Five Reasons the Pharmaceutical Industry Should Migrate Data to the Cloud

From a decade ago, cloud computing has come a long way – spreading to a wide array of industries. Recently, the highest amount of IT investment in life sciences industry has been on cloud computing. The cost and time commitment to develop a new drug nearly doubles every nine years. Pharma and biologic companies struggle to stay competitive during this extended development period and look for new efficiencies and cost savings to make it through. Cloud technology developments are one of the tools being leveraged to support the pharma industry as it navigates cost and time hurdles. 

A research report by Gartner stated that by 2019, more than 75% of life sciences R&D IT organizations would have adopted cloud-first application deployment strategies. The forecasted figure was superseded and actually ended up at around 86%, according to a report by Accenture. 

Here Dickson presents five important reasons why moving to the cloud is a good move for pharmaceutical companies, and why we support this transition with our cloud-based temperature monitoring technology. 


1. Scalability and Agility

The cloud is the modern alternative to on-premises architecture to store data. The problem with hardware solutions for data storage is that it is clunky, must be maintained and replaced over time, and requires backing up and increased costs to keep it functional. Cloud solutions are most often selected by organizations because they have the ability to scale up and down based on changing needs. Organizations can increase IT resources such as processing power, networking ability, and data storage capacity without any disruption to their operations. 

When an organization chooses to convert to the cloud, third-party cloud providers already have the infrastructure in place and then organizations can easily add nodes and servers as needed to achieve their specific goals. If the demand for these specific additional requirements goes away, organizations can easily revert to their original configuration. 

A similar concept to cloud scalability is cloud elasticity – the system’s ability to expand and contract based on workload demands. This allows pharmaceutical companies to match their cloud needs to their operations, such as to follow manufacturing cycles, or certain times of the month that are busier or less busy. Cloud elasticity is required for short-term bursts, such as spikes in productivity because of say, a pandemic. Cloud scalability is for long-term growth that is strategically planned for the individual organization. 

In a McKinsey report on cloud computing for life sciences industries, Jim Swanson, Chief Enterprise Officer for Johnson & Johnson states the following on scalability: 

“Ubiquitous data, together with elastic, scalable cloud and edge computing, is part of what’s enabling us to innovate and scale in such unprecedented ways.”

2. Automation and Efficiency

Anytime that manual processes can be automated, and standardized, the result will be more efficient workflows and cost savings. One challenge that pharma companies have struggled within legacy systems is developing an actionable dashboard of useful real-time information. Disparate data sources and storage methods are one barrier. 

With cloud systems, users enjoy superior file handling of disparate data types – bringing multiple data sources together to gather new insights. They also enjoy file sharing – across global operations. Data liquidity is a term that describes the ability to pass results around outside a certain division to an entire company, or even outside that company if needed. With cloud platforms at scale, this goal is easy to achieve. Cloud computing breaks down data silos, meaning that all stakeholders have access to the information they need, without having to contact a certain department or individual to find information. 

With this new liquidity of data, automation can now be created across departments. For example, if a temperature limit on a particular product has been exceeded in transport, or it looks like an excursion could be happening, that information can be relayed to the correct people, halfway across the world – automatically. Adjustments can be made through automated processes already programmed, resulting in cost savings across the board. These types of responses just cannot be recreated with manual systems or disparate data types that do not “talk” to each other. 

Automated systems require a larger amount of data to function, rather than just a few manual data points. Cloud systems make handling enormous amounts of data feasible, cost-effective, searchable, traceable – and above all, easy. 

3. Resilience and Data Security

Users who have ever tried to find a specific piece of data, usually regulatory in nature, across a large body of legacy data storage understand the frustration. Searching across tiers of storage is time-consuming, costly, and stressful. 

Security and reliability are features that companies are now realizing are major advantages to cloud environments. Qualified, reputable cloud service providers who offer continuous security monitoring and incident response support clients and provide trusted partnerships that help companies organize their ever-growing body of data. Furthermore, cloud service providers specialize in their infrastructure and identify security issues quickly, and more efficiently, than a local IT department would be able to. They can then apply patches and enhancements, as well as automatic upgrades – aspects that few pharma company IT departments are equipped to manage. 

Tiered cloud storage based on business value is the way that most organizations oversee the ever-growing volumes of data that they need to store for defined periods of time. Reassessing these storage needs at least annually can help the IT budget find valuable space as older items can be moved to less costly tiers with slower speeds. 

Another aspect that pharmaceutical companies are subject to is the need to meet various compliance and regulatory requirements by providing quality control data upon demand. The need to locate, access, and share this data can sometimes be urgent and crucial for continued operations. Cloud systems offer increased traceability and quality control. Product traceability throughout its life cycle is critical in a compliance-regulated environment. A comprehensive data framework is necessary to manage the product throughout its life cycle. 

4. Data Analytics

Valuable analytics use cases can be quickly deployed along the entire value chain – from early development of a new product, throughout clinical trials, to the manufacturing and supply chain stages, and finally to the last link in the chain – the pharmacy. One example of a supply chain use case is found with Merck using AI to better understand how its delicate pharmaceutical products, like fertility and oncology drugs, travel through a complex network of suppliers and partners. 

Merck is using cloud computing data analytics to predict and react to changes in the supply chain, and then implementing corrective actions. For large companies like Merck, improving supply chain efficiency by even one percentage point can mean millions of dollars added to the bottom line. Allessandro DeLuca, CIO of Merck’s healthcare division says that “Merck’s use of AI in the supply chain is a good example of how intelligent software can help humans make better business decisions.”

Another benefit of analytics to the pharma industry is for predictive analytics. This tool could potentially be revolutionary for pharmaceutical companies in terms of maintaining continuous compliance and quality assurance. The ability to monitor, track, and quantify important measures like temperature and humidity on an ongoing basis allows all types of healthcare organizations to reduce costs. These companies also use this data to establish baseline guidance for operations during each stage of APIs and drug development and transport. 

In case of deviations or changes that pose a threat to the cold chain and to final product quality, as established with prior data sets, the intelligent analytics system can notify designated operators before the final product is damaged. The earlier issues are identified, the earlier corrective actions can be implemented, and the more cost savings are realized. 

5. IT Cost Savings

A McKinsey study of cloud migrations found that on average, pharmaceutical companies in their sample stood to gain an estimated potential value of $20 billion to $40 billion in improved EBITDA from the rejuvenation of IT and business innovation, an improvement of 9 to 19 percent. With this much value at stake, it is no wonder that cloud strategy is such a critical topic for pharmaceutical companies. 

Studies show that maintaining an application in the cloud reduces cost by almost 40% when considering the actual usage versus required usage. Deploying cloud systems eliminates additional hardware and associated maintenance costs, resulting in productivity and operational savings over time. 

Dickson Cloud Products

Dickson’s 24/7 temperature and humidity data logger solutions fit into modern cloud computing structures. Whether a company needs to monitor ambient spaces, chamber temperatures and humidity, or refrigerator or incubator temperatures, the cloud-based software help it all work together seamlessly. 

A comprehensive dashboard and reporting capabilities keep all the data at your fingertips, in a view that provides instant information. The dashboard displays all critical monitoring information on one screen. Immediately address alerts and warnings, understand device performance over time, and much more. Dickson can help create customized, automated reports to reliably collect the data that matters most to your business needs. 

To learn more about how Dickson’s data loggers as well as our online platform, DicksonOne, can help your organization collect and manage temperature and other environmental data in the cloud please contact us here or at 1-630-432-3747.