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Pharma's New Normal: Q&A

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Healthcare Pharma New Normal Webinar Questions

After our webinar, Pharma's New Normal: Engaging with HCPs In Uncertain Times, many participants still had questions. Our Chief Science Officer, Arun Divakaruni, took the time to answer them below. 

What are your thoughts on P2P speaker programs in this COVID-19 environment?

At first, many programs were postponed or canceled. Now many are being converted to virtual programs. I think this will remain the standard until the COVID-19 epidemic is over. We’re helping our clients devise and execute virtual advisory boards or other moderated discussions. Peer-to-peer relationships in medicine will always be important in medical education and because of that, we’re seeing accelerated adoption of digital platforms and technologies that maintain that relationship in the absence of physically meeting.

Is this the new normal or rather an opportunity to do things differently?

It is both and the natural progression of how technology is changing the world. In response to a recent survey deployed by SERMO, 72% of HCPs in the US said “COVID-19 will accelerate the transition to digital means of training on new technologies and staying current on what is happening…” and I think this impression aligns with what we’re seeing out in the market. There’s been a dramatic increase in telemedicine across therapeutic areas and while face-to-face meetings with field forces have gone down, correspondence via digital means has gone up. I think overall face-to-face interactions will continue to remain preferential. There’s something deep in our psychology that makes us need physical human interaction—it’s irreplaceable. However, the pandemic has shown us that there is much we can do virtually and in fact, there’s much that’s easier to do virtually, and in that sense, we’re establishing the next normal.

You included CME in your list of items not likely to change, but I feel like physicians are likely to change how they get their CME in the future (less live more online).

Just to clarify, I think the importance of CME will continue to remain the same, however, you are correct, the way in which physicians will receive CME will continue to change and has been changing for some time now.

How do you see the state of physicians’ interactions with sales reps until a vaccine is developed? 

Prior to the pandemic, interactions between physicians and sales reps were already changing. According to ZS Associates, less than half of physicians today are rep-accessible, which has made it harder for reps to serve their traditional function as the frontline message-bearers. However, while face-to-face interactions have decreased, physicians still want to interact with reps. According to the SERMO survey I cited earlier, when asked how they preferred to be informed of manufacturer support, news, or product information, 59% of HCPs in the US said “e-mail from rep” and 41% said “virtual rep detail.” I imagine this trend will continue even when the epidemic ends as digital communications from reps are more convenient for physician’s offices.

How should KPIs be adjusted and measured; how can measures be positive in these uncertain, changing times?

Albert Einstein once said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts.” The most important thing that can be counted and counts is growth. But it doesn’t have to be just sales. Growing the customer experience will pay dividends in the future. In our webinar, we spent a fair amount of time discussing that now is the time to be investing in customer centricity and experience. Tying investments into customer experience can sometimes be challenging using immediate quantitative measures but at the very least tie today’s activities to growth impact in the future.

For pharma employees in customer-facing roles, do you think virtual interactions are the expectation for the months ahead, and how ready are clinicians for virtual interactions to be their main platform to connect?

I think most prudent HCPs will agree that it’s important for their own health and safety and for that of their patients for virtual interactions. I do think there are situations that will require in-person interaction, like delivering samples. In those situations, I feel that it’s important to proactively communicate what safety measures and protocols you are taking to ensure their safety.

What are the best practices for conducting virtual ad boards with HCPs?

I’m glad you mentioned that. We have a fantastic article on this very topic which you can read right here.

Can you narrow down the best 3 ways to communicate effectively with an HCP without overdoing it?

Short, direct, and to the point. 

What are you finding is the best quality platform for communications? Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Google Meets? I am noticing a big difference in sound quality.

Given all the options with connections, I tend to be platform-agnostic and use whatever the people I’m communicating with users. That being said, our organization uses AdobeConnect for all our high-profile, important virtual events. However, internally we also use Zoom or Microsoft Teams for corporate updates and daily meetings. Zoom is very easy to use, and you can easily adjust it to fit your needs. Teams allows us to work on documents while seeing our colleagues. GoToMeeting was used for the webinar and I thought it worked well. Google Meet (the evolved version of Hangout) is also good for those running Google enterprise software.

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