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Pharma industry trends from eyeforpharma Barcelona 2018

Digital transformation, advanced diagnostics, the rise of smaller biotech companies, technological advances and how to deal with vast amounts of data – these were the big pharma industry trends that had everyone buzzing at eyeforpharma 2018, the world’s largest gathering for pharma leaders. Here’s what we learned over the course of the three-day event.

We’ve been supplying learning solutions to the pharma and life sciences sector for a number of years. Working with our global customers gives us insights into some of the challenges the industry faces.

LEO Learning has now gone a step further by attending eyeforpharma 2018 in Barcelona, to dig deeper into pharma industry trends and really find out in much more detail what the sector challenges are.

One of the unusual aspects of attending a sector-specific event is that it’s not all about learning and development or learning technology.

But the interesting thing about eyeforpharma 2018 is that, in almost every session, learning came up in one way or another.

LEO Learning attended eyeforpharma 2018 in Barcelona. Here's a view of the conference where we attended several talks on pharma industry trends.

The main pharma industry trends and themes for 2018

The big themes from the keynote speakers were the continued levels of change across the pharma and life sciences industry. That, and the way big pharma companies are having to dramatically re-invent themselves to keep up with a pressing need for innovation.

The main themes included:

  • Digital transformation – for example, patients using digital technology to manage their own conditions, whether that’s through the use of sensors and wearables to monitor their condition or simply going to see their doctor armed with their own self-diagnosis from Google (more on that coming up below).
  • Data – who owns data, especially in light of new data security laws like the GDPR, is a hot topic in pharma circles. There were also plenty of conversations around the subject of data ownership (whether that’s the healthcare provider, pharma companies or the patients themselves), the vast amount of data we now capture, we now capture, and whether pharma companies should  position themselves as trusted sources of information or whether that role should lie with academia.
  • Advanced diagnostics – for example, DNA analysis, which now costs a fraction of what it did a few years ago. These technologies can be used to enable treatments to be specifically tailored to an individual patient.
  • Advanced digital marketing and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) techniques – including the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to really drive engagement with Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) and patients.
  • The growth of smaller biotech companies who are developing products for rare conditions and their ability to do Research and Development, and innovation at speed.It’s all about digital transformation nowadays<h2>

The word ‘digital’ came up in almost every session and it was no surprise that the most engaging session of the event was by Ryan Olohan, MD of Google Healthcare. The amount of data that Google captures from searches is staggering – one in 20 Google searches is for health-related questions!

Ryan Olohan, MD of Google Healthcare, at eyeforpharma 2018 in Barcelona talking about pharma industry trends.

This volume of data gives them a great insight into patient behaviour and also highlights the challenge of patients undertaking extensive research about their condition – and sometimes being better informed than their doctors.

Getting products into markets

I attended several discussions around market access and value-based healthcare, particularly the concept that pharma companies could get paid on results: if a product is shown to successfully work, then the company gets paid. This would seem like a massive leap from the commercial models that are in place at the moment.

LEO Learning has delivered a number of projects around these topics including value-based healthcare, Access Evidence and Healthcare Technology Assessments.

These are specialised topics and it’s good to know we have the expertise in our team to support pharma businesses in upskilling their commercial teams and increasing market access.

Salesforce effectiveness continues to be a priority area for pharma sector learning – whether that’s a better understanding of products, how to better use data or the wider landscape of digitisation. We are already doing a lot of work in these areas to help pharma sales reps understand products, the mechanism of disease and mechanisms of action.

Virtual reality, machine learning and data analytics: bringing about big changes

There was a lot of talk at eyeforpharma 2018 around the use of advanced digital tools, particularly VR. This wasn’t focused so much on training employees but on helping to educate patients about their conditions.

Although there didn’t seem to be too many practical examples, it’s definitely seen as a growth area and something that we plan to do more of (and see more requests for) in future.

There were many interesting sessions from many of the big pharma companies, as well as some really fascinating and groundbreaking work from IQVIA (formerly Quintiles) on using machine learning and AI.

The IQVIA stand at eyeforpharma 2018 in Barcelona
We already have so much exposure to machine learning in our daily lives (for example, in your Netflix recommendations). It’s definitely something we will see more of and, in future, we expect to see more AI being used to personalise learning.

Using digital channels for engaging learning

There is a massive need across the pharma and life sciences sector to help everyone understand what the impacts of these big changes are – and, in particular, how digitisation, advanced data analytics and machine learning will impact on their roles in future.

With digital having such an impact on the future of healthcare and pharma, using digital channels to support learning and knowledge makes perfect sense.

Tools such as gomo, a cloud-based fully responsive authoring tool, are perfect for companies looking to deliver digital content at speed and at scale to the sector’s wide and dispersed audience.

This can go far beyond digital learning content for employees and extend across the wider ecosystem to include learning for HCPs and patients. We are already delivering this type of content and expect to see an uptake in the use of tools such as gomo to deliver content to the extended network.

If you want to know more about how pharma industry trends are informing learning across the sector, get in touch today or download our free ebook, ‘Future learning in Pharma and Life Sciences’.

Download the ebook

LEO Learning attended eyeforpharma 2018 in Barcelona. Here's a view of the conference where we attended several talks on pharma industry trends.
We’d also love you to join us on 23d May for a free webinar discussion on pharma learning where we will be building on these pharma industry trends and themes.


Sean Nugent is a Senior Account Director at LEO Learning.