Pharmaceuticals must link digital to the broader business

Why does Janssen's drug Invokana consistently outperform other brands in digital channels and enjoy a high engagement rate with its target patients? Because it has a deep understanding of customers' decision journeys and has linked ‘digital’ to the broader business. It's a lesson pharmaceutical manufacturers should include in their playbooks.

Digital usage has become like the air we breathe; we cannot do without it. A digital tick-the-box precedes our every activity. Should we buy this dress? Swipe. Should we use this cream? Swipe. Should we purchase medicine brand X or Y? Swipe.

Take a look at these figures:

Despite these blaring messages, the pharma industry is dragging its feet towards the digital terrain.

The healthcare landscape is looking increasingly dynamic due to digitization. Forward-looking companies are rushing to develop agile structures, processes, and mindsets, determined not to be in the company of laggards. They know winners are not defined only by competitiveness; they must also be the fastest to adapt.

How prepared are you?

The majority of pharmaceutical companies know digital is a disruptor. Yet only 10 percent of the pharma industry uses quantified, granular data to see how digital impacts their business model and competitive environment, compared to 22 percent in other sectors.

But there is a new sunrise on the pharma horizon. Twenty-six out of 30 global pharmaceutical companies have announced significant transformations in the past five years.

There are three levels of progress in the pharma sector:

  • A high-scoring pharma company is midway through its digital transformation; they have a digital strategy but are struggling to scale initiatives and capabilities.
  • Medium-scoring companies have a strategy but aren’t sure how to execute it.
  • Companies that score lower have yet to develop a robust digital strategy.

Pharma's bottleneck

The pharmaceutical industry has traditionally been slow to change; it was an industry quietly going about its business of manufacturing and selling. Suddenly that era vanished to be replaced by one with a relentless spotlight on medicines, their safety and efficacy.

Thank you, pandemic. You have forever changed how we view drugs and their impact on our health.

So, pharma companies are diligently building analytics capabilities (because it’s the new gold) and constantly seeking partnerships to provide new insights and services. However, the data deluge is a tricky asset; if not used well, it can turn into dead weight.

Industry leaders consider analytics gaps significant barriers to realizing digital strategies. The Digital Quotient assessment (DQ) reveals pharmaceutical companies are limited not just by digital and analytics capabilities but also by specific organizational, cultural, and strategy elements.

Keeping the customer in mind

For pharma manufacturing, their way of life was to make the drugs and push them into the market. Doctors and their ilk would take care of the rest. Customer orientation was an optional pursuit. But it is now clear that they must find a new pathway. Patients and healthcare providers demand transparency, interaction, and product knowledge before making decisions, and pharma manufacturers can no longer remain behind the scenes.

A consistent lack of customer orientation was evident in Pharma’s DQ scores. It is clear that companies fail to adequately consider how patients and healthcare providers access, interact with and use their products i.e their customers’ decision journeys. Almost 40 percent of pharma companies admit they do not understand digital touchpoints well enough to map them and align them with their digital strategies

This lack of knowledge must change because customer orientation has been and will always be crucial to success in healthcare. In today’s healthcare environment, the commercial impact of products and therapies is determined as much by their patient or provider experiences as by their clinical efficacy. Pharma companies must be in step with this requirement.

Instead of focusing on channel-oriented product deliveries alone, they must acquire a penetrating customer experience view, such as focusing on how their sales force interacts with customers.

Role model

Invokana, a drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes, is an example of pharma manufacturer Janssen’s efforts to improve care. Based on its research on how disease perception, therapy management, and information-seeking behavior differ between cultures, the company launched an initiative for the US Hispanic community that assessed the content gaps and engagement opportunities for its marketing campaigns. As a result, Invokana consistently outperformed other brands in digital channels and achieved a high engagement rate from Hispanic patients.

Digital and broader business: a match made by farsighted companies

Having a high DQ means digital is no longer a silo operation; it is a part of the sum. Sixty percent of pharma companies admit their digital initiatives are only partially related to their broader business strategy. Almost all companies surveyed by McKinsey admitted their digital strategies are not systematically linked to their businesses.

In other industries, digital strategies and the broader business outlook are hitched at the hip. Top performers in pharma have understood this strategic connection, but the average pharma performer lags twice as far behind top performers.

Why? Because they build a strategy without placing digital at its center. This hollow structure is a significant barrier to effective communication with patients and physicians who are more digitally connected than ever. To engage them effectively, companies must first understand how they want to interact and then design engaging ways to meet their preferences.

Digital content experience

To remain competitive, all pharmaceutical companies must reassess patients’ and physicians’ preferences regardless of their aspirations or positioning. This assessment will open the doors to more robust digital capabilities and new approaches to engaging people.

Some practical steps to meet the new requirements:

  • Establish a direct link with business leaders and secure their commitment to top digital priorities tied to the company’s overall goals.
  • Set up a working committee or a SWAT team to support and drive these priorities.
  • Identify bottlenecks in processes and quickly eliminate them. Traditional compliance approval processes do not cut it in the digital era.
  • Build relevant content that speaks the language of the digital era.

We help clients in the pharmaceutical sector understand their customers’ decision journeys, building marketing strategies and compelling content for their audience.

To learn more, visit our website.

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