Beyond the Disruption: Pharma Sales & Marketing Teams Get Smart to Conquer COVID-19 Lockouts


IRIS-DigitalTabButton_Dec2020Could COVID-19 actually improve life sciences sales and marketing programs? The question may sound laughable to anyone who’s spent the last eight hours on back-to-back Zoom meetings, but a closer look reveals there’s more to physician engagement in the pandemic era than webinars and email. In fact, some life sciences professionals and healthcare providers are even more closely connected in the socially distant, virtual world.

How is that possible?

Currently, more than half of healthcare providers (55%) say they have more time in the COVID era to learn about new therapies, and 53% say they are interested in doing so, according to a recent Accenture study. Perhaps more importantly, 87% of providers say they want to continue receiving information in either an all-digital or hybrid digital/in-person format once the pandemic ends. But that doesn’t mean they’re hoping for more webinar invites. 

Tapping Into Real-World, Real-Time Patient Data

The shift to virtual physician engagement has put the onus on life sciences commercial teams to tailor their messages more precisely than ever to the unique challenges of providers and their patients. That means fewer blanket emails to join a group presentation and more micro-segmentation of markets based on treatment volumes, specific patient mix, and prescription patterns.

Fortunately, the COVID-19 era has coincided with a revolution in real-world patient data analytics that’s making it possible for commercial teams to target their outreach and engagement efforts with pinpoint precision. Just five years ago, commercial teams hoping to get a detailed understanding of a provider’s patient mix would be relegated to static monthly or quarterly reports from legacy data aggregators or market researchers. Information would often be out of date, and any hope for a provider-level snapshot of patient volume would be – at best – a proxy based on therapies in the marketplace or a small sample of providers.

Today, many innovative commercial teams have turned to a patient-centric approach that focuses on tailoring physician engagement based on real-world evidence. By incorporating this real-world, real-time clinical data into the physician engagement process through our Iris platform, pharma marketing and sales reps can quickly identify which providers are seeing the largest volume of relevant patients for a specific therapy, spurring more targeted physician education and expedited feedback on treatment programs.

Practice-Level Insights

For example, one of the major challenges facing many physicians right now is dealing with the ripple effects of COVID-19 on routine preventive care and chronic disease management. Research from Komodo Health has found that routine disease management and preventive screenings declined significantly in the weeks following widespread shelter-in-place guidelines throughout the US, with the most significant declines seen in cervical cytology screening (-68.2%), cholesterol/lipid panels (-66.6%), and hemoglobin A1c tests (-64.7%). Similarly, breast cancer screenings, colorectal cancer screenings, and childhood vaccinations have all seen precipitous drop-offs during the pandemic.

Providers are struggling to catch up with the backlog while continuing to navigate the challenges of COVID-19 as the virus surges nationwide.

The granular, patient-level data now available to pharma marketing and field teams makes it possible to tailor outreach to physicians based on the very specific challenges they are facing in their practices. A primary care practice with a 60% reduction in diabetes screening compliance from March to October of 2020; a gynecology office operating at just 10% normal mammogram volume during May and still not yet back to normal capacity – these are the kinds of important clues into the inner workings and challenges of a practice that are now available to pharma sales and marketing teams. This information can be used to target the right message to the right provider or practice at exactly the right time. It’s a capability that’s never been available before and has never been more important.

Beyond Disruption

We’re living through a period of enormous disruption to the status quo. For some, that’s become a frustrating impediment to doing things the old way. For others, it’s become an opportunity to connect on an entirely new level. The latter group represents the future of pharma sales and marketing. Long after the COVID-19 pandemic is a distant memory, commercial teams will be using granular, patient-level data to forge indelible connections to providers and maximize their relevance. It’s an idea whose time has come at the exact right moment. 

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