News & Press Releases

The road ahead for pharma communication


The revolution of digital communication is what’s going to drive the future commercial model pharma companies, allowing for more flexibility and increased customer touch points.

We are at a time where we find the digital world and healthcare converging. Advances made in the field of digital technology this past half century alone have left us all in awe. If the digital era is going to be anything like the industrial age, its best we brace ourselves, as it is certainly going to be an interesting ride. As the late Steve Jobs once said,

“The biggest innovation of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning.”

Digital health is a movement that will transform the way we define healthcare – not only in the way we look at healthcare but also how pharma companies will engage its consumers. How will pharma companies evolve their engagement strategies to stay current? With former traditional engagement methods becoming obsolete, they find themselves in a dilemma. To digitise, or not to digitise? The obvious answer? A resounding yes!

In recent years, pharma companies find themselves dealing with an upgraded customer- the “digital native”. Digital natives as opposed to their predecessors are those born into a culture of digital technology and happen to be the fresh new faces of healthcare. This generation of doctors and patients alike are not only spending more time on the internet, browsing for health information, they also prefer digital engagement.In China, 1 in 2 HCPs access medical information via their mobile phones. Furthermore, increasing workload and regulations that have been put in place has significantly reduced face-to-face interaction time.

On the other end of the spectrum, patients of today expect their opinions to be considered when making healthcare decisions. Digital health is empowering the patient to better track, improve, manage their health. The new-aged patient also has access to more healthcare information than ever. The google-culture would have a patient who has developed an itch or a rash on the internet doing his research well before even considering scheduling an appointment with his doctor. He no longer puts all the responsibility of managing his condition on his doctor and he expects to be part of the decision-making process. This highlights the need for patient engagement by pharma companies at every step of the drug development and commercialisation process. In line with the shift in patient participation, we find that more HCPs prefer digital channels with over 60% of HCPs in Japan, China and India engaging their patients via email, text messaging, apps and websites.

With all the upheaval in the current pharma landscape, pharma companies are forced to evolve- and this is never easy. The revolution of digital communication is what’s going to drive the future commercial model pharma companies, allowing for more flexibility and increased customer touch points. In fact, the digital age has paved the way,sprouting up new communication channels with healthcare professionals– limited only by a marketer’s imagination and determination.

IMS Health’s audit tracked five types of digital contact: automated detailing and emails, live detailing via the web, webcast meetings and webinar meetings. Email, the successor of mailouts, makes up more than half of all digital contacts. However, the digital landscape is unique to every region. For instance, 65% of HCPs in China preferred online detailing as opposed to any other form of digital channels. They were also more inclined to an increased frequency of touch points with online detailing. However, based on a global HCP survey, 60% of HCPs still prefer face-to-face detailing via tablets. Do digital channels fare better than traditional channels to impact intention to prescribe? Although success of digital channels is highly dependent on the early introduction of digital technologies and a mature internet environment, IMS health reports a fall in intent to prescribe as volume of digital contacts rise.

The current paradigm shift in marketing strategies have resulted in pharma companies teaming up with digital and medical communication solutions companies to help aid the transition. These companies are a one-stop solution to pharma’s digital marketing needs. Being a niche market, these companies pride themselves as ‘digital advocates’on a mission of creating awareness of the vast opportunities that lie in digital space.

One such way is understanding the stages of evolution for each type of consumer engagement. Pharma companies have long since been targeting the healthcare provider as a consumer and traditional marketing approaches have solely been focused on this subset of customers alone. Although healthcare provider engagement is ready for the digital age, patient engagement is still in its infancy. Despite most patient’s being digitally savvy, a solely digital approach would not be the most suitable approach for the long-neglected customer. Pharma companies could significantly benefit from face-to-face interactions these stakeholders: to better understand their needs and to create awareness on disease management.

Pharma companies recognise the need for multiple consumer engagement and have been working their way up to a multi-channel commercial model. With the current shift in marketing strategies, a misconception most companies have is that digital communication and multi-channel marketing evolve in unison. What they do not realise is that the success of multi-channel marketing is highly dependent on the maturity of digital channels within the industry. Before multi-channel marketing can be accepted as modus operandi, digital communication must be. The consumer is well on its way towards accepting digital communication as the way of the future, in fact they crave it. Pharma companies should reciprocate this trend by effectively tailoring digital communication as they journey towards a multi-channel marketing world.

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