Have you ever thought to yourself, “Man, if I could just connect with that person, we could really get somewhere.”? And now in today’s COVID-19 environment, the question is, “How can I possibly really connect with someone if I can’t see them in person?”.
Connections matter. They are the cornerstone in developing the long-term, trusting partnerships that we form in everyday life, and in business.
In the biopharmaceutical space, the ability to form connections is vital. Connections play a critical role in helping pharma determine the best approach to initiate a clinical trial and to ultimately educate and guide HCPs on how to interact with their patients to achieve the best outcomes possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a very real challenge regarding creating and growing connections between medical affairs and commercial teams and the HCPs they work with every day. This has led to significant gaps in the usual activities that are fundamental for scientific development and HCP education. If patient care is negatively impacted and the approaches used to engage KOLs and deliver vital medical information aren’t adjusted then the system will break down.
Real connections aren’t magically created. They aren’t transactional encounters. Connections are made by using a very intentional and authentic approach to forge those all-important relationships with HCPs.
Uncovering and developing key scientific and customer insights takes time. Purposeful interactions with scientific teams, KOLs, and key stakeholders are critical to build trust very early in the process and throughout the development and implementation phases of a project.
Part of that trust-building process is to understand and act on the distinct preferences of KOLs when it comes to the types and frequency of communications they receive and the activities in which they participate. Put yourself in the shoes of your HCP partners. Think about how to forge personalized connections that “feel good” and form meaningful bonds over time.
We need to cultivate and maintain an environment that fosters the flow of strategic insights that inform development of clinical activities; drive core scientific communication initiatives; and, ultimately, deliver peer-led education and commercial activities.
Because of the global pandemic, we have seen a shift in the landscape as everyone is trying to define the best solutions to our current, and likely, future HCP engagement environment. Technologies exist to replace or augment live interactions. However, there are inherent limitations to these technologies, and a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t in anyone’s best interest. Thoughtful evaluation based on priority needs and objectives should outweigh the “shiny object” syndrome that is easy to fall victim to. Using tech for the sake of tech is never the right answer. Deciding on which tech you choose and determining how it will be implemented is subject to a wide range of variability. It takes a thoughtful approach to get this right.
Start with clearly defining and prioritizing your issues. Determine your ideal manner of achieving those objectives. Then think about any limitations that may affect your ideal scenario. Consider the following:
What absolutely must take place in a live setting to achieve the best experience for attendees and, at the same time, guarantee the most relevant output?
What type of engagement can shift to a virtual environment that may have previously been only conducted as a live meeting?
What can (or even should) live in the middle? What type of meeting would be successful using a hybrid approach that could include both live and virtual aspects?
These questions are important, but far from the only ones that should be asked. Simply deciding (or in the case of COVID-19 being mandated) to replace a live meeting with virtual one is only part of what is required. Thinking critically about the participant experience is where the real impact lies. How do you engage KOLs in a clinical trial design committee meeting when no one is in the same room? How do you get rich feedback on commercial strategy or educational content over Zoom® or some other virtual meeting platform? How do you connect with your all-important KOLs and HCP customers to gain and transfer knowledge that will eventually inform HCP-patient interactions at the point of care?
To be sure, many of us have these questions and they are not always easy to answer. What is clear is that having the right partners to share and stretch thinking can deliver greater impact than any one individual.
When the patient is at the center of the dialogue and we thoughtfully consider each of the elements of delivering improved care, the focus on solutions and, ultimately, implementation will become clearer. The HCP engagement environment will remain intact, albeit in a modified form from what we have become accustomed to. And that’s OK!
The solutions are there. The desire is there. Your mission is to define your key challenges and needs, find the right partners, and implement an intentional plan that can evolve with the changing times to ensure appropriate HCP connections so that patients get the best possible care.
Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our commitment to partnering with others to improve the lives of patients.
JB Ashtin is a medical communications company focused on translating science into actionable clinical practice. Our mission is to provide education that creates a more informed dialogue between HCPs and the patients they care for. We do this through creating learning experiences that make complex scientific information digestible and meaningful to the advancement of patient care.