Self-service capabilities to drive Commercial and Medical engagement: Top 5 Insights from Q1 strategy sessions

Richard Marcil, Chief Customer Officer at conversationHEALTH and
Michelle Bridenbaker, Global Medical Information Lead at Idorsia

There’s little doubt that, on the back of COVID-19, business recovery and health professional engagement will be digital. Most challenging has been the reinvention of the Life Sciences Commercial go-to-market model. Adding a new channel here or there won’t fundamentally change HCP engagement or patient access. In fact, we risk overwhelming “new” digital channels like email and remote detailing. There is a big theme and opportunity around virtualizing field teams and building around-the-clock self-service capabilities that extend Commercial engagement as well as bridge to Medical support. This requires significant pivots and orchestration in “push” and “pull” activities, codified orchestration of next best actions, and a transparent, compliant interplay of Commercial and Medical interaction.

Here are the top 5 questions asked during strategy sessions relating to Commercial and Medical Affairs integration for digital customer engagement:

  1. Are physicians truly ready for digital engagement?

Physicians are not just ready — they’re expecting it. A number of industry reports over the past 12 months have revealed how significantly physician behavior has changed with respect to digital consumption, but also the preferred means of communication. While sales representatives and MSLs remain key to engagement with a Life Sciences company, they’re no longer the primary touch point. Increasingly, the relationship is shifting to a broader set of capabilities, many digital e.g. company websites, conference websites, conversational agents, virtual assistants, email, call centers, etc.

2. What does this mean for traditional roles and capabilities in Life Sciences organizations?

Physicians — like all of us — have become far more digital and expect 24/7 access to information and resources, and digital-fast responses when help is needed. In short, HCP engagement is forever changed. In no way does this lessen the need for human engagement, however. Companies need to shift from a programmatic, push-first approach, and enable real-time customer pull i.e. self-service. Human-like technologies such as conversational agents can do the heavy lifting around frequent, simple and repetitive inquiries received by Commercial and Medical, while humans support the higher value, more complex aspects of the product, therapeutic areas and clinical engagement.

3. How are companies servicing customer needs that blend both Commercial and Medical Affairs?

Fundamentally, as we operate now, HCPs need to understand company organizational structures when engaging with Sales, Marketing, Med Info, Med Ed, etc., which is unrealistic given these structures vary from company to company. When they need help, HCPs should be able to find it in the channel of their choice, 24/7/365, and in real time. Think of it as hand-raising — “Hey Merck… Hey Bayer… Hey Biogen…”. Leading companies are getting increasingly agile at responding to this hand-raising, with both Commercial and Medical playing a role here, i.e. commercial versus clinical inquiries respectively. The opportunity is for companies to engage as “one company, one voice” by re-thinking access and the customer experience by using new, more powerful technologies to engage broadly and in real time, and of course doing so compliantly.

4. How can companies break down organizational silos to deliver a better customer experience and remain compliant?

Not only do Medical Affairs and Commercial teams need to work together to drive customer engagement, but the organization as a whole has a part to play in understanding where digital solutions fit into the customer journey. There was a time when individual business units were each creating their own websites and apps, with ambiguous end-to-end customer strategy and little clarity on the actual value these channels were providing to customers. However, offering a coordinated approach, rather than independently driven activities within each silo, allows Life Sciences companies to more effectively map out the optimal customer experience driven by organization wide insights and segmented customer needs.

5. Do you foresee any regulatory issues?

Currently no, but new and coordinated approaches to customer engagement requires socialization, education and engagement of compliance teams from the outset. A compliance mindset needs to be baked into re-designed customer experiences, new technologies, and new means and processes supporting engagement. For example, conversational agents deliver a human-like experience by using natural language processing (NLP), but only utilizes pre-approved content. Therefore, the type of inquiry will dictate the type of response with an obvious separation of Commercial and Medical content or resources behind the scenes. Importantly, this approach also globalizes well. Leading companies are moving towards a global approach in rethinking and enabling customer-led engagement, and providing local affiliates with best-practice knowledge of how to scale up quickly and compliantly.

In sum, it’s imperative to make self-service a key thrust of business and digital transformation efforts. Physicians and patients WANT to interact with companies and brands, but on their terms, at the time of their choice, in real time, in the channel of their choice and, of course, connect with a human when needed.

How can we help?

Curious about what is involved in deploying conversational agents? Book a session with one of our conversational AI experts to learn how you can best leverage digital solutions to engage HCPs, patients & consumers.

The conversationHEALTH SaaS platform is purpose-built for the life sciences industry to engage with patients, consumers and healthcare professionals 24/7/365.