Innovation is the lifeblood of the pharmaceutical industry. Discovery efforts drive pharma companies to invest billions of dollars in research and clinical trials. The proliferation of data from a range of sources can be an enormous asset to discovery initiatives, generating new insights and enabling pharma companies to track progress at the granular level. But the volume can be overwhelming, as can the requirement to put data that arrives in multiple formats into a standard, usable form that can be analyzed and shared.
While data offers an unprecedented opportunity to drive innovation, it also demands robust data integration and management capabilities. Recognizing the opportunity, pharma companies have added data science and IT staff, but too many of these professionals are spending time on cleanup and integration duties. Data scientists typically spend 80 percent of their time as “data janitors,” cleansing data to make it usable. IT professionals spend a majority of their time on integration workarounds.
That leaves little time to analyze data for insight or apply emerging technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) to the discovery, clinical trial, compliance or go-to-market processes. Digital transformation can change that, flipping the 80/20 rule around so that data scientists can spend most of their time generating insights and IT professionals can use their considerable talents for solving problems rather than mopping up dirty data.
Achieving Digital Transformation
Digital transformation isn’t a matter of applying technology to improve traditional processes. It is the use of technology to enable new types of innovation and creativity. Blockchain, technology that creates an immutable digital ledger capable of verifying transactions or processes without costly and time-consuming verification services from a third party, is a good candidate for transforming many current pharma processes.
Blockchain can provide new ways to identify patients for clinical trials and track medications in the supply chain. Invented as a bitcoin ledger, blockchain’s utility as a financial tracking tool has been proven at scale, but now IT leaders in the healthcare sector are evaluating how it can be used for other purposes, such as managing clinical trial data.
AI is another technology that holds great promise as a change agent in the pharma sector. With AI-powered automation and analytics, pharma companies can conduct outreach that generates new insights, conversing with patients across social media platforms and via text in a personalized way. Machine learning and AI have the potential to help companies transform the way they bring products to market and surveil results.
But to fully realize the promise of technologies like blockchain and AI, pharma companies must have consistent access to high quality data. They need to be able to integrate and blend data that is currently siloed in multiple systems with little or no interoperability. And they must be able to quickly integrate and harmonize new data streams that come from multiple sources in a variety of patterns.
Building a Strong Infrastructure to Support Digital Transformation
Digital transformation requires a strong infrastructure that supports the integration and management of data from on-premise and cloud-based sources, including research data, public health information, clinical trials data, operational and sales data. Digital transformation also requires data integration and management capabilities that meet today’s needs and anticipates tomorrow’s requirements.
The question for pharma companies is whether the strategy they’re using now — devoting in-house resources to data integration tasks — is leading them toward digital transformation. Data scientists spending 80 percent of their time on cleanup projects only devote 20 percent to real analysis and discovery. IT professionals engaged in integration workarounds 80 percent of the time only have 20 percent remaining to spend on more strategic projects, like deploying blockchain and AI initiatives.
By adopting a cloud-based platform that enables end-to-end integration of data from all sources, comprehensive data management and compliance, pharma companies can gain access to the support they need to achieve true digital transformation. And with data scientists and IT professionals focused on innovation 80 percent of the time instead of 20 percent, pharma companies can drive discovery and deliver new products to market much more quickly, achieving success in the data-driven economy.
Gary Palgon is vice president of healthcare and life sciences solutions at Liaison Technologies.