UK: How Can Life Sciences Companies Build Successful Digital Partnerships?

Last Updated: 27 July 2016
Article by Roland Foxcroft

Last week we published our report 'Vital Signs: How to deliver better healthcare across Europe', which focussed predominantly on what good care might look like. The report highlights three common enablers across all seven vital signs intended to help transform healthcare services: standardising systems and processes, workforce working differently and the adoption of health technology. This week's blog provides deeper insight into the Partnership Vital Sign, with a focus on the benefits that can be derived from building successful digital partnerships between life sciences and technology companies. This blog, authored by Roland Foxcroft one of our Monitor Deloitte colleagues, appeared in Scripi and is the first in a series of exclusive columns that Deloitte is providing to Scrip, and which we agreed we would subsequently share with our readers.

Five principles for building successful digital partnerships

Investment in digital health is growing rapidly and has cumulatively reached $15.5bn1 in the US alone. However, much of this growth has been characterized by fragmentation for pharmaceutical companies. Despite iOS and Android hosting over 165,000 health apps, more than 48% of pharmaceutical company published apps do not have a single user review.2 It is little wonder, therefore, that a recent study has highlighted that only 13% of pharmaceutical leaders are satisfied with their current digital activities.3

Currently, 82% of mobile apps have just one or two functions4 which only allow them to support one specific part of the pharmaceutical value chain. However, digital technology, when properly deployed, allows companies to reuse both data and functionality. Digitally mature companies have moved away from building individual mobile and internet solutions with just one or two functions. Instead, they are beginning to link these solutions to create integrated platforms that can be used by different teams throughout the business. For example, the same technology could be used by development teams to digitally enable a clinical trial and then re-used by commercial teams to support product launches subject to adaptive licencing.

As pharmaceutical companies begin to focus increasingly on linking digital solutions, we are seeing a move away from investing in recreating existing technologies. New forms of partnership between pharma, digital companies and the healthcare system now allow life sciences organisations access to the very best individual digital solutions where appropriate.

We have identified five principles to help companies develop these partnerships:

  1. Due diligence beyond technology. During the initial partner selection phase, companies often favour a holistic procurement process for their immediate technology needs , rather than thinking about a partner of the future. A strategic partner should have the ability to balance short term technology delivery with longer term partnership development. Successful alliances are formed by those companies with a broader view of partners' priorities, leadership skills and cultural compatibility.
  2. Strong governance that shares both benefits and risks. Companies often do not invest enough time and resources into developing a governance framework that clearly defines roles and responsibilities beyond immediate delivery plans. This often leads to unresolved cross-organisational tension. Strong alliance frameworks fairly allocate the risks and benefits; reinforce incentives; and provide a collaborative forum for partners to openly address emerging issues.
  3. A pan-partner view of compliance. Digital alliances raise complex challenges around pharmacovigilance, ethics, information governance and other regulatory issues and are complicated further due to risk processes that vary across organisations, with many prospective digital partners demonstrating inexperience in the healthcare sector. Early development of pan-partner compliance processes is critical to align expectations, avoid unexpected delays, and reduce risk.
  4. A networked view of stakeholder engagement. Too often, digital partnerships underemphasise the level of interaction required with stakeholders who can enable or block adoption, largely as a result of placing too much focus on end customers, like physicians or patients. Nevertheless, many delays arise from other stakeholder groups, such as government policy-setting bodies, public health authorities, doctors' unions, and patient advocacy charities. An insider view of the local healthcare system is often essential to avoid costly mistakes.

  5. Management of value, not insight. In the rush to deliver insights straightaway, partners often deprioritise the planning of future implementation programs. Successful programs articulate how they link to each partner's corporate strategy early on and then proactively identify which organisational processes should be modified and what new skills will need to be developed in order for the partnership to reach its full potential. As good digital initiatives deliver benefits to multiple functions in each partner's organisation, managing this change is often more complex.

To make these partnerships successful, digital leaders within life sciences companies need new skills in theirs – strategy, external relationship management and governance, risk management, communications and change management. In many cases, these skills are not accessible in digital teams as they are currently configured and so digital leaders will need to either reshape their teams or else access talent from elsewhere in the enterprise.







The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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