Pharma Companies and the Need to Focus on Solution Outcomes

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With the buzz around technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, the focus easily becomes the technology itself. As companies clamour to integrate new solutions, they need to ensure they leverage technology which solves their needs, rather than shoehorning technologies into their practices, says Christina Busmalis, of IBM.

Christina Busmalis, Director, Go to Market Leader, Europe and Asia Pacific, IBM Watson Health Life Sciences

In a conversation with me ahead of the eyeforpharma Barcelona conference, Busmalis, with  IBM Watson Health Life Sciences, explained how she is following last year’s exploration of AI, titled, “Time to go WAY ‘beyond the pill’ with Augmented Intelligence,”with a talk on the state of play of AI in 2019.

“I wanted to go back and see what’s happened in a year and where AI currently is,” she said. “I want to focus on where we see AI evolving, the view between narrow versus broad AI and where we see the most value coming from – which eventually is more from broad AI, outside of a narrow slice.”

Technology That Works for You

When exploring AI, as with other innovations, it is vital to reflect on how technology can best serve genuine needs. “It’s not a standalone thing, it needs to link with the business,” she said. “That’s always a problem, but especially when it comes to AI, or blockchain, or any of these technology buzzwords. People try to fit technology into something, versus the other way around – where could technology help us do things differently, improve existing processes or even explore new avenues to generate opportunities.

“We talk about AI, we talk about big data, but how do you bring them together?,” she added. “Your data can be piles of medical publications, real world data (RWD), clinical data, claims data, genomic data, but how to leverage all that different and disparate data for insight? The real role of AI in healthcare requires demystification through practical, proven results and clear-cut best practices. AI does not exist without data. We’re not done figuring out the AI journey of where this is all going and where it best fits right across the whole landscape of healthcare and life sciences.”

According to Busmalis, “AI applications need to scale up to be more pervasive, but we need to pay attention to global and local regulations, and not to forget ethical practices related to AI and personal data.”

Speaking at eyeforpharma Barcelona, Busmalis will explore how one can combine AI with data, showing cases of where the combinations have brought value, from molecule to market.

To wrap up, a spot of future-gazing is in order. “It’s really getting beyond where we are now and trying to address our challenges in a way that is impacting much more than the spot solutions we see today,” she said. “Whether it’s in clinical, whether it’s in market access, having broad data and broad AI can be the foundation for that.”

Thinking Bigger

In order to make a real shift, she added, pharma needs to think bigger. “We’ve moved the term from big data to broad data at IBM,” she said. “We need to integrate complex, disparate data to drive insights and better outcomes. For example, use broad data to gather inputs for sensibly establishing target pricing that looks at the incremental patient benefit of the new treatment/procedure relative to currently available options. We’ve got to look at the whole ecosystem and ask how we can actually make a major disruption which goes beyond just a pharma company.”

“The industry needs to disrupt the status quo to  drive better outcomes, and data combined with AI is an enabler to do that,” Busmalis added. “It’s not the answer, it’s an enabler, and we need to think more deeply about how we can solve things and not just assume that technology alone is the solution.”

Busmalis, will present at eyeforpharma Barcelona, March 12-14, 2019, at the Centre Convencons Internacional Barcelona (CCIB).

A version of this story first appeared on EyeForPharma

Chairman, eyeforpharma

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