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The rise of digital comms

Transforming the ability to engage with HCPs and patients

Digital is having a transformative impact on commercial organisations’ ability to engage their many stakeholders, from healthcare professionals (HCPs) to patients. It has not only helped companies move beyond face-to-face interactions to increase reach through multiple touchpoints, but has also driven coordination and orchestration among field, sales, medical and external teams for much greater efficiency.

The life sciences industry has gone through several phases of commercial evolution, from face-to-face interactions to multichannel engagement to coordinated interactions between commercial and medical teams. We are now entering a new phase of intelligent engagement, in which field and medical teams can better use data and insight to drive value- based conversations with customers, through the channels they prefer. The next evolution in commercial operations will make capturing and consuming data for engagement much easier and drive more tailored, seamless interactions.

This is leading to the emergence of a new type of commercial organisation in the life sciences industry: one that can operate across brands and divisions to plan and execute according to the specific needs of both individual customers and the healthcare system they work in. And within this commercial model, a new role has emerged – the multichannel rep.

The reps of the future will use insight to drive the best interactions with customers. Their role continues to evolve as organisations better anticipate the needs of a much larger, diverse set of stakeholders, and deliver smarter, informed interactions that are predictive and at the point of execution.

The rise of digital

A recent survey confirms 2017 was a turning point in digital for life sciences. The annual report, Across Health Multichannel Maturometer, measures the digital maturity of life sciences companies in Europe. In 2017, digital marketing budgets grew by 20% with increasing support from senior management.

Companies made significant investments, rolling-out multichannel platforms and digital capabilities and hiring staff with relevant expertise. Digital is a priority for companies as they look to scale their operations and drive more efficient execution. They are leveraging customer insight to enhance engagement and using well-designed impact measurement to evaluate their progress.

Figure 1

The move to multichannel

The emphasis for companies now is to move their field forces to a multichannel approach. This is being driven by several factors, most notably demographics. More and more HCPs are digital natives – in fact, by 2020, close to 70% will have studied medicine at a time when the internet was already well established. The Across Health survey shows that those in the youngest HCP segment – aged 30 and under – spend about 40% more time online for professional purposes than their counterparts aged 60 and above do. Consequently, digital immigrants (those that are aged 50+) prefer face-to-face channels for both medical and promotional content. However, younger digital natives prefer a mix of face-to- face and digital channels – 65% of those under 35 say this is how they want to interact.

Empowering reps to use various digital channels to reach and engage HCPs is a priority, but progress has been inconsistent. While channels such as rep email and remote engagement are now enabled through CRM, adoption across the industry varies.

For example, tablet e-detailing has become a standard approach (used by 84% of companies) and rep email adoption has risen to 49%, with another 38% planning or currently running pilots. However, only 17% of companies say they are currently integrating cross-channel campaigns as standard practice, although 56% plan to pilot this approach.

Growing demand for digital engagement among HCPsThe Across Health survey asked HCPs about
their experiences and found that half (48%) still have ‘monochannel’ experiences, with no engagement with reps through other digital channels. Only 6% say they engage on all three levels – rep, rep email and remote engagement. Of these last two channels, email is the most used, with 43% of HCPs engaging with reps through email versus remote engagement (12%). Digital provides the life sciences industry with a greater opportunity to reach and engage with HCPs through the channels they prefer, especially those that typically don’t engage with reps in person. For example, 13% of HCPs who meet with reps face-to-face engage with pharma companies through other digital and non-personal channels, while 20% of HCPs do not engage with pharma at all. This signals a tremendous opportunity to interact through digital channels.

Defining the multichannel rep

What are the elements and skills needed to become an effective multichannel rep? At
the heart of this is a solution that allows for effective rep-driven multichannel execution. And it includes the understanding of what channels will work best to deliver the optimal customer experience for each individual HCP. Research shows that 75% of HCPs aged 50+ are reached through reps, as opposed to just 59% of those under 35. Interestingly, figures for email are consistent across all age groups, ranging from 43% (50+) to 45% (35–50 years old), with under-35s in the middle, at 44%.

Remote detailing has its highest impact in the youngest age category, but even in older groups it has a similar score to that of reps. According to 50% of HCPs, the timing of face-to-face meetings is inconvenient, Veeva Engage remote meetings tend to last 15 minutes (three times longer, on average, than face-to-face visits), and 90% of those that take part in remote meetings do so again. Considering this, the opportunities for remote detailing are clear. Combining them with other, face-to-face engagement channels is therefore the perfect way to maximise their impact and boost the customer experience.

Independents overtake relationship seekers

Traditionally, pharma companies targeted HCPs that were relationship seekers, as defined by McKinsey. This group was open and, indeed, eager to interact with pharma companies and other clinicians, and tended to be early adopters of new medications. However, the latest Across Health research shows that they have now dropped to the third-largest demographic group, behind independents (39%) and knowledge seekers (27%).

Figure 2

Independents tend not to place much value on interactions with pharma companies, preferring to rely on evidence-based materials, and are generally slower to try new medications. For both independents and knowledge seekers, there are opportunities to educate through content that goes beyond the traditional relationship call – a need that can be met best through a multichannel approach.

However, there is currently a large ‘digital divide’ between what is currently supplied by pharma companies and the demand from HCPs. This covers all age groups, even for 50+ specialists, which mirrors the shift to independents and knowledge seekers. Pharma therefore needs to focus on creating and sharing a greater range of digital educational content.

Figure 3

Adopting a multichannel approach means reps can continue serving the relationship seeker the way they are used to, while reducing their in- person efforts with the other groups, and instead providing these with evidence, education and science content through intelligent multichannel coordination. All of this demonstrates that the second age of digital is now a reality – those pharma companies that adapt best will flourish, better meeting customer needs and delivering a better, more tailored experience.

Chris Wade is Director of Multichannel Strategy, Europe at Veeva Systems.

Article by
Chris Wade

11th October 2018

From: Marketing



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