Given the increased investment in healthcare technology, it makes sense that medicine is going to be increasingly reliant on tech to help deal with rising patient populations and economic factors. Not only can healthcare technology be a great cost-saving mechanism, but also improved patient outcomes have been tied directly to new tools and methodologies that have arisen out of the tech revolution.

Great medical care at the doctor’s office isn’t enough anymore, as tech advances have enabled medical teams to remain in contact outside of the hospital. Pharmaceutical companies are also realizing the potential of this technology, as their drugs and devices can be enhanced by products from innovative tech companies.

Increasing Value Across the Industry

The increased competition in the pharmaceutical industry has led companies to try and find ways of improving their services, often in a manner that introduces outside products. According to a LinkedIn Pulse blog post, technology will play an increasingly prominent roleas pharma and hospitals will work to coordinate and manage health outcomes by monitoring a number of factors that affect health outcomes.

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Paul Murima, a bioengineer and healthcare strategy expert, noted that pharmaceutical companies now need to monitor the outcomes associated with their pills, as this will improve the value of their medicines and could potentially enhance future endeavors. Monitoring patient outcomes will add to patient databases, which will give these companies more and more access to information that will improve the effectiveness of medications. Data-mining, information technology, and advanced analytics are all becoming important parts of any R&D efforts, according to Murima.

He noted that industry leaders need to be proactive, not reactive, with regard to incorporating the latest technology into their business models. By taking this approach, pharma, in conjunction with budding tech firms and innovative startups, can help to fill the gaps that exist in the current healthcare system.

Part of this approach is reliant on something that big pharma may be wary of: change.

Taking the Digital Approach

Incorporating the latest technology would require a significant change in the business structure for many pharma companies, according to a McKinsey&Company report. The research, titled “How pharma can win in a digital world,” notes that the technology is ready, but pharma must undergo a transformation if it is to successfully incorporate it into its models.

Part of this change is centered on the individual. Because patients are becoming more active in the healthcare world, no longer accepting a passive role, pharma will have to use technology to increase lines of communication to deal with their input.

“Healthcare will be driven much more by consumers than physicians, with patients increasingly coming to their doctors with more information, parameters they measured at home, and an informed opinion about how they should be treated,” said Dr. Bertalan Mesko, medical futurist and author.

This means that pharma and medical professionals will need to engage patients on a scale that was previously unimaginable. One way that these companies can do this, according to the McKinsey researchers, is to monitor online communities, participate in dialogues via remote monitoring devices, or observe patient-doctor communications that take place in the digital world.

Pharmaceutical companies will need to focus on the patient-doctor relationship much more now than in previous years. Doctors have already begun to make this adjustment, but further changes are likely.

“How doctors spend their time will change dramatically,” says Vinod Khosla, founding CEO of Sun Microsystems and founder of Khosla Ventures. “They will shift to spending a smaller proportion of it ordering diagnostics and interpreting results, and much more on the social elements of healthcare—helping patients and families think through treatment options.”

Physicians will also receive more patient data in the future, so their infrastructures will need to be able to handle the influx of this information. Smartphones, tablets, and the cloud will all bridge previously existing communication gaps, so physicians need to have the latest tools at their disposal, according to the McKinsey researchers.

Dr. Krishna Yeshwant, general partner at Google Ventures, told the researchers that “physicians need to operate in a more complex environment with an ever-growing range of tools. Physicians need a package of solutions to navigate this environment.”

Thus, pharma can become more involved by helping enable physician teams. Pills aren’t the only asset they need to provide, as technology infrastructure will become increasingly important to these firms. Partnering with smaller companies that may have these tech solutions in place will be a major play, and one that cannot be ignored.