Robotic Process Automation (RPA): How RPA can facilitate key processes for the pharmaceutical industry

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In the dynamic landscape of the pharmaceutical industry, where efficiency, accuracy, and compliance reign supreme, organisations are constantly in pursuit of innovative methods to streamline their operations. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has emerged as a revolutionary technology with immense potential to optimise critical processes within the pharmaceutical sector. By harnessing the power of intelligent software robots, RPA empowers the automation of repetitive, rule-based tasks, liberating valuable human resources to concentrate on activities of higher value. This not only amplifies operational efficiency but also bolsters data accuracy, ensures compliance adherence, and enhances overall productivity.

The remarkable growth in global spending on RPA software, surging from $520 million in 2017 to a staggering $1.89 billion in 2021, underscores the pivotal role this technology is set to play in shaping the future of the pharmaceutical industry. With its vast array of advantages, RPA holds the potential to bestow significant benefits upon the pharmaceutical sector, opening up new avenues for heightened operational efficiency and improved outcomes in the times ahead.

Robotic Process Automation – What is it?

It is a technology that utilizes software robots or “bots” to automate and streamline repetitive, rule-based tasks and processes within an organisation. RPA software robots are designed to mimic human actions, interacting with various systems, applications, and data sources to perform tasks such as data entry, data extraction, data validation, report generation, and more. These robots can work autonomously or in collaboration with human operators, freeing up human resources from mundane tasks and enabling them to focus on higher-value activities. RPA offers benefits such as increased operational efficiency, improved accuracy, reduced costs, enhanced compliance, and scalability.

Exploring the Advantages of RPA in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Below are several key advantages that RPA brings to pharmaceutical processes:

Enhance Regulatory Compliance

The pharmaceutical industry operates within a framework of stringent legal regulations, crucial for ensuring the health and safety of the community. Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, regulatory bodies have been continuously adapting compliance regulations and approaches. To navigate these evolving requirements, organisations can leverage Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions.

RPA offers valuable support in maintaining transparent and well-informed compliance practices. Pharma businesses can utilise RPA to:

  • Stay updated with policy modifications: RPA software can scrape regulation websites, providing real-time updates on any changes in policies and regulations that impact the industry.
  • Validate internal document compliance: RPA bots can validate internal documentation against relevant policies and regulations, ensuring adherence and identifying any gaps or inconsistencies.
  • Automate regulatory submissions: RPA enables the automation of the submission process to auditing authorities, reducing manual effort and increasing accuracy.

Streamline Clinical Trial Processes

Clinical trials play a vital role in drug development, involving various repetitive tasks such as patient data entry, data validation, and regulatory submissions to compliance teams and auditors. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offers significant potential to automate and simplify these processes, thereby optimising clinical trial management.

RPA can revolutionise clinical trial management by automating several key processes, including:

  • Patient data entry: RPA bots can efficiently handle the data entry tasks associated with patient information, reducing manual errors and saving valuable time.
  • Cross-checking patient records against EHR: RPA can compare patient records with Electronic Health Records (EHR) to ensure accuracy and eliminate discrepancies.
  • Patient matching for relevant trials: RPA can analyse patient-provided data and match it to appropriate clinical trials, facilitating efficient participant recruitment.
  • Appointment scheduling and notification: RPA can automate the process of scheduling appointments for participants and sending timely notifications, ensuring smooth coordination.
  • Trial File Master (TFM) management: RPA can assist in managing TFM by automating data entry, updates, and file transfers, ensuring the accuracy and accessibility of trial-related documentation.
  • Clinical trial reports generation: RPA can generate standardised and accurate reports, consolidating data from multiple sources and eliminating the need for manual compilation.

Revolutionise Drug Sales Forecasting

Accurate drug sales forecasting is a crucial component of strategic planning for pharmaceutical companies. However, traditional forecasting methods often face limitations when dealing with drugs that lack sufficient historical data. This occurs frequently when drugs are substituted by analogs or undergo updates to improve their pharmacological effects or minimize side effects.

To overcome these challenges, the integration of Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) presents an innovative solution. By harnessing the power of machine learning algorithms, a customised forecasting model can be developed. This model takes into account various variables and adapts to changing dynamics, even when historical data is limited. RPA further enhances the process by automating data collection, entry, and other repetitive tasks, facilitating seamless integration and analysis of diverse data sources.

The combined utilisation of machine learning and RPA empowers pharmaceutical companies to construct robust forecasting models that address dynamic variables. This advancement ensures more accurate and agile predictions for drug sales, enabling informed decision-making and strategic planning.

Transform Supply Chain and Inventory Management

In today’s fast-paced business environment, supply chain and inventory management play a pivotal role in the success of pharmaceutical companies. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) presents a transformative solution by automating complex and repetitive tasks, leading to enhanced efficiency, reduced operating costs, and improved accuracy throughout the supply chain.

RPA offers immense potential to automate various multi-step processes, streamlining operations and ensuring smooth workflow in critical areas such as:

  • Invoice management: RPA can automate invoice processing, including data extraction, validation, and reconciliation, enabling faster and more accurate invoice management.
  • Inventory management: RPA bots can be deployed to automate inventory tracking, monitor stock levels, and trigger alerts for restocking, ensuring optimal inventory management and reducing the risk of stockouts or excess inventory.
  • Purchase order management: RPA can automate the end-to-end purchase order management process, from order creation to vendor communication, order tracking, and invoice matching, minimizing manual effort and improving order accuracy.
  • Refund and return processing: RPA can streamline the refund and return processes by automating data entry, validation, and refund calculations, accelerating processing times and improving customer satisfaction.
  • Supply and demand strategizing: RPA can collect and analyse data from various sources, enabling real-time insights into supply and demand patterns. This data-driven approach facilitates informed decision-making for inventory planning, production scheduling, and optimising supply chain operations.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offers significant opportunities for the pharmaceutical industry to optimise key processes and drive operational excellence. By automating repetitive, rule-based tasks, RPA liberates human resources to focus on higher-value activities, enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and productivity. With the ability to streamline compliance processes, expedite clinical trial management, and enable data-driven forecasting, RPA empowers pharmaceutical organisations to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving landscape. Embracing RPA as a transformative technology unlocks a multitude of benefits, paving the way for advancements in patient care, drug development, and overall industry growth. As the pharmaceutical industry continues to embrace digital transformation, RPA stands as a powerful ally, enabling organisations to thrive in an increasingly complex and demanding environment.

Views expressed by Nikkhil K Masurkar, CEO, Entod Pharmaceuticals

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