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Customer Engagement: Can Technology Help Find That Sweet Spot?


Pharmaceutical Executive

Cegedim Relationship Management held its annual conference on trends in the life sciences industry last week.

In the rush toward customer engagement, can technology find the sweet spot?

Cegedim Relationship Management held its annual conference on trends in the life sciences industry last week, with two days of speakers and workshops focused on the interrelated themes of Transformation and Innovation.  The central question: if the business of pharma is changing at warp speed, then what new strategies and practices are best poised to help companies maintain a competitive advantage?

On central display at the conference were the significant – and growing – capabilities of vendors like Cegedim in marshaling data points that reveal the identity, incentives and motivations of the customer.

Some of the more interesting factoids:

  • 22 percent of US physicians have specific “no see” bans on detailing visits by pharma sales reps; more than half now restrict “walk ins” by requiring reps to make appointments in advance.

  • Detailing “face time” with physicians is also declining, with the average time for a visit with a GP clinician down to less than five minutes; for specialists it is about 10 minutes.

  • Cegedim research shows that the encounter most likely to result in a pledge to prescribe lasts around 15 minutes, and if that time is supplemented with a customized IPAD display and written leave behinds, the prescribing intent ratio increases by two thirds.

  • Boehringer-Ingelheim and Forest Labs scored the highest among big Pharma companies in details to GPs that produced prescriptions; Lilly came out on top for specialists.

  • Approximately one fifth of drug co-pay cards issued to consumers for medicines are not being redeemed.

  • One in four of every prescription in the US is today filed electronically, and these prescriptions are more likely to be dispensed to patients who also tend to stay compliant with therapy for a longer period of time.

  • As the deadline nears for physician practices to implement federal EHR standards, there are more than 400 vendors offering software and related services to help facilitate the transition.  Only a decade ago, this flourishing business did not exist.

  • Mobile technology is big – and getting bigger.  Worldwide, more people have access to mobile phones than to toilets, with some 4 billion units in use today.

The overall conclusion is obvious: technology companies have the scale and scope to lead in solving the world’s health problems. On a strictly commercial level, pharma companies are coming to recognize that technology solutions eliminate many of the routine barriers they encounter in attempting to get closer to patients and the customer.  The right agenda is to access patients directly where they seek information.  And their platform of choice is increasingly digital.  Instead of focusing on “pushing” out data compiled internally, the more important task is to come up with new ways to “pull it in,” through tools like social media.  Likewise, the so-called conflict between print and online is a distraction.  Companies must be agnostic; what matters is the principle of designing every communication from the perspective of the patient experience.

Finally, on the institutional side, one of the more interesting trends to emerge from the discussions is the growing visibility and clout of allied health professionals – a neglected target.  Nurse practitioners, for example, are replacing physicians in many routine tasks and are now often authorized to be prescribers of medicines. In fact, while the position of the pharmaceutical industry is being upended by all the churn in the health care system, this is no less true for other players.  One physician, speaking at a panel on how to increase value to customers, noted his profession faced a stark new reality, which he summarized as “No outcome? Then no income.”

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