We’ve become familiar with headlines about tech companies wading into healthcare and life sciences — from the giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft, to tiny start-ups. At first, they were exploratory steps. But we are beginning to see these forays evolve and grow. Rather than a new sensor for a wearable or another fairly limited endeavor, we’re now looking at much larger initiatives: for example, Amazon buying wholesale pharmacy licenses in a dozen states, or Google’s Verily starting a four-year, 10,000-patient study.
Even older tech companies are getting into the game. Nokia acquired smart-device company Withings for its digital health unit. And, as is being driven home with current headlines, the amount of data that the tech giants now have is immeasurable. As we become an ever more digital world, the power that tech behemoths wield over our everyday communications and interactions has more of an impact on life sciences marketing.
Consumers are becoming accustomed to seamless digital experiences. From our homes to our cars, our devices to our workplaces, we expect the systems with which we interact to know our history and our preferences, to offer exactly the option we need, and to let us complete transactions with a few taps.
The healthcare system should be no different. In fact, 59% of U.S. online shoppers expect their healthcare customer service to be as good as Amazon’s. So, it makes sense, with the “Amazon-ification” of healthcare underway, that Amazon and its ilk would step in.
(Read more about Amazon in “The Amazonification of Health”.)
We’re looking for it eagerly – and so are new healthcare practitioners. As one medical student told the New York Times recently, “It’s not inconceivable, by the time I graduate from medical school, that the entire practice of medicine can be revolutionized by technology.”
Many in pharma have figured this out. As former Teva CEO Yitzhak Peterburg said recently, “Part of our competitors are not only the Novartis of the world and the other pharmas, but really the Amazons and Googles.”
A recent report from CB Insights observed that Google “seems to be going after the healthcare space from every possible angle.” It’s using artificial intelligence to detect, monitor and manage diseases like diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Google may also be looking into the health insurance space with its life sciences unit Verily.
Google “seems to be going after the healthcare space from every possible angle.”
Some pharma companies are looking globally for tech partnerships in order to gain access to previously untapped markets. For example, in countries like China — where tech platforms Google, Amazon and Facebook are banned — Sanofi, Eli Lilly and GSK are partnering with companies like Alibaba, Tencent and Weibo to develop outreach initiatives. Electronics manufacturer Samsung’s biosimilars division Bioepis — a joint venture between Samsung BioLogics and Biogen — already has five products approved in various markets, and is expected to turn a profit this year.
Much is happening. But pharma needs to become even more open to partnership with big tech. The potential has always been clear in the match: scientific knowledge and regulatory familiarity on the one side, technological knowhow and innovative chutzpah on the other.
Parts of this post originally appeared in “The Health and Tech Trends that Will Shape Pharma Marketing in 2018.”