Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the pharma to physician dynamic was in the midst of some significant changes. The reason for this was that new laws, industry regulations and tightening office policies were creating major barriers for pharmaceutical sales organizations looking to market to prescribers. Things only got more difficult once the pandemic hit.
This increasingly restrictive climate around physician engagement has forced pharmaceutical companies to explore new ways of communicating with prescribers in order to fuel sales growth. This has given rise to a whole new type of engagement, one where technology sits front and center. And with this, remote HCP engagement has become the new normal.
Pharmaceutical companies are now overhauling their entire sales and marketing strategies to accommodate this new reality. In addition to text-messaging, AI-powered sales enablement and other digital technologies, the Internet of Things (IoT) is also finding a seat at the table. As reps continue to get squeezed out of the picture, IoT-powered smart devices offer a way for them to remain ever-present.
Why IoT is the Answer
As highlighted in IoT Business News, IoT-powered smart devices like Swittons enhance the pharma to physician relationship by enabling reps to cover more territory. They also help break down communication barriers to office visits, professional consultations and product orders. For pharmaceutical commercial organizations, deployment of IoT powered solutions can accomplish the following:
- Solve “whitespace” problems by enabling communication with physicians who were previously untargeted, because of remoteness or other reasons.
- Boost the launch of new brands by increasing brand awareness and sample facilitation. Devices can be custom branded for marketing purposes, and functionality can be preprogrammed to help facilitate automatic or “at a touch” reorders.
- Add more coverage for sales teams that have downsized. IoT-powered solutions can be utilized as virtual assistants, creating a presence in offices and areas that are being unnurtured because of a lack of human capital.
- Help physicians order samples faster (or product, for “buy & bill” offices). Smart devices that are designed to be compatible with existing commercial infrastructure, and that integrate seamlessly with CRM and ERP systems, will enable a 24/7, unobtrusive presence in medical offices and facilities. Bringing critical data from a device to the enterprise has never been easier thanks to platforms like Microsoft Azure.
- Create a new channel of communication with physicians, something that is greatly needed. In 2017, just over half of all practices owned by hospitals and health systems banned drug reps from visiting their doctors.
In-Person Meetings on the Decline
For many physicians, the days of leisurely lunches with sales reps are a thing of the past. Over the last year, there’s been a sharp decrease in the number of prescribers who are permitted to meet in-person with pharmaceutical reps. Just over half of physicians recently polled said they have met in person with pharmaceutical reps recently. This is a substantial drop from 2018, when 67% reported such visits.
In offices where meetings are still taking place, prescribers overwhelmingly favor brief meetings. 85% of physicians in 2018 said their ideal interaction with a drug rep lasted no longer than five minutes. This isn’t much time to provide a physician with all that is needed to build a relationship, but it is enough time to provide them with a branded, out of the box ready smart device that they can utilize for requests at their own convenience.
Further complicating things are pandemic situations like the COVID-19 outbreak. IoT-powered solutions really come in handy in situations like this because they limit exposure risk to the virus by eliminating unnecessary visits by representatives of pharmaceutical commercial organizations to hospitals and other healthcare facilities. By automating the pharma to physician relationship, professionals working in the field of pharmaceutical sciences will not become a serious risk factor for the spread of a virus.
A Great Alternative to Face-to-Face Meetings
Physicians that we have spoken to here at Swittons have said they would greatly appreciate smart devices like Swittons because the devices would enable them to be in better control of their schedule. At the click of a button, they could request samples, schedule sales visits, book medical science liaison (MSL) consultations and access important medical information. And since most devices take up very little desk space, they could conveniently integrate with physician workstyles.
The relationship between humans and IoT-powered devices is only getting stronger, as humans rely more and more on the increased efficiencies garnered by such powerful technologies. And in these cases, it’s more of a mutualistic relationship – not a competition – and it’s becoming a symbiosis.
What does the Future Hold?
As physicians begin integrating smart devices into their professional lives, the future of IoT becomes even more exciting. In the future, smart devices for sales purposes can be utilized in tandem with patient devices to assist in the development of tailor-made therapeutics. Critical therapeutic data could go from the patient to the physician to the pharmaceutical company in a simple, streamlined fashion – aiding in the rapid development of advanced therapeutics. In addition, the deployment of patient monitoring devices that provide automatic alerts for caregivers, reminders to take medications and the means to remotely check-in with nurses, doctors and specialists can also connect with pharma to physician devices to enable an instantaneous supply chain.
Current and future IoT devices are creating a new, symbiotic world of efficiencies and cost savings, not usually attainable through conventional electronic or computer-based means. It’s definitely a new industrial revolution, perhaps creating a better relationship between pharmaceutical companies, physicians and patient customers. This makes the new normal extremely exciting, and we are just getting started.
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Delivering a 360 view through the pharma, physician and patient ecosystem, P360 designs and deploys capabilities that ensure the highest efficiencies and returns on sales operations, data management, clinical trials, patient centricity, and IoT innovation. With expertise in supporting commercial operations for companies of all sizes, P360 has built an industry-leading platform that gives customers ownership of their data and the ability to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.