The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.
Healthcare is undergoing significant change. Digital solutions are revolutionising the way we develop and deliver the medicines that patients need by vastly improving the speed, efficiency, and quality of discovery, development, manufacturing and delivery.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for the decentralisation of clinical trials, the development of new platforms to engage with healthcare providers (HCPs), and the scaling of e-commerce.
This transformation across the pharmaceutical industry has been remarkably rapid and exciting to be part of. At Sanofi, we are striving to becoming the leading digital healthcare platform that best serves employees, researchers, healthcare practitioners, health authorities, and patients.
The journey to a digital future for healthcare will require us to embrace data democratisation, to harness the power of data, and to build innovative digital solutions across our value chain – from research and clinical development all the way to patient engagement.
In R&D, we are leveraging big data sets and using artificial intelligence (AI) to expedite the drug discovery and development process and ultimately unlock better experiences and outcomes for patients. In particular, we are leveraging machine learning to more efficiently evaluate drug candidates and discover new targets that can assist researchers in optimising molecules when they are in development.
Automating clinical trials
We believe the duration and cost of clinical trials can be significantly reduced by automating processes, leveraging real-world evidence data sets, and creating predictive models to simulate trial outcomes.
In parallel, clinical trials have become increasingly decentralised and are requiring researchers to conduct more inclusive and accessible studies. From the use of electronic signatures for approvals to patients wearing devices to monitor their habits and health patterns appropriately, the future of health is not only digital but also close to home.
One study found that more than half (54 per cent) of rare disease patients believe home-based research visits would increase the likelihood of participation in research. Such improvement would accelerate readouts and ultimately the development of new medicines.
Data can also be leveraged to discover valuable health trends by geography or patient type, better inform healthcare professional of patient behaviour and use of products, and help teams distribute medical products more efficiently than ever before. In factories, digitalisation is a critical lever for improving operational performance, from supply chain management to mainstream productivity gains.
At the same time, digital channels such as social media and chatbots drive disease awareness, improve the speed at which patients can be diagnosed, and help patients understand where to find professional support. And once a treatment is prescribed by a doctor, digital tools can increase adherence and enable self-management to improve patient outcomes.
New digital skills needed
This future of health will require new skills in our industry and data scientists, software engineers and developers, product managers, and scrum masters will have to work closely together to find practical and innovative solutions.
In parallel, the development methodology and mindset must change from multi-year projects to agile delivery of iterative solutions that can quickly leverage new data sets, new digital tools and channels, and new cloud solutions.
Disruptive entrepreneurs also have a large role to play. Sanofi, Capgemini, Generali, and Orange recently jointly announced the launch of "Future4care," Europe’s first health-focused startup accelerator program.
Through Future4care, healthcare professionals, researchers, and academics will collaborate across hospitals, healthcare institutions, academia, and patient advocacy organisations, to redefine health and medicine for people worldwide.
We’ve seen how digital has transformed other industries, and made its way into the lives of consumers all over the world. We are witnessing—and driving—a similar transformation in the healthcare industry that will enable us to achieve important scientific innovation and breakthroughs, change the practice of medicine, and ultimately improve the lives of countless patients in need.
- Arnaud Robert is the Chief Digital Officer at Sanofi