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Push for Automation: A necessity for Life Sciences

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Pharma has emerged as a major industry in India. The Covid-19 pandemic has further forced the world to rely upon the Life Sciences for survival. In such circumstances, technological innovations in Life Sciences became a necessity, rather than a business need.

At the recently organised, ‘Digital Technology Senate 2021 – Life Sciences’ (Pharma + Healthcare) by Express Computer , panel discussions, fireside chats and keynote sessions took place. The two day online conference was organised on June 02, 2021 (Pharma) and June 03, 2021 (Healthcare) respectively, to discuss the implications of pandemic on Life Sciences, as we stand far apart but still fight the Covid-19 virus together.

The pharma conference began with a keynote address titled, ‘Digital Transformation Towards Helping the New Economic and Business Climate’ by Arvind Sivaramakrishnan, Group CIO, Apollo Hospitals. He emphasised that innovation should contribute to save lives and sustain the same.

“The only thing advancing faster than technology is consumer expectations. Healthcare is related to personal care, therefore it needs to augment the delivery, best that can happen to self and family,” added Sivaramakrishnan.

The next session ‘Pharma Digital Evolution Journey’ by Venugopal S. Arcot, Senior Director, Solution Consulting, ServiceNow, focused on the patient-centric healthcare approach. He said that personalisation of medicines and specialty products, value chain shifting during the clinical trial and interoperability between pharma, payer, provider and member have majorly impacted the pharma companies. 

Change is the only constant. It would benefit more, if the change is positive. The special address by Ganesh Ramachandran, Global CIO, Alkem Laboratories contributed to ways about how CIOs are becoming the change agents for digital transformation.

Ramachandran said, “Customer centricity is the key to drive change through transformation building blocks. Define metrics with the end objectives for customers to bring major changes in the industry and build information security principles to prevent cyber threats.

“With the strong data analytic tools and Machine Learning algorithms, pharma organisations have humanised the patient engagement via virtual platforms,” said Pratyush Prakash, Principal Solution Engineer, Salesforce India. He drew the attention of the audience towards ‘Molecule to Market Centric Engagement Model’ through his keynote session.

“Data will accelerate the digitisation of healthcare and coordinating with med affairs, sales and marketing would strengthen HCP relationships,” further added Prakash.

Moving forward with the keynote session, ‘Uptime and complete power protection of mission-critical applications in Life Sciences’ by C. Chandrashekar Rao, Key Accounts Manager, Power Quality, he focused on the need for more connected devices and push for automation in healthcare. 

Rao mentioned, “Surgical robotic tools, 3D printing and AI driven solutions will advance healthcare in future. Power management issues can be better solved by integrating connectivity, design and data science.”

Jai Prakash Dwivedi, CIO, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre, spoke about the solutions that can digitally transform the healthcare system in India.

“Online delivery of lab reports and paperless workflow would reduce the operational cost. Additionally, voice based chatbots will also boost the digital healthcare transformation seamlessly. Easy booking of tele-consultation and e-prescription is the future of the medicines industry,” emphasised Prakash.

The next session titled, ‘Full Automated Pharma and Healthcare Enterprise’ was a Fireside chat between Murli Mohan, Vice President, India Domestic Business, UiPath and Javed Ali, Healthcare Industry Expert, UiPath. They discussed how Robotic Process Automation (RPA) plays a major role in laboratory information systems and healthcare is looking for improved cycle times, care quality and expense reduction.

Another Fireside chat with Anjani Kumar, Chief Information Officer, Strides, focusing on the practitioner’s guide to automation highlighted the need for automation in Life Sciences that can reduce human effort and bring accuracy for repetitive tasks. He commented, “Scaling-up should be considered as an important factor, while picking up automation tools.” 

The conference also witnessed a fruitful panel discussion titled, ‘The increasing importance of automation in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector’. Praveen Bist, CIO, Amrita Hospital, Delhi/NCR; Javed Ali, Healthcare Industry Expert, UiPath; Suvig Sharma, Senior Director APAC, MongoDB;  Dr. Avadhut Parab, Global CIO, Wockhardt; Vilas Pujari, CIO, ACG Worldwide and Niranjan Ramakrishnan, CTO, Neuberg Diagnostics were the participants of the discussion.

