Is RPA the magic pill for pharmaceutical companies?

GSK uses bots – and that’s why they thrive. Source: Shutterstock

One of the things that companies pursuing digital transformation find incredibly useful is the fact that technology allows them to focus their energies on their core business – and this is vital for pharmaceutical companies.

In a world where drug manufacturers are constantly battling patents, improving formulations, and researching new treatments, repetitive tasks are an unnecessary distraction.

The solution? Robotic process automation (RPA).

The idea is not as new as it sounds to outsiders. Pharma executives have been considering the idea of ​​using RPA to improve operations for a while, but not many have commented on their progress.

The race wins slowly and steadily

Among those who have done so, GSK states that the path to RPA is rewarding but slow.

At the Computing IT Leaders’ Forum in the UK, John Johnstone, Director of Global Applications Development at GSK, announced that the company first implemented its RPA platform early last year.

In six months, the company’s Chief Digital and Technology Officer (CDTO) expected 300 bots to be running – but Johnstone took it slow, making sure the company’s rollout was carefully planned and optimized.

“We started with a decentralized model. That means the platform is there and the companies [within GSK] can come and use it. We really gained a foothold in the first half of the year. We asked, ‘What does it take to build a robot? What is the GSK process for prioritizing what should be built first? “

However, after the team learned some of the basics about RPA and bots, GSK’s CDTO ordered Johnstone to speed things up – who decided to move to a centralized model to speed up adoption.

“We said, ‘Business, give us your ideas. We build the bots centrally, support them for you and you use the advantages. Another thing we did was build some full-time teams for it. If you are serious, I don’t think you can do it part time. For that you need a full-time team. “

At the event, Johnstone shared a lot of insights into GSK’s RPA implementation, but one important thing was that organizations need to get the basics right when delving into projects like this.

Ultimately, you ensure that you use the right processes (for automation) in a targeted manner and get the most out of your investments.

Why pharmaceutical companies benefit from RPA

Pharmaceutical companies will benefit greatly from RPA because these companies have a lot of repetitive tasks to perform.

From regular regulatory filings and reports to replicating notes across multiple systems to ensure that the work done by the labs is recorded and properly reported – and saved for future reference.

For example, Deloitte has partnered with AstraZeneca and created new efficiency gains that were previously unexplored in the pharmaceutical industry.

RPA has enabled AstraZeneca to free resources to focus on value-adding activities and manage future workloads without increasing costs, compromising quality, or compromising compliance.

The solution has improved job satisfaction among AstraZeneca’s patient safety teams and is designed to improve response rates from healthcare professionals.

Ultimately, RPA seems like a great solution for pharmaceutical companies – and GSK’s Johnstone hit the nail on the head when he showed why finding the right business processes to automate can make all the difference.

Soumik Roy
| @soumikroy

Soumik Roy is an economics and technology specialist. He helps small and medium-sized business owners understand what is most important to the growth and success of their business.

July 2, 2021