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Moving Beyond Ad Boards: Asynchronous HCP Engagement Strategies
Before the pandemic most MSL/HCP engagements and advisory boards were in-person. Then during the pandemic, we largely moved to synchronous virtual — aka, we conducted our in-person engagements on Zoom. Now as we start to look beyond the pandemic, innovative Medical Affairs teams are exploring alternatives to traditional engagements including platforms that allow asynchronous or “over time” engagement: KOLs interact with platforms and with each other on their own time, receiving information and offering feedback outside the model of a group discussion. This podcast sponsored by Impetus Digital explores the opportunities and benefits of platforms that deliver asynchronous engagement, noting dramatic increases in HCP/KOL participation and cost-per-word.
Garth Sundem 00:00
Welcome to this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society Podcast Series: “Elevate”. I’m your host, Garth Sundem, Communications Director at MAPS. And today we’re speaking about HCP engagement with Impetus Digital Co-Founder and CEO Natalie Yeadon, and Impetus Global Business Development Director Vaska Hamanova. This podcast is brought to you by Impetus Digital whose insight platform creates flawless online experiences by leveraging award winning synchronous and asynchronous tools and services. Natalie, let’s start with you. We used to be in person, then during the pandemic, we largely moved to synchronous virtual. And now a lot of places are looking to add asynchronous, or over time engagement. Could you tell us what a synchronous virtual HCP engagement is? And what some of the benefits are compared with the real-time systems that we’ve all become so comfortable with?
Natalie Yeadon 01:04
Garth, great question. And thank you again for having us on your show. So yes, you’re absolutely right in pharmaceutical industry for years and years, we have been a climatized and socialized to doing relationship building development of the marketplace in person, this is the way we have traditionally done advisory boards, we all know this to be true. We’re used to flying people from across the country or the globe, get them into a single place, meals, hotel rooms, all sorts of things, and expense and time, getting really heavy agendas. And quite frankly, throwing enough stuff to the wall and hoping something sticks. That is the reason we were doing it. It was expensive, getting people in the same place. Unfortunately, there was a little bit of information overwhelm, people were only grasping, kind of like studying, cramming for exams, you’re really hoping that there’s a few little nuggets that remain with people. But in addition to this, you were oftentimes limited to the same people you were seeing over and over again, they were tried and tested, they were the established influencers. And those are the people that you had budgets for. Enter COVID, we realized that that changed the world as we know it, including a moratorium on in-person visits, that includes advisory boards, what MSLs and sales reps were doing in person. We had to, a little bit of a force of hand if you will, into this, what I call a digital translation. So, you said that really eloquently, Garth, and that is people simply took what they were doing in person and translated it into a virtual, into a virtual format. Yeah, so they were taking these synchronous virtual software programs. And they we’re still running these four to six hour meetings all at the same time, the same kinds of agenda, same speaker and same objectives, but they just brought it in virtually. Now, what we found was happening, and we know at Impetus, is that these synchronous meetings can be fairly energy depleting, you don’t normally have the same dissipators like you do in person where you can get up, go to the bathroom, have a break, meet somebody in the hallway, you’re just kind of bombarded and you’re in there. And we also realize that there’s science to show that the way you process people in these kind of little pictures and whatever is really requires a lot of effort. So, we really also realize that the level of engagement, because you’re still asking everybody to be in the same place, sorry, in the same location at the same time, I’ll be it not the same location. And so, you’re not sloping, as many people engaged because people have busy schedules. So, enter what we are calling the new world of asynchronous. So, we’ve gone away from like, the zooms, you know, we’re you know, even things like Clubhouse, a lot of on demand. And there’s been a lot of queries and questions about work life balance, fatigue, concerns, etc. So, enter this new opportunity with asynchronous, so you said this, at the beginning, synchronous is different than synchronous, it just fancy service for synchronous means it’s real time, it’s live, although it’s virtual. And asynchronous means it’s not real time. It’s actually over time. And what it requires is a digital platform. Now I really want to spend a couple of minutes just talking about these tools. One of the reasons it’s been a challenge for people getting into these platforms, is we’re used to sort of standardized tools, we’re used to email, we’re used to, you know, zoom, and we’re not really flexible. It’s not like me, we’ve built the kind of neural networks to play with digital tools. We don’t have them, and we don’t know how to use them. Now, I want to just leave this to say that there’s an interesting neuroscience to support this. In fact, when we call electronic brain-storming or using these asynchronous portals, where people can log in, at any time they want on any device over a two to three, four week period, is we call it electronic brainstorming. We find that there’s 71% more ideas shared per participant per minute, versus what you would get normally in an in person meeting, because there’s less redundancy and less production blocking, because people can’t talk over each other, which you would see in an in person meeting. With the asynchronous, you’re getting more, you’re getting more digestible pieces. So, smaller increments. So, instead of having this four to five hour meeting, you do these one hour meetings spaced out by days or weeks or even months, and you give people processing time, they get to think about it, see what their colleagues are saying, and actually even practice it in their clinic. So, they get this concept of a fresh start, we find that this group solitary touchpoint sequencing can result in 37% more ideas through group priming. And also there’s an anonymity safety measure. We find that people are increasing the amount of insights they’re sharing, because they’re not as impacted by some of the more verbose or opinionated individuals that we oftentimes see in the in person meeting. So, I’ll give you a couple of quick stats, we see an increase of about 30% in engagement, a 40% increase in the speed to gathering insights, a 50% increase in the quantity and quality of the insights. So, we get over 1000 minutes of active contribution in a one hour session a synchronously versus only 145 minutes, over a seven hour Live Meeting. And this just gives you an example. On average, in a live meeting, we would get about 18 pages of a transcript report, while an asynchronous with the same 20 advisors in a one hour touchpoint, we can get over 50 pages, that results in an average of 55 cents per advisor word versus $22 that you would be paying per advisory board word in a live meeting.
