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Analysis

Priorities, Pitfalls, and Promises from the IT Wave

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 17:11

graph1Life sciences companies are a vital player in the healthcare delivery system through their discovery, development, manufacturing, and marketing of innovative treatment options for patients. They play an important role in improving access and supporting the appropriate use of medicines by physicians through education and awareness programs. A more efficient and effective system results from the active participation of physicians, investors, patients, and manufacturers, even if interests are not always aligned and contradictory positions are sometimes taken.

Information Technology (IT) has long been viewed as a function or department that supplies data support and delivery services. Within a life sciences company, its purpose is to store and process information on core functions of the business, such as sales and distribution of medicines, and to disseminate that information to internal users in their sales, marketing, or analytic departments. Over the past ten years, basic tasks of the IT function – data integration, warehousing, help desk support, and report generation – were commoditized and often outsourced. However, as companies become more focused on developing new approaches designed to optimize commercial performance, management teams are turning to technology-based approaches that can support these aims through cloud-based platforms, applications, system integration, and analytic tools. Technology is being utilized as a critical means by which companies can better align their activities across departments internally, take actions that are better tailored to customer needs, and be readily flexible to adjust course and tactics. Properly utilized IT is seen as the means by which companies can simultaneously build stronger relationships with customers by providing new value, reducing costs by doing more with less and optimizing the commercial organization, and improve the effectiveness and agility of commercial teams, including speed and effectiveness of decision making.

The needs of life sciences companies seeking to realize the full potential of current technology are broad and diverse. However, over half of our survey respondents indicated the greatest needs were associated with data – gaining greater insights and value from data, integrating data sources, and delivering it faster to end users. This may reflect the urgency with which tangible advances are needed in light of the business and commercial needs of these companies. This also suggests that a very different information technology investment focus, activities, success measures and roles are required more today than in past decades.

The role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) also needs to be very different, both in terms of managerial and technical skills, as well as the profile and role that he or she has within the executive management team. With direct operating budgets typically exceeding US$100 million annually and investment budgets similarly scoped, the CIO can now be viewed by brand managers, operating leaders and executive leaders as the critical linchpin to the company achieving success – with its partners in healthcare, investors, and employees. Life sciences companies now have more information than ever to understand medical prescriptions, patients, and investors. However, their information systems are frequently not in a position to use this data to deliver additional value to these customers. This might include efforts to tailor communication to physicians with specific patient profiles, provide reimbursement services to ensure patients receive financial support (when entitled to it), or deliver education materials tailored to the prescriber’s interests. In commercial terms, they typically fail to optimize marketing tactics due to a lack of advanced functionality in their multichannel marketing (MCM) system, namely the ability to run multichannel marketing campaigns or multi-step behavior-triggered campaigns, provide campaign performance data in near-real time, or inform future campaign design using results tracked from past campaigns.

Companies recognize the need to improve their customer engagement, with 71% of respondents saying investments in their MCM system are ‘extremely or very important’ and nearly 90% of those from large companies saying the same. Cloud-based multichannel marketing applications can deliver the following and align commercial activity to customer needs:

Multichannel marketing campaigns

Finding the ways doctors will listen and learn about medicines is critical, as is the delivery of effective messages across channels. Systems should be able to deliver coordinated customer contacts across channels to ensure messages are received, but deliver them only to the specific subgroups of customers who benefit from hearing this message.

Multi-step behavior-triggered campaigns

In the past, customers were grouped into segments and marketing was based on those static classifications. Event and decision tree models of marketing are now built into cloud-based MCM systems and allow refinement of marketing activities based on customer’s earlier action - for instance, delivering written clinical trial data to a provider who attended a lecture discussing a new study.

Campaign performance data in near-real time

To ensure launches are successful and to correct their course rapidly if needs be, companies require campaign performance data in near-real time. To avoid squandering resources it is critical to understand what is working. Advanced analytic tools combined with streaming data allow companies to rapidly micro target campaigns only to where they are effective.

Informing future campaign design using outcomes tracked from past campaigns

Closed loop systems can improve insights and support marketing decisions by recording customer preferences, and by measuring the success of the overall campaign. ‘Intelligent’ MCM applications can learn from past customer responses and allow companies to deliver more relevant messages over time. This can ensure that physicians are equipped with the information they need to help them deliver better patient care. It can also help ensure healthcare provider time and company resources are not wasted. Ultimately the key value of new intelligent cloud-based MCM systems is that they give greater control to the end user. The problem presented in past systems was that users relied on third-party vendors for campaign planning, execution, and measurement, and often had significant lag-times to deploy campaigns; cloudbased applications put greater control in the hands of brand managers giving them the ability to execute directly through a cloud-based interface. They can design their own campaigns or refine dashboards and analytics to measure performance. Experts in life sciences commercialization activities indicate that with such cloud-based and user-directed MCM system technology, cost reductions of 25-35% are achievable, with additional benefits from lower campaign administration and management costs, improved customer response rates and campaign revenue gains.