Our Channel Dynamics data comparing engagement in the 30-day period to 19 April versus the same period last year, as we would expect, shows that face-to-face interactions of all types have been minimized as pharmaceutical and life sciences companies recognized early on in the pandemic that their employees’ role in moving between health facilities and health professionals was a possible danger and acted to reduce these interactions rapidly.
In some countries, such as China, South Korea, Italy and Spain, remote engagement, which includes e-detailing, e-meetings, phone detailing, email and postal communications, rose to compensate. The question now, of course, is what remote engagement is appropriate, and when?
In our qualitative research, IQVIA Consumer Health asked HCPs whether they were comfortable with remote engagement and what they saw as the benefits of this type of interaction.
Exhibit 1: Key benefits of remote-engagement compared to face-face discussion according to HCPs (Source: IQVIA eDetail Follow-up Research, 2016-17)
They gave us several reasons (see Exhibit 1), but two key themes emerge:
- Flexibility – they aren’t forced to meet an industry rep when they are ‘in the area’ and during their work activities, and they can choose an appropriate time – including outside of regular working hours.
- Focus – they like that they can concentrate on the information being shared and the subsequent discussion. They feel it is less a social interaction and more educational, and they can speak their mind more easily. They also told us that they felt the remote interactions saves them time compared to face-to-face meetings.
If we focus on a key channel for consumer health – the pharmacy – we see that how pharmacists interact with OTC companies has radically changed, as have the categories that they most recommend.
Pharmacists are currently reluctant to interact face-to-face with sales representatives, meaning OTC companies have to engage with them remotely, such as through e-detailing, which is most favoured, phone detailing, and in some countries, e-meetings (China) and email (USA)**. Despite alternative promotional tools, there has been a net decline in overall promotional activity in a number of countries.
In terms of what pharmacists are advising consumers to buy, recommendations for vitamins, analgesics, and upper respiratory tract infection remedies have all increased dramatically and, moreover, pharmacists are generally more interested then other healthcare professionals in patient education training.
With the evidence of an increase in remote engagement and with many receptive to this, IQVIA Consumer Health has identified seven key factors to successfully engaging remotely (see Exhibit 2).
Exhibit 2: Seven key factors for successful remote engagement
Taking a deeper look at just a couple of the 7 we identified.
Regarding people and skills
Remote engagement requires leaders who can coach and manage this way of working, sponsors who understand the journey of continuous learning and representatives with the right competencies and behaviors to engage remotely. Providing, building and developing skills is essential.
Together with this, a proactive approach to change management and adopting and adapting to the remote channel is needed within the organization. Leader buy-in is key to communicate and reinforce the channel across the organization.
Content is highly important
HCPs focus more on the content on screen, but content that is interactive and evolves in subsequent calls is what keeps HCPs engaged. This needs to be balanced to not overcomplicate the breadth and depth of content but start simple and be ready to evolve relatively quickly.Technology is a key element of success
Considering the importance of showing and interacting with good content, there are three critical requirements for remote working tools – accessibility, adoption and compliance.
If your organization is considering e-detailing, please note that the technology platform you use needs to be accessible from any device, any operating system and any browser. Furthermore, it must be user-friendly and not require vast amounts of time or technical know-how for the customer to access. Vitally, the platform you use needs to be data privacy compliant (GDPR et al.) and secure against malicious acts, with the ability to collect consent online.
We clearly see that remote detailing can keep your sales representative productive while accommodating the new preferred method of communication by HCPs and pharmacists. If you would like any more information on remote engagement, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
(**Source: IQVIA Channel Dynamics: 30day period to 19th April 2020 versus the same period last year)