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How To Use Systems Of Engagement To Better Engage Healthcare Providers (HCPs)

Jeff Gaus,President, CEO, Prolifiq Software

The life sciences commercialization model has changed. Long gone are the days of “reach and frequency,” “three-points and a close,” and “…here dropping of some donuts, pens and note pads.” Individual reps have very little impact with individual healthcare providers writing individual prescriptions. Accountable care organizations (ACOs), value decision committees (VDCs), and group purchasing organizations (GPOs) now guide – and in many cases, dictate – the treatment decisions made by individual providers.

“The new commercial realities have intersected with the movement from systems of record to systems of engagement, and the convergence of data, content and mobility provide unprecedented opportunities to better engage HCPs”

Commercialization now requires key account management, team-based collaboration, and loosely defined, flexible management structures. As a result, marketing, marketing operations and sales operations organizations command ever-increasing technology budgets to address the change. Much of the budget has been spent on non-personal promotional (NPP) activities and systems including: broadcast email campaigns, e-detailing and self-service applications or websites – to mixed results. However, healthcare providers still value interacting with field representatives and industry content when it is contextual and timely.

Systems of Record versus Systems of Engagement

A lot has been written comparing and contrasting systems of record and systems of engagement since Geoffrey Moore first drew the distinction in 2011; and it is important to understand there are distinct differences between the two. Systems of record are information storage systems, or databases, located in the core of the business. Designed to capture transaction activity, they are stable, reliable, highly structured and slow to adapt. They are focused on transactions and processes to ensure data is correct. Since use is mandated, rarely are these systems people-friendly. Examples of systems of record include: enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), human resources management (HRM), enterprise content management (ECM).Whereas, systems of engagement are designed for people to engage other people–they are social and conversational. They are people-friendly and people want to use them.

Limits of CRM

The most common system of record in life sciences companies is the customer relationship management (CRM) system. CRM, as a system of record, is excellent at capturing and storing historical information about our customers. It requires people to enter specific data or information and identifies the last recorded interaction (transaction) with customers.

Because of its structure, rigidity and its evolution speed, CRM is a poor application for engaging customers. It does not deal well with unstructured data (words, images, pictures, video, etc.). CRM is not conversational and does not easily allow for widely-varying customer response. And, lastly, CRM is not very people-friendly (social) – ask any salesperson how much they “enjoy” interacting with the system. However, CRM systems are excellent data repositories to leverage to support interactions and engagements with customers. The first step is to make this data readily accessible.

Web Services and the API economy

Recently, a large pharma Commercial Excellence VP publicly stated:“The most valuable asset we possess is our company API (application programming interface). This API is the vehicle by which ALL of our constituents – internal and external – access the knowledge relevant to them, and it is what allows us to connect our many vendors together in a common, defined framework.”

In a departure from traditional premises-based software architectures, having made the move to locate their systems of record in the cloud, most pharma companies have structured their data in a flexible, accessible environment. This architecture allows APIs to be exposed for various systems to either:
1) query the database(s) or
2) record transactional data within the database(s).

By defining and deploying a “company API”, pharma companies determine what information is necessary to run their business, what information will be shared and in what format, and they can standardize on security protocols, etc. This approach then allows for the selection and integration of the best engagement solutions for specific audiences or problems, as opposed to waiting for the next “monolithic” release from a system of record vendor.

The (New) Engagement Paradigm

OK, you subscribe to the notion of integrating the rep into the multi-channel mix, your data is in the cloud, and you’ve surrounded your systems of record with web services and APIs…..what’s next? All of this technology supports a new model that is: data-driven, content rich and mobile. Let’s take these in reverse order.


A couple of years ago, mobile was an after-thought. Today, it should be the FIRST thought, meaning everything we do should be envisioned as mobile first. This will strip out unnecessary features, data fields, workflow actions, and will deliver a much cleaner and inspiring user experience.

Systems of engagement examples include:

A. Internal communications that are delivered to segmented audiences; content is categorized by subject; push notifications alert users when new content is delivered;

B. Rep-triggered communications allow field employees to configure and share compliant, approved content with healthcare providers’ (HCPs’) via email;

C. Field-initiated video conferences between HCPs and medical specialists to address specific scientific or clinical questions immediately. In all of these cases, data from the engagement or interaction writes back to the system of record (via the API) for more comprehensive analysis and record keeping.

Content Rich

In our high-bandwidth, poly-screen, always connected world, we’ve become massive content consumers. We read more; we listen more; we watch more; we contribute more. We expect more. For life sciences companies, this means we either need to:
1) develop more content or
2) use our content more effectively.

Historically, life sciences marketers have focused on campaigns – developing content for a specific purpose or campaign, such as an e-detail, a brochure, etc. The new paradigm requires a publisher mentality – how often are we producing and how frequently do we cycle the content? And, it requires we think about how we repurpose our content. Which objects can be used in e-details, in emails, and in electronic invitations?

Data Driven

The greatest shift systems of engagement bring is using data to understand context to truly close the loop with our HCPs. Systems of engagement provide opportunity to use predictive and prescriptive modeling to drive real-time call planning. Predictive modeling uses historical data to identify and understand patterns and trends to draw inferential conclusions. For example: our prescription data suggests Dr. X, who recently wrote a competitive prescription, likely has this type of patient in their patient base. Prescriptive modeling uses these inferences to suggest next-step actions to field reps. For example: Dr. X likely has this type of patient; Field rep, you should:
1) schedule a visit,
2) invite them to a KOL event, or
3) provide a comparative efficacy presentation.

The new commercial realities have intersected with the movement from systems of record to systems of engagement, and the convergence of data, content and mobility provide unprecedented opportunities to better engage HCPs. All that’s required is for us to engage and begin by defining our architecture and our strategies. When we do, great things will happen.

CIOReview Client : Flagship

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