For the pharmaceutical industry, the COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for the need to incorporate new technology to keep up with ever-changing landscapes and regulations. As supply chains worldwide have crumbled under duress from the pandemic, it has become clear that vendor visibility, careful regulatory compliance, and adoption of new technology will be key for future progress and stability.

Here are three major ways COVID-19 has shaken up the pharmaceutical industry:

1. During the pandemic, the importance of vendor contract visibility cannot be overstated. Global supply chains have always been subject to a wide variety of obstacles. This is acutely true for pharmaceutical and biotech companies, who have always had to juggle a plethora of challenges such as shifting political landscapes and regulations within their two biggest manufacturing locations, India and China. Natural disasters are also a common disruption.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has so severely impacted the pharma industry that there are now vast drug shortages due to pharma’s reliance on brittle global supply chains. All this pressure has caused U.S. legislators to “put forward a raft of legislation that would seek to ’onshore’ drug manufacturing at the expense of major producers abroad, particularly China.”

Due to these changes, pharma will have to focus on vendor diversification and better visibility in order to avoid production being controlled by a single vendor. By creating a portal specifically for vendors, organizations can gain real-time data around shortfalls and risk as well as data tracking to appease regulators. A system that can integrate with Adobe Sign or DocuSign will allow vendors to sign securely from anywhere in the world. You can read more about managing suppler risk during the pandemic here.

2. The pandemic has thrust pharmaceutical and biotech companies into the world spotlight, and they must protect themselves from intense legal scrutiny. Pharma and biotech companies must also adapt to perpetually changing and increasing drug regulations. Pharma and biotech companies must continually adapt to changing drug regulations and due to the pandemic there is the added pressure to succeed under severe time restrictions. Where there is money there is a potential for cutting corners, and there is a great deal of money to be made in creating a COVID-19 vaccine. Thanks to operation warp speed, companies with promising tests have been awarded huge injections of money to produce vaccines.

This level of competition for prestige and funding has caused pharmaceutical companies to be thrust in the legal spotlight. While most of the world has watched in gratitude, government prosecutors “are increasingly focusing their energies and their sights on unscrupulous healthcare actors seeking to take advantage of the panic and confusion.” While this type of check and balance is necessary to a safe and functioning healthcare system, pharma and biotech companies must pay even more attention to their security and compliance to decrease as much risk as possible.

A reliable, automated contract process saves your company the expenses that come with manual auditing and protects you from the sanctions that result from errors. By creating a system to easily monitor contracts, you can quickly identify and track contracts involving intellectual property, royalties, or other company information to help you make informed decisions. Creating notifications tailored to different types of contracts also lets users know exactly what is coming up short, by how much, and whether a breach of contract has occurred. To read more about how contract management can help companies meet stringent regulations, read this blog post.

3. New technology allows for greater agility and control and is necessary for the evolution of pharma and biotech companies. In an article for Contract Pharma on supply chain trends, Rich Quelch of Origin Pharma Packaging, said “All in all, the promise of [artificial intelligence] in pharma supply chain management is clear[…] Pharma companies that embrace hybrid supply chains and smart data management can expect significant payback in speed, cost-efficiency and risk mitigation. Those that stick with the status quo may find themselves quickly at a dead end.”

Due to the bulk of data and contracts that pharma/biotech companies use on a daily basis, they are well suited to take on the challenges of AI. As with any AI solution, a good amount of upfront work is required for it to be effective, but the payoff could save an untold amount of time and money.

Pharma and biotech companies can also innovate by relying more on automation. A contract management system can increase productivity by automatically informing employees when they need to take action like make a payment or review contract terms. A holistic contract solution can also automatically send copies of invoices to an accounting department or inform procurement departments that contracts for purchases are in place, which eliminates bottlenecks and communication breakdowns between departments.

The pharmaceutical industry has been dealt a series of unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic and has worked tirelessly to solve them. These challenges are a sign that the industry is ripe for innovation. The global consequences of the pandemic have been massive, but so have the advancements made to treat and prevent COVID-19. As the pharma industry works to create their new normal, they will need to evaluate the industry’s shortcomings and embrace new technology that can help them thrive.