How Digital Can Transform Big Pharma One Dosage at a Time 

Today, it costs around $2.6 billion and takes between 10 and 15 years to develop a new drug. That’s a big investment. Yet once the drug is in the market, 25% of patients do not fill their prescriptions, and if they do fill the prescription, only half of patients take the drug correctly. 

The issue of medication nonadherence costs the U.S. healthcare system about $250 billion annually and is estimated to cause approximately 125,000 deaths and more than 10% of hospitalizations per year. These numbers are startling and are causing pharmaceutical companies to explore how digital technologies can help improve adherence and patient engagement. 

For pharmaceutical companies, deciding how to implement digital technology is incredibly complex. Even if pharmaceutical or medical technology companies have narrowed their focus to improving adherence, they still need to determine the size of the investment, what capabilities to build internally versus partner externally and, perhaps most importantly, how to address today’s cybersecurity and regulatory hurdles.

Kal Patel, MD, senior vice president of Digital Health at Flex, dives deeper into these key considerations.

Planning the investment 

When determining how much to invest in digital, pharma companies should consider how technology can not only improve patient engagement and outcomes but also drive more revenue from their existing drugs in the market. Studies show that with just a 10% increase in adherence, there is an approximately $124 billion pharmaceutical revenue opportunity globally. 

“But it’s not just about the revenue,” states Dr. Patel. “Lack of medication adherence is a major public health concern, and with an aging population, ensuring people are taking their medication is growing in importance.”  

Other industries are embracing connectivity and machine learning to solve safety issues. The automotive industry is making a huge investment in autonomous vehicles in an effort to reduce the more than 37,000 deaths caused by road crashes each year in U.S. 

At 125,000 annually, deaths from medical non-adherence are a far larger problem. “That’s over three times more deaths than road crashes, yet we aren’t seeing the commensurate urgency, investment and resources focused on how digital technologies can help reduce this number. Why is that?” Dr. Patel asks.

Custom solutions vs. partnering

Companies that do decide to invest must then define a scalable strategy for that investment. Across many industry sectors, it is estimated that 70% of IT projects are either abandoned or fail to meet business requirements. And pharma is no exception. 

“When it comes to developing life-saving drugs, pharma companies employ the best and the brightest. A typical biopharmaceutical has thousands of PhDs and MDs,” says Patel. “The challenge is, they may only have a handful of software engineers and data scientists.”

Pharmaceutical companies should look to partner with companies that are experts in capturing and delivering rich data sets in an open, secure and scalable manner. By partnering, companies can ensure they are future-proofing their solutions from a mobile and connectivity standpoint, while also maintaining an open architecture to enable integrations with other medical devices or software solutions.

Cybersecurity and HIPAA

The healthcare sector has emerged as one of the easiest targets for hacking due to weak and obsolete security systems. Healthcare data breaches were the topic of frequent headlines in 2016, and 2017 is expected to be on par, if not worse.

A recent mid-2017 report cites that 233 breach incidents were reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with the total number of affected patient records already surpassing 3.1 million. This is occurring despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Office of Civil Rights has strengthened the rules around the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

“Unfortunately, these types of breaches seem to be the norm, not the exception,” Patel adds. “Healthcare companies launching digital health solutions need to partner with experts to vigilantly manage these risks and keep patient data safe and secure.”

Roadmaps for digital health

Contemplating these complexities can be overwhelming, especially for companies operating in large, matrixed organizations in an industry that is historically slow to adopt new technology.

“That’s where we come in,” Patel states. “Flex is working with pharmaceutical and medical technology companies to build out their digital health roadmaps by using Sketch-to-Scale™ solutions.” 

Building on more than 20 years of expertise operating in global regulated medical environments and having deployed over 75 regulated hardware and software medical products, Flex Digital Health is partnering with pharma and medtech companies to optimize real-world drug, device and combination products through real-time, integrated data and actionable insights to enable our customers to drive increased patient adherence and engagement. 

Our core offering, BrightInsight, a Flex Digital Health Solution, is a medical-grade digital health platform that goes beyond the connectivity solutions available in the market today, and is built from the ground up with the security and quality rigor required to support FDA-regulated Class I, II, and III medical devices and combination products.  

Deployed as a managed service, BrightInsight accelerates the time to market for pharmaceutical and medical technology companies, reduces the cost of implementation and maintenance, and enables companies to scale across products and global markets.

For more on Flex Digital Health, please visit our website.

About Kal Patel, MD

SVP, Digital Health at Flex

Kal Patel, MD, Senior Vice President of Digital Health at Flex, has held a variety of leadership roles across biopharma, healthcare delivery, and digital health. Dr. Patel served as the Chief Commercial Officer at Doctor on Demand, where he was responsible for all business and commercial functions. Prior to Doctor on Demand, Dr. Patel founded and led Amgen Digital Health and was previously head of corporate strategy as well as global marketing lead for Amgen’s leading drug, EnbrelTM. He has also held leadership positions at Novartis and The Boston Consulting Group. Kal has a bachelor’s degree in economics, an MBA and an MD from the University of Chicago.

Flex offers big pharma engagement solutions through digital health methods