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How can pharmaceutical companies play a key role in the digital revolution of healthcare?

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We live in a digital world. The way we interact has undergone a tremendous change in the last decade and this change is gradually reshaping our society itself. It’s difficult to believe that social media, apps and everything that surrounds them date back to no earlier than 2016. All types of communications are growingly intermediated through digital technologies. A majority of us spend more time in the digital world compared to the physical one. With the development of interconnected internet-enabled devices, the existing boundaries between the virtual and real world are seemingly becoming obscure.

This change can be seen in the pharmaceutical industry too. Pharmaceutical companies are slowly dipping their toes in the digital water but very cautiously and it’s now the perfect time to take the plunge. According to StartUp Health’s report, digital health deals in 2016 touched an astonishing $7.9 billion that was invested in 585 companies. Most of the deals were linked to products centered on the experience of the patient. Non-US companies Mindmaze ($100 million), Thalmic Labs ($100 million), iCarbonX ($145 million), Babytree ($448 million) and PingAn Good Doctor ($500 million) accounted for only 50% of the largest deals in 2016. The largest digital health investor was GE Ventures with 18 deals compared to 10 the previous year.

The critical question now is how these companies can stay at par with these changes and bring about a huge revolution in digital healthcare. It’s time for the industry to stop seeing digital as an add-on to the current operations and instead accept a “digital first engagement” model with effective consequences in order to prove their competence.

Here are some fantastic ways on how pharma companies can embrace the digital world:

 

1. Digital Systems on Interaction

 

The emerging systems of interaction provide companies the power to offer personalized, meaningful and unique services to their customers. Master Data Management (MDM) systems can play a significant role in the pharmaceutical industry as firms can maintain all their Healthcare professional (HCP) details in addition to their prescription behavior.

Pharma companies should also reconsider their engagement strategies. Normally, the sales representatives interact with the Customer relationship management (CRM) system and then schedule a call with HCP. The discussions are recorded as call notes and routinely updated in the CRM system.

Companies can also conduct conferences and events on the web to spread knowledge about scientific developments and other useful stuff that can help HCPs update their professional knowledge.

In order to convert their interactions on the internet into lucrative business outcomes, firms should invest in software platforms with versatile capabilities. These platforms should leverage on technological advancements like digital content management and video/audio conferencing and be capable of serving an audience across Web, mobile and social platforms. Furthermore, it should be smoothly integrated with other systems within the pharmaceutical industry.

Some key features of the ideal platform are:

  • Engagement portals-The main objectives of these portals are to publicize brand information and facilitate interactions with HCPs.
  • Email marketing systems- Such systems create, send and then track information and promotional email to HCPs.  They also enable vendors to offer numerous products and services associated to campaign and email management.
  • Web conference- These manage webinars and webcasts and assist in the virtual management of promotional and educational meetings.
  • E-detailing apps- These apps consist of brand and product detailing apps developed for scientific conversations, helping HCPs to have a better understanding of the product.
  • Events management- These assist life science enterprises to successfully manage and execute events.
  • Systems of insights-Since there is a vast amount of data in an HCP engagement platform, it’s imperative to measure the operational effectiveness. A few of the analytical capabilities are a 360 degree view of the HCP, closed-loop feedback, predictive analytics and operational analytics. The target platform should also have powerful capabilities in security, analytics, compliance and integration.
  • Social media management-This aids pharmaceutical companies to understand the conversations of HCPs on social networks.

You may like to check this whitepaper on how pharma can fully digitize interactions with healthcare professionals.

 

2. Achieving Digital First

 

Pharmaceutical companies joining the digital bandwagon need to obey a few golden rules.

