How do you feel about change? We fear change. Who’d blame you? The pandemic has been either a catalyst or accelerant of boatloads of change over the past two calendar years, including issues extending far beyond the realm of healthcare. It can feel scary and overwhelming at times, but it’s important to remember that the only constant is change. Without change, we’d still be washing our clothes in the river, reading by candlelight, and using leeches to rid our bodies evil spirits. Surely there was an ancient shaman along the way somewhere who had to be told to ditch his slimy blood suckers. That same guy probably thought that the whole world was headed to Hades in a handbag.
Context Is Everything
In other words, context is everything. While we may want to clutch our memories of a pre-pandemic world like your great aunt clutches her pearls, it is entirely possible that society in general may come out of the other end stronger for it. RNA research has certainly taken a monumental step forward.
So why not the whole pharmaceutical and healthcare industries too? We’ve gathered five critical issues facing pharma and healthcare, and while most are byproducts of crisis, do not lose sight of the silver lining.
- Adjusting to telehealth
COVID-19 has necessitated quarantine and social distancing protocols. The way it has trickled down to healthcare is the meteoric rise of telehealth. Physicians, nurses, therapists, and other caregivers have been forced to completely immerse themselves in technology over which many likely felt trepidation previously. While the shift to using devices that alleviate the need for patient and doctor to occupy the same space probably isn’t permanent across the entire spectrum, it has grown into an extremely viable option when called upon. In fact, in fields such as mental health and psychiatry, telehealth is so effective it is likely to have a longer tail once the pandemic has subsided significantly.
- Clinical trial delays
Similarly, clinical trials experienced great interruptions and even at times full discontinuation due to the pandemic. Thousands of trials across the world were affected. The trickle-down effect is that a significant amount of drug development and funding has been lost. New drugs derived from successful trials were also lost. However, the situation has produced new ways of executing trials using virtual technology and fewer in-person interactions. Processes have been simplified through risk-based, data-driven approaches that decentralize the trial model to gain efficiencies.
- Digesting enormous volumes of data
These trials and other research — particularly those for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments — produce an unprecedented amount of data and information. So much so, the pharmaceutical industry has turned to technological solutions to organize and manage it all, as well as produce helpful insights. Justifiably so because there’s just no reasonable way to get your arms around this amount of information manually. Thankfully, we have artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to help us make practical use out of every bit of data we get out of research and smart manufacturing sensors.
- Supply chain disruptions
Pharmaceutical supply chains have experienced their share of issues. Drug shortages are a problem. Forty-six percent of global supply chain leaders have experienced shortages on both COVID-19-related and unrelated therapeutics during the pandemic. Seventy percent report their supply chain is vulnerable to ongoing problems caused by the continuation of the pandemic, and that on-time, in-full delivery of medicines had deteriorated by almost 50 percent within the initial few months of the pandemic.
Indeed, 94 percent of life sciences executives and 86 percent of provider execs say that improving their supply chain overall has been a priority in 2021. Even 82 percent of pharmaceutical and life sciences executives anticipate reshoring components of their supply chains in the next two to five years in order to alleviate some of their issues.
To address supply chain challenges in the pharma and healthcare space, ThinkIQ leverages expertise in the food & beverage and mining & metals industries to trace raw materials from production to patient delivery. We apply Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing principles — including our semantic model and material ledger — to improve yield, quality, safety, compliance, and patient confidence while reducing waste and shortages. Our methods have been proven out with significant production yield gains (doubling in some instances) and virtual elimination of recalls (99.999 percent) for major multinational branded consumer foods.
The pandemic has brought an entirely new level of visibility to the challenges and realities of bringing new prescription drugs, pharmaceuticals, and personalized medications through FDA approval to market. Consumers are increasingly thinking about the broader repercussions of their lifestyles and are asking harder questions about where their prescriptions are coming from and how it was treated along the way.
- Up-skilling the workforce
A common through-point is that advances in technology are available to alleviate these issues. But technology isn’t the end-all-be-all solution. As automated as AI, ML, the internet of things, and big data makes us, there is still the need for a highly competent workforce. Scientists, researchers, developers, and those on the manufacturing floor are all vital to advancing pharma and healthcare forward. Qualified candidates with deep background and experience will become as valuable as ever, doubly so if they’re able to man the incoming thrust of Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing technology.
Ready to embrace change and use it to your advantage? Talk to a ThinkIQ expert to learn more about tackling your critical issues today. We also have a new selection guide eBook to help you better understand the questions you should be asking. Download your copy today.