More Than Just a Pretty Face? The Future of the iPad - Pharmaceutical Executive

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More Than Just a Pretty Face? The Future of the iPad


Since its launch two years ago, the iPad has enjoyed unprecedented success in the healthcare space. But how long can the technology captivate physicians? Dan Goldsmith and Paul Shawah report.

In the two years since the debut of the Apple iPad, the pharmaceutical industry has embraced the device with gusto. Currently, 18 of the top 20 global pharmaceutical companies have furnished all or part of their field forces with the iPad and the remaining two will have adopted it by the end of the year.

This uncharacteristically rapid adoption is understandable considering what the industry needed in the way of technology that would help improve and enhance customer engagement and interaction. Pharmacos were desperately seeking a way into physicians’ offices, hearts and minds. The iPad has been called the perfect device for supporting one-on-one interactions with physicians (who themselves are enamored with the technology: according to Manhattan Research [14 Feb. 2012], 26% of physicians in the EU own iPads and another 40% intend to purchase one in the next six months). Accordingly, early adopters of the iPad have reported improved physician access, more face time and stronger engagement through rich multi-media presentations.

Yet, how long can the technology captivate physicians? When every rep is presenting eye-popping graphics, won’t such displays become white noise? Once the novelty wears off, will physicians revert to restricting access, and will pharmacos once again struggle to capture their attention?

As the market becomes saturated with iPads, it’s very likely that the ‘cool’ factor will diminish. Without the right intelligence behind the iPad’s pretty face, it has the potential of becoming just another device. So we must make sure it’s integrated with technologies that leverage its strengths for long-term impact on the industry, that it offers pharma sales and marketing a powerful way to connect with the HCPs and nurture supportive, enduring relationships with customers.

Can the iPad deliver more than just eye candy?

Most companies today are using applications designed for the iPad to display or provide:

• Static screens that are always current and more visually appealing than their paper equivalents;

• Motion graphics, i.e., graphs that build automatically or animations of the product at work;

• PDFs, for example, clinical results and dosing instructions, in full detail;

• Instant formulary status — which plans cover which medicines, etc.;

• Connectivity to additional subject matter — the rep can check a box and have information sent, or forward links to the physician;

• A new level of participation — reps can ask a few survey questions and check boxes based on the physician’s response; and

• CRM functions for reps, such as call planning and scheduling, call reporting, sample management and territory analysis.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The iPad may have the ability to dazzle viewers with its effects but it can also offer much more than that. It has the potential to be a platform for a more powerful sales experience that will enable reps to deliver value to physicians.

Following are just a few important ways this technology could impact the industry over the long-term.

Connect Sales & Marketing

iPads and the maturing applications being built to enhance them are already enabling efficient bidirectional communications between sales and marketing across the enterprise. It’s a breakthrough, especially in an industry notorious for operating in independent silos. One innovative technology that integrates CRM and closed loop marketing (CLM) solution on the iPad affords the rep a convenient way to communicate with or ‘close the loop’ with marketing.

Integrated iPad solutions like this will allow the pharmaco to continually anticipate what will best serve the physician, and both the sales and marketing will be guided by the collective understanding of the customer. The reps’ call plan will be based on prescriptive guidance about the physician’s behaviours and preferences along with the insight derived from all other interactions the company has had with the individual physician and accessible through the CRM. So, in addition to having standard background information on the physician and his practice, the rep and the brand team will, for example, be aware of more up-to-the minute information such as any reimbursement issue the physician is facing, the concerns he has expressed about a particular treatment protocol or health outcome, and any interactions he has had with the company’s portal last week after receiving a direct mail piece.

The technology that enables this understanding of the customer could be the greatest enduring value of the iPadenabled rep: capturing insights about the physician’s behaviours, preferences and needs so that they can be matched with what is delivered via any channel. But technology alone is not the solution. To exploit this capability, companies must openly accept that sales and marketing are part of the same equation and must support one another in the relentless pursuit of getting the right information to the right customer in the right way.

“We see a real opportunity to integrate our CRM and CLM solutions on the iPad to increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and connectivity of our field force in the future,” says Rene Jorgenson, Global Manager of CRM and eTools for Leo Pharma A/S. “But, we will need to also inspire a culture shift within our organization.”

Immediate Response

New iPad applications also have the potential to turn today’s sales rep into a kind of ‘instant messenger’ between the company and the physician. During the call, the rep will be able to access resources throughout the organization using the iPad to answer the physician’s questions or fulfill his requests on the spot. Not only will the rep have current versions of sales aids and clinical updates at his fingertips and in rich multimedia formats, but he will also be able to call upon medical affairs, clinical teams and marketing staff for real-time reinforcement as needed. With such support at hand, the rep will be empowered to help the physician with his specific concerns related to his practice and patients immediately.

Incorporated with other native Apple OS applications like FaceTime, such software could transform how sales reps interact with physicians forever. Imagine the possibilities: a physician asks a technical question the rep can’t answer but in seconds he/she puts the physician face-to-face with a specialist who can answer it expertly via the iPad’s FaceTime feature. The application offers a dropdown list of all available specialists, and one click later, the physician is getting the response that he or she needs in real time face to face.

Reps finally have greater sources of information literally at their fingertips at the point of the call — never losing an opportunity. Simply by engaging in FaceTime calls, MSLs can have high-quality interactions without the associated cost and logistics of in-person meetings while delivering the information that healthcare providers need, when they need it, and enabling better treatment decisions and outcomes for their patients.

Multichannel Strategies

Efforts to implement strategic multichannel marketing practices in the pharmaceutical industry have been gaining steam in the last couple of years — and for good reason. Companies of all sizes initially experienced great success leveraging the growing number of new channels available today. Pharmacos are finding that coordinated use of various digital and non-digital channels is yielding impressive results. As an example, research shows that combined eDetail and rep detailing increases sales effectiveness as much as 60%.

The iPad, with its rich multimedia capabilities, and driven by integrated back-end technologies where HCP interactions with each channel is captured is a major driver for multichannel success. With a centralized hub of customer intelligence gained from various channels, Marketing can better segment physicians and develop targeted approaches (to be executed through the sales force and other channels) that address the physicians’ needs — on physicians’ terms. The messaging and timing of other promotional channels will be more relevant, and both personal and non-personal channels will be able to build upon one another. In one example of this, a company could allow reps to specify which physicians should receive which marketing messages/channels/campaigns while marketing triggers reps to reach out to physicians that respond positively to an emailing.

A centralized hub of multichannel physician interaction data easily accessible via the iPad will enable marketing to see when the rep called on the physician and sales to see when the physician received an email from marketing and on what brand. They can see whether or not the physician watched an eDetail, and if he did or did not write a prescription for that drug in the days or weeks following.

The world is being romanced by new technologies — some of these relationships are just flings while others endure. The excitement over the iPad, while very real for the moment, has the potential to wear off. Fortunately, technology providers who are anticipating continued growth in use of the iPad are investing in applications that will make it much more than just a pretty face. Organizations that take the time to forge a more meaningful relationship between the iPad and the smart applications built to leverage its strengths will win out — integrating sales and marketing, elevating the customer relationship, leveraging multichannel strategies for success.

About the Authors

Dan Goldsmith is General Manager, Europe, Veeva Systems, and Paul Shawah is VP CRM Strategy, Veeva Systems.

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