Key Points
  • Emerging technologies will continue to play a crucial role in the future of healthcare, driving change in an already disruptive landscape
  • Digital has become a norm, compelling life sciences companies to embrace the concept and achieve superior patient outcomes while also providing cost-effective medical care
  • Whether incumbents or new entrants, the real winners will be those that adapt quickly to the digital ecosystem

Global healthcare spend is the finest example of exponential growth, poised to touch USD 10.059 Trillion by 2022. While milestones in medical science are spread out evenly over time, the present era is a watershed period where emerging technologies are upending the healthcare landscape. Bench-to-Bedside (BtB) research that has helped address unmet clinical needs has received a fillip with technology. High-speed diagnosis is now a possibility with emerging technologies, impacting outcomes positively. Public healthcare authorities grappling with epidemics now rely on tools that help monitor and receive epidemic intelligence to prevent outbreaks. Emerging technologies will continue to play a crucial role in the future of healthcare, driving change in an already disruptive landscape.

Digitization is impacting business models at a time when the industry is facing rising drug commercialization costs. A report by the Tufts Centre for the Study of Drug Development has pegged the increase of drug development costs at 145 percent over a ten-year period. The focus is on point of care diagnostics, and curative medication is giving way to personalized, predictive interventions that have been made possible by digitization. For instance, Artificial Intelligence platforms possess the ability to alert specialists of possible stroke or hemorrhage in CT scans, at speeds that are 150 times faster than trained experienced radiologists.

The limitless possibilities of the interdisciplinary branch of life sciences have made personalized medicine a possibility. Patients with the same ailments are likely to respond differently to the same treatment, reiterating the need for personalized treatment strategies. This effectively means customization of treatments / dosing as per individual genetic profiles.

To deliver personalized and preventive medication, monitoring of vitals is necessary, and this has been made possible by sensors and wearables that transmit various data from the bedside, offering greater insights into the profiles of patients. It is not just the individual dosage of medication that can be personalized through digitization. A combination of different drugs can be delivered in a single tablet — polypills are a combination of multiple medicines with different drug release profiles, achieved through 3D printing of medicines, in the same manner that additive printing works in manufacturing.

The life sciences industry is at an inflection point with a clear emphasis on preventive, personalized medication. Companies are increasingly looking at wearable sensor technologies, biosensors, point of care testing, miniaturized devices and connected devices to manage conditions. The reduced return on investment from conventional business models and the global outcry against patent protection are compelling companies to explore innovative ways to improve profit margins while delivering enhanced treatment options.

Value addition and human-centric approaches are possible outcomes of digitization when rightly implemented. Clearly, there is a clarion call for life sciences companies to embrace digitization and create value in the new ecosystem. Disruption and the new ecosystem have changed the roles of stakeholders — companies that once mass manufactured drugs / bio-similars in standard doses, will take on additional roles, accessing and working with data collected by bio-sensors that carry out Therapeutic Drug Monitoring (TDM). 3D printed medicines that deliver personalized dosages will work in tandem with ingestible sensors and bio-integrated electronics that monitor drug impact.

Life sciences companies that earlier relied on a fixed set of processes and stages of clinical trials will find the need to work with patient data generated on a frequent basis, long after clearing stringent regulatory norms. Data sets are not the most valuable resource of companies, but it is the critical thinking ability and the ability to make the most from the data that is invaluable. Life sciences companies need to put data to work through analytics and generate insights about patients at a level unseen in clinical trials.

As Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine succinctly put it more than 2000 years ago, “It is far more important to know what person the disease has, than what disease the person has.” Till date, medical science offered limited insights into patients, but digitization offers stakeholders abilities to not only receive insights about patients, but to understand patients at a level that can transform Ressearch and Development (R&D), drug formulations, delivery, and the healthcare system. Digitization offers life sciences companies a bridge to new business models and new dynamics of healthcare. The data analytical capabilities of specialist service providers will prove invaluable in this transition to new business models. This change is imminent, imperative and it is only a question of time before companies could face existential crisis from non-digitization.

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