Gartner just recently introduced their top strategic technology trends for 2022. They are split into three categories: Engineering trust, Sculpting change and Accelerating growth. How do these reflect the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries?
One of the key high level insights from Gartner is that digital is going to be driving more and more business decisions. In 2022, there will be growing investments into digital, with views not only on short term, but also on long term. The trends here are selected as having significant impact for at least 20 % of Gartner’s customers. So how do they reflect on companies working on health? Let’s start by introducing the trends. They can be split into three categories:
To accelerate growth, you need to start by engineering trust. So let’s look at these in more detail.
It all starts from a solid data fabric. Having a strong data foundation, based on modern data storage solutions accelerates and develops business operations, process optimisation and on the long run profitability. As the amount and importance of data grows, having a solid data fabric is going to be more important than ever.
As is making sure that the data is secure, and managed in a privacy-aware manner. Moving from solution or component based security to scalable, holistic cybersecurity mesh mindset will be growing. This kind of ecosystem approach, where different users can have consolidated access policy and identity management towards various services and solutions will help to minimize security breaches.
Gartner also sees privacy-enhancing computation as a tool to support this, defining it to provide robust, sustainable measures to gain, pool, process or share information while data remains protected in use. It starts from cloud environments having trusted execution environments, to softwares built securely with best security practices and to managing data with carefully planned access management.
And finally, the software and services model moves more and more towards cloud-native platforms. Services are moving more and more from custom server solutions to utilizing Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-service (PaaS). This allows service developers to focus on developing the product, without worrying about the underlying infrastructure.
This category is the foundation for all of the other higher level trends. And it’s also increasingly significant for pharmaceutical companies. Clinical trials collect real world data (RWD), companion applications collect person generated health data (PGHD), websites and mobile apps collect GDPR-sensitive data, services can include data from patients, health care professionals, researchers, and employees. The amount of health data and thus collected data in the pharmaceutical industry is growing exponentially. And as this data is collected from external and internal sources, managing and processing them efficiently together requires sophisticated data management processes. This can lead to more data management collaboration with partners, subcontractors and other stakeholders. Thus the importance of managing vast amounts of data in a secure and private manner is more critical than ever. But the move towards cloud-native platforms will be slower than in many other industries, especially because we need to make sure that these third parties can also take care of the data properly: Securely and privately.
Sculpting change starts with composable applications. They are software platforms with various modules that allow the creation of a custom solution in weeks, rather than in months. Customisation or modular approach has been an element of many software products for years already, but composable applications goes beyond that. These platforms by themselves do not have purpose, but composing a set of modules and features allows to create completely new solutions, with unique purpose. Utilising modern microservice architecture here allows to maintain agility, scalability and maintainability.
Decision intelligence is a variation of artificial intelligence (AI), where the computer learns from made decisions, analyses them and eventually learns to make decisions by itself. This, and Hyperautomation helps to automate processes further than before. Hyperautomation utilises e.g. Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Integrated platforms, process mining and other methods, to increase quality, speed and agility in a company.
And the last part in this category: AI Engineering. Many AI applications are built as one-off projects, which work on a certain situation, purpose or environment. AI Engineering however aims to preserve the value of the AI for a longer term and thus bring additional business value. Even when the data, the real world and the business outcomes change, you can rapidly update your AI with strong governance, and with automated processes to update the data and the algorithm itself.
All of these areas are clear strategic opportunities for pharmaceutical companies. However, as the industry and solutions there are highly regulated, the change will happen at a slower pace and many solutions need validations. These could provide competitive benefits especially in internal processes. Microservices architecture supports this internal process development significantly – and with Composable Applications, to customers as well. For Medical Device Software or supporting clinical trials, the regulatory restrictions and validations will slow down market penetration. However, the modular approach does allow companies to better serve various customers in various countries with flexible solutions, without the need to build a single purpose silver bullet. This of course requires that a Composable Application framework is done especially with pharma, and its customers in mind (like our very own H.Core platform), to conform to needed regulations. As Hyperautomation is especially focused on business processes, that could be the leading trend of the industry.
Finally, Gartner looks into the 2022 technology trends that can potentially drive the most business growth, starting with Distributed Enterprise. Covid-19 has seriously accelerated remote working and thus changed how many companies operate. Distributed enterprise model doesn’t only mean changing business processes to accommodate this change, but also that the company’s customers are working remotely as well. This will cause many companies to rethink their business model and operating principles.
Total experience is a trend which aims to connect various experiences designs into one. Instead of looking at customer experience, employee experience, user experience and multi experience separately, you could treat them as one to win more market share and to make a greater impact on your business.
We’ve already discussed AI Engineering to keep AIs meaningful for a longer time. In a more advanced way, Autonomic systems learn from their environment and modify their own behavior. This allows them to manage complex real world IT issues like cybersecurity or large amounts of distributed IoT devices in an evolving environment. This is one of the more future looking trends Gartner has.
As is the final Gartner’s technology trend for 2022: Generative AI. It’s about using AI to analyze data from physical or digital objects and using that data to rapidly identify or create similar types of objects. That could create new digital content like photos or music, or be used to identify materials, animals or patterns among large amounts of data.
Even though they are more forward looking trends, some of these could have more potential for the pharmaceutical industry than the previous ones. As the pandemic has accelerated the virtualisation or decentralization of clinical trials, Distributed Enterprise model will definitely increase in significance next year. Total Experience is another trend that is rising, as the significance of patient experience and user experience keeps growing. Developing Total Experience is also not that limited by regulations, so it is an easy way to win and grow more business in the coming years. Autonomic systems will definitely be a trend in the future, supporting future patient journeys, real world data (RWD), companion applications collect person generated health data (PGHD) collecting, digital therapeutics and medicine anti-counterfeit efforts. Autonomic Systems however will need more time to really start penetrating the markets. This will need updates to regulations and healthcare processes, but after those autonomic systems could take a growing role from actual health care professionals. And this could lower the costs of healthcare and treat more patients, more accurately, safer and also faster than ever. As it is with Generative AI. Generative AI can be a market disruptive technology in the future that could help to conduct parts of scientific research or even analyze molecules and other data to develop new drugs.
To wrap the trends up, the key trends for pharma-industry next year are Data Fabric, Cybersecurity Mesh, Privacy-Enhancing Computation, Hyperautomation, Distributed Enterprise and Total Experience. We will definitely see them growing during 2022. We will also see adoption of Cloud-Native Platforms, Composable Applications, Decision Intelligence and AI Engineering, but at a slower pace than in other industries because of regulations. And even though Autonomic Systems and Generative AI will eventually grow to be market disruptive technologies – they will need more time to really penetrate the industry.
Some significant omissions on Gartner’s list are virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), as well as blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Gartner sees these growing to make an impact in the future, but not in the coming year or two. And this applies to digital health as well – there will definitely be a growing number of digital health solutions and digital therapies utilizing VR and AR, but for most companies, they are not strategically significant yet. AR breakthroughs in general are waiting for high quality AR glasses to arrive on the market – the experience just isn’t as mind blowing through your phone. And as the hype around blockchain keeps calming down, it will definitely find its place where it is actually needed. Those places just are not as many as hype would have indicated a few years ago.
Exciting and increasingly digital year 2022 is coming. We at Healthware keep ourselves on top of the digital trends, and thus help our old and new customers to do the same!