Is this now Pharma’s digital revolution? A roundup of key medicines information trends from 2023
Dec 6, 2023
The Pharma industry is beginning to align itself more with the modern era of digital channels and formats, with adoption of innovative tools and resources set to change how we work with medicines information for decades.
Datapharm's CEO, Rich Cooper, picks out 5 key Pharma trends from 2023 to keep watch on.
It has been a really busy and exciting time since joining Datapharm in February this year. We are making some impressive strides in the future of medicines information, while the industry is also beginning to align itself more with the modern era of digital channels and formats.
When taking the opportunity to lead Datapharm on its growth journey, I was not only excited to be joining the providers of emc (medicines.org.uk), but I could see that we were playing a huge role in digital healthcare. This is sparking the beginning of improved interoperability that will have a huge impact on how patients, HCPs and Pharma engage or work with medicines information.
Understanding that our company has such a huge influence on patient outcomes really helps to maintain that meaningful purpose - that the work we do can have a wide-reaching impact on the world around us.
Asides from my own personal reasons, I think this last year has been particularly memorable, not least because of the trends and developments which are now cementing themselves in the UK Pharma industry, if not globally.
Here are my picks from 2023:
QR Codes and complying with the Code
It’s fair to say that prescribing information in paper form has long been a bugbear for the Pharma industry. Using QR codes on printed materials which link to the digital prescribing information, instead of providing it in hard copy, would help Pharma to reduce printing overheads and remove the risk of out-of-date information in circulation.
Current guidance (as per December 2023) does not stipulate how prescribing information can be linked to from the medicine packet. However, for Pharma companies considering more innovative and effective methods to provide this information, more clarity over the use of QR codes would be more than welcome.
The PMCPA have already hinted at a “modernisation” for 2024’s update to the ABPI Code which will bring its guidance more in line with where the industry is moving digitally in terms of innovation. Notably, this is likely to include the use of QR codes for prescribing information.
AI – innovative solution to regulatory processes or a waste of time?
We’ve heard plenty of fascinating discussions about Artificial Intelligence (AI) this year, such as from the AI Safety Summit in November. Many politicians and executives have raised their concerns about risk of disinformation which could be caused by generative AI, but the UK is clearly keen to make progress on creating international norms and strategies for using AI in a way where the public is given protection from harmful content.
These concerns have reverberated throughout the Pharma industry as well, which has been evident when we have met peers at a number of events this year. Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT have sparked concerns about their reliability for trustworthy information, and this is understandable as so many of us have been left in the dark about where the data is sourced.
On the other hand, these tools have the potential to save considerable time when producing copy for regulated medicine safety information, or by making certain processes more efficient through Machine Learning.
In the UK, the number of medicines authorised to market is increasing, and this means a greater workload for teams involved in the sharing and publishing of medicines information. So while AI can never replace the human characteristics which make Regulatory or Medical Information teams so valuable, it might be able to assist in supporting an increasing workload for these functions (prior to validation by a human, of course).
Omnichannel – awareness is increasing but is it true omnichannel?
Omnichannel is far from a new concept. It has been a known term for over a decade, but many Pharma companies are only just coming to terms with this concept of having truly aligned messaging throughout their breadth of channels which will consistently resonate with their audience.
But are Pharma companies really considering all the vital touchpoints in order to provide this customer-centric experience? Outside Pharma sources of information, there is a number of channels where these audiences can gather information to support the treatment of a patient’s condition. This includes medical journals, medicines information publications and medicines information websites.
Harnessing the data from these user journeys is crucial if Pharma is going to gain a wider understanding of engagement with its products, but where should you be focussed?
A recent research paper by phactMI stated that a lynchpin in the omnichannel experience is through a website. And whichever website you use as your platform for engaging content, it needs to be somewhere your audience flock to for answering their questions. Medicines information websites with huge national audiences, such as emc, can be powerful tools for Pharma collecting insights to feed back to their Medical Information, Sales and Marketing teams.
Patients are more engaged in their own health, largely thanks to modern technology
Mobile apps have become a part of everyday life for many of us – I was reminded of this when booking an appointment recently with my local GP. Evidentially, statistics also show that use of health and lifestyle apps has more than doubled in the space of 3 years, while patient-facing apps can also help to reduce the burden on organisations with a large number of incoming requests (the NHS being the most obvious example).
Companies such as Zoe are already capturing data which can paint an insightful picture of someone’s health lifestyle. As such, mobile apps could be an effective route for reaching patients. We wait with eager anticipation for new developments in this space in 2024.
The ePI revolution marches on – but what does it mean for Pharma?
ePI (electronic Product Information) doesn’t sound like the most ostentatious of topics, but maybe it should be. I say this because of the impact a standard ePI will have on healthcare not just in the UK, but globally.
Datapharm are innovators in this area, continuing to support the development of ePI, and working with Gravitate Health partners to facilitate improved patient outcomes through more accessible medicines information. Standardising the way medicines information is shared has a wide-reaching impact on Pharma and Healthcare, ensuring that IT systems can talk to each other without manual intervention.
One of the advantages coming out of a standard ePI could be cross border use cases. Establishing international connections in medicines information could help solve the issues patients are facing with finding equivalent medication outside of their home country. During the HL7 Vulcan Connectathon in Phoenix, we were involved in testing its feasibility, with some exciting outcomes.
The EMA has recently unveiled its release of ePI for selected human medicines to ‘explore the development and testing of ePIs in authentic regulatory procedures’. It begins as a pilot initiative which will conclude in 2024.
A positive future for Pharma and their medicines information
There is much cause for excitement about 2024, and the tools at Pharma’s disposal to engage more effectively with HCPs and patients are vast. But it’s now time to think about how we should use these innovative solutions and the appropriate channels for reaching our audiences - Pharma companies, regulators and technology experts will all need to work together, while listening to the voices of HCPs and patients, if we are to be successful in improving patient outcomes.
Our partnerships have been a testament to the fact that collaborations can be so fruitful in facilitating these outcomes. For instance, we are proud to have worked with MILE (Medical Information Leaders in Europe) on 2023’s successful pilot of the SRD feature for HCPs. And there are many more opportunities for using effective content through HCPs and patients’ most preferred channels for medicines information.
I will continue to provide and share more updates and developments as Datapharm continues its hard work in 2024, and I wish you a very happy and enjoyable holiday season.