My Thoughts On Technology/Pharma Featured @PharmaVoice


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What Should Healthcare Marketers Know?

These are my views addressing Healthcare marketers who are coming in (with technology) for the future. A twitter conversation with @HealthIsSocial is shared to encourage you to post your comments.


Healthcare Conversations

Pharma’s Social Journey Can Start With Opinion Leaders

Pharma marketing needs to concentrate on opinion leaders to get their prescriptions. It is an open secret that opinion leaders in every region heavily influence Rx habits of others. If you learn how these opinion leaders favour digital and social platforms and make a start with them, it will be a good start and learning. In this context, not necessarily and always, you need to think “product promotion”. Instead think of a differentiated relationship and “top of mind recall” for your company and people.

I think this is one of the key ways to start with “pharma and social” as each rep territory will only have a handful of such opinion leaders. You can also be a bridge among such opinion leaders and, if successful, the rest will happen automatically. It might even be worthy to consider a special team for exploring and executing.

The above few points I am typing and posting from my smartphone app. Just a thought. You can add to this and we can discuss.

How To Start Pharma Digital Journey

courtesy: HubSpot offers

courtesy: HubSpot offers

Context

I recently had a discussion about “going #digital” with a pharma executive. I showed him this. He confided that he believes digital as the way forward but simply does not know how to propose to his management. He also said that it all looks fantastic to talk but when you want to start, you go nowhere. He was sure that his management will not accept any proposal which talks about a budget for gadgets.

We shall go about discussing some aspects of it to the extent a blog post would allow it. I confine this discussion to what pharma can internally decide and execute because that’s where I want them to start with their learning curve. I welcome you to join this discussion by reading, making notes of your thoughts and sharing your comments.

Pharma Campaigns

Pharma marketing operates with 3-6 campaigns every year. On an average, a minimum of 4 meetings (one per each quarter) are called for, to meet with the reps within the company. The expenses incurred for such a campaign briefing meeting (every company has different names for such meetings) include

  • Expenses of Reps travelling from the towns they are based to where the meeting is held (to and fro)
  • A place for them to stay for 2-3 nights
  • Food for them on all these days
  • A meeting place
  • Paper-based stationery and training material
  • Going by our own experience, atleast two working days get spoilt other than these meeting days (yeah! you can contest that)

What happens in a campaign briefing meeting? The following list (indicative but not limited to) gets discussed

  • Product priorities (seasonal, new launches etc.)
  • Mapping the product priorities to the Drs List (a term pharma people understand well)
  • Sampling strategy
  • Detailing strategy
  • Detailing priorities within that individual detailing strategy
  • Follow-up calls (Number of times to visit each category of doctors)
  • Targets (primary and secondary)
  • Training/briefing reps to execute these
  • Analysis of last  quarter sales figures or YTD sales (year-to-date)
  • Announcements of incentives against achievements and for future achievements

You will find that most of the above are mere communication except the training part. In my experience such meetings will not allow time for individual attention of reps and hence not much of individual discussions happen during these briefing days. They happen with respective bosses after these meeting days (mostly while working in the field).

Now consider the fact that most of these can be done through digital platforms with much more efficiency at a fraction of the costs that are currently incurred.

Efficiency because

  • The training material as videos can be played back any number of times by the rep to learn without additional costs. A series of 2 minutes video learning in between Dr calls might be more effective than once in a quarter learning.
  • Mock sessions through digital platforms, which will improve the rep, costs next to nothing and can be a continuous process as part of the work regimen.
  • Product quizzes can be done online and can be part of the evaluation for further training.
  • Feedback Systems that I spoke about here

Generally I get two objections:

1. Nothing like physically being together for motivation, team spirit, blah, blah, blah…(I come from the traditional background and hence I know every inch of that territorial objections to give soltuions).

2. Investment costs of gadgets are high

1. Being together:

You can do the 3-6 campaign briefings through digital platforms and use that savings to take your reps to exotic locations for being together, develop team spirit and for unwinding once or twice a year. That way, you fund yourselves and, I bet, the reps will like both being sophisticated in work with the gadgets, learning and also the exotic unwinding trips. You will start a trend which others shall follow. You will attract the best talent too.

