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Mobilising the pharma field rep

Mobile technologies can help ensure that HCP interactions are productive, timely and relevant 
Mobilising the pharma field rep

Europe's pharma market is in a constant state of economic and regulation-led flux. From the fragility of the Euro, to the introduction of new rules governing value-based assessment of drugs in Germany, which are likely to have cost pharmaceutical companies well over $3bn in 2011 alone, plus the introduction of regulation in France that prohibits one-on-one meetings, the pressure is on, not only to drive down costs, but also to ascertain how best to attain value from every customer interaction.

The US leads the way in exploiting mobile technology, most notably with the Apple iPad, to deliver multimedia presentations to health care professionals (HCPs) and leverage real-time mobile customer relationship management (CRM) information, but what are the options for mobile in Europe? 

Can the exploitation of location-based services be used to improve productivity, transform customer interactions and deliver quantifiable efficiency and uplift in sales?

Tablet era
The economic outlook for the Eurozone raises serious questions for every pharmaceutical business, at a time of unprecedented government-led change that is increasing compliance demands and fundamentally changing the way drugs are procured and remunerated. The challenge in a highly divergent marketplace is to adopt market strategies that reflect national differences while also leveraging expertise, messaging and strategy to drive economies of scale.

The new developments in mobile technologies are, therefore, compelling. While Europe is still catching up in the adoption of tablet technology like the iPad, the core components of the infrastructure are in place to enable rapid and significant adoption of mobile solutions that stretch far beyond the basic multi-media detailing model, which is increasingly ubiquitous.

The days of unwieldy laptops with poor battery life and the time-consuming process of 'booting up to be ready' to make the presentation and maximise the time in front of the HCP are long gone. The market is now awash with highly functional, lightweight tablets offering long battery life and 'instant-on' technology. This enables field users to be immediately ready to show presentations to HCPs, at a time and location convenient to the HCP, be it in an office setting or in a hospital corridor.

Almost instantly, field users can maximise these 'surgical interactions' in the short and unpredictable timeslots that the HCP has available. The simplicity of the device enables them to work the tablet with ease and the graphical capabilities have opened the door for innovative ways of sharing information. None of this was possible before. Now the field users are ready whenever and wherever the HCP is ready; the game has changed and the opportunities are tremendous.

Customer interaction
But, while this represents a highly effective and efficient way of undertaking the actual detailing process, this is just one of the many possibilities that mobile technology has to offer today and will provide in the future. Through leveraging the new mobile ecosystem, from powerful graphics to high capacity processors and seamless 3G, 4G, personal hotspots and Wi-Fi communications, pharmaceutical companies can now significantly enhance the productivity of the salesforce, improve the timeliness and relevance of HCP communication, ensure regulatory compliance and maximise Key Account Management (KAM) processes through real time collaboration and immediate interaction.

At the heart of the transformation in both field force productivity and the quality of customer interactions will be the use of location based services. Combining mobile CRM with location awareness ensures that the latest information updates on an organisation or HCP are made available prior to the meeting, to facilitate the most meaningful conversation. It also enables pharmaceutical companies to manage regulatory compliance in a more objective manner.

Representatives can also use tools like 'Near Me', powered by location awareness. This provides a graphical view of individuals a field user could meet near the current location based on their call goals, hence optimising productivity.

The evolution in mobile technologies also enables companies to improve collaboration across the team. Field users can make requests for additional information, such as research studies, direct to the relevant team member, while in a meeting with the customer. This improves the timeliness of data provision, while the contact centre can gain insight on field user location to direct the delivery of samples or information in response to HCP requests. The result is a much faster and complete provision of information and resources to each HCP.

The opportunity is to leverage mobile technology to provide the most complete interaction with an HCP within the limited timeframe; to answer every question and to respond to questions immediately during the contact, rather than after the fact.

Compliance issues
Of course, there are compliance issues to address, particularly in France, where rep calls may become more regulated, especially in hospitals, if ruled under the pending Reform du Medicament legislation. Field user understanding of compliance requirements and corporate enforcement can be supported by the new generation of mobile technologies. With the right, integrated mobile CRM solution, organisations can build in compliance to address each national, and even local in some countries, requirement and ensure a 'compliance-enabled' interaction.

Companies can also introduce new training regimes based around tablet technology to offer interactive training rather than the office-based courses that reduce productivity. In a market of fast-changing regulatory demands and with constantly evolving models for drug procurement and payment, the ability to provide rapid, 'as needed' training, collaborative meetings and policy updates will be invaluable.

In addition, new voice navigation technology offers a chance to transform rep productivity in an environment where numbers have more than halved in recent years. This technology can be used to record interactions, removing the need for a rep to input notes manually and automate the creation of emails. The result is far less manual overhead, releasing the field force to undertake productive, timely and relevant customer interactions.

Pharmaceutical organisations operating in Europe are very aware of the challenges, both financial and regulatory, that lie ahead. Managing the very different models and demands across the continent, while leveraging any opportunity for economies of scale, will become increasingly important. And mobile technology – critically the new mobile ecosystem – should be a fundamental component of the new market access strategy, a strategy that needs to extend beyond multimedia customer presentations.

If the industry is to truly maximise the mobile opportunity, business processes must be changed. Organisations have an unprecedented opportunity not only to address today's business challenges but also  to be innovative, gain a lead on the competition and achieve real benefits through improved customer relationships and transformed rep productivity.

Neeraj Singhal, Cegedim Relationship ManagementThe Author
Neeraj Singhal
is vice president, global product management and innovation at Cegedim Relationship Management (CRM). He is responsible for product innovation, product direction and the commercialisation of solutions on existing and new technology platforms. Prior to his current role, Neeraj led the implementation services team at CRM, from 2000 to 2006 and helped set up the offshore development centre. He holds an MBA from the Stern School of Business at New York University and an MS in computer science from New Jersey Institute of Technology.

24th May 2012


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