Digital transformation in pharma is propelling the industry from follower to forerunner. This is the beginning of the life sciences’ “experience era.”
When I think of the qualities that define industry leaders, the words that come to mind are innovative, adaptable, adept — and trepidation. That is, there is trepidation for navigating through uncharted territory. For life sciences, the regulatory quagmire has long kept pharma from being first in digital, social, influence, and delivery. Until now the industry has followed, imitated, and emulated the prowess of others such as consumer packaged goods or tech.
But COVID-19 changed all of that. Not only did it highlight major pain points in the industry, but many were addressed in record time. A lot of analogies come to mind. One that resonates here is that the fires were already smoldering, and the pandemic was an accelerant tossed on the embers. Gears quickly shifted from follower to forerunner.
So, now that we know we can, we are out of excuses why we don’t. This is the beginning of the life sciences’ “experience era.” Through digital transformation in pharma, the industry has the opportunity to have positive impacts on the following three main areas.
2020 was the year life sciences found its agility. We have seen tremendous innovation, collaboration, and partnership across multiple industries pushing pharma companies to develop not just one but multiple vaccines in record time. As COVID-19 has vaulted the life sciences industry 15 years forward in innovation within a matter of 15 weeks, it has opened the door to other possibilities. By cutting down development time and enhancing supply chain management, life sciences can focus on what matters most: the quality of care and patient outcomes.
It’s estimated that for every $100 spent on retail prescription drugs, more than half goes to intermediaries in the supply chain. What if some of that money were reallocated to discovery, commercialization, and experience optimization? Today, there is an increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory, and cancer. The medications to treat these diseases are more difficult to discover, make, access, and manage. But the payoff could be large. By 2023, specialty pharmacy is expected to account for 44% of prescription revenues, up from 24% in 2013, according to ReportLinker’s report “U.S. Pharmaceuticals Industry Analysis and Trends 2023.”
When prescribers are satisfied with the experience surrounding a particular medication and pharma’s contribution to it, they are more than twice as likely to prescribe it. By paying more attention to the customer experience, companies can not only increase satisfaction but also increase revenue.
For a long time life sciences have been trying to engage more deeply with consumers. With the collision of consumerization and increased adoption of digital tools, communication, and service platforms, a more perfect storm is brewing. But service is not a co-pay care or 800 number any more than a coupon or contact center are in retail. Experience optimization is a discipline and cultural shift shared across an organization and has direct impact on awareness, activation, access, and adherence.
Nearly half of the U.S. population takes at least one prescription medication each month, according to the CDC. Meanwhile, the population is aging, with 10,000 people in the U.S. turning 65 every day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means there is a real need to better understand how drugs are affecting patients’ daily lives in real time. Most medical problems can’t wait for a monthly metrics report and analysis to be resolved. By finding ways to simplify the patient journey, pharma companies can become more efficient. This can be achieved by listening to new and existing engagement channels to understand what patients are experiencing. Organizations can then act on this information quickly based on feedback.
Pharma employs roughly 5 million people. That’s arguably a small workforce when compared to other industries, but it’s a mighty one when considering the impact they have on people’s lives. That’s why the employee experience couldn’t be more important.
While burnout has affected the entire workforce, it’s most concerning to life sciences and healthcare where it can have negative patient outcomes. For example, a recent survey revealed that 61.2% of pharmacists report experiencing a high level of burnout (a percentage in some cases higher than found in surgeons, oncologists, and emergency-medicine practitioners). Therefore, it’s critical to understand how morale, burnout, and retention have an impact on your organization.
While issues traditionally have been addressed only at a departmental level, the size and scope of today’s issues require a pivoted approach. Start by bringing together representatives across the organization to form a task force who can work together. The blending of traditional HR approaches, such as stay interviews and retention strategies, paired with solution design can be an effective and collaborative approach to address current challenges. Crowdsourcing is one of the best ways to co-design solutions in a meaningful and expedited way.
Digital transformation in pharma has the power to take the industry from a laggard to a leader. Organizations that hone in on the customer, patient, and employee experiences will continue to innovate and adapt in a world that has put life sciences in the spotlight. The industry can continue to shine if it doesn’t stop listening and keeps acting.