Digitization of processes and data across the value chain, along with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), has transformed the pharma industry. Although IoT is still in its nascent stages of adoption in the Life Sciences industry, the use of smart devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication leveraging SMAC technologies comes at a time when the industry is grappling with patent cliffs and declining R&D productivity.
The early signs of IoT adoption are quite palpable with some technology giants introducing patient centricity-based mobility products that provide real-time health monitoring and reporting, healthcare professionals (HCP) scheduling, medication adherence, etc.
Not only is IoT rapidly changing the patient experience, but it is also making a dramatic difference in other areas of the industry, such as R&D, clinical development, and supply chain.
The Life Sciences industry had been more reactive than proactive in technology adoption, primarily because of tight regulations and domain complexities. But over the past few years, falling R&D productivity, increasing costs, compliance challenges, and higher expectations with respect to drug efficacy have put tremendous pressure on pharma companies.
Some early adopters have already started exploring IoT to enable end-to-end digital integration across the value chain. IoT-based smart devices—such as “Organ in a Chip,” which allows organizations to run real-life diagnostics scenarios—are already gaining traction. Syncing the output from these devices with big data analytics and cognitive systems has the potential to provide unprecedented opportunity, thereby drastically improving hit rate and R&D productivity.
Another example of the growing influence of smart devices is chip in a pill—a special ingestible pill that, upon consumption, captures health status that includes drug effects on key organs and sends that information to a wearable device. This data is then sent as a report over cloud to HCP for diagnosis.
Use of smart devices in clinical development, supply chain, and patient engagements can not only help reduce time-to-market for drugs, but these real-time data feeds also can be transmitted back to proactively detect errors across the value chain. This can improve regulatory compliance.
Additionally, data from wearable devices can be used by HCPs to prescribe personalized medicines (PMx) that will improve drug efficacy manifold and will reduce the length of treatment periods. Some of the fast growing IoT applications across the pharma value chain are depicted below:
Need For Architecture
The IOT requires companies to build and support a future-ready technology infrastructure. This architecture is made up of multiple layers, including new hardware, embedded software, connectivity, a cloud consisting of software running on remote servers, a suite of security tools—all of which can be integrated within enterprise business systems and external environments. An illustrative architecture is depicted in below Figure:
The data generated by smart systems at the physical layer will be transmitted through the connectivity layer to the cloud layer. The entire ecosystem will be governed by security and risk management governance framework. The cloud layer will have embedded analytics capabilities to generate insights about the system performance. The ability to integrate with external systems will provide end-users and administrators with remote monitoring and management capabilities.
Implementation of an IoT ecosystem is not hassle free. It is imperative for a pharma company to conduct detailed due diligence to analyze the people, process and technology readiness for IoT. Key challenges that pharma companies need to deal with will include:
- Ever-evolving device platforms and the ability to manage interoperability across these platforms.
- Maintaining data integrity and consistency across different systems.
- Data privacy, security, and vulnerability management.
- Application and business modularity to ensure easy plug-in and plug-out without affecting business operations.
- The ability to scale up and manage large volumes of structured and unstructured data, keeping performance levers intact.
IoT can help pharma companies derive value and provide competitive advantages through:
- Cost savings.
- Improved quality.
- Better compliance adherence.
- Better planning and improved time to market.
The IOT is a reality in today’s era of digitization and, therefore, it is fitting that pharma companies adopt it soon. Though IoT is still in the early stages of development and adoption across the pharmaceutical marketplace, it is imperative to include IoT as part of a strategic focus. This will enable the exploration and implementation of applications across value chain components that are ailing, and more easily identify which ones are the best candidates for IoT adoption.
On one hand, IoT offers implementation challenges and careful investment strategies. On the other, it opens doors to added quality, agility, and value for the business, along with tremendous opportunities for innovation.
Click here to read the September edition of Pharmaceutical Processing.