Reduced market time. Higher and faster ROI. Increased agility. These are only a few of the many benefits the pharma industry is reaping by deploying intelligent automation. A 2020 Bain & Company survey found that 84% of the pharma companies have increased their automation efforts primarily because of the pandemic.
The wake-up call has finally come for the pharmaceutical industry, which has been behind other sectors that use advanced technologies like robotic process automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and machine learning. Now, the pharmaceutical industry is investing in automation at an alarming rate.
The potential for automation is excellent in the pharma industry. Consider the many digital processes that comprise workflows in clinical research, clinical trials, and regulatory compliance, among others. Intelligent automation can streamline manual processes that are often tedious and cumbersome, as well as eliminate errors that may occur when humans are involved.
The pharma industry is moving faster than other industries pursuing intelligent automation. It is currently transforming itself by automating everything that can be automated. McKinsey states that pharma companies must reskill employees to fill talent gaps and estimates that 50% of current pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing work can be automated within the next ten years. Up to 120,000 jobs could also be created. Over the next ten years, pharma companies will need to train their employees to manage this massive shift in skills and responsibilities. McKinsey predicts that there will be a greater demand for emotional and social skills.
Clinical trials are key to drug approvals and new drug development in pharma. These trials are a top priority in the value chain for pharma companies. It takes a lot of data to design and complete clinical trials. This is a time-consuming process that can lead to human error. It typically involves repetitive manual processes, such as entering patient information into multiple systems, validating trial data, and submitting results to regulatory agencies.
Intelligent software robots (bots) can perform data entry and quality control quickly and accurately. They can also interpret and process radiology reports and data from clinical trials much faster and more accurately.
Intelligent automation can speed up clinical trial management by automating patient data entry, cross-checking patient information against electronic health records, and matching patients to relevant trials. It also allows scheduling appointments, notifying patients when and where to be there, and generating reports about clinical trials. This enables pharma companies to bring new medicines to market in a shorter timeframe, increasing their work productivity and overall efficiency.
Intelligent automation bots can gather and enter data from vendor records using PDFs, emails, and contract details. They also cross-check these details with other sources to verify accuracy. Notifications are sent to suppliers to notify them of any changes or alterations to orders and processes.
Intelligent automation can be used to manage inventory, helping prevent overstocking or running out of stock during peak times. Intelligent bots can be used to track shipments, report delays and discrepancies, and automate invoices and order-cash processes. They can also alert human workers when drugs in stock are near expiration dates.
If pharma companies fail to comply with growing regulations that aim to protect the public from low-quality drugs, they could face severe penalties. Many regulatory affairs departments within the pharma companies still do things manually. It is tedious and error-prone to manually collect documents, verify their compliance with regulatory standards, and submit them to regulatory agencies. Many professionals still use spreadsheets to track compliance activities, resulting in many silos of crucial data being stored on different desktops that are difficult to access.
Intelligent automation reduces the risk of human error and improves compliance with increasingly stringent regulations. Almost seven out of 10 pharma companies (67%) have increased automation in their regulatory workflows.
Bots also create trails that make audit teams' jobs easier.
After a slow start in deploying intelligent automation, the pharma industry is now more dependent on this technology. Increased efficiency and productivity, combined with dramatic reductions (or even elimination) of errors, bring significant cost savings, quality improvements, and, most notably, for patients, better outcomes, safety, and experiences.