What lessons can Healthcare Information Technology (IT) take from the Life Sciences IT? My background has been in Life Sciences and looking into Healthcare I can’t help but notice the similarities and differences in the use of technology. Over the past few weeks I’ve been engaged with rolling out a new business unit to cover the full value chain for Healthcare. Like most of us we are well aware of the cost for healthcare and the promise of “personalized medicine.” So how do we ‘evolve’ from our current position to fulfill this new ‘model’ of healthcare? In this posting I will focus on the Life Sciences portion of the value chain.
Last week I was in Orlando, Florida to attend the SAP conference @SapphireNOW. I came away with the following key points:
- Acquisition of Sybase brings mobile computing into a ‘strategic’ offering for SAP.
- In-memory resident database will help solve customer issues with legacy systems.
- SAP is making an effort to enter into cloud computing for key applications.
My perspective includes both being a user of technology – providing technology to solve business problems – and now adding value via IT services. IT executives within Life Sciences are under pressure to add value by leveraging IT to support the business. Unlike other industries that are more ‘customer centric,’ Life Sciences suffers as a result of being ‘disconnected’ from the end-user, the patient. The change in moving to a ‘patient centric’ model is part of the challenge. Yet their hands are tied because a large portion of their budget is spent on maintenance and internal IT operations. So when recent articles highlighting messages about Oracle by Bob Evans, Global CIO: Oracle’s Phillips Says Standardizing On Oracle Is The IT Cure, Information Week, April 23, 2010, and most recently on SAP by Bob Evans, Global CIO: Oracle Hammered By SAP For Stifling Customer Choice, Information Week, May 20, 2010 where does this leave you? How to solve this dilemma of minimal funding and yet provide unique “value-added” solutions that can bring the organization closer to the end consumer?
Providing IT Services for Life Sciences IT
Service providers offer “integration” and an increase use of IT. Since the challenge for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Device companies has been to leverage their existing technology. Here is the graphic that I use to convey what we mean by this, and I have several a very real customers who are looking for support across this ‘value chain.’ In a perfect world we would look across each department and leverage one common IT solution, yet within Life Sciences this is not the case. There a few companies that can standardize on one IT solution for the whole organization. (Some Generic companies have opted for one vendor solution since there is a limited R&D requirement for clinical trials.) IT must be the enabler for an organization’s ability to change in today’s market. To me this means looking into advances in technology that can improve agility.
Let’s see how the available solutions have an impact on Life Sciences IT and where IT services companies can add value:
- R&D to Operations – Oracle’s Agile solution is widely used for product development and with their recent acquisition of Phase Forward and Relsys they now have solutions for clinical trials and drug safety. SAP ERP and Supply Chain are de-facto solutions within Operations. Effectively connecting these solutions can accelerate products to market.
- Operations, Services to Sales & Marketing – Within Life Sciences the ability to gather pertinent customer information (more than just sales orders) is relevant to supply chain, and to new product development. Oracle and Salesforce.com are key solutions for Sales and Marketing. There is value in understanding how ‘patients’ are using your products.
- Analytics – Underlying all of these solutions is a workforce that utilizes IT applications and Microsoft Office products for their daily work. Databases that gather application data across the value chain must be made available to the workforce and ‘served up’ so that data can be transformed into information for business decisions. There are Business Intelligence (data ‘cubes’) applications installed across the organization. Documentum is widely used for storing ‘compliance’ documents while Microsoft SharePoint is used to process data across a variety of sources. Users do not want complicated systems and most of all they want their data fast.
Next Steps in achieving alignment
The economy has impacted Life Sciences in terms of:
- The high cost of healthcare which is driving need for ‘efficiency’ (from new product development to supply chain). Life Sciences now see the relevance of ‘patient’ feedback.
- Lack of new products (either from R&D or enhancements to existing products) have forced the industry into M&A, realignment of existing resources, and IT investments to fuel new business.
