New Commercial Model: Making Relationships Real in a Digital Age

Can field reps create the emotional connection of an in-person meeting with a healthcare professional (HCP) when they can only meet remotely? Veeva’s Europe Commercial & Medical Summit explored how the new commercial model in life sciences is doing just that, using trusted relationships and new technology to forge productive contacts in an increasingly complex healthcare ecosystem.

“We’re all getting to a point where that hybrid mix is going to be what helps us the most,” said Monica Shaw, executive vice president and head of Europe, Canada, and Australia for LEO Pharma, in the summit’s keynote session. Timmo Andersen, head of Human Pharma Regions for Boehringer Ingelheim, added that he believes it is possible to have the feeling of in-person engagement in a digital world. “We need to build an easy, fast, and super relevant engagement with our customers,” he said. “If we do that, we can still have that emotional connection.”

Digital-native HCPs source their information

As Life sciences companies adapt to changing customer needs, expectations and behaviours we have seen an evolution of the commercial model to reflect this. Engagement now needs to be channel fluid and a blend of physical and digital and support a broader ecosystem of stakeholders. Data and insights needs to drive the experience for maximum impact and enable greater dialogue and hyperconnectivity with and between HCPs. Finally, maintaining that human touch is essential.

Face-to-face meetings with HCPs were on the decline even before COVID as customer needs and preferences continued to evolve, said Alex Day, innovation and business excellence director for AstraZeneca UK, in the commercial model keynote. Now that most HCPs are digital natives, they are in a position to compel change. “Sourcing information from the Internet and collaborating online is a way of life for them outside of work and in clinical practice,” Day said. “They are in control of where and what content they do and don’t engage with. The industry needs to provide valuable and relevant content and experiences where our customers already are.”

That is not the only driver of change, Day noted. In the U.K., the National Health Service (NHS) implemented a digital-first strategy during the pandemic, mandating that both primary care patients and outpatients should be seen via telemedicine unless there was a clinical or practical reason not to do so. The NHS’ decision resulted in over 70% of consultations being done online at the peak of the pandemic, he said.

To better serve HCPs and health systems, AstraZeneca is evolving from a push model to thinking about how it can improve customer experience through better dialogue and collaboration with its customers, Day said. In addition, the application of preference data and historical engagement data is central to the company’s ability to tailor customer engagement. “This is all about engaging with precision,” Day added, “making the right decisions at every interaction point, so you know what the best action and content is for your customer.”

Blending digital and in-person engagement

This blend of physical and digital drives the need for new skills and capabilities in field teams. Responding and navigating more complex healthcare systems with changing needs takes a more strategic and connected approach with a different type of value proposition and solutions focused on shared value. The rep of the future will need to operate differently to today.

Astellas had also been looking for ways to blend digital and in-person engagement, but “when the pandemic hit, we jumped from first to fifth gear” to do that, said Kate Pain, the company’s associate director of global omnichannel operations, who was recognized as a Veeva Hero at the Summit.

In just six weeks, Pain got Veeva CRM Engage Meeting running in 44 countries. Since then, Astellas’ commercial and medical reps have hosted more than 90,000 remote calls, and their average duration has been 30% higher than the Veeva Pulse industry benchmark. To make digital engagement happen as swiftly as it did, Astellas focused on doing a few things well and prioritized three must-have channels: remote engagement, HCP portal, and rep-sent emails. It also began the rollout in the countries that were the most digitally mature.

The work, said Pain, has left an “indelible imprint” on Astellas’ commercial model. “There’s an increasing acceptance to challenge business as usual,” she said, “and Astellas has become more confident and exploratory, piloting new assets in select regions with a view to learning and optimizing.” (Watch the session: Astellas: Digital Engagement Excellence)

A new solution for HCP-centric dialogue

Summit attendees were introduced to a new digital solution for engaging with doctors. Veeva Engage Connect gives field teams everything they need to connect with HCPs in the ways that these professionals prefer. They can also have compliant, chat messaging and share content with them.

It also provides a better experience for HCPs. They can search for their field rep, initiate a compliant chat, schedule calls, and even request samples or literature for more timely customer service. That functionality takes Engage Connect beyond other tools that doctors might be using, such as WhatsApp or SMS messaging, and does so in a unified, transparent way.

And while Engage Connect can allow HCPs to connect with many different companies, Bryce Davis, Veeva’s senior director of commercial strategy for Engage Connect, stressed that it is not a self-serve portal. “What this is meant to be is to help connect and build stronger, better relationships,” he said.

Connections in Engage Connect will be between an HCP and a life sciences company, Davis added, which means that the company can hand off the relationship to new reps as needed. Engage Connect is already available for biopharma field teams and the solution will be integrated into Veeva CRM in early 2022. (Watch the session: Redefining the HCP-Rep Relationship With Engage Connect.)

Content, data & analytics, and more

The Europe Commercial & Medical Summit also took deep dives into content operation models and improving content creation, as well as into expanding the usage of data and analytics, and using digital tools to better support medical affairs teams. Each of these elements will add to companies’ capabilities as they build out their new commercial models.

“The healthcare system is complex, but it is also a system under pressure,” said Boehringer Ingelheim’s Andersen. “And if we think our healthcare systems are under pressure now, let’s dial the clock 10 years forward: Demographics will put the systems under so much pressure that what we do today will not be enough. Pharma needs to put in radical innovation over the next 10 years, and digitalization has to be one of the solutions. It will allow us and our customers to record, understand, measure, and demonstrate real value around the patients.”

To learn more, watch all of the Europe Commercial & Medical Summit sessions on the new commercial model and explore Veeva’s Digital Engagement Hub.

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