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Novartis plots digital transformation in medical education

Outlines benefits of greater use of technology, including transparency and reach

Novartis HQ 

Novartis is changing the way it engages with healthcare professionals (HCPs) for medical education activities by ramping up its use of digital technology.

Key to these plans will be the company's Vivinda TV virtual conference platform, which went live earlier this year to provide on-demand content from medical meetings.

Intended for HCPs around the world, with the exception of the US, Canada, Japan, Norway and Sweden, Vivinda was used at last month's American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting.

Content from the flagship cancer congress attracted more than 4,600 'virtual delegates' across 103 countries. “That's five times more than were engaged the previous year using traditional sponsorship methods,” Novartis noted.

Vivinda TV was also used for the European School for Advanced Studies in Ophthalmology (ESASO) congress, and attracted almost 1,800 virtual delegates from 75 different countries, compared to the 500-600 ophthalmologists normally able attend in person.

Pharma companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer have been using webinars to reach healthcare professionals for some time, but Novartis' plans appear be a more concerted drive towards virtual meetings.

And the Swiss pharma company said it is taking Vivinda TV's ASCO sand ESASO performance as a cue to do more of the same in the future to enhance the quality, transparency and reach of its interactions.

Shannon Thyme Klinger, chief ethics and compliance officer and head of litigation at Novartis, said: “We are changing our relationship with the medical community and extending global access to high-quality information and education that will benefit doctors and patients worldwide for years to come.”

The changes come as new European pharma industry rules came into effect last week on HCP payment transparency, requiring firms to disclose their payments to HCPs for activities such as travel to congresses.

In outlining its digital plans, Novartis acknowledged the limitations of traditional marketing activities like sponsoring doctors to attend conferences, inviting clinicians to speak about products and providing promotional aids.

The company said: “Conference attendance is by nature restricted to only a small proportion of doctors worldwide, and Novartis is keen to find better and more inclusive ways of reaching a broader cross-section of the medical community. 

“Moreover, social expectations are changing fast and educational and promotional practices which for a long time have been widely used by industry need to be further developed. Now the company is taking steps to ensure its actions meet with the evolving views of the public and regulators.”

Consequently the company has increased its investment in digital technology to record levels and plans to use virtual meetings and web-based customer interaction platforms to engage more with HCPs.

However, Novartis will still offer doctors support to attend medical conferences, but from January 2017 it said this would be based on “active participation in the event”. The firm will also sponsor speakers to represent the company in clearly-defined instances, such as when a new product becomes available.

5th July 2016

From: Marketing

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