2. Investments

This is a false objection. Because you dont need to be a maths genius to know that if you calculate the costs of all those campaigns over a period of 1-3 years you can fund yourself for the gadgets and still might save some money. And listen, the benefit is not just the cost. Imagine how your company will get transformed through this and also how customers will perceive your reps and your company. Hence investing(initially) and transforming your company through digital platforms should be a no-brainer. It is an investement that pays itself off and also ensures your future. In the long-run you can have huge cost savings too. All those digital creations can be used in the training departmernt for new comers. That again is a big benefit because these are created for real situations and a huge experience with instituitional memories come along. Such realistic company owned training materials will stand you in good stead for years to come. So much of ROI. Think about it.

Have Both?

Some still might feel that their successes live on their physical campagin briefings. Even if you conduct your briefings in a traditional way, digital platforms can help you increase effectiveness by follow-ups in a bettter way. Traditional ways and digital ways are not the same. Hence a word of caution here. Old strategies with newer tools dont work. But you can make a start by demarcating some parts of it to go the digital way. This is not something that you have to achieve overnight and it is not possible too. But you can make a start towards survival for the future.

My question (or rather answer) to those pharma executives

As pharma person, you know from where these false objections come from and why. You also know how to overcome them. Why will you not apply them interally and convince your management to move forward? We are not even talking about rep-physician relationship or relationship with distributors, chemists and finally patients. We are talking about internal implementation with your own people. What say? You are the best judge.

Is there anything that I did not factor in? Add them. Feel free to share your comments. I will be willing to talk to you if you need help.

Technology For Medical Representatives

This article was written for “medical representatives” as target audience. If you are not a sales representative or have sales representatives in your organization, you can skip this post.

Medical Representative : A medical representative is a title given to one who is hired by a pharma company to take care of its business in a given geographical area. Though the designations vary with various companies, the basic job remains the same, that of a medical representative. Hence let us use this as a basic term to describe the job function.

Background/Context of the job:
The job of a medical representative is tough to define. It is not limited to but includes the following basic realities:
      The job is to primarily maximize the prescriptions from doctors in that geographical area for the chosen brands of the company.
      Though companies have policies, guidelines, training and recommendations to the reps, generally they are inadequate in reality. Reps learn a lot from peers and also from their own experience in the field. The managers who work with them try to pass on and impart as much as possible both in the best interests of the company and the individual. This is a sound ecosystem that functions.
      Pharma reps who can think and translate their thoughts into new ways of approaching the business are free to do and hence they do well in creating business and also either go up the ladder or get better opportunities from other companies.
      Purely by experience, reps know their territory well and where business comes from. In line with the company’s policies and using their own innovativeness they arrive at a work plan for each day and execute it for productivity and maximizing the business.
      The work pattern involves both appointment calls and walk-in calls of doctor as customers and then once inside the chamber of a doctor the job involves prescription oriented detailing, sharing samples, documents, campaign gifts and so on.
      The reps learn to factor all the territory knowledge that they have into their plan for time management.
      They also do mass detailing in hospitals, medical colleges or with resident doctors(interns and PGs in medical college hospitals).
      Experienced reps learn to visit chemists to get more information on doctor’s prescribing habits, availability of stocks, competitor’s information etc. These also involve timings as chemists prefer to see and are willing to have a chat only when they don’t have customers to be attended to. Such information gathered help in fine-tuning objectives while visiting doctors either to request for more prescriptions or to thank them adequately to continue those prescriptions to maintain business.
      Reps also fulfill other requirements of the company like weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual sales reports, campaign reports of sales and samples, feedback reports, expense reporting, other special budget expenses etc.
      Maintaining a primary sales(company to distributor) and secondary sales(distributor to retailers) along with monitoring of take-backs(like expiry) and so on comes as a part of the job.