Garth Sundem 06:45
Okay, cool. So, we’ve been talking mostly in the context of ad boards. But Vaska, this goes way beyond ad boards. What about things like HCP community boards or digital publication groups? What other uses do you see for this asynchronous engagement?
Vaska Hamanova 07:05
Absolutely, and that’s a great question. You mentioned that HCP community boards, digital publication groups, research grant submissions and review programs. We can work on clinical trials and patient advisory boards, we can really tailor to the business with respect to internal stakeholder engagement and external stakeholder engagement asynchronously. So, we, the integration of digital technology now, is now allows us for continuous relationships through synchronous and asynchronous touchpoints. HCP community boards are equipped with our patented tools, insight exchange, and insight surveyor that really allow MSLs to ask questions and communicate with KOLs asynchronously. KOLs love this as it’s very appreciative of their time, and MSLs can completely manage this community board on their own, enabling them to post questions and receive feedback on new publications, clinical trials, patient case studies, all in a very timely manner.
Garth Sundem 08:07
Well, that’s interesting. So, you know, you work with a lot of organizations who I mean, their goal is to engage all of these external stakeholders. Do you see people making the transition to asynchronous? You know, Natalie, what, what are you seeing are people, are people getting on board with asynchronous now?
Natalie Yeadon 08:27
Yeah, I mean, it’s actually a really good point. And I have to say that that COVID was really a pivotal point. And what we’ve noticed is that it didn’t necessarily modify the way we’re doing work. Because we were already starting to get a lot of pharmaceutical companies transforming and moving into the digital space. That really acted more like an accelerant. It accelerated, there was a groundswell of momentum, that really forced digital advancement in you know, pushed us forward about five years. So, what we actually did find is that there was a at the beginning, Garth, a little bit of resistance. And part of this was the issue of we have been socialized in pharma, that real relationships, and the development of marketplace and brand advancement really comes with face to face, real deep relationships that we do in person. And so, in some ways, COVID forced the hand, if you will, of this digital adoption. Certainly, there was a lot of concerns around security, tech and tech issues. A lot of times companies have their own internal, and suddenly they’re being faced by these cloud solutions. And what does this mean, and how does it deal with infrastructure? We’re dealing with people’s wireless and bandwidth issues, tech savviness issues and all sorts of other concerns, kind of tying into this whole idea of the work from home, are people going to be productive? Are they going to do what they do when I don’t have my eyes and scrutinizing what you’re doing all the time. So, I think at the beginning, there was a little bit of overexuberance indulgence in zoom. And I think we saw almost a backlash people were starting to get fatigued. There’s an overabundance, people didn’t know how to divide that work-life balance. And I think we’re starting to see this movement into people understanding that, I don’t have to necessarily use these synchronous tools, meaning, when you engage me synchronously, I got to get on demand, I got to be there, I got to be right on there, I have to be able to respond to you right away. And that’s not always necessarily the case that can impact productivity. Say, for example, you’re working on a really important project, and you needed some undivided time where you can really focus your effort. Utilizing these asynchronous tools, people started realizing in the pharma companies, that they can start giving people a little bit more breathing room, their stakeholders can come in anytime they wanted, and actually start to give thoughtful responses when it was convenient for them. So, what we’re noticing with pharma is that they’re learning to understand the importance of meeting clients where they are, you know, there’s a lot of younger generation that aren’t necessarily going to any of these in person meetings anymore. And they’re moving away from what we’re calling these more generalized campaigns or marketing campaigns, into the more Uber customized omni channel approaches as sort of an N=1 scale. And they’re also leveraging deep analytics to tap into a lot of the structured and unstructured data, we collect a lot of unstructured data. And companies are wanting to use our API, so that they can use this, do the deeper analytics and really integrate into AI and machine learning and really determine the next best logical step with each of their KOL. So, all of this to say is, they understand and are getting more and more close to the idea that they realize that relationships can be built and sustained, virtually, I mean, it doesn’t necessarily have to come in person. Having said all of that, Garth, we are seeing a world where we’re looking at hybrid. So the movement of, we went completely, we went from one side of the pendulum of all live, and then we switched all the way to the other side, which is all, you know, virtual, we’re probably going to see something nicely in the middle, a mixture of live synchronous and asynchronous at Impetus, we call that a LEAP, or longitudinal expert engagement plan, where you have a series of touch points with a variety of different formats, to completely engage people in a compelling and relevant way. All I wanna say is that we will continue to enthrall and entice people with new tools, new ideas in, in people’s digital ecosystems.