According to Dr. Avadhut Parab, Global CIO, Wockhardt, “Data analytics has become predictive rather than descriptive. Automation is a low hanging fruit of the umbrella in comparison with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ML. Pharma can be benefited by automation via analytics and it can further reduce human efforts.

As the discussion moved forward, Niranjan Ramakrishnan, CTO, Neuberg Diagnostics, raised the concern for ways that can sustain the tele-medicine services operational, even after the pandemic. “Patient-oriented digital platforms are the key to sustain tele-medicine practices for a longer run.”

“Security of information, impact on the health of patients and quality check, raised certain doubts for using automation tools in Life Sciences. Today, RPAs provide major assistance to humans with better efficiency and calculated results,” commented Javed Ali, healthcare industry expert.

Taking the discussion forward, Praveen Bist, CIO, Amrita Hospital, Delhi/NCR shared a few case studies from the industry. He also acknowledged that the ‘National Digital Health Mission’ is a step ahead in digitising healthcare in India.

“The pharma industry is lagging behind in adopting the automation tools. This is primarily due to regulatory compliance. A holistic approach for using current developed tools should be kept in mind and further, detailed research should be performed simultaneously using the data,” said Vilas Pujari, CIO, ACG Worldwide.

As the discussion unfolded further, Suvig Sharma, Senior Director APAC, MongoDB, emphasised on need for data protection in healthcare. He said, “Authentication, auditing, authorisation and encryption should be the concern for data.”

All the panelists agreed and concluded the discussion with the remark that automation has a long way to go in the pharma industry.

The next session of the conference, ‘Re-imagine InfoSecurity’ exemplified the data security concerns over the internet. Sudip Banerjee, Senior Director, Transformation strategy, APJ, Zscaler commented, “Driven by the cloud, the internet is becoming the new corporate network. 193 million phishing attempts have been blocked over encrypted channels. Hence, Zero Trust technology has come to the rescue from cyber threats.” 

Taking the conference ahead with a Fireside chat (the last session for the day), Alain Sanchez, EMEA CISO, Senior Evangelist, Fortinet and Agnidipta Sarkar, Group CISO, Biocon, provided some interesting insights on ‘Enterprise security in the new normal’. 

“Innovation is the only way out in a dynamic environment like today. Cybersecurity is also a major concern for organisations, especially taking work from home culture ahead. In such a scenario, adoption of Zero Trust is the best way to prevent cyberattacks,” said Sanchez.

Sarkar said that mapping the recovery solutions for protection, reduction and deduction in advance would prevent the risk of data loss. He stated, “Understand the context of information protection first and later execute the policies.”

With the Salesforce Digital Technology Senate Awards Ceremony at the end, the first day (Pharma segment) of conference concluded with valuable takeaways such as, pharma can be benefited by automation by reducing human efforts and providing efficient results.

Day 2 

Robotic Process Automation: A strong support to healthcare

With the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, the Life Sciences industry is witnessing a heavy toll on healthcare professionals as well as patients. Healthcare industry is heavily reliant on paper documents and needs immediate digital support to ease off R&D and clinical operations. Therefore, automation tools like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) come into the picture to provide a better patient-centric experience.   

The second day of the conference (Healthcare segment) began with a keynote address titled, ‘Role of automation in driving the future of healthcare’ by Ishaq Quadri, Vice President, HIMSS India. He emphasised on mainstreaming RPA, which will achieve digital transformation in hospitals.

“Intelligent security infrastructure can detect, deter, delay, deny and defend cyberattacks. Automation would also reduce redundancy and lesser radiation exposure,” added Quadri. 

The next session of the conference titled, ‘Fireside Chat with Healthcare and Lifesciences Trailblazer Dr. Avadhut Parab, Global CIO, Wockhardt’ focused on the patient-centric healthcare approach. 

Kunal Gangakhedkar, Senior Director, Solution Engineering, Salesforce India and Dr. Avadhut Parab, Global CIO, Wockhardt participated in the chat and drew the attention of the audience towards personalisation of medicines and specialty products, value chain shifting during the clinical trial and interoperability between pharma, payer, provider and member that have majorly impacted the pharmas.

“Physical and digital initiatives combinedly have come to rescue as ‘Phygital’ solutions. Data based outcomes by analytics have become the operational pillar of healthcare,” commented Dr. Parab.

