THE THOUGHT LEADER INTERVIEW
Indegene PharmaFuture: How do you think organizations should approach the content supply chain? What opportunities do you see here to create value?
Uwe: In my experience, the traditional way of creating and disseminating content in many pharma companies today is based on the interaction of brand manager with their agencies. Whether we like it or not, that’s currently how it’s being done. This means that a lot of know-how is actually not getting internalized within the organization. There’s a lot of debate and discussion on how best to position a brand or what messages brand teams should use, and in the end, it is delegated to external vendors. I think the key question is whether you want to keep this model or not, and it comes down to certain choices that have to be made.
If you are responsible for making these choices, you should think about your approach for content
tagging and creating modular content because it is clear that the conventional way of creating detail aids, in a rather limited framework, is not sufficient for serving the needs of our customers in the environment we live in today What is needed is on-the-fly, modular content, which can be adjusted quickly based on data and insights that are generated.
Therefore, the model that we’re using today is not adequate, and I think as an organization it is important to be clear on what can be managed internally and what should be outsourced. This will help colleagues in-house to focus on key choices, namely where they want to play and where they want to win, and not necessarily on how to execute a short campaign with frequent cycles.
In this interview, the Head of Global Marketing Operations at Bayer Pharmaceuticals emphasizes that going forward pharma must act fast, take risks, and be ready to learn from failures to make real progress.
An edited transcript of the conversation follows.
Head of Global Marketing Operations, Bayer Pharmaceuticals
Indegene PharmaFuture: There is a certain amount of risk built into deploying new technologies and undertaking the digital journey. How do you ensure that these investments are fully leveraged and don’t end up as technology solutions that don’t impact the business?
Uwe: Yes, there are risks. One major risk is that we heavily invest in technologies and then, for whatever reason, do not use it to its full extent. I think sometimes the reason is content-driven, sometimes it is consent related, but most of the time it is people related. There are several key factors that can hinder a technical infrastructure from working, and then the risk is that we have a perfect system in place but we’re not leveraging it – not even 10% or 15% of what’s actually possible.
An additional risk in investing in technology is that it also evolves at a fast pace and you end up with something that may be relevant today, but in three years from now, will already be outdated. This can frustrate people because you train them to a certain extent and hope that they’re going to use it, but by the time they familiarize themselves with the tool, it is already obsolete. Therefore, we need to ensure that we include colleagues in the change management process and should not underestimate the magnitude of supporting people in embracing technology. This is essential not only for the sales force, but for all roles and disciplines within Medical, Market Access and Commercial. I believe they are all aware of how important this step is, but the challenge lies in how to encourage them to make use of new technologies.
Secondly, we should also not underestimate the basic hygiene factors that should be in place; for example, data that is required with certain governance on it. The question that we keep ourselves busy with is how to have certain standards and consistency in place in order to best leverage technology. Otherwise, you end up with great technology, but are unable to make use of it in the best possible way.
Indegene PharmaFuture: We’re now moving towards an era of patient-centric, evidence-driven, and outcome-focused healthcare, what are the key 1-2 trends that you see playing out in 2019 and beyond?
Uwe: I believe it would be individualized engagement/offerings. On the medical side, products are heading in that direction. You might have heard about one of our recently launched drugs with an oncology compound that has outstanding efficacy in patients with a rare type of cancer caused by a specific gene fusion This affects approximately 1% of the entire oncology population. It’s difficult to find these people and of course the same is true if you were to engage with them via communication channels or congresses. You face an increasing level of complexity on how to serve individual patients and physician needs at the same time. Therefore, individual need-based engagement is required in order to address the true needs of customers (both decision-making units and individuals).
