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Sankesh Abbhi

Health Care

From Industry Experts: The Road to Digital Success in Pharma

Trends from ArisGlobal’s Breakthrough2021 conference

Published: Thursday, March 3, 2022 - 12:03

Life science organizations play a vital role in healthcare’s technology revolution, with a key focus on identifying the right opportunities to scale digital transformation. Currently, life sciences leaders are leaning into areas such as automation, which was discussed at length at ArisGlobal’s recent Breakthrough2021 conference as it continues to accelerate R&D processes.

Here are some of the industry experts’ perspectives about the road to digital success.

Driving digital development

There’s a disparity across different digital technologies, and as industry experts we must advocate for solving those challenges.

“Digital innovation will be key while still incorporating the human touch throughout the entire development journey to provide personalized support when and where it’s needed,” says Christoph Koenen, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical officer of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Development & Commercialization. “The ongoing effects of the pandemic have forced all of us to rethink, adapt, and innovate the delivery of healthcare in ways we couldn’t have imagined two years ago.”

When considering digital development in R&D, it’s helpful to reflect on how these changes have been thrown into the spotlight in recent months.

“In a world where yesterday’s development of vaccines would have taken a decade, it took a year for the Covid-19 vaccination,” says Sean Duffy, co-founder and CEO of Omada Health, which specializes in digital health solutions. “Technology has been a driving force behind all of this, and Covid restrictions required digital health to take center stage as telehealth visits became the norm.”

This move toward digital health is evident and growing, with $14.1 billion in capital invested in digital health and 637 new digital health companies spawned in 2020 alone.

Increase automation, increase patient safety

In the digital age, more patients are willing and able to take control of their own health, decreasing patient dependency. Patients feel empowered through health information found online or even through wearable devices such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit. As digital transformation increases, the ability to engage with patients through technology is the key to safety—so as we increase automation, we must also increase patient involvement.

Steve Nuckols, ArisGlobal’s chief revenue officer, says, “It’s an interesting time for patient safety, and it seems like more innovation has happened in the last five years than all of the previous 20.” Nuckols also mentions that developing technologies and increased automation will help the safety function become a strategic asset for pharma organizations.

When a safety event happens, healthcare companies react and try to mitigate the risk, also known as reactive safety. However, proactive safety should be implemented with the goal of creating predictive safety. Shamik Parikh, vice president of the patient safety center of excellence at AstraZeneca, says, “As automation increases, the healthcare industry can shift from proactive safety to predictive safety. It’s so important in predictive safety that we have all information about the molecule or protein being tested, and we know everything about what this particular protein has been utilized for. And to do this we need technology.”

Data trends through digital transformation

Without data, I am just a person with an opinion.”
—W. Edwards Deming

Although scientists and researchers have made incredible progress with technology, we’re seeing only the beginning of the digital opportunity in life sciences. ArisGlobal’s 2021 State of the Industry Report found that while 83 percent of the life sciences industry is leveraging some level of automation across its R&D, only 5 percent of those companies are using cognitive automation, signifying that we’re just in the early stages of advanced digital transformation.

“Quoting the legendary engineer W. Edwards Deming, ‘Without data, I am just a person with an opinion,’ meaning without the necessary data, I can have a lot of opinions, but whether they are considered by others it means nothing without data,” says Hans-Jörg Römming, head of global patient safety operations for Merck. “Now, there are a variety of growing data available, such as real-world, safety, and clinical data, that can be used to predict a therapy’s performance.”

It’s unclear what digital transformation will look like years from now. But we know that it’s key to a brighter future in pharmacovigilance. As data continue to become more available, robust, and diverse, we’re poised to have even more intelligent and rapid breakthroughs combating global health issues. I’m excited to see what the future holds.


About The Author

Sankesh Abbhi’s picture

Sankesh Abbhi

With a bachelor’s degree in economics from Columbia University, Sankesh Abbhi is the president and CEO of ArisGlobal. In this role, Abbhi is focused on expanding ArisGlobal’s business by building a strong and unique platform strategy, and launching important new products for the benefit of customers, patients, employees, and shareholders. As a seasoned businessman, Abbhi has overseen back-to-back years of record growth for ArisGlobal and spearheaded the company’s relationship with Nordic Capital, delivering a long-term growth partner and opening a new chapter in ArisGlobal’s 30-year history.


Meaningless alphabet soup

What is "cognitive automation" supposed to be?

What "Digital innovation" doing what?

What is "digital health" ... healthy fingers?

What is "predictive safety" supposed to be?Throwing around terms without explanation or definition doesn't help anyone.