Mid of June 1999, with Boxed Type beautiful brown bag with dozens of samples, bunch of visual aid stacked, I began my journey of pharma selling in the streets of Nagpur, Maharashtra India! I am more than certain the picture was similar in every part of India then. The daily reports of work and expenses were handwritten and expense cheques were received in couriers.

Some departments of pharma organizations latched quickly on technological advancements such as Commercial Excellence, Supply Chain, Finance etc. Some significant changes happened where commercial team adopted CRM platforms to improve effectiveness. Finance teams adopted SAP and other relevant technologies to improve operational efficiency and business reporting & monitoring.

Over a period the visual aid were replaced by iPad/Tabs and Boxed Type bags were replaced with cool backpacks or smart handbags. The Vehicles of traditional marketing like visual aid, LBL, Samples, CMEs kept on evolving in digital forms like e-detailing, Digital Nudges, Social Media campaigns, Webinars. Most of the companies delayered- Marketing & commercial excellence teams & it kept on shaping & reshaping.  In recent times a new team is born- Digital Marketing- those who are responsible for driving digital strategy for the organization. And new hope is found in the fact that, they would fast track Digital Adoption in the organization

I keep on wondering loudly, has there been any fundamental change for strategic inclusion of ‘Digital’ innovations? or some digital vehicles are routinely identified & fit into scheme of things and re-labelled as Digital Marketing Initiatives?

The key questions which are brutally seeking answers are –

  • Q1) Why pharma still is laggard in institutionalizing new Digital Journey?
  • Q2) When do we say Pharma is on its way to define new Digital Transformation?

Large part of the pharma houses continues to believe in-More Feet on The Street Strategy rather than multiple touch points across healthcare stakeholders through digital platforms. Many of these digital adoption challenges are not technological alone but more Organizational, Cultural & Regulatory in nature. Organisational silos (87 per cent), lack of authentic and enough digital data (75 per cent) and regulatory risks (73 per cent) were the top three reasons for limited digital adoption as cited in EY report published in 2017

Latest Trends

Some of the new trends that we observe these days where non-pharma players are likely to be new potential disruptors in the health space. For example:

Google entering healthcare through strong AI enabled driven analytics in predicting possible future ailments with retina scan is no more surprise news. You hear Amazon using it’s Digital Aggregator platform to bridge the current supply chain gaps and perhaps you will see it rolling in healthcare soon. With wearable devices Apple or similar companies creating their niche in predicting future health events. This challenges us to think, there is a part of a puzzle, conventional pharma industry is not addressing yet. Pharma players have required domain expertise but associated malaise and inertia on embedding courageously digital innovations in their core strategy is driving down them to the league of laggards.

The day Pharma companies adopt technologies or Digital innovations that-

1.     Promotes preventive care supported by machine learned analytics, and mass education and awareness through Digital technology

2.     Generate Data Insights through big data which improves research-development and manufacturing processes, Commercial efficiencies

3.     Facilitates Meaningful engagement for physicians by improving their practice outcomes by helping them digitalize their medical records

4.     Support Deep patient engagement through mHealth & integrated health services deliveries at doorstep in Urban & Rural markets

5.     Support & Create access models to bring about equality of right to correct diagnosis and treatment with affordable prices

6.     Improves personalize experience for patients and healthcare providers, foster technological collaborations and alliances to improve treatment outcomes

We can safely then announce we are onto the Journey of Digital Transformation!

One last key question therefore remains unanswered How do we do this Digital Transformation and what are the tools available?

I shall cover this in detail in my next blog tabling my view what could be the possible, pragmatic Digital Tools available? Do we need all of them? Is our choice of tool connected with inbuilt core strategy or works as siloed initiative? Does the tool originate from design thinking approach or forceful fit based on it’s ease of availability or social influence?

Let’s also talk about Patient the new potential decision maker in value chain metamorphosizing into consumer and The Digital Health Disruptors for next decade.

Happy Reading until then! Stay safe folks!

Pankaj Agrawal - Co Founder

Pankaj Agrawal - Co Founder

Busy building Health Technology Start-up which pivots on Integration of Healthcare Eco-system through digitization of prescription records.


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