The Thought Leader Interview - John McCarthy

In this interview, the Principal Consultant – DT Associates and Ex- VP Global Digital, AstraZeneca draws out a 5-step approach to a successful content supply chain management in pharma and discusses industry shift around precision care experience. 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?

John: I see it as a 5-step approach for a successful content supply chain management in pharma.

First, de-couple creation and production. We should recognize that they are two different components of content, and they require different skill sets. By separating creation from production, you can focus on both and optimize both. Unless you recognize that one agency shouldn’t be doing both components of this, you will not be able to really examine and optimize the supply chain. Second, change your operation ownership for content production. Often times, either the marketing organization, i.e., creative agencies, own production.

The momentum for change is facilitated by the change in ownership, and somebody who knows more about the process and the outcome of production is going to be better suited to optimize that part of the process. The key step is to change the operational ownership and that ownership has the responsibility of getting the most efficient outcome through better utilization of available resource.

Third, quantify the redundancy of marketing outcomes, specifically on the creative aspects.Quantifying the redundancy of marketing outcomes is the foundation for refining the creative process. Continuing to pay for the same components across markets is a silly thing to do for the business.Obviously, this is much easier to accomplish by someone who has a global oversight as opposed to either US or a market perspective; so, you need a global approach to this. Looking across redundancies allows you to make decisions about the optimal number of inputs. In my experience, almost 60% of the creative aspects are redundant for a given medicine.

Fourth, centralize the creative process. In order to eliminate the redundancies, you need to assign somebody to be responsible for the core set of deliverables for the creative process. Either a global team or a lead market ought to be doing it. And often, US could be that lead market. Strategically, moving to one agency across global team and the US greatly facilitate the convergence. Finally, measure and report progress. It’s a difficult thing to do but you need to set up a measurement process around both re-use and production output that shows the progress you have made and are making, basically documenting the savings generated by the new way of working. Very few organizations are doing this.

The first four steps are being addressed by many, and a few are into the last step of measurement process. In terms of supply chain, continuous measurement gives continuous improvement.

Indegene PharmaFuture: What’s the key driver for organizations to adopt this approach?

John: Customer experience is a priority. The journey towards a better customer experience requires more and better content. If we continue to do things the old way in producing our content, then we don’t have enough room for the new. But legitimately, there are at least 20%-30% savings across the supply chain, i.e., add up all your spending on agencies today and subtract 25%, and you have a legitimate target in a short-term benefit to remove from your old way of doing things to invest in new ways of doing things. The actual saving opportunity is much greater, probably 3 times that amount, in some of the more expensive assets.

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?

John: There is definitely a risk factor in a platform approach to this, and many of us have made that mistake. However, ensuring that you get the full leverage probably has to do with keeping the measurement top of your mind – are we selling efficiency or are we selling better customer outcome/experience?

There is ability to say are we improving our customer experiences as a result of what we are putting in play. And that requires more of a skill set change within your marketing organization than it does a technology change within your IT organization. Simply putting the platforms in place won’t change the behavior of people involved. You have to be as systematic in behavior and skill set movement of the people involved in marketing to ensure the technology you are putting in place is being used properly. 

One of the massive fails, for e.g., is in sales force. The Veeva investment in the Veeva bundle includes three aspects - rep-triggered email, distance detailing capabilities, and CRM – that are of great value theoretically to pharma organizations. And yet, there are few that have put performance metrics in place for their sales force about being digital-savvy sales reps, i.e. are you using the platforms put in place to the fullest? People who are on the working end of the system are not being held accountable performance wise for use and optimization. This is a great example of gap between behavior change and platform change. The best way to check if investments are being leveraged is by marrying the performance review process with the capabilities available in an organization.

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?

John: I think our focus in pharma has been very much focused on the physician, and our patient centricity has been about patient education to some degree, which also has to do with the physician. However, as precision medicine becomes a real thing, you must get to know more about the patient community you are serving. You are going to need to understand where and how you get in touch with those patients more readily in order to optimize the commercial side of your medicine. I do think patient-centric promotion will become more prominent.

We have completely optimized physician-level sales promotion. However, we haven’t taken advantage of all the channels that are available, and that will continued focus of what we do. However, we should also use the same methodologies around patients. This also leads into the other two components. This has to be evidence driven and more in sync with payers in terms of an outcome focus as well. The more outcome based we become, the more knowledgeable we become on who actually benefit from our medicine.

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?

John: The analytics that go along with our promotion are good – call it advanced analytics or ML, and may be some AI in there. I think there is a greater opportunity for us to actually do closed-loop marketing, but nobody is really doing it; not enough has been made from our abilities to utilize the data that we have available today. This is largely due to the continued reliance on sales representatives in the office; the scalability there is high, but the cost-effectiveness is decreasing. I believe the constraint on sales resources is going to be a driver for better use or better design of data capture and utilization going forward. The sales and commercialization expense will drive that.

As medicines become more expensive, clinical utilization will be more and more dependent on diagnostic testing or even generic testing. We are going to have to be better at data capture and utilization that allows Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence to engage with the right patients and be more efficient in the way you are engaging the broad patient populations. When many firms are producing medicines that cast $100,000 or more per year, finding the right patient quickly is the priority. The old way of doing it through doctors in not going to stand over time. Finding those patients and bringing them to the right doctors will be the new trend in terms of how we utilize data through ML or AI.

As far as the timeline is concerned, I see many companies are currently rounding up their capabilities in analytics. I believe as the capabilities mature, they could be more easily used in a broader sense. Once you see what you can do with them, there is an opportunity to clean up your data capture strategy. This could expand to the patient population, for example, and be able to utilize that more readily.


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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.

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