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Life sciences firms failing to grasp connected health bonanza

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The life sciences sector’s failure to adequately provide ‘connected health’ products and services to patients will prove a boon to Big Tech, according to a new report.

Capgemini’s research reveals that, despite high ambitions, only a few life sciences organisations have the digital, technical and collaborative abilities to realise the potential of connected health. And less than 20 percent of these go beyond proof-of-concept stage.

The study, ‘Unlocking the Value in Connected Health’, canvassed 523 senior life sciences executives across 166 companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors in seven countries in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Though the number of approved connected health offerings is expected to grow by 40 percent in the next five years, only 16 percent of life sciences companies are currently either testing or have approved connected health products in the market.

Less than a third of those surveyed run successful connected health initiatives, while only a quarter of these use artificial intelligence to run predictive analysis on real-time data from connected health products.

And only a fifth have a Centre for Excellence to drive innovation, synergies and best practices in their connected health offerings.

But bigger is evidently better in this arena: nearly half the life sciences organisations generating over $20 billion in annual revenue said they had a ‘mature’ portfolio strategy and planning for connected health, compared to 17 percent of companies making less than $1 billion.

Bigger businesses benefit from their greater ability to overcome security vulnerabilities and regulatory approval, the two major challenges to developing and scaling connected health, according to Capgemini.

Digital skills shortages – or a perception of them – are stymying smaller life science companies’ abilities to engage in and grow their connected health portfolios of products, it seems.

Almost half those consulted in business roles believe the connected health enterprise has adequate skills in augmented and virtual reality, whereas just 20 percent of tech personnel agree. Augmented/virtual reality, systems’ thinking and interoperability, engineering and human-centered design are the top technical skills with the greatest shortage, claims the report.

Despite this, almost all respondents agreed connected health will revolutionise healthcare by creating new treatment pathways, with new treatment possibilities and early diagnosis and detection of disease seen as core patient outcomes.

Those surveyed said therapeutic areas which would benefit most from connected health products were neuroscience-related diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy. Rare diseases and immunology were also cited as key beneficiaries of the approach.

Examples of connected health in action include Helius Medical’s PoNS device, the first tongue-delivered neuromodulation therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS), and EBR Systems’ WiSE cardiac resynchronisation therapy tool.

Commenting on the report’s finding, Olivier Zitoun, Global Life Sciences Industry Lead at Capgemini says: “The demand and the opportunity for improved patient outcomes is there today, and a number of technologies hold the promise to revolutionise treatment pathways and patients’ interactions with healthcare providers.

“To reap the benefits of digital health technologies, organisations will need to address the skills, technology, and structural gaps in order to build a scalable, personalised, and integrated Connected Health portfolio.”

Connected health trials being planned in the next five years include those for remote patient monitoring, such as telemedicine/virtual care, telemonitoring digital biomarker applications, like wearable biosensors in the forms of gloves, clothing, or embedded implants to continuously track patient health and AI-enabled predictive diagnostics and preventive medicine.

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