HBA Europe event recap: Current trends in digitalization in the healthcare industry

By Menorca Chaturvedi
Technology is continuously evolving and digital disruption in traditional industries can be easily spotted around us. In the last few years, ecommerce has changed the way we shop, the “Internet of things” is predicted to include up to 26 billion sensor units till 2020, robotics and 3D printing are being applied in a myriad of ways to bring in change in society and in our lifestyle. How will these digitalization trends affect the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry? To discuss this in-depth, about 120 healthcare and pharma professionals participated in the first local Zug HBA event at Shire, Zug, co-sponsored by Shire and Takeda on 30 May 2017.
Rebecca Joslin, global digital patient engagement strategy lead at Shire, gave a thought provoking keynote talk, focusing on the importance of working closely with patients and clinicians to understand their needs and implement digital solutions so as to improve their experience, rather than being an ‘armchair strategist’ and taking decisions without really interacting with the potential users.
Giving examples of Uber and Amazon, the question brought up was: Can technology disrupt the current value chain in the pharmaceutical industry?
Genetic decoding and deep learning, for instance, are impacting and speeding up scientific research and are bringing us closer to developing personalized medicine and solutions for every patient. Manufacturing is being revolutionized by robotics and 3D printing, with recent cases of people even developing prosthetics with the aid of 3D printing. Disease diagnosis and treatment can be improved further with the aid of genetic testing, artificial Intelligence, machine learning; and healthcare products can potentially be made available anywhere with optimized distribution.
To stay updated with developments and get more ideas for advancement, Rebecca suggested studying other industries to see what could be learnt and applied from their progress. Digital solutions are important to improve user experience and the customer journey as well as to adopt current technology.
Stephanie Bova, ‎head of Europe and Canada and head of global operations, digital accelerator at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, stressed on the importance of customer experience. She suggested being very specific to the job, having an agile approach to tasks and to think like a customer.
She also noted how emerging technology like artificial intelligence and voice recognition is being applied to help patients and solve problems, improving user experience. While creating solutions, it is important to keep in mind all kinds of people who might use the product/service and all their preferences. So, along with digital solutions, she also spoke about developing analog solutions where possible.
The program continued with introductory speeches by three experts, before breaking out into parallel sessions with them. Susan Tillman, head of innovation in global manufacturing and supply at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, spoke about applications of digital technology in global manufacturing and supply, challenges faced and how they overcome them.
Peter van der Putten, director decisioning solutions at Pegasystems, spoke about artificial intelligence (AI) and discussed concerns behind controlling or constraining it. While using AI can help in taking better decisions by judging all available data more accurately, the concern is often of bias or backlash introduced, such as the Uber self-driving car that met with a crash earlier this year in Arizona, USA. Ethics and data security are two important things to be considered, as well as the use of business rules and reasoning to control machine learning algorithms.
Gwenaèlle de Sabran, director of marketing and communication at Orange Healthcare, highlighted digital opportunities in patient care and presented two examples of patient applications they worked on. It was interesting to see how patient journey can be improved at every step, by implementing digital solutions. From simplifying administrative tasks, providing staff with digital tools to facilitate their job and give them more time for patients, facilitating the right treatment by expert professionals, optimizing patient monitoring to then empowering the patient, there are immense benefits of digitalization in healthcare. However, familiarizing oneself with legal regulations pertaining to data security, data sharing, and web hosting in different countries and implementing the same in projects is vital and challenging.
Concluding the event on an inspiring note, Stephanie encouraged the audience to be naturally curious and find out more about current and upcoming technology, to be better informed and take more effective decisions.
After the interactive sessions, all participants had the opportunity to network during the Apéro. HBA is thankful to our two sponsors, Shire and Takeda, as well as to all the volunteers and participants who made this event a great success.
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