Digital transformation has been the leading topic of discussion in most industries this year, and healthcare is no exception. Although, it would be unfair to dismiss the industry’s gradual shift in attitude, which has been occurring for over a decade now.
At least that is the view of Kevin Lennon, Business Unit Director of Star OUTiCO, a pharmaceutical outsourcing service and resourcing partner with experience spanning ten years in digital capability.
Here, Lennon discusses how pharmaceutical companies can better engage HCPs to maximise performance and sales results by leveraging advancements in the technologies available to them and integrating a wider range of remote channels with their sales teams.
Despite the industry’s gradual digital shift, like many industries, offerings via digital channels have become a requirement due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent disruption to service.
Change has been forced upon on us, but as many have already found, it’s not all bad. Rather, there have been many benefits of digital adoption, some of which are solving issues the industry has been facing for years. Namely, improving HCP engagement.
Prior to the pandemic, an increasing number of HCPs were beginning to prefer digital mediums for consuming and engaging with messages and content. And it makes perfect sense as to why this might have been the case, even before restrictions were placed on face-to-face meetings and events.
We need only to think of our own consumption behaviours, most of which occur online now. We’re in a digital age, where all the information we could possibly need is available right at our fingertips. All it takes is a click, scroll or impression.
Ultimately, there is greater acceptance and now, even an expectation, for digital options from organisations. And as the new, younger generation of HCPs begin to take over, this will only intensify.
The industry needs to keep up. Dabbling in digital is no longer sufficient, and instead, companies must devise clear strategies that integrate online offerings and leverage technology in order to meet the needs of this new age of healthcare professionals.
So, as more and more pharmaceutical organisations make the digital switch with their content and communications, HCPs are finding themselves with a vast choice of options. This creates a challenge for the pharmaceutical provider as in order to get messages and products out there, they must capture healthcare professionals’ attention by breaking through the noise.
Overcoming this issue is perhaps one of the greatest benefits of a digital approach. By nature, digital activities can produce and harness large amounts of data and information, which when analysed and interpreted, can become meaningful insight. This insight can then be used to justify and inform future decisions.
When it comes to HCP engagement, this insight is incredibly powerful. It can help pharmaceutical companies to understand the type of information HCPs consume best, where they consume it and when.
Tools, such as our AXiOM system, provide insights that go into incredible depths. For instance, the collection of data could clearly show you that HCP X engages with pharmaceutical industry content at 11am, and through email communications or, that HCP Y engages better out of hours, and via information provided on a microsite.
With this knowledge, pharmaceutical organisations are equipped with everything they need to create more personal and effective interactions with HCPs. As well as boosting engagement, this makes the job of sales teams more efficient, with less time wasted on unsuccessful efforts. We call this Intelligent Brand Engagement which allows us to tailor content via In-Person or Remote Digital Engagement.
We’re already seeing how digital transformation is benefiting the industry and we expect this to continue. It’s highly unlikely that pharmaceutical organisations will revert back to old methods when engaging with HCPs, but instead, offer Omni-Channel options that satisfy the needs of all, and maximise touchpoints for increased awareness and effect. A successful future, therefore, will require the industry to leverage the benefits of both online and offline contact. The customer journey (which will be different for every brand) requires Engagement Specialists being able to orchestrate In-Person and Remote Digital activities.
There is also opportunity to diversify content offerings. This year we’ve experienced the success of webinars and virtual events, which HCPs can attend without having to take too much time out of their day. Remote training has also proven beneficial, and is a trend being driven by GPs and clinicians who are requesting the more convenient online sessions.
It’s likely that technology will continue to evolve and help the industry overcome even more of its challenges. Engagement can always be improved, but the way in which technology can help will only get more innovative.
For example, although AI and machine learning are still in their infancy when it comes to HCP engagement, recent advancements have allowed us to utilise digital software to such an extent whereby verbal cues and dialogue are assessed while sales reps speak to HCPs. Data will then go on to inform training content, in order to equip teams with the most effective communication skills.
The ultimate goal is for the data and insights gathered from the increasing amount of digital activity to be able to support the daily decisions of sales teams. For example, if a rep experiences a last minute meeting cancellation, the digital system in place should be able to offer them alternative HCPs to contact, who are most likely to engage at this time, and through this medium. It saves time and resources and creates a more favourable HCP experience.
Global pandemic or not, the healthcare environment will always continue to evolve and change. We simply cannot stand still. We need to constantly adapt how we engage with HCPs and meet their individual needs.
To overcome the market’s current complexities, there is a clear need to be broader in our thinking and smarter in how we engage by using every bit of insight available to improve a HCP’s overall experience with a pharmaceutical organisation, in order to support them in achieving better patient outcomes. After all, that’s a goal that will never change.