Life sciences organizations, and the technology that powers the entire industry, are in a constant state of evolution.
As the pandemic of the early 2020s unfolded, pharmaceutical companies and research facilities were suddenly pressed with more changes than the industry had ever seen. It was time to go digital — and not everyone had the luxury of mapping out a plan.
Organizations that endured are now seizing the benefits.
Technology trends in life sciences include the influence of connected devices, the need for better cybersecurity, tech-first mindsets, and much more. Essential industries must keep pace with the trends to make the most of their content, stay competitive, and offer better products and services.
Table of Contents:
- Emphasizing tech-forward strategies
- Improving the digital workplace
- Virtualizing content for collaboration and interoperability
- Standardization of processes with cloud services
- Improving cybersecurity
- Using the cloud in tandem with the IoT ecosystem
- Improving digital transparency with patients
- Drive innovation with cloud content management for life sciences
- Explore life sciences cloud solutions today
Emphasizing tech-forward strategies
One of the most important transformations happening in the life sciences is a shift toward tech-forward business. In the past, IT was sometimes seen as a "bare minimum" cost. Companies would spend just what they needed to keep things moving, but nothing more. IT might be the backbone of their work, but it wasn't viewed as an integral part of business.
When the pandemic hit, those with cloud-first strategies were in an excellent position to weather the storm, while many others encountered new technology demands. Businesses in both camps are now refocusing on the role of technology — specifically how tech-first businesses unlock the power of their data and have a different foundation for the way they work.
A tech-forward strategy makes technology pervasive. Digital tools are much more than an afterthought — they are key to reaching goals, driving decisions, and forming a foundational part of the workday.
Consider a research facility working on a new drug. A more traditional company might have different employees working separately with their datasets and reports, sending files back and forth via email, and manually generating approval requests. A tech-forward company might use a more intuitive system that automatically pulls data from the appropriate systems and allows researchers to work together, making edits and comments on the same documents. They can view their projects in context with the rest of the team and offer valuable insights that propel the project forward.
In the cloud-first practice, researchers understand the system's value and use it to improve their work, rather than as a simple file-storage medium. It is an integral tool in the workday that adds value and increases their capabilities.
Some crucial considerations for tech-forward companies include:
- Companywide buy-in: Everyone in the company must be on board, from the C-suite executives to the receptionists, with a mindset of technology as a driver of success and a key part of continuous improvement
- Organization-specific tools: Life sciences solutions should be configured to the unique landscape of the company, tying the technology tightly to employee needs and existing infrastructure
- Futureproofing: Scalable digital solutions and flexible mindsets can help you quickly build out and adjust as needed
Improving the digital workplace
For many organizations, the shift to the digital workplace wasn't exactly smooth. It may have a lot of room for improvement, and many life sciences organizations are still adapting to the change. Like most other organizations, life sciences companies have had to shift to digital at breakneck speeds to meet evolving business demands — but they also have played the critical role of mobilizing solutions and helping the world through the pandemic.
In shaping the response to the pandemic, many life sciences organizations turned to the cloud. Cloud solutions have been instrumental for companies building their digital workplaces, moving beyond basic IT needs and reaching into every corner of operations. For life sciences, this comes in many forms, such as data collection, collaboration, security, and engagement.
Part of the cloud's advantage comes from how it transforms the digital workplace. Some organizations were already enjoying these benefits, while others are now working to maximize the power of the cloud as they move forward. In life sciences, cloud-based operations might look like:
- Improved collaboration between various parties, like regulating bodies, research facilities, patients, and providers
- Greater data collection to enable more informed, faster decision-making and accuracy
- Improved oversight for pharmaceuticals, equipment, personnel, and similar departments
- Better security for highly regulated data
- Flexibility in day-to-day work and business growth
- Comprehensive and permanent access to records and logs
- Automation and integrations that boost productivity
- Greater access to high-performing talent and personalized workflows
Going forward, life sciences organizations can embrace the positives of the cloud to better combat the shortcomings of a rapid shift to digitization. For instance, in the past, a rush to the cloud might have created a disjointed experience, with some data in the cloud and some left on-premise. Now that the digital workplace is the new normal, organizations are using the vast amounts of data they're collecting to inform and cultivate a seamless, productive, and meaningful remote experience.
A powerful digital environment can support everything from more productive L&D to attracting top talent for further innovation. Companies are refining and optimizing life sciences technology solutions to better meet business goals and strive for continuous improvements.
