Digital Excellence in Life Sciences: What Is It and How to Achieve It

The pharmaceutical industry began its transformation toward digital excellence before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the public health crisis underlined the need for acceleration.

Pharma companies are implementing new technology to improve efficiency, gain holistic data insights, and increase collaboration within and across functions. As part of this transformation, commercial teams are also re-evaluating how they engage with healthcare professionals (HCPs).

Virtual meetings are part of a digital engagement strategy but don’t equate to digital excellence on their own. Digital excellence requires optimal use of all the digital channels favored by HCPs, complemented by in-person engagement. Pharma companies need a thoughtful plan for identifying HCPs’ preferred channels, content, and messaging. This calls for new ways of thinking and a continued focus on driving behavioral change within the commercial organization.

A pharma company that achieves digital excellence has a strong competitive advantage over companies working in siloed environments or simply using digital tactics. By focusing on omnichannel engagement, you can improve the odds that HCPs will receive and value your messaging, improving your sales potential.

What is digital excellence?

Digital excellence is the ability to use real-time insights to deliver the best customer experience, resulting ultimately in better patient outcomes.

A commercial team that exhibits digital excellence has the tools to analyze the volumes of information tied to current and potential customers: their clinical interests, their networks, and their social media involvement. Sales teams know what key people have tweeted, whether they’ve recently published papers, and which congresses they’re attending. They use that information to develop an omnichannel engagement strategy.

In a digital world, digital excellence and commercial excellence are synonymous. Whether you’re an emerging biotech or a top 20 pharma company, the end goal is to deliver your products to the patients who need them. To do so, R&D, medical affairs, and commercial must work together to address the patient’s entire healthcare ecosystem via a data-driven communications strategy.

Why is digital excellence important in life sciences?

Commercial teams that achieve digital excellence can engage with customers in the manner they prefer. More often than not, the preferred medium is digital.

In-person meetings between pharma companies and HCPs steadily declined over the past several years. During the pandemic, they stopped. Commercial teams recognize that many elements of digital are here to stay—and that’s a good thing. A few trends have emerged:
  • Nearly 70% of HCPs are now digital natives, according to research from Across Health and Veeva. These digital natives are comfortable navigating internet research and collaborating online. They expect access to on-demand content and information.
  • Video meetings drive high-quality HCP interactions. Veeva’s Pulse Field Trends Report reveals that the fundamental drivers of promotional response are time with the customer and the use of content. Video meetings combine the two efficiently for the greatest impact.
  • Few HCPs would like to revert to pre-COVID sales engagement methods. An Across Health report found that over 60% of physicians want fewer in-person engagements and more digital.
  • Face-to-face interactions and push campaigns are no longer enough. These methods have given way to patient-centric, digitally-led, two-way HCP engagement. According to Alex Day, innovation and business excellence director at AstraZeneca, the next evolution of digital will seamlessly blend in-person and digital omnichannel engagements. Person-to-person engagements will expand to many-to-many.

What’s the difference between digital engagement, omnichannel engagement, and digital excellence?

Digital engagement refers to communicating with prospects and customers through digital channels. Successful digital engagement is a key component of digital excellence.

The rise in digital engagement has prompted marketers to deliver more personalized omnichannel experiences. Whereas multichannel experiences focus on distributing content across multiple channels, omnichannel engagement ensures a seamless experience across each channel. The HCP transitions easily between mobile devices, or from digital to in-person, and one encounter informs the next.

Why should I use omnichannel engagement?

The pharma landscape is diversifying and expanding. The blockbuster era has given way to precision medicine. As therapies become more complex, HCPs want more medical and scientific information on these therapies. HCPs frequently prefer to get this information from medical science liaisons (MSLs) and reps with scientific expertise.

Meanwhile, stakeholder involvement has expanded from HCPs to include payers, and patient advocacy groups, among others. Quality matters more than quantity in high-value engagement. As this activity evolves, pharma must ensure a seamless, valuable experience for all.

Five quick wins for digital excellence

  • Use customer journey mapping to determine how to engage with HCPs, then use data to tailor engagement according to their preferences
  • Develop relevant content that answers HCPs’ questions and speaks to their clinical interests
  • Modify content so it’s suitable for both in-person and digital engagements
  • Create peer-to-peer industry interaction using digital events and webinars
  • Remember to create engagements that bring value and maintain the human connection

How do I achieve digital excellence?

If you’re on a digital transformation journey, you’re on the path to digital excellence. Achieving digital excellence requires thoughtful planning, communication, and buy-in from leadership.

Starting points for commercial teams range from setting up the right governance structure to determining content for distinct customer segments across multiple channels.

As you travel the path to excellence, keep in mind the following best practices from Alex Day at AstraZeneca:
  • Cross-collaboration is key. Marketing, sales, and field teams must communicate and share information.
  • Connect people, data, and technology for scalable execution. Remember, massive change can require significant effort.
  • With new tools comes the need for new skills, capabilities, and processes. Configure new platforms so they meet users’ day-to-day needs, rather than create extra work. And invest in good training to encourage adoption.

How can Veeva help?

Veeva is your partner on the path to digital excellence and omnichannel engagement. Our solutions work together through software, data, and consulting to help life sciences companies deepen relationships through digital excellence, insights, and user experience.

Veeva Commercial Solutions and Business Consulting provide the platform for digital excellence, powered by engagement, content, data, and analytics so you can drive more meaningful HCP experiences.

“Our customer-facing teams have the critical insights they need to tailor each interaction and deliver valuable, relevant experiences.” Alex Day, Innovation and Business Excellence Director, AstraZeneca

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