The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated developments that were already transforming healthcare delivery. We review the big trends dominating the industry and what innovations are still to come.

Life Sciences and pharma are at an inflection point, with scientific breakthroughs and advancements in technology leading to an exciting new era of preventive and personalised medicine.

At our Salesforce Live: Switzerland virtual event, we explored the past, present, and future of healthcare with the help of our industry specialists and experts from one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, Novartis.

Thanks to a fast-paced, part talk show, part game show format hosted by Salesforce Switzerland Head of Marketing Guntram Friede, in just one hour we managed to cover everything from the impact of COVID-19 on the industry to the promise of breakthrough therapies like CAR-T and CRISPR.

You can watch the event on demand, or enjoy some of the key takeaways below.


COVID-19 spurs digital transformation and reinforces a sense of purpose

Given the newly-virtual nature of our event, the dominant topic of discussion at Salesforce Live was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the life sciences and pharmaceutical industries.

In some ways, the pandemic has overturned the way these two sectors operate, creating new challenges but also new opportunities.

As Salesforce Director of Life Sciences Thomas Wild notes, for example, pharma reps can no longer meet face to face with healthcare professionals, driving the industry to explore new – and potentially better – digital ways of connecting with their primary customers.

On the other hand, the crisis has accelerated developments that might otherwise have taken years. Regulators are starting to give the green light for virtualized drug trials, potentially speeding the discovery of vital new therapies. Meanwhile, telehealth and telemedicine have made great strides forward, ensuring people in a lockdown can still access vital healthcare services and advice.

For pharma giant Novartis, the pandemic saw teams from all over the world rally together to ensure the company could keep working. 

Part of my team is in China and we saw what was happening there, so when March came, we were already prepared. Everyone rallied round, dropped everything else, and just focused on the supply of medicines.”

Andreas Mueller, Head of Commercial, Pharma, and Oncology IT

The power of delivering personalised medicine directly to the patient

Pharma and life sciences are necessarily conservative industries, given the safety-critical nature of their work and the corresponding high levels of regulation. But that doesn’t mean that progress is slow. David Nugent, Global Solution Design Manager at Novartis, says the industry is in a state of rapid acceleration as technology and science work hand in hand to enable breakthrough discoveries.

In particular, he points to the breaking down of silos, and the resulting explosion of data, as the driver of revolutionary new therapies and treatments. “Who would have dreamed a few years ago of the kinds of innovation we see now in areas like gene therapy,” he says. “We’re delivering personalised medicine directly to the patient, powered by the merging of technology and science.”

While the origins of personalised medicine trace back to the mapping of the human genome in 2003, participants in Salesforce Live: Switzerland believe consumer technologies like smart watches and tracker apps play a key role. They provide insights that can inform patient treatment and empower patients to have more control over their own health.

Wearables and apps are helping people make better decisions in real time about exercise, nutrition, and mental health. As patients get better data, it’s leading to a more equal partnership between patients and physicians.”

Thomas Wild, Salesforce Director of Life Sciences

Andreas Mueller at Novartis agrees. “The future of pharma will be much more tech-enabled, which will bring a lot more insights along the whole value chain,” he says. “It will lead to more innovative models – not only in how we engage with patients but also in how they can contribute to a positive outcome.”


More data will drive new preventive and personalised medicine

Participants agree that the combination of genomics and lifestyle data will fuel an even greater trend towards personalised medicine, including treatments aimed at preventing illnesses before they arise. 

Genomics will aid novel therapies, which will then be the basis for preventative treatments rather than reactive treatments.”

Michael Frey, Solutions Architect at Salesforce

The addition of data from apps, wearables, and other sources could lead towards a world where patients are treated as unique individuals. A future where everyone in the healthcare value chain has access to the best possible data and can provide the right treatment for that particular patient.

For that to happen, regulators will need to revise their view of which types of data can be shared for use in making healthcare decisions, says Michael Frey.

“If regulators start to take a different perspective on which data is allowed to be shared, that will benefit all of us,” he says. “I picture a world where my doctor, my payer, my government, my pharma company, and my pharmacy all know me as the same individual, and they can work together holistically as a team to get me back on my feet. That would be a much nicer world to live in.”


Watch the entire Life Sciences and Pharma session online

For more insights on personalised medicine and the future of healthcare — including our industry experts discussing the sector’s key imperatives and top search terms — watch online now.