We live in the digital age, where information is abundantly available at a keystroke. Many industries have adapted to the
revolution in information technology, but the healthcare industry still relies to a substantial extent on data capture and
analysis methods that are outmoded or hobbled by proprietary formats that inhibit connectivity among data sources and technology
The good news is that the situation is changing as life sciences research becomes dependent on computational power, as governments
invest in the healthcare information infrastructure, and as information-based innovators such as Microsoft and Google shape
the way consumers and healthcare professionals interact with data. Research shows that effective use of information has become
a driver of competitive advantage, provided that companies fulfill two key responsibilities: understanding the business impact
of changes in the way information is collected and processed, and making wise tactical investments in the tools required to
stay ahead of the technology curve.
Harnessing Transformative Forces
Three transformative phenomena are the catalysts for defining both the new opportunities and the risks to existing business
models. These include an information explosion, enhanced connectivity, and a shift in information advantage.
» Information Explosion. Not just the quantity of information, but also the types of information available to stakeholders is increasing exponentially.
Leading the way are technological advances such as genomics data, digitization of patient data, and new techniques for taking
diagnostic images. And the digital universe is expected to double in size every two years; major medical centers must be equipped
to handle billions of terabytes of data (an information output equivalent to trillions of filing cabinets).
» Enhanced Connectivity. Through a proliferation of channels and networks derived from such developments as HL7-enabled Regional Health Information
Organizations (RHIOs), Web 2.0 communities, and remote access to patients, stakeholders are interacting better than ever before.
Connectivity is also improving via new forms of collaboration and emerging standards for interoperability, permitting a smooth
flow of clinical information across clinical and research organizations.
» Shift in Information Advantage. Changes in the source and ownership of relevant information are creating a shift in the market. Healthcare is an information
business, and the advantages from possessing the relevant information will open up as clinical data becomes more accessible
and transparent to a variety of stakeholders, or as medical histories become more fully available to patients.
To control these three transformative forces, a biopharma company needs the proper strategy. Without a strategy, these forces
will shift the relative influence and advantage toward others in the health system. Historically, a biopharma company could
attribute its proprietary edge to the fact that it had more information about a product (efficacy, side effects, and optimal
dosages for various indications) than other stakeholders. That familiar information advantage is partly responsible for the
current model of developing and marketing medicines—from the design of clinical trials to the prevalence of sales representatives
in doctors' offices.
But with the shift in information advantage, other stakeholders are gaining the initiative. Payers now have a wealth of outcomes
information that they are leveraging to create treatment and reimbursement protocols. Physicians are becoming less amenable
to the traditional sales rep, and more inclined to favor the "neutral, honest broker." Add the other two transformative phenomena—the
information explosion (from research labs and elsewhere) and enhanced connectivity (rapidly spreading information not just
within a company but also between companies and with other stakeholders)—and you have a blueprint for significant change:
a set of new opportunities and the obligation to compete for them.