Leveraging digital tools to exploit the pharmaceutical–HCP communication channel

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 more than a decade now

That’s the view of Kevin Lennon, Business Unit Director of Star OUTiCO, a pharmaceutical outsourcing service and resourcing partner with experience spanning 10 years in digital capability.

Here, Lennon discusses how pharmaceutical companies can better engage healthcare professionals (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 has become a requirement because of 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 associated with digital adoption, some of which are solving issues that the industry has been facing for years.

The digital age

Prior to the pandemic, an increasing number of HCPs were beginning to prefer digital mediums to consume and engage 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 now occur online.

We’re in a digital age, in which all the information we could possibly need is available right at our fingertips. All it takes is a click, scroll or impression.

Kevin Lennon

Ultimately, there is greater acceptance and now, even an expectation, of digital options from organisations. And as the new, younger generation of HCPs begins 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 to meet the needs of this new age of healthcare professionals.

Above the noise

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 because, to get messages and products out there, they must capture people’s 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, for example, provide insights that go into great detail. For instance, the collection of data could clearly show you that HCP X engages with pharmaceutical industry content at 11 AM using email, or that HCP Y engages better out of hours via information 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.

The future of the pharmaceutical industry

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.

Instead, they’ll offer omnichannel 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.

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 to be beneficial and is a trend being driven by GPs and clinicians who are requesting more convenient online sessions.

It’s likely that technology will continue to evolve and help the industry to 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 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 the way a pharmaceutical organisation communicates and helps HCP to achieve better patient outcomes. After all, that’s a goal that will never change.

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