Pharma is reluctant to adopt digital in R&D: survey



The pharma industry's focus on improving patient outcomes in clinical trials has been hindered by inconsistent adoption of digitally-focused strategies in research and development, according to a new report from Accenture Life Sciences.

By providing better services around their products and using technology to better inform clinical trials, experts have said drugmakers can improve patient outcomes in their R&D efforts. All of these efforts are aimed at providing a better experience for patients, and, ultimately, improving their health.

See also: Mobile sensors and digital devices may cut costs at GSK

Some potential examples of embracing digital in R&D are using advancing modeling and simulation techniques to accelerate product development, according to a McKinsey report. Other examples include the use of connected devices and social engagement with patients.

Accenture surveyed 76 R&D executives in the U.S. and Europe and found that adoption of digital within R&D across these companies is inconsistent — although the executives said they believe digital is the primary driver to improve patient outcomes. The majority of respondents work for drugmakers in the $1 billion to $5 billion revenue range.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said they are adopting digital as a key strategy in R&D, while 42% said their firm is only exploring how digital might improve their organizations.

“Only half of the R&D pharma execs that we surveyed were really adopting digital,” said Nicole Cohen, managing director of life sciences for Accenture. “We thought it would be much higher.”

Cohen said the reason for this inconsistency is due to different operating philosophies. “You have a lot of companies who are leaning in to see what companies can bring and see [digital] as a differentiator to provide the best possible experience, and then you have companies who are piloting,” she added. “They may not be adopting but they're exploring.”

See also: GSK will enlist inhaler sensor to improve clinical trials

Some drugmakers, like GlaxoSmithKline, have developed a mobile health strategy that includes the use of patient-centric endpoints in its trials to better inform safety, efficacy, and health outcomes. The company is using digital devices now in more than 20 of its trials. The British drugmaker also signed a deal with Propeller Health in December to use Propeller's sensor technology in clinical trials for its Ellipta inhaler. The sensor records when and where the inhaler is used.

The Accenture survey found that the companies actively adopting digital in R&D reported stronger capabilities in using real-word data analytics and using digital to more effectively use medical science liaisons.

Incorporating patient input in clinical-trial research was met with mixed reactions from executives: 53% felt that “enabling more emphasis on patient input into clinical research was important to patient outcomes.”

Executives ranked the use of external health data as the greatest opportunity to enhance R&D capabilities, followed by the use of wearable devices and mobile health in R&D, the use of social media for patient recruitment, and, lastly, the development of clinical trials in the patient's home.

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