A couple of months ago we met with Claire Versluys and Didier Dierckx to discuss their views on the more prominent role digital is getting in pharma’s interaction strategies (you can read the full interview here). The key takeaway was that pharma needed to improve on how it used digital channels and brought content via these channels pre-COVID-19 pandemic.

So, Claire and Didier, did pharma succeed?

Claire: Pharma definitely succeeded in increasing its level of digital interactions. We hear from the industry and see in the data that pharma companies increased the volume of its interactions with HCPs via multiple digital channels, such as web calls, phone calls, online events, etc. Pharma did not only increase its interactions; it also diversified by starting to use more and more platforms to interact with their customers.

Pharma did not only increase its interactions; it also diversified by starting to use more and more platforms to interact with their customers.

Didier: When talking to our clients, it also becomes immediately clear that pharma invested quite heavily in educating and training HCPs on how to use the various platforms. As we mentioned when we last met, you simply cannot assume that all HCPs are equally capable in dealing with this “new” technology, so taking away these technical barriers should have been a quick-win!

That’s a big success for an industry that is considered to be more conservative!

Claire: Not necessarily. We do not see that the reach of digital channels increased, which is quite remarkable. You would expect that – especially when comparing with pre-COVID-19 – there would be a decrease in the reach of face-to-face channels and at the same time an increase in the reach of digital channels. However, in various studies, we only see the former.

What does this mean then?

Claire: It seems that pharma is reaching HCPs via digital channels that it already was reaching via those channels. It has not expanded the reach of the digital channels. Convincing non-digital preferring HCPs to also engage digitally seems to be a very difficult exercise in which pharma has not yet succeeded.

Convincing non-digital preferring HCPs to also engage digitally seems to be a very difficult exercise in which pharma has not yet succeeded.

Didier: Let’s be clear, in general, there is a strong request for more interactions via digital channels and it does not restrict itself to the near future. Already quite a large proportion of HCPs indicates they would like to have more interactions via digital channels if/when any restrictions on face-to-face interactions are lifted. We can safely assume that digital is here to stay.

Claire: That being said, the request for more digital is not equally strong for every HCP segment. The data seems to suggest that high potential HCPs are less inclined to engage on digital platforms as they are probably already flooded via digital channels.

Didier: But it’s not only about high potential HCPs, there is also a group of HCPs that still prefers face-to-face interactions and would welcome them once it is allowed again. We recently heard an example via Trilations’ Omnichannel Diary Study about a face-to-face launch event for an expected blockbuster that was rescheduled to an online version. Various HCPs gave low satisfaction scores to this event simply because they preferred this to be a face-to-face event. Convincing these HCPs is the next challenge!

What can we learn from all this? 

Claire: I think the conclusion for now is: if digital is here to stay, it does not necessarily mean that face-to-face is going anywhere anytime soon. Pharma should keep the need for a segmented approach in mind when planning for a post-COVID-19 world.

Pharma should keep the need for a segmented approach in mind when planning for a post-COVID-19 world.

Claire Versluys & Didier Dierckx

This interview is done with our COO Claire & our omnichannel director Didier.

If you have questions about this topic, don’t hesitate to reach out to them.

Mail Claire  Mail Didier

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