New Delhi: During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology proved to be a major player in healthcare management and advancements across the globe. From automating healthcare delivery systems and consultation processes to accelerating drug discovery, deployment, ensuring quick and safe access for all, the IT sector has solidified its key position in the pharmaceutical industry.
Leaders of the pharmaceutical industry discussed the power of technology during a session on ‘Pharma CIOs Changing Paradigms: Striking Balance Between Business Agility and IT Quest’ at the second edition of the Economic Times Healthcare Leaders Summit 2022 organised by ETHealthworld. The panel discussion was moderated by Dr Gaurav Arya, Executive Director, Health Nerds International. The panellists for the session were Jitendra Misra, VP-CIO, Akums Group, Vinayak Neerali, Head (India), Digital, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, and Sachin Bachal, Head, IT, Gufic Biosciences Limited.
Dr Arya initiated the discussion by stating that technology is a great enabler in improving healthcare. He posed a question to Misra, enquiring about how the IT ecosystem is integrating with the pharma industry’s vision of being a global innovator. Misra suggested that IT is now much more than an enabler, and in fact, is the centre of medical advancements, calling IT the most critical part of any pharma life cycle from drug discovery, to distribution among the masses.
He said, “We have seen over the years that most pharma companies are going over to IT-OT integration. I have observed that robotic automation and smart manufacturing are becoming the norm. From the ERP era, we are now in the era of clinical trials having a heavy application load, and being monitored remotely from far away systems.”
Commenting on the role played by IT and COVID-19 in the progress of pharmaceuticals, Misra added, “The duration between drug discovery and go to market has reduced from twelve years to eight years. Now our target is to reduce the time cycle to four years while ensuring that the drug reaches the patient and benefits them. The biggest enabler in our life cycle has been the coronavirus. Within two years the clinical trials were conducted and the vaccine was ready. This has set a new benchmark for the pharma companies as to how fast we can go to the market and especially using technology.”
Dr Arya continued the discourse by prompting Neerali to share his insights regarding the correct way to use data and subsequently AI and machine learning to aid the pharmaceutical industry. Neerali explained the mismanagement and ignorance towards data before COVID-19. He said, “Data and its assets used to be extremely fragmented, and isolated. They were not connected at all, thanks to COVID, a lot of focus came into our ecosystem, especially data-generated insights. Over the last couple of years, we have tried to ensure bridging these gaps in data, generating a lot of insights over that. That was the first foundational step.”
He further explained the method by which data must be used for it to be impactful and result in effective change. “We consider three main principles when deciding how to drive insights from data. Whether it is big enough for us to chase a certain idea, whether it is relevant in terms of the uses we are trying to target, and whether it is surprising. When the insight is a known fact, people tend to dismiss it and then change management, adoption, and overall deployment of technology becomes a lot more challenging,” added Neerali.
Resonating with Neerali’s insights, Dr Arya added, “It’s heartening to see collaborations between various organisations within the healthcare industry, because, until a few years back, data was seen as my property versus yours, that’s changing now. It’s patient’s data, it belongs to the community, and it’s great to see it is being used that way so it can help improve patient outcomes in the future.”
Bachal then echoed the opinions of the panel members saying, “Data is the new oil. Whoever is in this business for ten to twelve years is sitting on a goldmine of data. To leverage this data in the best way possible, the right combination of advanced technology is essential. We need to invest in technology that helps in faster analysis of data.”
The panel members concluded the session with the message that technology is a must to drive and fast-track research, innovation, discovery, business expansions, and equitable access to the masses, not just in the pharmaceutical industry, but in all industries across the world.