Digital First Scientific Communications – Implementing Omnichannel in Medical Affairs
Speaker: Steve Casey
Partially recorded at the MAPS America’s Annual meeting in Nashville, members of the MAPS Digital FAWG interviewed representatives from seven organizations in the MAPS Partner Circle.
In this podcast, part 2 of a 3-part series, our experts in the Digital FAWG tackle the question of: “How does a Medical Affairs organization plan for integrating omnichannel activities?”
Following is an automated transcription provided by otter.ai. Please excuse inaccuracies.
Welcome to this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast: “Elevate”. The views expressed in this recording are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect on the opinions of MAPS nor the companies with which they are affiliated. This presentation is for informational purposes only, and is not intended as legal or regulatory advice. And now for today’s “Elevate” episode.
Jennifer Riggins 00:32
Welcome to the Medical Affairs Professional Society’s podcast series: “Digital First Scientific Communications – How Digital is Transforming Medical Communications”. In these podcasts, we speak with experts in the field of scientific and medical communications, and discuss how digital transformation is opening opportunities for medical communicators. I’m Jennifer Riggins, a co-host of this podcast. I currently serve as a member of the Digital Focus Area Working Group and I’ve worked in pharma for about 30 years with a focus on medical information, scientific communications and medical digital, and I currently work for phactMI, a nonprofit consortium of medical information leaders. I’m joined by my co-host Steve Casey of Omni Healthcare Communications or Omni HC for short, a leader in digital first medical communications. So Steve and I started a new series focused on omni channel communications. We embarked on a project to interview experts on omni channel and determine the consistencies, discrepancies, challenges and unknowns from several points of view. We interviewed representatives from several organizations at the MAPS national meeting, we discussed omni channel and how they define it, implement it and measure it. So we’re tackling each of these areas of omni channel one per episode. We’ve curated all the responses to each question we asked to allow you, the listener, to have full transparency. Then throughout the podcast, Steve and I will summarize and we’ll discuss some of the interesting things we’ve heard. In this way we hope to help you learn more about omni channel and how best to use it.
Steve Casey 02:04
In our last podcast, we discussed the definition of omni channel. If you haven’t already listened to Episode One, we highly recommend listening to that episode before going further in this one that’ll help you level set the discussion. For today’s podcast we tackle the question of how does a Medical Affairs organization plan for integrating omni channel activities? So alright, let’s dig right in. Let’s listen to the responses from Lars Bauerle, SVP and Product Manager for Definitive Healthcare. And Martin Callaghan, Director of Innovation at Pharmagenesis.
Lars Bauerle 02:40
Yeah, I think that, probably many approaches that up, but you would want to probably think about you were Yeah, what kind of organization Oreo? How big are you? How much resources do you have, and incise it a bit after that, in general, though, maybe starting small is good. This is a new area, you want to learn and figure out how to do it. So yeah, stop, stop polar, pretty simple and create some of these cross functional teams to help you get the right people at the table and figure some of this stuff out. And you probably will even have to involve maybe organizational parts of the organization that you usually don’t work with, like it may be more on the analytical side to you’re going to try to learn how to collect data, analyze it, use it to help you segment your customers and such. And maybe you’re getting into areas of privacy and other things that might require some legal advice as well. So that might be something to think about as you get started on this. And I think the third or fourth thing here would be to maybe try to leverage some of the data that already exist about your work as well. So the people you’re trying to reach, in the case case of, you know, doctors or Kol is research then, you know, what are they what what information already exist on them that you maybe can use to learn some about who they are and what behavior they have, and what kind of learning personality they have, like, let’s take doctors that, you know, looking at prescription data, if they are willing to take on new treatments and things like that pretty quickly, they might be more open to certain types of information. Others might be more traditional, you know, let’s look at their publication history. Others are maybe more into speaking at conferences, you know, so those traditional things that you guys usually look at when understanding Kol is can probably be used as a good basis right? Or even help you maybe further segment that base in order to think about how you want to communicate with them and build up your own omni channel structure. So I would say don’t let the grandiose ideas around this prevent you from going and getting started right start simple leverage people’s knowledge in the company by creating cross functional teams and then take advantage of some of the data you might already have.
