Innovation and digitization in the Healthcare industry

Written by:
Joaquim Grau, Manager at Alfa Consulting

The world of health is rapidly changing, adapting to the new habits and roles of patients, professionals and health services. On the one hand, a greater empowerment of patients has been developed in the decision making with regard to their treatments. On the other hand, the consolidation between suppliers and cost control by public and private health providers has led to a greater focus on cost-benefit analysis when promoting the use of certain treatments compared to others. In addition, the increasingly widespread introduction of diagnostic and treatment protocols, as well as the implementation of more restrictive ethical codes, has generated the appearance of rejection phenomena of medical visits by physicians, especially in primary care.

These factors are resulting in a reduction of doctors’ decision-making power over treatments and greater competitiveness when accessing health services.  All of this entails that the commercial models based on promotion through the medical appointment are shown to be less and less effective. Faced with this scenario, it is necessary to look for new ways to boost prescription, which means adapting commercial models in the pharmaceutical industry.

In the heat of these changes, different initiatives, work methodologies and tools enabling the adaption of business models are emerging. In this article we intend to review 4 of the main lines followed in this adaptation.

  1. New communication channels:

With the emergence of new technologies and social networks, a range of communication channels is opened with the different stakeholders within the patient’s journey. This also implies a change in the way doctors, patients and other health professionals use it to stay informed, interact or even solve doubts.

A rational use of these by companies allows selecting messages tailored to each profile and send them using the most relevant channels in each case. As a result, it is possible to increase the impact of the actions we carry out while reducing the cost of the campaigns.

However, we must not forget that this is a sector with many restrictions and compliance limitations that also apply to the online world. This extensive regulation means that online marketing actions can only be directed to the consumer in non-prescription medicines (OTC). Therefore, many habitual strategies in social networks for non-OTC products are discarded. Given this limitation, a frequent strategy is to focus on the pharmacists themselves and health providers, or on the creation of private virtual communities, where both patients and doctors can exchange opinions and information.

  1. Strategies “beyond the pill”

Health authorities and health services are concerned about the return provided by treatments, especially when approving new drugs or including them in the financing system. At the same time, we have seen an increase in molecules and treatments available for many diseases such as COPD, hypertension, diabetes or even in certain rare diseases that has made these markets more competitive. Given this situation, a good strategy is to add value to the pharmacological treatment with additional services beyond the traditional treatment of the disease.

These “beyond the pill” strategies can be used as an additional service offered to patients undergoing treatment, through which the assistance of public or private health services is complemented by covering other unmet needs.

Another line of development of “beyond the pill” strategies is to increase the value perceived by other stakeholders, such as doctors, nurses, hospital managers or patient associations through the development of specific programs focused on solving deficiencies along the patient journey. The development of programs of this type allows positioning the brand and products in a less aggressive way than the medical visit and, in addition, provides solutions that improve the work of health professionals and the lives of patients.

  1. Agile promotional campaigns

Faced with this complex and changing scenario, it is necessary to implement innovative organizational models that enable quick adaptation and also encourage learning.

Concepts emerged in companies and technological startups, such as Design thinking, Lean start up, MVP (minimum viable product), iterative models or team management using Agile, can be great allies in this transformation.

The goal is to be able to create and disseminate promotional cycles quickly, developing, testing, evaluating and changing messages and materials as we measure their impact and response.

Implementing an agile development model requires organizational transformations, processes and team management with the aim of:

  • Breaking interdepartmental silos and with the stakeholders, work in multidisciplinary teams where the main departments involved are represented during the preparation and launch of the promotional cycles, as well as the vision of the stakeholders (sales, marketing, medical department and even compliance and market Access).
  • Development of equipment management systems that promote self-management, enabling the creative development of its members.
  • Define and standardize the process for the development of the cycles reducing the time dedicated to organizational activities, administration and repetitive tasks.
  1. New data analysis and visualization tools:

Thanks to the development of platforms such as Tableau, Qlick and Power Bi, the interactive analysis and visualization of data has been democratized, making available to all users tools that allow complex statistical analysis and attractive designs.

Facilitating our teams to have the relevant information needed to make decisions in their daily activities, ensuring that they make the right decisions at all times. The conception of these platforms and the information that we make available to each of them must be carefully designed in order to really serve their purpose: to help decision making. A common mistake is to give access to a large number of data and indicators, which in the end forces the users to navigate among them to find what they are looking for and ends up hindering the team’s decision-making. As a result we will have obtained just the opposite of what we were looking for.

In conclusion, digitization and new forms of work are great allies for the pharmaceutical industry when it comes to rethinking their promotional strategies. It is clear that in the coming years it will be necessary to adapt to increasingly competitive and constantly evolving scenarios.

Although the multiple opportunities provided by these technologies and methodologies are evident, we should not overlook that in order to get the most out of them, it is necessary to establish clear objectives and a well defined implementation strategy.