Quickly adapting to a new reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a theme throughout this year’s Pharma Marketing Network Innovation Summit 2021, linking all three panels: “Telehealth: Past. Present. Future,” “Marketing Agility: The Path to Digital Engagement and Innovation,” and “Digital Health: Where Is It Headed?” While the global outbreak of COVID-19 was the catalyst that pushed Pharma to innovate, think differently, and do things faster, we still aren’t moving fast enough in some areas. Panelists, from clinicians to marketing executives, discussed the current leap in digital healthcare, along with what the future holds for this rapidly evolving segment.

Telehealth’s 18-month evolution took big strides but also faces challenges

Telehealth took major strides since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients and doctors went from trying to make sense of the platform to full-blown adoption where practices continue to incorporate it as an integral part of the go-to-market model.

Robert Schildt, Senior Director of Go-To-Market Innovation at Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Reena Kolar, a Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director for Telehealth Mental Health Services Companies Virtual Counselor and College Telehealth and Tim Glennon, Vice President of Marketing, Evofem Biosciences, along with moderator Seth Painter, Director, National Accounts at Populus, kicked of the first panel of the PMN Innovation Summit.

The evolution of telehealth can be broken down into
3 six-month phases.

The evolution of telehealth can be broken into three chapters, stated Schildt. The first six months out of necessity, everyone was trying to figure out how they can leverage the platform. The next phase was figuring out how to integrate it into the business. The third phase of the continued evolution of telehealth, which is where we are now, will be centered around optimizing the patient experience, striving to put them on the path toward the best solution.

So where is telehealth working well?

Dr. Kolar shared the clinician – perspective that pre-COVID telehealth was perceived with uncertainty. However, today it is now knocking down barriers and becoming a key method to reaching more patients. Telehealth has brought positive change for both patients and doctors. For example, it has removed the stigma associated with mental health visits, no longer does a patient worry about a neighbor seeing them heading into a therapist’s office. In turn, it also means more people are going to their appointments – so fewer cancellations. Convenience is another benefit of telehealth for the patient; instead of factoring in travel time and fitting their appointment into their work/life schedule, they can just log on.

Success in pharma marketing with telehealth.

Evofem Biosciences included a telehealth link in their marketing ad campaigns which drove a significant spike in patients’ interest and a lift in writing scripts.

Despite these strides, telehealth still has some challenges.

While telehealth offers the opportunity for the clinician to extend the reach of their services across state lines, there are some very real challenges that come with this too. For example, physicians working with patients in other geographies will need to familiarize themselves with the resources available in the patient’s location.

Private insurance can be another challenge in telehealth for both clinicians and patients, as not all insurance companies have figured out what or even if they are going to cover telehealth services. In addition, if the patient lives in another state than their clinician some insurances may not allow that. There are still some learning curves to overcome for all sides.

From a pharma marketing perspective, the biggest challenge of telehealth is figuring out how to optimize the customer experience based on where they are in their journey – ultimately curating a thoughtful and meaningful experience.

Telehealth is here to stay and is going to be an area where we will continue to see innovation and growth going forward. – Robert Schildt, Senior Director of Go-To-Market Innovation at Biohaven Pharmaceuticals  

Marketing Agility – the Path to Digital Engagement & Innovation

Pharmaceutical marketing teams are under pressure to move faster – the pandemic changed expectations forever about what can be done and how quickly we can do it. As a result, marketing teams are embracing Agile ways of working.

We gathered a team of industry experts, Jim Lefevre, International Business Leader, Digital Partnering Solutions at Roche, Ray Gomez, Head, Worldwide Digital Marketing – Channel & Content Strategy at BD, John Lineen, Senior Director, Engagement Planning, Immunology & Cardiovascular Franchises at BMS, Tres Garcia, Director Marketing, Agile Chapter Lead at Merck, to share their stories on how they have embraced Agile Marketing. Amy Turnquist, PMN EAB Member, and Principal at North Highland lead this insightful panel.