Virtualizing content for collaboration and interoperability
Data silos appear when different parts of a company don't share their content. Teams might be protective of their information, worried about security, or simply unaware of their fractured content. When content is inaccessible across departments or employees, companies deal with inefficiencies, like duplicated files and time wasted searching for information. Not to mention, it creates an inhospitable environment for creativity. For an industry centered around collaboration and innovation, data silos are unacceptable.
The sensitive nature of life sciences content makes it easy to be protective, but breaking down data silos is a powerful force for teamwork, productivity, and interoperability. The cloud offers extensive security to ease privacy concerns while supporting a collaborative environment. Robust security tools and granular access permissions ensure compliance and authorized access while enabling easier content sharing.
You can eliminate data silos by centralizing your content. When a company embraces a centralized, cloud-based content platform, employees can access the same information from anywhere, always updated in real time.
As some of society's most important innovators and caretakers, life sciences organizations benefit greatly from improved collaboration. Researchers can easily share ideas and data with other researchers, institutions, authorities, and providers. Manufacturers can keep tabs on content throughout the company from sales to logistics — visibility that's necessary for highly regulated operations.
In all instances, centralized content is up to date, accessible, and secure. A pharmaceutical logistics employee can access to-the-minute reports, and researchers can work on the same document simultaneously and easily share files with project leads or partners.
Life sciences organizations also work with many different systems that may even be incompatible, resulting in a disorganized technology framework. With centralized content, you have more freedom to make the changes you need in your infrastructure to meet goals.
Standardization of processes with cloud services
From archiving content according to data governance standards to obtaining approval where needed, cloud services can automate and standardize many processes.
For life sciences companies, perhaps the clearest benefit of standardization is time to market. Employees spend less time searching for what they need, following up on approvals, and requesting access to information. Automated tools speed up these tasks, with capabilities like:
- Allowing access according to specific user characteristics
- Sending documents along a chain of people for signing
- Archiving files according to retention policies
- Sending notifications when certain actions occur, such as document changes
Another advantage of standardizing processes is the reduction of human error. When you can better control activities according to preset and predetermined workflows, there's less room for employees to misclick or forget a step.
When content is stored on various devices with different access and storage requirements, there's much more potential for error, confusion, and inefficiency. Centralized content ensures everyone knows where to go and what to do with content.
Highly sensitive content is a given in life sciences. From information protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to valuable proprietary content, life sciences organizations must prioritize data security. As the technological landscape of healthcare changes, cybersecurity must evolve to ensure these new capabilities don't put patient data at risk.
This idea has caused some hesitancy among the life sciences sector regarding adopting new technology, but we need only look to other industries with highly sensitive content to see the possibilities. Take finance, for instance. While rapid IT changes and rising complexities top the list of cybersecurity challenges for this industry, finance organizations haven't shied away from the cloud. It maintains its spot as finance's first priority and brings an array of new technologies to the industry.
Many life sciences organizations were already well on their way to heightened cybersecurity, but the rapid push to a digital workplace propelled others along. Fortunately, the cloud has simplified the task. Where traditional solutions might require the work of an in-house IT team, cloud services are typically managed by the cloud provider. Your data is stored in a dedicated facility with security experts devoted solely to information security. Often, this level of security is far better than what companies can achieve in house.
Another way cloud solutions simplify cybersecurity is through solutions specifically built for life sciences organizations. From robust archival tools to permanent access logs, the cloud can help you meet industry-specific standards including HIPAA, GxP, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM). These developments from trusted cloud providers ensure cybersecurity for life sciences organizations.
In many cases, moving to cloud-based technology will improve cybersecurity, provided it comes from a trusted provider with all necessary protections in place.
One framework many life sciences organizations use to guide cybersecurity strategies is “zero trust.” The zero-trust model is based on the idea that no single element can be implicitly trusted. Every device, network, and user must be continuously verified with multiple sources. Validation encompasses many different data points, such as the user's identity, location, and access point. No person or device is trusted without contextual, continuous verification.
Zero-trust security is a robust approach that permeates the operational environment and simplifies security management. Many life sciences organizations use zero-trust models as they build capable IT infrastructures.
Using the cloud in tandem with the IoT ecosystem
In the search for remote healthcare solutions and digital oversight, the Internet of Things (IoT) rose to the challenge. IoT technology is sweeping through the healthcare sector with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 25.9% by 2028.
