What Will the Pharma Industry Face in the Year Ahead?

by Bailey Amber
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Life science organizations faced down an array of daunting challenges during the last three years: a global health crisis, supply chain upheaval, and uncertain economic climate, just to name a few. But if we can say the dust is beginning to settle, we can also look to the future with the knowledge that uncertainty will persist – and that we should be prepared. How can companies prepare for an unpredictable year ahead?

Many pharma and medical device companies will look inward, with the goal of standardizing and modernizing even highly regulated activities. They’ll lean into new approaches for specific challenges, and apply purpose-built technology across drug and device development. Here’s a closer look at some important industry trends for 2023.

Tech maturation matters

Pharmaceutical companies continue to forge ahead in their quest to create a truly end-to-end insights management function. Teams understand that insight generation and analysis are vital to the success of new drug development – but may lack the willingness to devote significant business resources to solving the problem.

Happily, even in a notoriously conservative and risk-averse industry, leaders are coming around to the idea that they can solve the problem with technology. Next year, pharma companies will begin putting both minds and money behind the push to put insights management into the spotlight as a strategic business pillar.

One way they’ll do this is by using artificial intelligence to support – not replace – talented humans who don’t have enough time to manually comb through reams of patient data, medical records, and other important sources of information. For pharmaceutical teams, 2023 will be the year of understanding that AI can be a benevolent partner rather than an intimidating threat.

What’s the danger of ignoring AI? Teams that don’t understand AI applications run the risk of missing out on key insights, and all the opportunities those can provide. This can have a particularly meaningful impact on applications like precision medicine, where developing the best treatment pathway often requires analyzing information about different aspects of the patient experience.

While much of this information is obtained from structured data from electronic medical records, there is also valuable information contained in the unstructured text of physician notes, referral forms, and medical charts. Developing precision therapies also requires input from global experts who won’t necessarily turn up in the usual publishing and speaking circuits. This is an ideal case for technologies that are specific to life science, where gaps in knowledge can interfere with the expedient development of precision and targeted therapies.

Adding agility where it counts

Like other industries, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are eager to return to the days of in-person meetings and busy show floors. But as folks return to racking up frequent flyer miles, an old problem is rearing its head: at in-person events, where do the insights go?

How are important observations collected and shared, and how will that information make its way into the mix with data from other channels, like virtual meetings and social platforms? As organizations balance traditional and tech-enabled ways of working, technology will stay in the picture to add process and consistency.

What does this look like in practice? Teams will gladly return to the muscle memory of an in-person medical congress, but it will be far less chaotic: they’ll use social listening to understand trending topics ahead of and during the event, adding currency to their real-time conversations. They might share same-day observations in a virtual venue and achieve alignment on important discussions before they pack to go home. And once the event is over, the conversations can continue online, with sentiment analysis tools to potentially shorten the time from insight to action by weeks, or even months.

Increasing the all-important agility factor simply equips life science organizations to have more choice in engaging truly global audiences, eliminating traditional roadblocks like travel time and expense, disparate geographical locations, and different preferred languages. Having experienced first-hand what it’s like to work in a world where travel – even as far as an in-town office or clinic – is impossible, the importance of this flexibility can’t be overstated.

As pandemic-induced limitations fell away, many old habits returned. Some, like traveling and meeting in person, were welcomed. Others, such as congress chaos and deluges of data, have been less well-received. The year ahead will be about figuring out how to move forward with flexibility and preparedness when – not if – the next challenge arises.

Photo: Feodora Chiosea, Getty Images

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