Advancing Commercial Models in Life Sciences: Improving Treatment Adherence with Digital, Data-Driven Experiences

Updated on December 21, 2023

The effects of most drug therapies are invisible to patients, who may eventually stop taking them – in fact, adherence to chronic medication is about 50% globally. Solving the issues of compliance and adherence requires drug companies to reframe how they engage patients as consumers and help them understand and recognize the value of treatment. A key element in improving commercial models is digital experiences, which clinicians and patients, both informed by their experiences as consumers, have come to expect when they engage with the health system, medication management included. 

Currently, commercial models in biopharma, which haven’t evolved since the last generation of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), lack those same convenient and digital interactions consumers enjoy in every other facet of their lives, from shopping and banking to communicating and going to school. By implementing new commercial models with consumer engagement in mind, biopharmaceutical companies can align their go-to-market approaches with this elevated set of customer expectations, improving medication adherence and, as a result, patient care outcomes. 

Potential Use Cases for New Commercial Models 

Incorporating solutions with robust digital experiences that facilitate diagnosis, disease education and progression and treatment, are compliant with FDA guidance and deliver beneficial, quantifiable health outcomes to patients that payers recognize is the next phase of commercial model innovation. In particular, these integrated digital solutions, or digital therapeutics, can be designed to treat a disease, manage a condition or improve a health function. Consider these current examples of various digital therapeutics:

1. Treat a disease: Millions of adults in the U.S. are living with chronic lower back pain, making it one of the most common chronic pain conditions in the country. This chronic pain can cause anxiety and depression, decreased quality of life and dependence on opioids. EaseVRx from AppliedVR is a prescription-use immersive virtual reality (VR) system that uses cognitive behavioral therapy and other techniques for pain reduction and interference for patients 18 years or older diagnosed with chronic lower back pain. 

2. Manage a condition: Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that requires a person to test regularly, which, for most people, means sticking their finger with a needle or even wearing an insulin pump. Omada’s digital solution for diabetes management provides patients with connected devices, a professional health coach, weekly online lessons and a peer community. These tools and resources help participants remotely track blood glucose levels, manage stress, eat well and achieve their health and disease management goals.

3. Improve health function: Inhalers are viable alternatives to medicine taken by mouth or injection, helping treat asthma and other lung diseases. Unfortunately, patients don’t always use their inhalers as they should, with one study of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease discovering that only 2.8% of patients used their inhalers completely correctly. Smart inhalers, such as ProAir, ArmonAir, and AirDuo from Teva Pharmaceuticals, have electromechanical sensors and microelectronics that monitor inhaler actuation. These devices will automatically remind patients to take their doses and alert them of missed or repeat doses, enabling the user to maximize the effectiveness of the medicine. 

Best Practices When Building Platforms for Digital Therapeutics

Biopharmaceutical companies should establish a platform vision and functionality that can operate across therapeutic categories, regulatory regimes and cultural dynamics such as language. 

First, the architecture of this platform should be cloud-based, modular, API-drive, etc., and prioritize key base functionality – for example, how to capture core biometric data in a consistent format and deal with iOS and Android OS. In almost every therapeutic category, biopharmaceutical companies wish to collect the same biometric data points from their patients, including temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, body weight, etc. If the platform collects biometric data via the patient’s smartwatch, it should be interoperable, gathering this information whether the patient has an Apple Watch or Android Watch. 

Secondly, these platforms must have governance and funding models to manage the operating variances of biopharmaceutical manufacturing and software development and management, such as direct user feedback, faster release cycles and an evolving regulatory environment. 

A noteworthy example of an ideal platform is the Philips HealthSuite digital platform, which provides a simple, fast and economical cloud platform designed to promote innovation in a healthcare-regulated environment. Another example of the evolving regulatory landscape is the formation of a digital health advisory committee for the FDA

How Biopharmaceutical Companies Can Get Started 

As biopharmaceutical companies develop their integrated digital solutions, four factors should be kept top of mind. 

1. Verify the technology strategy by outlining the time and expense differences between the platform and product.

2. Assess the product portfolio against reimbursement schemes by disease and market where digital can be/is reimbursed (i.e., Germany ~50 products (at the time of this writing) but rigorous process versus the U.S. ~200 but quite diverse).

3. Prioritize products and markets.

4. Leverage an iterative, agile approach for both software development and for business model evolution. 

Brian Williams Headshot copy
Brian Williams
Life Sciences Strategy & Innovation at EPAM Systems, Inc.

Brian Williams is a member of EPAM’s Life Sciences team, where he focuses on accelerating growth and sharpening competitive differentiation by linking technology and digital innovation to effective commercial strategies.

His 20+ years of life sciences industry experience is based on his entrepreneurial efforts, which resulted in the successful sale of two companies—a niche biopharma and medical device services business and a biopharmaceutical supply chain analytics firm—and his years with BoozAllen, now known as PwC/Strategy&.

At PwC/Strategy&, he led global client engagements for medical device, diagnostic and biopharmaceutical manufacturers.  He also co-founded a unique practice group that worked across the healthcare ecosystem and with new entrants, facilitating market entry and novel, digitally enabled commercial strategies.  Most recently, he served as Cognizant's Life Sciences business's chief digital officer, strategy and consulting leader.

Brian is active in industry forums, including serving as a presenter and committee member at HIMSS, AdvaMed and EucoMed. His articles on the industry’s evolution have been published in InVivo, Economist Intelligence, Forbes and Strategy&Business. In 2021, Brian was recognized as the “Top Healthcare Consultant” in the U.S. by Consulting Report.