Smart devices will improve pharma sales: survey

85% of respondents said they believe using intelligent hardware, sensors and devices will help the industry shift from selling pills to selling outcomes.
85% of respondents said they believe using intelligent hardware, sensors and devices will help the industry shift from selling pills to selling outcomes.

A survey conducted by Accenture found that life-sciences executives continue to warm up to the idea of using wearables and other intelligent hardware, saying technology will be the catalyst for the industry's move into outcome-based sales.

Using wearables and other new technologies and collecting real-world data are expected to improve patient care, promote better understanding and adherence of prescription drugs and foster a linear relationship between the drugmaker and the customer.

Accenture's survey, released Sept. 15, shows that pharma executives are beginning to wake up to the potential benefits of new technology. Seventy-three percent of the 100 executives polled said they were using or experimenting with wearables and smart devices to engage customers, employees and business partners.

A prominent example is Biogen's partnership with PatientslikeMe. They teamed up to examine the use of fitness-wearable Fitbits in patients with multiple sclerosis in 2014. The drugmaker and patient portal found that Fitbits helped those patients become more active, which ultimately improved their quality of life.

The use of and experimentation with these tools also signal something greater than increasing sales or awareness for one brand or product—executives told Accenture they believe these tools represent a paradigm shift in the pharma business model. About 85% of respondents said they believe using intelligent hardware, sensors and devices will help the industry shift from selling pills to selling outcomes.

This is becoming increasingly important as drugmakers believe that payments in the future will be tied to how their pills perform in real-world settings, as opposed to just the clinical trial.

Novartis in 2013 spearheaded a two-day hackathon aimed at developing mobile solutions to help caregivers with heart failure. It named Sense.ly, a virtual medical assistant that lets users remotely monitor a patient diagnosed with congestive heart failure, the winning solution. Novartis's heart-failure drug Entresto was recently approved by the FDA. The drugmaker has publicly shared plans to develop risk-sharing programs that would allow the company to charge more for the drug if it keeps patients out of the hospital.