Daara B Patel

Daara B. Patel, Secretary-General, Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association talked about ‘Decoding Pharma Technologies Post Pandemic’ at the recently concluded Elets Digital Pharma Summit.

Technology is impacting every aspect of our lives today. The need of the hour is that the Pharma Companies must become ready with the Next Level Pharma Technologies while aiming at engaging the consumer at every step. The agility to adapt to the changing sector requirements across the globe and deliver to meet the ever-increasing demands of the healthcare sector has made pharmaceutical companies respond effectively in pandemic induced times. Digital transformation in the pharmaceutical Industry is essential for improved patient care, costeffectiveness, greater transparency, improved production and drug development.

We are going through a complete disruption in healthcare. Similarly a lot of acceleration has happened in the pharma industry as well. We are talking of augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, predictive analysis and so on are the buzzwords within the industry.

The challenging times during this pandemic has called for technology – induced transformation. Pharmaceutical companies are trying very hard to keep up with the revolution brought through digital technology – Mobile communications, big data and cloud computing, advanced analytics, digital marketing and the internet of things (IOT) are among the innovations that are beginning to transform the healthcare industry.

Industry 4.0 is the digital transformation of manufacturing/ production and related industries and value creation processes. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR or Industry 4.0) is the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology. Large-scale machine to-machine communication (M2M) and the internet of things (IoT) are integrated for increased automation, improved communication and self-monitoring, and production of smart machines that can analyze and diagnose issues without the need for human intervention.

Industry 5.0 refers to people working alongside robots and smart machines. … As machines in the workplace get smarter and more connected, Industry 5.0 is aimed at merging those cognitive computing capabilities with human intelligence and resourcefulness in collaborative operations.

We can assure quality through digitalization. There should be proper integration between IT and technically qualified pharma professionals.

In fact most companies are comfortable with virtual quality audits.

The Indian Pharma Market is valued at approx.. USD 44 billion of which approx. 50% is Exports. The Indian pharmaceuticals market is the third largest in terms of volume and the 13th/14th largest in terms of value. It has established itself as a global manufacturing and a research hub. A large raw material base and the availability of skilled workforce gives the industry a definite competitive advantage. The domestic pharmaceutical industry includes a network of approx. 3,000 drug companies and approx. over 10,500 manufacturing units and 60K formulations. Digital Technology is going to play a pivotal role in ensuring that the pharma industry continues to function to the best of its abilities providing both Health Care Practitioners (HCPs) and patients with the necessary vital support required.

According to me, the following digital technologies would be required by the pharma companies to remain relevant:

  1. Virtualized HCP Marketing: Pharma companies would have to shift away from traditional digital channels towards more engaging platforms such as virtual peer-to-peer sessions, medical hybrid webinars on treatment protocols. This would be an evolution in how business is being done.
  2. Remote Patient Support: As healthcare shifts more towards a self-service model, remote monitoring, instructional / advisory content and facilitation of online patient communities are all ways pharma can engage with patients and support HCPs in the process. Tools like data visualization and deeper content personalization will allow pharma companies to communicate insights or share results with patients more intuitively.
  3. Data Driven Decision Making: As the impact of Covid-19 on other conditions / illnesses becomes clearer, the healthcare system as a whole will become more reliant than ever on data and artificial intelligence (AI) to identify emerging patterns and respond accordingly. Firms would need to recruit data science talent to ensure they are equipped to deal with complex consumption patterns certain to emerge in the post covid-19 landscape.
  4. Technology powered Trails: Digital strategies considered for Clinical Trails assessments includes telemedicine, remote electronic medical record access and virtual monitoring. Companies who have already become more digitally skillful are examining what more can be done virtually across clinical trials, help improve processes and gain efficiencies in the units, resources and time management.
  5. Cloud enabled and start-up inspired collaborations: Pharma has woken up to the potential of the cloud especially in the field of drug development. Cloud facilitates closer collaboration between organizations by making it easier to share data. In turn, this can speed up the process of finding new treatments. In parallel, the covid-19 crisis has drawn a powerful response from dynamic tech start-ups. Digital health entrepreneurs have the ability to respond rapidly to changes in the market, with solutions ranging from Apps and chatbots.

Nowadays there are Webinars, Virtual Meetings, Training Programs, AGMs, Shareholder Meetings, Job Interviews, Panel Discussions, Television Interviews on virtual platform. Even the Doctor visits/ calls are virtual. In fact Doctors prefer Virtual Calls.

Starting from research and development to manufacture and supply chain, marketing and sales, the very best technology expertise are needed across the value chain. The potent openings hence will exist combining pure science with data science and digital technology.

However, the reality is that the industry generally has been quite unwilling to embrace changes. Sometimes the new technology can be adopted slowly, or absolutely not. The COVID pandemic has changed this situation and acted as a facilitator for change.

Virtual meetings are here to stay:

  • Webinars, training programs
  • Quality Audits are also done virtually and they are very effective. Despite the fact that things are slowly moving to Normal, virtual is still the norm. Companies have given up huge chunks of space & encourage employees to work from home or anywhere, thereby achieving HUGE savings.

Digitalisation will proliferate every kind of activity. India being a fragmented market, everyone can be digitally connected and we have to learn from each other.

Whilst ensuring Digitalisation, we need to remember one thing, do not do digital for the sake of it. Look at digital as a tool to achieve your goals but do not force it into the system.

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