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Digital Pharma Innovation Week 2020 – a Recap and Key Takeaways

digital pharma innovation week

Awareness campaigns, vaccination in the times of COVID, pharma to HCP communications, and, of course, the evolution of omnichannel – the very end of October 2020 was the time of vivid discussion in the pharmaceutical innovations community. The Digital Pharma Innovation Week organized by none other than Fierce Pharma, was the ambient for more than 70 speakers from leading pharmaceutical and digital enterprises to share their unique experiences during this extraordinary year. From launching products during a lockdown to the revelations about what medical reps will be doing in a year, the 50 sessions that comprised the event, lift the veil on what is waiting for pharma communications professionals in the nearest future. The best part is that the spectacular library of all the event materials, practical cases, and full recordings of panel discussions is available till 30th April 2021.
As part of this event, Viseven team is happy to remember the key moments from Digital Pharma Innovation Week 2020 and highlight the most important topics and ideas.

Pharma to patients – vaccines, awareness, telehealth

What position does pharma occupy in today’s healthcare ecosystems? Multiple ones, one can say. What’s important is that not in a single one them is the industry allowed to leave the patients without attention they deserve.  Especially now that the world is experiencing disruption on an unprecedented scale, pharma needs to step up and offer the patients adequate assistance along their journey; there is no lack of touchpoints.

One of these is vaccination. With the pandemic, it is too easy for the casual public to forget the simple fact that the flu and other infections have not vanished without a trace – and that vaccines are still vital. This topic was raised twice, starting with an opening keynote with Judy Stewart, Senior Vice President, Head of U.S. Vaccines, GSK. While less than half of adult population in the U.S. are getting their vaccines, the importance of awareness campaigns with the right message to encourage vaccination is rising. In this regard, pharmas are looking more towards unbranded campaigns as a powerful tool. In the case discussed, the 50+ years old audience was specifically targeted when searching for health information online. With numerous touchpoints along the journey, a microsegmentation tactic became possible. This, in turn, allowed to provide contextualized messaging, e.g. on Facebook and Pandora music streaming service favored by the target audience, increasing traffic to the web resource.

A successful example of the next logical step was given by Chris Whitman, Vice President of the US Flu Franchise for Sanofi Pasteur. Even when there is full awareness of how important vaccination is, the fear of COVID represents another obstacle: how do I get vaccinated if going out is a hazard? As was said during the discussion,

Business as usual was not going to be an opportunity.

The solution deployed at Sanofi was to create adaptive vaccination “toolkits”, especially focusing on influenza, but not limited to it. Taking three different inroads based on loosely defined behavior patterns, the team designed digital blueprints for each:

  • A one-stop shop walkthrough clinic (with special attention to safe traffic flow)
  • Drive-through clinic
  • Clinic checklist with goal checker

Leaning on collaboration with partners in the medical space, the company was able to establish a safe and efficient way to provide the necessary immunization.

An even broader topic directly concerning patients is disease awareness itself. Is pharma just going to let the patients search for health information online, possibly too late for optimal treatment results to be achieved? Or is the beyond-the-pill value, notably information, an offer that can make a difference? The panel Truths and Trends in Modern Disease Awareness Campaigns featuring Anand Reddi, Director of Digital Innovation at Gilead Sciences Inc, provided a sober, sharp look at the issue:

Patients being at the center of everything means we have to take a different look at how we can provide information to patients. It’s not the same as it used to be, when you could just have a website, and you’d have some patient materials and that would be it. It’s really now about finding new, important and impactful ways to provide information to patients, because the time is so limited between what the HCP and the patient can say to each other in the office that a lot of times people are looking elsewhere for information.

While there are new barriers for patients with chronic conditions to receive medical attention, pharma is in a position to help patients navigate their way to healthcare – and there are possibilities to make this interaction convenient to both the people and the industry. In the strategy employed by Gilead, the individual targeted patients were allowed to segment themselves by means of their choices and preferences. In an agile approach, the team was studying how consumers react to messaging and the opportunities that were offered, as well as mapped the awareness of telemedicine and at-home diagnostics possibilities, building a social media outreach to fill in the possible blanks.

Another panel talk, featuring David Linetsky of Phreesia, Brendan Gallagher at Publicis Health and Kate Greengrove of GSK, represented an even deeper insight into the patient experience in the COVID times. The launching pad for this memorable conversation was a simple statement quoted at the beginning: the interaction between the doctor and the patient changed more in one week than it had in the last 30 years of practicing medicine. While telehealth used to be a secondary option, an experiment, earlier on, its growing prevalence raised a couple of questions. On the one hand, patients tend to feel that the physician is not likely to provide the same level of care remotely, leading to a greater effort from the HCPs themselves to achieve good outcomes – as a paradoxical outcome, interactions are now more intense, physicians are drained, but patients are consulted better.

On the other hand, there is a move from a binary perception (either in-office F2F or telehealth) towards a hybrid approach, where some things are done remotely and some are reserved for an in-person visit. For the digital part of that interaction, the platforms are now being provided, and the real task is to fill in the content gap working in a holistic way instead of just reacting to developments

Data excellence: where is pharma right now?

The industry has stepped on the way to operating data in previously unthought of manners and using its power as an enabler for multiple purposes. There are still numerous questions along that way: is that data better managed in-house or by agency partners? What exactly is its role in decision making? What about privacy and compliance? In a panel talk with Jeordan Legon, Michael Jafar and Zoe Dunn, these questions were addressed from an expert standpoint, identifying the three components of data excellence:

  • Mastery of the data lake
  • Visualization tool
  • Audience

By sequencing the three of them, a manager, especially at the marketing side, can arrive at a better understanding of the audience needs, but also at an entirely new level of operations where data is more actionable than ever. This, however, requires a change in the mindset. As Jeordan Legon put it,

Just because we have those dashboards, it doesn’t mean we can kick our feet up and drink a Margarita. We have to be actually involved with the data.

