Leveraging Digital Technologies in Life Sciences: Creating a Holistic Care System

Vikram Karakoti, Head of Life Sciences-North America, Tata Consultancy ServicesDigital disruption is creating opportunities for organizations across industries, to create customer-centric business models. With an ever increasing spread and pace of adoption, the digital revolution is disrupting businesses and consumer’s daily lives in unprecedented ways. Even so, industries have been very cautious in holistically implementing digital technologies across their value chains. Most life sciences companies have, in fact, adopted digital technologies within individual segments of the value chain like R&D, manufacturing, supply chain, and sales and marketing – with varying levels of maturity. However, they have failed to take a holistic approach across the entire value chain, typically in areas such as patient or disease management, to realize the true potential of the digital opportunities.

Although digital technologies have advanced enough to deliver previously unthinkable solutions, for instance, pizzas are being ordered using hand motions on interactive virtual tables , and reminders being viewed without a screen directly on one’s face , medication doses are still being missed frequently by patients, compromising the quality of care. Within healthcare too, despite widespread digital adoption, the industry has struggled to leverage even seemingly simple solutions such as Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and Electronic Health Record (EHR) to their full potential. The impact of these solutions is currently limited to patient record keeping and invoicing.
To unlock the full potential of digital technologies, life sciences companies require a holistic, patient-centric approach. Such an approach conceptualizes and executes business and operating models that span the entire patient care continuum from disease onset to cure, wellness, and continuing care.

Transcending digital transformation of individual value chain segments

Within R&D, for example, digital technologies offer significant opportunities to reimagine the way life sciences entities conduct clinical trials. The usage of microelectronics in blister packaging and ingestible sensors in medicines improves medication dosage adherence by patients. Gamifying clinical trial protocols across clinical groups and employing multi-channel interactive communication between the patient and clinical trial personnel, makes label interpretation easier and improves adherence to the prescribed medication protocol. Together, these advances drive a quantum change, leading to less expensive, more adaptive, and faster trials.

In the case of product recalls, end-to-end supply chain visibility, manufacturers can also easily pull data to track-and-trace products, resulting in quicker and more efficient recall of the affected products.
RFID tagging of high value implantable medical devices provides real-time information on product locations, expiration dates and usage trends, to improve inventory management significantly. Electronic medical record mining helps identify undiagnosed patients with rare diseases and direct providers to focus care on such patients. Implementing digital technologies within each segment of the value chain generates value, no doubt. However, the real transformative value lies in investing in capabilities that are centered on patient needs, to create positive patient outcomes.

Improving care through patient-centric disease management programs

Patient centricity is key to designing an effective digital agenda that spans the entire life sciences value chain, for instance, building a unified disease management program. The process could begin with proactively providing information to identify symptoms and then using analytics to match the patient with the right health care provider. Smart pills that automatically monitor medication intake can provide insights into treatment and adherence regimens, enabling life sciences companies to ensure optimal inventory levels by syncing their production and supply chain with real-time insights into medication intake. When analyzed thoroughly, this data can further drive comprehensive care by offering personalized medicine and patient communication. Finally, using lifetime virtual reality exercise programs in the recovery and post-recovery phases can be a game changer in patient engagement. Figure 1 shows holistic infiltration of the digital five forces into the value chain and patient lifecycle for development of patient-centric digital healthcare solutions.

For example, realizing that successful digital initiatives start with the patient, Verily Life Sciences, a company that focuses on using technology to better understand health, as well as prevent, detect, and manage disease, joined forces with a global multinational pharmaceutical company to launch Onduo, a diabetes focused collaboration platform. Combining devices, software, medicine, and professional care, Onduo helps diabetics live healthier lives with simple and intelligent disease management. With technologies that monitor food intake, test glucose levels automatically, and prod patients to actively seek medical care, the solutions helps patients improve their medication management and day-to-day habits.

Patient-centric Digital Reimagination also helps the life sciences industry better manage relationships with its newest customers by offering innovative services that integrate all the service providers in a patient management life cycle. Take the case of one of the world’s largest technology companies that has launched a biosensor-enabled patient monitoring solu-tion. Using analytics and dashboards, it provides caregivers real-time information to make data-driven patient care decisions. Leveraging cloud technologies, the devices automatically monitor and alert caregivers when a patient’s health deteriorates. This data is shared across the hospital network through a wireless connection with EHRs. By accessing data faster, care-givers are able to make rapid decisions to significantly improve patient care.

Improving patient outcomes through a holistic digital ecosystem

A holistic approach to building digital technology solutions benefits life sciences organizations in yet another way: these solutions often lead to new product and service revenue streams. To access digital opportunities across the patient life cycle, quite a few life sciences organizations find value in partnering with technology companies. Benefiting from these opportunities requires a comprehensive digital ecosystem across all processes, with both people and machines working in tandem. In addition, transcending existing cultural barriers and integrating key functions requires robust systems, lean processes, astute governance, and above all, a cross-functional collaborative culture. The time has come for this change to be effected and patient care to be altered dramatically.