With the announcement of Abbott's 'OneLab', ePharma Editor, Caroline Criado Perez asks - what took so long?
They’re all coming out of the woodwork now. A few days ago, I wrote about BI finally taking the first baby-steps towards digital integration of their services. Not to be outdone, Abbott is also graduating into the digital age, with a digital integration of their own: the implementation of OneLab, a ‘web-based, integrated laboratory informatics solution’.
Congratulations to Abbott for being so innovative – aka, you mean that a company that employs 91,000 people and has labs based all over the world wasn’t doing this at least a decade ago? Too right, OneLab ‘can improve efficiency and productivity while reducing errors, which is important to patient safety’. This doesn’t come into question. What does come into question, what is a great mystery, is why it’s taken so long for a pharma company to begin using what is essentially a slightly more sophisticated version of an intranet.
As Ulf Oesinghaus, deputy pharmacy manager, laboratory director of strategic purchasing, University of Medicine Gottingen, Germany, says, labs around the world all share the common challenges of ‘mounting pressure to do more with less while improving quality’. And by ‘more with less’, he is of course referring to cost pressures and associated staff shortages.
The situation is not likely to get easier any time soon either. A new report from data firm IMS Health predicts that global spending on drugs will slow in the years to 2016. While developing countries are predicted to increase their health-spend overall, the upcoming expiration of a number of patents means an inevitable increase in competition from generics. According to Michael Kleinrock, head of research development at the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, by 2016, the number of US generics prescriptions will rise from the current 80% to an expected 85%. There is a new price-war coming over the hill.
So all this means that pharma needs to be doing whatever it can to reduce its overheads – and reducing costly errors, in an area already as cost-laden as R&D is surely a no-brainer. Not only this, but an increase in productivity is ultimately great for patients – more drug breakthroughs means more diseases dealt with, and fewer patients suffering.
Abbott introduced its OneLab system in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Spain, with additional launches, including the United States, scheduled for later in 2012 and 2013. We should all watch this one closely to see what effect it has on R&D spending, and what effect is has on the really important work of saving lives.
Pharma is a business – but it can also be a force for great good in the world. Let’s stop letting our digital gremlins prevent us from achieving that.
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