A Digital-First, Omnichannel World
By reading the news, it’s easy to assume that most of the world has moved on from the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is loosening restrictions, travel is up, and employees are returning to the office. However, medicine continues to grapple with the ramifications of the pandemic. Specialty care providers — such as those who deliver oncology, dermatology, ENT, and OB/GYN health care — are especially forced to deal with its impact and the consequences on their patients.
This, in turn, has forced pharma to redefine its approach to customer relationships and improve the specialty care customer experience (CX). Here are some ways the post-COVID new normal impacts physicians, the world of specialty care, and how they want to communicate with pharma sales and marketing representatives.
Delayed Routine Patient Care Leads to Seriously Ill Patients and Overwhelmed Specialty HCPs
Although it has been two years since most of the world shut down, its impact continues reverberating in medicine. Much of the overwhelm healthcare providers (HCPs), especially specialty care providers, experience today results from the lack of routine patient care during the pandemic.
While emergency and COVID-related services remained open at the beginning of the pandemic, most of the routine, specialty care services were shut down and placed on hold to help stop the spread of the disease. In fact, one survey showed that 15% of respondents delayed their care during 2020. From failing to get suspicious moles checked out to avoiding a colonoscopy or mammogram, specialty care physicians could not diagnose conditions earlier with their routine exams.
Delaying non-emergency care and routine screening meant that physicians could not take care of patient conditions and diseases in earlier states when they respond best to treatment. As a result, specialty care providers now have more seriously sick patients. For example, patients delay their routine cancer screenings and come to their oncologists with more advanced cancer.
In almost every specialty care area, doctors are scrambling to handle more patients than ever because they could not treat them earlier. Forced to deal with this increased output, HCPs now face more patients, fewer care options, and more advanced conditions.
The overwhelm doctors face directly impacts how specialty care providers want to communicate with pharma representatives and organizations to keep up on the latest treatment guidelines, new drugs, and protocols. In-person interactions are still critical to building relationships, but providers lack as much time to give pharma reps as they did before the pandemic. Instead, physicians want just-in-time conversations with pharma reps that relate to their pressing patients and needs.
Digital Content Becomes Overwhelming
So how are pharma companies addressing these changing customer relationships? They are turning to content (e.g., sales pages, whitepapers, blogs, webinars) to fill this gap between in-person sales visits and busy physicians. What started as a stopgap during the pandemic has transitioned into a long-term strategy to provide value. However, pharma’s over-enthusiasm for content results in a staggering amount of literature distributed through various channels that providers no longer have the time to read.
Many specialty HCPs feel overwhelmed with high-level, informative content that does not align with their concerns and needs and is too technical to give to their patients. A recent survey of almost 1,000 providers found that 62% felt overwhelmed by the promotional content offered by pharma companies. For busy doctors, non-engaging content is not an option or a good stand-in for in-person sales.
This is evidenced as well by data recently released by Across Health. It indicated that Spanish oncologists are targeted every month with over 70 pharma interactions through “owned channels.” These range from webinars, patient support programs, MSL visits, Pharma newsletters, e-Detailing, Rep emails, and more. This number doesn’t include content targeted to them via paid or earned channels.
Their insights make it clear that many Pharma companies still seem to be operating in siloed multi-channel environments with no internal collaboration or departmental visibility into on or offline content directed at HCPs.
Pharmaceutical companies need to understand their target customer better to create compelling customer content in the post-COVID world. In the same survey, 70% of doctors said pharma reps do not entirely understand their needs. As a result, pharma reps can’t provide the content healthcare providers need without deep insights into their pain points, issues, and concerns.[CR1]
Looking for a Way Forward: Digital-First Capabilities
There’s no way pharma can get around it: HCPs live in a digital-first environment and expect the same from pharmaceutical companies. In a world that emphasizes online communication, pharma companies are challenged to develop and improve the customer experience (CX) and meet HCP needs through a digital lens.
With the overwhelming amount of content that physicians receive, information needs to be targeted and reflect evolving science that is moving faster than ever. It takes deeper understanding and effort to stand out from the sea of competition clamoring for your target audience with their content.
As they face more complex cases that require new treatments and therapies and cross-collaboration, specialty care providers need efficient information that supports care improvement. Treatment guidelines are especially critical to help physicians with their increasingly serious cases. It is valuable content that will capture their attention and gain their trust.
Beyond content, digital-first providers are finding platforms that provide them with educational material and enable them to build relationships with other HCPs and experts. Many now use expertise networks to share information and ask questions from their peers. It gives them a chance to get support during a challenging season facing more complex cases.
To meet the changing platforms that HCPs use to gather information, pharma organizations are starting to build true omnichannel efforts. A shift from multichannel options before the pandemic impacts how the teams are resourced. Instead, it meets the needs of both HCPs and their patients.
Adjusting to a New Normal Specialty Care CX Post-COVID
Complex and advanced cases because of COVID continue to impact specialty care providers and what they require from engagement with pharma organizations. They have grown accustomed to digital-first, just-in-time engagement that answers their pressing issues and concerns across multidisciplinary teams.
To meet this changing environment, omnichannel platforms focusing on HCP needs are growing more prominent in the post-pandemic world. Pharma companies now need to lead with content that speaks to specialty HCP issues and offer flexible engagement that meets providers where they are.
Specialty care has transformed over the past two years, and pharma organizations must reconsider their strategies and tactics to ensure they reflect digital-first approaches to improve the customer experience using an omnichannel approach. Pharma reps that utilize a digital-first omnichannel experience will create more effective customer-focused teams and beneficial relationships with specialty HCPs customers and, ultimately, improve the patient experience.
Exeevo’s Omnipresence is a modern omnichannel that supports commercial and medical customer relationship management (CRM). Built using the power of Microsoft AI, our single digital ecosystem is designed for life science organizations to enhance CX at every interaction of the customer journey across applications and devices.
 Center for Disease Control. (2022). CDC Streamline COVID-19 guidance to help the public better protect themselves and understand their risk. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/p0811-covid-guidance.html
 Ritcher, F. (2022) International travel levels tipped to soar again in 2022. World Economic Forum. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/06/international-travel-2022-covid19-tourism/
 Smart, T. (2022) The great return: Companies are calling their workers back to the office as COVID-19 fades. US News and World Report. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/economy/articles/2022-03-04/the-great-return-companies-are-calling-their-workers-back-to-the-office-as-covid-19-fades
 PWC. (2022). Medical cost trend: Behind the numbers 2022. Retrieved from https://www.pwc.com/us/en/industries/health-industries/library/behind-the-numbers.html