The Use of Conversational Agents in Medical Information: 5 Frequently Asked Questions

Danielle Pagnan, Director of Client Success at conversationHEALTH

Med Info conversational agents have become the easiest means for healthcare practitioners (HCPs) to access valuable disease state and drug-related information 24/7/365, diverging from traditional information seeking methods such as engaging a sales representative or calling a Med Info 1–800 line. Here I summarize my 5 most Frequently Asked Questions relating to why Med Info conversational agents and why now:

1. Why Med Info conversational agents?

In short, Med Info conversational agents are the fastest and easiest way of accessing scientific content — on and off label. They are designed to provide easy-to-consume information about a product or condition, in the channel of their choice, with no holds, no call backs and no waiting until normal business hours. The benefit of that customer satisfaction and a reduction in Med Info call center volumes, allowing for medical information specialists to focus their time on unique high-demand inquiries.

2. Why now?

Sales Reps and MSLs had been getting less face time with HCPs and, with the pandemic, this is shifting to a permanent change as HCPs further adopt digital behaviors and expect always-on digital support. Med Info conversational agents can become the go-to resource for a company’s entire drug portfolio, certainly something we’re seeing in North America and Europe — and soon Japan. Furthermore, conversational agents yield tremendous insights on customer wants and needs, at the individual level and in aggregate, and allows the business to drive additional Medical-to-Medical innovation, e.g. Med Ed, Market Access, etc.

3. How do you start and scale?

At conversationHEALTH, we help customers through these 5 phases of work: (1) discovery and strategic planning; (2) CX/UX design and platform configuration; (3) conversation development and approvals; (4) technical development, QA and deployment; and (5) ongoing optimizations. For Med Info teams, some of the most important strategic work is portfolio planning pre-launch, though, e.g. brand groupings (promoted versus legacy), or therapeutic area(s), or full portfolio coverage, etc. In fact, the most consistent practice we’ve seen this year has been full-portfolio coverage but with different products or therapeutic areas at different depths of conversational support based on historical engagement. That makes sense as HCPs will start reflexively using the company Med Info facility and expect full product coverage.

4. What are some of the critical factors for success?

First and foremost — and obvious — is customer satisfaction. Users must find the information provided of value, and have their questions answered so that they start repeatedly using the conversational agent. That means having up-to-date content, broad product coverage, potentially on- and off-label content, and hand-off to a human when the conversational agent can’t answer, etc. Second, traffic speaks to a well-promoted and well-integrated self-service capability. This is often hard for the Med Info team as it requires integration into the marketing and sales mix — but in a non-promotional way. Think of how 1–800 numbers are visible and accessible, versus promoted. And last but not least, what insights are we learning about at customer level, in aggregate, by product, by customer group, etc. Conversational agents yield the richest primary data an organization will have — what’s being done with it?

5. What else can Med Info conversational agents do?

So much! Conversational agents can be more than just “conversational” — they can actually be human-like. Think of service capabilities like product samples; hand over a discussion to a live human in real time; book a meeting with a MSL for follow up; interact in either text and voice; interact on virtual assistants like Google Home or Alexa, and by phone; support patient engagement and inquiries, etc. And again, all of these interactions yield rich data that feed Medical-to-Medical insights, e.g. clinical data, real-world evidence, market access considerations, Med Ed gaps and needs, etc.

As you launch into 2021 planning, book a session today with one of our conversational AI experts to learn how you can best leverage digital solutions to engage HCPs, patients & consumers. We believe bringing great ideas together is always the start of something exceptional.