The biopharmaceutical industry is making a fundamental shift from a product focus to a patient and health system outcome focus. Digital solutions are injecting process improvement and additional value across the enterprise, from R&D to Commercial to Medical Affairs. It is this combination of changes that led Accenture to conduct a survey of top global R&D executives to see how these dynamics are impacting their organizations.



Key Findings

R&D organizations in biopharmaceutical companies have a number of options to make the transition to focusing on patient outcomes—a transition that our research shows the vast majority want to make. Where are they investing in now to get there, and what do they see as the highest barriers to achieving this goal?

An Accenture survey of US and European R&D executives generated a number of insights about how leaders and followers are moving toward this goal. Among the key findings:

Improving patient outcomes ranked as the #1 priority of R&D.

99% of respondents report that transforming their R&D model to be more patient outcome focused is critical or very important.

Digital is recognized as the primary driver of becoming more focused on patient outcomes.

1 in 4 executives said that digital will have the greatest impact on their R&D organization in becoming more patient-focused.

Adoption of digital is fragmented; half of respondents are "all in" while others are exploring or taking a "wait and see" approach.

Despite the shared belief that digital can deliver sharper patient focus and improved outcomes, survey respondents are split over the pace of adoption.

Companies taking advantage of digital report stronger performance in other R&D capabilities.

Digital is seen as critical to firms’ ability to use real-world data analytics, enable core process redesign of Target Product Profile and Clinical Development Plan, make more effective use of Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs), and collaborate with their own and other commercial organizations.


Together these findings suggest that Life Sciences firms, and the R&D organizations within them, are at a crossroads in terms of moving to a patient outcome oriented model. R&D executives clearly want to contribute to improving patient outcomes, and see a place for digital in their organizations for helping accomplish this goal. The difference in investment strategies, however, may mean that the journey to that destination may be far longer for some than others. With just over half of the executives surveyed identifying integration of external patient data and increasing patient input at trials as priorities, there appears to be a difference of opinion as to what is actually needed to be patient outcome focused. While some companies are taking a broader perspective and investing in improving internal and external collaboration, frequently by leveraging digital enablers, others remain wedded to more traditional approaches.


Digital can help R&D organizations make the right decision about which products and services will improve patient outcomes more quickly. R&D teams could consider the following in their quest to be more patient outcome focused:

Thinking innovatively to gain market growth in specific therapeutic areas. TAs such as lifestyle diseases or most chronic illnesses, as well as customer segments like non-mobile patients, provide the best opportunity to think broadly and differently about the strategy to engage patients to ensure improved outcomes.

Enabling stronger collaboration with the internal commercial organization as well as third parties. The goal could be to identify needed patient engagement services or deficits in patient outcomes that could be closed by digital solutions.

Outlining a digital strategy that aligns with current company and R&D priorities. For each strategic goal, identify digital enablers that reflect the same scope, objective, competitive differentiation, patient value.

Mapping specific digital enablers to major clinical processes as well as to important stakeholders. Defining quantifiable value, ideal outcomes and experiences for investigators, patients, caregivers, vendors (CROs) etc. can help breakthrough traditional mindsets about whether digital is necessary to serve these stakeholders.

Fostering a more digital culture and mindset by investing in or leveraging existing digital skills in R&D.

About the Research

Accenture surveyed 76 R&D leaders at US-based and European biopharmaceutical firms to identify what R&D teams are doing to make this shift, and how they are investing to ensure success.

Company Headquarter & Respondent Location




United Kingdom

United States

Revenue of Respondent Organization

$1-5 Billion

$6-10 Billion

$11-25 Billion

>$25 Billion

of respondents were the firm’s most senior R&D executive or senior divisional R&D executive.

of respondents were the firm’s senior R&D technology executive.