      Any knowledge, training skills, promotions and your career depends solely on how good you do this fundamental job in your early years and how well you have imbibed them into yourself to demonstrate when required.
The above is not a complete list but an indicative one. May be one can add much more that goes into making a successful medical representative. In a nutshell, a medical representative is trained to be his own business guy within his territory and the skills he develops stand him in good stead for life.
Current Status
Before writing this article, I interviewed a few national level sales managers of some pharma companies who are supposed to have moved the digital way and some have gone even mobile on it. But to my disappointment, I found most of these companies have bought bloated software at a big cost and are stuck either with the implementation or with obsoleteness after they had implemented with no way of forward integration without incurring huge costs again. Also buying costly software is not a solution for smaller companies.
Cloud Computing Technology that can be useful for medical reps
Read the following tools and imagine their places within the job functions of a medical representative. When you imagine, note that all these tools are available today independent of device and location. In other words, one can access these anytime, anywhere and through any device that is connected to Internet. You do not need powerful hardware(laptops etc) and also you need not buy any software. You can scale up or scale down your requirements. This would mean you can use it if you are a 5-reps company(SME) or a 2000-reps company(Enterprise). Size does not matter. You pay for what you use. You can use computing like electricity or water from a tap. You take a subscription and use everything. You can customize to your format. And much more.
I have categorized all the functions of a medical representative into these six major categories.

Data Storage and Management: Examples of this could be MSL(must see list) that every territory has which is a customer database, Chemists lists, rankings, all kinds of reports, detailing tools, detailing stories to go with it, photos/videos of CMEs/medical camps, expense and stock accounting, HR related documentation and all kinds of backups needed. All these can be available a click away.

Communication Tools: These include all your communication tools to be used within your team, with the rest of your company colleagues, partners and also customers.
Publication Tools: These can be used productively and innovatively in many situations in a representative’s life and business like training, updating trends, opinions, networking etc.

Information Management & Search Tools:Representatives are required to stay ahead with knowledge of current affairs, knowledge with respect to therapy areas and product category. Reps can use such tools to stay ahead of market. They can search for information and also they can let information come to them through such tools. While handling important business contacts, such information on customers and other relevant market news can provide the much needed competitive advantage.

Personal Information Manager: A rep needs to be a savvy person to plan his work and work his plan. Juggling personal and professional life can be a big task. The job demands a lot of personal time and accountability in handling the given area. So some of the easy tools can help them do things productively to stay ahead and achieve the much needed work-life balance.

Business Tools: Remember we talked of innovative ways. These tools will make the rep innovative in how he handles his customers, territory and the business. They can arrange web conferencing for some key clients with HO, collaborate well with distributor friends and manage invoices and payments in a much better way.

Each one of these tools can be mapped to existing ways of work of the representative. Organizations can integrate these in a swift and productive manner to have real time data and gain immensely from introducing such tools from the ground level of a representative.
Understand Cloud which is a boon today from the business perspective and optimize business processes for maximum efficiency. Once you map productivity and efficiency of your organization with traditional IT systems vs cloud, you will see the value in Cloud services.
What do you think? Feel free to comment. You can reach
me at www.varadh.com or @varadhkrish

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Where Pharma Can Start With Social Media

