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Outlining the key digital trends accelerated by the transformed healthcare landscape in 2021—and their impact on pharma commercialization strategies going forward
Several key trends have been causing waves in the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare market in recent years, prompting changes in the way many companies operate. Many of these trends have been accelerated by the Covid-19 outbreak, requiring the sector to adapt even more rapidly to minimize pandemic disruption. As a result, today’s healthcare landscape looks very different from the sector we were all familiar with just 24 months ago.
For example, remote and digital approaches to engagement with healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients have been rising for many years. E-tools, such as individual and mass emails, as well as web portals and social media platforms, have increasingly been used to engage with HCPs and patients at times and on channels more convenient to them. However, despite these developments, traditional face-to-face engagement remained the mainstay prior to the pandemic due to:
Covid accelerated a shift in mindset, requiring pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers across the globe to abruptly replace traditional face-to-face engagement. It necessitated a rise in the use of digital and remote channels to meet with HCPs, and ensured they had the information they needed to manage their patients effectively. It also required HCPs and pharmaceutical companies to consider how to support vulnerable patients with their healthcare needs remotely, in order to maintain social distancing to protect them from infection.
As a result of these rapid changes in ways of working, several trends have accelerated:
In addition to these changes in engagement and delivery models, we are seeing the pharma industry shift its focus toward drugs for rare diseases and orphan conditions, as well as cell and gene therapies. This will require an enormous shift in ways of working for pharma companies to ensure that the resources are in place to support the drug lifecycle. A number of areas will need additional support to ensure the success of new therapies, including scientific education, patient identification and reimbursement.
Elsewhere, the role of big data and analytics looms large in the industry. Whether it is understanding how, when and where to communicate with stakeholders, or understanding real-world treatment and its impacts, rich data has the potential to transform the development and delivery of treatment. The race is on to secure and integrate data, and build genuinely actionable insights. In the years to come, data-driven decision-making will no longer be a differentiator for pharma but a foundational expectation.
The agility challenge
To adapt to all of these changes effectively, there is a need to leverage digital technologies at all levels and across all aspects of the commercialization strategy, from HCP and patient engagement, to medical affairs and market access.
Many large, well-established companies struggle to adapt, as they are held back by legacy systems and outdated operational approaches that can be expensive and time-consuming to deconstruct and revitalize.
This can also prevent them from taking advantage of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), across their commercialization strategies.
The need for agile support
Strategic partners can support in overcoming agility issues across a wide range of areas:
The future of commercialization
The commercial landscape for pharmaceuticals and healthcare is constantly shifting. While we are already seeing a partial shift back to old ways of working post-Covid, things will not return exactly to how they were before the outbreak.
Keeping up with this rapid evolution comes with risk—pharma companies don’t want to invest in teams and resources for new approaches that won’t always deliver a return.
However, the right strategic partner can take on this risk on their behalf, supporting them in adapting across the whole commercialization process. They can manage all the different and complex stakeholder engagements, providing pharma companies and healthcare providers with the agility and accountability they need to continue to meet the needs of their stakeholders, whatever the future holds.
About the author
Greg Flynn is President of Ashfield Engage.
1. Ipsos E-Detailing Benchmark, March 26-April 2, 2020
2. Sermo HCP Sentiment Series Part 6, May 2021, www.sermo.com/hcp-sentiment-study-series
3. STEM Healthcare Ltd Case Study Data and Benchmark Database 2021, www.stemhealthcare.com
4. Accenture, Reinventing relevance: New models for Pharma Engagement with Healthcare Providers in a COVID-19 World, May 2020.