India life-sciences companies will have to speed up adoption of digital technologies, if they have catch up with their global peers, a latest report of consulting firm EY said.
The report titled – ‘Today for tomorrow: realizing the potential of Life Sciences 4.0’ released on inaugural of 17th edition of BioAsia – Hyderabad, said as Indian companies prepare to shift from supplying commodities to supplying innovations, they need to understand how new technologies will transform their business.
At present, in certain therapeutic areas such as diabetes, Indian companies have started offering a combination of digital plus traditional life sciences offerings.
These initiatives needed to be scaled across geographies and therapy areas, the report added.
The growing use of online services would allow physicians and patients to comfortably access medical information (about drugs and diseases) online. The report noted that people are now comfortable using wearables and sensors to track their health and fitness. They want to be empowered to make their own health choices using the data that is thus getting generated.
“Life sciences companies need to think about how they can engage these informed super consumers with appropriate information and services customized to them,” the report said.
The report, which analysed the responses of 20 industry experts of top Indian domestic and multi-national pharma companies, said that most Indian companies are already beyond the digital inertia stage and they understand the necessity to adopt digital technologies to remain relevant and competent in the future.
But they also said that the stringent regulatory environment, change management and unavailability of usable data are the top challenges in implementing digital technology reforms.
“Regulatory action associated with using new technologies and the complexity of getting fresh approvals can discourage companies from implementing technologies, especially those which are disruptive and lack a long track record,” the report said.
“The second most cited challenge was ‘change management’. While an organization’s top management may want to implement a digital change, disbursing information about the benefits to the lowest possible level, particularly in large organizations, is difficult. Further, the report noted that data inaccuracy was another concern.
“While life sciences companies have access to abundant data, it is a challenge to find an authentic source that provides accurate data. Unavailability of skilled workforce and lack of consensus between business, strategy and technology teams were also flagged as key hurdles,” the report added.
Despite the challenges, the report noted that companies in India have started taking small, experimental steps towards their digital journey. Currently, these activities are mostly fragmented. Those that define a practical strategy for implementing digital across the organization to meet current challenges and future growth are likely to get a competitive edge.
Sriram Shrinivasan, Global Generics and National Health and Lifesciences Leader, EY, said: “Life Sciences 4.0 is all about the ability of the life sciences companies to strategically move from one stage of business maturity to another at the right time and with the right capabilities. Indian companies may be behind their global peers, but they have the advantage of learning from global failures and successes.
The report noted that some companies have already taken early steps in this direction. Cipla, for example, acquired a stake in Mumbai-based Wellthy Therapeutics in 20195. Wellthy has developed a digital disease management platform for patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Available in multiple languages, including regional dialects, the platform uses behavioral science, real world evidence and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide real-time monitoring, coaching and advice to patients. It can also provide virtual clinical assistance to doctors.
The company has also acquired a stake in the South African company, Brandmed, for its integrated solution to address outcomes and value-based care for patients with chronic lifestyle and non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, high cholesterol or asthma6. With these investments, the Indian company is developing capabilities to move from disease treatment to continuous monitoring and wellness.
India lifesciences industry revenue was at $38 billion in 2018 and the country is now the largest provider of generic drugs globally, fulfilling about 40 percent of the generics demand in the US and roughly 25 percent of all medicines in the UK.-Money Control