TECHNOLOGY
4 Ways IoMT Can Amplify the Pharma Supply Chain
By Rachel Norton
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In the wake of a global pandemic, pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to strengthen their supply chain using the IoMT. 
 

The disruption from COVID-19 shone a light on how vulnerable pharmaceutical supply chains can be, and while the industry has always seen a radical pace of scientific developments, it has been much slower to adopt new technology as an enabler for operations. 
 
The IoMT market is estimated to be worth $158 billion in 2022. And in a world where data is King, there is huge potential for Pharma to transform their supply chains using the IoMT. 
 
But first, what is the “Internet of Medical Things” (IoMT)? 
 
This is a particularly broad concept especially where technology advancement is today, but for good reason – there are huge networks of interconnected devices and applications that can analyse, validate and automate data into solutions without a need for human intervention. What we can break it down to however, is the IoT is about connecting “things” that can either collect information and share it (sensors), receive information and perform an action (computers), or – do both.

Consider a smartwatch, such as Apple or Fitbit; depending on the model these devices often offer a music feature for you to stream your favourite songs without the need for your phone. However, the watch doesn’t need to store every single song, it just needs to connect to something that does. And this is the power of the IoT: the connectivity.  
 
IoT is applicable to almost any industry, however it has a significant impact in the world of healthcare. The IoMT is an ecosystem of medical devices, software applications and health services that collect, generate and analyse critical data. Looking again at the watch example, these wearable devices monitor activity such as heart rate, blood pressure or sleep patterns from the user and transmit this data to generate the relevant analytics.

But these smart devices are not just a target for health-conscious consumers, they are changing the landscape of remote patient monitoring by providing accurate and continuous data. By leveraging this infrastructure, there are improvements in diagnoses and treatments, understanding of chronic diseases, drug management, decreased costs and an overall shift toward enhanced patient experience. 
 
Here are four ways regulated pharmaceutical companies can amplify the applications of IoT to improve the patient experience.
 
1. Leverage effective monitoring systems   
Sensors are a key component of any IoT. Where products require controlled environments, the supply chain can be monitored to ensure the integrity of the product throughout the manufacturing and distribution process.


For example, a smart thermostat in a distribution centre or transit can monitor the environmental conditions and adjust temperature and humidity accordingly to prevent spoilage. As sensors can continuously gather data, regulated companies can monitor equipment performance for both maintenance and safety levels to take a predictive approach rather than reactive or manual efforts. 
 
2. Drive compliance through traceability  

Cloud software platforms provide visibility of an entire product journey, which not only provides a tracking solution for distribution, but generates a lifecycle of information for auditors.

The pharmaceutical industry is the most heavily regulated environment in the world, with complex legal obligations, industry requirements, and a vast array of authorities to answer to. Through the IoMT, visibility and traceability of products is invaluable for meeting compliance requirements.  
 
3. Build agility via visibility  
By connecting supply chain operational bases (i.e.: production, storage, packaging, shipping, etc.) through the IoMT and having real-time visibility of products in the network, organisations can identify opportunities to introduce continuous improvement, track inventory levels, and deliver efficient continuity of logistics.

Having this level of visibility on critical dependencies such as product inventory, could be leveraged to meet variable demand and reduce reliance on forecasting for optimal inventory cycles. Any insights into inefficiencies and waste are opportunities to adopt lean principles across the supply chain workflow.  
 
4. Examine data insights for transformational change  
As pharma companies adopt IoMT, data collation and analytics will become more valuable in identifying inefficiencies and opportunities for resiliency. With the wealth of data available, which will only augment as devices and platforms are added, it’s important to use these insights to deliver systemic actions that will amplify the performance of the supply chain.

This will allow for the development of innovations in patient-centric strategies, for example where patients can engage with pack or add value to their experience. Data is a key enabler to optimization when it is used for meaningful insights and decision-making; implementing both incremental efficiencies and scaled solutions can result in leaner, more cost effective operations.   
 
As momentum builds around the applications in patient experience there is an opportunity for regulated companies to minimize risk through agility and visibility. Good data drives good decisions and Pharma companies can move to proactive, instead of reactive, ways of working during disruption. 

 


About Rachel Norton
Rachel is a Business Graduate with a focus in Marketing and joined the SGK Consulting team with 5 years background working in the graphics supply chain across Pharmaceuticals and CPG. Over the past 3 years Rachel has worked with global organizations to optimize ways of working and implement transformational change with CPG, Health and Retail clients. Rachel is also a certified a Prosci Change Management Practitioner and PMP trained.