IT services can connect the ‘dots’ within Life Sciences. Customers need to ask their service providers:
- What can they offer to resolve the problem between applications within the value chain? Look for vendors with multiple technology expertise and a delivery model that is a mix of off-shore and near-shore resources. Low cost does not guarantee success if you’re not able to diagnose the problem area.
- Are we leveraging our IT to the ‘maximum’ within our organization? I speak to customers who tell me they have multiple IT vendors for application support. Again while this may curb costs you may miss out on a ‘strategy’ that improves your business processes.
- Are you within ‘compliance’ to the regional regulations? Can you improve operations and still be in compliance? When was the last time you had your regulatory group and IT processes reviewed?
Healthcare IT can learn from Life Sciences IT since there is no ‘one’ solution for the industry. SAP and Oracle are the dominant players in the market for Life Sciences. There are ‘excellent’ smaller niche players are likely to pose a problem for IT from an ‘integration’ perspective. Within Life Sciences IT we hear about the 80/20 budget crisis (80% is spent on maintenance and IT operations, and 20% for new projects) and with the advent of ‘cloud computing’ IT will need to see how they can leverage this technology. What I heard at the SAP conference that was quite interesting is that ‘in-memory’ databases could be applied to legacy systems. Given the current need for fast access to data this is very encouraging. I’m sure when I head to the Oracle conference we’ll hear of even more technology improvements.
In the next blog post I will share my perspective (that of an IT service provider) for Healthcare. There are some new business processes that can add value as Life Sciences and Healthcare IT move closer to each other.
While at the same time continuing to learn and strategize more about Healthcare IT solutions.
I’m not very good at keeping New Year’s resolutions. Yet what I intend to do this year is to align my interests with what I am currently doing. At present I am contracting with an IT service provide to ‘start-up’ a new Life Sciences practice. So in keeping with the title of my blog, how to ‘leverage IT for Life Sciences and Healthcare’ I hope to share what I’ve learned. I started blogging using Blogger and I hope you can see the change now that I have moved up to WordPress. This site has much more tools and allows for greater flexibility in terms of the ‘appearance’ of my blog. I would be interested in your comments on this……
In starting up a new business unit I’ve got to figure out how to be successful in a short period of time. I look forward to describing what I’ve learned through this blog. So the topics that I want to focus on are as follows:
- “Design Thinking” – this is a new way to approach problem solving that combine both analytical and intuitive thinking. OK Jim, so how does this apply to IT and Life Sciences? Well if you consider that everyone seems to use some ERP package is there a way to make money in ‘improving’ IT processes? I think so and there are ways to promote ‘process innovation.’ What has been bothering me is how to go about this, in such a way as to develop a business around this……
- How can IT improve areas such as Clinical Development? Unlike ERP where the business processes have been ‘integrated’ can the same be done in the area of R&D in Life Sciences? Is there a need to link Sales&Marketing applications back into R&D to help Life Sciences and clinical trials? I will talk about this under “Process Innovation.”
- “Closing the loop” between the patient and Life Sciences companies. In the US, if we expect to achieve “Personalized Medicine” Life Sciences companies will need information from patients. The current ‘eco system’ in the industry prevents this from happening. So topics that I want to look into include: eHealth, Health 2.0, and ePatients.
- We will also look into leveraging ‘cloud computing’ within Life Sciences.
- The launch of this new business unit will let me try out new Social Media tools. This should be fun as there are new ways to ‘market’ new services and products. Yet choosing which tools to use is a challenge – especially given budget and scheduling constraints. Let’s face it – if I’m to be successful at launching this new business I’d better get the word out and create the attention needed in the market.
Word Press and the iPhone application – I like my Apple iPhone and so in the course of writing this I have had the chance to use the WordPress 2.0 application. Works great and saves me time when a new idea hits me. The application allows you to write-up a new idea and save it as a ‘draft.’ Make some tweaks and edits – chekc for grammar and spelling then hit the ‘publish’ button.
