits, prescriptions, and blood pressure or cholesterol records.1

The rush for consumer technology adoption is such that the technology giant Apple Inc. even met FDA officials in December 2013 to discuss mobile medical applications. Currently, there are rumors that iOS8 will be fitness-focused with an internal app called “Healthbook” to track various fitness (steps, distance, etc.) and health metrics (blood pressure, heart rate, etc.). The app may also have a capability to interact with Apple’s rumored wearable device to monitor additional pieces of health and fitness data.2

Is technology alone enough?

The promise of contemporary disruptive technologies is that it can help solve problems faster, better, and at a lower cost—and more important, deliver a big return on investment. At Slalom, we understand this current inflection point for the Life Sciences industry and have the experience and industry expertise to help our clients keep pace with rapid industry changes.

Want to learn more about how consumer technology applications are transforming the Life Sciences industry? Download our point of view, The App Will See You Now.


1 http://www.technologyreview.com/news/516176/health-insurers-app-helps-users-track-themselves/

2 http://www.engadget.com/2014/01/31/iwatch-ios8-healthbook/

About Sameer Attharkar
Sameer is a Business Analytics consultant at Slalom New York and focuses on helping clients become data-driven organizations. He is passionate about analytics, consumer and enterprise technologies, and their application to the Life Sciences industry.

One Response to 3 reasons the life sciences industry is ready for disruptive technology

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