The internet of things, known as IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. In other words, IoT is the evolution of internet that, thanks to the digital technology, allows the exchange of information between objects connected each other.
From the Internet of Things (IoT) to the Internet of Everything (IoE)
Although IoT represents something innovative, we are already moving towards a new era: internet of everything (IoE). This approach has been proposed for the first time by CISCO, who found as restrictive the “things approach”, supporting the idea that connection potentiality is not just among things but among everything (i.e. things, data, processes and people). So, this new approach highlights the dynamic interaction “person-object” that will be the at the base of the evolution of doing business and consuming.
It is clear that we are going towards a real digital transformation that will have a relevant impact on companies, business model, consumers models and society. But how does it impact on pharma industry from a practice and operative point of view? Pharma is probably one the most challenging industries IoE will probably have relevant impact on. This new approach is connecting the unconnected where each single node of the network provides real-time feedbacks that will modify the behavior of the other actors. For example, imagine how a real-time feedback of medication adherence could modify the HCP scheduling, doctors’ attitude, R&D, sales & marketing etc. This is the case of Abilify MyCite, the first FDA-approved “smart pill”, a revolutionary pill with a digital ingestion tracking system that, thanks to an embedded sensor, once ingested sends a message to a wearable patch that then transmits the information about medication adherence to a mobile application.
The concept of “chip in a pill” is like those of medical devices such as HeartLogic, the FDA-approved implantable device predicting potential heart failure events weeks in advance. These are just some examples highlighting how we are moving towards an even more personalized medicine where the patients become essential actors because “knowledge holders”, allowing the doctor to learn more about the patient’s health condition and set the appropriate therapy. Today the doctor-patient relationship is basically a dyadic relationship in which the part of the “knowledge holder” belongs to the doctor while the patient has a passive perspective. IoE is allowing the so-called democratizing health, where now the patients plays an active role. This new patient centricity approach links to the Gartner vision according to whom “people themselves will become nodes on the Internet, with both static information and a constantly emitting activity system”.
The impact on pharma from a practice and operative point of view.
But IoE not only is changing the patient experience, now defined as digital journey, but also is making a dramatic difference in other areas of the industry ranging from R&D to sales and marketing or from clinical development to manufacturing and supply chain. The reasons why pharma industry is rapidly becoming an IoE “pioneer” are to be found in its more reactive than proactive approach over the years. From one hand, this slow time-to-react to technology implementation is probably due to strict regulations and domain complexities surrounding this industry. But the elevated falling R&D productivity, the even more increasing costs, the decreasing compliance adherence and in general the high society expectations have dramatically put pressure on it. Although IoE adoption could potentially have positive impact along all the chain, this explains why R&D, clinical development, sales and marketing, supply chain and patient centricity are the areas will likely gain most benefits from. From a practice point of view, as regard R&D for example, advanced analytics tools will allow to rapidly run multi-stage diagnostics trials. Similarly, using IoE sensors will provide vital diagnostics and real-time reporting that will allow pharmaceutical companies to minimize the risk of clinical trials failure. Once the production has been completed and the drugs leave the plant, they have to travel facing to another challenging issue such as the temperature and weather condition fluctuation. This “issue” is generally well kept under control by the use of special packages, refrigerated vehicles and temperature-controlled containers among others. Nonetheless, loss of huge sums of money due to drug disintegration because temperature deviation is something still affecting pharma companies. For this reason, all major stakeholders are looking to implement IoE enabled devices in order to create fully integrated smart supply chains. Most companies are already using IoE-based technology in the supply chain by introducing embedded sensors for real-time monitoring of goods. This approach will be extended to Quality & Regulatory, that will be able to better take under control information necessaries to reduce side effects rate by improving drug safety. Lastly, all these data will allow sales managers for generating fitted business value insights, and they will be extremely useful for marketing during the product launch, pricing all related targeting and positioning strategies. As general consideration, it in turn results in cost and productivity optimization, faster time-to-market, while data from digital devices can help health care professionals to personalize therapies that will improve compliance adherence by increasing drug efficacy and reducing treatment period, thus resulting in improved both patient and health care professionals engagement.
Internet of Everything is becoming more and more reality. Although it is still in its starting phase of implementation across pharma industry, IoE adoption is mandatory for Pharma companies. Surely this will require companies to undergo restructuring steps of the entire business model by using next generation architecture. On one hand, it represents the value added to the business; on the other hand, it highlights huge opportunities for innovation that are already leading to a new digital transformation era in Pharma.
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