Going Beyond the Drug
The New World Demands Pharma Pick Up The Pace of Innovation
As a business in our advanced age, you need to give the world a valid reason for your existence. As a pharmaceutical business, you need that reason to work harder to be meaningful because your audience is switching channels. The concept of the empowered patient is being widely embraced and the need for the pharmaceutical industry to reassure patients that they can keep up with digital activity and stay relevant is stronger than ever.
Reliance on standard clinical trials as ammunition for pharmaceutical debate is dissipating, as the dynamics of consumer-industry relationships change. Digital advancement has led us into a new world, now embraced by most markets, but pharmaceutical development has been slow to adapt to the switch of perceived authority and influence.
The practise of combining business and technology has become second nature to most – it is necessary to survive let alone to remain competitive. Coupled with the powerful concept of global communication and open sourcing of information, in the quest for satisfying our healthcare needs, the way the pharma industry operates is losing its relevancy.
Doing the Right Thing Will Give Pharma Back its Voice
With the rise of ‘The Empowered Patient’, medical establishments and pharmaceutical companies are popularly dismissed as being driven only by lucrative deals. To lessen the damage to company reputations, business goals now need to refocus on nurturing real relationships and adopting the principle of transparency, as well as rising to the same level of tech savvy and agility as that of their patients and the global community they find themselves in.
“Empowered patients have high expectations and if not met they will find their own solutions”.1
Patients have forged online communities of fellow peers who suffer similar afflictions, in which they communicate to share and learn about their experiences encompassing their condition and medical treatment. They know what pharmaceutical companies are working on. They want to be able to take charge of their own analytics and ask more from their healthcare providers.
The importance of this is that pharmaceutical companies no longer control the generation of information about their products. They need to find what their real value is instead of relying solely on easily replicated trial outcomes.
The Need for Pharma-Physician Engagement
Anonymous interviews conducted by PharmaPhorum2 revealed that healthcare providers, too, want an open and informative dialogue that allows them to learn about other’s experiences and engage with professionals and pharmaceutical companies to learn about upcoming drugs in the pipeline, the market and competitors in context and the level of research within the field, with the suggestion of a pharma-physician correspondence Q&A portal. This is not surprising considering the issue of reimbursement protocols shifting in favour of improved individual patient outcomes and daily quality of life.
Following the move by GlaxoSmithKleine to halt the practise of offering all-expenses-paid international conference breaks with the purpose of marketing their products to HCPs, the pressure is on for the industry to transform business processes with superior education, insights and technological capabilities. There is an opportunity for companies who aspire to stay relevant and meaningful to take advantage of next-generation technology to thrive in the digital world. Data will always be needed, but clinical trials need to be innovated, and the data they produce invigorated.
Pinpointing how technology can be of service to pharmaceutical companies can be ambiguous in the wave of popular competing products such as health apps and smart watches that allow people to take their own readings – producing personalised but not completely accurate and considered data – in addition to wide misperception of opinion and support of these platforms by practised physicians.
Wide opinion suggests that doctors’ concerns revolve around the poor quality and accuracy of commercial offerings producing useless and even harmful data that patients use to self-assess and manage their health. Poorly designed mobile applications are feared to encourage hypochondria and strained doctor-patient relationships. Where physicians agree the benefit does lie is in the monitoring and management of chronic condition, in addition to real-time capabilities allowing the observation of patient adherence and lifestyle factors during treatment.
73% of doctors do not know what they want from digital health solutions but of those that did the highest response was for ‘patient monitoring’ – where there is limited potential for error.3
For corporations who choose to invest in building digital marketing and engagement systems the benefits are highly valuable and adjustable. From streamlining workflows across R&D, office administration, supply chain and commercial processes to innovative data analysis and fuller engagement possibilities, collaborations that partner business with advanced digital technology can help bring the field back to the forefront of a sophisticated, resourceful and dependable industry.
Companies should look at what distinctive value can be created with the use of digital technology, within relevant areas of their operation. Pharmaceutical companies could develop their own branded and quality-approved digital sensors, health applications and related products to gain real-time clinical trial data and real-world insights on adherence, side-effects and product efficacy, boosting the credibility of product evidence and improving analytical capabilities.
Building meaningful relationships takes time and resources, but it is also necessary to nurture brand preference in a target audience. Organisation is key to strengthening these relationships effectively. Communication management systems can be custom built in line with the initiatives and goals of individual organisations, fostering a sense of community and membership through influencing brand perception, providing the user experience is well-designed and easy to use. Digital engagement can be functional in recruiting for trials, exchanging information, medical-science liaisons and patient and physician service portals as example.
Success cannot always be foreseen in collaborative projects, but the need for the industry to make their business processes more immediate at least, can be helped by the fact that digital system prototypes can be scaled up as positive results are achieved. Such is the power of digital technology to provide bespoke solutions and dispel doubt surrounding the achievement of outcomes, before moving forward with official integration into the wider working process.