Cognizant: Building a Vision of Efficiency
Cognizant’s unique industry-based, consultative approach helps clients envision, build and run more innovative and efficient businesses. Srinivas Shankar, Global Head of Life Sciences for Cognizant, talks to us about the massive shifts happening in the industry and how digitisation is helping clients like Viatris to find better ways of working.
Shankar has been with the company for more than 12 years and remains so with a smile on his face, “I’m really happy to be here,” he says before delving into what makes the Cognizant life sciences business special.
“At Cognizant, for us, life sciences are two distinct industry segments. The first is biopharmaceutical companies and the second is medical device companies. We work with all of the top 30 biopharmaceutical companies and 12 of the top 15 medical device companies. I've been with the company for 12 years now, all of it in life sciences. And I'm very passionate about what we do every day to leverage technology to improve the lives of patients.”
Speaking to the drivers that are influencing the life sciences industry, Shankar says, “There've been a few secular trends in the life sciences industry that are both applicable to biopharmaceutical, as well as the medical devices industrial segments. The first is what we call desegregation of care, which is moving away from the traditional confines of a hospital setting to remote patient monitoring, ambulatory care centres, personalised point of care, diagnostics and therapeutics.
“The second is the move to value-based care, moving us away from fee for service models, which is traditionally how the industry has been compensated, to more value-based models where drug pricing is based on things like outcomes delivered.
“Last but certainly not the least, due to Covid-19, regulations have been evolving at a faster pace around things such as the virtualisation of clinical trials and digital therapeutics. When it comes to privacy, there's been a lot of evolution in regulatory guidelines around areas such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). You will see both of these continue to evolve very quickly and it's important for the industry to keep pace with the changes.”
“If you look at commercial, a lot of the industry is moving to what we call omnichannel marketing, which is finding alternate means of reaching physicians, primarily using digital channels. We also have seen a significant increase in manufacturing and the need to manufacture vaccines and many other COVID-19 related products at scale. That scale requires a huge infusion of manufacturing capacity, so we're seeing concepts like Industry 4.0, which is the fourth industrial revolution, playing out very quickly in life sciences and being manifested in concepts like smart digital factories.
“In relation to services that we provide to clients, we see significant adoption of digital technologies, such as cloud, IoT, data analytics, and digital engineering. And we're using all of these digital technologies to be able to bring solutions to clients.
On Cognizant’s relationship with Viatris, Shankar points out that the partnership is “very strategic.” “It predates the coming together of Mylan and the Upjohn division of Pfizer to form Viatris (2020). In 2014, we started a relationship with Mylan. After that, we started providing a whole range of strategic services from infrastructure support and operations to application support services to large and complex ERP implementations. More recently, with the formation of Viatris, we have been supporting the organisation around core infrastructure services for day-one preparedness, which includes end-user support services for about 13,000 users across 14 global sites. We are also a strategic partner for post-integration services for the Viatris organisation.”
“We're truly excited about our strategic partnership with Viatris and I think that the coming together of both these organisations, Cognizant and Viatris, can truly drive meaningful, positive value in the lives of patients.”
Getting ready for cloud data-driven healthcare
As healthcare continues to recognise the value of data and digital transformation, many organisations are relying on the cloud to make their future-forward and data-centric thinking a reality. In fact, the global healthcare cloud computing market was valued at approximately $18 billion and is expected to generate around $61 billion USD by 2025.
At the forefront of these changes is the rapid adoption of cloud-based, or software-as-a-service (SaaS), applications. These apps can be used to handle patient interactions, track prescriptions, care, billing and more, and the insights derived from this important data can vastly improve operations, procurement and courses of treatment. However, before healthcare organisations can begin to dream about a true data-driven future, they have to deal with a data-driven dilemma: compliance.
Meeting regulation requirements
It’s no secret that healthcare is a highly regulated industry when it comes to data and privacy – and rightfully so. Patient records contain extremely sensitive data that, if changed or erased, could cost someone their life. This is why healthcare systems rely on legacy technologies, like Cerner and Epic EHRs, to manage patient information – the industry knows the vendors put an emphasis on making them as secure as possible.
Yet when SaaS applications are introduced and data starts being moved into them, compliance gets complicated. For example, every time a new application is introduced into an organisation, that organisation must have the vendor complete a BAA (Business Associate Agreement). This agreement essentially puts the responsibility for the safety of patients’ information — maintaining appropriate safeguards and complying with regulations — on the vendor.
However, even with these agreements in place, healthcare systems still are at risk of failing to meet compliance requirements. To comply with HIPAA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 11 and other regulations that stipulate the need to exercise best practices to keep electronic patient data safe, healthcare organisations must maintain comprehensive audit trails – something that gets increasingly difficult when data sits in an application that resides in the vendor’s infrastructure.
Additionally, data often does not stay in the applications – instead healthcare users download, save and copy it into other business intelligence tools, creating data sprawl across the organisation and exposing patient privacy to greater risk.
With so many of these tools that are meant to spur growth and more effective care creating compliance challenges, it begs the question: how can healthcare organisations take advantage of the data they have without risking non-compliance?
Yes, healthcare organisations can adhere to regulations while also getting valuable insights from the wealth of data they have available. However, to help do this, organisations must own their data. This means data must be backed up and stored in an environment that they have control over, rather than in the SaaS vendors’ applications.
Backing up historical SaaS application data directly from an app into an organisation’s own secure cloud infrastructure, such as AWS or Microsoft Azure, makes it easier, and less costly, to maintain a digital chain of custody – or a trail of the different touchpoints of data. This not only increases the visibility and auditability of that data, but organisations can then set appropriate controls around who can access the data.
Likewise, having data from these apps located in one central, easily accessible location can decrease the number of copies floating around an organisation, reducing the surface area of exposure while also making it easier for organisations to securely pull data into business intelligence tools.
When healthcare providers have unfettered access to all their historical data, the possibilities for growth and insights are endless. For example, having ownership and ready access to authorised data can help organisations further implement and support outcome-based care. Insights enabled by this data will help inform diagnoses, prescriptions, treatment plans and more, which benefits not only the patient, but the healthcare ecosystem as a whole.
To keep optimising and improving care, healthcare systems must take advantage of new tools like SaaS applications. By backing up and owning their historical SaaS application data, they can do so while minimising the risk to patient privacy or compliance requirements. Having this ownership and access can propel healthcare organisations to be more data-driven – creating better outcomes for everyone.