But what is the best way to get involved with the data from an operational point of view? Instead of relying exclusively on in-house or agency capacities, experts also suggest a hybrid model, where some key people are within the organization, while other tasks are outsourced, so that the company does not have to hire an army of people. From the point of view of purchase cycle and ROI, another recommendation stemming from the past years’ experience was to put a value on each of the actions the users in the target audience perform – a click, a like, etc. – and put conscious effort into tracking them to see where exactly people are closer to making a decision.

Another panel featuring Saad B Saeed, Senior Director, Global Digital/Technology Lead, Pfizer Vaccines & Medical Affairs, Pfizer, Imran Haque, Founding Partner, Mentors Fund, Mayank Misra, Head of Business Insights & Analytics, U.S. Oncology, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, as well as Adam Almozlino, Vice President of Data and Product Strategy, OptimizeRx, focused on the impact that the advances in data science have on pharma marketing and sales. In the light of the “democratization” of Big Data, pharmas now have an opportunity to create a complete picture of the patient based on the data from diagnoses, etc., as well as segment HCPs more thoroughly in terms of their treatment patterns. This opens new opportunities as one can predict, for example, what happens when a patient of one type is under care of physician of another type in the matrix, and even use AI to predict the next physician a patient will see. With a statistically validated assessment of the physician at product launch, this allows to optimize the messaging and communicate more efficiently in digital environment.

Marketing, commercial and creative – surviving under pressure

How was pharma marketing operating during the turbulent year of 2020? After all, even nationwide lockdowns did not cancel the marketing cycles, so how do you, say, launch a product under this condition? In a panel aptly named Adapt or Fail, an interesting case was presented by Alisa Lask, General Manager and Vice President of U.S. Aesthetics at Galderma: launching a lip care product while people were wearing masks. While the idea of models using iPhones at homes to try and substitute a professional photoshoot would sound strange even 5 years ago, today we are in the era of crowdsourced and user-contributed content, and these original moves fit in surprisingly well with the zeitgeist.

Original solutions are also required to answer a not-so-original question: what is the future of the rep? While everyone now agrees that the field force is not going to become obsolete as such any time soon, its role is now shifting. As digital has supplemented (but not supplanted) face-to-face interactions, there is a tendency to a “hybrid” engagement model mirroring the balance of telehealth/in-person appointments mentioned above. The consequences of this were discussed in a panel with Tina Goyal, Global Head Marketing Innovation and Execution, Novartis, Martin Jernigan, VP, Marketing, Akebia Therapeutics, Sirsij Peshin, VP Global Commercial Options, Pfizer, and Santos Torres Jr., Senior Director of Marketing, Allergy/Anti-Infectives/Anti-Virals, Bausch + Lomb.

The key to establishing a meaningful engagement strategy with HCPs is no less than reestablishing the value proposition itself. Pharmaceutical companies have to move away from brand-centric marketing to delivering value to the HCPs – whatever that value might be. Other industries have raised the bar quite high in terms of customer experience, which calls for an approach based on careful differentiation and personalization. Demographics and personal nuances have to be embedded in any strategy that encompasses any channels, including F2F calls and digital or non-personal promotion. Another aspect of a successful engagement mindset is a careful localization with attention given to local culture specifics, again turning the focus on content.

Growing omnichannel capacities by filling the content gap

Another hot topic that many other ones can be traced to is creating a holistic, harmonious omnichannel system that can include the different aspects of interaction with HCPs, patients, detect pain points and help produce value propositions accordingly, delivering them in time. An in-depth look at this topic was represented in a panel with Marie-Mistral Fruit of Viseven Group, Nick Bartolomeo of Fingerpaint, Elaine Gamble of Otsuka, and Lou Marcinczyk of Bristol Myers Squibb.

The question of how to link together all the aspects of digital excellence to make them reinforce each other is essentially what omnichannel is all about. In the words of Marie-Mistral Fruit,

We need to understand the interaction between channel, content and data. But there is no data without interaction. If we don’t have the people that are using the content, we will not produce the data that will be relevant enough to analyze and take decisions… Everything here is coming from the client preference, and if we don’t provide the content that is really suitable for the client, they will not provide data.

The way to make this strategy work involves a complex of measures, including also change management and knowledge management. Even with bulks of data available, one has to make the right people within the organization know how to act with the data on all levels. At the same time, one has to free the people’s time from manual work, and that means operating with more intelligent tools.

A smart way to achieve this and perfect the communications, providing content that brings value, is the recently formulated modular approach. With content no longer created as an immediate, reflex-like reaction to market needs, a more thoughtful paradigm implies creating materials in the form of channel-agnostic modules that represent core claims supported with additional materials. These are supplied with metadata and business rules to circulate in the corporate DAM system, validated for reuse according to the business rules, and can be fitted like puzzle pieces to create content assemblies in countless combinations.

Apart from (obviously) saving the resources and budget allocations on content creation, this approach provides a more coherent and flexible communication medium that can further be used as a tool to accelerate the omnichannel evolution. With more quality interactions based on personalized content, more data flows in, closing the loop and facilitating the production of exactly the modules that can be reused for further interactions to bring pharma, HCPs and patients closer and make them collaborate.

To view a full recording of this panel, learn more on the approach and/or get further materials and practical cases, press the link below:

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