Due to the COVID-19 crisis, access to healthcare professionals (HCPs) has been limited for field teams from the pharmaceutical industry1, and possibly for reps from other healthcare industries too. As we are now slowly coming out of lockdown, the obvious question to ask is: how do we best re-engage with our customers and when?
The easing of lockdown indicates that the pandemic is now under control from a national perspective; however, local outbreaks of COVID-19 (think Leicester) suggest companies need to tailor their approach to local circumstances. Regional differences will determine if and when to re-engage with customers, and even within one region each Trust or hospital is likely to return back to normal at their own speed.
Once companies have established their customer is ready to interact, how should they best approach them? The new ways of working that most of us were forced to adopt during the lockdown ‒ especially the use of group digital communication technologies ‒ are likely to stay, at least in part.2 Healthcare professionals, just like office workers, have (had to) become accustomed to virtual ways of engagement such as telemedicine and Team or Zoom meetings. 3 As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the British Medical Association has issued advice to doctors for video consultations and home working.4
At Solaris Health, we have witnessed the rapid shift towards virtual meetings at every level and, in our experience, HCPs find it easier to attend a shorter evening meeting from home than a face-to-face (F2F) meeting that might be hundreds of miles away from where they live, requiring prolonged travel and time off work. Similarly, we expect that in future, stand-alone meetings will at times be replaced by webinars, which have emerged as the digital alternative to classroom learning during the lockdown. Aside from being location flexible, virtual meetings are also more cost-effective than F2F meetings and slightly less complex to organise.
To find out the optimal way of engaging with HCPs, companies will have to assess whether their customers’ channel preferences have changed and if these changes are reflected in their brand plans. Is a new approach required, and if so, do we have the right tools in place to serve these new preferences? Are we currently making full use of our omnichannel capabilities?
Sales and medical liaison teams are currently engaging with their customers via remote meetings, e-details and other tools. Now is a good time to review existing medical and brand plans to address the shift in some of their customers communication preferences.
3. http://www.pmlive.com/pharma_thought_leadership/how_digital_tools_can_support_hcps_during_and_after_the_covid-19_pandemic_1338379. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the has issued advice to doctors for video consultations and home working:
4. British Medical Association: https://www.bma.org.uk/advice-and-support/covid-19/adapting-to-covid/covid-19-video-consultations-and-homeworking