Why Disruptive Technology Holds the Key to the Future of Pharma

Image source: Adobe Stock Premium collection / Blend Images.

by Colin van Oosterhout

posted on 10-19-2018

Just a few years ago, smartphones seemed to have eliminated the need and desire for wristwatches. If you wanted to know the time, you simply checked your phone. Who needed a single-function watch when you had a multifunction device sitting in your pocket? And yet today wristwatches are making a comeback — and doing much more than telling time. Smartwatches let their wearers measure their heart rate, track their runs or count their steps, and, yes, tell the time. With a focus on giving consumers more oversight over their personal wellness, smart wearable devices present both challenges and potential for companies that specialize in personal wellness care.

Similar to the wearable device arena, disruptive technologies are forcing companies in many areas to rethink how they do business. Many embrace digital transformation for the tools and opportunities it offers to make familiar but dated workflow processes more efficient. For others, digital technology just makes sense because consumers are immersed in a tech-driven society, which elevates their expectations. Regardless of the motivation, tech is disrupting the business approaches of companies in every sector.

Wearable digital disruption

In its 2016 Technology Vision Survey, Accenture found that the life sciences industry would be most disrupted by digital developments. Wearable technology is currently revolutionizing the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry — and there’s even more potential for change.

In the past when you felt ill, you made an appointment with your doctor, the doctor would ask you a series of questions to determine what was ailing you. The purpose of the questions, of course, was to gather data. The data would point the doctor to a diagnosis and then, if needed, a cure.

Wearable digital devices, such as wristbands, eyeglasses, belts, and necklaces, also gather information, and with a bit more precision. In fact, wearables are making the delivery of medical care more convenient and efficient for both patients and physicians. Fitness trackers already let you monitor your heart rate to optimize your workout. Imagine you were a patient with heart problems and your wearable device could not only measure your heart rate activity, but could also notify your doctor of any irregularities in its rhythm.

Data gathered from wearables is secure and can help doctors personalize patient care. There’s even been a shift from medical treatment to disease prevention, all thanks to wearable technology.

Wearable technology is still relatively new, and not all pharmaceutical companies are taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the changing digital landscape. In fact, Adobe’s 2018 Digital Trends research found only 5 percent of health care and pharma companies describe themselves as digital-first, compared to an average of 11 percent across other sectors. Even with some companies using technology, the pharmaceutical industry suffers from a disconnect created by a lack of collaboration between health care providers and expert third parties.

Take digital opportunities further

How can pharmaceutical companies and doctors get from digital data collection to more personalized health care and give more time to patients? Obviously technology can help in this area as well. One quick and easy step could be adopting digital document technology, such as the tools available in Adobe Document Cloud, to ease the complexity created in many paper-based workflows. For example, e-signatures remove the need for back-office handling and scanning of paper documents, driving increased speed to market, which is essential in an industry where approval cycles are so important. Doctors can approve a new form of medication, for example, or digitally sign time-sensitive contracts to streamline the process.

The opportunity to work with real-time editable documents also supports collaboration and can improve workflows that involve multiple people. This makes communication across the board simpler and quicker, enhancing productivity and streamlining processes. This ensures that such a critical industry can improve and prepare for an increasingly demanding market.

And that’s just what’s on the table now. Consider smart documents that can research past cases and highlight trends or identify symptoms, suggest treatments or drug therapies, or alert doctors and pharmacies of drug allergies or contraindications. Or imagine a smart document-based registry that automatically populates with updated information when a client swipes their wearable device at check-in.

Keeping companies compliant

Safety and regulation is another area where technology can serve pharma companies well. The industry operates in one of the world’s most regulated environments, and technology innovation can improve health outcomes while also driving business performance by helping companies meet regulation and dissolving obstacles to data sharing.

If a particular piece of documentation is found not to be fully compliant, for example, smart-document systems can pinpoint problem areas, allowing document developers to quickly address the issue. Compliance requirements can differ across state, regional, or country lines. A smart system could recognize these differences and adjust the documentation accordingly — always highlighting such changes for its human users to check and verify.

Finally, technology can strengthen security processes and notify professionals of suspicious activity or missing data.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Healthcare

Products: Sign