I read an article by Stephanie Sutton, PharmaTech Europe entitled The Pharma 2.0 Trend for 2010. The article summarizes how the industry will remain status quo for 2010 based on Ovum’s industry report. “The trend for slow growth will continue, and cutting costs and reducing time–to-market will remain a priority, particularly with the impending patent cliff in 2011.” If the Pharma industry remains the same how will personalized medicine come about? We know that the pending healthcare reform will influence the industry. How much of a change remains to be seen.
In a previous blog I expressed the need for ‘process innovation’ and in this article it describes how IT and technology solutions must connect knowledge between departments and global organizations if we are to achieve the new model for healthcare. The term Pharma 2.0 refers to the new business model when the industry moves to personalized medicine or some form of ‘targeted treatments.’ I like how Ovum describes Pharma 2.0 as “leaner, globalized entity whose increased scale is achieved ‘virtually’ rather than through accretion.” To me accretion seems to be an interesting word and according to Dictionary.com “the growing together of separate parts into a single whole.”
There is ample data that indicates the current Pharma R&D model to bring new products to market is inefficient. Something we all know. Within these organizations the adoption of ERP has been an example (if done correctly) of how business processes can be streamlined and data collected in order to run a global business. This covers Manufacturing/Operations, Service, and Sales and Marketing. I see ‘process innovation’ being applied to the R&D side of Pharma. As new technology is introduced there must be an awareness of the role that IT plays in supporting the business process, and improving how data is collected and made available for decision making. Unlike ERP where there are vendors and service providers that have helped to put this in place on the business end of Pharma. There does not appear to be ‘one’ vendor for the R&D side. So the challenge is how to ‘connect’ these technologies together, when you have software-as-a service (SaaS) or ‘on demand’ applications alongside the traditional enterprise solutions or ‘on premise’ applications. This is the challenge we face as we go into 2010. I see this as an opportunity for IT to be the catalyst to help the industry transform into the Pharma 2.0 business model.
Given all the news about the healthcare reform bill and Thanksgiving (a US national holiday) I read this article which appeared in the Wall Street Journal (24Nov2009) by Melinda Beck “20 Advances to Be Thankful For” and a blog posted on: scientificblogging, science 2.0 by Becky Jungbauer. Thanksgiving is always a time for families to gather and share a common meal. Unlike other holidays, this one always has special meaning for me and each year brings new stories and changes in our family member’s lives. What struck me about this list of scientific advances is that we do have a lot to be grateful for I’ve chosen the following as it has direct impact on me and my family:
- 62% of all US adults are in excellent or very good health
- Life expectancy in the US reached an all time high of 77.9 in 2007
- Death rates from cancer dropped 16% from 1990 to 2006 (this is the second leading cause of death – the first is coronary heart disease)
- Deaths from strokes dropped 26% from 1995 to 2005
- Average total cholesterol (in adults aged 20 to 74) dropped from 197 milligrams per deciliter in 2008 from 222 in 1962
The author, Melinda Beck, goes on to state, “The longer you live, the happier you are likely to be. Many older adults find that happiness and emotional well-being improve with time; they learn to avoid or limit stressful situations and are less likely to let negative comments or criticism bother them than young adults, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association conference in Toronto this year.”
I do agree with the article that goes on to share simple “free” tips on taking care of you: getting enough sleep leads to thinking more clearly, helps with weight loss, and fends off infections. Going out and getting at least 30 minutes of sun will give you more vitamin D. Yet there is still more that we need to do to improve health care in this country and around the world. I look forward to seeing Personalized Medicine (targeted treatments) for cancer, new drugs for lupus and memory loss, advances in vaccines for gene therapy and cancer, which leads us to a promising future.
Take a moment and read through the entire article. You may find some reason to be thankful for as health care impacts all of us. Find time to focus on your family and avoid the stress of the job search. Recharge yourself and come back renewed that an opportunity is just around the corner. Yes, by now you can see that I am more than just an optimist. Please do enjoy your holiday.