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The Route to Engagement
Engaging better with a variety of stakeholders as the healthcare ecosystem evolves was the subject of an eyeforpharma best practice webinar in the run-up to Barcelona 2015.
As technology drives greater patient empowerment, pharma needs to get to grips with a new set of challenges.Traditional stakeholders such as payers, providers, regulatory authorities and patients will be joined by new ones: device manufacturers, social media users, app developers and those involved in compliance and data security. Better engagement as the healthcare ecosystem evolves was the subject of an illuminating eyeforpharma best practice webinar.
‘Engagement Excellence: Harness the power of deep insights to create more productive relationships with payers, providers and patients’ looked at the strategies which pharma needs to adopt in order to understand these new customers’ challenges and needs more deeply.
From product to outcomes
Giving their views were three experts: Mike Bellis, Senior Manager, EU Customer Experience, Pfizer and Sinead Tuite, Patient Programs Manager, MSD, who commented on their own companies’ experiences and on the findings from a poll of listeners which was conducted as the webinar went along – and Dr. Philipp-Niclas Pfenning, Principal Consultant, HCL Technologies, who kicked things off with an overview.
As the landscape shifts from a product-centric to an outcomes-oriented environment, companies have to adjust their approach, Pfenning began. With the decline of the blockbuster era, the patient is now taking center stage which means innovative pharma companies need to become service providers instead of just being drug makers. Among the drivers for change over the last two years is a wave of new electronic support applications appearing on the market, Pfenning said.
These range from drug delivery and monitoring devices to connected medical devices linked with smart watches and software applications supporting disease treatments, all of which provide patients with platforms for self-management and allow them to become directly connected to doctors and caregivers. This is a new experience for the healthcare ecosystem. “It will be very different to the top-down approach from doctors,” Pfenning commented. So, rather than a healthcare setting where patients are given a simple pillbox, a more complex market will grow up in which patients have these apps and devices and stakeholders need to take over new roles in various settings.
Understanding ‘digital natives’
Pfenning suggested that pharma needs to understand, in particular, the emerging generation of ‘digital natives’ who have grown up with the internet and are keen to utilize it in improving their health. Since these patients will share their health information in the public domain, pharma companies need to increasingly consider the needs of device manufacturers, social media and app developers. “The good thing for pharma companies is that these developments offer immense opportunities to create patient experience service designs and to engage through these designs with their key stakeholders,” he added. He suggested that firms must spend time developing micro-targeted customer insights to provide a tailored interaction with stakeholders, and create networks of influence to use data-driven decision-making to drive an over-arching strategy. But to do this, pharma needs a much more synchronized approach when it comes to stakeholder intelligence and management - at present these functions tend to be executed in different silos within companies, such as commercial or digital. “They perform their own brand-specific or indication-specific stakeholder management,” Pfenning said.
Although there is some overlap between them when it comes to stakeholder mapping and monitoring, there needs to be more as Big Data opens up what is available. “We need to get rid of the silo approach and combine big picture in single data hub,” he went on. As well as identifying traditional key opinion leaders (KOLs), pharma also needs to be on top of sentiment coming from unidentifiable people on social media, such as opinions about drugs or adverse events. Analyzing big data “will allow you to evaluate their needs and allow you to get involved in a discussion”, becoming more than a product manufacturer. In short, the key to success, Pfenning added, lies in finding strong relationships with all stakeholders, including the new ones. To improve outcomes for patients, all areas of a company - medical, digital, market access and so on - must collaborate and “think about patient care early in development”.
Driving technological change
The second half of the webinar was punctuated with a poll for listeners which threw up some illuminating answers when it came to how far pharma still has to go in fostering good relationships with these important audiences. Asked which stakeholder group will be the driving force for technological advancement in healthcare, 21% of respondents said it would be pharma, although more than half believe it will be patients. Bellis was expecting patients to be the major group but expressed surprise that pharma was so high and providers so low (7%). In his experience, pharma tends to be “really slow” to adopt new technologies, while providers have been quick to adopt new ways of working. For pharma there’s an opportunity,” agreed Sinead Tuite. “But I worry that patients are under pressure to keep up with technological developments.” She also suggested that payers and regulators are going to be “quite a big driver”. Turning to the issue of defining customer focus, Bellis pointed out that there was a great deal of subjectivity involved. “I’d challenge people to think about what it is,” he suggested. While pharma often thinks of it as including customers somewhere in our plans, this tends to be seen through the prism of companies’ own objectives, such as revenue concerns. “On my own journey, many colleagues believe they are already customer-focused but perhaps they don’t have the perspective from other industries, where the value that companies give to their customer is prioritized over everything else, even short-term loss,” he added.
Listening to patients
How are we going to care not just for their clinical needs but their emotional needs in a way which prioritizes this".
Another question in eyeforpharma’s instant poll was: do you believe your company is listening to patients and using insights to execute a patient-focused strategy to drive business? 27% said yes they were, while 47% replied that they had only just started doing this. An outright ‘no’ came from 7% while 20% of respondents answered no, but said it was part of a long-term plan. Tuite emphasized the importance of being attuned to patient needs and seeing what they value as they go through their emotional and physical journey. “Driving better outcomes will be better for business,” she pointed out. Bellis candidly admitted that Pfizer needs to do more. “We talk about it,” he said. “It’s in just about every vision statement that exists across every commercial part of our business.” But there is not a consistent way of delivering it across the business and improving the value that the company provides to patients is part of a lengthy journey. “How are we going to care not just for their clinical needs but their emotional needs in a way which prioritizes this?” he asked. “But it would be wonderful if we were able to do it more regularly, to be able to have an influence on improving the value and outcomes that patients have as a result of interacting with our brands – not just the clinical products – but how can the interaction with all our brands help them to live happier, longer lives.”Tuite agreed with this sentiment. “There is an opportunity to be part of a therapeutic alliance, particularly with the rise of chronic disease, in the execution of things like adherence programs,” she said. Companies should be able to understand why it is worth investing in them. “We have room to do better,” she admitted.
The future for pharma
Webinar listeners were encouraged to put questions to the experts and one asked whether, since self-monitoring is something that doctors are not necessarily very keen on, pharma could be in danger of alienating one of its key stakeholder groups. Tuite agreed that doctors “may feel their position is being usurped by Dr. Google”, but reiterated her concern that the information explosion should not just become another burden of responsibility for patients. Bellis suggested that patients will have to share the significant amount of data they own with doctors in the main and it may be that non-pharma companies who are trusted brands in other fields - like Google and Amazon – may move into this space as facilitators of health information.
Rounding off the webinar, Pfenning said that he was confident many of the webinar poll responses will change in the future as the new technologies he had been describing came together with pharma products. Pharma is – however slowly – embracing technology and the industry will need to combine a good understanding of the patient of, say, 2020 with a higher level of digital engagement plus a big picture grasp of all relevant stakeholders and their networks. Customer segmentation could be a device to change the mindset of an organization, and recognize that “there are many interdependencies between customers”. “You also need an understanding of how to integrate new technologies, stakeholder needs, in-patient support and collaborative care programs because this will be the future of better health outcomes,” he concluded.
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