Martin Callaghan 05:20
It can feel overwhelming, I think. But I think there’s a simple framework to follow. I think it starts with really understanding the core concept and what omni channel really is. Just so you have a basic framework of knowledge to work from. And those those concepts really don’t change in terms of different ways of adopting omni channel, the next step is to connect with people across functions who are doing some of that work already in within the pillars or across those pillars, including internal platform owners and external partners. And even if you don’t deliver on the channel in a cross functional way, you’ll likely want to be using, say a lot of the same data and tech infrastructure than creating your own for medical, which is more difficult and more expensive. The third thing I think is looking at what your goals are, and setting up and prioritizing them, and what their measures of success would be. And I think, you know, you’ve heard the phrase, trying to boil the ocean. And people, if they tried to adopt omni channel across an organization is going to be a big journey. So you know, do what you can do right there right, then start small and scale from there, maybe or just do it in medical education, maybe you’ll do it within Saigon to tighten up your congresses and publications activities. So I think choose the model that allow you to adopt to start with and set up the goals to do that. The next thing I think, is to create a roadmap based on those core concepts around the channel about where you are and where you want to be. So these core concepts are things like data technology insights, your field medical team, perhaps your local orchestrators and then move towards building those building out those those parts of the infrastructure. So you can start small you need to build from there. Implementing omni channel isn’t going to happen overnight. So focus on what you can do right now and fill the gaps over time.
Jennifer Riggins 07:04
Let’s pause here and discuss what we’ve heard. You know, Martin and Lars have introduced the concept of start small and learn, and then the importance of cross functional connections. So what do you think about these concepts, Steve?
Steve Casey 07:19
I really appreciate this concept of start small. Sometimes we want to jump right in and be successful right away, but it doesn’t work very well. By jumping in, you can get overwhelmed with too much at the beginning, before you’re able to handle it. With modern Medical Affairs omni channel, starting small and building up is an important concept for folks to consider. In my mind, Omni channel requires such a customized approach and cross functional collaboration, that if we try to undertake it all at once, it could easily prove disastrous and demotivating I think the start small advice is sound. And it’s wise for everyone undertaking omni channel, progress gradually into it based on what’s best for your organization and team. So in that way, you’ll ensure success along the way.
Jennifer Riggins 08:07
You know, I really couldn’t agree more. I do think it’s important to have a vision of the whole, you know, a roadmap of sorts, but then you need to be able to implement in phases, you know, based on successes and the learning of pilots that you’ve you’ve completed, I think it’s really the only way to ensure cross functional alignment and then success of the overall project.
Steve Casey 08:29
Well said, I 100% agree. Now let’s listen to Charlotte Moseley, Executive Director of IPG health, Medical Communications and Dylan Benton, Vice President of Digital Strategy and Engagement at Symbiotix. Both of these focus a little bit more on understanding the data and using the enabling technology.
Charlotte Moseley 08:49
I think one of the the biggest challenges that Medical Affairs have is to do true omni channel, you need to put the customer at the center. And there’s many people within an organization wanting to communicate with that customer. So for Medical Affairs, I think first of all, they need to look at the broader organization, as well as within Medical Affairs and how they want to communicate with that particular customer. That’s the center of their omnichannel journey. I think they need to look at the data, they need to look at their the data that they can access in order to do true omni channel. It’s kind of a bit easier in the US than it is x us because of the access to the level of data that you can get in the US versus x us but it’s not impossible for us. So I think in terms of Medical Affairs, I think first of all they need to look at can they truly put the customer central within that organization? Or do they have to do it within medical first within commercial within r&d within corporate whoever’s communicating with that particular customer? And but if they’re solely doing it within Medical Affairs, then I think the thing they need to look at is, can they integrate their data into the knowledge that they have about that customer? What that customer needs when they’re accessing information and how can they learn? What’s the feedback loop that they have to learn to make that experience that content that they’re providing to that particular individual, relevant at the point in time that they want it. So it’s not an easy task. I personally think it’s an organizational change. It’s not just within one particular area. So and that is a task within many organizations. But within Medical Affairs, I think first of all, they’ve got to look at how can they understand the data in order to make that omni channel journey for each and every one of their customer engagement.
