The Thought Leader Interview - Jeff S French
In this interview, the Vice President and Chief Digital Officer, ViiV Healthcare recommends generating best customer experience possible through an orchestrated effort across the customer-facing entities within pharma organizations. An edited transcript of the conversation follows.
Indegene PharmaFuture: How do you think organizations should approach the content supply chain? What opportunities do you see here to create value?
Jeff: From a content supply chain perspective, I think the key point is getting the planning right in terms of understanding the customer journeys you have, the experiences that you are trying to create, the behaviors that you are trying to shift, and then creating your content plan which supports that exercise. Then, you have to back up those plans with proper execution. This is where it becomes interesting. We see that there is a huge desire for agility both globally and regionally, as well as locally. So, on a global level, it is almost too generic, in terms of the message. At a regional level, it is more applicable to the target audience. However, it is at the local levels where things start to take shape and really start to identify, even probably better with the customer experience and customer journey maps initially, to say exactly how they are going to be informing and affecting those behavioral shifts. I think that’s a part of the big problem that we have today. A lot of folks do the planning, but they try everything globally first. The reality is that they need to know where to draw a line, and understand what truly is global and what really needs to be defined locally, and then how do you get a content development capacity that caters to the agility in the content industry.
I do believe that a content factory is a definitive choice in the matter. The difference would be that today, content factories are based on predefined understanding of what has to be done. For example, where things need to be improved upon is like what an agency does. The content owners and creators work directly with the local markets to facilitate the adjustments of that content. This is where content factories get the model a little bit wrong and they try to standardize everything as much as possible for efficiency, and therefore lose effectiveness at the local market level. So, you need more local dedicated support within the content factory for the local key markets.
I believe that the factory needs to start to move more upstream, even tapping into the creative process. The importance of the content defines the experience at the end of the day. It is not just the tool or the channel, but it is actually the content that defines customer experience. If you are creating content in the pharma industry, it is quite easy to do typical content messaging around product or scientific information. However, nobody is thinking how to reinvent the content so that it is more adjustable, simpler, and a little bit easier to break apart to even multiple chunks. Also, we should be able to really understand how it can affect the behavioral change at that particular moment of time in that channel.
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?
Jeff: The right thing to do with technology is to let the business drive it, and not the other way around. Technology changes every six weeks. The latest best thing comes out on a regular basis, and that is what tech people get really excited about: the next big best thing. So, the impetus is to get the best thing in place and get it used. But the problem is that they do not use it themselves, and that is where the issue always lies. If the need for technology is led from a business objective perspective, you would never face that issue. If the business objective is to figure out how to create better experiences for your customers and it's more consistent and integrated experience that you’re looking for, then you start to look at what technology makes sense to allow that, versus just letting the technology try and drive it.
Looking back at my previous organizations where I owned the IT and the digital marketing, we never had this problem. The latest technology was always used, and we would transform and optimize individual pieces because it was our responsibility to ensure that was happening, versus just an IT platform management accountability. In pharma organizations, you don’t want IT to become more of a financial lever. You don’t want it to be the driver of efficiency, but you want to think of it as the driver of capability.
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?
Jeff: There are two trends that are intertwined. The first one - In order for any pharma company to be successful in the long term, they've got to provide innovative medicine. Innovative medicine is the ability to understand and support the unique needs of every single patient out there. The ability to really take that evidence of understanding back into the scientific labs and determine how to produce a product that caters to those unique needs. How do pharma companies get data? It is not about creating a trial for the sake of getting data. You start thinking everybody is already being tracked and managed. So, the first part is to get the data to build better medicines and define potential outcomes. But to get the data, you need to get into the patient space and start servicing and supporting the patient in a way that the industry has never seen before.
This is the second…the point where the standard of care might actually be fulfilled by the pharma company and not healthcare organizations. It implies that if you are a good pharma company, then you are actually doing more than just providing the innovative medicine. So, as in the case of people living with HIV, there are products that help suppress the virus. But if you look at the issues these individuals living with HIV have, there are number of comorbidities in the aging population. The reality of mental health support is significant in this space. So, the people who really care for people living with HIV should also care for other issues as well, and not just suppressing the virus.
The reality of it is that anybody who is in the care business now needs to understand the broadening definition of patient care.
Indegene PharmaFuture: How should pharma companies react to disruption coming from tech companies, including Amazon, Google and others, entering healthcare?
Jeff: It is a million-dollar question. As an industry, we need to look really closely at the purpose of the tech companies and understand their purpose to able to figure out our role in healthcare. I think tech companies will disrupt it. They will come in, and companies like Amazon will put up a portal for physicians that allows them to pick and select which medicinal therapy they want for their patient within seconds. They will be able to compare and contrast products that none of us can do. So, I think in reality we must see what Amazon's role is in that, what is Google's role in that, what do they want, and what roles do they feel they are equipped to play. Amazon may tell you they want to sell medicine and the distribution associated with it to be able to make the money from that. Google may tell you that they only want information to feed that back into some other repository and focus on predictive modeling. Apple may also tell you that they do not want to own anything and just want to be the facilitator, leveraging their devices.
So, if you say what pharma’s role is and if that is the case between Apple being the carrier, Amazon being the distributor, and Google being the information owner, the good news is our role will still be to create innovative medicine. The bad news is we won’t have the data to be able to do it easily, unless we get into supporting the patient at a level that we are not used to. When Amazon brings up their comparison chart of all the different therapies, it is not just the medicine they will compare. It will be the patient support program. It will be the other elements that differentiate us and define our success to be the chosen one for that therapy. I believe it would not be the price, but the services we offer.
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?
Jeff: There are fairly significant barriers to entry in the pharma industry for AI and ML, mainly around understanding and compliance. First, understanding what it takes to set it up. A lot of people go after ML and AI and think that they can do it tomorrow. They do not forget that ML is a learning exercise that takes time. It requires patience to train the machine. The second part is compliance - How do you get it to make the right calls? The decisions that it makes might become a compliance issue from pharma's perspective.
So, if we take the example of health chatbot companies, they can help facilitate getting somebody to care, but they cannot care. For instance, patient says ‘Hey, I've got a problem, here are my symptoms, and here are the questions. The chat bot comes back and says ‘Yes, you may have a problem and therefore you should do X, Y, or Z, or no, I do not think you have a problem’, but it's just giving comfort to the patients. It is not actually doing anything realistic. So, I think there is an opportunity for AI to come in and provide more options, and eventually, have enough information to actually provide preferred options, based on specific customer needs.
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?
Jeff: It is all about generating the best customer experience possible. New capabilities alone would not necessarily guarantee better outcomes. You got to have an orchestrated effort across the customer-facing entities within the organization to really create something new and different. This is where understanding the journey we have to go on is very important to understand, and then knowing what that unified experience looks like in the end, and collectively are able to articulate and action towards it.
How you actually orchestrate that across the organization between market access, medical marketing, and sales, is the essential ingredient for making sure that everybody plays their part. It is a journey you have to go on that puts everyone in the shoes of your customer at the end of the day, and as a group are able to clearly delineate the lines of engagement and how they intersect internally. For organizations, mapping this out and then experimenting with engagements to meet these needs of that individual is the essential part. This must be something done on a regular basis also as it needs to be embedded into the culture, not just the processes.
Note: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the thought leader, and not necessarily to his employer, organization, committee, or other group or individual.