For pharmaceutical companies moving forward in healthcare, a more human touch may be necessary.

The industry has historically been focused on the drugs it produces and distributes, with robust investments in chemistry and biology to deliver on patient needs. Now, companies are trying to reevaluate the way they approach medicine production, with new technology fueling innovation.

This also includes expanding offerings, such as digital resources to empower patients to improve their own health. The telehealth industry as a whole has made great strides in recent years, and established pharma companies are now seeing an opportunity to get involved. The sourcing of data has changed the face of healthcare and now has the potential to change the way drugs are produced and distributed.

Even technology companies such as Google have turned their eye to ways that they can get involved in health. Some pharmaceutical firms have pursued collaborations with tech companies to gain access to patient data and use it to push their own innovation forward. Others have taken a more extensive approach, such as Roche’s acquisition of Flatiron, a health technology company that has assembled extensive records of patient data for research.

This has led to many pharma companies, particularly those that fall under the biotech umbrella, creating more specialized products that address the needs of specific patients. Many wearables fit this category, aiming to provide patients with the information they need to maintain their own health with little help from a healthcare professional.

As a result, many of these companies have become a lot smaller, more tech startup than pharma giant. They benefit from the agility lacking in larger firms, allowing them to explore new frontiers and pursue ideas that would be unwieldy for others to execute.

The future of pharmaceuticals also largely depends on their ability to connect with patients and learn what their end goals are. The aforementioned specialist firms have adapted to this, proving their willingness to work with patients on their products. This has the side effect of driving health literacy forward, which can drive better outcomes in of itself. Patients that are more knowledgeable about the industry have led to increased clamor for better regulations and practices. While many companies see this as a challenge, they should actually see it as an opportunity to engage and better their products with the help of patients.

Indeed, pharmaceutical companies are faced with the dual challenges of meeting diverse patient needs and incorporating technology into their business strategy. This comes in the form of engineering and IT—designing new products and ensuring that those products have the infrastructure to run properly. For the latter, compliance officers will be necessary to ensure that new innovation is tempered by adherence to standards.

In any case, the opportunities do exist, but it comes down to companies to identify which ones meet their needs and can help them better serve patients. Though the pharmaceutical industry was built on drugs and medicine, it may very well be good communication that causes it to evolve further.