The pharmaceutical industry is on the move: Demographic change and digitalization are presenting the industry with major challenges. 

In this blog post you will learn about the challenges pharmaceutical companies face and why the use of new technologies such as chatbots is the key to the future of pharmaceutical companies.

What are the social developments facing the pharmaceutical industry?

The share of people over 65 years of age in Germany will increase from the current 21% to 29% by 2030 (Robert Koch Institute). The older the population of a country is, the higher the number of patients with age-related chronic diseases. 

In addition, the risk of contracting several chronic diseases at the same time increases in older patients. This multimorbidity combined with ever increasing life expectancy is contributing to a change in the spectrum of diseases that must be managed by the health care system.

 

Multimorbidity requires complex and costly therapies

The diseases of multimorbid patients do not exist independently of each other, but interact in a complex form and influence each other. In order to be able to treat them efficiently, doctors need patient information that is as accurate and up-to-date as possible. 

Chronically ill patients must also often be monitored without interruption. It is neither technically nor financially feasible to cover this care completely with human personnel.

 

Prevention instead of therapy

This development places an enormous financial burden on the health system. For this reason, society and politics will be particularly interested in preventing people from falling ill in the first place by means of prevention, or in mitigating severe and chronic disease progressions through improved, early diagnosis.

At the Handelsblatt annual conference Pharma 2020, Dr. Matthias Suermondt, Vice President Public Affairs and Access at Sanofi, outlined the challenges and potential in the field of Digital Health.

In his opinion, online remote monitoring of chronically ill patients can save more than 3 billion. Apps for the accompaniment / care / control of chronic illnesses and medical chatbots could also save 3 billion euros.

This will lead to a redistribution of expenditure in the healthcare sector, which companies should prepare for in good time.

Spending in the health sector will be reallocated

According to a survey conducted by PwC's strategy& consulting firm, diagnostics spending is expected to grow by 524% worldwide. This increase is expected to be 244% in the area of prevention and 205% in digital health.

The share of total healthcare expenditure will shrink by almost 16%. 

Overall, the global health care market is expected to grow by 10% by 2030. At the same time, however, a decline in expenditure per patient of 27.5% is calculated. The reason for this is the rapidly growing proportion of the population with access to health care. This may lead to a significant decline in net operating margins in the pharmaceutical industry.

For pharmaceutical companies this means that they have to rethink their business model and strategy. Thomas Solbach, healthcare market expert and partner at Strategy&, says

"In our survey, health managers expect uncertain times for their current business model. Traditional pharmaceutical companies either have to become much more efficient in order to maintain their margins, or they are making targeted investments in growth areas such as diagnostics, prevention and digital health solutions."

 

How can pharmaceutical companies meet these challenges?

In order to survive in this rapidly changing market, pharmaceutical and medical companies must focus more on the areas of diagnostics, prevention and digital health solutions. In addition, the focus must be placed more on end customers and patients and their interests must be seen as a central part of the strategy.

New intelligent medical devices are needed that exploit the possibilities of digitisation. In addition, existing products can be combined with digital health solutions to provide added value for healthcare professionals and patients.

But how can such intelligent medical products look like?

 

How voicebots can be used in diagnostics

The MIT in Massachusetts is currently working on an artificial intelligence system that will be able to recognize Covid sufferers from a sound recording. For this purpose, the test persons create a recording of their cough. This is analyzed and compared with the sound recordings of Covid patients.

This diagnostic tool could be made available to consumers via a voice bot and relieve the burden on medical practices and laboratories. The voice bot prompts the users to cough and records a sound recording of it. After the analysis, the voice bot informs the user of the result. If the test is positive, the voice bot can inform the users how they should behave and where they can report their illness.

How virtual assistants can support prevention

Many chronic diseases can be prevented or at least mitigated by a healthy lifestyle. As "Personal Health Assistants", Virtual Assistants can help consumers to live healthy lives by keeping track of their eating and exercise habits and giving advice and suggestions based on these. These can of course also be tailored to a specific patient profile.

If the users do fall ill and need to be treated, the virtual assistant can remind them to take their medication and buy a new pack in time. Through a link to an online pharmacy, it could also automatically re-purchase the medication. 

How exactly this is also possible with prescription drugs can be read in our white paper "How to use Chatbots in the Pharmaceutical and medical Industry".

Digital Health helps to treat patients

Chronically ill people often need to be monitored continuously. With Digital Health solutions this is possible in an automated way around the clock. An example for this is the Vital Patch from Vitalconnect. With this patch, the heart function of patients can be monitored. It can be worn by patients everywhere, whether in the clinic, at home or at work.

Such intelligent medical devices can be supplemented with a virtual assistant. This communicates with the patients and can, for example, warn them of critical health conditions at an early stage and, if necessary, guide them.

 

These were only three examples of the use of chatbots, voice bots and virtual assistants. In our White Paper we have developed 11 use cases for the B2B and B2C area and highlight the different application possibilities of Conversational AI for the pharmaceutical and medical industry.