With much of the world focused on the response to COVID-19, many biopharmaceuticals are looking at new ways that they can engage with HCPs and provide knowledge and resources to patients. While the long-term impacts of the pandemic are yet to be seen, there is an undeniable truth that this period will catalyze shifting trends and provoke new ways of doing business long-term. If these new ways of working hold out to be true in the long-term as well, then it is imperative for biopharmaceuticals companies to incorporate these new ways to working into their plans for future operations and investment strategy. This type of strategic planning is essential to ensure companies continue to provide value to key stakeholders into the future.
The pandemic will catalyze a shift from in-face interactions with HCPs to digital-first.
During the response period to COVID-19, the vast majority of HCPs aren’t seeing any patients. Overnight, nearly all doctors have become ‘no see’ doctors. HCPs, just like any other profession, have had to get creative about how they interact with their patients. Just like customer engagements in other industries, there will be learnings had during this time that are applied to future operations at the office. For example, there may be some doctors who were hesitant to engage in virtual screenings or telehealth with their patients before COVID-19 that will begin to embrace it.
Likewise, without seeing reps face to face, doctors have had to rely on virtual communications and digital resources to ask the questions and gain the insight that an office visit can provide. HCPs perception of the value provided in face-to-face visits may change during this period where they have to seek out the information in new or unfamiliar ways. While the face-to-face visit will likely not cease to exist, doctors who were unsure of digital interactions with reps may also overcome their skepticism and take those learnings into their future practice.
For biopharmaceuticals companies, this means that investment in engagements of the future is paramount. To understand what that trend may mean to you and your patients, it’s important to take a hard look at your target group. What are the ways that these HCPs would seek out knowledge before COVID-19? What is the penetration of digital engagement tools in that specialty? What are the new ways that you’re seeing them seeking information during COVID-19?
Once basic questions about the nature of past and current engagement have been answered, biopharmaceuticals can look to the future. How do the new ways of engagement align with your overall marketing strategy? How can you continue to provide the right information at the right time through these new channels? How can you optimize your messaging to fit within these new channels?
The next step requires a lens of customer-centricity. Ask yourself about what ways your customer’s business will change in the future and how that may impact their decision making. For example, if your target’s specialty is likely to see the long-term growth of virtual screenings, it’s possible that they will seek out new forms of data to make up for some of the lost knowledge gained during in-person interactions. In this example, the continued penetration of wearables could make for an interesting investment – how can you help support your HCPs decision making by creating digital health solutions, rather than standalone therapies.
Once you understand how HCPs business will change, it’s time to think about engagement. How might the nature of information requests change in the future? Marketing teams should take a look in the mirror to determine how the mix of in-person and digital engagements needs to be adjusted. One of the key investments many companies are making is in one-stop-shop portals or hubs for both patients and HCPs (separately). This is where investment in digital marketing expertise becomes crucial.
Google receives more than 1 billion health questions every day, about 7% of all searches. In a world where everyone is searching, you have to make sure you’re heard. Once you do show up, you need to provide a superior experience that delights HCPs and patients alike and provides them with the information that they need.
Biopharmaceuticals that achieve superior engagement will do so on the back of simplicity and a great user experience. Those that consider it a ‘checkbox exercise’ to have these knowledge hubs will not. Platforms that enable HCPs to make data-driven decisions and enhance their business processes will be utilized and shared, as will those that provide specific and compliant value to patients. Future investment in a centralized, user friendly knowledge platform will be as important, if not more important, than investment in a field force.
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Contributions by Danielle Cataldo and Chuck Kelly.