The growing importance of digital innovation has significantly transformed how pharma operates. A global spike in traffic to health and medicine websites has only continued. Increasingly larger numbers of patients are actively seeking health and medical information digitally, first and foremost. Greater health knowledge access through technology has changed how patients research medications and personal health topics, how they interact with their physicians and how they have taken personal goals into their own hands. Patients now have more access to healthcare information and pharma companies than ever before.
What is digital transformation?
Before we can talk about how digital transformation has impacted the pharmaceutical industry, it's important to quickly define digital transformation in the first place. Digital transformation is a strategic approach to leveraging technology to transform from a traditionally analog business model to a digital, omnichannel model. Digital transformation is, in essence, the process of incorporating digital technology throughout a company or organisation in an effort to better serve customers. This evolution may come in the form of updating existing processes to become quicker and more efficient when performed digitally. Alternatively, digital transformation can also involve creating whole new services or business processes that take advantage of the latest technology.
Trends that are contributing to digital transformation in pharma
As the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries have undergone this sort of digital transformation, the world of healthcare looks markedly different than it did even ten years ago. And we predict that shift will continue. Recently, the healthcare and life sciences industries have experienced several trends that have reshaped the way we think about the medical world. In general, it seems that patients are more in control of their health than ever before, and in a way, this control makes the industry less intimidating.
Patients are more engaged...
In the past, patients relied solely on their physicians to diagnose any health problems and treat these issues as they see fit. However, patients are becoming more engaged and invested in their own health than they had previously been able to. Since there is so much more information readily available about various conditions and treatment options, patients are more able to learn about their symptoms, determine what may be wrong, and become actively engaged in discussions around treatments and medications.
…And they have more information about product performance and side effects
On that same note, patients used to have to rely on their doctors to tell them about what medications to take and how that specific medication may impact them. But now, patients are able to take matters into their own hands and do their own research about potential treatment options. These days, all it takes is a simple Google search about a specific medication to learn how well it has worked for most patients and the most prevalent side effects. In this way, patients can feel better equipped to discuss treatment options with their doctor and will often have a better grasp of what to expect when starting a certain medication.
Greater transparency and accessibility means more competition
Sometimes, a patient may feel that they need to get a second opinion about their diagnosis or their symptoms. With telemedicine providing fast and easily accessible virtual consultations, primary healthcare is opening up to more competition for some specialities, and patients have more options than ever before. Additionally, it's easy to research doctors in the area to try to find a good fit. This development also serves to encourage innovation and contain costs in the healthcare industry in general. All of these benefits can also be translated to the pharma industry; patients have more choices of which medication to turn to, and there is more cause for innovation to set companies apart from one another.
Patients want answers right away and it is now possible with technology
When patients are faced with a healthcare issue, it's common that they want an answer as soon as possible. Previously, it may take weeks or even months to get an appointment with a specialist, let alone to get the results back from tests. However, telemedicine or digitally streamlined consultations have made it easier to see the appropriate physician, have the proper test performed, and get results back much more quickly.
Trends and opportunities for pharma becoming digital
So far, we've talked mostly about the healthcare industry in general and how it has been impacted by the growing digital world. But what about the pharmaceutical industry specifically? While some members of the industry may be hesitant to adopt the digital changes that have emerged over the last decade or so, trends in digital health make it more possible for pharmaceutical companies to positively impact patient well being and drive brand awareness than ever before.
AI (artificial intelligence) can have some truly impressive uses in the pharmaceutical industry. Firstly, it can be a great way to handle any complaints or basic questions about a certain drug, all while helping the patient to feel at ease. Conversational AI could also market new equipment or medications, offer more accurate medical advice than what may be found elsewhere on the internet, and even alert users to symptoms that warrant immediate medical attention. In addition, conversational AI and natural language processing are being explored by Health Care Providers as a valuable tool in recording and transcribing patient communications. This resource has the potential to help with adherence to prescribed treatments by helping patients better remember next steps and allowing caregivers to have a record of appointments they were not able to attend.
Direct access to the people with answers
As previously noted, while it used to be quite difficult for patients to get information about a particular drug, the internet and other digital tools have made it easier than ever to connect with those who have the answers patients are seeking. By using digital technologies to connect directly to patients, pharmaceutical companies can learn more about their end users' needs and also share their expertise and desire to help.
Connected hybrid experiences
Digital transformation doesn't mean that patients won't interact with healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies outside of the Internet. But there is room for physical and digital experiences to be connected, offering more thorough, multifaceted healthcare solutions. Another possibility is using digital technologies such as wearables (think Apple Watches) and mobile devices to keep track of one's health.
Ability to put a face with a name
These days, gaining awareness of a product or service is more complex than ever. Consumers are bombarded with messaging, advertising and content, making it hard to stand out and get their attention. It's becoming increasingly important to show that there are real people and real values behind a company name - that life sciences companies care about improving the lives of the patients they serve. Demonstrating this can include patient case studies, video testimonials, doctor interviews, scientist highlights or interviews and more.
Ability to not seem so big business
Pharmaceutical companies can leverage highly targeted and personalised digital advertising in order to not seem like just a big business. Marketing collateral that identifies specific patient problems including video advertisements, case studies, personalised retargeting ads, and other content can drive increased engagement. Personalised content helps large pharma brands develop a positive reputation by connecting one on one with their audience. Digital transformation tools such as AI and machine learning have opened the door to more conversations and increased engagement with audiences, allowing pharmaceutical companies to seem more human. Securing a brand voice that is more relatable and caring could be a huge step in the right direction to attracting more patients.
The boundaries between the physical and virtual world are more blurred than ever before, and the future of the internet and technology make it likely that these lines will continue to blur. Turning to digital processes can have a wide range of benefits, including quicker and more simplified processes, easier communication with clients, and more unified projects between various employees. Digital transformation isn’t a “one and done” shift; it is a cultural change that requires organisations to embrace continuous trial and error as well as adaptation to the changing landscape. As the movement of experiences from physical place to digital space accelerates, and many pharmaceutical companies have already taken steps toward digital transformation. Traffic to pharmaceutical websites is increasing in record numbers, and patients are demanding more from these companies each and every day. Using digital transformation to your advantage, allows your company to offer easily accessible information, provide more personalised services, and demonstrate your unique value compared to your competitors. The future is increasingly digital. The leading brands of the pharmaceutical industry will be the ones that transform accordingly.
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