New Delhi: During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has emerged as a major player in healthcare management and advancements around the world. From automating supply systems and healthcare consultation processes to accelerating drug discovery and delivery and ensuring fast and safe access for all, the IT sector has cemented its key position in the pharmaceutical industry.
Pharmaceutical industry leaders 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 organized by ETHealthworld. Gaurav Arya, Executive Director, Health Nerds International, will moderate. The session panellists 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 opened the discussion by stating that technology is a big factor in improving healthcare. He asked Misra a question about how the IT ecosystem is integrating with the pharmaceutical industry’s vision of being a global innovator. Misra pointed out that today IT is much more than just an enabler, and is in fact the center of medical advances, citing IT as the most critical part of any pharma lifecycle from drug discovery to mass distribution.
He said: “We have seen over the years that most pharmaceutical companies are moving towards IT-OT integration. I’ve watched robotic automation and smart manufacturing become the norm. After the ERP era, we are now in the era of clinical trials with heavy application loads and remote monitoring of distant systems.”
Commenting on the role IT and COVID-19 play in advancing medicines, Misra added: “The time between drug discovery and time to market has decreased from 12 to eight years. Now our goal is to shorten the time cycle to four years while ensuring that the drug reaches and benefits the patient. The biggest enabler in our life cycle was the coronavirus. Within two years, the clinical trials were conducted and the vaccine was ready. This has set a new benchmark for pharmaceutical companies in terms of how quickly we can go to market, particularly through the use of technology.”
dr Arya continued the discourse by asking Neerali to share his insights on the correct use of data and then AI and machine learning to support the pharmaceutical industry. Neerali explained the mismanagement and ignorance of pre-COVID-19 data. He said: “Data and its assets used to be extremely fragmented and isolated. They weren’t connected at all, thanks to COVID there has been a lot of focus on our ecosystem, especially data-generated insights. In recent years we have tried to fill these data gaps and have gained many insights in the process. That was the first fundamental step.”
He also explained the way in which data must be used in order for it to have impact and lead to effective change. “We consider three main principles when deciding how to extract insights from data. Whether it’s big enough to chase a particular idea, whether it’s relevant to the intended uses, and whether it’s surprising. When the realization is a known fact, people tend to dismiss it, and then change management, adoption, and widespread deployment of technology becomes much more difficult,” Neerali added.
dr Arya agreed with Neerali’s findings, adding, “It’s encouraging to see collaborations between different organizations within the healthcare industry because until a few years ago data was considered my property and not yours, that’s changing now. It’s patient data, it belongs to the community, and it’s great to see it being used in this way so that it can help improve patient outcomes in the future.”
Bachal then echoed the panel members’ opinions, saying, “Data is the new oil. Anyone who has been in this business for ten to twelve years is sitting on a data gold mine. Getting the most out of this data requires the right combination of advanced technology. We need to invest in technology that helps analyze data faster.”
Panel members closed the session with the message that technology is a must to drive and accelerate research, innovation, discovery, business expansion and equitable access to the masses, not only in the pharmaceutical industry but in all industries around the world.