Garth Sundem 12:32
Well, so, I think we’ve been talking about the two-way street of engagement, you know, and creating these personal relationships, or, you know, at least having this back and forth with ad boards, or HCPs, or even patient groups or whatever. But you know, congress’s are wondering the same thing. congress’s are wondering what they can do with asynchronous. Vaska? Have you seen asynchronous best practices emerging yet for congress’s?
Vaska Hamanova 13:02
Yeah, absolutely. And there’s two different ways we can do congress debrief sessions. One way we’ve done it is MSLs can leverage our insight touchpoints platform, specifically insight exchange, to host these daily e-huddles and share back insights in real-time when it’s convenient for them. The platform allows them to debrief on the insights collected, including in depth reviews of the key abstracts that get presented. And the second way we do it is, we’ve actually designed congress debrief sessions, leveraging our platform to host these synchronous live web meetings where advisors will present back objectives, methods and results of an abstract that’s presented the congress meeting. And the best part about doing this all through the platform is that all of these insights and feedback, get consolidated into a recommendations analysis report put together by an Impetus medical writer. And it’s used to share key highlights with internal colleagues and cross functionally.
Garth Sundem 14:01
So, you’re saying…
Natalie Yeadon 14:03
Guys, I just wanted to add to that as well, too, is, you know, congress’s are also moving into that place of hybrid. Yeah, so we’ve launched an award winning insights events platform very much for what you’re talking about is how are people going to do these meetings, not only just congresses, but let’s be frank, corporate does a lot of large meetings, MSL training, rep training, all sorts of other things, hackathons, Innovation Hub centers. And so, we’ve actually collated and cobbled put all of our best in class tools into a platform where there can be everything from pre recorded or live sessions with speakers. People are learning, they can come in and out of a platform and move to various sessions. They can go to breakout sessions, they can set up networking sessions with people. That’s a big piece of people’s learning journey, and networking and you know, job opportunities and all sorts of things going on there. Partnerships, collaborations. We also have socials, you know, the typical thing that we normally miss when we’re in person meeting. So, we want to be able to have a mixology class or cooking class or stretching class before, after sessions or, you know, on the weekends. Yeah, a lot of really innovative ways. And you need people you know, and a big piece that pulls this all together is the experience. We have to make this fun and alluring. We do everything from gamification, really fun virtual backgrounds, immersive 3d designs, making people feel like they’re really part of stuff. So, there’s a lot of really interesting things to do in this. You want to be able to partner with an organization, a center that understands this, that has your back, has all of the back end, you know, it’s almost like working with your, your digital production company, you come to the meeting, and everything is kind of done for you. But that’s some of the examples of things for congresses.
Garth Sundem 15:46
It’s interesting. I think, when most Medical Affairs people talk about hybrid, they’re talking about whether you’re face to face, or whether you’re virtual. And you know, it seems like another definition of hybrid would be hybrid, synchronous and asynchronous. Because a lot of what you’re talking about, you know, I can imagine that if you’re running a congress debrief session, there could be a asynchronous component of that. But if you’re running a stretching session, you’re back to talk synchronous, correct?
