October 5, 2023

The Future of ‘Smart’ Pharma and Life Sciences with IoT

The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been around since the late 1990s, but it gained momentum and attention in the 2000s with technological advancements and the rise of internet-connected devices. Specifically, the life sciences and pharmaceutical industries started adopting IoT technology around the mid-2010s. It was used to monitor and manage research, development, and manufacturing processes, helping to improve efficiency, data collection, and quality control in these industries.

The IoT market is booming and unlikely to slow down, with a projected value of $925.2 billion in 2023. As with most innovative technologies, IoT will continue to advance as more industries and businesses realize its benefits and invest. On top of that, that billion-dollar number is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13%, reaching $1,334.1 billion by 2026.

IoT is popular because it’s all about connection. During the global pandemic, when connection was more important than ever, people started using connected devices at twice the normal rate.  According to The State of the Connected World 2023 Edition, more than 15 billion devices were used in 2015. That number went up to 43 billion in 2022, following the height of COVID-19. It’s expected to continue rising, reaching 75 billion by 2025. In life sciences, these connections lead to:

  • Smart labs for heightened proficiency
  • Automated patient data gathering
  • Enhanced patient monitoring with wearable devices
  • Machinery optimization and predictive maintenance
  • Connected production lines for increased regulatory compliance
  • Improved product integrity using sensors for real-time tracking
  • Personalized treatments for patients
  • Reduced administrative burden with real-time communication capabilities
  • Predictive healthcare plans with access to health data via wearable devices
  • Managed patient compliance and adherence to medication recommendations and dosing

Specifically, according to one report, the pharmaceutical industry is seeing a surge in IoT-related patent applications, with the U.S. leading the way in IoT adoption. The Netherlands, China, Australia, and Switzerland aren’t too far behind, with the uptick in IoT in pharma also leading to jobs and strategic business deals that impact the industry’s future.

How is IoT Impacting the Pharmaceutical Industry? 

IoT is revolutionizing the pharmaceutical industry by enabling real-time monitoring of drug manufacturing processes, improving medication adherence through smart devices, enhancing drug quality control, and optimizing supply chain logistics. These changes lead to greater efficiency and better patient outcomes.

Empowering patients with smart devices that can provide reminders and remote monitoring capabilities improves medication adherence, leading to better outcomes and reduced costs. Also, the pharmaceutical supply chain benefits from greater visibility and efficiency, ensuring patients and healthcare providers receive medicines on time, securely, and with added peace of mind.

However, real-time monitoring is the ultimate MVP. Real-time monitoring of drug manufacturing processes identifies potential issues during production, which minimizes the risk of defects or contamination. This real-time data analysis also allows for quick adjustments, which reduces production downtime and waste and optimizes resource allocation.

In addition, pharma companies are required to adhere to strict safety and quality standards. Real-time monitoring helps these companies meet regulatory requirements by maintaining precise records and traceability. Other key benefits of real-time data feeds include:

  • Lowered costs due to resource optimization, minimized errors, and reduced rework
  • Production efficiency for faster time-to-market for new drugs and increased manufacturing capacity
  • Early issue detection, leading to risk mitigation and prevention of batch failures and recalls
  • Innovation and heightened competitiveness driven by the adoption of advanced manufacturing techniques
  • Data-driven decision-making, which improves drug formulations and manufacturing methods via valuable insights for process optimization and product development

As IoT and smart devices evolve, the pharmaceutical industry is poised to become more patient-centric, data-driven, and agile. These characteristics are essential to deliver safer, more effective drugs and healthcare solutions to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world.

An Aging Population Drives IoT Innovations in Life Sciences 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “people worldwide are living longer.” In 2020, there were more people aged 60 or older than children younger than age 5. WHO projects that by 2030, approximately one in six people will be 60 years of age or older.

Because of this, IoT innovations are critically important in pharmaceuticals and healthcare, especially in the context of our aging population. As the demographic pyramid shifts toward older age groups, healthcare systems face unique challenges in providing timely and effective care to seniors. IoT devices and technologies offer solutions that address these challenges head-on.

Home monitoring is just one of the benefits made possible with IoT technologies. Telemedicine solutions bring healthcare closer to seniors, reducing barriers to access, like disability, transportation difficulties, or incapacitation. In addition, home monitoring allows for early intervention and diagnostics, giving providers continuous oversight of vital signs, chronic conditions, falls, and medication delivery and dosing.

