What's powering pharma toward the next digital frontier? One expert has an idea

digital transformation
So far, it's been access to content that's helped propel pharma's digital journey, EY Partner Todd Skrinar says.

If there’s one word that best describes what’s been driving pharma to adopt digital technology, it’s “access,” one expert says—and he expects that trend to continue.

Pharma’s digital wave started off by helping doctors and patients “access content that you hadn’t been able to before, which among other things helped patients take a louder voice in their own health situation,” EY Partner Todd Skrinar said in a recent interview.

And going forward, “I think it’s going to be a question of which of those three other kinds of access”—whether it’s access to care, access to markets or access to patients—“really bends the adoption curve most."

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He’s already seeing a drive for patient access fuel a desire for digital solutions among oncology companies, he explained. “A lot of the biopharmas that operate in that category will also tell you that they do not currently have access to a wide population of potential participants in their trials, and they look at digital approaches as a way to start to close that gap and get access to more of those patients,” he said.

One way to do that? Move wearables from the consumer environment to a data-generating setting “if you’re trying to do trials with a widely distributed participant population,” Skrinar suggests. That shift in the “explosion around wearables and surround-ables” is one of the events he said he personally hopes to see happen within the industry.

RELATED: Patient centricity? Pharma’s there, expert says. It’s regulators who need to catch up

And the way he sees it, there’s reason to believe it will. Whereas pharma is still “behind many other sectors in embracing digital,” it’s coming along thanks to an aging population, the younger, digital-savvy employees making up a bigger portion of the workforce and patient centricity.

“I think those three sort of macro trends for our sector have driven the increased pace of adoption,” Skrinar said.

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