IT as a Key Partner for Medical Information’s Digital Transformation

Ian Hamilton, Company Director at Original Digital Limited (formerly Medical Affairs Global IT for Lilly)

Shai Blackwell, Managing Director, Europe at conversationHEALTH

IT plays an important role when it comes to the implementation of new technologies in the pharmaceutical industry. Here we speak with IT industry leader Ian Hamilton to gain his insights on the key partnership between IT and Medical Affairs teams:

1. What’s the role of IT alongside Medical Affairs when it comes to technology that supports both internal and external teams?

We strongly advocate that pharma companies have a specialist Medical Affairs IT team. This team should be involved in the day-to-day business operations, management, and project meetings, learning the function, processes, regulations, challenges, and opportunities. Typically, these are not deep technologists but IT professionals who have the skills to translate business needs and requirements into technical requirements.

2. Build or buy is a key question — how does IT evaluate whether they should be building new capabilities internally vs. outsourcing with proven vendors and partners?

Our preference would always be to buy whenever possible, but ensure solutions are open and can integrate well into your ecosystem. Sometimes building is the only option especially if you are breaking new ground or have identified a unique opportunity. Buying reduces the maintenance effort and off-the-shelf SaaS solutions will typically integrate more easily. Companies often think their problems are unique but when you analyze the requirements, this is seldom the case. When selecting partners, it is critical they have domain expertise specifically in the pharmaceutical industry.

3. You’re a vastly experienced IT leader at Global and Regional levels within Pharma. With your first-hand experience working with Medical teams to implement enterprise solutions to support the business — what’s your blueprint for how IT and Medical teams collaborate and partner?

As noted above, we strongly advocate that pharma companies have a specialized Medical Affairs IT team. This team should feel and act like they have one foot in medical and the other in IT. They need to be strong medical advocates to help secure funding and resources, they should be able to articulate medical priorities and challenges, write both business and technical requirements and talk to medical affairs professionals in a language they understand.

We would recommend IT professionals sit with and shadow their Medical Affairs colleagues and even take some of their training. The closer they can get to understand their world can only help them to ensure they deliver the best solutions.

4. What technologies are IT teams evaluating at the moment for Medical Affairs teams and functions — and what are they looking for in these solutions?

We are seeing companies can be in multiple places in terms of their digital technology adoption; some are trailblazers, others happy to be followers and those that are struggling to get started. In terms of hot technologies:

o Component Content Authoring

o Content generation and visualization

o HCP and patient portals

o Customer insight:

  • Personalization
  • Intelligent search capabilities
  • Collaboration tools
  • Decision support tools

o Contact Centre Automation:

  • CTI (Computer Telephony Integration)
  • Voice to text translation
  • Conversational virtual assistants
  • Voice recognition
  • Omnichannel

Generally, it can all be summarized as automation, efficiency, and multi-channel.

In summary, the adoption, or intelligent use, of digital solutions to complement or augment human interactions, is critical to balance the increasing demand from more informed customers, while continuing to provide a quality, valued, trusted information service in the channel of preference. The challenge for Pharma is to transform its people, processes, technologies, and content to work effectively in the digital world. The IT team can then be an important partner, with establishing relationships and credibility, to help identify new and innovative technologies that can drive the business forward.

To learn more about our digital solutions to engage HCPs, patients and consumers, book a meeting

The conversationHEALTH SaaS platform is purpose-built for the life sciences industry to engage with patients, consumers and healthcare professionals 24/7/365.