Life sciences CIOs: using data to deliver growth

Michael McDaidCIOs in the life sciences industry have long been focused on one course of treatment for the sector’s health: cost containment.

Across pharmaceuticals, biotech and medtech, pressure on margins has kept control of technology spending as a top CIO priority. This is important, of course: if an organization is spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on IT, it only takes a small drift to create a significant overspend.

But the industry’s leaders understand that prudent cost management is not going to provide any growth impetus. Life sciences organizations are looking to transform R&D effectiveness and business models to foster innovation and deliver improved patient outcomes.

CIOs have a key role to play in this growth story. They need to escape the cost straitjacket and partner with the business on delivering growth. One key tool for doing so is to become champions of data analytics.

Harnessing analytics for growth and operational excellence

The life sciences industry is flooded with data, from electronic medical records to social media. Turning this data into business intelligence can foster innovation, deliver new efficiencies and build customer value.

For example, data analytics can focus attention on the outcomes of health care, demonstrating the quality and value of medicines and products to key stakeholders, such as insurers and government bodies. This is about providing evidence-based links between the care provided and health outcomes achieved. Take medication non-compliance, for example. Using advanced data analytics can help companies understand why patients do not to follow treatments properly, a problem estimated to cost between US$100b and US$289b a year in the US alone. It could also enable companies to put in place incentives to motivate patients to keep to their prescribed regime.

The challenge is not simply about collecting the data, but how you use it. To ensure their organizations seize this opportunity, CIOs will have to overcome a number of serious challenges:

  • A high degree of analytical maturity will need to be achieved in the organization.
  • Data integration and cleaning will be a mammoth task.
  • Talented team members with the right data skills will need to be found, rewarded and retained.

In addition, CIOs will need to take the lead in one hugely important and sensitive area: privacy and risk management. The rise of data collection in life sciences has put the issue of personal privacy in the public spotlight. Ensuring the security and privacy of life sciences data raises significant issues for cybersecurity and risk management.

Life sciences CIOs clearly have a critical role to play in delivering growth. Never have they had more exciting opportunities to move beyond the cost containment remit — and start shaping the industry’s growth story.

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