With the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), the pharmaceutical industry has also accelerated digitization and onlineization. There are probably many managers and people in charge of DX at pharmaceutical companies who are considering effective DX measures to increase sales and reduce costs.
Therefore, in this article, we will introduce the trend of digital utilization in the pharmaceutical industry and the method of human resource development that is indispensable for promoting DX in the future.
Why Pharmaceutical Companies Need DX (Digital Transformation)
According to the “Industry Trends Search” compiled by Digital & Works Co., Ltd., the industry scale (total sales of 74 major companies) for domestic pharmaceutical companies in 2020-2021 was 12,359.4 billion yen. Although it was on an upward trend until 2019, it will remain flat in 2020.
In 2020, the number of patients and bed occupancy rates decreased due to the effect of refraining from visiting doctors due to the corona crisis, and sales of over-the-counter drugs decreased significantly. In addition, it is thought that the decline in profit margins due to the expiry of patents on new drugs and price reductions due to NHI drug price revisions have also had an impact. Generic drugs cost less to develop than new drugs, but their low prices make it difficult to generate profits.
With drug price revisions occurring every year, the situation will continue to be difficult for pharmaceutical companies. Strengthening competitiveness is required not only in research and development, but also in the field of marketing for medical professionals and the general public. It is important to advance DX by further utilizing data science and digital technology, improve productivity, and promote the development of new businesses.
Utilization of digital tools and DX trends in the pharmaceutical industry
As the situation continues to be tough, an increasing number of pharmaceutical companies are making the use of digital tools a strategic cornerstone. From here, we will introduce trends in the pharmaceutical industry in the fields of research and development (R&D), marketing to doctors (BtoD), and marketing to the general public (BtoC) from a DX perspective.
[R&D] Using data to reduce drug discovery process time and costs
In the field of research and development, attempts to utilize AI in the drug discovery process are trending. A method that uses AI to propose drug candidate compounds from the design stage based on the vast amount of experimental data collected in a database is attracting particular attention.
Until now, drug discovery target searches and compound design have largely relied on researchers’ intuition in terms of comprehensiveness and efficiency. For this reason, the drug discovery process normally takes four to five years, but there are cases where it has been shortened to less than one year by using AI. It has already entered the stage of practical application, including the start of clinical trials.
If the period required for drug discovery can be shortened and clinical trials can be started early, research and development costs can also be reduced. Many pharmaceutical companies are accelerating partnerships with companies and research institutes that are strong in IT and AI, as an AI platform is required to enable such an approach.
[BtoD] Introduce new means of communication to MRs
In the field of marketing for doctors, there is a lot of movement to streamline sales activities through the use of digital technology. Due to the restrictions on visits to medical institutions due to the corona crisis, the use of digital tools has become indispensable for MR work, which has been mainly face-to-face until now. We are already shifting to methods such as remote interviews using online conference systems and web lectures.
In addition, we are proceeding with the establishment and renewal of websites for medical professionals. A system that allows users to search for product information online through AI chat has also appeared, making it possible to quickly provide information and answers to questions about pharmaceuticals. For pharmaceutical companies, it can be expected to have the effect of making up for the shortage of MRs.
In this way, attempts to introduce digital technology and build new communication channels have become a trend in the pharmaceutical industry. Among them, AI has a wide range of applications and can also be used for the purpose of analyzing the usage of services. There are also examples of AI that automatically discovers doctors who wish to visit MRs, helping to improve the efficiency of sales operations.
[BtoC] Developing healthcare services that go beyond providing medical information
For patients and consumers who use pharmaceuticals, healthcare services are expanding. An increasing number of pharmaceutical companies are working to prevent aggravation, maintain good health, and resolve medical concerns, rather than simply selling pharmaceuticals.
Specifically, there are cases where smartphone apps are provided with functions such as reminders for patients to take their medications correctly and functions for recording symptoms. There are also services that allow health consultations with doctors and pharmacists using LINE and chatbots.
It can be said that these services are made possible by taking advantage of the characteristics of digital tools that make it easy to build touchpoints with customers. By having direct connections with patients and consumers, pharmaceutical companies have become able to develop new services that have never existed before.
Securing human resources for AI development is the key to promoting DX at pharmaceutical companies
In the pharmaceutical industry, where digital utilization is progressing in various fields, it is expected that competition will continue to intensify centering on DX. In particular, AI is expected to expand its use as a technology that handles huge amounts of data and large amounts of communication. It can be said that the key to promoting DX at pharmaceutical companies is whether or not they can secure human resources who can contribute to the development of advanced platforms using AI.
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