Personalized Medicine Shouldn’t Be Cost Prohibitive: Life Science Business Networks Can Help

Thanks to personalized medicine, people can live longer, better quality lives from treatments that target their unique, individual conditions. Unfortunately, those therapies are the most expensive medical treatments in the world.

In response, hospitals, insurers, and other healthcare organizations are linking drug therapy and medical device usage and payment to performance guarantees while trying to own more services to reduce costs. Enter business networks, where healthcare professionals can work together for greater transparency across the entire life science supply chain.

“Suppose someone gets lab work completed for their tumor. The hospital lab ships the blood to experts at the biopharmaceutical company who create a drug for individualized treatment,” said John Murray, strategic director for Life Sciences at SAP. “The business network securely manages the chain of identity and custody between patient and healthcare provider to manufacturer and back. Transparency can help organizations better meet drug therapy performance guarantees.”

Life Science Business Network Provides Supply Chain Visibility

When drug manufacturers know where their shipments are and need to be in real time, they can monitor progress against performance guarantees and make decisions to prevent problems. For example, during the initial COVID-19 vaccine distribution, bad weather grounded some airplanes, delaying shipments and the rollout of inoculations. With no transparency between flight updates and local vaccine sites, patients, healthcare providers, and government leaders had no way to quickly understand the roadblocks and make alternate plans. Healthcare workers turned away frustrated people who had shown up for scheduled appointments, while policy leaders had no answers.

“A life science business network would create an end-to-end process beginning with individual patients, involving researchers, manufacturers, as well as transportation and distribution to healthcare practitioners and patients, all the way through someone’s medical outcomes, which is the measure for everyone on the supply chain,” said Murray. “This is central to SAP’s intelligent enterprise vision. Our solutions are already the backbone running many life science organizations, and we now have the opportunity to bring partners together in one connected business network.”

One example is SAP Information Collaboration Hub for Life Sciences that can track medical and other supplies and business processes, comparing planned against actual milestones across business partners and multiple disparate systems. Leading pharmaceutical companies worldwide are using the hub. But that’s just the beginning.

“The long-term vision is to harmonize all of these separate business networks into one life science network so that it becomes a set of services for partners who can also interface with data across enterprise systems,” said Murray. “Winning businesses will have clear supply chain visibility from maker to user, meaning patients whose medical results and lives improve.”

Making Personalized Medicine Affordable

While bespoke anything automatically drives up the price tag, personalized medicine can become more affordable when organizations along the life science supply chain share the risk. It’s the only way to manage costs and make these highest quality treatments affordable for more people. Partnerships are certain to change business models across the life science industry.

“As organizations increasingly compete not on price, but patient outcomes, healthcare practitioners and manufacturers are adapting to performance guarantees,” said Murray. “Hospitals know they won’t get reimbursed by Medicare in the U.S. if patients return with the same health conditions after being treated within certain time frames. One medical device manufacturer guarantees treatment prices that meet national health service billing caps if practitioners meet certain usage conditions.”

Advancements in science, technology, and biopharma, including genome sequencing, are making tremendous improvements in individualized treatment plans. Personalized oncology drugs, wireless programmed pacemakers, 3D printing of specialized prosthetics, and other innovations have the potential to improve healthcare results for millions of people worldwide. Unlike some other industries, life sciences and healthcare are not just about business. In transforming to securely share data and knowledge more transparently through specialized business networks, the life science industry can fulfill the patient-centric promise of personalized medicine, improving the quality of life that’s deeply personal to each of us and our loved ones.


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This story originally appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.