A recent report from Deloitte asks how life sciences companies will continue to respond and what areas can they build resiliency going forward as they emerge from the pandemic.
According to the report, the life sciences sector has played a pivotal role amid the COVID-19 pandemic. To cope with the global crisis, traditional competitors partnered to accelerate research and develop the fastest novel vaccine in the history. Governments, health systems, payers, retail pharmacies, and non-profits are now working collaboratively with the sector to provide widespread distribution and administration.
With the introduction of this ‘new-normal’, digitization is broadening the horizon of new possibilities in the life sciences sector. Redefined workplace environments; the shift in health care delivery; and innovative collaborations to create efficiencies are a few examples that are leading to this unprecedented change supported by technological advancements. While pharmaceutical innovation is saving the world, now is the opportunity for biopharma and med-tech companies to sustain this forward momentum.
In Deloitte’s 2021 Global Life Sciences Outlook, it explores the various ways COVID-19 accelerated change within the sector, the changes that are likely to stay, and what can be reimagined and made better. It also explores different scenarios for stakeholders to analyze how these changes can better transform the sector.
Redesigning work, workplace, and workforce, while meeting individual needs
The report says that COVID-19 has fundamentally changed our personal and professional lives. With life sciences companies working from remote locations, workplaces are being reimagined from virtual workspaces to new types of off-site collaboration. Life sciences companies are focusing more on individual needs of employees and promoting well-being. This growth in greater connectivity and the blurred geographical boundaries is also widening the pool of talent and access to skills.
- Organisations should take a more in-depth look at human resources and its evolving new role—encompassing the entirety of work, workplace, and workforce.
- The ability to connect and work from anywhere will continue to create network effects—expanding access to new talent and new partners, while extending an organization’s capabilities.
- It is essential to foster a culture of belonging and innovation for remote workers and redesign work to incorporate true well-being—this will be critical for workforce to thrive and acquire new talent.
- While new agile spaces designed specifically for teams to work and socialize off-site will grow to accommodate a post-COVID world, life science companies could think about repurposing space to drive client innovation.
Accelerated digitisation: New points of care, new roles for pharma and med-tech
According to the report, corporate funding for digital health reached a record US$21.6 billion globally in 2020—an increase of 103% over 2019. One thing is clear—with the help of digital health tools, virtual care can fundamentally change health care access and deliver an improved care experience. Digitization in the life sciences sector has also led to an increase in new point of care systems, digital pharmacy setups, and easy and efficient access to health care.
- Stakeholders are likely to continue funding new digital health innovation in the next year. Health systems are expected to continue making investments and a hybrid model of virtual and in-person visits will likely be the norm post-pandemic.
- Eased regulations during the pandemic increased adoption of telemedicine in many countries, but reimbursement and regulatory policies post-COVID will be key to permanent uptake and growth.
- Digitization has led to new points of care such as easy access to clinical care from home, retail and digital pharmacies, pharmacy vaccinations, drone deliveries, and more.
- The home is a hub of connectivity and emerging as a clinical point of care. Home testing and point-of-care testing are undergoing a revolution, and medtech companies can expect continued competition from consumer tech.
New types of collaborations and clinical trials reshaping research & development
It’s believed that COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation of the pharma sector by several years, the report says. During the pandemic, life sciences saw agility, increased speed to market, and greater efficiencies. While the sector average for a new drug development and review is 8.2 years, the two novel COVID-19 vaccines were developed, tested, and authorized in less than a year. As a result, companies are reassessing and challenging their previous processes to enhance efficiencies. They are also looking at innovative partnerships to excel. Additionally, companies are moving towards virtual trials and remote monitoring to involve more patients into their studies via telemedicine and mobile health care.
- Biopharma companies are adopting various strategies for innovating clinical trials to shorten timelines—including new trial designs, new technologies such as AI, and new strategic partnerships.
- New virtual trial designs enable greater patient involvement and improve clinical trial diversity to draw more valuable insights.
- Planning and resources are key to the success of these new models, especially to address the needs of the vulnerable or marginalized populations.
- Biopharma companies should work collaboratively and transparently with data start-ups to unlock the data necessary to inform transformative approaches in drug development.
The above is an overview of the 2021 Global life sciences outlook from Deloitte. To access the full report, click here.