The Cloud Is Casting Its Welcome Shadow on the Pharmaceutical Industry

Specialty Pharmacy Times, July/August 2016, Volume 7, Issue 4

Pharmacies may be able to achieve significant savings and operational efficiencies with the cloud.

AS AN EXECUTIVE, STAKEHOLDER, OR IT PROFESSIONAL AT A PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY, you might find yourself increasingly drawn to cloud services.

If you’re facing resistance to such a transition, you’ll find it encouraging to learn that many of your pharmacy industry peers have begun the process of migrating data and applications to the cloud in an effort to combat the ever-increasing costs bubbling up in the industry. The need for cost reduction strategies are clear, considering a 2014 study performed by Tufts that uncovered a 145% increase in the cost of developing a research drug since 2003.

Pharmacy companies can achieve significant savings and operational efficiencies with the cloud compared with traditional hosting methods. Adding to the financial implications, the cloud can improve collaboration between geographically dispersed teams, and can also help companies gain greater insight into their data. In many ways, the health care industry led the charge with widespread cloud adoption already taking hold.

Medical professionals are already using cloud technology today. Furthermore, health care IT forecasters predict a 9.3% increase in cloud migrations in 2017, bringing industry spending up to $20.7 billion, according to Base Case. Like their health care counterparts, many pharmaceutical companies are following suit, with plans to migrate their infrastructure to the cloud.

HOW PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES CAN USE CLOUD COMPUTING TO THEIR ADVANTAGE

The term “digital pharma” describes the trend towards cloud adoption that is prevalent today in the pharmaceutical industry. Aligning with digital pharma, cloud migration initiatives can improve business operations and cut costs. Beyond that, consider some innovative ways that pharmaceutical companies use cloud computing to their advantage:

• Facilitating Mergers and Acquisitions — An article by BioPharm Insight explores how disparate IT systems have proven challenging for pharma companies undergoing a merger or acquisition. Linda Drumright, who heads clinical trial optimizations at IMS Health, cited cloud services as an ideal platform to merge disparate systems quickly. Before this service was available to pharmaceutical companies, Fierce Biotech IT reports that some pharma industry companies would leave systems separated for years following a business merger or acquisition.

• Meeting the Rising Demands for Pharmaceuticals — The United States, along with Canada and Mexico, comprises the largest pharma continental market across the globe, per Statista. The United States alone makes up 40% of the global pharmaceutical market, which translated to a share of $365 million in 2014. Although there are many other companies contending in the pharma market, 6 out of 11 of the top global companies were based in the United States.

The pharma industry is vital to US citizens, as total spending on medications in the United States in 2014 was $374 billion. While pharmaceutical companies face the aforementioned rising demand, they are also being asked to meet increasingly high consumer expectations. Across industry lines, businesses today are faster, more agile, and provide customized service to customers. As pharmaceutical companies are expected to rise to this new standard, it stands to reason that traditional operations and processes will no longer cut it. The cloud can help pharmaceutical companies become more agile like their counterparts in other markets.

• Offering Staff Mobility and Flexibility — Work outside of the office can sometimes be cumbersome and inconvenient. Cloud-based computing, via a Desktop as a Service (DaaS) solution, allows a workforce to access their entire digital workspace, including data and applications from any location using the device of their choice. With the flexibility afforded by such a solution, users can function as easily from the other side of the world as they can from their own office.

• Offload Maintenance — IT staff can spend significant time catching up, much less keeping up, with continual upgrades that require attention and can detract from strategic initiatives. By migrating to a cloud-based platform, your IT team can scale much more easily and focus attention elsewhere.

• Compliance Regulations — Safeguarding your organization’s confidential data while meeting industry regulations can be a massive undertaking. With a secure cloud-based platform you can remain compliant and meet HIPAA security mandates.

• Empowering Research and Development (R&D) — Pharmaceutical staff often requires unlimited access and insight, particularly when engaged with data-centric research and development. With a cloud-based platform, your R&D staff can enjoy heighted access to data within a protected environment. This gives R&D staff the freedom to deliver the best results in the quickest time frame.

THE DERMATRAN CASE STUDY — A PHARMACEUTICAL USE CASE

DermaTran Health Solutions offers a prime example of how a cloud platform can make vast improvements in pharmaceutical operations. This particular group used an application publishing solution to streamline their operations and facilitate the use of a compounding application central to its business operations.

DermaTran sought a turn-key app publishing solution to help address the following challenges associated with its former solution: Printing to a local area network (LAN) printer from the application on a desktop without a VPN connection between DermaTran’s LAN and the LAN within the cloud server’s infrastructure. Resolving an error on the recipient’s end when a user passed files from local workstations to application.

The recipient would receive an unspecified error from the platform. At times, the application simply failed to launch properly. Difficulty accessing multiple instances of a particular application at the same time. Along with client drive mapping issues, these problems were high on the list of priorities that needed a large-scale fix since they affected DermaTran’s primary compounding application.

After DermaTran migrated to a turn-key application publishing platform, the improvements were immediate, and the aforementioned challenges were resolved. Most importantly, using applications that require multiple instances is no longer an issue.

LONG-TERM IMPLICATIONS OF CLOUD USE IN THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY

With so many benefits associated with switching to a cloud-based platform, widespread cloud migration in the pharmaceutical industry seems inevitable. The next step in the transition is selecting the right cloud partner. Pharmaceutical companies should ensure that their cloud partner meets requirements unique to their industry, particularly those associated with HIPAA. With the right platform and partner at their disposal, pharmaceutical companies can achieve several benefits, including those outlined here and some that will undoubtedly be uncovered by the industry’s ongoing innovation.

About the Author

ALI DIN is GM and CMO at dinCloud, a cloud services provider that helps organizations rapidly migrate their IT infrastructure to the cloud. Ali’s IT industry career in the last 20 years has spanned product development, finance, and most recently, marketing and brand management.