You don’t need to be clued into the expansive pharmaceutical industry to understand that it’s one of the biggest and fastest growing sectors of the international market. Valued at $86 billion as of 2015, it’s one of the biggest industries in the world and shows no signs of slowing. But while growth continues steadily upwards, big pharma companies are increasingly looking to software developers to improve patient experience and increase revenue.
Patient experience is a wide-ranging term used to describe how consumers interact with the medical services and products they receive. As technology improves and becomes more decentralized, users are looking to get more directly involved with their healthcare. Consumers are beginning to expect their patient experiences to fall in line with the way they order goods online or hail cars from a ridesharing service. As described by Alison Kanski at MM&M, users, not companies, are the primary disrupting factors when it comes to innovating patient experiences.
All About Patient Experience
Big pharma and health care are some of the last areas for consumers in the digital age where nearly all interactions are reactive instead of proactive. Consider when you order something from Amazon. You might now know what you’re looking for, but you search around, read reviews, compare prices and ultimately make a decision. There is agency on the consumer side. You’re driving the experience.
In modern pharma, on the other hand, the experience is much more reactive. Patients don’t always have detailed reminders for medications or copies of their own health assessments. There is a tremendous amount of inertia when it comes to patient outcomes and ensuring successful administration of medications. While patients are provided instruction on when and how to take medications, the day-to-day interactions, reminders, assessments and experiences are still in large part missing. In other words, the vast majority of patient experiences are on-rails experiences, with little input from users on what should happen to them and when.
When it comes to today’s key software innovators, this unintuitive and outdated patient experience is fertile ground for disrupting the existing status quo. The software industry has grown exponentially over the years, affecting and shaping nearly every other industry. While much of big pharma has been slow to adopt the cutting-edge of software development, some are embracing it and using it to revolutionize the healthcare industry.
Where Pharma And Software Stand Now
Like many other industries, medical companies have relied on SaaS (software as a service) suites to manage their sales and related data. However, some organizations are embracing CRMs in order to manage their patients. These customized CRMs are able to aggregate patient data, offer suggestions and promote interactions between health care providers and their patients.
When it comes to patient experience, though, we’re already seeing major pharmaceutical corporations using mobile apps to promote interactivity and engagement between themselves and their end users or patients. For example, Pfizer has found success with its app, Quitter’s Circle. Designed using feedback and input from those looking to stop smoking, the app focuses on the positive engagement between the user and the software. While Pfizer doesn’t generate income from the app, its experience creating it has helped it to identify and understand what end users are looking for in-patient experiences.
Another critical use of software in the pharmaceuticals space is in clinical trials aimed at gaining FDA approval. Due to strict governmental reporting deadlines and the sensitive nature of trial data, specialized software is ideal in order to gather consistent data and parse it into useful information for scientists and doctors to analyze.
In the same vein of classified patient data is a project my company contributed to: the Harvard LAMP (Learn, Assess, Manage, Prevent) Project. It’s a mobile application that helps test and monitor mental health patients. The data is securely stored and shared with researchers who are monitoring users on an individual basis. The proliferation of smart devices allows patients of all income levels and technical proficiency access to high-quality diagnostic tests.
Looking To The Future
While some big pharma companies are slowly coming around to embracing the digital age, others are diving in with both feet. Silicon Valley is rife with startups aimed at reshaping the modern medical industry as we know it — and big pharma is keen to acquire or invest in the most promising startups.
The Future Of Pharma
A report published by CBInsights in April 2017 states that digital health startups raised over $6 billion the previous year. This staggering amount includes funding from leading companies like Merck, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson. Whether or not these organizations are actively developing and releasing apps is less important to consider than their long-term bets on cutting-edge startups and custom software.
From these acquisitions and investments, large pharma corporations are looking to lay the foundation for how they interact with patients and users for decades to come. They are looking to forge the industry standards and formats that will shape user experiences and new areas of revenue on fundamental levels. It’s no exaggeration to say that the performance of these startups will determine the fortunes of these multibillion-dollar corporations.
The Future Of Software
The other half of the patient experience equation are the very developers that design and code the software. Critics within big pharma are quick to point out that sensitive medical data is on a completely different level of privacy from credit cards, online game accounts and online browsing history. Federal regulations and HIPPA compliance guidelines mandate tighter controls.
But if any industry has proven time and time again that it can handle increasingly complex and demanding technical project requirements, it’s the mobile software industry. With advances in both artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies, it’s only a matter of time before the entire industry focuses on creating and innovating patient experiences.