No industry in the modern era can escape technology’s influence. Right now, the most important tech influence in business is what is being hailed as the ‘digital transformation’. This transformation is affecting nearly every industry – including big pharma. For the industry’s largest players, the question is what role digital technology plays moving forward.
Technology has always been an important part of the pharma industry in terms of developing new medical devices. You could make the case that every new device is either new technology or an enhancement of existing technology. But technology runs far deeper then medical devices. In the pharma industry, developing new medical devices is just one spoke in a much larger technology wheel.
The role technology will play in the pharma industry over the next decade or so will be tied largely to the digital transformation. It will manifest itself in a few key areas:
1. Recruiting, Hiring, and HR
For the record, the difference between digitization and the digital transformation boils down to how information is stored as opposed to how it is used. Companies of all sorts embraced digitization when they started abandoning paper documents in favor of their electronic counterparts. Yet digital transformation far exceeds the mere creation of electronic records.
The differences are easily seen in recruiting, hiring, and HR functions. In a digital transformation scenario, all sorts of things are done digitally and/or virtually:
Hiring – Companies post jobs online using sites like Pharma Diversity. Likewise, job seekers search for jobs and post resumes online. All their initial contacts are online is well.
Recruiting – Recruiters make use of digital databases to locate and contact potential job candidates. They conduct interviews by way of video conferencing and use digital means to connect candidates with employers.
HR Function – Digital transformation in the HR space involves things like setting up digital portals through which employees can manage their benefits, check their pay stubs, and even ask HR questions.
Big pharma is in the midst of joining the digital transformation. Completing the transformation will take years. When it is done, the workplace will be an entirely different experience.
2. Business Software
Likewise, digital technology will lead to new business software for pharma companies. Software will include built-in artificial intelligence (AI) for better reporting, better analysis, and better KPI monitoring. AI will be the key to making software smarter and more productive. Everything from accounting to sales will be impacted positively.
3. Scientific Modeling
On the production side of things, technology has an important role to play in the development of new drugs. Software capable of more accurate scientific modeling should help pharma manufacturers bring new drugs to the market faster and at a lower cost. The only question in this regard is how well government regulators adapt to changing technologies.
Digital modeling can help get a new drug to clinical trials faster. The more accurate the modeling, the better the drug will be by the time it reaches trial phase. Will regulators accept scientific modeling as an alternative to traditional clinical trials? It is impossible to answer that question right now.
It is clear that the world in which we now live is heavily dependent on technology. As technology transforms more analog processes to digital, the way we understand the world is changing. Even our understanding of pharmaceuticals will change along with the technology that drives it. What we know and understand about pharma decades from now remains to be seen. But for those of us who appreciate the digital transformation, there is plenty to be excited about.