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How digital is reinventing everything in the healthcare industry

The healthcare industry is facing the intersection of a previously unseen rate of technological adoption andfundamental changes to its business model.

mar 12 2013
How digital is reinventing everything in the healthcare industry
The healthcare industry is facing the intersection of a previously unseen rate of technological adoption andfundamental changes to its business model.
How digital is reinventing everything in the healthcare industry
by Mads Krogh Petersen

The healthcare industry is facing the intersection of a previously unseen rate of technological adoption andfundamental changes to its business model. In a market where only few real innovative pharmacological solutions are launched; where payers are cutting costs, focus more on patient outcomes and apply strong health economic perspectives when granting approval and reimbursement; and where GPs have less face to face time with sales reps, digital is contributing to reinventing more or less everything within the pharmaceutical industry.

At a fundamental level, Vertic believes digital will increasingly become a part of the healthcare companies’ value proposition to the market, rather than merely taking the role as a communication channel and communication means to the industry stakeholders. 

How digital reinvents health economics

The health economic impact of a drug is inevitably more difficult to document than its clinical effect. Observational studies pre-launch and post launch are instrumental in establishing the health economic ramifications of a given treatment. Digital allows more efficient identification of target users and a channel of communication to the participating users anywhere and anytime. In addition, online features the biggest focus group ever by virtue of massive organic ongoing social media conversations and search engine behavior ranging across disease areas. These conversations provide altogether new insights into living with a chronic disease which have been impossible to collect through classic methods of patient intelligence. To this extent, your digitally powered observational study and proficient digital intelligence analysis will be unavoidable sidekicks to clinical trial results in driving reimbursement and the uptake of a drug. 

How digital challenges GP authority 

What are patients most likely to do first when experiencing a symptom or a change in their disease state? They call “Doctor Google”. Through the revolution in access to information facilitated by digital, GPs have lost the position as the primary channel for disease and treatment information and advice. In parallel GPs’ authority is challenged as social media content is favored by search engines which represent the main access points for users searching for information online. This means patients are increasingly consuming content authored by fellow patients. The expertise and personal stories offered by patients to peers have an authentic quality and human substance that resonates better than conventional pharmaceutical communication. In addition, the medical accuracy of social media resources such as a Wikipedia has often to be proven to on a par or even superior to that of “professional” pharmaceutical websites. In conclusion, patients’ perception of credible and relevant content is transforming as we speak, gradually eroding the position of the GPs. 

How digital creates a channel conflict

Digital offers the opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to reclaim some ownership of the patient relationship through direct digital communication. And with more and more standardized pharmacological products, it is a chance for pharmaceutical companies to create loyalty that transcends specific product attributes. Digital patient support programs embody this tendency and feature the additional benefit of allowing pharmaceutical companies to show payers a more holistic approach to treatments alongside providing data on patient reported outcomes.

To the extent that companies succeed in influencing both potential and existing patients through direct digital communication, we are also witnessing the emergence of a channel conflict between pharmaceutical companies and HCPs. Such is already prominent in many other industries, and has proven to be precursor of extensive restructuring within an industry. 

How digital changes the way HCPs talk to each other

GP participation at industry sponsored conferences and other local attendance based events is on the decline in most geographical markets. In contrast more than 72% of HCPs use content from professional social media and an increasing number of GPs participate in online panels and networks according to Manhattan Research 2011. As an example, more than 1.5 million verified GPs are enrolled by WorldOne - a global HCP network - featuring an ongoing interaction between and to HCPs. In other words, HCPs are meeting online independently of the influence of pharmaceutical companies. At the same time, most pharmaceutical companies are only at the very initial stages of considering how to engage HCPs in a two way digital dialogue and how facilitate a meaningful dialogue between HCPs. 

How digital changes how we communicate with HCPs

The face to face time between HCPs and representatives is decreasing. Instead HCPs are finding information at their own disposal as epitomized by European HCPs spending an average of 9 hours of self-directed search online according to Manhattan Research 2011. Some industry players attempt to address this digital content demand through search optimization, others establish inside sales team to cater for HCPs demand for just in time information as well as offer access to subject matter experts rather than the random sales rep. It is fruit for thought and an unquestionable opportunity that 41% of EU physicians are interested in remote eDetailing, yet the major reason for non-participation is due to lack of invitation by pharmaceutical companies . 

How digital changes everything 

Most of us have experienced how technology influences our cognitive power, e.g. our memory of phone numbers which are now stored behind a label or name in our digital phone book. Likewise, research has indicated that GPs active knowledge is on the decline because information is available instantly at their fingertips. This simply means that we all need to remember less. Marshall McLuhan saying that “the medium is the message” perhaps more than ever describes the magnitude of the changes that digital is currently contributing to in the pharmaceutical industry. 

The new digital business model

It is a much stated and appreciated fact that the strength of the relationship between business partners is the major driver of sales (not accounting for the potential unique characteristics of the offered product portfolio). A constant flow of relevant interactions drives top-of-mind and the value perceived by the “buying” partner. It is Vertic’s firm opinion that the future pharmaceutical business model includes forging close, digital relationships with the target groups by frequent and relevant digital interactions. To learn how to make a digital strategy based on this understanding, feel free to reach out.