How Covid-19 crisis triggered digital innovation in pharma industry?

Since the Coronavirus outbreak, pharmaceutical and medical devices companies have been struggling to conduct business as usual. As the virus continues to spread, all-sized laboratories realize the importance of providing digital tools to manage their teams, communicate with the healthcare professionals and monitor the patients. Euris had the chance to experience and support the healthcare companies completing their digital transformation in China. Today, these new digital practices implemented in China are the ones being discussed for Europe.

Covid-19 situation

As China tackles Covid-19, millions of employees are working from home for the first time. The jump in remote workers, even temporary, has created an unexpected opportunity for service providers like Wechat Work, Zoom or DingTalk to acquire new users.

zoom-china-covid

Zoom soared in China amid the coronavirus outbreak, jumping from No. 180 in late January to No. 28 as of late February in overall app installs. Source: App Annie

Due to contagion risks, Hospitals and other healthcare institutions are not accessible for months. According to Business Insider, more than 3,300 of the 78,800 coronavirus cases in mainland China are among healthcare workers. Overworked, healthcare professionals are under high pressure, and a lot of patient programs already stopped. On the top of that most of the companies’ staff are asked to work remotely from home. Regarding pharma labs and the medical promotion the consequence is big, representative and medical scientific liaison are home based, events and congress are cancelled and healthcare practitioners workload is already full focusing on their patients.

Digital innovation projects triggered by Covid-19

Pharma industry already considered several digital programs but always kept it at an experimental or pilot level. Apart from some exceptions, most of the companies were considering digital as a nice to have or an improvement idea. Since Covid-19 outbreak the improvement became a solution and the idea a need.

Few months ago Life Sciences companies based in China, were considering digital projects but the investment, compliance risks, partial user acceptance (no change management) and unclear return on investment were slowing down innovation initiatives. It raises no doubt that Covid-19 has created the need for pharma to start long-term projects, providing obvious return on investment and mandatory user acceptance in this particular context. These projects are all scheduled to keep running after the virus situation.

Employees

One of Life Sciences companies’ challenge in this context is to maintain their own teams’ activity and efficiency. Sales and commercial activities represent a big share of the pharma companies annual spending. Beside the development of new molecules to tackle the virus, or actions to maintain the manufacturing one of the most urgent challenge in the case of Covid-19 was to maintain commercial activities between reps and HCPs. The traditional face-to-face was still the most common way to approach the HCP, scientific call, pharmacy call, medical congress, department meetings. All of these activities are not possible anymore as the HCP and hospitals access is highly restricted and the reps themselves are staying at home.

During the first weeks of Covid-19 epidemic in China, the medical reps were working from their place using WeChat and phone calls to reach the HCPs that most of the time were not answering. The reps commonly used CRM tools made for face-to-face activities, in addition to the engagement challenge, no reporting was done as the tools are not adapted, leading to a lack of data to enrich the HCP 360° view and for the management to take the right actions.

Another challenge was to complete the team’s trainings. Following the epidemic outbreak, the Chinese government asked the companies to focus on improvement and employees trainings rather than usual operations. However, most of the training materials are not easily accessible, plus the training sessions are usually done face-to-face or on the field with a medical rep (coaching call).

Allowing the rep to interact with the HCP, making sure that this operation does not take too long for the HCP that it is relevant and user friendly, plus making training materials and programs possible on remote basis are the main challenges, caused by the Covid-19 in pharma companies, along manufacturing and drug development.

To do so, digital tools dedicated to sales reps, operational managers and marketing teams are essential. Firms need to make sure employees can still receive relevant trainings and education. Data from sales field need also to be relevant and precise for operational management purposes. The current crisis is an opportunity to innovate with remote tools in order to maintain effective communication between employees, managers, prospects and customers. This requires innovative and flexible suppliers to take action and adapt in a short lead time.

Generali China Insurance used for the first time Tik Tok on live show, to introduce their products and services to their customers, who are far more active on social media than before. Source: Linkedin, Jack Yuan – Generali China Insurance CEO

Healthcare professionals

The concept of providing a relevant customer experience is neither new nor exclusive to the pharmaceutical industry. HCPs are now much more digitally native and willing to engage with new channels. China is the fastest growing digital country in the world with 61% of HCPs willing to participate in remote virtual engagements and over 75% recommending on-demand interactions versus a scheduled meeting (Source : PharmaFuture). User friendliness is a must (HCP is busy and has less and less time to spend with detailers).

Efficiency of a channel based on its reach and influence according to HCPs. Source: The Digital Savvy HCP 2017, Pharmafuture)

Yet, new research shows that many life sciences companies are not fully leveraging customer experience to differentiate from competitors and gain trust of physicians & patients. Most pharma companies don’t base their plans on customer preferences. While physicians prefer a mix of communication (multichannel communication), pharma companies appear to underutilize digital channels and likely rely too much on face-to-face meetings. And while physicians prefer medical education and clinical practice – like guidelines, patient support and clinical cases- most pharma companies focus on promoting products (Source : The State of Customer Experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry, 2018, DT Consulting). “Content is king” to provide relevant experience to HCPs, and user friendliness is a must since HCPs have less and less time to spend with detailers.

