Mary Alice Dwyer, PharmD, Chair, Medical Affairs Digital Strategy Council VP, Consulting Services, Synetic Life Sciences, LLC
Digital transformation across the pharmaceutical industry is no longer only aspirational as healthcare professionals look for informative, non-promotional scientific content and engagement, but a strategic imperative that was significantly accelerated by Covid-19.
In our earlier white paper in 2020, From Aspiration to Action the Medical Affairs Digital Strategy Council, supported by Indegene, called for action in Medical Affairs to champion the technological changes needed to deliver customer-centric experiences. However, to achieve this, it is necessary to first assess the existing level of digital capabilities and effectiveness across Medical Affairs.
That’s why our Council commissioned a survey in 2021 among 15 global Medical Affairs organizations to evaluate digital maturity. The survey was inspired by a methodology conducted by DT Consulting (an Indegene Company) in a survey of pharmaceutical companies’ digital and commercial function VPs in 2016, which highlighted the growth in digital capabilities in commercial organizations through increased budgets and ambition but also identified fundamental flaws in organizational readiness for increasing digital maturity.
This white paper, which draws on the 2021 survey results, is the first of its kind to explore digital evolution through the lens of Medical Affairs organizations. 67% of responding companies think that their organization has ambitious digital plans, but only 27% are satisfied with their company’s progress. It also reveals that the impact of COVID-19 has been significant, with 80% stating that it has accelerated digital transformation within Medical Affairs. Members of the Council provide perspectives and guidance on what companies need to do to improve their digital capabilities within Medical Affairs and deliver good customer experience through digital capabilities.
Specifically, Multichannel/Omnichannel Strategy was identified by respondents as the digital capability most impactful for making customer experience intuitive, effortless and unique. Ease of use and personalization of experience were seen as key to an effective Medical Affairs digital transformation. Respondents to the survey also emphasized that Medical Affairs scientific exchange through Field Medical Remote Interactions was the most impactful for establishing reliable, credible and transparent experiences for customers which are foundational to the work of Medical Affairs.
Additionally, the members of the Council reported that digitally enabled best practices were more commonly followed for capabilities that have historically been a significant focus of Medical Affairs like Medical Legal Regulatory review process and Field Medical Content development. In contrast, more recent additions to Medical Affairs digital capabilities like Mobile
Apps, Customer Engagement Analytics and Touchpoint Integration were less likely to be consistently and deliberately following best practices.
Figure 1: Status of implementing digital capabilities at a global level
The survey results provide a benchmark on the status of digital maturity and a unique insight into the reasons why progress is slower than desired. While the survey reveals a level of frustration that more is not being done faster, it is encouraging to see that across many capabilities there was a clear intention to build capabilities for the future. Qualitative feedback from the Council highlighted that progress is being made and there is increased urgency and support across organizations for digital initiatives. While this is very positive, the Council emphasized the importance of balancing the desire to execute with the importance of ensuring that digital plans are driven by data on what customers want and what ultimately will provide a good customer experience.
The Medical Affairs Digital Strategy Council is an independent body of Medical Affairs leaders from the life science and biopharma companies in US and Europe supported by Indegene with the vision to help Medical Affairs organizations embrace technology and innovation through a digital and data- driven model as part of FutureReadyHealthcare.com . The objective is to further unlock growth and maximize impact across internal and external engagements.
By Mary Alice Dwyer, PharmD, Chair, Medical Affairs Digital Strategy Council VP, Consulting Services, Synetic Life Sciences, LLC
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