The new wave of technology is driving breakthrough approaches in life science companies’ commercial operations, with cloud-based business intelligence applications and storage, embedded analytics and systems integration all focused on lowering costs for comapnies and payers, and improving patient outcomes, says the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, in a new report.

These firms are aggressively embracing this new wave, which has the potential to drive transformational change over the next three years in overall healthcare system efficiency and the effectiveness of treatments. However, the availability and adoption of secure, healthcare-specific tools and services are key to accelerating this opportunity and deriving greater value from new, expanded sources of health information to optimise patient outcomes, the report emphasises.

The biggest global pharmaceutical companies will need to reduce combined operating costs by $36 billion annually to 2017 in order to maintain operating margins and current R&D levels, the study warns. And a survey conducted by the IMS Institute among decision-makers in IT, marketing, sales, operations and management from 70 life sciences organisations finds that, overall, respondents expect continued cost reductions across the industry, with 40% pointing to planned cuts of over 10% in their organisations during the next three years.

In addition, 74% of respondents say they are looking to derive greater value from the influx of healthcare information that includes anonymised electronic medical records (EMR) and other real-world data, while over 70% cite, as a priority, new investments in a range of commercial operations applications, such as customer relationship management, social media or integrated multi-channel marketing solutions. 

Technology systems and applications within life sciences companies have proliferated during the past decade but have often remained siloed and inefficient, and companies regard interoperability between systems as an urgent and critical need, the survey finds. Integrated systems are increasingly viewed as a means to improve workflow speed, eliminate conflicting data interpretations across departments and the cost of vendor teams managing manual data handoffs, and life sciences organisations are seeking pre-built, cloud-based application suites as a means to achieve these enterprise-wide system efficiencies, says IMS Health.

Companies are also shifting their primary data storage to the cloud and investing in new sales and marketing-related applications, while technology is enabling them to derive greater value from Big Data, it adds.

Also, companies regard new mobile applications as increasingly important for strengthening healthcare engagement - keeping patients more engaged in their own healthcare, facilitating communication between patients and healthcare professionals and delivering targeted, helpful information to physicians and payers. Nearly 60% of survey respondents rated patient apps as extremely or very important to address commercial challenges, while 69% similarly rated investments in physician apps, says IMS Health.