Why Safety Needs The Cloud

A Rock and a Hard Place

Leaders in drug/medical safety have been stuck between a rock and a hard place for years. On the one side, complexity is dramatically increasing – expanding case volumes, biologics, new regulatory requirements, greater focus on combination therapies, and complex partner agreements. And, there is an increasing need for leaders to make safety decisions quickly with the most available data. Striking that perfect balance between effective risk management and maintaining access to medicines – especially for the patients who will benefit from them the most. On the other side – legacy, installed, on premise applications are costly, inflexible and siloed – ultimately restricting growth, innovation, and the ability to optimize business processes. Additionally, obtaining and assigning adequate budget to maintain both legacy and new systems is a challenge. These two opposing forces in safety, demand change but restrict it at the same time. The end result is that drug safety has fallen significantly behind, not evolving into its rightful place as a strategic enabler within the biopharma industry.

In speaking with leaders of drug safety and pharmacovigilance, there is no argument that they need to catch up first, so that they can innovate in the future. The question is – how?

The pressures on safety will only increase over time as scientific breakthroughs continue and our understanding of human pathophysiology expands. With legacy, installed, on premise applications as the only area of opportunity for removing drug safety from between a rock and a hard place – the “how” – is a pretty grim outlook.

The good news is the technology disruption that will enable drug safety to catch up and innovate is becoming available in the form of cloud applications. Cloud solutions work across organizational silos as well as enable collaboration between companies and partners.

“As pharmacovigilance organizations maximize efficiency gains from offshoring and outsourcing, innovation is needed in new areas to continue improving safety operations, analytics, and ultimately outcomes. Safety data is key to this transformation – enabling greater and more timely insights, automation, and better decision-making for our patients. We must aspire to precision medicine being applied in safety as we do when we consider efficacy of our medicines. To achieve this, we need to break down our silos of information by moving towards centralized information that is easily and securely accessible,” said Dr. Edwin J. Tucker, Chief Operating Officer, Acerta Pharma.

We’re not discussing a theoretical vision that is decades in the future. Cloud transformations have already taken place in clinical, regulatory and quality for drug development, and nearly all other aspects of the business – CRM, back-office operations, and HR across most industries.  

In this blog series, we’ll discuss the fundamentals of what is a true cloud application, why it’s important, and how it will enable innovation for drug safety.  

The Innovation Enabler – One Version for All

The most basic and most critical question to ask of a cloud application is “how many software versions are running in production?” If the answer is anything other than one, then you should avoid that solution. Now, let me explain why this is such a critical question.

The reason is quite simple – software providers must spend an ever-increasing portion of their development effort on fixing and supporting multiple versions of their software, running on premise at a customer or in hosted environments, rather than investing in the future.

These multiple versions are commonly numerous old versions running on installed, on premise customer environments, or multiple versions running in a supposedly “cloud” offering. While organizations often claim “cloud” in their model – this is really just on premise applications managed offsite in a hosted fashion and having many of the same challenges as the on premise deployment model.

For each version of the application, the software vendor must spend effort on fixing bugs, supporting, building, testing, and deploying security patches as well as invest lots of additional effort just to ensure each software version will still run as expected. The problem becomes exponentially more complicated when you consider integrations between applications that are running different software versions, as any integration has to support every combination of existing versions.

Managing old or multiple software versions is very similar to managing debt. As time goes by, the debt continues to grow with interest. As the debt grows, you are forced to spend more and more money paying the debt rather than buying the things that you want.

Similarly, in the world of on premise legacy software, as the number of software versions increases, more of the company’s effort is spent on fixing bugs and maintaining multiple versions rather than building new capabilities. This on premise dilemma boils down to a trade-off between fixing old vs. building new. Over time, the burden drastically slows the improvement of software and stifles innovation.

A true cloud solution only runs one software version and is therefore free of these challenges and overhead. Issues are fixed once and only once, while the vast majority of investment is made in delivering innovation and new functionality. With a single version of the application, customers of a true cloud application realize the benefits of best practices and new capabilities driven across the industry. True cloud solutions lead to better, highly tailored software with better quality and stability. The ‘innovation enabler’ is the single software version running in the cloud.

The End of Upgrades: Stay Compliant and Current in Perpetuity

Imagine a world in safety where the challenges and cost of upgrades are eliminated. As regulations are announced or updated, the application is automatically improved to support these new requirements with no effort by the customer. For the vast majority of people reading this blog, I understand that this seems like a fantasy world. However, this is a standard expectation of cloud applications.

Upgrades for on premise safety applications are extremely expensive – for both software and hardware. For each released version of the software, the customer performs a cost-benefit analysis to answer the question, “is the upgrade worth the effort?” Analysis is performed on what the new upgrade will provide vs. how much money and effort it will take. The complicating factor in this decision is that companies also need to comply with new regulatory requirements by a specific date, forcing customers to perform costly upgrades just to achieve compliance. Once completed, the next regulatory change will force yet another costly upgrade – an endless loop of cost and dependency. The cloud offers a much better solution.

In the cloud, upgrades are seamless as new functionality simply becomes available in a validated and compliant state. The customer can choose when to enable specific features in each of these releases – minimizing impact and providing control to the customer. Customers are future proofed against unforeseen regulatory changes, ensuring their solution evolves with the industry.

Read our next blog in the series on “Unlocking the Power of Your Safety Data With the Cloud.”

Interested in learning more about how Veeva can help?