What is Agile Marketing?

Agile marketing is an organizational effectiveness strategy that uses self-organizing, cross-functional teams doing work in frequent iterations. It’s about applying short quick tests and learning from them and then learning from the data and applying to the next test iteration. Quickly, pivoting and improving the next outcome. Because Agile marketing is based on the collaboration of stakeholders working in small teams, the opportunity for more dialogue, more transparency, and more collaboration is at the team level. When done right, Agile marketing makes for a better work environment – with better camaraderie and ultimately a happier employee. It’s a win-win for both sides of the equation; Employees and Customers. For employees, it creates a positive environment of happier people who feel connected and feel they have a true sense of purpose. This can help Pharma deliver results and respond to the customer needs faster.

Smaller teams, working faster, problem-solving without boundaries equals rapid iteration, feedback, optimization.

Ultimately, organizations can’t deliver omnichannel without an agile approach to creating content, getting approvals, etc. Next best action initiatives can’t work, for example, if it takes 12 weeks to create the dynamic email content.

Suggestions on how to get started with Agile Marketing:

Start small, quickly find what is working and what is not.

Agile can be intimidating – it’s a whole new nomenclature and vocabulary. (Scrum, Backlog, Epics, Stories – what the heck do those words mean?). Be sure to give your team the psychological safety they need to ask questions. Embedding a coach within the team to help model the behaviors and processes is key, we heard from Garcia.

It’s important to note that Agile is a learning process and won’t happen effortlessly overnight. This means taking a humble approach that there will be a grace period and a big learning curve. Gomez shared at his company they came up with a playbook to learn from both mistakes and victories. It’s about being able to lead people with a purpose. This means focusing more on the outcome rather than the fancy ways that were used to get there.

Think big. Start small. Scale quickly.
Make it fun and iterative.

To sum it up, whatever the work is, make it visible and transparent through visualization tools like Kanban, MS teams, etc. Then prioritize this with stakeholders to ensure common ground on what is important and what is not. Lastly, get commitment from those stakeholders and the team and make it known that more conversations will take place more frequently than in the past because we want input early and often because we know things can change quickly.

Digital Therapeutics and How They’re Fundamental to the Future of Healthcare

The adoption of Digital Therapeutics was another digital trend like telehealth that was accelerated by the pandemic.

We brought together a group of very knowledgeable people on the topic of Digital Therapeutics: Chris Wasden, Head of Happify Health and on the Board of the Digital Therapeutics Alliance and Erin Russell, Founder and CEO of Health Grizzly and Advisor to Curio Digital Therapeutics, moderated by Seth Painter, Director, National Accounts at Populus.

Digital Therapeutics have been around from as far back as 2010. Wasden, who has been involved in the digital health arena since the beginning, feels that patient adoption is not an issue when it comes to the adoption of digital therapeutics, nor are regulators like the FDA. The current adoption barriers are partially the payers, though they have made progress in the last 5 years. Physicians are surprisingly the biggest barrier of adoption across the healthcare landscape, but not for reasons you might expect.

Patient adoption of digital therapeutics is strong.

Russell felt that some of the skepticism stemmed from data. Physicians want data to support the digital therapeutic before they would recommend it to a patient. Wasden pointed out that some therapeutics are not covered by payers, and they don’t feel comfortable advising the patient to use it if the patient must pay out of their own pocket.

Transformative change means that doctors cannot provide care like they used to nor as patients have come to expect. Patients expect instant feedback, information, and care. Not only that, but it also needs to deliver quality information and care. Digital therapeutics can help support these patient expectations and needs in between patient visits.

While pharma has historically been late to the digital transformation, the unusual occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the industry to accelerate its own digital transformation and be open to learning new ways of working together to drive results for patients. This event highlighted the importance of being able to quickly pivot and adapt during unprecedented times – an attitude required for an industry whose top priority is enhancing patient outcomes.

Digital is now, and Digital is the future.

Watch the full PMN Innovation Summit