Looking for the next wave of pharma innovation? Try opening the door to more partners, Accenture says

Welcome to the "We Economy," pharma. As all companies become digital, collaboration is the way things get done, with employees, customers, other industry players and new partners all pitching in to drive growth and innovation, according to Accenture's Technology Vision 2015 for Life Sciences study.

That's a big change for pharma companies that are much more accustomed to a "me" style of business.

"Pharma companies traditionally are used to thinking of themselves--how to be competitive and how to make scientific breakthroughs and keep them exclusive," said Brags Srinivasan, managing director of global life sciences technology at Accenture. "Now pioneering pharma companies are taking a fundamental look and beginning to collaborate with others around building digital businesses and distribution, and trying to build digital economies and platforms."

He cited examples such as the Novartis ($NVS) and Qualcomm ($QCOM) investment fund partnership, and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and Proteus Digital Health's plans for digital "smart" pills that track patient adherence.

Accenture's Brags Srinivasan

Srinivasan noted that the attitude among pharma and healthcare companies has changed significantly since Accenture last conducted the study in 2013. Back then, pharma companies were still asking how relevant digital really was to their business and strategies. Today, while still at the beginning of their digital turn, almost all drugmakers are talking about tapping into patient outcomes and patient experiences. Srinivasan said 81% now rank personalized customer experiences as one of the top three priorities for their organization.

Those personalized experiences not only create one-to-one relationships with customers but also can serve as a foundation for growth. Accenture estimates customer experiences could drive an additional $4.6 billion in new revenue to the U.S. branded pharma business. On the broader use of digital technology across healthcare, Accenture sees $100 billion on the table for life science companies that are "embracing digital holistically to improve patients' quality of life."

The other key finding for pharma, as Srinivasan pointed out, is thinking about the companies as platforms. As Srinivasan noted, an MIT study found that 14 of the top 30 global brands by market cap were platform-oriented companies, such as Apple ($AAPL), Amazon ($AMZN) and Uber. Those companies enable or allow others to interact over their platforms to create new experiences and added value. It ties into collaborating with other companies, but pharma can and should think about how that works digitally--and consider building out APIs (application programming interfaces) to reuse or share assets with other vendors or themselves.

"We expect much more pronounced manifestations of personalized services and patient platforms," Srinivasan said. "That evolution is a big way in which pharma will collaborate. … The next wave of innovation will come from tech companies, industry players and pharma companies working together."

- see the Accenture infographic

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