Digital in 2018In recent months, life sciences organizations have accelerated digital success through dedication to new ideas, approaches and updated mindsets. GSK(1) and Novartis(2) recently identified chief digital officers responsible for crafting digital strategies, improving operational efficiency with technology, and identifying areas to do more with data insights and analytics. While the mandate for these new hires aligns with cross-industry chief digital officer responsibilities, what’s most notable is they are from outside life sciences industry.

With these hires, GSK and Novartis CEOs are in search of ideas and individuals who question and push the boundaries of the life sciences hierarchies. They’re after those who can provide fresh guidance to existing digital disruptor teams within the organization - not retread on old ideas, models, and processes. Old ideas that were almost adhoc, and limited due to several industry factors including lack of regulatory guidance and the general risk adverse nature of leadership.  

Historically, life sciences organizations have leveraged, experimented, and piloted various digital programs and operating models since the Internet became mainstream in the mid-1990s. Through this incremental approach, organizations migrated from static websites to data-driven sites powered by Content Management Systems. Instant messaging tools became integrated as a channel for customer service channels. Data and analytics teams began mining data to improve decisions and robust CRM campaigns.

Today, the industry has matured to the point where a holistic digital mindset needs to be applied to all strategies, systems and processes. The newly minted chief digital officers and others with 2018 digital objectives are evolving their digital agenda into a cohesive digital strategy that is clearly articulated, resourced and funded. These digital objectives are likely to include dramatically improving customer experience in clinical trials though the use of digital technologies and analytics as well as identifying partnerships with digital health and fitness leaders to expand healthcare beyond its historical boundaries.    

Customer or patient experience goes hand–in-hand with clinical trials where on average 30 percent of patients drop out of a study resulting in increased R&D costs and missed FDA filings (3). The new wave of chief digital officers are tasked to find the right tools to capture, analyze, and gain insights from retention and dropout data to optimize the patient’s journey. Radical digital strategies will consist of partnerships that cross traditional industry silos, incorporate the sharing of digital data to document results as well as provide insights into areas of unmet need for the clinical trial participants. It is not unreasonable to think of a potential partnership with Under Armour (4) to optimize their clinical trial customer experience blueprint or even collaborate and conduct a clinical trial together.

Every life sciences organization will have different digital goals, from developing entirely new business models, sharing and analyzing data more efficiently, or optimizing business operations. Organizations have years of experience with digital pilot programs and the opportunity to recruit digital leaders from within and outside of life sciences. The meaning of “being digital in 2018” will be to have a digital growth mindset and articulate a digital strategy to unlock that growth.