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Rise in Digital Technologies Changing Patient and HCP Expectations for Pharma


Pharmaceutical Executive

The importance of digital engagement in the biopharma industry continues to be influenced by advancements in the technology industry as well as changes in patient needs.

Digital engagement in the biopharmaceutical industry continues to be influenced by advancements in the technology industry as well as changes in patient needs, and experts from PanAgora’s Pharma Engagement Technology Summit discussed how these innovations will fuel digital engagement with patients and healthcare providers.  Another related conference is coming up in mid-September.

The Changing Landscape of Digital Engagement with HCPs

According to JD Lineen, Global Digital Channel Lead at GSK, the healthcare landscape is rapidly changing, as patients are becoming more knowledgeable, society’s expectations are morphing, and payers are rewarding quality of care instead of case volumes, leading to increasing pressure for lower costs, higher quality care, and improved outcomes. Simultaneously, digital technologies (i.e., Uber, Amazon Prime, etc.) are creating increased expectations with consumers, as these technologies are scalable, simple to use, are visually engaging, and are connected. Healthcare provider (HCP) needs are also morphing because of digital, as 87% of HCPs use work-related mobile devices (i.e., checking emails, taking photos, connecting with patients and peers, and rapidly obtaining high quality information), and there is an increased need for visual learning, as 80% of what people see is retained versus 20% of what is read. Although expectations for technology usage in healthcare are increasing, the biopharmaceutical industry is not very focused on digital, as only 6% of biopharmaceutical companies indicate they are “digital first,” according to Lineen. However, GSK appears to be positioned towards digital when interacting with HCPs, as services such as click to chat, webinars, HCP portal content, mobile visual educational platforms, and virtual meetings address HCP expectations for digital in pharma. Lineen emphasized that it is not technology that drives digital innovation, but rather, corporate strategy.

Health Education with Virtual and Augmented Reality

Brian Peet, President and Chief Innovation Officer at MediSolutions, described how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are transforming education with healthcare professionals and patients.  According to Peet, AR and VR offer different benefits; for example, AR is interactive, instructive, and allows users to see information in a new way, whereas VR is immersive, can be therapeutic, and enhances learning through detail (i.e., how organs function both externally and internally). To elaborate, pain distraction studies have demonstrated that patients experienced less pain when undergoing VR-based pain distraction programs during medical procedures compared to traditional pain distraction methodologies; patients experienced less unpleasant pain, less anxiety, and less time thinking about pain with VR. From an educational standpoint, VR enhances short-term memory, reduces stress levels, and improves the creation of long-term memories, which can help with educating patients about disease states, how medications work, and measuring patient comprehension levels with medication adherence. In healthcare settings, demand for VR technologies is increasing, as 80% of physicians indicated that the market is heading towards VR, and 60%-82% of patients ask their physicians about medication after viewing educational material through VR. Biopharmaceutical enterprises have an opportunity to leverage AR and VR to enhance messaging about medical products with both HCPs and patients.

Rare Disease Engagement

Mahesh Kolar, former Sr. Director, Global Brand Leader at Teva, discussed methods for enhancing engagement with rare disease patients, their caregivers, and their treating physicians. Kolar indicated that the main challenge with engaging rare disease patients involves personalizing digital communications; specifically, how the biopharmaceutical industry can improve their relationships with their patients, and how can these patients allow for a better digital experience. Kolar emphasized that patients and caregivers are the driving force behind engagement, as patients and caregivers are defining the needs of their communities, and approximately 50% of rare disease patients are children, hence, an optimal target audience for patient engagement is caregivers rather than physicians. Effective marketing objectives include establishing direct relationships with advocacy groups and offering information on rare disease beyond the medical product’s therapeutic benefits. For physician targeting, Kolar indicated that messaging should be focused on disease awareness and offering compassionate care programs.


In summary, the transforming digital landscape is shifting the way physicians and patients digest medical information, and the biopharmaceutical industry can enhance engagement by offering educational solutions through mobile, AR, and VR. Additionally, changing societal expectations and access to quality medical information through technology are transforming not only patient perceptions, but, also physician’s positions about biopharmaceutical marketing practices; a glimpse into rare disease patient engagement demonstrates that patients and physicians expect an altruistic approach towards disease management, rather than traditional marketing efforts that focus on a medical product’s therapeutic risks and benefits.


Moe Alsumidaie, MBA, MSF is Chief Data Scientist at Annex Clinical,.


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