Meeting Biopharmaceutical Market Needs: What Digital Solutions Need To Succeed

David Sheehy

June 26, 2023

3 Min Read

Although advanced digital solutions have become essential to the success of biopharmaceutical companies in recent years, a December 2022 survey from healthcare and life-sciences consultancy Sage Growth Partners (Sage) found that existing options often fail to meet key needs. The survey identified the plans, preferences, and needs of biopharmaceutical digital-solution buyers based on the answers of 116 respondents from precommercial mid- and large-size companies across the United States. The survey evaluated six biopharmaceutical-solution areas: analytics, real-world evidence (RWE), enterprise, clinical development, patient engagement, and digital therapeutics. Sage found market fragmentation in multiple areas and discovered that many solution providers struggle with low-unaided brand awareness. However, a surprising number of respondents indicated a willingness to work with small and emerging solution providers to improve their capabilities.

Despite an industrywide trend toward digitization, data integration remains a key obstacle across all six solution areas. Sage found that integrating internal and partner data can create technical, security, and privacy difficulties. Top identified concerns include integrating data from different systems, finding the right data or solutions, demonstrating an adequate return on investment (ROI), and acquiring enriched data.

Identifying Unmet Needs
Sage found that of the six solution areas, the unmet needs of biopharmaceutical leaders are most prominent in clinical development, patient engagement, and RWE. Clinical-development needs are broad in scope. Biopharmaceutical companies must select sites, find investigators who can recruit patients and complete clinical trials, enhance quality assurance (QA), reduce regulatory risk, identify drug safety and efficacy based on data from different subpopulations, and improve productivity — especially in the areas of cleaning, integrating, and verifying data.

Biopharmaceutical companies have increased their use of RWE in the past few years because it informs clinical-trial design and can improve outcomes for patients by delivering insights about disease, treatment efficacy, and product safety. Nevertheless, software solution providers have a clear opportunity to build upon industry successes. According to survey respondents, current platforms provide insufficient access to high-quality data, especially for select patient populations and diseases. For instance, existing programs often fail to access imaging and the specialized patient data that are needed to guide treatment planning.

Patient-engagement software is expected to continue receiving heavy investment, a growth area that Sage attributes to the rise of specialty treatments, healthcare consumption, and barriers to starting patient treatment. But currently available solutions often fall short in their ability to support patients with on-demand applications and tools as part of a treatment plan. Survey respondents emphasized that software solutions must do a better job of connecting patients with caregivers and other stakeholders to improve clinical outcomes reliably. Industry leaders also want better coordination between teams for patient services and engagement.

Future Investment Plans
Biopharmaceutical companies sometimes perceive digital-solution providers as overstating their promises to provide “next-generation solutions.” Software providers should prepare for such skepticism by having proof of ROI, based on financial, productivity, and/or other data.

The survey found that biopharmaceutical developers often have short-term plans to invest primarily in digital solutions to support RWE and clinical development. Most such companies also prioritize investment in solutions for oncology over those for other therapeutic areas such as immunology, infectious diseases and vaccines, and neurology. That priority highlights oncology’s role as a leading source of revenue for these companies.

Survey results emphasized the value of digital solutions that have differentiating go-to-market strategies that address the needs of prospective customers. Solution providers that lack market dominance or strong product recognition should assess and enhance their brand-building strategies such as advertising with industry publications and websites. They can approach that by undertaking primary and secondary market research to understand the industry’s unmet needs better.

Software providers can take several lessons from the survey. Companies that are reliable, transparent, and collaborative will gain an edge on the market. Their programs should be flexible and easy to use. Thought leadership is key to spreading brand awareness and gaining credibility that can support sales. And finally, it is essential to prove ROI in the areas of productivity, efficiency, and finances.

David Sheehy is chief operating officer of Sage Growth Partners, 711 West 40th Street, Suite 153 #370, Baltimore, MD 21211; 1-410-534-1161; [email protected].

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