A shift is occurring in the healthcare professional (HCP)-pharma representative relationship. Pharmaceutical Executive chats with Dave Yates, GSK’s Global Product Director, to discuss how two-way engagement channels allow healthcare professionals (HCPs) to connect with experts, request samples, and find compliant patient-facing materials based on individual preferences.
Pharm Exec: Digital channels create more proactive opportunities for reps to engage with HCPs. How do you see that evolving to create more ways for HCPs to initiate communication?
Yates: The introduction of digital channels to communicate with HCPs makes pharma more accessible. Digital channels make it easier for HCPs to get the answers they need when they need them, and in the format they prefer. All in all, I think this approach allows for a more personalized relationship with HCPs.
Have pandemic restrictions on face-to-face interactions accelerated the move to digital engagement through pull communication?
Yates: Pandemic-related restrictions have accelerated the move into digital communications out of necessity. HCPs have been switching from face-to-face to virtual when interacting with the life sciences industry but also their patients via online pharmacies, wearables, and virtual consultations.
We had started making some moves into digital at GSK to be more accessible. Now, we have to ensure that what we use in the future will be seamless, so the information goes to the right place, in the right format, and at the right time.
Today, 70% of HCPs are digital natives. What role do you see this play in the shift to more digital engagement?
Yates: Virtual tolerance is different than with human interactions. If you’ve clicked on a webpage that failed to load quickly or joined a meeting that was slow to kick off, you probably immediately dropped out of it and went somewhere else. Whilst HCPs would not as easily leave an auditorium full of their peers in an in-person event scenario, they would certainly disconnect from a virtual event if it’s not grabbing their attention. When interacting with HCPs through digital channels or hosting a digital event, you need to think about an engagement strategy for keeping people immediately interactive and included.
What have you learned about in terms of HCP preferences for accessing information and scheduling meetings?
Yates: The shift to digital allows us to learn more about our customers’ behavioral preferences; but at the moment, despite the data being there, we're not harnessing it and translating it into something we can use. We either don't share the data with the business or we share all of the data, and it becomes a data dump that’s difficult to interpret. The challenge is to filter the data into meaningful metrics that people can act upon.
What are the advantages for pharma reps and medical science liaisons (MSLs) when enabling medical inquiries with HCPs?
Yates: Representatives and MSLs have some trepidation about the introduction of digital, so it’s essential to showcase the digital solutions that will help them do their jobs better. I think Veeva Engage Connect1 is a great example. I’m not suggesting that it will replace face-to-face calls or virtual calls. Instead, it will supplement engagements, becoming the glue between in-person interactions and making exchanges more memorable. With a connected system, reps and medical teams can prepare for the next interaction while building relationship continuity. I hope that reps and MSLs will see digital as something that enhances their engagements and allows them to keep a relationship relevant and targeted. I think this will create a change in mindset for the representatives. HCPs’ expectations have changed; if we can make sure to have tools to help evolve that relationship quicker, that's a positive.
How has this new dynamic helped HCPs get the right information into patients’ hands?
Yates: This is how we intend to use Veeva Engage Connect - as a single platform for HCPs to reach out to their connections across the life sciences industry. Working in the same interface with the same user flow can help HCPs build familiarity, asking the same question to different companies on the same platform to access or receive the information easily, whether that be via a human response to that inquiry or a self-serve search. This convenience is precisely how to get the right information into patients’ hands more quickly.
Ultimately, we want HCPs to make the right decision for the patient regardless of which product they select. If they have a patient who they need to treat, we want to make sure that the patient receives the right treatment at the right time. Commercially, if we have good products, our medicines will be used when appropriate. Speed and consistency in accessing specific information are considerable advantages for both the HCP and the patient.
What do you anticipate HCPs’ communication preferences will look like in the future?
Yates: HCPs value the opportunity to network and learn from their peers, much of which is through educational events, bringing people together, and sharing experiences. I see digital playing a role in creating a private network that allows HCPs to interact with their industry contacts and their peers and colleagues.
Are there any lessons you’d like to share with other companies looking to reimagine the customer experience with more pull communication with HCPs?
Yates: During the Pandemic we accelerated the use of various digital solutions, Now, some digital platform standardization and rationalization would be helpful. If we allow our businesses to use many platforms, we can never get to a place where we can deliver consistent insights. For example, using the same five metrics to feed a universal engagement score helping reps to gauge their effectiveness.