When people talk of “Pharma and Social Media” they think of replacing in-house reps. They think “out-of-the-box”.  My idea of pharma and social media is completely different.
Introduction
I am using the term “doctors” to denote medical practitioners in this post. In the Indian context, pharma generally refers to them as Doctors. Doctors include all kinds of medical practitioners. The general practitioners, physicians, surgeons, all specialists (including dentists) and super-specialists. In short, anyone who can legally prescribe your medicine to the patient. 
How Pharma Sells
In pharmaceutical sales, the most important customer is the doctor. Though patients buy and use the medicines, it is the doctor who prescribes it and hence doctors are their customers. Pharma companies try and visit as many doctors as possible through their representatives. In general, the numbers of visits to such doctors determine the results. Top-of-mind-brand-recall means more prescriptions. Hence they also try as many numbers of visits as possible to doctors. The whole of pharma strives to increase the time they spend with doctors who wield a lot of power in prescribing their brands.
Quality Time With Doctors
Some doctors see reps every day, any time during their practice hours. Some see on specified time every day. Some see on specified time on specified days. Some do everything to avoid meeting reps. The amount of time that reps get to spend with doctors is severely limited today. So there is an ever-shortening of the time that you get to spend with doctors to influence their prescriptions.  I don’t know how many companies have a record of the average time spent inside the doctor’s cabin by their reps. We used to have such parameters long back. This was used to plan the length of the detailing story and also the number of products to be promoted. Even patients, the paying customers, don’t get to spend quality time with their doctors. 
Challenges
Pharma faces major challenges with their sales forces today. I already wrote about what plagues the industry. Reps today are not able to manage even the normal list of activities that makes the job.  Unless your reps are extremely smart in spending quality time with the doctors and influence them, you have no chance of winning in the crowded market place today. 
My Prescription
You have to fundamentally change how you sell your products in the future. The model of tens of thousands of reps meeting doctors will not go away over-night but greatly reduce in the future. Find out how much time doctors spend online. You will be surprised it is much more than the time they spend with representatives. Go where your customers go. Online. Its not a quick fix for growth. But the way to the future. 
It is high time that the companies learn to use Social Media tools to supplement and strengthen what they already have through their reps. Pharma can use social media tools and do the following to start with
  • Opening more doctors doors
  • To gain valuable time of doctors (supplementing visit time of reps)
  • Relevant exchange of information with quality conversations (share more clinical and informative data surrounding your products)
  • Strengthen your rep-doctor relationships (because of SM activities the prescription push will become more effective and also the time spent will stretch during visits)
  • Build meaningful relationships
  • Train your reps better
  • Improve productivity of reps

This list is only indicative. We are working on a list of objectives, tools and actionable items and possibly a pilot program soon. 
What Next
Using new age tools with old strategies is a sure recipe for disaster. So you need to learn new ways of doing things to use social media tools. I believe Pharma is capable of bringing about “game changing” practices. It just needs to dedicate more time, energy and money. 
My thoughts have been shaping up well for actionable results. You can keep a track of it here http://blog.varadh.com/search/label/Pharma
 Feel free to comment. Call me and I will be happy to talk to you. 
Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Build Your Brand Series : Indian Pharma Domestic Formulations Business

While discussing Social Media Marketing with Indian Pharma companies, I am revisiting Indian domestic formulations business as a whole. I am sharing some of the thoughts and discussions here.

There are two kinds of thought processes that happens when Indian Pharma companies add products to their domestic market portfolio.

First, there could be an established market for a molecule and companies introduce their brand to take a share of already existing market for that molecule. This kind of launch happens when a company is purely looking at turnover increase and wants to achieve the same through me-too products. Most small companies will follow this kind of launch for their growth. In such launches, there is no need for concept selling. One has to convert existing business to their brand through their relationship and strength in the market. Most of the times, the brand recall is what brings in the success by way of prescriptions. So my discussion forward is how social media tools can be used for this kind of objective.

Second, the molecule is new and has great potential and companies want to cash-in on the first-mover advantage. This kind of launch is done by companies who have the resources to know what is happening at a global level and also have access to resources to do concept selling. Such marketing involves establishing the new molecule concept against existing molecules appropriately mapping them to the indications and also substantiating the same through quoting relevant literature to convince the doctors to convert and try the new molecule. Obviously, here Social Media can do much more to support a company succeed as SM tools can be used in multiple ways here.

There is a new discussion which goes as follows:

An existing molecule may have more than one indication. Many a times companies who go by literature and promote the molecule against a few indications fail to get feedback on how it is actually used. Though companies promote it in a way they know, there could be other interesting ways it is used by doctors by way of experience in their practice. It also happens that the missed indication is a greater chunk of market and this is being missed by the companies. My discussion hovers around how Social Media tools can be used for such feedback and validating the feedback before acting upon the same.

These are the three kinds of situations that I have in my discussions where Social Media tools can be used in Indian domestic Formulations business. Are there more situations? Feel free to add them by way of comments.

Stay tuned here to know more about Social Media tools and discussions mapping them to the objectives.B

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Social Media and Healthcare : A Good Example

I wrote about Physician-Patient relationship. This is a very interesting area to work on for doctors too.

I have been promoting the idea that doctors can use Social Media space for sharing information which will help empower patients and also help provide better healthcare.

Since my profession made me closer to physicians, a lot of my friends call me to accompany them to the visit to their doctor to understand and explain to them later. Especially when they have to take decisions. I am attached to this subject of “patient education” very much.

