Another Digital Pharma East (DPE) is on the books, and yes, it’s true: DPE was about a month ago, and we admit we’ve been busy with Q4 deliverables, but we didn’t want you to miss out on a few insights from the conference that resonated with us.
There was a lot of ground covered in terms of the digital/tech trends pharma marketers need to keep an eye on, including connecting with patients via augmented and virtual reality applications; artificial intelligence; sound and voice technology; the role of robotics in healthcare; and wearable/digital healthcare. However, we also saw and heard some useful “back to basics” advice – from transparency and authenticity in messaging to patient centricity to optimizing your internal organization – which we chose to focus on in this recap.
Empathy in Pharma Marketing – We Can Do Better
Takeda’s Tracy Yedlin took the stage on DPE’s Digital Future Day to talk about the still-pressing need to bring more empathy into pharma marketing. Many pharma companies say they’re patient-centric, Yedlin noted, but only 9% of U.S. consumers believe pharma and biotech companies value their health over profit. Today, we have more access to data and tech to deliver empathetic experiences, yet being truly empathetic is still a work in progress for pharma.
Yedlin shared real-life examples that illustrate how empathy can be subtly conveyed in a variety of situations:
- Demonstrate Understanding
- Novartis recognized that people who have macular degeneration may need to make changes to their homes to live safely within them, so they partnered with six advocacy groups and interior designer Nate Berkus to create “My Home in Sight,” a website and safety-tips kit that keeps wet AMD patients in mind with its font, spacing and image choices.
- Identify a Problem and Solve It
- Cox North Family Care Center recognized that 15MM – or 12% — of US households suffer from food insecurity, so they partnered with local grocery stores and created a solution: Patients who need one can get a prescription for food.
- Change the Experience
- In July, the New York Times reported that a group of specialists is working to develop tones that can replace the stress-inducing sounds that hospital monitor alarms make – the goal is to reduce patient anxiety and help hospital employees avoid “alarm burnout.” The team is investigating the use of music to replicate monitor function cues that are pleasant for the patient to hear versus beeps in certain octaves. This is a great example of rewriting the standard to infuse empathy into the patient experience.
And here are Yedlin’s tips for instilling an empathy mindset at the organizational level:
- Change the conversation – shift the dialogue to be about the person suffering, not about the brand.
- Change the game plan – DTC advertising had been in play for 20+ years, and how we go to market hasn’t changed much.
- Change your target audience – don’t call them “patients.” They are people: parents, children, caregivers, workers, etc., and neither their condition nor our therapy is the primary focus in their lives. Rather, it’s one thing among many things they’re dealing with, and pharma needs to take a step back to realize we’re not the most important. We need to actively listen! Consider sharing patient quotes in team meetings to help change their mindset.
Omnichannel Is Where It’s At
Dan Gandor, director of U.S. customer experience, oncology and virology at AbbVie, kicked off day one with his keynote, which addressed the intersection of personalization, multichannel marketing (MCM) and omnichannel marketing.
Gandor noted the complexities pharma marketers are up against:
- Increased channel mix
- Multidisciplinary integration
- Increased expectations to measure impact
- Lower budgets
- Decentralized data, resulting in no unified view of customers
Customers are relying on pharma and healthcare brands to deliver, Gandor said, yet pharma’s digital maturity lags behind that of other industries. Video and music services like Netflix and Spotify, and online shopping megalith Amazon, are experts at predicting customer needs, wants and behaviors, but pharma still has a long way to go to catch up.
AbbVie, said Gandor, uses a “channel-centric to MCM to omnichannel” approach to provide content that anticipates and delivers on customer expectations during every interaction. The company’s AI + human approach across field operations, commercial analytics and insights, and learning and development, and marketing operations result in an omnichannel ecosystem. This “ideal state” takes MCM a step further: rather than sharing the same messaging across various channels, AbbVie understands that it’s more about understanding the customer and flexing messaging to tailor to each customer’s needs and the channels they operate in. Gathering information from multiple platforms, from mobile health apps to call centers, to information requested from HCPs in patient portals, to social media interactions, can help pharma marketers create a unified view of the people they serve.
Pharma, said Gandor, must have integrated platforms and a “single source of truth,” i.e., a unified view of the customer, in order to create the strongest connections.
Gandor’s Key Takeaways
- Focus on the relationship between the channels, rather than a series of isolated initiatives. Think OMNICHANNEL.
- Leverage tech to enable personalization.
- Create a culture of entrepreneurialism and a willingness to accept trial and error.
- Welcome the disruption that digital has brought and rebuild your internal business processes with digital at the core.
Digital Transformation Done Right
Following Gandor was Matt Lasmanis, VP and chief information officer at GSK, who spoke about digital transformation. He noted that today, the rate of technological change and the acceleration of new tech development is happening faster than ever. Massive amounts of data (2.5 quintillion bytes!) are being generated every day, and pharma needs to take a science-focused approach to digital transformation in order to keep up. Lasmanis explained that about three years ago, he and his team began thinking about some key questions in order to bring about the digital transformation GSK needed:
- How can pharma marketers achieve desired outcomes for patients and for the business?
- How do we use tech to streamline?
- How do you change your mindset to allow it to unfold?
- Prioritization was critical – SIMPLIFY.
- Clarity over certainty – they needed to fluidly adapt to inevitable uncertainty.
- Product-centric teams could deliver value in seconds and have the resources to quickly deliver what patient needed.
To test their theories, Lasmanis and his team developed an at-scale simulation in which they built fictional software using a new operating model. It looked messy at first, said Lasmanis, but nevertheless, there was early, fluid adaptation; teams were communicating, making decisions together, failing and learning, and adapting. Ultimately, said Lasmanis, digital transformation begins with people and culture and how they interact; getting everyone on the same page is critical, regardless of industry, to make change possible. This exercise helped GSK get comfortable with a new, “smart risk taking” model.
Designing a COE Model That Works
Toward the end of day two, five members of Biogen’s digital CoE team talked about restructuring teams to create a centralized multichannel center of excellence that would have at hand the skills that “could do” strategy, digital, multichannel, user experience and more; in short, the team understood that having the right people and talent in place brings great results.
- Brand marketers all had siloed plans.
- Creative agency had no user experience.
- The tech properties were owned by the IT organization(s).
- Create a centralized multichannel digital CoE that:
- Centralizes multichannel strategy and planning function
- Establishes a digital experience team
- Takes IT properties and realigns to “digital engineering” within the MCM team
- Partners with a multichannel agency for insights and analytics
- 9x increase in revenue contribution from digital promotion
- Doubled the number of digital promotion tactics
- Decreased time to market
- Improved digital maturity benchmarking by 30%
Brian Cantwell, Sr Director, U.S. Multichannel Excellence at Biogen, acknowledged that to scale this small and nimble business model “to the BMSs and Pfizers of the world,” it’s imperative that you test, fail and improve until you get it right. Start with the insights, he said; then create a plan, design the experience, build the capability to generate the experience, and measure the experience — create a constant feedback loop to continuously improve and iterate!
In the End, Inspiration to Keep Evolving
It’s always fun to explore new technologies and see how they can solve age-old business problems. But when it comes to patient centricity and breaking down silos, pharma has been talking the talk on these “softer” needs for some time; we’re not there yet, but these real examples from within the industry make it clear that we can get there, if we’re willing to evolve.