Let’s get Digital – Things to Consider on the Path to Digital Excellence

Since my last blog I have taken part in translation company TransPerfect’s online panel discussion on digital excellence in medical affairs, co-chaired a webinar with Peter Brodbin on Medical Information Innovation, and realised that the end of the year is nigh, again. To my irritation, the impending end of the year always takes me by surprise, despite the fact that it’s a regular occurrence.

Topics for today’s blog are all related to the digital excellence in Medical Affairs panel discussion I recently took part in:

– Let’s get digital – things to consider on the path to digital excellence
– The benefits of harmonised medical information responses
– The difference between multichannel and omnichannel
– Fuelling harmonised content using component authoring

To hear more thoughts on the topics I share today, you can access the recording of the panel discussion on digital excellence in Medical Affairs on TransPerfect’s website, which will be uploaded shortly. 

Let’s get Digital – Things to Consider on the Path to Digital Excellence

Last week I joined Ben Gallarda, PhD, Head of Scientific Content – EPG Health and Quynh Nguyen, Medical Digital Initiatives Lead, Europe & Canada, Organon for a panel discussion on Digital Excellence in Medical Affairs which was run by solution provider TransPerfect.
We covered topics including how to implement digital across geographies, key considerations for digital channel selection and customer expectations. We also discussed omnichannel versus multichannel, which I cover later in this blog. If you are thinking of expanding your digital customer engagement offerings, I have three suggestions for you:

  1. Consider your product and where it is in the lifecycle. What you design to support the launch of an orphan product with a new mode of action will differ from what you build to support a product in an established indication in an area where your company is the market leader.
  2. Your digital mix will need to complement your other engagement activities and will depend on your customer types, the geographies, the type of product and cultural preferences for engagement as well as the product lifecycle.
  3. Make sure you understand your market, especially how your customers like to engage and when. For example, what devices do your customers typically use. When do they typically access information? During the day? Or during their commute on a Smartphone. Plan your digital offerings accordingly.

Overall, the digital channels you implement are, per se, less important than ensuring you implement the channels you do implement well.

The Benefits of Harmonised Medical Information Responses

Another question that was submitted during the panel discussion on digital excellence was the following:  Medical information has typically been strongly locally customized, which makes the delivery of content a locally driven activity. Do you see a drive for greater global consistency in messaging across markets (for example for products with risk min)?

My thoughts are that the best approach is to minimise reduplication of effort where possible especially as local resources are frequently stretched. Hence, I would recommend customising cover letters but using harmonised scientific content wherever possible.

Ideally, for products that are available globally,  scientific response documents are written, reviewed and approved centrally. They can then be adapted for local use; this might include adapting the content to local label where needed and translating the content if required by local regulations or by your customer. In addition, where a personal relationship with a customer exists, the cover letter that is sent to the customer can be personalised.

Where products are only available in certain markets, or medical information requests are market specific local authoring makes sense, however, for most cases and most products a centralised approach is, I believe, the best way to go.

The benefits of a centralised approach? Consistent information, increased efficiency and faster adaptation of content across geographies, reduced reduplication of effort and in addition, the ability to easily assess which documents are used in which markets and what topics are thus of interest to customers. With a less harmonised approach getting access to this data is sometimes challenging.

The Difference Between Multichannel and Omnichannel

Yet another question we received during the panel discussion was: What is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel engagement? As this is such a big topic at the moment, I offer a brief explanation.
Pharmaceutical companies engage with customers using many different channels.
In a multichannel approach, any channel that is used, both offline and online, to engage with a customer, exists and functions independently of the others. For example, you might have a general call centre, an online form for general inquiry submissions,  a medical information call centre, various educational websites with logins, chatbots on various sites and also use WhatsApp messaging for certain stakeholder groups. Beyond these channels, your customers may also engage with company employees such as medical directors, medical science liaisons and sales representatives. In a multichannel approach each of these channels exists and functions independently of the other.
There is no integration of content across channels, and no single CRM database that underlies all these channels, and hence the experience is inconsistent for customers across channels, and a single customer’s engagement across channels is hard for a company to evaluate.
The downside of a multichannel approach for customers  is that customers experience slower response times to their enquiries and different responses to the same question depending on the team they engage with. In addition, if they transition from one team to another in pursuit of a solution to their issue, they will find themselves repeating their question over and over. The ensuing frustration for a customer can be tremendous. I speak from experience.
The downside of a multichannel approach for the company is that there is a significant amount of reduplication of effort, which, however, often goes unnoticed. In addition, there is the risk of inconsistency across channels and there is no way of identifying which content works well on which channel.
In  an omni-channel approach, the channels remain the same, however instead of them working independently, there is a consistent approach across all of them which provides customers with a seamless customer experience regardless of the channel used. Customers are not forced to pick  channels depending on the type of need they have, instead they chose the channel they prefer, to access the information they seek.
The benefits of an omni-channel approach for the customer is that she gets access to consistent information across all channels, can switch channels depending on the situation or personal preference and has a smooth experience.
The benefits for the company? Better customer service, more efficient customer interactions, reduced reduplication of effort, better understanding of customer needs, the ability to compare how content is used across different channels and consequently the ability to invest money and deploy resources accordingly and to focus efforts where they will have most positive impact for customers. Overall omnichannel is more cost-effective, provides better data insights and makes monitoring for compliant information provision easier.

Fuelling Harmonised Content Using Component Authoring

When discussing how to improve customer services and harmonising content, be it across geographies for a single team, such as Medical Information, or across various channels and multiple types of content, component authoring is a topic that is unavoidable. With this approach each document type comprises multiple “components.” For example, for a scientific response document you might have the following components:
Component 1: Introduction
Component 2: An executive summary of the key data that is included
Component 3: The core scientific content with all the necessary expanded detail
Component 4: Disclaimers
The benefit of using a component authoring approach is that you can use/reuse each component independently of all the others, enabling you to ensure that all your documents are consistent and up to date at all times. As each component is authored and stored centrally, when you update it, or change it, any changes you make are automatically reflected in each document that contains the component, provided you are using a tool that supports this of course.
Using this approach, you generate your content once, it is stored centrally, you update it centrally and you can easily  use and reuse it across it different teams, channels and  different geographies. Smart, simple and efficient.

I hope my blog provides you with some useful insights and, as ever, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Naturally, if you have a challenging project or would like to discuss coaching to help you achieve that next level, please reach out for an informal chat. 

Very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer

Photo by Isabelle C. Widmer
Poem Portraits, Es Devlin