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January 27, 2015
At a tipping point: How can life sciences companies use patient monitoring to redefine their place in the digital revolution?
By: Andrea Brueckner

When news recently broke of Novartis’ collaboration with Google on a blood sugar-tracking contact lens, the story made headlines around the globe.1 The news comes as the life sciences industry reaches a tipping point between developing drugs, and enhancing and prolonging lives by building a more complete understanding of patients. Retail and technology giants like Nike, Apple and Google have largely contributed to this shift. They’ve met consumer expectations for 24/7 access to data and interconnectivity of devices. So, why are so many life sciences companies noticeably absent from filling this need?

Life sciences companies face a whole different set of barriers

Until now, life sciences companies have taken a conservative approach when it comes to patient monitoring. That’s because, there’s a big difference between wellness applications that chart fitness activity, and applications that provide clinically relevant guidance. Because the latter is classified as a medical device, life sciences companies are up against strict regulations that mandate clinical trials be conducted, and trust and privacy concerns be addressed. And, because the intent is to develop devices for global use, many drug companies in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America face lengthy approval processes and possible delays as they vie for US FDA approval. But, for those life sciences companies whose devices do make it through, the proposition is attractive.

The case for digital healthcare has never been stronger

By helping patients monitor their own health, life sciences companies can directly contribute to lowering the costs of managing chronic diseases and improving patient outcomes. In Spain’s Basque Country, for instance, managing patients with chronic conditions absorbs 77 percent of the area’s healthcare budget. With Spain’s Health Authority’s multichannel health services center and remote monitoring solution, the region saved $55 million in its first year thanks to fewer hospital visits and unplanned hospital stays.2 Reducing healthcare costs is only one part of the equation, however. Baxter International’s recent groundbreaking launch of the VIVIA hemodialysis system is helping to improve the quality of life and outcomes for patients with renal disease. The system allows physicians and nurses to remotely monitor home therapy through a physician portal and an alert dashboard, meaning patients can be treated in the comfort of their own homes.3

Becoming a digital leader in life sciences

The challenge for life sciences companies today is to redefine their place in this new digitally-enabled world by embedding technology into the DNA of their operating models. A focus on four key areas will be critical: collaboration, real-world patient data, value analytics, and patient and healthcare provider services. AstraZeneca is exemplifying the trend toward collaboration. Teaming with Vodafone, the drug company recently announced a partnership in cardiovascular technology.4 Then there’s WellDoc’s BlueStar platform that’s demonstrating the power of real-world patient data. Recently approved by the FDA, the platform is the first mobile prescription therapy for Type-2 diabetes. It provides real-time motivational, behavioral and educational coaching to help patients self-manage their diabetes treatment plan.5

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