In 1876, when Eli Lilly founded the pharmaceutical giant that bears his name, the field was dominated by purveyors of patent medicines and elixirs peddled by questionable characters. Lilly dedicated his company to creating high-quality prescription medicines, telling his employees to: “Take what you find here and make it better and better.”
Today the company is a global powerhouse that still finds its inspiration in its founder's mission to help people live longer, healthier, more active lives. But like the entire Life Sciences industry, Lilly finds itself grappling with both huge opportunity and even bigger challenges as it confronts a world being reshaped by digital disruption. Technology is opening new pathways for the company to get closer to patients and help them manage their own health but cost pressures, compliance and privacy concerns play an even bigger role in the company's planning.
The cloud goes through its clinical trials
The U.S. healthcare industry hasn’t exactly been quick to embrace the cloud, in part because of the country's complicated healthcare model and complex regulatory environment. But Lilly recognized several years ago that digital transformation could also transform how customers engage with the company — creating what Lilly calls "next generation customer experiences (NGCE). And the huge opportunities presented by Big Data and AI to develop highly targeted therapies spurred the company to pursue a path toward transforming itself into a digital business.
Yet, like any organization in Life Sciences, the potential to put care in the hands of patients has to be balanced against security and compliance.
“The #1 thing for us is quality and compliance," says Mike Meadows, Lilly's CTO. "On the one hand you have all these opportunities presented by digital transformation, on the other you have huge challenges like regulation, security and patient privacy. But the promise is pretty exciting for the future of patients managing their own disease states."
“The #1 thing for us is quality and compliance."
— Mike Meadows, CTO, Lilly
The promise of Cloud Content Management, fulfilled
As IT has graduated from running the business to powering the business, Meadows and his team have been empowered to help leaders across the business recognize what he calls, "the art of the possible." One of Lilly's first experiments with the cloud happened when sales reps were given iPads they could use to show doctors detailed information on products. “That IT platform was one of the most successful we ever had,” Meadows says. “And it was successful from every metric: user uptake, cost to support, time to implement — all the things that used to haunt IT projects. It just sort of worked.”
“The world of cloud computing is a core piece, giving us agility and efficiency and speed that we haven’t had before.”
— Mike Meadows
Armed with a proof of concept, Meadows knew he needed a content management systems that could deliver content on any device, anywhere without giving up security or compliance. "The ability to have access to content had to happen in a whole new way,” Meadows explains. “That’s what brought Box into our enterprise.”
The fact that Box could be embedded within their traditional workflows was key for Lilly, but the ability to govern access and protect patient privacy was the game changer. “Digital disruption’s not just putting an app on top of an existing model," says Meadows. "There need to be model changes to really drive difference via digital disruption, so the focus is changing the underlying model.”
One example of this new model of healthcare is the way patients have become more involved in their own care. "The patient’s interest in managing their own own disease state is so different these days than it used to be,” says Meadows. “With connected care, you can literally see the monitoring of a patient’s disease state all the way through AI and data to deliver a different dose, as an example, without doctor intervention.”
“Digital disruption’s not just putting an app on top of an existing model... there need to be model changes to really drive difference via digital disruption, so the focus is changing the underlying model.”
— Mike Meadows
Another promising area for Lilly is the potential of AI and machine learning to accelerate the discovery process. Research is Lilly's "lifeblood," as Meadows puts it. With R&D almost equal to 20% of revenues, anything that can speed up discovery or add efficiencies can only help the bottom line. "The ability for AI to have an impact on that being more effective benefits both the efficiency of our business and, clearly, the outcome of patient experience.” Artificial intelligence holds the key to treatments specifically targeted to unique patients based on accumulating data on disease. As AI and other technological capabilities become more effective and efficient — meaning less rote work for humans — Lilly will gain the opportunity to pursue more and more pipeline opportunities.
“Content management is huge for us, not just in collaborative workflows. We use it to manage clinical trial documents.”
— Mike Meadows