Natalie Yeadon 16:15
Correct. Yeah. So, you absolutely can integrate all of that into the platform. And so, you can create an agenda that has a flow in a sequence, allows both of those components to be happening simultaneously. So, it can be happening in the same day. But in addition, as I was mentioning before, with our longitudinal expert engagement plans, or LEAPs, these can be divided in space and time. So, you can actually start off, for example, with pre-work using our asynchronous tools, information and insights can be gathered, and they can actually then be downloaded and discussed in much more depth in a synchronous meeting afterwards. So, that’s another way to look at it as a hybrid program.
Garth Sundem 16:53
That’s cool. You know, I want this for our office, maybe minus the stretching session. But you see, I mean, it seems like the same way you could be engaging all of these external audiences, whether you’re talking about, you know, an N=1 approach, whether you’re talking about more of a congress approach. But you know, it also seems like you could use this same hybrid in person virtual, you know, hybrid synchronous, asynchronous approach internally as well. Are you seeing people using, you know, your platforms and other asynchronous platforms internally?
Vaska Hamanova 17:34
Yeah, absolutely. We see companies host a lot of educational webinars and events. So, they will leverage our insight touchpoints, platform exchange and surveyor, as well as comprehensive digital and Strategic Services to plan, execute and disseminate and an educational webinar. And that’s the most smooth and seamless process to do it whereby gaps and barriers are bridged by execution of high participation, interactive webinars, in our insight platform. And you can only imagine that learning something asynchronously, you have the time to ruminate on the idea, you have time to look at it multiple times, and generate your own conclusion from it. So, we have seen companies do a lot of this as well as co-development of these education platforms, education programs on our platform.
Natalie Yeadon 18:25
Yeah, and Garth, just to add to that, as well, too, is there’s so many other innovative things that we have created with our clients for specific internal use. So, let’s just say for example, we work with a lot of enterprise global clients, they’re doing best practice sharing, they may be launching a new brand, they actually have to get all of the affiliates in the local offices with global all on the same page about what they’re doing. So, they leverage platforms like the Impetus insight platform to bring their teams together, share what they’re doing, market access, marketing, medical, and they leverage these groups to be able to do work together. In addition, MSL training is a huge part of what we do, not only can they do role playing with our breakout groups synchronously, but also using our asynchronous tools. Like we have something called the fishbowl technique, six thinking hats, we use our Delphi technique and a whole series of online debates to help people learn in the platform. We’ve also recently launched something called the digital MSL office, we’ve actually been helping MSLs create their sort of circle of influence with their, with their physicians and these advisors, small group committees. And so instead of doing these, you know, one on ones, they’re becoming much more efficient by having you know, these community boards, these mentorship programs, they’re actually able to ask questions whenever they want. They’re building these small communities and using insight exchange and insight survey questions, to be able to upload documents, pull out transcript reports, and see these on demand activity trackers. So, there’s a ton of things that we’ve done, and we love to speak to anybody here who’s interested to see the kaleidoscope of use cases that we’ve done.
Garth Sundem 19:59
So, I love the word Kaleidoscope because that does seem like a summary for what we’ve been talking about here today. There are so many new ideas emerging, you know, synchronously, asynchronously, in person, and virtually that, that, that now we have such an ability to, to tailor and use all of these different pieces to engage internally and externally with our stakeholders in new and very personalized ways.
Natalie Yeadon 20:38
The only thing I just like to leave with people is depending on if what you we call it if you’re a skimmer, a swimmer or deep diver, we actually have all of that myriad and we can speak to you all. And we kind of give you the whole lay of the land. But it doesn’t have to be that complex. So, I just wanted to leave it with everybody in this fashion, our tools, there’s, it’s almost like LEGO blocks. If you look at the primordial soup of life, there’s a few things that we have. Those are like what I call the LEGO blocks, they’re ubiquitous. How we combine the red with the blue, and how it becomes like a little man versus a car is what we call the use case. So, I just wanted to say is that it’s really not as complex as it sounds. All we’re saying is we have a few simple tools, they’re very effective. How we piece them together is going to be based on our conversation with you as an individual based on your brand objectives. And we will be able to customize it to make it exactly what it is that you need. So, if you need a little mechanical man with a feather cap and you know a funny hand, that’s actually what we can do with our LEGO blocks. But it’s just starting with a simple idea. And these tools can be absolutely because they’re ubiquitous, they can be used to be customized for your simple solution.
Garth Sundem 21:53
So, let’s leave it at that for today. Natalie and Vaska, thanks for joining. To learn more about Impetus Digital and asynchronous virtual and hybrid engagement through the insight platform, check out ImpetusDigital.com or schedule a demo at meetwithImpetus.com. Don’t forget to subscribe. And we hope you enjoyed this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society Podcast Series: “Elevate”.
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© 2023 Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS). All Rights Reserved Worldwide.