Learn why digital transformation is essential for companies in the life science industry. This article highlights application examples of digital technologies in this industry, the need for digital business models, and the role of change management.
Digital Transformation in the Life Science Industry
The life science industry is changing - it's not the first time we have heard this phrase. But technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, or Web 3.0 are no longer just visions but are now the drivers of the digital industrial age that completely transform the way we understand health and medicine.
But that is not all. This is not solely centered on utilizing these technologies to develop drugs and medical devices faster and better (product perspective). It is equally about meeting the growing influence of patients, who are much more informed than they were ten years ago (customer view), and not to be overshadowed by tech giants like Apple and Google (competition).
Industry pioneers are already harnessing these revolutionary technologies to transform the entire value chain. Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to drive research, virtual clinical trials to drive efficiencies, and the Internet of Things or Blockchain to make the supply chain more transparent. Mergers and acquisitions are also re-gaining importance to expand digital capabilities.
But why is all this so important? Because digital transformation is not just a nice extra, but an absolute must for the survival and growth of companies in this industry. This transformation is not just about improved processes and faster development of drugs or medical devices. It is about bringing these products to market faster and intensifying contact with customers and patients (the patient is the focus).
In this article, we take a look at specific application examples, highlight the importance of new digital business models, and explain that it is not only technology that is changing decisively, but also corporate culture.
10 Application Examples in the Life Science Industry
Chat-GPT has impressively shown us how quickly a technology like artificial intelligence can trigger fundamental change within a very short time. It is therefore significant to recognize the extent to which digital technologies have already been integrated into the life science industry. The following is a small selection of technologies and companies that have taken advantage of them:
Possible Application Example (1)
AI-driven drug development to accelerate research: Paxlovid, Pfizer
Production of customized drugs:
Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, US
Virtual doctor consultations and remote diagnostics: TeleClinic, D
Virtual / Augmented Reality
Surgical planning through AR-assisted simulations: Scopis GmbH (Stryker Corp.)
Secure storage and sharing of medical data in the cloud: InfectoPharm, D
Secure and transparent drug supply chain management: Mediledger, US
Patients use an app together with a therapy: MSdialog, Novartis
Robotic Process Automation / IoT
Real-time monitoring and optimization in pharmaceutical manufacturing: PAS-X von Werum AG bei Boehringer Ingelheim
Big Data Analytics
Analyzing patient data to personalize treatment options: NeuroPace, US
Digital marketing /
Personalized marketing and omni-channel sale: Biomed, CH
The large number of application examples now available shows that blockchain, for example, is not exclusively relevant for bitcoins, or augmented reality not solely for game consoles. Instead, these technologies have also found their place in the life science industry. Equally, however, there are numerous examples where digital technologies may have led to new products but did not achieve the desired increase in sales and market success. In the digital age, it is clear that technology alone is not enough.
Why Digital Business Models Matter
Which technology should you use? That's usually the first question. But wait, that is like buying a piece of laboratory equipment and only then thinking about how it can be put to good use. That is why a certain technology and the resulting product must be embedded in a digital business model.
Digital business models are therefore not simply an extension of the existing now with digital technologies. On the contrary, the use of these technologies fundamentally drives and changes the existing business model. In addition, digital business models focus on the customer - a must in the digital age. Otherwise, it is too easy to fall into the trap of "we've spent a lot on digitizing specific processes, yet it hasn't increased our revenue."
One example: a digital therapy platform (app) was developed to help patients take their medication regularly and monitor their health data. The idea was that patients could receive reminders, track their progress, and communicate directly with healthcare providers through an app. The company hoped to use this platform to increase sales of their medications while encouraging patients to better adhere to their therapy. It was a nice idea. Unfortunately, user adoption was too low: many patients were unwilling to install another app on their devices or didn't find the app intuitive enough. The focus was too much on the technical development of the app; a digital business model that convincingly presented the added value was missing.
Digital business models are not just a buzzword, they are crucial for digital transformation. Appropriate methods for developing digital business models enable life science companies to be more agile, adapt quickly to market changes, and offer innovative solutions for their customers.
Change Management is a Must-Have
During the digital transformation, change management plays a crucial role. The aim is not to remain in island solutions of individual departments (silo thinking) but to promote agile working and cross-company collaboration. One of the greatest challenges is the possible resistance among the workforce when tried-and-tested processes, methods, and one's own role are called into question.
This is where the leadership style comes into play, which must drive the change. A modern and inspiring leadership style that conveys the vision of digital transformation is crucial. It is not just about giving employees new tools, but also empowering them to use them effectively in the overall context of the organization. This means developing new competencies, establishing new methods such as agile project management, and actively involving employees in the change process.
However, change management goes beyond technological aspects and training. It is a comprehensive journey that leads both the corporate culture and the employees themselves toward transformation. In the process, creating an environment of trust is crucial, where innovation and creativity can flourish. In a nutshell, change management is the key to not only starting the digital transformation but also successfully completing it. If you want to delve deeper into this topic, you might also want to take a look at the funding program INQA Coaching.
Digital transformation in the life science and healthcare industry is no longer a mere option, but now an absolute necessity. However, it is not just about the use of new technologies. Two success factors are essential: (1) the development of a digital business model and (2) change management to adapt the corporate culture. This article has only scratched the surface and is the prelude to further exciting topics and developments in this blog series.
(1) The examples mentioned serve solely to illustrate how digital technologies can be used. The author has no business relationship with the companies mentioned and does not wish to highlight any of these companies or their products.