Most of the times what physicians explain, patients cannot understand. There are many reasons for this. The physician may not have enough time and patience. Patients have a lot of misinformation. They have a lot of misgivings. In some occasions patients lack comprehension. Emotional influences play a part too. And a lot more.

Many patients do not understand how a physician arrives at his conclusions and also why physicians may advise different course of action for different patients with the same conditions. Also physicians and patients do not always take “shared decisions”.

One of the ways some patients take care of this is by way of “second opinions”. They go to another doctor and ask his opinion. There are a lot of issues surrounding this also. Sometimes physicians get offended. I see the trend that nowadays physicians themselves take “second opinions” transparently with the patient. Sometimes patients get more confused. Mostly “second opinions” work to the advantage of patients.

The following video is one of the best examples that I have come across in the space of “Social Media and Healthcare”. This video is about “Second Opinions”, “Shared decision making” and “Participatory medicine”.

I am sure this video will stand you in good stead on understanding “second opinions” and also about “Shared Decision Making”.


A real example of how Physicians can use Social Media for better healthcare.

Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

Physician-Patient Relationship : Pharma Opportunity

In my previous article What Pharma Marketers Can do, I commented “My favourite suggestion starts with working around patient-physician relationships and pharma participating there.”

Doctors are currently struggling with this phenomenon of ePatients going with a overload of information. Most of the times the doctors don’t have the time. They might be looking forward to redirect them to authentic information.

Pharma has a huge potential of turning this to an opportunity.

    Read this good article Googling Symptoms Helps Patients and Doctors by DR. ZACHARY F. MEISEL. Quoting from it,

    Doctors are going to have to realize that often patients are doing the absolutely best thing for themselves by going online before the office visit. Clinicians will need to learn for themselves which are the best sources of patient-oriented Internet-based information so that when the patient does go in confused by wrong or poorly organized online data, the efforts can be redirected as opposed to dismissed.

    Of course, many patients are going to discover the best online health information way before their doctors do. They, too, have a responsibility: patients will need to signal to their doctor how they conducted their search in a way that was smart, directed and grounded in evidence. Only then will the Google stack be recognized and used in a helpful, not counterproductive, fashion.

    My top three suggestions out of many would be these.

    • Patient facing websites
    • Blogging
    • Conferences for patients without treatment recommendations or product promotions

    Some of these are done in traditional marketing in a different way. But now it can be done on a large scale and more effectively online where ePatients can be catered to.

    Of course, these have to be customized and executed(within the regulatory framework) in sync with the company’s objectives and its policies.

    What do you think Pharma can do to help ePatients and also earn goodwill that can translate into a top-of-the-mind-recall with doctors when it comes to prescriptions?

    Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com

    What Pharma Marketers Can Do

    The Marketing Metrics Continuum provides a fra...

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    You are a marketing manager with pharma brands. You have 20+ brands or may be much more. You have a big sales force of representatives. You have area managers, regional, divisional, zonal and national sales managers making their efforts with the market place including your representatives as ambassadors, doctors, distributors and chemists under your able guidance. Month after month you are pushing your targets. Campaign after campaign you are planning new strategies with promotional materials including new visual aids,  physicians samples and gifts. 

    List of activities done by a Pharma representative is already big. Also it has become common place. Every company does that.  Doing that efficiently is a big challenge, by itself, leave alone differentiation from your competitors.

    “Pharma and Social Media” Webinars concentrate on new ideas for Pharma Marketing.  Take a look at the scope of the topic. You can take a look at few examples of how pharma is using social media tools as quoted in this whitepaper.

    Think of what objectives you can achieve through social media and what kind of tools would make you do that. My favourite suggestion starts with working around patient-physician relationships and pharma participating there. See what is good for your range of products.

    What can you and I do? And how will it be different?

    We can try new ways. We can try new things. We can try new media. We can look at Social Media tools for Pharma Marketing.

    It requires your updated hands-on field knowledge and derived objectives to be mapped to the social media ideas and skills.

    Social Media can make you move forward. The leap could be very big if done right.

    Let me know what you think. Buzz me for more customized discussions.

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    Originally posted on http://blog.varadh.com