AI and Cognitive Services Can Advance Pharmaceutical Analysis and Automation

Every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data are created, giving us access to more statistics, content, and information than is humanly possible to analyze.1 However, with the ongoing growth of artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive services, tapping into the full potential of meaningful use for all data is becoming a feasible reality.

Pharmaceutical and life sciences companies are no strangers to the digital age. Electronic medical records, digital drug formularies, and HIPAA and HITECH regulations are the norm. However, as we roll into 2018, these companies must begin to set up data organizations in ways that work for nascent AI and cognitive services.

Currently, many pharmaceutical and life sciences companies organize data into silos. The processes for data retrieval and analysis take longer and opportunities for finding patterns and correlations among datasets may be missed, among other consequences.

AI and cognitive services support the automation and execution of data cleansing and profiling across datasets. This can lead to streamlined decision-making across the healthcare value stream and help maintain a commitment to patients’ human experiences. Examples of how AI and cognitive services improve analytics and insights include:

  • Enhanced data visualization and storytelling that may help healthcare practitioners better explain medication benefits to patients and more quickly identify barriers to supply and insurance coverage gaps (i.e., formulary status).
  • Deeper understanding of customer experiences with more real-time insights that may help healthcare practitioners adjust dosages or suggest alternative/complimentary treatment modalities.
  • Advanced customer journey mapping that may help healthcare practitioners more directly visualize a day-in-the-life of a patient.

As the 21st Century Cures Act is poised to speed up the FDA drug approval process, de-siloing data and adopting automated processes for organization and analysis may help many pharmaceutical and life sciences companies bring products to market faster. Under certain conditions, the act allows companies to provide the FDA with data summaries and real-world evidence such as observational studies, insurance claims data, patient input, and anecdotal data rather than full clinical trial results. AI and cognitive services can enable automated preparation of these types of supporting datasets.

Another promising technology advancement is robotic process automation (RPA), which uses software and intelligent virtual agents to help perform repeatable tasks, capture and analyze information, and manipulate data. Cognitive services such as RPA may provide specific benefits to the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries including:

  • Giving new information on drug formation by enabling the design of fully personalized medication.
  • Improving the drug development process by making the process faster and more cost-effective in addition to transforming how innovations reach everyday medicine.
  • Increasing consistency and speed through the use of robots in pharmaceutical manufacturing work.

As technology advances and regulations loosen, many industry players are prepared to realize significant business gains. Seventy-eight percent of business leaders in the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry said they are planning to retrain workers to learn more AI-related skills throughout 2017 and 2018.1 Organizations that do not prepare for AI integration in the near future will find themselves operating at a disadvantage.


  1. Source Global Research, Cognitive Computing, Robotics, and AI Global, May 2017
  • Brian Clements is Global Lead, AI & Cognitive Solutions at North Highland (Sparks Grove). Brian Clements helps brands build solutions that support employees in managing the complexity of operating beyond human scale. Brian and his team research, design, and develop AI solutions at the intersection of marketing, technology, and data.

  • Sandy Jennings

    Sandy Jennings is Vice President at North Highland. Sandy Jennings helps pharmaceutical and life sciences companies solve their most complex challenges related to customer experience, performance improvement, technology & digital, and transformation. 


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