More than ever, enterprises are becoming aware of the need for collaboration. Faced with unexpected disruption, business relationships are now spanning not only across geographies, but also across traditional business verticals. This is particularly evident in the healthcare and life sciences sectors, which have been at the front line leading the fight against the pandemic.
Healthcare and Life Sciences industries have been ramping up their partnerships; exploring new technologies and pouring investment into R&D. A PwC survey reveals that 40% of health executives say their companies are somewhat or likely to acquire, partner or collaborate across healthcare sectors in 2020. 
Healthcare R&D – Addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by greater collaboration
Asia-Pacific’s healthcare and life sciences industries have seen surging collaboration and commercial partnerships – ones that mirror the growing complexity and multidimensional challenges facing healthcare and medical R&D worldwide.Download the Report
Accelerating healthcare outcomes through collaboration
The need for collaboration arises from the drive towards providing better health outcomes, combatting new and complex diseases and technological advancement. When we take a closer look at the healthcare R&D process, it can be surprising to know that traditional drug discovery processes often take up to 12 years, presenting companies with large risks when it comes to investment. Thankfully, this situation can be significantly improved through collaboration. Access to advanced technologies and external talent networks can help companies diversify risks and reduce costs, enabling them to get treatments to market quicker.
As a case in point, we are seeing all kinds of collaborations being formed as a result of COVID-19 to accelerate drug discovery. These collaborations and partnerships are happening at a wider scale – between pharmaceuticals, academia and research agencies and even between traditional competitors. This has delivered significant progress and brought us closer to a vaccine in a relatively short timeframe.
The emerging challenges of managing health data
With the healthcare industry embracing collaboration, the question is whether IT architectures are able to support those involved. The most evident challenge posed is the ability and readiness to support the management of huge data sets and data exchange with collaborators effectively.
Patient health data is increasing exponentially, with the current estimation suggesting a single patient generates close to 80 megabytes each year in imaging and electronic medical record data. According to IDC, healthcare data will experience a compound annual growth rate of 36% through to 2025, which is even faster than projections for manufacturing, financial services, and media. Faced with a rapidly changing landscape, traditional healthcare IT infrastructures are unable to support the tremendous amounts of data and increased demand for real-time access to digital healthcare data often required for effective R&D collaboration to provide better outcomes.
With healthcare collaboration often sprawling across geographical boundaries and different cloud environments, it also requires IT architectures to be strategically designed to respond to the need to access and integrate data residing across on premise and multicloud environments.
Other critical issues to overcome are the regulatory and security requirements. Countries, states, regions and even individual organizations all have separate sets of regulations for data residency and privacy and different levels of risk aversion due to the sensitivity of patient data and medical information that they collect and manage. This creates complexities for collaboration when it comes to data management. Cyber threats and privacy concerns are also increasingly serious considerations. The healthcare industry is now considered among the most vulnerable to cyberattacks due to its legacy systems, as well as the large number of connected devices, patch management issues and supply chain compromise.
According to CyberMDX, 2019 saw the number of cyberattacks in healthcare triple from 2018 — growing from 15 million breached personal records to over 40 million. Ensuring a secure connection has become one of the top priorities for many decision-makers when it comes to facilitating collaboration.
Interconnection behind the scenes
As such, healthcare and life sciences companies need to re-architect IT to access the apps, data, analytics, security and clouds that enables the smart healthcare ecosystem and create platforms where they can collaborate effectively. This is where interconnection comes into play. This private data exchange between businesses happens at distributed exchange points hosted in vendor-neutral, colocation facilities where enterprises, service providers, and networks can gather and establish private, low-latency connections.
At Equinix, healthcare and life sciences organizations are able to benefit from:
- Global reach: Leveraging Platform Equinix® which consists of 210+ International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers across 56 metros, healthcare and life sciences companies are able to deploy their digital infrastructure in the locations they need to reach and support their mission-critical workloads
- Direct and private interconnection: Equinix’s wide portfolio of interconnection and edge services enable industry players to quickly, seamlessly and securely connect with pharmaceuticals, academia, research agencies and even competitors within the Equinix network. As such, they can easily aggregate and exchange massive amounts of data in a robust, secure and reliable manner, which in turn helps address concerns about increasing data privacy and regulatory requirements
- Hybrid multicloud architecture: With the access to a broad ecosystem of network service and cloud providers on Platform Equinix, healthcare and life sciences companies can establish secure private connections to multiple clouds from multiple locations simultaneously, making access to preferred providers possible. The interconnection services can also provide private links between a company’s data center infrastructure in Equinix and clouds, resulting in easier data exchange between cloud and on-prem infrastructure
We all hope that the healthcare and life sciences sector can continue to grow and thrive, particularly at a time when so many of us are dependent on the outcome of collaborations between the sector’s experts. Architecting for greater healthcare collaboration requires an interconnection-first approach.
To learn more about how Equinix can help healthcare and life sciences companies accelerate health outcomes, check out our latest Healthcare R&D report and discover how to build your edge in this smart healthcare era.
 PwC Health Research Institute Executive Survey (Sep 2019)