How do you see things trending in virtual care ?
While the virtualization of healthcare has been underway for some time, the Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be a tipping point. The pandemic has led to a change in the way patients are seeking care, with rise in telehealth visits opening newer options for virtual care. In fact, our research shows that during the pandemic, patients are feeling better motivated to take care of their health and majority of them are accessing this care virtually, specifically through mobile devices and virtual consultations. Similarly, the doctor community has also embraced virtual tools such as online chat, telephone and video conference to better manage healthcare outcomes for their patients and effectively respond to their changing needs. Contactless experience, digital contact tracing, and remote monitoring have altered the way in which healthcare is viewed as people become more versed in technology.
Covid-19 has clearly been a catalyst in driving some of this digital adoption and it will be critical to monitor its long-term impact on patient and doctor behaviours. With changing times and behaviours, we foresee an increasing adoption of digital and virtual tools, requiring the pharma companies to relook at their business models to cater to these evolving customer needs.
What are the persisting challenges that you see in virtual care and how can those be addressed?
Our research shows that while patients appreciate the virtual interactions and the convenience of being able to manage and monitor their care from home, they also felt that the quality of care declined due to reduced access to healthcare providers, low or late availability of physical examinations and delayed diagnosis.
While doctors embraced virtual tools to manage health outcomes, they are facing some persisting challenges such as lack of empathy in virtual discussions, payment challenges, and patient privacy issues that impact the overall patient experience. Similarly, communication challenges are observed even with doctors and medical representative (MR) interactions. Our research showed that while doctors are interacting more than ever with the MRs, 57% doctors felt that pharma sales representatives are failing to understand the real impact of Covid-19 on them and are unable to deliver on their needs, while still being strained with excessive content from pharma companies such as webinars, publications and others.
The key to addressing these challenges is to offer immersive patient experiences with the help of better virtual tools with greater precision and privacy, in addition to high-quality and hyper-personalized doctor experiences. The first step is to understand the customers and their needs better and then for pharma companies to reach out to them with customized offerings and experiences enabled through analytics and digital technologies.
How can pharma companies redefine doctor engagement and experience with the help of digital technology?
The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the way doctors engage with their patients and increased their dependence on digital technologies. Similarly, the way pharma companies interact with doctors in this dynamic digital age is also in need of an overhaul. The growth in remote healthcare will require new engagement models by pharma companies, mapping these changes.
Our research showed that while more than half of the doctors (54%) felt that the volume of information sent through digital channels by pharma companies has significantly increased in the wake of Covid-19, more than half also believed that the pharma companies need to better understand their evolving needs.
A key aspect that needs to change is the core nature of the relationship between doctors and pharma companies, where pharma companies can deliver on the doctors’ needs. Today, most pharma companies are providing a mono/multi-channel doctor engagement which provides an inconsistent experience. The need of the hour is to take the journey from multichannel to omnichannel experience, that is to deliver connected experiences that are relevant and valued by the customer. This improves retention and builds advocacy through distinctive experiences.
There are four key elements required to achieve this vision to create a seamless, cohesive, and connected experience for the doctors:
- Knowing the customers better – Pharma companies can use technology and analytics to create a unique doctor database comprising of key attributes such as factual and behavioural.
- Segmenting and profiling the customers – Analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) can help pharma companies identify specific doctor segments and customise their offerings accordingly.
- Defining a customised engagement strategy – Digital technologies can help companies create a consistent, cohesive engagement strategy based on specific user role and needs.
- Automating the delivery mechanism – Supported by digital technologies and automation, pharma companies can create a connected blueprint to deliver a consistent experience across all doctor touchpoints.
Throughout this journey, data and analytics will play a pivotal role to drive intelligent and actionable insights.
How do you see the rise in telemedicine and teleconsultations helping to address the healthcare gaps in India in the long-term?
The healthcare sector in India has largely remained under-equipped in terms of manpower and infrastructure. Prompt access to medical expertise and credible information is extremely important. Today, telemedicine is replacing in-person, out-patient consultations and is particularly useful in addressing the healthcare access and cost gap in smaller towns and rural areas.
Telemedicine can help overcome geographic healthcare barriers and is a great help for patients living in remote areas with a shortage of qualified doctors. It can also improve the quality of medical care for patients with both physical and mental health problems by bringing down the rate of hospital admissions and re-admissions. Technology enables patients to stay more actively engaged in their healthcare.
Telemedicine can support traditional healthcare delivery models and improve the doctor-patient engagement. Additionally, it allows care providers the flexibility and convenience of seeing their patients remotely for check-ups, follow-ups and educate them as required. Through telemedicine, patients have an opportunity to consult specialist doctors of their choice, irrespective of the location.
We strongly believe that the adoption of digital technologies can help bridge the existing healthcare gaps in India.
What role do you foresee technology playing in shaping the future of pharma sector?
The future of healthcare is digital. The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for pharma companies to accelerate their digital transformation journey at scale. While many pharma companies are already moving ahead on their digital reinvention journey, in addition to the speed of change, it is also key to identify the right set of digital initiatives to gain the best long-term impact.
The impact of technology can already be seen in different aspects of the pharma sector. Technology can further help enhance accessibility to healthcare through virtual and on-demand interactions. The direct impact on faster and improved decision making, better operational efficiency will lead to lower costs and higher affordability of pharma products. It can also provide better visibility in internal operations and supply chain, leading to greater availability of products. The ability to deliver high-quality and hyper-personalized customer experience to drive awareness, while also improving business performance and resilience will help pharma companies manage future disruptions.
Deploying cloud solutions, AI, predictive, prescriptive analytics and others can enable pharma companies operate and compete at unprecedented speed and scale. It can also help deliver customer-centric products and services with seamless digital experiences.