The pharmaceutical industry has been a relatively slow response to the adoption of new technologies. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst for this long-standing revolutionary change in the industry, making it highly responsive and adaptive. From the entire supply chain to drug production and clinical trials, pharmaceutical companies rely on technology to create a digitally-driven medical world. Many well-established pharmaceutical players have redefined their supply chain management, managing workplace safety and following government orders while producing vaccines and medicines.
As a result, pharmaceutical companies have created a more patient-centric ecosystem due to the increased use of automation, digital and analytical tools. They are now focusing on reorganizing their assets and supply chain with more agility and transparency. As the industry moved towards crisis management and recovery, companies reassessed their business models and changed their view of technology.
Digital engagement with physicians
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a tipping point and has changed the way doctors interact with patients. This has prompted pharmaceutical companies to redefine their approach to marketing to physicians. Before the start of the pandemic, pharmaceutical representatives spent most of their time traveling and waiting outside doctors’ offices, which also affected their efficiency at work and resulted in infrequent visits. Doctors only spend an average of 40 to 45 seconds with a pharmacy representative, according to a research report, reducing interaction with the doctor. In the wake of COVID-19, healthcare professionals have restricted physical meetings and switched to teleconsultation for remote patient screening. With doctor visits moving online as well as in-person consultations, pharmaceutical companies are focusing on physical and digital interactions through calls, videos, texts, emails, and WhatsApp messages.
According to a recent report, Indian doctors prefer communication through WhatsApp, which has a click-through rate of more than 3.5 times that of emails and 24 times that of SMS. Given the opportunities offered by digital communication tools, pharmaceutical marketers are also focusing on sharing engaging content with physicians via digital media. With this, the average engagement reached more than 20 doctors, from 8 to 10 doctors per day.
On the other hand, changes in the pharmaceutical industry due to the adoption of technology are revolutionizing patient engagement. Pharmaceutical companies are focusing on developing digital marketing strategies to give patients more information that increases their role in decision-making and enables them to manage their well-being. Additionally, companies are adopting the right patient engagement strategies to collect data and gain insightful insights, which in turn improves the patient experience and R&D.
Leverage the use of data generated by medical devices
With a multitude of wearable devices, trackers and sensors available in the market, it has become easier for pharmaceutical companies to obtain information on patient behavior. Pharmaceuticals can leverage robust data sets to optimize clinical trials. Apart from this, the integration of AI into medical devices in real time and the digitalization of medical records (EMRs) have become essential parts of clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies.
The availability of data sets creates meaningful real-world evidence studies (RWE) that shorten the clinical product development cycle. Based on patient characteristics and the data collected, pharmaceutical companies identify unmet medical needs. Additionally, data collected from wearable devices helps decision making at an early stage of product development, which further helps in understanding how patients respond to a particular drug. As a result, the manufacturer gains speed and accuracy in product development while eliminating unnecessary costs.
Integrating AI into drug development
The pharmaceutical industry experiences a high attrition rate in drug development. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly 50% of all investigational drugs fail in Phase III trials. To overcome these challenges, the pandemic has opened up opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to integrate AI into their drug development process. AI uses personified knowledge and presents solutions to complex problems. Due to the increase in R&D costs, the efficiency and speed of drug development is reduced, resulting in high attrition rate in new drug approvals. So, pharmaceutical companies are finding ways to collaborate with AI-based drug discovery companies to improve the efficiency of drug development and make groundbreaking changes in the traditional development process.
Although the pharmaceutical industry has realized the potential of advanced technologies, COVID-19 is the first humanitarian crisis that has accelerated the adoption of digital practices in the industry. Digital practices not only help pharmaceutical companies interact with physicians digitally, but they also help deliver an enhanced and personalized customer experience. By opting for an offline and digital marketing mix, pharmaceutical companies can reap the benefits of cost savings and operational efficiency even after the pandemic is over. Therefore, it will enable pharmaceutical companies to ensure an effective pharmaceutical marketing strategy.
Through Gaurav Gupta, co-founder of Navia Life Care – a healthcare technology startup
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