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New Healthcare Business Models Emerge


Published January 4, 2021 • 3 Min Read

This article originally appeared on the RBC Capital Markets website.

Shifting Paradigms

In the traditional biopharma model, the customer would be a physician, R&D tools would be chemical or biological, the end product a pill or vial, and the competitors pharma and biotech players.

The digital revolution in healthcare is shifting this long-established paradigm. Today, biopharma companies’ customer groups have grown to include patients of all ages, providers and payers—all equipped with smartphones and apps that generate a vast amount of digital information to empower their decision-making. R&D has added genetic information and digital capability to its toolset. The end product has broadened beyond the pill to include health outcomes enabled by digital devices and therapeutics. And the competitive set has seen the addition of technology players, including consumer-focused apps and online services, as well as digital health and digital therapeutics firms.

A Changing Ecosystem

Indeed, digital and AI applications are radically changing key areas of the biopharma ecosystem and how patients manage their healthcare.

In pre-clinical research, technology is enabling everything from a deeper mining of literature, to predictive modeling and gene-function annotation. Digital apps are simulating molecular dynamics and pushing the limits of cellular imaging.

In clinical trials, digital transformation is helping to automate testing procedures, build global patient databases and collect real-world data.

In diagnostics, tech powers digital pathology, home-based body diagnosis, and computational analysis of tissue arrays. Just like your car leaves the factory with hundreds of sensors that can trigger the check engine light, humans will have wearable and/or implantable sensors to alert them when something is not functioning properly. Another burgeoning area is immune cell monitoring and digital analysis through just a finger prick.

At the point of patient care, digital applications are already delivering virtual consultations, remote monitoring, VR-based cognitive therapy and digital Rx. Demand for telehealth services and health-based social platforms is also increasing and especially vital in a world facing new challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital Transformation

The digital revolution presents both threats and opportunities to incumbent biopharma companies. Tech is powering efficiencies in all stages of the current ecosystem and is also enabling healthcare providers to expand their capabilities from treatment to prevention.

The increased digitization of human experiences gives access to a wealth of information and knowledge that could help intervene before disease has a chance to strike. A prime example of this is collating data from an Apple Watch to screen for irregular heart rhythms and detect undiagnosed atrial fibrillation. At the other end of the spectrum, digital transformation allows a completely new class of therapies such as digital therapeutics to support specific disorders.

McKinsey and Company’s international survey shows that more than 75% of patients expect to use digital healthcare services in the future.1 Patients are seeking technology that delivers a level of care they can rely on and trust. Ultimately, the aim of the digital revolution is to develop healthier societies and lower the cost of care.

1 Source: McKinsey and Company, Healthcare’s Digital Future, July 2014.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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