Data protection is a major concern, especially in the healthcare system. In the future, teleconsultation and tele-medicine services in the 5G era will thrive on deep learning algorithms,” stated Kunal Gangakhedkar, Senior Director, Solution Engineering, Salesforce India.

Deep expertise can lead troops by painting the vision and bring cohesion. Sreeji Gopinathan, Global CIO, Lupin addressed the need for deep expertise through his session title, ‘Enhance skills for a changing ecosystem: A Pharma CIO perspective’. He said, “It is high time that organisations should invest in niche expertise. Not only, data centres and IoT integration can be benefited with domain expertise, but it can also enhance stakeholder management.”

The conference moved ahead further with a panel discussion namely, ‘Robotic Automation Process For Digital Transformation in Pharma Industry’. Javed Ali, Healthcare Industry Expert, UiPath; Amit Bhasin, EVP, Digital Transformation Strategist, QualityKiosk and Sarajit Jha, Chief Business Transformation, Digital Solutions, Tata Steel participated in the discussion that focused on automation in pharma and its impact on the industry.

“Minimising the diagnosing time and supply chain disruption are the major challenges faced by Lifesciences today,” expressed Ali. 

“Convert cloud systems into cloud native systems. This can prevent cyberattacks. Use analytics tools to improve dashboard operations,” advised Jha.

Amit Bhasin, EVP, Digital Transformation Strategist, QualityKiosk expressed that lab automation and e-pharma have emerged as a strong solution for healthcare, as the physical availability of the resources is a big challenge.

All the panelists concluded the discussion with their final remarks and reached the ground that, ‘RPA’s can improve asset efficiency and AI based chatbots have a long way to go in Life Sciences’.

The next session of the conference was a special address by Rajiv Sikka, CIO, Medanta Hospitals. He explained how Covid-19 has amplified the digitisation of healthcare. Sikka expressed, “Tele-medicine operations have prevented spread of infection to a certain level by eliminating direct contact. Today, paramedic staff is in a position to provide solutions from home. In the hospitals, video chatbots on the nursing counter and bed sides are preventing unnecessary movement. Hence, digitisation in healthcare is essential.”

60 per cent of physicians have reported symptoms of burnout since the start of the pandemic. Automation tools combined with the patient needs are a boon for healthcare. Pratyush Prakash, Principal Solution Engineer, Salesforce India, explained the ‘Patient centric Engagement Model for Healthcare’ and elaborated upon the need of rising demand for virtual healthcare platforms during his special address.

The conference unveiled further with another fruitful panel discussion titled, ‘Leading IT through a pandemic: How Pharma CIOs can turn adversity into advantage during times of crisis’. M Prabhakar Rao, Associate Vice President, IT and IS, Natco; Sanjay Chowdhry, CIO, Hamdard Laboratories; Sumedha Varma, Regional Sales Director, SAP Concur and Govind Joshi, CIO, USV participated in the discussion.

The impact of Covid-19 on pharma industry and counterpart strategies took the centre stage during the discussion. “Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and RPAs have simplified the mundane jobs and resulted in increased efficiency,” commented M Prabhakar Rao, Associate Vice President, IT and IS, Natco.

Sanjay Chowdhry, CIO, Hamdard Laboratories said that e-commerce has penetrated the pharma market, especially in rural areas and it has come up as a strong competitor for the industry.

“Organisations need to choose cloud natives aligned with their vision,” stated Sumedha Varma, Regional Sales Director, SAP Concur.

“Automation tools can help to reduce risk matrix and ease resource operations with sustainability,” highlighted Govind Joshi, CIO, USV. 

The discussion concluded with the mutual remarks that process automation tools help the organisations, identify security threats and reduce human intervention.

Alain Sanchez, EMEA CISO, Senior Evangelist, Fortinet addressed the last session of the conference and presented a holistic approach to cybersecurity in Life Sciences.

Sanchez stated, “Ransomwares has emerged as a major cyber threat. Broad visibility and protection of the entire digital attack surface to management risk. Therefore, Edge technology and automated self-healing networks can be strong tools to prevent ransomware attacks.”

With the Salesforce Digital Technology Senate Awards Ceremony at the end, the second day (Healthcare segment) of the conference, concluded with valuable takeaways such as, healthcare can be benefited by adopting automation tools like RPA. This will provide efficient results for both clinical trials and day to day operations.


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