Change of Healthcare by Digital Technology

The development of digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and 5th Generation mobile communication systems (5G) is expanding the possibilities of society and influencing many industries.  The field of medicine and pharmaceuticals is no exception, and many universities, research institutes, and medical-related companies, including pharmaceutical companies, are vigorously considering the development of Digital Healthcare.

Digital Healthcare and Digital Therapy

What is Digital Healthcare?

At present, there is no unified definition of Digital Healthcare.  Therefore, in this article, Digital Healthcare refers to all products and services related to medical care using digital technology.  In addition to those that directly cure illnesses, these products and services are being developed for a variety of purposes, including to improve the workflow of medical professionals, to increase convenience for patients and their families, and to prevent healthy people from getting sick.

Examples of Digital Healthcare Include the Following

  • Telemedicine systems that enable doctors to examine patients from remote locations
  • Services that predict the health status of a patient and signs of illness from a smartphone or smartwatch
  • Software that utilizes artificial intelligence to analyze large amounts of medical data to assist diagnosis
  • Devices that stimulate the brain with sound, light, and images to heal the mental state
Many of these are still under research or have not yet been approved, but possibly, they will be incorporated into the standard medical treatment in the future.

What is Digital Therapy?

Digital Therapy is a part of Digital Healthcare and is especially targeting direct treatment of diseases. Since it is also a newly developing area, there is no consensuses definition of Digital Therapy, which is the same situation as Digital Healthcare.  In this article, Digital Therapy is defined as the use of software-based or software-hardware digital technology to manage and medically intervene in the treatment of diseases.  Here, medical intervention means "the administration of drugs or surgical procedures for the purpose of treatment.
Diagnosis using digital technology, such as AI-based analysis of X-ray images, is not a direct medical intervention, so it is distinguished to be "Digital Diagnostics (DDx).
Medical care changes with the circumstances of each era.  Here, we discuss the background of the demand for Digital Healthcare and Digital Therapy.

Background of The Demand for Digital Healthcare

Balance between Medical Professionals and Patients

The balance between the number of medical professionals and that of patients is a major issue for the proper implementation of medical care.  If there are not enough healthcare professionals in comparison with the patients, the quality of healthcare will deteriorate, and the protection of people’s health will be difficult.  Many countries are facing the problem, with population growth in developing countries and low birth-rate and longevity in developed countries affecting the balance between healthcare professionals and patients.  Meanwhile, it is not so easy to gain the number of medical personnel such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and laboratory technicians in a short term, because their works are diverse and requires specialized knowledge and skills.  From this background, improving the productivity of healthcare services is an urgent issue.

Health Care Financing

Advanced countries have a variety of social security systems, including medical insurance systems, aimed at improving the health of their citizens.  However, the imbalance in population due to the falling birth-rate and aging population is directly affecting the financial problems of medical insurance.  More efficiency in the healthcare sector is required to compress the expense, thereby achieving good health for a wider range of citizens.

More Advanced Approach to Health and Medical Care

Throughout its long history, humanity has fought against all kinds of diseases and has found many medicines and cures in the process.  There remains unmet medical needs and unresolved medical problems, however.

People's attitudes toward health have also changed over time.  The purpose of medical care should be shifting from simply just prolonging life to maintaining a healthy life and maximizing quality of life

Continuous consideration is necessary about this more advanced health and medical care.

Contributions of Digital Healthcare

Unfortunately, Digital Healthcare or Digital Therapy alone will not solve all of these medical problematic situations today or in the future.  However, these digital technology-based new ways certainly have great potential.

Digital Healthcare and Digital Therapy can significantly improve the efficiency of medical care, and reduce labour and costs associated with it.  This could be a promising solution to the problems related to the low population of medical experts and to the problems related to healthcare financing.

Digital Healthcare and Digital Therapy have already been proven or are being proven to be effective in a number of disease areas.  They will strongly contribute to addressing unmet medical needs by expanding the options for developing new therapies.

Digital Healthcare and Digital Therapy can also play a significant role in improving quality of life. Digital Healthcare provides continuous treatment in daily life through smartphones and wearable devices, as well as feedback of data obtained in daily life.  It will be possible to make optimal behavioural changes according to people's individual situations, maintain health, and relief symptoms.

Thus, the research and development of Digital Healthcare and Digital Therapy is an area of great expansion.

SHIONOGI's Commitment to Digital Healthcare


As mentioned above, the social conditions surrounding healthcare have changed dramatically, and pharmaceutical companies are concerned that they will no longer be able to continue to operate under the business model of simply providing pharmaceuticals as they have in the past.  The mission to protect the health of as many people as possible from a broader perspective will become more important than ever for the pharmaceutical companies.

From this circumstance, SHIONOGI has announced its new mid-term plan STS2030 (Shionogi Transformation Strategy 2030), which sets "creating the future of healthcare with a new platform" as the 2030 Vision.  The plan's goals are to transform SHIONOGI from " a drug discovery-based pharmaceutical company " that provides only prescription drugs to a "Healthcare as a Service (HaaS) creator" that provides healthcare services.  SHIONOGI provides new value to society and comprehensive solutions to the problems faced by patients and society.  SHIONOGI aims to further improve our strengths cultivated through the creation of medicinal drugs, to leverage these strengths to become the core of collaborative creation, and to create new value through collaborative creation with diverse partners to solve the problems of patients and society.  To this end, SHIONOGI intends to further strengthen our drug creation capabilities to create novel competitive therapeutics, as well as to provide products and services that are necessary for society by taking a bird's-eye view of the entire disease from a broad approach of diagnosis, prevention, and pre-disease/care.

HaaS Creation Company and Digital Healthcare and Digital Therapy

SHIONOGI considers Digital Healthcare and Digital Therapy to be very important in its transformation into a "HaaS Creator Company" as described above, and SHIONOGI is a pioneer in the introduction of Digital Therapy product candidates among Japanese pharmaceutical companies.  SHIONOGI is planting and nurturing the seeds for change in this field.  

SHIONOGI will continue to contribute to people's health also in the field of Digital Healthcare and Digital Therapy.