Dylan Benton 10:37
That’s a good question. And it’s tough. But, you know, at Symbiotix, we found that Medical Affairs organizations are uniquely positioned to succeed with omni channel because of their focus on content first, relevant and engaging content is one of if not the most important aspects to an effective omni channel experience. Most Medical Affairs teams have an abundant sea of data rich, highly relevant content for their key audiences. The challenge for Medical Affairs really becomes how to best get that content in front of the right audiences using the right platforms, how to do it appropriately, using the right context for proactive and reactive communications, we see a lot of our clients creating really great content, sometimes even on really innovative digital platforms, but they don’t always use, they don’t always rather think about the best ways to achieve the right visibility for it right, just because you build it doesn’t exactly mean they’re going to come. One of the thought around planning and executing omni channel and Medical Affairs is depending on the organization, the biggest challenge might be the technological side of omni channel, you know, connecting the data from various digital and in person data sources is challenging, and it’s complex and requires an infrastructure of CRM platforms, and technologies all communicating harmoniously. And when it comes to technology, if it’s not already in place, there really is no one size solution, there’s no platform or vendor that can just say, Hey, let me set you up with omni channel. Technology isn’t the driver or the lead, it’s really it’s the enabler. But at the end of the day, it’s critical Devine to define the processes, the ways of working to test to learn to enable, this is really gonna allow you to continue to evolve how you engage with HCPs in a better, faster, and more at scale, sort of a way. And then one last note around technology, you know, we’ve seen a lot of companies fail to properly understand and prepare for the magnitude or the investment of technology, and therefore they find themselves unable to execute with the plan that they’ve laid out. So technology is an area that we always recommend exploring and understanding what your capabilities are in house, and what you may need to outsource before you really start planning the omni channel process.
Jennifer Riggins 12:36
So what do you think, Steve? You know, how important do you think the understanding your customer and using enabling technology is?
Steve Casey 12:44
Well, you know, Jen, as we discussed in our first episode of this project, if omni channel is about being customer centric, a key to that, as Charlotte and Dylan point out, is having a solid understanding and profile of your customers. In today’s environment, you’ll need a technology stack that that can source curate and activate an incredible amount of data on those customers. Just think of the process and data required to understand where an individual Kol goes to consume scientific information. And then which site or source does that Kol, frequent more than others. And that’s the easy part. Earlier, we’re talking about starting small and building up from there, a comprehensive technology stack may be too much for some organizations to develop at the start. However, they can start with some pieces and build a foundation that leads to a continued growth toward omni channel. Really, if the goal of omni channel is to be more customer centric, every little step in developing the technology and empowering that knowledge base is really going to be foundational to really giving them a solid understanding of the customer.
Jennifer Riggins 13:50
You know, I totally agree. And, you know, I’d also add that as part of the tech stack work, you know, it’s important to understand your full technology ecosystem, what tech is emerging, what techniques to be retired, what tech Are you aligned to that won’t be changing. If you know all of that, then you can make better decisions on prioritizations. And then what you might be able to capture manually to move the business along while you await further tech advancements or enhancements. You know, tech is important, but really it’s only an enabler. Content is still king. You know, there’s a ton you can learn about your customer and their patterns of behavior without having to change the technology.
Steve Casey 14:35
Jen, I really liked that last line, I agree that content is still king, and to properly do omni channel, I think we also need to understand how we construct that content. We want to do it so that it has optimal effect on the final usability and accessibility in an omni channel setting. So let’s move on and listen to the responses from our last three interviewers. These will be from Gary Lyons, Head of Strategy and Excellence in Fishawack, Tony Gottschalk, Senior Principal at IQVIA. And Sandeep Gantotti, Associate Vice President at Indegene.