  • Emphasize on customer application-Very often firms enter the digital arena by building an app without even thinking on the reasons to do so. However, the most successful firms are the ones that devise their digital strategies after identifying the problems that need imminent solutions, the needs of their customers which they want to fulfill, and how digitization can address these grievances. These questions have to be analyzed at a granular level by performing an elaborate analysis of key assets, mapping the digital profile of important customers, and finding out which applications and technologies can add the maximum value.
  • Include digital into the main business-Digital has to be included in every core area of the business. This holds particularly true for processes like strategic planning and branding. Top management should challenge those areas of the business that have not unequivocally considered opportunities in the digital world.
  • Better collaboration-Many companies planning to go digital first establish a center of excellence (COE) that inspires the organization to act meaningfully, provide infrastructure and expertise, scan the horizon, and assist to drive projects. However, when left on their own, COEs cannot truly embed digital in a firm. Networks have to be nurtured to allow better collaboration between digital champions, digital experts should be staffed in important arenas and support functions, digital academics should be entailed to build expertise, and funding mechanisms should be put into place to boost experimentation.
  • Move rapidly-Digital life cycles are apparently short, with some lasting just a few months. Companies need to be deft-experimenting, accommodating and moving on, which can be a huge challenge to pharma companies. New governance mechanisms and processes are required to overcome inertia and supply the agility the company requires for embracing digital. Letting months pass away before new digital channels and assets are authorized will simply fail to work. Legal functions, regulatory and compliance need to build the right expertise to know the associated risks of going digital, establish clear guidance besides responding to requests on a timely fashion for review.
  • Experiment scalably-Companies need to experiment; however, these experiments should be scalable-sufficiently large to make a difference with learning that can be deployed across the organization. Typical experiments might include testing an omnichannel customer platform in a particular country, replacing physical with remote detailing in a location, digitizing the roll out of an important asset, embedding digital into a drug delivery system, or setting up a social media platform to help patients connect with each other and with those in the health care industry. Each experiment can be a building block of the new digitized pharmaceutical company.

 

3. Revamp Value Propositions

 

As healthcare startups and technology giants embark into the pharmaceutical sector, pharma companies will have to significantly revamp their value propositions. For companies, there comes the challenge of tying digital to all the assets they posses. Pharmacos should make a huge shift from being merely a products-and-pills firm to a credible firm that provides solution to their customers. One of the most interesting values of digital to the pharmaceutical industry in general is how technology will support or supplement pharmacological therapies to effectively address the difficulty of suboptimal outcomes.

An example of this would be Google partnering with Sanofi, Novartis and DexCom to fight diabetes. One of the approaches includes uploading insulin and glucose levels to the cloud in real time via contact lenses worn by the patient. This new technology can significantly improve the quality of diabetic care and avoid any complications by detecting any aberrations in insulin and glucose levels in real time, which would allow HCPs to give the right type of medical attention.

Besides partnering with technology giants, pharma companies can also come up with innovative solutions that combine different manufacturers from different therapeutics, eventually adding an enormous amount of value. To develop the most effective combinations, pharmaceutical organizations need to access and share early data and work on their digital infrastructure in the proper management of complex trials. If intercompany combinations are to move beyond oncology and HIV, companies should realize that they can greatly benefit from partnering and coming up with combination solutions. For instance, they can curtail the costs and risk for combo therapies and instead leverage on the stronger points of each partner for what it does best.

Sanjay Mathur and Chris Geissler of Silicon Valley Data Science state that reimagining pharma companies could actually make the difference between failure and success. They add that pharma companies have to build trust and foster personal bonding with the consumer.

Finally, certain bodily ailments are ripe enough for the introduction of comprehensive systems or solutions. For instance, diabetes, which affects 29.1 million people in the US alone, is prepared for an end-to-end solution.

As the healthcare industry embraces digitization, pharmaceutical companies must redefine the space they function in. And the only way out is to get more specific information from customers to identify their experiences and solutions-not only the drugs and products- which they really require. They also have to understand how those solutions can capture the highest value. The next step involves reconfiguring their organizations to capture the same value and build their new approach to the business.

Even though digitization of healthcare is in its nascent stage, it’s having a tremendous impact on how not only HCPs but also how patients manage their health and how companies need to rethink their business strategies.  Digital innovation has some challenges like the dearth of clarity on who pays for digital solutions; however, data analytics and digital should certainly be on the radars of pharmaceutical companies.

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