No matter the industry, “being digital” goes well beyond developing a few mobile apps, launching a Web portal or moving a system or application to the cloud. It actually means changing the core DNA of your company operations to propel new business growth and operational models. Successful life sciences companies will seamlessly blend physical and digital components, delivering new value to patient, care provider, payer or pharmaceuticals stakeholders.

So what does “being digital” mean to the life sciences industry? In a recent Cognizant study, respondents from life sciences businesses identified the following top three digital opportunities:

  1. The patient experience: Re-defining the business value chain by making the patient experience a central area of focus.
  2. The R&D experience: Increasing R&D collaboration among researchers, investigators, patients and sponsors to reduce clinical trial costs, speed time to market and ensure therapy adherence and efficacy.
  3. The commercial experience: Building a collaboration ecosystem for payers, providers, physicians, patients, policy makers and partners.

All three opportunities align with the industry’s primary goals: holistic patient care, reducing the total cost of care, improving clinical productivity and complying with regulatory requirements. The next question is, what exactly can life sciences businesses expect to gain from being digital?

Evolving the Patient Experience

In the study, more than one-third of respondents named digital medicine – or “value beyond the pill” initiatives – as a top digital opportunity. This corresponds with the need for greater patient engagement, especially in an increasingly consumer health driven environment. By developing ways to educate patients and improve adherence to treatment regimens — particularly as more therapies are administered by patients themselves — organizations can establish better customer relationships, ensure that therapies deliver promised benefits and provide evidence to payers of real-world outcomes of their brand.

Real value lies in connecting patient engagement platforms seamlessly with the payer, provider and physician ecosystem. Addressing the related privacy and security concerns is an obvious challenge, but equally difficult is defining a new engagement model that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) technologies to provide better integration points for all stakeholders in this continuum.

All of these initiatives require a more holistic approach to system integration and a rethinking of the underlying processes. Such processes include therapy administration and distribution (supply chain), physician interaction (sales and marketing), reimbursement and formulary coverage (market access), outcomes and value analysis (health economics and outcomes research and the drug development process) and information control (data management). By aligning around a shared view of the customer journey, organizations can move beyond a pure systems view to a unified patient experience that delivers a service and data advantage.  These initiatives will become even more critical in light of the 21st Century Cures Act and continued drive toward personalized medicine.

Changing the Commercial Experience

In our study, customer service was also cited by one-third of respondents as a top digital opportunity. As the ramifications of the Affordable Care Act take hold, life sciences businesses see digital as playing a vital role for engaging with an extended list of new stakeholders, including pharmacy benefits managers, suppliers, care givers and specialists. Using a sales, service and complaint management platform, for example, organizations can streamline service requests, reduce product complaints and simplify other interactions and transactions. By creating better connections between sales reps, clinical specialists, service reps and customers, life sciences businesses can expand their reach and improve customer satisfaction.

Improving R&D

Nearly half of study respondents said R&D was a top digital opportunity. Digital technologies can ensure better adherence with treatment protocols among study subjects, as well as improve data quality. For example, monitoring — the single largest cost item in a clinical trial — can be greatly streamlined with digital technology by centralizing high-quality data about operations, patients, safety and clinical research.

Digital platforms enable collaboration, centralize data access and standardize processes for clinical trial researchers, investigators, patients and sponsors. Such capabilities can help life sciences organizations streamline clinical trials and enable better, faster decision-making. That means shorter time-to-market, which reduces development costs and accelerates market impact.

Looking Ahead

The digital health business is fundamentally different from the traditional life science business model. Life sciences organizations must evolve their corporate strategic thinking and internal culture to compete with digital-native companies.

If you are thinking about how to evolve from current-state to a digital business, we’d like to hear about it. E-mail us, or comment below.

Also, share this study with others on your team who are interested in this topic.

Bhaskar Sambasivan is Vice-President and Global Markets Leader in the Life Sciences business unit at Cognizant. In this role, Bhaskar has helped many CIOs and business leaders drive large-scale transformation programs in IT, R&D and commercial functions. Prior to Cognizant, he spent many years in consulting and leadership roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers and at product companies such as Siebel and Oracle. With 23 years of industry experience, Bhaskar is also a regular speaker at many life sciences industry events and conferences and author of many thought leadership articles in leading magazines and publications. He can be reached at Maroo is Chief Digital Officer in the Life Sciences business unit at Cognizant. He leads Cognizant thinking in defining digital for life sciences value chains by combining the creative and design experience of a marketing agency with deep domain knowledge, patient centricity, commercial data analytics, data sciences capabilities and global delivery execution. Pratik brings 15+ years of life sciences experience, covering start-ups and large pharma, M&A and divestitures, consulting and digital transformation, solution architect and delivery. He holds an MBA from IIM Bangalore and is passionate about leveraging innovative technology to deliver value. He can be reached at or
Bhaskar Sambasivan

Bhaskar Sambasivan

Bhaskar is a Senior Vice-President and Global Markets Leader of Cognizant's Life Sciences Business unit. He and his team focus on delivering... Read more

  • Kannan Sreedhar

    Excellent article in “being digital” rather than “doing digital”, An interesting aspect that pertains to the R&D and Commercial Experience is collabor and sharing information between pharmaceutical companies given the environment of joint clinical trials as well joint commercial drug marketing that has now become far more common between erstwhile competitors. Cloud technologies provide a great opportunity for accelerating clinical trials with teh opportunity to rapidly assemble and disassemble infrastructures to support specific projects.