BARCELONA, March 14 – To a newbie who has only visited the official website this year, one thing would probably seem odd about eyeforpharma Barcelona 2019: how do the organizers manage to keep to their high standard every year for so long? Of everything that eyeforpharma has to offer the audience worldwide, the Barcelona event is arguably the most panoramic and revelation-infused one – and traditionally so. It is, as usual, impossible to contain everything in a one-go review, but here are several point that we the Viseven team feel are worth being shared across the community.

With the motto…

Medicine is just the beginning

…announced beforehand, Paul Simms opened the first day by making several bold predictions about pharma in the very nearest future (worth checking out on LinkedIn). These more or less prefaced what followed during the next three days – and we’ll return to each of them separately here.


Discovery – Development – Access – Commercialization – Patient

As this “value supply chain” is now absorbing more and more digitalization at each link, challenges are accrued. How pharma addresses these is crucial. Many things that stakeholders waited to obtain from life sciences companies are now provided from different sources. Unless the response is timely, adequate and proactive, the first prediction is this:

No fear, though. In a way, pharma as it was thought of several years ago has already become irrelevant. The question is how to keep the pace – and the strategic vector of “becoming a platform company” may be the solution. This implies many things, including…

Patient engagement? Rather stakeholder partnership

While many of us think about pharma-patient relationship in terms of occasionally releasing an education or condition management app, things are becoming much more complex – with patients being actively involved in decision making and even medicine design: the advent of “patient-created medicine” is predicted in the nearest future.

The topic was further involved by Brent Saunders, CEO of Allergan. Collaboration with customers, and specifically the emergence of a universal digital medical record of patient in the future might lead to the eventual disappearance of clinical trials as we know them.

Further on, various models of collaboration in the pharma-HCP-patient triangle were discussed in panel talks featuring, among others, Bharat Tewarie of UCB.

“People who don’t look like us”

We’re hiring people who don’t look like us” is a phrase by Brent Saunders, a fact mentioned in the context of cultural shift that pharmas are starting to undergo. Finding new operational models in harmony with the market demand is now an urge.

This is a slide from presentation by Colin Sims of Sanofi – one that juxtaposed the way best and largest pharmas act with what the patients feel justified for demanding. The modern consumer, “spoiled” with digital CX, expects (quoted verbatim):

  • things always work
  • instant gratification
  • easy user friendly delivery

… one could also add “trust” here – although it deserved a full screen of its own:

The reluctance with which life sciences have started adopting new ways of interaction with consumers could account for the recent media explosion surrounding Amazon, as well as the other “disruptors” of healthcare world. Paul Simms, with his characteristic love of short formulae, described the situation as follows:

The fastest growing healthcare company is not a healthcare company.

Growing from $474B to $858B by June 2018, Amazon has had its “gangster moves”.

Focusing on customer service and customer experience is in many ways the key here. Taking into consideration the other factors (huge customer base, voice, etc.), the next thing that comes to mind is Google.
Ryan Olohan, Managing Director, Healthcare at Google, presented a number of facts illustrating how the revolution in health-related interactions is becoming an elemental force.

Harnessing the potential of the stakeholder’s desire to be in control needs to be the cornerstone of the new interaction models, whatever these may look like.

An example was shown by Herluf Nis Thomsen of Novo Nordisk, in his presentation on mobile applications and empathy.

Instead of “just another app”, the provider of diabetes care products focuses heavily on the patients’ real needs to determine what the app should actually do to provide maximum possible value, be it:

  • a condition specific app
  • a social media app
  • a messenger
  • productivity app (goal-setting), etc.

A useful generalization was made by Brent Saunders: pharma is now essentially told to move away from the purely “transactional” mode of interaction with patients to a subscription healthcare model.

Needless to say that the practices established by digital enterprises in terms of customer experience will most likely be part of that model, as well – if not the driving stimuli behind it.

