The Trends and Challenges Facing the Health and Life Sciences Sector

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How To Increase Productivity in Your Lab

By Jeff Evernham, VP Product Strategy at Sinequa

The health and life sciences industry is rapidly evolving. Before the pandemic, pharmaceutical companies were already under immense pressure to innovate, carry out research and development, and shorten drug time-to-market, but the staggering impact of COVID-19 has drastically altered the demands on the industry and increased the focus on rapid, quality care across all modes of delivery. 

With mounting external pressures and competition ever-increasing, organizations are searching for ways to become more efficient, particularly around the challenges of managing and using information. Fortunately, new and developing technologies are available to support such advances. This is the first article in a three-part series that will review the current trends and challenges facing the healthcare sector, describe the opportunities of fully leveraging information, and explore how intelligent search is being used to achieve success in the sector.

The top trends in the health and life sciences industry:

Rapid adoption of advancing technologies 

As a result of the pandemic, there is a growing interest and willingness across all industries to maximize the opportunities of digital and become more information-driven. Achieving digital maturity results in greater agility and productivity as workers have complete, relevant, and timely information at their fingertips. Moreover, the enhanced data collection it affords brings predictive data-driven insights into the needs of customers for a better experience.

One of the most effective and rewarding technologies driving these changes is automation. Automation of repetitive or manual tasks not only frees up time for employees to spend on more important and meaningful activities for the business but also lays the foundations for an increase in AI-driven decision-making. Gartner recently labeled hyper-automation using advanced technologies, such as AI and machine learning (ML), the biggest strategic technological trend of 2020, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this trend is far from slowing down.

The mass migration to cloud has also supported life science companies in harnessing data and other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications to support their mission. IDC found that two-thirds of business-critical life science applications are deployed in the cloud, and this figure is predicted to increase to almost 90% by 2022. 

Continued M&A activity for economies of scale

The high costs and diverse landscape of the pharmaceutical industry have always made mergers and acquisitions (M&A) a key strategy to compete and innovate. M&A provides health and life science organizations with an opportunity to access and acquire knowledge, expertise, data, and intellectual property to support research and development. According to Deloitte, pharmaceutical companies with the most profitable investment models spend 35% of their investment budget on M&A, indicating the growing occurrence of M&A as a development strategy. 

M&A are complex and integrating information and internal business processes are particularly challenging. Indexing content is one solution to this problem, allowing for a faster and more economical combination of assets than the typical (and costly) migration and integration approaches.

Growing focus on patient experience

The pandemic led health and life science organizations to place a stronger emphasis on patient-focused drug development (PFDD). While trying to produce drugs that are affordable, accessible, and effective, healthcare models had to adapt to the changing landscape, resulting in a patient-first mentality. 

The innovation of care models has given rise to a new era of patient-centric healthcare and drug development, paving the way for a collaborative healthcare system. From pharmaceuticals to biotechnology companies, patients are increasingly being placed at the heart of business models.

The rise of advanced digital solutions has played an important part in delivering remote care and improving productivity. Integrated technologies supplemented the move to remote engagement with patients throughout the pandemic, with user interfaces regularly updated to deliver a better and more satisfying user experience both for patients and clinicians. Similarly, the rise of technology-enabled patient check-ups and digital monitoring tools have assisted doctors in reducing patient wait times and ensuring healthcare is as accessible as possible.

Despite these positive trends, many challenges remain.

The top challenges facing the health and life sciences industry:

Growing pressure on operational efficiency

Pharmaceutical companies are under increasing pressure from the public and other governing bodies to produce drugs faster and for a better price – while improving quality. Yet developing drugs is already extremely expensive and time-consuming. 

According to Deloitte, the average R&D process of drug development costs $2.2 billion per drug and the drug discovery phase takes between 10 and 12 years. Even with so much dedicated time and investment, the success rate of the first round of clinical trials for the last decade has been steady at less than 10%, meaning there is no guarantee that these huge investments of capital will result in returns. In fact, the expected ROI decreased from 10% in 2010 to less than 2% in 2018.

Heightened awareness of public data usage

With the increasing adoption of technologies and big data for analytic insights, the public has become more concerned with how their data is being used and who has access to it. This is especially true of personal health information, and pressure on healthcare authorities has led to stricter legislation. As a result, it’s more difficult than ever for companies to use public data. 

Mounting regulatory risks

Keeping up to date with the varied regulatory controls in each jurisdiction is a constant challenge for health and life sciences organizations. Compliance with both internal and external regulations is crucial to avoid fines and negative publicity that can hurt corporate reputations and their bottom line.  

Deloitte reported that satisfying policies and regulations in the upcoming year are seen as an area of significant concern for over 60% of biopharma employees. This is poignant for health and life sciences organizations both because the regulations are ever-changing and because the amount of retained information is increasing rapidly. 

Final thoughts

The challenging times we have seen over the past year have fostered and brought digital evolution to the head of the table within the health and life sciences industry, with data-driven technologies not only proving their worth but also leading the way. As Deloitte said in its most recent report, ‘Life Sciences and Health Care Predictions 2022’, the future of medicine is here and now.

 While there are certainly still barriers, technology solutions are enabling life sciences companies to accelerate innovation, improve patient care, and create a better employee experience. Businesses should focus on how data can provide insights to help overcome some of these challenges. This period of change within the industry will pave the way for a better future for health and life sciences organisations, their patients, and employees.