Skip to main content Skip to Footer

How the cloud is revolutionizing life sciences


Cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) IT models are revolutionizing most industry sectors around the world, and have had a profound impact on life sciences. This impact has been felt especially in the areas of sales and marketing. Traditional promotion strategies and modes of interaction with physicians have become increasingly ineffective for life sciences companies, but the cloud—specifically, SaaS solutions for sales, call centers and marketing campaign management—has improved productivity, variabilized cost bases and enabled teams to collaborate more effectively.

But now it gets harder. Life sciences companies looking to extend the cloud’s impact into areas such as R&D and the supply chain are encountering legitimate concerns about protecting intellectual property and demonstrating compliance with industry regulations regarding privacy and reporting.

Fortunately, the cloud is growing in sophistication through better overall security and by offering solutions tailored specifically to particular industry needs. Life sciences companies now have the opportunity to accelerate their adoption of the cloud across broader parts of their organization and value chain—accelerating new-product development, improving patient outcomes and enabling expansion into new markets, all while reducing costs and creating a more agile operating model.

Accenture sees cloud-based solutions generating growth for the life sciences industry through three major trends.


More personalized medicine
Life sciences companies will engage with clinicians, payers and patients in social ecosystems, resulting in more personalized medicine and better outcomes for patients.

Cloud platforms can enable life sciences companies to work more effectively with other stakeholders, such as payers and accountable-care organizations. For example, life sciences companies could provide regular updates on patient progress and compliance. Doing this would require establishing better modes of collaboration among payers, life sciences companies, diagnostic firms, physicians and patients—a goal that cloud technologies can definitely support.

Payers and life sciences companies can also work together to improve the ability to engage with consumers and serve them over time as their life circumstances change. Cloud platforms provide unique opportunities to generate insights into consumer needs. Analytics engines allow life sciences companies to sort through various types of data to determine key drivers of patient behaviors.

Sales reps can also use cloud-based solutions to tag content that resonates positively with different audiences. By better understanding consumer segments and their needs, life sciences companies can develop more targeted ways to engage consumers with innovative and relevant health solutions.

Social media on cloud-based platforms will also grow more important, helping life sciences companies to better collaborate both within their organization and across the broader industry ecosystem. As this happens, Accenture expects to see SaaS solutions using less structured content, such as that associated with tracking sales functions, and instead using more unstructured content from social media and the Internet, generated by physicians, consumers and other members of the life sciences ecosystem.

Such digital content will continue to grow rapidly, and as service-based offerings in the cloud mature, there will be more opportunities to distribute and reuse both structured and unstructured data.


Better new-product development
New medicines and services will be developed drawing on external innovation and data from multiple sources.

Many new cloud-based platforms have been launched to support more effective cross-enterprise collaboration in the life sciences industry. For example, the European Bioinformatics Institute moved its genome browser tool, Ensembl, to the cloud to get faster access to information. The 2012 launch of TransCelerate BioPharma (TBI) by 10 large biopharmaceutical companies to drive pre-competitive industry solutions also highlights the thirst for new models of collaboration.

These types of collaborative platforms also support the outsourcing of R&D tasks, a trend that can significantly reduce fixed costs. Consider the virtual laboratory platform created by AstraZeneca and its partners, accessible through a secure channel from any device with an Internet connection. The laboratory includes virtual staff from thousands of contract research organizations. Features such as ratings and reviews guide scientists looking for help in running their experiments.

Another important trend is aggregating data from clinical trials executed by various partners including contract research organizations, academic institutions and teaching hospitals. One major pharmaceutical company has instituted a new model for executing clinical trials using data aggregation services developed by Accenture and based on the Oracle Life Sciences Data Hub. Another important trend is aggregating data from clinical trials executed by various partners including contract research organizations, academic institutions and teaching hospitals.

We believe that as the R&D function leverages cloud capabilities more effectively over the next few years, life sciences firms will layer service components onto their products. Digital channels will facilitate direct communication between life sciences companies and the consumers of their products. This direct channel can be used to gather data as well as to deliver services wrapped around a product offering, with the intent of improving adherence to regimens and promoting health. Such services are likely to represent an increasingly large percentage of the revenue stream for life sciences.


A global operating model
Life sciences companies will leverage a more global operating model, opening the door to new partnerships and expanded markets.

The basis of competitive advantage in the life sciences industry will increasingly focus on content—the massive amounts of data gathered from patients, physicians, payers, R&D and academia. Companies that own the management and analysis of that content, as well as the processes surrounding it, will have an advantage. The services associated with the gathering and consumption of the data will be channeled through the cloud. Leaders in the market will create a ubiquitous content environment for building relationships with patients and providers using the channel of their choice.

Thanks to the cloud, the global flow of data both to and from life sciences companies will transform how pharmaceutical companies go to market.

Serving global markets depends on being super global and super local at the same time. Instead of operating through disparate systems supporting regional business units, a single global system supported by cloud platforms can be accessible from anywhere in the world, with a user experience more consistent across countries.

Making the supply chain more efficient is another benefit of cloud platforms. Consider Pfizer’s supply chain, which must meet the dramatically different delivery requirements for the patented and generic drug markets. Through a recent supply chain initiative, Pfizer required its 500 suppliers to implement a cloud-based common information exchange framework on which each supplier was represented as a node on a virtual supply chain. Such visibility is important to expanding to global markets.


Rethinking, reshaping and restructuring for better patient outcomes
If life sciences companies are to drive a new era of growth, their R&D functions will need to catch up with—and even surpass—their sales and marketing functions in cloud adoption. As they move from early-stage adoption to global R&D focused on patient outcomes, life sciences firms can realize increasing levels of value by leveraging the cloud to rethink and restructure their business models toward the goal of better patient outcomes.

Thanks to cloud technologies, companies can gain the flexibility to experiment with better patient-based approaches without unnecessary investments in technical infrastructure. Cloud-based solutions can help companies work more effectively across the stakeholder ecosystem, access the latest technologies and drive the kind of innovation necessary to remain competitive in a volatile industry.


Anne O’Riordan is the industry managing director of Accenture Life Sciences.

Hussain Mooraj is a managing director and the global lead for the Accenture Life Sciences Supply Chain group.

Raj Bhasin leads the development of Accenture’s Life Sciences Technology Vision and Technology Architecture blueprints.

The following executives also contributed to this article:
Geoffrey D. Schmidt, a managing director in the Accenture Life Sciences R&D group, leads the company’s R&D Technology organization.

Rajive Wickramasing is a managing director in Accenture’s Emerging Technology group.