Discovering Life Science's Bright Future

Michelle Schooff

What changes are digitization driving in life sciences?

In a recent episode of S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast, hosts Brian Fanzo and Daniel Newman discussed some of the changes taking place in life sciences with Joe Miles, SAP’s life sciences business unit lead. Miles focuses on setting strategy for pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device business solutions. By providing more effective, innovative solutions, he’s helping the life science industry through digital transformation.

The direction of life sciences transformation

The industry has a history of rushing ahead at some points and lagging at others. As Joe said in the podcast, “Necessity, being the mother of invention, sometimes has allowed it and required it to move more quickly.” Much of the drive for digital transformation in the industry has been pushed forward by the desire to increase top-line revenue.

As a strongly regulated industry, life sciences has long needed to consider the implications of regulatory measures. Digitization is boosting visibility to compliance, process, supply chains, and patient care.

Improving research outcomes through Big Data

The Internet of Things has also driven change in life sciences. Sensors and devices add connectivity to clinical trials, for example, which vastly increases the amount of instantly available data available to researchers and physicians. Miles notes, “You’re talking probably about a terabyte a day per patient of data.” This allows researchers to gain a more comprehensive picture of patient data.

Once the clinical trials are completed, the same devices and sensors can continue to improve patient outcomes in the real world. Instead of simply monitoring A1C levels in a diabetes patient, for example, doctors can check whether the patient is exercising, staying active, eating right, or losing weight. Continual monitoring provides doctors with feedback on patient compliance and improves health outcomes.

Applications of blockchain in pharmaceuticals

Blockchain is becoming the new darling of the life sciences industry. The auditing technology is still rough for pharmaceutical use, but the digital ledger has great potential. It can authenticate assets and financial transactions as well as provide supply chain verification. In clinical trials, blockchain technology can be used to track the financial investments in drugs and to track which patients receive placebos. In trial settings, Joe notes, healthcare workers can verify that medicines are going to the right patients, helping prevent mistakes that can set back clinical trials. Blockchain acts as an irrefutable, unchangeable record of the study.

In shipments, blockchain can deliver a chain of custody to prevent counterfeit medications from reaching pharmacies, enabling workers to simply authenticate serial numbers or vials with the manufacturer. Blockchain also has applications in drug safety, making it easier to trace particular batches of medications with higher drug interaction rates. Drugs with recalls can be tracked more quickly, and impacted patients could be notified immediately to minimize potential health problems.

Blockchain technology can help bring transparency and visibility to these value and supply chains. This leads to better outcomes, improved health, and higher quality of life for patients.

Who’s driving life sciences innovation?

Innovation in life sciences is driven by a number of different sources. The healthcare industry, as well as financial service firms, are creating better, smarter, faster solutions that fall within the regulations. Patients are becoming more accountable for their health, and pressure from different directions will help drive the industry to create better outcomes.

Joe says, “U.S. [healthcare spending] was somewhere in the neighborhood of 16-18% of GDP, depending on some of the stats you see.” This is an unsustainable amount of spending. In response, digital transformation is driving outcome-driven reimbursement, which is rapidly changing current approaches to healthcare.

Today’s regulations often create barriers between patients and manufacturers. Sensors and devices allow greater transparency and visibility into patient health but in a private, non-invasive way. It’s a much more cost-effective way to gain transparency and data that allows continued refinement of treatments, therapies, and medication. Researchers and patients alike are putting pressure on doctors and healthcare systems to integrate innovation for better outcomes and long-term quality of life.

The changes in life sciences are driving a better quality of life for people around the globe. The technology continues to develop through the use of blockchain, the role of different aspects of the industry and improvements in research. The application of sensors, Big Data, analytics, supercomputing, and artificial intelligence will help us find answers to today’s health questions.

Much like the elimination of smallpox, polio, and other diseases, the changes brought by digitization will help create a better world. Learn more about it in this S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast today.

Hear the full podcast episode here. Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation: download The IoT Imperative for Consumer Industries. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today: read Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Michelle Schooff

About Michelle Schooff

Michelle Schooff is a global marketing director in the life sciences and wholesale distribution industries for SAP. She is responsible for the marketing strategy, messaging and positioning for SAP solutions in the global marketplace. With over 20 years experience in technology and marketing, Michelle builds strategic marketing plans that drive growth, innovation and revenue.