Gary Lyons 15:09
That’s a good question, in my experience is really important and organization doesn’t shoot for the stars immediately, it’s good to have that as an objective. But really, I guess, you know, the analogy is going through three stages of, you know, of developments with a child, you know, you go through the crawling stage, the walking stage, the running stage, and I think it’s the same with adoption of omni channel, I think it’s really important that accompany doesn’t, you know, doesn’t run before it can walk, for example. So it’s about doing things simply and both both at a global organizational level and the local organization level, there needs to be clarity in the purpose behind what we’re trying to achieve with omni channel. And then really just think about the channels that they have, which are approved, of course, within the company, and just thinking about some really basic steps in linking some of those channels together. So you know, for example, it might be an email linking through a webinar, linking to a medical portal, that might be three simple steps, because really on the channel is about creating a connected journey of learning. And it that can, that can happen quite simply with those kind of three steps. And then beyond that, the organizations can start to really fold in more advanced engagements, which might be bringing it outside channels, you know, third party type channels, it might be bringing into play personas, and segments, really, you know, making the audience types much more specific. And then thinking about how to create connected journey experiences to each of those segments. So maybe start with one segment to begin with small number of channels, then start to expand the range of channels and how they connect to each other through through an omni channel strategy, of course, and then also break that down into further customer types. So I think I think there’s that and really just being realistic with the amount of time you know, the organizational inertia to adopt omni channel that needs buying at a senior level as well as localized, you know, local medical level as well. So buying is really important time framing outs, you know, these things always take longer to set up than then readily obvious. And then yeah, I think just expectations of what needs to be achieved with the omni channel instead of those three, three stages of progression, I think is really important as well.
Tony Gottschalk 17:23
Well, I think the what we see companies do and how we advise companies who’ve never done omni channel engagement before is really taken inventory of all of the ways that you interact with your clients. Obviously, the traditional in person, scientific exchange and medical information, requests, physicians, contacting your medical information hotline, or call center or website, those are the traditional ways of engaging physicians or how physicians search for information around products. We advise clients to take an inventory of all of the traditional methods and channels of communication and then all of the additional channels that you might envision that you want to leverage or have a presence and that includes scientific congresses, websites, other digital channels where physicians might find information. We start with an inventory of basics basics, how do you interact with with customers? From there, we try to make sure that there’s consistency. Usually, a lot of times there’s a technology solution to making sure that the content is generated derived in disseminate in an inconsistent and accurate manner that’s in alignment with a company’s strategic medical pillars. So for example, clients might have specific approved messages for safety, efficacy, health economics, and outcomes research, whatever the topic, those messages, the content that physicians are seeking, it should be aligned, it should be consistent. And so we help companies orchestrate all of those different channels of engagement. And it’s usually if companies are just starting out. You know, as I mentioned earlier, this can be layered approaches, this can be complex. So we usually advise clients to start small. And start simple before you start to scale and ramp up the complexity because there are lots of advanced technologies and analytical methods to to really drive omni channel into a predictive sort of realm. That’s where we’re going with predictive analytics, but think you have to haul Walk Run before you get there. So we advise clients to start small, start simple and take an inventory of all the traditional ways that you interact with a client and then branch out from there.
Sandeep Gantotti 19:40
And that’s a great question. In my experience, and reflecting on various conversations I’ve had with with Medical Affairs leaders, companies that have invested in this in this proposition and his business practice, they typically have volumes of playbooks and strategies and why white papers and there is a myriad of content online. Here the five steps to getting an omni channel campaign, they usually involve some combination of people, data systems and analytics. I like to answer the question slightly differently, I would like to propose maybe five things that are understated or not as frequently talked about, when we talk about organizations planning for this. Number one, in my mind is, is complete clarity of purpose. Right? So what is that we’re trying to do? By enabling these omni channel strategies? Many organizations are not able to answer that very basic question of why. So I think that clarity of purpose is critical. Second, in my mind, is design thinking. If omni channel is truly customer centric, and lead must understand the world from their perspective. And sometimes think out of the box, right? Spend a day observing, for example, the farms, spend the day with a clinician and practice understanding and perhaps getting some insight as to how and when they might actually want to consume information. So being genuinely curious, I think is very critical. Third is business acumen. No, I dare say that, you know, at times Medical Affairs has to be good at the art of selling, as well, right, we have to sell a proposition of what we’re doing, we have to be able to negotiate with our commercial colleagues and our other stakeholders to really set boundaries as to what we will do, versus what they will do so that the orchestration is as good so that we’re not burdening the customer, but rather, enhancing the experience. Number four, is engaging allies within the company early and often. And the one that comes to mind the most is our legal and compliance regulatory team. We’ve seen so many examples of great plans, ambitious plans, getting kind of side rails, because it’s the last minute, there’s some sort of big concern that’s been raised. So I think that’s, you know, that 360 degree thinking is very critical. And then I think, finally, is resilience. I mean, not every thing that you do is going to succeed, not everything is going to yield the results that you want. And I think about the challenge of our Medical Affairs function, you have competing data from other organizations, we have our customer being touched by not only our function because it functions within the company. And then, you know, just the fact that sometimes no amount of omni channel approaches are going to hide the fact that maybe the data you’re presenting are not necessarily the most compelling, you know, necessarily the most meaningful to them. So I think we have a lot of challenges we need to overcome in that. But I feel like these are things. These are five things that I don’t see a lot of people talking about, it’s always about the process and systems and data. And so I offer those as for viewers as something different.
