Lif on the digitalisation of the pharma industry
Updated: Oct 11
Lif - the trade association for the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Sweden - wants to have a clear picture of how digitalisation is perceived by Swedish pharmaceutical companies, as well as how and to what extent people in the industry work with and contribute to the digitalisation of healthcare today. Since 2018, Lif has therefore commissioned a Digitalisation Index. After the 5th measurement, Opticom and Gunilla Englund – specialist at Lif – discussed about the evolution of the Digitalisation Index over time, its future, and mega trends in this field.
Gunilla, you are new to this post as responsible for the Lif [digitalisation] expert network - and by extension for the Lif Digitalisation Index. So, what questions would you like me to ask you to best tell the world that you are where you are now?
I think that the most important thing for
both the pharmaceutical companies and for us at Lif is to work to promote public health and patient engagement, that as a patient you should have control over your own treatment, that you should have the opportunity to take part in treatments that make you healthy and independent...
Digitalisation is just a tool but a very suitable one for creating both habits and ways of working which mean that you could both promote health and have more self-determination, and that is why I have chosen to work with these issues, because I think you should make it as easy as possible for those who need to undergo medical treatment.
Where do you want to take the Lif Digitalisation Index?
I will start by saying it is good to do a measurement like this, it makes the participants think about these issues. The index will be valued even higher if more of our member companies would take part in the survey, and I think we should be able to substantially increase the response rate from our members because our member companies clearly state that digitalisation issues are one of the most critical issues that they have on their table today. So, it is in their own interest!
I see the need for an active dialogue with our member companies for them to help us further formulate the purpose of the survey, and so that they realise how we plan to make use of the results both internally and in our external communication, to make them fully understand the purpose of the index.
How can digitalisation help people understand what the pharmaceutical industry is doing?
I believe that it is about doing the right things, that you do things with longevity, high credibility, and high quality. You must also continuously work with developing ethical regulations. The important thing is to remember that legislation exists to enable treatment and to protect patients so that they do not suffer injuries. Medicines are potent - and they must be! - to be able to relieve and treat disease, but that also entails that there will be a risk of side effects for all medicines, or of abuse for some medicines and so on. And you must always understand that the aim is to get the desired effects of medicines at the same time as legislation needs to be designed so that no patient is at risk and if something goes wrong, you must be able to quickly know what to do then.
Therefore, we have such a comprehensive control system, but sometimes it just becomes a system for the sake of the system or rules for the sake of the rules where you forget why we have this at all and it is, as I said, to enable treatment that we have medicines at all, otherwise it could be ignored. So, I absolutely believe that what digital does is that it becomes easier for many to take part in, for example, information, and I think that should be seen as an opportunity for more people to get involved. You can use more techniques, e.g., video and sound, etc., not just write a difficult text. So, you can really work in a positive way with drug information via different digital channels and several types of digital services that enable you to get a working treatment... but there are also negative variants, for example how medicines are sometimes written about on social media. And there, it is incredibly important that we – as an industry – make sure to strengthen the opportunities to work with the positive parts.
To wrap-up our discussion, what 2-3 megatrends do you see in terms of digitalisation in the Pharma world?
On the one hand, we have an aging population and that is sometimes contrasted with digitalisation, but I do not agree with that, there are a lot of people over 85 who think that digital technology is an opportunity and a good thing. So, I would say that digital technology is an advantage even for the elderly.
This industry is also increasingly globalised, pharma companies also change their methods to work more globally, for instance they try to find ways to reduce the use of printed drug information leaflets and at the same time to adapt more to individual countries, all of which can be said to be part of their digital development. Globalization and digitalisation are constantly going hand in hand.
Orphan drugs I think are also connected with globalization; today maybe there are only 20 patients in Sweden, and no one would develop a drug for only 20 patients, but if we see the entire world as the market, then you may have the opportunity to develop a product.
The Pharma companies also show a great will to develop a wider range of products, i.e., no longer just pills but they want to be able to also provide diverse types of purely digital products.
Thank you, Gunilla. We look forward to continuing helping with the Lif Digitalisation Index!