Redefining the Value Proposition to Physicians in Digital Age
That Pharma is constantly assessing how to increase the effectiveness of interactions with Physicians, is hardly news! Yet in the age where Physicians are overwhelmed with information, getting their attention can feel like hailing a cab on a rainy day. The critical question, therefore, is how pharma can sharpen its focus on driving more value to the physicians.
Let me attempt; by sharing the perspective of one of the leading Physicians, I had the opportunity to hear during my recent experience at a webinar. "The pressures of time, the administrative tasks, answering queries of the patients, juggling between online and offline tools, and the anxiety faced with all of it, that's a typical day in my life as a primary care physician" He artlessly expressed. Relatable, is it? "While Pharma companies are set to define our Personas, define my Persona as a 'Solver'", he said. Solver of various processes like diagnosis, clinical symptoms, medical records, managing follow-ups, patient education, etc. He quoted "I am continuously taking decisions on processes that have a weighty impact on my patient's health and well-being. In fact, I am on the decision-making spree the whole day, and furthermore, I am being shelled with so much of information from pharma companies". He continued asking the audience "So now that you know my daily routine and one thing is certain, I have very little time available for the representatives you are sending"; what will you do with this insight as a decision-maker? Will you change the way you train your sales representatives to connect with us when and where we want? Or the directive will continue to be to communicate your brand story as quickly as you can?" "Perhaps, it's not a secret that most representatives are just communicating the same story in different ways to win the brand recall battle"
Primitively I didn't have a clear answer to how seriously we are considering the Physician's time crunch situation in our communication effectiveness roadmap. In fact, one of our in-clinic effectiveness criteria is based on the time spent with the Physicians. Both data and the physicians' experience affirm the outlook that we are still embracing the decade's old ways of working and continuously pushing brand-therapy-related information to our customers. What stood out for me was the continued gap between perceived needs versus reality when it comes to pharma-produced content. Contrary to our belief, physicians today are not deprived of information, they are overwhelmed with the same as many of us in our own domain. A decade ago, Pharma was a decisive resource for Physicians. With the evolved ecosystem, physician's digital savviness, and several new startups playing in this very same domain, the decades' old information push model by pharma is of minimalist value. In fact, the challenge physicians voicing out is patients assuming greater control over their health with similar information available and easily accessible online. On the other hand, we are witnessing a diminishing impact due to the declining trend in physician's access to sales reps. In my mind, apart from increasing complexities in the healthcare world, one key factor of reduced access at Physicians is the value proposition by Pharma.
Although Pharma is trying hard to match the pace of the external ecosystem by embracing digital in Physician's communication, predominantly we just change the formats rather than reimagining our value proposition. Apart from continuous outbound marketing efforts, Inbound marketing tactics are introduced in the form of Knowledge Portals. Every Pharma company has invested heavily in these portals targeted to physicians. Rightfully so, they are rated as one of the key sources of information however there are concerns voiced by Physicians around relevancy, convenience, and biasedness to respective products and portfolio. Any knowledge dissemination initiative must be centered around offering convenient access to relevant content that is easy to consume. Though it's easier said than done and digital eco-system complexity shouldn't be underestimated. Just digitizing content isn't enough for driving value-based engagement, Pharma needs to help Physicians by understanding their needs and challenges - and then providing information and services that go beyond their products and portfolios. I think the opportunity lies in redefining the value proposition to Physicians in this digital age by imbibing in our systems a comprehensive knowledge disseminated messaging strategy. Penning down my thoughts around what pharma can consider moving to a stronger place:
- Comprehend your Customer's day in life. The article explains why mapping a Physician's Day in life is inevitable Understanding what are their trusted sources of information and why? How Physician needs and wants are changing, as well as how their interactions with their patients are evolving is vital. As I wrote earlier, Pharma cannot continue with the "one-size-fits-all" approach. We need to identify the different stages a physician passes through and capture the customer context and JTBD at each stage.
- Surpass your Product & Portfolio. In a world where customer experience is substantial to the product itself, brands can no longer gain a competitive advantage based just on information push, price or availability. They need to recognize the responsibility to be relevant and add value. There are opportunities to support Physicians by supporting their daily decision making, helping in effective physicians' patient communications, assisting HCPs to support patients to adhere to the treatment etc. Physicians are looking to upskill their digital capabilities slides on various topics, a database of images, clinical trial information, drug reference tools, interactive content for educating patients, patient assistance programs or tools, journal reprints, etc. Certainly, there is a lot beyond product information that pharma can offer and technology can have an enormous effect on solving problems your customers are facing.
- Omnichannel Presence. The rules of the game are shifting dramatically, In the age of Amazon & Netflix, most Physicians desire personalized engagement. Pharma has no choice but to embrace an omnichannel strategy that allows its customers to interact from anywhere, anytime, and from any device to access relevant information. Physicians are incrementally becoming omnichannel customers who first turn to digital resources impelling pharma to develop more digital content than ever. It's time for Pharma to dive into a customer-centric mindset and build Omnichannel strategies for omnichannel customers.
- Stay observant of HealthTech Startups. A lot of what Pharma banked upon, be it clinical intelligence, practice enablement, screening & diagnostics, virtual care delivery, or disease management etc. is now a core service being offered by some of the other startup and since they aren't governed as sternly as PharmaCos are, they have been able to build more sophisticated and integrated products for Physicians and Patients. Though, Pharma has been at forefront of offering such services however I have not seen any brand plan that captures any of these startups/health-tech companies in their SWOT analysis. The remedy here is for Pharma Leaders to acknowledge that startups need to be mapped in their Brand Planning and before any new initiative is rolled out, be vigilant of tech startups doing it in that space.
- Make Thoughtful Collaborations. To drive value in this connected world, I think, pharma companies must move beyond the "we'll do it all" mindset. The future will demand a "collaborative" approach, by joining forces with the right set of partners and capabilities be it medical associations, institutions, hospitals, technology providers, or some start-ups for Pharma to offer holistic services or to say, value proposition to their customers.
- Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Today as we face enormous choices, decision-making is onerous. A Physicians's daily routine must therefore be relatable and dealt with empathetically. To profuse them with more and more products, information and services would only stifle their engagement and cost pharma companies their valuable customers. It's good to invest in new products, and value-added services for the Physician however simplification must be a core principle when designing anything new. Therefore, simplify how you communicate complex topics, simplify the customer journeys, simplify how Physicians can connect and educate their patients. Simplification can be a good differentiator in a complex environment, but it does require a lot of hard work. When communications are simplified, they are better understood, more effectively digested, and far more actionable. A quote from Steve Jobs is apt to mention: "Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the author/agency in his/her private capacity and DO NOT represent the views of Medical Dialogues.
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Gurpinder is a Digital Transformation professional with over 17 years of experience in healthcare. He has been in transformation roles in Pharmaceuticals for more than a decade with the key objective to reinvent the Pharma commercial model in this digital age. He is passionate about delivering digital experiences to Healthcare Professionals & Consumers. In his current role as Associate Vice President at Indegene, he is working towards Redefining Physician Engagement & Go-To-Market models best suited for the Digital Age across Growth Markets. He is leading the DDA workstreams enabling PharmaCos with modernized technology platforms that extended the reach and impact of digital channels to drive competitive advantage. A strong believer of challenging the status quo, driven by curiosity and motivated by driving innovative commercial models in the healthcare space.