To respond best to the changes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, pharma companies should consider reorienting their commercial models to fit the needs of healthcare providers and patients better. [McKinsey, April 2020]
The dramatic reduction in Pharma representative face to face visits to Healthcare Professionals [HCPs] during this year will impact the role of the pharma representative forever. Across most markets a new way of working has been forged out of necessity, requiring the rapid adoption of technologies to stay connected to our customers and to each other.
This changed healthcare environment requires a new remote customer relationship operating model to foster the building of long-term deep relationships between geographically distant Pharma brand teams and our customers.
Virtual Provision of Healthcare
The number of patients visiting clinics has reduced in many markets, out of fear of infection or necessary clinical prioritisation. An initial stockpiling of medicines may have softened the impact for some brands. However, reduced consultations will undoubtedly result in fewer tests and diagnoses, leading to a reduction in treatment and prescriptions. This will be a growing concern for many brands, and for those involved in the broader management of chronic illnesses. The risk is not only economic: a rise in community health issues is almost certainly lurking around the next corner of the pandemic recovery cycle.
During these challenging times, HCPs have found ways to get the information they need from Pharma other than through face to face representative calls. They have done this via:
- the telephone;
- webinar attendance;
- virtual conference participation;
- email and SMS exchanges;
- and by searching Pharma and other websites;
HCPs have also found ways to continue the provision of healthcare: some continuing to see a limited number of patients face to face; and/or through the use of telemedicine and virtual consultations. While the convenience of these new service channels has been appreciated, HCPs included in a survey by McKinsey, do not believe it will become the norm. Long-term adoption of a virtual HCP to patient model may be market-specific and driven by other forces such as government policy or market demographics.
However, HCP virtual consultations will see some level of demand into the future, just as virtual connections between HCPs and Pharma have become more widely accepted.
It will be critical that each pharma company build new ways to interact with physicians in deep and meaningful ways. For some, that imperative will serve as a catalyst to make changes that they have been looking to make for years (such as a shift toward customer centricity, digital interactions, and new ways of working). [McKinsey, April 2020]
There will always be some need for Pharma representatives to communicate with HCPS and their associates, and many representatives have found ways to continue engagements as needed using virtual tools.. Remote engagements are likely to continue to rise as part of a blended digital-physical, push-pull engagement model.
Customer-Centric Engagement Model
We hear from clients that the hot topics today are resource allocation and the upskilling of commercial teams to deliver an effective remote and / or hybrid engagement model.
In some ways, the pandemic has helped accelerate the design and implementation of a customer-centric engagement model that has been talked about for the last 10-15 years. The risk of losing short term sales has been outweighed by the absolute necessity to serve customers in accessible channels.
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The Actando Consulting Team