Digital transformation in healthcare and drug development

September 12, 2019


"If you went to bed last night as an industrial company, you're going to wake up today as a software and analytics company," CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt

We are living in a new digital world which is evolving every day. Both personally and professionally, we rely on technology for many of our routine activities, and examples of digitization are prevalent across industries. Retail is a big example of how several chains have moved from physical stores to creating an online presence. In some years from now, people perhaps won’t have to learn driving as more self-driven cars will hit the road. Healthcare does not fall far behind in this race towards digitization.

In this blog, we will examine some of the different ways that digitization is set to shift the drug development paradigm.


Meeting the needs of the aging population

A rise in the aging population all over the world adds to the increasing demand for medical care. This has a direct impact on healthcare costs. Healthcare providers and insurance companies, especially in US, are trying to understand the effectiveness of the drugs in the real-world setting and are finding innovative methods of cost containment. We now have digital alternatives such as doctors on demand and video doctors. These technology applications enable you to meet your primary physician using a video link. This not only offers convenience but also saves a lot of dollars in infrastructure set up.

Use of machine learning

Many hospitals today are using machine learning for prevention and intervention. We are now on the path of looking at data and predicting outcomes or trajectories of where patients are going. An example of this is Google DeepMind that is best known for its patient monitoring Streams app, which is used by doctors and clinicians in hospitals across the UK. There are other products like Propeller that help asthma patients stick to their treatment and help them learn the causes of their flare-ups.

An influx of non-healthcare, technology providers

Outside of pharmaceutical and life sciences companies, there are other vendors entering the healthcare market. Some of us have the Apple HealthKit integrated into our health and fitness apps for iOS and watchOS. Google-founded pharmaceutical company Verily Life Science is actively partnering with other drug companies to create new classes of drugs like bioelectronic medicines. There are vendors who create games that help with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Technology and healthcare are collaborating as we have never seen before.

Increasing presence on social media

Today, patients are more involved in how they receive healthcare. With so many of us on social media, you probably may have come across online communities where people talk about diseases and how they can support each other. Research is turning to social media platforms to understand the patient perspective as social media data can be used for retrospective collection of patient experience. Large volumes of publicly available data can be easily extracted, allowing for accelerated, real-time and cost-effective data collection. 

Support from regulatory authorities

“Digital technologies are one of the most promising tools we have for making health care more efficient and more patient-focused,” said former commissioner of FDA, Scott Gottlieb. In his speech, he went on to say that new approaches and new technologies can help expand the sources of evidence that we can use to make more reliable treatment decisions. This year, the FDA published a discussion paper “Proposed Regulatory Framework for Modifications to Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML)-Based Software as a Medical Device (SaMD)”. It is considering a total product lifecycle-based regulatory framework for these technologies that would allow for modifications to be made from real-world learning and adaptation, while still ensuring that the safety and effectiveness of the software as a medical device is maintained. Likewise, regulatory bodies across the globe are beginning to realize the power of technology in improving healthcare and have started building programs of their own.

Digitization in healthcare and increased access to data is expected to impact drug development. Francis Kendall and Ursula Garczarek from Cytel, further explore this topic and discuss the promising real-world evidence applications in an on-demand webinar.

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