Owing to digitisation, the central point of business for pharmacy marketers has also evolved. Earlier the pharma industry was adopting technology progressively but due to the COVID-19 pandemic adoption of technology has been rapid and this has changed how the pharma industry interacts with doctors these days.
Doctors are central point of business for pharma marketers
Speaking on the ever-evolving relationship between the pharma marketers and doctors/ physicians, Vivek Kamath, Managing Director, Abbott India Limited, said, “As a global healthcare company, we believe that digital platforms can improve accessibility and availability of quality care – and this holds true for our interaction with doctors as well.”
“At Abbott, we engage with healthcare professionals in various ways, to adapt to their preference – be it mobile apps for quick on-the-go learning, webinars or interactions via telecalls. In the post-pandemic world, digital engagement has become central in reaching healthcare professionals, ensuring we provide them with the right medical content through preferred communication channels,” shared Kamath.
Commenting on how the healthcare industry, by and large, has accelerated the adoption of technology due to the pandemic, Yogender Singh, Senior Vice President (Cluster Head), USV Private Limited said, “Under compulsion during COVID-19 they were supposed to use the technology. Now with this technology they have learnt and understood that yes it is going to support them in their marketing but the pivot has not changed. It is a medical dependency which remains the centre point. But they are using the technology to complement along with the medical representatives. So currently the connector with the customer is the physical connection which is done by the variable, the medical representative and then this digital connection is taken. The virtual connect calls have been initiated for tier III-IV, town doctors whom the representatives are meeting once a month. Now they’re using the virtual platforms to connect to them at least twice a month.”
Earlier uncovered markets which were neglected, the pandemic has helped in leveraging technology where various platforms are being used to establish some form of connection with the end-user.
Impact on pharma marketing due to doctor-patient engagement during the pandemic
Technology has been improving the methodologies deployed in every sphere and pharma marketing is no different. Technology hasn’t been replacing or substituting the medical repository, it has been complimenting it. Medical representatives are harnessing various digital tools to interact with doctors/ physicians other than the time spent in the doctors’ cabins explaining the drugs. “Technology possesses the potential to revolutionise the Indian healthcare industry by placing the patients at the centre of the ecosystem. New-age technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of things (IoT) can immensely help in increasing healthcare accessibility, early diagnosis, clinical decision making, and optimise performance and operational efficiency and therefore can reduce the stress on the healthcare ecosystem,” shared Alok Malik, Group Vice President and Head of India Formulations, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
Adding to this Singh mentioned, “Before the pandemic, the general preference was to prefer visiting a doctor physically for consultation or interaction with medical representatives. But this has changed to a large extent as habits changed in the past two years. While teleconsultations have been talked about for a long time, the onset of COVID-19 led to a 500 per cent increase in teleconsultations in India.”
Striving towards providing real-time tools and evidence-based resources to empower clinicians to improve health outcomes. Ruchi Tushir, VP & GM, Wolters Kluwer, GGM India stated, ”Doctors have been demanding and asking for personalised, modular, timely and effective virtual content, which allows them to be absolutely up to speed on the latest scenarios and medical contracts. And hence, it’s becoming even more important for pharma brands to enhance the visibility to doctors using relevant medical content.”
“Our aim is to help clinicians meaningfully impact health outcomes across a diverse by providing access to healthcare data, trends, and scalable technologies,” added Tushir.
“We have observed changed consumer behaviour and a rise in digitalisation, accelerated by the current pandemic. Digital health can revolutionise the patient journey and bridge gaps in access by providing a holistic and personalised approach to delivering care, regardless of location. This vision rests on establishing a unified, data-driven and pan-India health system. Such a system will help India achieve a true continuum of care and enhance treatment outcomes. Efforts to build this system must be guided by certain organising principles, as well as key policies and laws that ensure a favourable environment to foster further digital growth,” added Kamath.
Digital tools lead to better doctor engagement outcomes
Technology has played a crucial role in engaging with doctors and has been helpful in gathering insights during the engagement based on behaviour and geographies. “Almost our entire field force uses e-detailing tools and varied communication channels to connect with healthcare professionals. We have mobile apps, portals, and omnichannel engagement tools that help us engage more with doctors in a way that reflects their changing habits and preferences,” remarked Kamath.
Commenting on the launch of a chatbot for people suffering from fungal infection, “Glenmark recently launched ‘Hello Skin’, India’s first WhatsApp-based chatbot which not only helps patients get the desired information about fungal infection in a user-friendly format but also improves adherence to recommended topical/systemic therapy with daily medication reminders,” said Malik.
Role of evidence-based medical content in the digital world
Evidence-based medical content addressing the general public is important to help debunk myths and provide factual information on disease trends, risk factors, and potential outcomes of treatment.
The focus should be on impact-driven healthcare innovation, trusted clinical technologies and evidence-based solutions to empower healthcare professionals in India to improve patient care for everyone, everywhere. “There are many ways in which doctors can use solutions that can help improve the clinical effectiveness tools, which help doctors in taking the right decision at the point of care by offering relevant content at the time when doctors most need it. Evidence-based information, which they can trust on CDS tools, ensures that doctors have this tool when they’re treating a patient and influences the outcome of patient care. It’s equally important to provide them options and access to information, which they can trust and place full confidence on findings, recommendations, or grading, which makes them feel that what they will be recommending out of this content is truly helping in improving patient care,” commented Tushir.
“We are also looking at how to make it easy for doctors to be looking at this aggregated content, instead of going to different places to find the most important information on when they’re trying to treat the patients. With the advent of digital technology we’ve seen, it’s becoming easier and easier for us to provide that point of care. From a clinical standpoint, from a drug standpoint, and a referential information standpoint, to truly drive that clinical decision support a notch above what is happening,” concluded Tushir.
“We have created a platform known as a:care, that provides a holistic health service designed to help people achieve better health. a:care includes digital tools based on behavioural science to empower people to take small, manageable steps, rewarding positive action and building lasting change to improve adherence. The objective is to help bridge communication between consumers and doctors to ensure a supportive, cohesive approach to managing health. In creating a:care, we worked with the leading scientists in behavioural science to redefine how health care professionals and patients interact. To support healthcare professionals in better understanding how to best engage with their patients and help them build lasting health habits, we are working on a simple-to-use mobile app that helps healthcare professionals access the latest medical and scientific literature – case papers, scientific journals, publications, videos, all in one place. We believe that the advent of a new digital era, calls for investments in technology assets and the development of expertise, including knowledge-sharing and training initiatives for frontline health workers and healthcare professionals on supporting patients in their journey with the help of technology. The end goal is to ensure people can live healthier lives,” stated Kamath.
Going forward digitisation is going to hold the key to engaging with doctors/physicians as well as the end-user. Pharma marketers will be relying on digital tools to assist them in getting the right insights to market their drugs across various geographies and this is going to help streamline the demand and supply and help the stock move faster.