I sometimes call this a super/hyper-personalization and segment of one. Even if I can approach all HCPs in the target area in a personalized way, I may still not derive a good outcome with them because these approaches do not work collectively. For example, what if I offer a hospital a portfolio of choices and a bundle of certain products (provided it is legally permissible) and so, I connect with 10 cardiologists in that hospital through the same personalized vision. After all, they will make decisions based on key overarching scientific activities. But what is the right engagement for each of these customers individually? Moreover, if it’s a private gynaecologist sitting somewhere in a rural area I would obviously want to connect with that doctor on a personal level because there is nobody else within a 50 km range who subscribes to my product; that’s a very personal engagement.
Another trend is the whole analytics and data-based decision-making process. It just seems to be reaching a tipping point; healthcare technology is cheap, computing power is phenomenal, and there is enormous wealth of data already available. If you connect it well with the capability to visualize consumers’ needs, this is something that can drive choices in many different directions, much faster, more frequently, and more precisely.
Indegene PharmaFuture: As you move along your digital journey in 2019, what will be the one most important factor in mind to drive change management in your organization?
Uwe: The first factor- act fast. If you think about how we managed IT projects 10 years ago, this included waterfall, systematic and defining all our ultimate goals, which led to developing something and later realizing that’s not we wanted. Everything is moving so fast. And we’re behind as an industry, no doubt, when it comes to technological advancements. There should be more focus on risk-taking and ‘just doing it’ instead of just talking about it all the time.
The second factor is, you have to be ready to fail. So, for example, first we debate on whether sending an email is an appropriate channel and we finally agree to try it out. Then we send one email and receive a very low click-through rate, so we conclude that emails don’t work. We need to be willing to accept learnings because maybe it wasn’t the email channel, but rather the content, or wrong distribution, or some technology that wasn’t right and the email ended up in a spam folder. So, we must be ready to learn fast. And we should approach things differently based on our learning in order to make real progress.
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Note: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the thought leader, and not necessarily to the his employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.
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Indegene PharmaFuture: Over the past decade, the excitement about the new innovations in technology (including AI and ML) hasn’t been matched by the rate of adoption on the ground. How do you see that playing out moving forward?
Uwe: Data analytics, I think, is the foundation. For example, it is great if you run pilots on next best actions, and I think you can get very excited in telling Reps: “don’t visit 3 times a quarter, but 4 times a quarter.” However, I don’t think that is machine learning or artificial intelligence. I think we are still crawling forward on that front. However, there is a lot of potential if we can advise Sales Reps in a smart way on more qualitative elements. For example, if we put the data together an appropriate format and tell the Rep: “your physician researched the following areas and he/she is very interested about these key topics. In addition, he/she was at the congress and obtained further information there on these same key areas. That’s why we think this physician is interested in this specific topic area, which you had not considered before but is clearly something that should be pursued further with this individual.”
These insights can present a very different view of customers. The Rep’s interest will not be focused on whether or not to send an email to that physician, but to think about strategies on how to switch patients from a very specific subgroup of brand A to brand B. I think if you do your homework in getting that kind of data in order, and then make use of information that we often already have, this can make a huge difference in reaching out to customers. But it all needs to be put into a consumable and adjustable format, and connected from different sources. Then, I believe, it’s possible to program IT systems on how to advise in order to improve our business and better meet customer needs.
Indegene PharmaFuture: How should pharma companies react to disruption coming from tech companies, including Amazon, Google and others, entering healthcare?
Uwe: I think there are 2 aspects: the first one is partnership. I think you really have to partner with tech companies because they are super smart, sharp, and fast, and yet, there are a few things they don’t know as well as we do. I see them catching-up because of their ability to learn quickly. We know that a lot of this knowledge is not rocket science - you can learn it if you have the right technical infrastructure in place. So, it’s better to partner with these firms.
We certainly shouldn’t be afraid to step up and share certain expertise because if we don’t do it, others will.
The second one is partnering with them in the appropriate way, whereby we should also take certain risks. While we’re very risk averse when it comes to commercial activities, the investments in R&D for products are usually high risk. In this area, we spend millions of dollars although we don’t know what the outcome will be.