Along those lines, IoT-driven medication management tools improve adherence and reduce the risk of medication-related issues. These innovations facilitate personalized medicine, tailoring treatments to individual health profiles. IoT innovations empower pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors to meet the evolving needs of an aging population, promoting healthier, more independent lives for seniors.

As our population ages, disease prevention is also of utmost importance. Harvard School of Public Health published statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finding that heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer top the list as some of the most common health problems in the U.S. Fortunately, many of these chronic illnesses are preventable with different health, wellness, and lifestyle choices, reducing the incidence of death and disability. Various wearable and embeddable IoT devices have the potential to detect these diseases early to mitigate problems that become more prominent or can worsen with age.

Research and Development: What’s New in Pharma Powered by IoT and How Is it Beneficial? 

Pharmaceutical companies are tasked with providing us with future-focused health solutions, especially with healthcare spending up since the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this trend is not expected to continue, particularly in low- and middle-income regions. Therefore, it’s in the best interest of the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors to capitalize on ROI now with IoT-powered technologies that offer sustainable and inclusive solutions.

The global COVID-19 crisis showed us new ways to navigate our environment, provide access, and use IoT and other technologies to adapt and mitigate risks. Although, as far as we’ve come, there’s still more on the horizon.

Patient-centered IoT technologies represent a transformative shift in healthcare delivery by placing the individual at the heart of their own care journey. From wearable devices that continuously monitor vital signs to smartphone apps that track medication adherence, patient-focused, IoT-powered tools foster a sense of ownership and engagement in one’s health. In addition, they enable seamless communication between patients and healthcare providers. This communication facilitates timely interventions and personalized care plans.

Pharmaceutical companies have been developing new technologies to further the healthcare crusade. In 2022, a low-cost IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) pillbox was proposed to “improve medication adherence even with a complex regimen while supporting remote dose adjustment.” This proposal resulted from a study showing that even when prescribed the correct medications, many patients failed to take them as recommended. According to the WHO, only half of patients with chronic diseases adhered to their prescribed medication schedule. Medication adherence reduces overall health costs, with decreased hospitalizations and emergency treatments primarily caused by adverse results and preventable medication errors.

Smart pills are another IoT-enabled technology that help eliminate the need for invasive procedures. These tiny yet superior electronic devices are delivered to patients via an ingestible pharmaceutical capsule. They often contain various bio or chemical sensors and can obtain information throughout the body that would otherwise be difficult to detect. After delivering valuable diagnostic imaging and data, these pills are eliminated via the digestive system, calling for an end to more invasive but conventional procedures like endoscopies or colonoscopies. Gastrointestinal disease can overwhelm the healthcare system, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating between 60 and 70 million Americans afflicted yearly.

Some pills are even powered to record vital signs and monitor patient well-being and medication-taking behaviors. Integrating a wireless communication endpoint, smart pills can help healthcare providers monitor patients remotely and aid in telemedicine’s effectiveness.

Finally, organ-on-a-chip (OOAC) is another pioneering IoT technology “that can emulate the physiological environment and functionality of human organs on a chip for disease modeling and drug testing.” This latest technology can transfigure the drug development pipeline by providing a more “productive and efficient R&D framework for drug discovery.” According to research, human responses to newly developed drugs can vary widely, with an approximate 40% fail rate of initial clinical trials following successful preclinical evaluation with animal subjects. OOAC technology may be beneficial in bridging that gap and replacing animal testing with a more personalized approach to medicine.

Partnering With Oxford for IoT-Powered Solutions in Life Sciences and Pharma 

Partnering with Oxford to deliver IoT-powered solutions is a strategic move that promises to revolutionize any business’ approach to healthcare and drug development. By combining our industry expertise with our technological prowess, we aim to create cutting-edge solutions that enhance patient care, streamline manufacturing processes, and improve the overall efficiency of the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors.

We have the knowledge, skills, and experience to fulfill your IoT needs and an unmatched approach to recruiting and pairing the right talent to meet our clients’ requests. Before you contact us, we have already vetted the right people so that we can provide the same to you right now. The less time you spend waiting on us, the more time you’ll have to focus on your company’s future. Our time-honored promise for the last four decades is The Right Talent. Right Now.

Quality. Commitment.

Whether you want to advance your business or your career, Oxford is here to help. With nearly 40 years’ experience, we know that a great partnership is key to success. Start a conversation today.