The transformative power of outsourcing in the pharma industry

Gary Palgon, Vice President of Life Sciences and Healthcare Liaison Technologies

Written by: Gary Palgon

The healthcare delivery system in the U.S. is in flux, causing providers and payers alike to look for new ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency. And since changes in healthcare invariably affect the life sciences sector, the pharma industry is also seeking cost containment opportunities and evaluating new methods to streamline operations.

Outsourcing is one of the most promising strategies for minimizing costs and maximizing efficiency in the pharma sector. Pharma companies are already outsourcing various functions to keep up with a rapidly evolving marketplace, but the methods all have one common element; each requires access to unified data to achieve success. Here’s a closer look at how outsourcing is changing the pharma sector today.

Expediting clinical trials via outsourcing to increase speed to market

The faster pharma organizations can bring new drug compounds and device products to market, the more rapidly they can generate profits and fund new research so they can continue to improve patient health and realize returns. Clinical trials are a fundamental component of this process, generating the data companies need to create submissions and secure the approvals required to market new compounds and devices.

The shift to value-based drug pricing makes the efficient operation of clinical trials even more critical to pharma company success. New compounds and devices can’t produce their full value without well-designed trials that generate accurate data that is easily accessible to all the parties participating in the study. And although pharma organizations remain the data custodians, increasingly, contract research organizations (CROs) manage clinical trials.

With pharma organizations taking responsibility for trial data quality while CROs manage the trials themselves, it’s imperative that both teams work together seamlessly. CRO leaders must work closely with their pharma partners to put quality assurance and control standards in place to ensure trial integrity.

CROs that work collaboratively with pharma partners to generate sound data and meet high quality standards have an opportunity to grow along with the pharma industry. However, to do so effectively, CROs require the ability to manage data from multiple sources and interface effectively with their pharma partners to exchange and integrate information.

Using cloud-based data integration and managed services to ensure success

The increasing use of CROs is a sign of a larger trend: Organizations are focusing more on core competencies and offloading non-core tasks to trusted partners. It’s a trend that is reflected across multiple industries, not just the life sciences. And as pharma companies continue to look for ways to drive efficiencies and cost reductions, their attention is shifting to other outsourcing relationships.

This is especially true for U.S.-based pharma companies, which typically experience fewer cultural, geographic and language barriers to outsourcing than their European counterparts. And as data security and privacy measures become more widely used and accepted across all industry types, objections to outsourcing this component of the R&D process are evaporating as well.  

This development paves the way for pharma organizations to seek strategic IT partners to provide cloud-based platforms that can efficiently take in high volumes of data in a variety of formats and provide access to a unified data repository companies can use to drive innovation. It also opens pharma companies up to the possibility of accessing managed services to meet data integration and management needs.

With access to a cloud-based platform and managed services that can handle data from internal and external sources — harmonizing, standardizing and cleansing the information — pharma organizations can further reduce costs and increase efficiency. And perhaps more importantly, they can turn data into insight more quickly to drive innovation.

The future of outsourcing in the pharma space

Clinical trials and strategic IT partnerships aren’t the only areas suitable for outsourcing in the pharma sector. Like their counterparts in other industries, pharma organizations are increasingly viewing product delivery as a collaborative process that involves multiple partners who can shoulder workloads according to their areas of expertise. Manufacturing, marketing and sales are also processes that are being outsourced.

While the political winds have shifted on healthcare reform in the U.S. and there is much uncertainty on which direction future market adjustments might take in the payer arena, it’s clear that a strong impulse toward cost control will remain in place. Whether it takes the form of CROs that handle clinical trials or strategic IT partners that unlock the full power of organizational data, pharma companies that embrace the transformative possibilities of outsourcing have an opportunity to secure a competitive edge.

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