Pharma commercial excellence is not what you used to think it is

This is a slide from the presentation by Gabriel Morelli, Global Head of Commercial Excellence at Sandoz. Speaking in favor of more flexibility, he outlined an approach that allows for agile performance at the local level (also shared here).

Strategic fluidity and adaptivity go hand in hand with personalized experiences, too. This was focused upon by Philippe Kirby of MSD, who came up with an interesting concept of how personalization demands and segmentation levels work together:

In fact, personalization is not about tailoring everything to some high-priority account, but rather about letting any account choose what value to consume from the multichannel mix. As noted, European physicians mostly speak with assigned sales reps, but would prefer a broader range of communication channels to choose from. So what is personalization, really?

This sentiment is also felt in what Morten Kruse Sørensen of Novo Nordisk had to say about orchestrating CX (with IQVIA). It is the quality, not the quantity that matters!

Another interesting case was presented by Lidia Valenta of Boehringer Ingelheim, describing a digital-only campaign that yielded amazing results in terms of brand awareness. In 2 years, awareness among target HCPs grew by 320%, with a 165% increase in patients on brand.

Without the traditional focus on field force, the campaign exploited the leveraged data to bring relevant value to physicians. This was also reinforced by co-creation and local implementation.

Modular content in the digital marketing strategy: live cases

In Sandoz’s playbook referenced above, content is one of the three major points of focus. This is actually predictable. Even though brand managers no longer think of content strategy as “feeding the beast”, the revised personalization approach still demands a lot of materials to influence decision making.

Even more so when you are trying to encourage local initiative and creativity.

This is where Viseven fits the picture with the modular content approach. Instead of having to create new piles of digital assets every time on an ad-hoc basis, pharma can stock the existing materials in the form of modular fragments. These fragments by themselves are not designed for any particular channel (i.e. none are inherently email or eDetailing or web-oriented pieces) but can rather act as building blocks for channel-specific content pieces. The message that the end customer receives from brand is constructed from these pre-approved content blocks.

This updated workflow allows to reach the required flexibility at the local (and global) levels and deliver more personalized experiences to the customer. Several global industry leaders are already using this method to enhance multichannel excellence and reduce the validation and MLR review time.

Our team presented the new approach in a workshop on the first day of the event; here is an article describing the essential aspects of the vision.

What’s with pharma AI?

More than just a buzzword, AI and ML technologies are a recognized game changer in the nearest future. However, as with all such terms (add blockchain to the mix), their “hype potential” may be dangerous. As Zach Weinberg put it,

…slap an AI label on it and think it must work.

What everyone admitted to feeling by now is, innovative tech is only partly about tech. Mostly, it’s about culture change, and in case with AI, a huge part of work needs to be done to anticipate and adapt to that change. Useful steps are being made in this direction by IBM, with their concept of “broad” AI – as well as by MSD with their own vision.

eyeforpharma Barcelona 2019 - presentation on AI

Prevention is becoming unpreventable

Once again, a memorable aphorism from Paul Simms, which stands for one of the brightest ideas at efpbraca 2019. The idea is this:

This is directly linked with the transition away from the “transactional” – and the introduction of universal electronic health records mentioned above. Instead of managing acute illness, pharma and healthcare in general can help the customer keep healthy. What’s curious is that the idea seems to have come NOT from pharma officials, but from the broad audience. Focus on prevention spells perhaps the greatest change in the industry – one that will influence the other developments.


The revolution that’s happening is silent. It is buried under loads of buzzwords and spectacular predictions, smothered by old but still good practices. But being aware of the change is vital.

The German term Eisenbahnscheinbewegung (the illusion that your train is moving while in reality you are watching another one move) made the speech by Kris Sterkens of Janssen a really memorable event closer. The fact that the “traditional ways” still do work may instill laziness – but what the industry needs is to take the reins, and the leaders have already felt this.

We would like to thank eyeforpharma and Paul Simms for another breathtaking event – and are happy to announce our participation in the upcoming 17 annual eyeforpharma Philadelphia on April 16-17th where one of our top professionals is about to participate in a panel discussion. See you in Philadelphia!