In the media

How to make the life science industry more customer centric

Johanne Olsen Signe Nørrevang

By Johanne Rønnow Olsen, Signe Nørrevang, Ida Spangsberg


03 June 2022


Read the MedWatch article in Danish.

The future winners in the life science industry will be those who manage to put the customer and the patient at the centre of their business. It’s as simple as that. The key to achieving this is the ability to master digital solutions and to translate data into useful insights.

If you can master that, you will have a unique platform that enables you to understand your patients and customers' needs, and to adapt solutions accordingly.  These solutions increasingly go beyond medicine itself and can, for example, be apps with live chat or video advice services, pedometers, blood glucose meters, automatic alarms, or messages that aim to improve overall health.

But the handling of data and digital solutions can be complex for life science companies, with many having only recently moved into this area, historically being constrained by the special demands placed on them e.g. safety procedures and regulatory approvals in medical development.

In addition, life science companies have to navigate a complex ecosystem of patients, customers, public authorities and interest groups, where there are both different needs and requirements, e.g. on how to treat data ethically and responsibly.

Overall, this means that today there are big differences in how well life science companies are mastering customer centricity. PA Consulting has spoken to a large number of executives in the pharmaceutical industry who are in one way or another engaged in solving that challenge for their companies at the moment.

They report they are facing the following three challenges right now:

The need to establish a completely new business model that can drive the development of digital solutions across the company and do so in depth

Often, life science companies try to squeeze the responsibility for and execution of digital product development into an existing operating model that is defined in terms of functional silos. Instead, there is a need to develop a new operating model that can facilitate cross-cutting collaboration across e.g. R&D and the global sales function, while strengthening digital competences across the board. As one of the executives put it: "In order to secure some more interesting and disruptive objectives, we need completely different and new capabilities. Otherwise, it is impossible to imagine where we want to get to and how to execute our plans together to achieve that aim."

Close partnerships are needed

Life science companies will never develop digital solutions at the same speed as big tech, as they are only just beginning to develop those digital solutions. In addition, for good reasons, they are historically rooted in meeting their regulatory and ethical responsibilities to incorporate safety and impact into all their work processes and structures. Therefore, life science companies will likely need alternative strategies than competing , you should therefore not focus on trying to compete directly with tech companies.

Instead, when they want to scale their ability to apply digital solutions in treatment contexts, life science companies should consider how they can enter into close and deep partnerships with, among others, tech companies.

Silos and historically conditioned structures must be broken down

Often, life science companies are constrained by both formal and informal workflows that take place in well-defined functional silos. There is a need to reassess this  way of working, as the value of the digital solutions can only really be realised if they are the product of a deep and broad collaboration across functions, such as R&D, sales, and security.

How to address the challenges

Our recommendation to life science companies who aim to be more customer- and patient centric is clear. Start now, your competitors are already ahead. Focus and prioritise hard, and preferably as part of your overall strategy development.

The following should be your three main focus points, each of which contributes to strengthening the power of your organisation to achieve your aims:

  1. Take advantage of the ecosystem.  Not everything can or should be a core competency and not everything can be accommodated internally.  Make the right build/buy/partner decisions.
  2. Establish an organisational set-up and an operating model that can drive the coordination and development of digital products and the transformation of data to enable the development of customer-centric solutions centrally in the company.
  3. Focus on initiatives that create a collaborative relationship across the business.  Many life science companies are increasingly breaking down the silos they used to be comfortable with and establishing cross-functional teams that focus on unified and holistic solutions for healthcare professionals and patients.

By taking these three actions, you will have a strong foundation, on which to develop digital solutions with greater speed and precision than before. And can ultimately secure you a competitive advantage.

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