Embracing Digital Transformation to Enhance Insight and Accelerate Discovery
Gary Palgon
Vice President of Healthcare
and Life Sciences Solutions
Liaison Technologies

This article discusses how digital transformation in the life science industry is critical to finding new opportunities.

Pharma companies have always been in the innovation business. The industry invests billions in research to bring lifesaving treatments to market. Digital transformation -the use of technology to enable new types of innovation and invent modern processes rather than to support traditional approaches - is therefore a natural fit for the life sciences sector and pharma industry.

Digital transformation can unleash innovation via technologies such as blockchain, as technology pharma companies are exploring for many applications, including finding candidates for clinical trials and keeping tabs on medications in the supply chain. An immutable digital ledger capable of verifying virtually any type of transaction or process, blockchain functions as a trust engine.

Pharma companies require quality data to generate insight and make new discoveries, but, like many businesses, the data they need is siloed in multiple systems with little or no interoperability. Blockchain's origin as a Bitcoin ledger make its potential as a financial tracking tool obvious, but federal healthcare IT leaders are already exploring its utility in handling clinical trial data.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is another technology that pharma and life sciences organizations are exploring to generate insights and bring new products to market. AI's automation and data analytics functions, fueled by machine learning, can drive applications that communicate with trial participants via a variety of platforms, including social media and SMS.

AI applications can personalize communication with patients, analyze sentiment on social media using natural language processing and deliver critical data to life sciences and pharma companies. Paired with platforms that eliminate data silos and streamline integration and management, AI can help pharma companies obtain crucial insight that drives discovery.

Insight is a product of data, but data requires digital transformation to facilitate accurate understanding. Business intelligence tools like data visualization can help reveal insight, but only if the data that generates the visuals is complete and of sufficiently high quality. Incomplete or compromised data yields false insight, and that leads to wasted efforts.

To avoid the false insight trap, pharma companies need a way to integrate data from multiple sources - including blockchain and AI - and interpret the information in meaningful ways to improve patient care, streamline operations and lower costs. That requires robust, accurate analytics, which depend on a resilient data architecture to produce prescriptive, descriptive or predictive insights.

In the pharma sector, it’s critical to be able to blend research, operational, sales, public health and clinical trial data to generate the insight needed to improve time to market and enable appropriate surveillance. This requires a strong data infrastructure today, plus a future-proof data integration and management strategy to respond to new sources of information as quickly as they come online.

For most pharma organizations, the skills needed to integrate and manage large datasets lie outside the core competencies of the in-house team. Data scientists serve as "data janitors," spending 80 percent of their time cleaning up information and only 20 percent gleaning insight from it, and IT professionals spend their days programming integration workarounds rather than focusing on more strategic tasks.

Embracing digital transformation, including elements like blockchain and AI technologies, can change that. Cloud-based platforms that enable seamless data integration, management and compliance can flip the 80/20 percent rule around, enabling pharma companies to focus resources on generating insight and accelerating discovery. That's the true promise of digital transformation.