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Customer Experience and Design

McKinsey Says “Pharma, Digital Technology Is Waiting For You”


A couple of weeks ago, I took an in-depth look at the second of three critical themes for success in the digital age, as identified by McKinsey & Company through interviews with 20 pharma executives:

  1. It is time to reimagine them as solutions companies, not asset companies.

In today’s post, I’d like to take a closer look at the third and final theme:

  1. The technology is ready, but pharma companies must change if they are going to enable and harness it more successfully.

It’s old news that pharma is slow to adopt new technology. But, why are we like that? Some cite the technical complexities of integrating different types of technology. Others cite the risks of using new technology for regulated functions. But, what McKinsey’s interviews uncovered is that the root of our hesitation is most likely…cultural. 

The overall culture of the life sciences industry is conservative and risk-averse. The majority of the players in the space lack incentives for innovation, creativity, and taking risks – and might even openly discourage it. We measure ourselves by the bottom line, rather than the things we do that move us forward.

In short, we’re our own worst enemy.

We need to shift the way we think. We need to adjust our priorities. We need to change the way we behave. We need to evolve the way we work. And we need to stop burying our heads in the sand, hoping things will go back to the way they were.

Perhaps the most critical area for pharma to embrace cultural change and new technology is in “social listening,” especially when it comes to identifying potential adverse events. The idea of unearthing adverse events might be scary, but it’s happening, whether we want it to or not. Multiple third-party vendors are aggregating health data and sharing the data and insights with all sorts of customers. Wouldn’t you rather know what people are saying about your products before anyone else does?

The McKinsey article quotes an anonymous director at a top 20 pharma company as saying, “There’s a lot of alarm around utilizing social-media data for fear of discovering adverse events. Ignorance is not an excuse.” And Dr. Amy Abernathy of Flatiron Health adds, “This is how drug development is going to be done in the 21st century.”

Ready or not, here it comes! For help getting started, contact us.

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Marin Richeson

Marin joined the life sciences industry in 2001. Over the course of her tenure, she has held roles in clinical finance, IT, quality assurance, and validation. The diversity of her experience provides her with a unique perspective on the interconnectedness of this complex, multi-faceted industry. Marin Richeson is a lead business consultant in Perficient's life sciences practice.

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