Being more focused, more narrow in terms of the meeting objectives, making sure the right people are there, and making sure that you have quick hit type of interventions during the course of the week to keep track of status is serving us very well. I would suggest that even if and when things return to normal, a lot of those practices and a lot of those mindsets of ways of working will probably continue even after.” – Jeff Fayer, Novartis

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In a live conversation hosted by the DHC Group and the Pharma Marketing Network, Jeff Fayer (Director, Patient Experience Lead – CSU, Novartis) was joined by Mark Bard (DHC Group), R.J. Lewis (Founder & CEO, eHealthcare Solutions), and Dan Hoffman (Head of Digital Product Innovation, Otsuka Pharmaceuticals) to look at the results of a recent survey of over 70 pharma marketers on the topics of Return to Work and Industry Innovation Trends. A recording is available now, along with a downloadable summary of the survey results. Our panel agreed that the survey was an accurate reflection of what they are seeing individually, and provided helpful context to the findings.


Findings as of January 2022:

  • 29% of the respondents anticipated returning to the office in Q1.
  • 33% expected the shift back to the office to happen in Q2.
  • 31% anticipated no returning to normal (in the office) at all.

R.J. Lewis agreed, explaining that from his vantage point, working with marketers from across most pharma cos, “As far as pharma goes, I’m not aware of any of our clients who are fully back. I don’t know of anybody that’s fully back as of yet. I think your survey accurately depicts what I’ve been seeing which is people are talking about going back in Q1, Q2, to be determined, and then how they go back is going to be interesting. Most are indeed talking about some kind of a hybrid situation, but there are lots of things to consider, obviously, like how much space between cubicles and that kind of thing.”


The key concern about this shift is the impact it may have on team dynamics, productivity and culture. Across the industry, companies are working on solutions to the new hybrid reality facing teams and their leaders. Many saw the permanent shift to more decentralized teams, some making the conscious choice to eliminate location from a list of hiring requirements.

R.J. Lewis described what this looked like for his company, eHealthcare Solutions: “We’ve been virtual, like everybody else, for the last two years, but our view is we’re going to stay virtual for the foreseeable future. That’s done an interesting thing. It really opened up our hiring aperture. We can now look at talent from around the country and even around the globe, which is a really unique benefit to not having to be centralized in a given area.”

Dan Hoffman (Otsuka) shared how leadership there is tackling the resulting challenges head-on “I think that ability now to say, okay, we can go anywhere, as RJ said, anywhere in the world and get insights and information, different perspectives, is really helpful. In terms of specific technology, I don’t want to bring up the metaverse necessarily but I do think there’s going to be better ways to collaborate than just staring at a computer all day.” Dan also offers this piece of advice to fellow marketers who may have been feeling the ‘virtual burnout’ from a calendar of back-to-back zoom meetings “As innovators, especially in the digital landscape, we have to take time to step back and think about how we’re doing things and approaches and more high-level stuff. I think that’s really important to do. I think that’s a really important point.”



Customer Experience and The New Digital Patient Journey topped the list of industry topics marketers are watching as innovation trends.


Customer Experience was, and will continue to be, a major area of focus for marketers in 2022. The addition of the ‘New Digital Patient Journey’ signals a trend within the industry that marketers are broadening the definition of customer from a siloed look at HCPs to a more ‘omni-audience’ perspective that identifies the patient as a key customer as well.

Jeff Fayer (Novartis) explained “I think there’s been a reawakening in terms of how we think about that and how we think about the ecosystem of who surrounds the patient. Certainly, it is the patient, but it is also the healthcare professional. It is also the care partner. […] while my role and many others may be focused on patients or healthcare professionals, we need to make sure we are really taking a more holistic perspective and thinking about the customer experience end to end in terms of how we market and promote products and how they get to individuals that can benefit from them. We want to understand the channels that they’ll go through and how we can make that as seamless as possible for everyone that’s involved.”

The panelists were unanimous in their support of this aim, citing the ‘Platinum Rule’ as the better-than-gold goal for 2022. “Do unto others as they would like done to them” as a guide for decisions in customer experience is an approach R.J., Dan, and Jeff espouse, and was reflected in open-end survey results as well. Dan Hoffman elaborated “There’s going to be some significant understanding in terms of what’s actually going to work with patients, going back to the customer at the center.”


The platinum rule as a mantra for this year is going to serve us all well in how we approach our collective work in advocating for improved patient health outcomes, as well as the health and success of our own internal teams.  Whether it’s structuring a hybrid team meeting so that all participants have equal voice or selecting the right next best action in customer communication, marketers have overwhelmingly indicated they are ready to dive back in this year.

We invite you to check out the full conversation and survey findings here, and want to thank all survey respondents and panel participants for joining us in this conversation.

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