Artificial intelligence, machine learning and Internet of Things are relatively new terms to a healthcare industry that is in the process of determining how they best fit in the overall spectrum while simultaneously attempting to establish realistic timelines of impact.

The potential these and other digital technologies can have on hospitals and physicians has been fairly well reported to date, but what about pharma? As powerful as the prescription drug industry is, it seems to have taken a backseat to providers when it comes to tech mentions.

DRG Digital conducted various surveys on the subject and presented its findings during a webinar on October, 12, 2017. It turns out pharma is interested in a number of tech applications, including telemedicine and remote monitoring, algorithmic medicine and genomic therapy, fields that are being accelerated by cutting-edge concepts like big data and AI.

Pharma has good reason to be interested in these trends, as research has shown that just 14 percent of online adults have said the industry is providing a better customer experience today compared to two years ago (DRG – Cybercitizen Health U.S. 2016).

Indications are that pharma multichannel teams are starting to pay attention to emerging digital tech phenomena, such as chatbots servings as virtual assistants and e-commerce conglomerates like Amazon taking an increasing interest in medical technology.

Satisfying customers means getting ahead of their interests, and right now they want voice automation and all-access smartphone apps that simplify the patient experience. This had led to a growing number of the population desiring to become “self-service patients.” DRG Digital reported that 32 percent of online adults prefer to use an automated online chat feature to help navigate websites, and that 31 percent want their health information accessible from one easily navigable source, like shopping on Amazon.

Pharma also seeks to develop a better sense of what doctors are tracking. According to DRG Digital, 58 percent of U.S. physicians are currently using or are interested in using voice assistance programs like Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon) or Google Assistant.

Several multichannel leaders DRG Digital surveyed said they were more obsessed with what Google and like-minded, market-changing companies are doing to improve customer experience as opposed to benchmarking against other pharmaceutical firms. In other words, there is just too much to digest, install and improve on right now to be worried about what your next-door neighbor is doing.

Of course there are challenges, not the least of which is a lack of existing platforms pharma could use for modeling purposes. There are a few, such as Teva Pharmaceuticals’ use of a virtual health assistant named Claire and GlaxoSmithKline’s launch of cognitive advertisements through IBM’s Watson. There’s also a virtual nurse app called Molly developed by San Francisco-based startup

We’re in the very early stages, despite appearances on many levels that the future is here now. The healthcare industry is moving closer though to wider-scale adoption of virtual, high-tech medical care. There’s a danger of being left behind if a company or subsector remains either oblivious, intimidated or too busy being impressed.

Chris Silva is a senior analyst at DRG and specializes in information technology, telehealth and big data, among other topics. Follow him on Twitter at @ChrisSilvaDRG

For more information on DRG Digital’s webinar, A.I., Amazon & Chatbots… Oh My! visit


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