The Covid-19 outbreak made all these principles a reality. HCPs are focusing on their patients, they don’t have time anymore for F2F meeting and a standard commercial pitch. To catch HCPs attention during this period there are 2 keys. User friendliness, HCPs will not download the right application on their phones or browser on their computers, in case video conference is used, a simple click touch be necessary to switch from a link to the video conference and screen sharing. If the tool used by pharma companies to interact with HCPs is not simple and user friendly, the reps would rather keep calling over the phone or WeChat to discuss with the HCPs. The second key aspect is the quality of content, if HCPs were OK in the past to spend some time hearing the same information 4 times a month it is not possible anymore. Communication with the pharma companies should bring added value to the HCPs “help me helping my patient”. This can be possible if the rep has the right tools, allowing remote communication but also HCP profiling and tagging based on the feedback provided. Once the HCP 360° view correctly fed, the marketing department can personalize the content and the activities plan not only per segmentation and targeting but also per tag category.

Patients

As shown above, HCPs would like retailers to provide more patient-focus content, to go “beyond-the-pills”. Patients are more and more willing to become gatekeepers of their own health. From this sight, pharma companies need to build patient-centric ecosystems: inform and educate remotely, and keep following critical case from patients home. A global survey conducted by Research2guidance found out that collaborating with IT solution and service providers at a mature stage is considered to be the most promising partner approach, well in front of incubator or accelerator programs.

Not surprisingly, the use of telemedicine has skyrocketed since the coronavirus outbreak. Remote consultation can indeed help to curb COVID-19, keeping patients at home and expanding remote care programs. While few patients were aware of virtual care option with its benefits, patients’ awareness of remote healthcare has increased since Covid-19 outbreak. At one point of the epidemic in China, hospitals became a place where the contagion risks were the highest. Pre-diagnosis online was the best solution to avoid that every patient with a small fever came to the hospital and participate in the virus spread. Most of the hospitals, clinics and embassies launched their own telemedicine platform during the crisis. With a widening of reimbursement coverage and a relaxation of telemedicine conditions of use, like in France, the market of remote healthcare will continue to grow.

But telemedicine is not only for patient-physician consultations. It can be used also to optimize clinical trials. Greater access to trials and a faster path to market benefits both healthcare providers and patients (Source: eyeforpharma). Regarding China, most of the hospitals should be avoided during the epidemic, the simplest way to maintain ongoing clinical trials was to proceed with home-based patients. It created a need for digital solutions to schedule the patient appointments, help the nurses to organize their travel on a map and input the relevant information during the appointment in addition to the medical devices data.

Patient-centric ecosystem – Source: Euris, 2020

Digital tools provided by Euris

Euris, as pharma digital solutions provider, stands as the perfect partner to answer to pharma’ new awareness about digital innovation. As detailed before, flexibility is a key to succeed this kind of projects. The modular approach, allows pharma companies to pick the missing part of their digital strategies without changing the complete IT and IS environment already in use. Moreover, the interoperability allows Euris to connect to the IS already used in the company but also select the best solutions according to the country. As an example the video conference solutions choice for remote promotion or telemedicine will depend of several factors and will differ according to the country. In China, WeChat based solutions are the best options for user friendliness and performances, in Italy other solutions are used. As user acceptance, and user friendliness are a key in this kind of situation, a basic global approach is not enough to get successful results.

Euris Plug & Play Remote Digital Tools – Source: Euris Health Digital Solution – 2020

Through salesforce effectiveness tools, marketing and patient centric solutions, Euris support Life Sciences industry to innovate with confidence without technical constraints. Performances, user friendliness and interoperability are a must. All our business modules can actually be used in remote, at the service of pharma’ operational needs, not only for HCPs-reps relation but also within pharma organization:  remote coaching call, remote territory meeting, remote order management… The fact that Euris solutions are all hosted on a compliant and accredited platform (HDS, GDPR, HIPAA…), allows Euris clients to innovate with peace of mind.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of business solutions for pharmaceutical and medical devices companies, provided by Euris:

Managers-Employees-HCPs

Remote platform:

  • Adapt to best VC solution (performance and acceptance) depending of the local context
  • Choose according to the need (1 to 1, department meeting, congress…)
  • Simplify HCP’s actions: print-less
  • Close the loop: invitation, planning, automatic activity reports, profiling, show no-show

Digital marketing:

  • Multichannel & Remote platform
  • Integrate existing communication tools (WeChat)
  • Stay compliant
  • Close the loop & personalize (tagging, like/dislike, automatic activity reports…)

Training factory:

  • Assign digital training programs
  • Complete remote trainings & coaching
  • Complete self-assessment and evaluations & Monitor performances
  • Centralize training contents: e-learning space

Patients

Euris can also support Life Sciences industry in patient-centric solutions (Patient Relationship Management), while assuring compliance and user friendliness. Here is a non-exhaustive list of PRM solutions for pharmaceutical and medical devices companies:

Health Cloud®:

  • Host & Manage personal health data
  • Global Compliance with worldwide data regulations like GDPR, ISO, HDS, HIPAA and CSL (China Cybersecurity Law).

Home care / Home based clinical trial:

  • Monitor patient from home
  • Regular visits or conference calls
  • Gather health and wellbeing indicators
  • Monitor health and trigger alerts

Telemedicine and patient education:

  • Link HCP and patient
  • Schedule and perform remote consultation
  • Share medical record
  • Access education space according to patient category

Conclusion

The Covid-19 crisis can be an opportunity to rethink digital innovation projects in pharma companies.  To perform well this digital transformation, it requires local expertise and understanding (regulations, user acceptance, and performance). Industrialization is also important with fast deployment, robustness and back-office flexibility. Having a first experience in China is a big advantage for future cases in Europe or other places. Euris’ clients can benefit of the expertise to deploy faster and already working solutions.

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