Decoding the future of PharmaTech & Patient Data Protection

Leaders from Microsoft, Novartis and Roche Group deliberate on the collaboration of pharma and technology

Last two years have helped in accelerating the potential collaborations and synergies between the worlds of pharma and technology, says Dr. David Rhew, Global Chief Medical Officer & VP of Healthcare, Microsoft, USA.
Dr. Rhew explains: “One of the things we’ve seen throughout the transformation over the past couple years is that the way digital technologies and data are being managed is changing greatly. Staring with virtual care, we’ve found that there has been transformation with a significant number of telehealth visits and video visits from outpatient monitoring. With that came a significant amount of data being collected. Data has been present through healthcare. But it was always difficult for us to analyze that because it was not interoperable. It is now becoming more interoperable; we are becoming much more aware on how these data sets can be brought together. That’s where AI and ML come in play”.
Dr. David Rhew spoke at the 19th edition of BioAsia that witnessed a powerful panel with critical deliberations on the significance of partnerships between IT and Pharma companies to digitize healthcare and to venture into the new paradigm of delivering healthcare.
The leaders driving digitization of these top companies elaborated on the need for convergence of Technology and Health industries to improve patient outcomes. Data analytics will help the health fraternity understand patient metrics better and provide value-based care.
Observing the trend post adoption of the digital and data, Davidek Herron, Global Head of Digital, Roche Group, Switzerland noted that COVID has pushed Roche to rethink some of their systems such as supply chains, connecting patients, commercialization, etc. Speaking on COVIDs impact on their supply chain, he said “We have actually leaned into home delivery solutions for our patients. For our Spinal muscular atrophy patients who were unable to go to the hospital, we had to figure out how to get our services and medicines to their doorstep”.
“In fact, we collaborated with Microsoft in the middle east to create a breast cancer AI tool to avoid misinterpretations of mammogram readings. This is an example of how we’ve accelerated while embracing digital and data”, he added.
Adding his thoughts on digitization, Ashwini Mathur, Head Clinical Technology and Innovation, Novartis, Ireland elaborated on how COVID has hastened the digitization processed which were already developing. “With Novartis’ mission of reimagining medicine, data and digital tech drove us to that mission. Reimagining is about reshaping the clinical practices, helping the caregivers and reaching out to the right people at the right time”.
Explaining how data helped them in patient recruitment for trials, he said, “Since the regular patient visits were disrupted, and a lot of sites were facing troubles in recruiting patients for trials. Using data and digital technologies, we have created mechanisms where we were able to tell the clinical teams ahead of times, that certain sites will have trouble recruiting patients and it will be easier in certain sites based on Covid incident rates in those areas. We aligned publicly available data, our internally operational data and clinical trial data, all in a digital, smart way to decide where patients should be recruited”.
Further commenting on the pharma tech collaborations, Mathur explaines the challenges companies usually face, “All of us want to improve the healthcare of the world. Bringing 2 organizations together to agree to work on the same problem is not that simple, it is work. The level of detail is where the issue lies. For example, when a pharma company seeks the help of a technology company, they recognize that we already have the problem statement they’ve data scientists to help us. But when the partner comes back with a brilliant product for the pharma company, we find out that it is slightly differing from our problem statement. That intellectual engagement is missing”. The solution, he believes, is when both the companies define the problem together and come up with the solution.
Impressed with India’s role in driving innovation in pharma, Herron opines, “We have strong investments for developments within India. This helps us lean in on their strong IT and engineering skills that are being developed at a country level. And we only see it continues to advance”.
Commenting on the innovation driven from the digital hubs of Novartis in Hyderabad, Mathur says, “Hyderabad is a hub for a lot of data and digital data-science based startups. They’re playing in a lot of different aspects of the entire value chain of pharma company. Close to 100 projects are going on from the biome in Hyderabad. The city has been a huge success. We started with San Francisco but soon, Hyderabad was playing an equally important role”.
With the entire population’s health records being digitized and access falling in the hands of multiple providers, concerns surfaced on the data security aspect of the digital move. Opining on the same, Dr. Rhew says, “We recognize that it’s time for Microsoft and other companies to invest to make sure that can support those region and country specific regulations. Furthermore, there are tools that allow us to ensure patient privacy – de-identification, anonymization, confidential computers”.
Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary, Industries & Commerce Department, Government of Telangana pitched Hyderabad as a city that allows greater accessibility, ease and support for pharma companies to develop, manufacture and supply medicines even at the peak of the pandemic. He aptly owes this to the adoption of the digital by pharma companies.