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Reaching Pharma Stakeholders

Words by John Illman.

How should pharmaceutical marketing teams engage with stakeholders?

‘Chatbots’, which simulate human conversation via voice commands or text chats, are an increasingly popular way to reach patients and physicians. Grand View Research estimates that the global chatbot market will be valued at $1.23 billion by 2025, with a 24.3% compounded annual growth rate. Siva Nadarajah, of IQVIA, the human data science company, predicted at eyeforpharma, Barcelona, 2018, that chatbots would account for 85% of interactions between pharma companies and doctors by 2020.

This May, the Your.MD chatbot developers announced a strategic partnership with BMJ Best Practice. Ranked as one of the world’s best clinical decision support tools, the BMJ offshoot is validating Your.MD’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform for doctors and patients. Other health chatbots include Sensely, Buoy Health, Infermedica, and Florence.

Sharon Cooper, Chief Digital Officer, BMJ, says: “I expect AI to play an essential role in delivering healthcare, but the challenges in ensuring a safe, trusted service are not to be underestimated.”

“Big blockbuster budgets resulted in brand teams in silos bombarding payers and prescribers with a mass of conflicting messages”

Orchestrated customer engagement (OCE) — a response to the end of the blockbuster era — was also a big talking point in Barcelona. Big blockbuster budgets resulted in brand teams in silos bombarding payers and prescribers with a mass of conflicting messages and irritating contact. A UK survey of senior doctors report that 17 people from the same pharma company have been in touch with one respondent within a month.

OCE comprises strategic IT systems designed to ensure consistency of messages across multiple channels — much like a conductor harmonising strings, brass, woodwind, and percussion.

Business partner and supplier engagement

Roche is renowned as a leader in the field. Severin Schwan, CEO, Roche said: “One of Roche’s strengths has always been the linking of internal and external innovation. This is absolutely vital since 99% of the scientific progress occurs outside Roche. Rather than pretending we know everything better we listen to our external partners.”

In 2017, Roche held 10 supplier days throughout the world. In 2015, the pharmaceutical division built an Innovation Centre of Excellence to collaborate with key suppliers on innovation — it also conducted more than 1,000 audits of global and local suppliers and service providers.

Media engagement

Selecting good media spokespeople can be really challenging. The most senior person in a team is not necessarily the best.

Media training can help to identify good spokespeople and —just as importantly — inappropriate ones. For example, after one media training programme, a charming, charismatic surgeon commented: “I’m used to being in control. I don’t feel in control in front of that camera.”

Try as he might — and he tried very hard — he could not exorcise the ‘control demon’. This was actually a positive outcome. He demonstrated in a confidential setting that the media were not for him — much better there than in the unforgiving glare of live television. Anyone working with the media should be warned that it involves a degree of loss of professional control. They will have to put themselves in the media’s hands.

“Media training can help to identify good spokespeople and — just as importantly — inappropriate ones”

Good spokespeople also recognise the need to prepare for media interviews. Being a world authority on a subject may not be enough without appropriate media-specific preparation — a lesson that many have found out when what should have been a public relations opportunity became a disaster. It is critical to recognise that medicine and the media have disparate standards and take this into account when preparing.

Conversely, it is also vital to recognise that the media are always not out ‘to get’ the industry or healthcare professionals, though there are times when they should and do, times when they should but don’t, and times when they shouldn’t but do.

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