Mobile and the Life Sciences Supply Chain: A Crossroads of Opportunity
At NEXUS ’15, one of the Day Two workshops will focus on “Brainstorming Mobile Opportunities.” For a preview of emerging mobile opportunities in life sciences and hot topics at the event, we sat down with workshop chair Paul Cianciolo, who has engaged with dozens of supply chain companies around their mobile needs and aspirations.
Q: Why is this a good time for the life sciences industry to be talking about mobile?
A: There couldn't be a more interesting time in life sciences to be talking about mobile. All of the current trends – rising smartphone penetration throughout most developed and developing regions, pharmaceutical sales at an all time high, and serialized prescription products soon making their way en masse into many regional markets for the first time – set the stage for mobile to be used in a way that hasn't been done before in this industry.
Q: How has mobile been used in life sciences to date?
A: In most health care organizations – ranging from large pharmaceutical manufacturers down to small, independent dispensers -- mobile applications have taken a back seat to traditional desktop applications. Importantly, the mobile apps and tools that have been used have been very siloed in nature from a data perspective. They haven’t integrated easily and typically have not transmitted information between each other on a real-time basis, and therefore they've provided limited utility to their emerging counterparts.
With the increased availability and penetration of smartphones, especially on the consumer side, there's an opportunity to collect data in a much more massive and distributed fashion, and then use it in ways that have never been done before to improve health outcomes and healthcare efficiency.
Q: Dozens of countries around the world are in the process of implementing track and trace regulations. Does the promise of serialization data introduce opportunities for mobile?
A: Track and trace and the rise of serialization requirements produce a unique opportunity for life sciences, and especially for pharmaceutical manufacturers and other players in the supply chain. Because prescription drug products are going to be tracked down to the unit level, we'll finally be at a point where we can gain access to what end users are doing with those products, assuming that those patients opt-in, of course. Closing that information loop in that way has never been possible before within the life sciences industry.
Q: Many life sciences supply chain companies are feeling the burden of compliance, and hoping to find additional value in the data and processes. Could mobile play a part in that?
A: Track and trace
It’s worth noting, however, that the manufacturers I speak with that are taking a forward-looking view of this situation are saying, "I'm going to take these investments we're making and find ways to extend them beyond compliance by better securing and operationalizing my supply chain, and also by exploring new ways of engaging with patients or consumers." I believe that serialization will be the catalyst for these strategically-minded companies being able to take advantage of those opportunities.
Q: So does the combination of serialization data and mobile present an unprecedented opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to have a direct line of communication with patients?
A: Traditionally, manufacturers have been very disconnected from patients due to the nature of the sales path by which pharmaceutical products reach the end consumer. When medication passes through a wholesaler distributor, a secondary distributor, and eventually a pharmacy or clinician, the originally-manufacturing pharma company has no direct level of patient engagement or insight into that prescription being filled.
With serialization, there's going to be a unique opportunity to connect pharma companies and patients - assuming each party can deliver value to the other in a secure, opt-in fashion - and let them engage directly on that basis.
Q: What opportunities does mobile offer
on the business-to-business collaboration front?
A: In 2013, pharmaceutical sales totaled 980 billion dollars, an all time high worldwide. When you have a nearly trillion dollar market that's growing rapidly in value, you're also going to have bad actors that perform illicit activities in any void that can be exploited. We talk a lot about counterfeiting and products that have the potential to harm patients, and these activities certainly hurt the bottom line of manufacturers as well. Serialization and
With that in mind, mobile technologies – both patient-facing and those used on an internal basis by supply chain participants -- offer the opportunity for industry to further tighten its own supply chain, work in better concert with each other, and be able to stave off illicit activities that have the potential to damage brand reputations and revenue generation.
Q: Any predictions on what NEXUS '15 attendees will most want to discuss around mobile?
A: Mobile will be a hot topic in general at NEXUS. There will be a conversation about B2B applications, but I think the most exciting topic will certainly be around the patient use case.
The reason for that is straightforward: most of us have taken a prescription drug in our lifetime, and therefore we're all patients and consumers of these drugs, in addition to being industry professionals. As we start to talk about the patient use case, all of us can relate to those times we’ve consumed a drug and then think about how that experience could have been better if we’d been able to communicate with the people who manufactured that product – the possibilities on this front are virtually limitless, and that’s what makes it exciting.
As VP of Business Development at TraceLink, Paul Cianciolo is focused on identifying emerging mobile and other opportunities that are strategically important to TraceLink customers and partners.