Jennifer Riggins 23:16
I love this concept of crawl, walk, run, you know, in the importance of a connected journey of learning. I think this really ties into what we heard earlier. You know, also about starting small and adding channels and content as we mature along the omni channel journey. Now also taking an inventory of how we interact with customers. So we can understand the data and then feed it back into the system to make informed decisions.
Steve Casey 23:46
Yeah, I found Sandeep’s response very interesting. Also, Sandeep gives us a few alternatives to think about, I think it is five points. There are some excellent things for Medical Affairs folks to think about. When considering omni channel aside from process symptoms, systems and data is discussion about clarity of purpose is really important. We have to understand why we want to do omni channel, what is the purpose, purpose has to connect with the business of the organization. We can’t just say that we want to be more customer centric, we need to know why being customer centric is desirable. And armed with that clarity of purpose and how it fits in with the business of the organization. We can then convey that information or vision to the entire organization. So that there’s a commitment time, the talent, not just something tried one year and abandon the next.
Jennifer Riggins 24:38
I agree, Steve, and you know, without that clarity of purpose and that strategic vision, it’s hard to tackle something as big and onerous as omni channel. So with that, you know, I think it’s about time what we have to wrap up unfortunately. So I’ll close with what I feel like are my three key takeaways from this session. Start small. Crawl, then walk, then run, understand your data, what you have access to what you need, and how to use it to make a connected journey using enabling technology. And then finally, cross functional alignment is critical in placing the customer at the center. You agree with these, Steve?
Steve Casey 25:19
Yeah, I do. To properly do omni channel and Medical Affairs is really going to take some changes and adjustments on how we conduct business and medical. In my mind, that key goal of being customer centric means not only customer centric and medical, but also customer centric across the other market touchpoints. In some cases, this may mean that medical will need to have discussions with folks who are behind firewalls. Some of those firewalls were constructed under a different environment, and they may need to be adjusted to enable a contemporary digital first approach that’s required and medical today. I think this may be especially true in organizations as they look to develop and align their omni channel efforts. I know we’ve been talking a lot about omni channel and Medical Affairs. But as we all know, medical is really just one area of external touchpoints and delivering one piece of the overall effort of the organization. From what I’m hearing and what I’ve seen, Omni channel has to be focused on a goal planned accordingly and implemented with customer in mind, really the customer at the center of that effort.
Jennifer Riggins 26:25
So true. Thank you, Steve. You know, we’d also want to thank our interviewees and their companies for giving their thoughts on how a Medical Affairs organization plans for integrating omni channel activities. You know, in our next episodes, we’re going to delve into omni channel measurement with the same group of interviewees. That’s going to be really interesting. Look for that measurement episode to drop sometime within the next week. Thank you for joining us today and listening to our podcast series digital first scientific communications, a podcast production of the Digital Focus Area Working Group of the Medical Affairs Professional Society.
Steve Casey 27:01
If you’re a MAPS member, thank you for your support. If you’re not yet a MAPS member, I want to encourage you to join so you can have access to additional resources visit the MAPS website today at MedicalAffairs.org/membership.