Lockdowns, mobility limits, and social distancing protocols have rapidly pushed healthcare services and patient monitoring to remote alternative, increasingly opening the door for greater use of telemedicine, digital therapeutics, and decentralized clinical trials. The pandemic has also altered conventional sales and marketing methods by increasing need for online marketing and communication technologies.

Since the pandemic, the industry has been taking small steps toward digital adoption, but there is still a long way to go before adopting an end-to-end, digital strategy. Therefore, before we dive any further into this, it is crucial to go back to basics and really understand what this ‘digital transformation’ requires.

Pharmaceutical companies all across the world are using advanced machine learning algorithms and AI-powered technologies to accelerate the drug discovery process. Adoption of AI can enhance the success rates of new drugs and treatments, develop more economical treatments and cures, and, most notably, lower operating expenses. Machine learning and IoT, including Robotics, have also been leveraged for automation of warehouses, driverless transportation, drone-based deliveries etc., all which can all be of vital significance for temperature-controlled Pharma supply chains.

Beyond the pill and building trust

Pharmaceutical industry does rely on social media and content marketing to advance their product and messaging, but their approach is limited. The use of digital media for the pharmaceutical industry is a very small part of the ‘digital transformation’, the need of the hour is a consumer-based approach which goes beyond the pill. Building consumer interactions is becoming increasingly important. Pharmaceutical companies have traditionally relied on customer trust to sell their products, but what lies beyond trust is a long-term relationship. This is where we see pharma firms no longer being a ‘solution’ to a problem.

Digital tools and data analytics

Since COVID-19, companies have been forced to upgrade their systems and learn how to facilitate employees working from home. This shift, which was expected to occur over the next 5 to 10 years, has instead occurred in a few of months.

Since many patients do not feel as safe attending to in-person visits as they did before Covid-19, the usage of digital health has grown in popularity among physicians during the pandemic. Furthermore, virtual medicine has been important in minimising the virus's transmission and the strain on emergency departments.

Before COVID-19, the percentage of patients using remote consultation was very low (only 6%); however, digital health has gained momentum and at least 19% of consultations are expected to continue remotely after the pandemic subsides (Source: Statista). Pharmaceutical businesses have also viewed digitization as an opportunity to strengthen their business models. It offers a new potential stakeholder experience that allows them to engage directly with customers.

360-degree view of physician and patient

Using big data in health care may give a 360-degree perspective of physician, patient, and consumer trends, allowing companies to increase customization and efficiency of treatments. COVID-19 underlined the significance of converting data into a digital format in order to create worldwide databases. These databases store large amounts of data to help scientists and physicians increase understanding of both medications and patients in order to promote innovation. This infrastructure will enable open partnerships throughout the sector, which will result in enhanced outcomes.

Digitization toward sales and marketing

During COVID-19, pharmaceutical firms had difficulties in attracting certain target groups. It is uncertain how pharmaceutical companies will establish relationships with various stakeholders such as physicians and patients. These unexpected social lockdowns and restrictions are pushing new, meaningful methods of connecting with others through multi access. COVID-19 has compelled pharmaceutical companies to adopt reactive, rather than proactive, sales strategies that are focused on the crisis and short-term fixes.

Building and Omnichannel strategy

Pharmaceutical companies must tailor their marketing with new enticing commercial models in the long run. Companies should evaluate how to create an integrated experience that comprises a mix of channels with relevant information and a tailored approach to customer communication. To enhance the experience, each customer should be reached via their preferred channel and delivered both personalised and branded documents. The development of an omnichannel strategy allows pharmaceutical companies to be adaptable and ready for changes in client behaviour or requirements.

Mapping the journey

Pharma companies have concentrated on the disease and the remedy but charting the consumer’s full journey from illness to health is more involved and occurs in phases. These steps are often handled by diverse parties, but if pharmaceutical companies were to take command of each point along this path, they might effectively serve consumers with continuous care.

Leading to transformation

This is where technology leads the way. The industry must produce assets that can be built and developed individually. This involves optimising digital tools and developing interactive interfaces to create ecosystems that advise and assist patients throughout their healthcare experience. This can be done in a number of ways such as artificial intelligence; data analytics; and using apps and software. In the unprecedented times that we are in, digital transformation must happen at a rapid pace. We can re-imagine and re-define how the pharmaceutical sector is regarded overall by using AI and data analytics, and now is the best time for this transformation to happen. This won’t be easy but there are ways to navigate this journey and that’s where communication plays a crucial role. The two things that drive business in the pharmaceutical industry are narrative and necessity. The necessity is established and now there is a need for digital transformation. Now, people will increasingly look for 360-degree solutions rather than running from pillar to post seeking medical assistance.

It is time to reinvent the pharma narrative and digitally shift into an era of ‘disease to wellness’ collaboration, and communication agencies will lead the way.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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