IoT refers to many devices that connect to the internet. In healthcare, that might include things like climate control sensors in a drug storage room and wearable devices that communicate patient vitals to clinicians. IoT is all about making connections and collecting more data — and where better to keep that data than a cloud system that maximizes its value? With the cloud, data collected from IoT devices can help you speed up processes, improve care, and better analyze information.
Here are a few examples.
Remote patient monitoring
Wearable and implantable devices enable clinicians to monitor patient behavior and activity long after patients leave the office. These IoT devices might monitor a patient's blood pressure, glucose levels, or heart rate, for example. Remote patient monitoring devices allow for near-continuous data collection on the patient's activities to inform diagnosis and treatment, helping researchers gather data and identify intervention opportunities.
The cloud can make sense of all of this data, keeping it organized and allowing a full team to collaborate on treatment or research. It also lets teams feed that data into artificial intelligence systems to uncover important insights and make predictions about patient health.
IoT in life sciences can also help facilities keep track of their equipment, supplies, and personnel. Tracking tags and smart stickers can be attached to equipment, medication packaging, and badges to keep track of them across a hospital system and provide valuable data.
As devices are used, the cloud system can reflect changing stock counts and maintenance requirements. Automated processes might automatically request inspections or create a purchase order for a supervisor to approve when supplies run low.
With robust asset tracking in the cloud, life sciences organizations can explore new insights, prevent theft and misuse, keep resources in good condition, and much more. The cloud ensures up-to-date information on a facility's resources and can automate many day-to-day activities for a more efficient operation.
Supply chain management
Here's how different players might use IoT and the power of data to manage their supply chain:
- A pharmaceutical manufacturer can track shipments, monitor equipment, control facility climates, and predict maintenance needs, demand for supplies, and overall efficiency
- A hospital could use IoT to aid in keeping supplies well-stocked, preventing theft or misuse of drugs and equipment, and gathering insights on the hospital's needs
- A research facility might monitor patient vitals during a study or keep tabs on the equipment and supplies in the lab, drawing valuable data from IoT devices
Improving digital transparency with patients
Box solutions for life sciencesPatients increasingly want more transparency in their care. While most acute and ambulatory care organizations already have some patient portal functionality, adoption rates are increasing, along with more advanced features, like OpenNotes, a movement to give patients access to their clinical notes. Adoption rates for this feature rose by 24% between 2020 and 2021, reflecting this desire for greater transparency.
As healthcare becomes increasingly digital, life sciences organizations need to engage patients with accessible yet secure access to their data. Mobile apps and portals are a big part of enabling digital transparency.
These platforms need to meet patient demands for a modern experience. Clunky old applications don't inspire trust, and modern patients want modern solutions. A 2020 survey tells us that over a quarter of patients have switched providers due to a poor digital health experience, a number that rose by 40% from 2019.
Consider how digital capabilities can affect a patient's experience. Online bill pay might improve on-time payments, appointment reminders and rescheduling can boost attendance, and online medication refill requests could help patients better adhere to treatments. Patients also get access to a modern experience and play a more active role in their care.
Tech-forward strategies power these goals and simplify the infrastructure required for digital health platforms and services. Public and private clouds are foundational parts of this development. A cloud-based system can deliver patient data securely and quickly to any device and integrate with various platforms used in the organization, such as scheduling tools or electronic health records (EHR). Patient portals could be a prime opportunity for data to disconnect, but the cloud keeps everything centralized, secure, and current.
Discover the power of the Content Cloud
With a single secure platform for all your content, Box enables you to manage the entire content lifecycle: file creation, co-editing, sharing, e-signature, classification, retention, and so much more. We make it easy for you to collaborate on content with anyone, both inside and outside your organization. Frictionless, enterprise-grade security and compliance are built into our DNA, so you get total peace of mind that your content is protected. And with 1,500+ seamless integrations — as well as a range of native capabilities, like Box Sign — the Content Cloud provides a single content layer that ensures your teams can work the way they want.
The Content Cloud is a game changer for the entire organization, streamlining workflows and boosting productivity across every team. Contact us today, and explore what you can do with Box.
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**While we maintain our steadfast commitment to offering products and services with best-in-class privacy, security, and compliance, the information provided in this blogpost is not intended to constitute legal advice. We strongly encourage prospective and current customers to perform their own due diligence when assessing compliance with applicable laws.