Going Digital: HCP’s View of the New Engagement Model

At Veeva Summit this year, I had the opportunity to host a discussion with Dr. Andrew J. Moore, the Medical Director at Southeast Missouri State Health Cancer Center, to talk about how his practice has evolved as social distancing has become the new normal in the face of COVID-19.

What has life been like at the Cancer Center since COVID-19 hit?

Obviously, every area of medicine and specialty has been impacted by COVID-19. Our practice is about 80% oncology, 20% hematology. The majority of our patients were on active treatment and more concerned about their cancer growing or not getting their cancer treated as opposed to COVID-19. But that said, we put in many procedures for screening our patients, limiting traffic through the clinic because these are very immunocompromised and susceptible patients.

As for telemedicine capabilities, I’ll be honest, we’ve never really been forced to do much in the telemedicine world. I will tell you, there are a lot of growing pains there and I don’t foresee any way that telemedicine is as efficient for the providers and the health care staff as face-to-face visits.

As you think about pharma beyond the medicines that they deliver, what is it that you value most from the industry?

Pharma has gotten a bad rap in the public and media, but my biggest appreciation for pharma and what they do is the fact that I have been a practicing oncologist for seven years and there’s not one patient of mine who wasn’t able to get the medication they needed – regardless of insurance status. So, first and foremost, that is the most impactful thing and what I appreciate most about working with the pharma industry.

The life sciences industry provides information to help pharma sales reps call on you. What do you think about the value that the sales reps deliver to you?

I see their value in being the gateway or the liaison to that company and most importantly, helping us get product. But for me personally, I would say what I depend on and appreciate the most from sales reps is help with toxicity management. In our world of oncology, there’s not a treatment that we give that does not have a significant chance of having some type of treatment-related toxicity.

With all of these newer therapies, immunotherapies, and targeted treatments, many of them have very unique toxicity profiles. So, from my standpoint, the information and the education that they provide would be the most beneficial. I think as providers, we all read the same high impact journals so we know about the space in which we want to use your particular drug, but some of the more real-world applications might get buried in these articles. It’s nice to have reps act as quick resources there.

Can you talk a little bit about visits from pharma reps? Are they typically scheduled? What do you do in between visits when you have questions?

I tend to limit my face-to-face encounters and meetings with reps to one day per week. Usually this happens when I’m at a satellite facility, a different location than our cancer center here in Missouri. This location is usually a slower paced clinic with not as much patient volume so there’s a little more flexibility to discuss issues with a rep. There are 10 to 12 different reps that we frequently meet with, so about once a quarter we’ll meet back up with that rep face-to-face. In between, I ask my nursing staff to reach out to them with what I need.

As field teams have been grounded more and more, they’re not able to get access to people like you or to your staff. You recently used Veeva CRM Engage Meeting, the virtual meeting capability from Veeva, to meet with some reps. Can you share what that experience was like for you?

With COVID-19, there’s really been zero interaction since early March. I was using immunotherapy products from two companies and both have been great to work with. They’ve been very generous in making sure that all of our patients who need the drug get it. They reached out to me by a text message and asked if I would mind doing a virtual visit.

I’ll be honest, I’m not that tech savvy and so I was a little skeptical at first about the ease with which they said it would be to connect. But even at this satellite office, I was able to have a 10-minute visit on Veeva CRM Engage Meeting with both of these reps. I will tell you, I got more out of the visit; my staff liked it, it was more on my time, and honestly, it was more efficient to have a virtual meeting.

They had my direct attention. I’m in my office, there’s nobody coming up to me having me sign scripts or asking me questions, and I had their slides right in front of me on the computer. It was very easy to navigate and communicate through.

You mentioned that digital engagements were more efficient. Can you elaborate on how the information was presented differently than during a live meeting?

I would say the biggest difference is we got straight to the meat and potatoes of the information that they wanted to give me. In a live presentation, we’re all collegial, personable and so there’s a lot of small talk. In a break room setting there are multiple people from my nursing staff still coming in, asking questions. I’m signing scripts; I would say there’s a lot more interruption. For instance, they were scheduled to come in at noon, and I’ve got an overbook. I’m trying to just squeeze in a few minutes to not be disrespectful and to give them the time that they deserve. So not having to deal with that is what made digital meetings more efficient.

When things return back to normal and you have the choice of face-to-face meetings versus digital, what would you prefer going forward?

Without a doubt, digital is the way to go. It’s short and sweet, more efficient, and the world’s about efficiency these days. The biggest impact that COVID-19 has had on our clinic is just efficiency and the workflow of the day. So, I would like to see the virtual type of visit continue.

Discover more best practices for optimizing digital engagement here.

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