Moving Toward Digital Technologies in Life Sciences

Transformation isn’t an easy process, though that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy process. In life sciences, the pharmaceutical industry is evolving from selling medicines to helping manage outcomes, digital transformation is a must.

By embracing digital technologies, life sciences companies can better focus on staying relevant with their customers, traditionally healthcare providers, and find new ways to speak to the end consumer, the patient, directly.

The Barriers to Digital Transformation

Digital transformation in the life sciences arena can be remarkable. Breakthroughs are often achieved because technology has allowed for a type of study that was previously not available. For example, using DNA evidence in criminal cases, mapping the human genome, and other feats of science all happened because technology advanced enough to provide new ways to allow advances that have never before been possible.

However, the way the life sciences industry evaluates this type of technology is completely different from the way it views digital technologies. The major barriers to digital transformation that we have observed within life sciences include:

  1. A Lack of Tech Infrastructure

Being able to get the technological systems into place to support strategy and execution is one of the major challenges faced by life sciences companies when it comes to a digital transformation. The technology they need to move toward a comprehensive digital existence is not in place, with the entire industry falling well behind other industries.

Companies in life sciences don’t have a history of being early adopters. Risk aversion that is emblematic of the industry will inadvertently hamper efforts at innovation and change. As such, many companies don’t have the tools needed to engage with their customers in a significant or authentic way. Some choose not to engage at all, while others who attempt to create digital experiences are ineffective as a result of the way they choose to go about those interactions.

  1. A Heavily Regulated Environment

Another serious challenge for those who work in life sciences is how to go digital in a highly regulated environment. For example, because of the regulations that surround life sciences, it can be difficult to use social media. Those who do use social media often do so with mixed results because they haven’t defined how to interact on the platform, with the added complexity that they are limited in what they are able to say.

  1. The Absence of Management Buy-In

The industry struggles with technological shortcomings and people problems. The reluctance of senior leaders to engage customers directly makes it difficult to move forward with digital technologies, despite encouragement from marketers. By choosing not to deal directly with customers, there is tacit acceptance of incomplete data; for an evidence-based industry, the dissonance of this fact rings loudly. Senior leaders must find a way to satisfy safekeeping measures of the industry while engaging directly and often with customers.  Without such dialogue, it will be incredibly difficult to accurately represent the customer journey or cultivate trusted relationships.

As such, some life sciences companies are floundering in the dark ages and not moving forward confidently to evolve their online presence.

How to Move the Digital Transformation Forward

To move ahead with digital transformation, there are several steps the life sciences industry should take.

First, the industry needs to actually use the data it’s collecting. And it needs to be the right data; only data that supports a business purpose should be collected. Often we find that data is collected and not measured correctly — if at all. In other cases, the industry may want to analyze data but doesn’t have it collected. When information isn’t used in the right way, or knowledge isn’t acted upon in a timely manner, you have lost a valuable competitive advantage.

Life sciences companies have begun to allow patients to take responsibility for their own health, which is a step in the right direction. They can capitalize and further this trend by making more information available. For example, there are companies with smartphone apps that patients can use to track compliance, dietary or workout habits so their doctors can see whether a new treatment is effective. It’s a virtuous circle: as data is exchanged between life sciences and its customers the more – and better – treatments, experiences and outcomes can be expected.

Digital technologies continue to evolve, and those who work in life sciences must evolve with them. Providing information online, creating experiences, marketing to customers, helping them track their conditions, and moving the scientific community fully into the digital age are crucial actions to protect the health and safety of the public — one person at a time.

To learn more implementing digital transformation across your organization, download our whitepaper, “Getting from Zero to Digital: How to Future-Proof Your Bottom Line Through Digital Transformation.”

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