How Pharma Can Become More HCP-Centric: 4 Insights from GSK

As a former pharma sales rep and first-line sales manager, one of the worst feelings in the field was showing up at a doctor’s office during a busy time. There was always an element of guilt when the doctor called me in while patients waited.

To mitigate situations like these here at GSK, we’ve adopted two-way digital channels like Veeva CRM Engage to help healthcare professionals (HCPs) choose how and when they interact with our teams. The process has given us a lot of new insights about our customers and the industry. Here are a few of the things we’ve learned.

1. HCPs are developing an affinity for digital channels

The rise of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic gave HCPs and patients more flexibility through online appointments, pharmacies, wearables, and sensors that extend the outpatient experience beyond the doctor’s office.

These experiences have changed expectations and moved many of our customers toward proficiency with digital channels.

A post-pandemic study found that virtual visits now make up anywhere from 13% to 17% of outpatient visits across specialties, a 38x increase from pre-pandemic values. The same study also found that 84% of physicians were still offering virtual visits, with 57% indicating that they would prefer to continue virtual visits.

Most importantly, 58% of HCPs surveyed continue to view telehealth more favorably than before the pandemic—a metric that shows they’re comfortable using these digital channels.

2. New digital channels require new communication norms

While you’re unlikely to stand up and walk out of an auditorium at a face-to-face meeting, you’ll probably not hesitate to leave a virtual event if it doesn’t catch your attention immediately.

To communicate effectively across digital channels, you need to focus on responsiveness, adding value with the ability to give customers what they need, exactly when they need it.

This approach requires thinking about engagement strategy in virtual contexts—how do you keep things interactive and interesting enough to keep an HCP’s attention? Content needs to be optimized so HCPs can see what’s in it for them right away. On the other hand, it also requires the ability to address an HCP’s concerns at speed so they can provide the best service to their patients.

Responsiveness is key to our implementation of digital channels today, and CRM Engage has played a big part in improving how we support our HCPs. With Engage and specifically the Engage Connect capability of the platform, HCPs can ask for a sample, schedule a virtual meeting, or request educational content—our field teams are only one chat away. It gives us more options to get an HCP the answers they need when they need them, and in the format an HCP prefers.

3. Two-way engagement complements field teams

Of course, a two-way digital channel like CRM Engage will require communication with your field to help them understand its value. When we start discussing any kind of multichannel engagement with customers, there can be concern from some field members over whether it would replace the representative role since it provides HCPs with new options to connect.

However, we see CRM Engage supplementing face-to-face interactions, putting reps in control of their customer relationships—and we ensure the field understands this. We are suggesting that a digitally enabled representative can use free text chat, content sharing, or receiving a sample request to remain more relevant and valuable to their target audience.

These different touchpoints add glue between existing rep meetings and make these meetings more memorable for the HCP. It also helps field teams better prepare for these conversations since they learn more about the customer with each touchpoint.

It’s about filling in those gaps between face-to-face or virtual meetings and building continuity in the HCP-to-rep relationship. This new pull channel helps GSK meet the demands of our customers in a simple, responsive, and compliant way.

4. The life sciences industry is falling behind

Recently I attended a cross-industry roundtable with sales operations leaders. It was eye-opening to see how other industries can access detailed customer preferences, create customized user flows across channels, and find new ways to put the customer at the center.

The HCPs we talk to aren’t just our customers. They’re customers in all kinds of different sectors, and the customer experiences they have in these other sectors will affect their expectations regarding life sciences.

Their preference for virtual engagement is a sign of these changing expectations. The latest Veeva Pulse Field Trends Report found that 75% of HCPs want to keep or increase the amount of digital interactions they have with the industry.

Though the pandemic has pushed us as an industry to move toward digital, now’s the time to think about how we can do digital better. How do we streamline our processes, build KPIs, and, using the insights we learn from data, develop our teams to serve HCPs better?

I don’t have all the answers, and we’re still figuring a lot of this out. However, having the insights and two-way communication capabilities to meet, connect, and share has given us a foundation for thinking about digital engagement on a whole new level.

And with time, this foundation, providing HCPs with access to a single source of content, will help us find new ways to be more customer-centric in the life sciences industry and get the right treatments to more patients.

65% of European HCPs limit engagement to three companies or less. Read the Veeva Pulse Field Trends Report and find out how HCPs are getting more selective in their accessibility.

Dave Yates is Global Product Director at GSK.

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