Exploring Alternatives to Salesforce Based CRM Partners to Improve Business Outcomes

Written by: Michael Townsend, Research Director, Life Sciences Commercial Strategies

The commercial side of life sciences organizations (LSOs) has embraced new digital tools to reach healthcare providers (HCPs) and healthcare organizations (HCOs) with critical information about new therapies and devices and the conditions they can help cure or manage. Accelerating a trend already underway, HCPs have exploited new digital channels to acquire the latest medical data on medicines and devices considering COVID-19 restrictions on personal visits.

Many HCOs have restricted or reduced access to prescribers by life sciences field sales reps in recent years, and COVID-19 protocols turned this situation into a near lockout of office visits. In many cases, digitally native and younger HCPs prefer to engage with sales reps through email, remote meetings, social media chat, or company portals to get the information they need. LSOs should not simply adapt to these new methods of engagement to reach these HCPs and maintain their competitive edge; rather, they should potentially reorganize around the emerging needs of these customers and their patients.

Many LSOs have recognized the need to streamline their communications with HCPs and HCOs by coordinating their messages between sales, marketing, and medical affairs while systematically breaking down silos within their organizations through better cross-departmental collaboration. This new coordination and internal visibility can result in more relevant and impactful communications between LSOs and doctors, often while reducing the overall number of messages. Duplication and conflicting messages from different groups within the brands are being eliminated. Greater emphasis by commercial teams on key account management for pricing and reimbursement negotiations has sometimes resulted in a void at the role traditionally occupied by medical affairs reps. LSOs hope that by increasing digital engagement for both key account managers and medical sciences liaisons, these two types of customer-facing roles will also be more effective through increased coordination using silo-busting digital engagement platforms.

Life sciences companies are investing in AI and analytics to increase the effectiveness and relevance of these engagements with healthcare providers.

Focusing efforts on digital transformation has created new opportunities beyond the traditional focus on HCP activities. Constructing patient journeys and supporting care plans with big data from internal and external sources, analyzed using advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, is allowing LSOs to understand and support patients and clinicians through the point-of-care process as never before. The explosion in real-world evidence (RWE) in the form of electronic health records (EHRs), claims data, clinical trial records, and patient-reported data including from Internet of Things (IoT)-capable wearable devices or Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) has allowed firms to reconstruct these patient journeys in fine detail while accounting for important patient differentiators such as age, socioeconomic conditions, comorbidities, and other medications that patients may be using.

In addition, external sources of data on prescriptions, affiliations, and clinical trial participation can help these commercial teams find the doctors and HCOs most likely to be treating patients who could benefit from their therapies. Looking at this data in a holistic manner together with internal sources such as customer relationship management (CRM), marketing responses, and sales force automation (SFA) can provide sales reps and commercial teams with valuable insights about HCPs and the patients they are treating. The resulting platform-generated “suggestions,” or next-best actions recommended to field sales and other professionals can be valuable time-savers for both sales reps and doctors and can impact sales in a significantly, benefiting all stakeholders including patients.

However, the quality and real-time nature of the suggestions are dependent on the platform’s ability to ingest data from multiple sources in real time using life sciences–trained algorithms to make sense of the data. Currently, many CRM providers utilize a single source of data, which reduces the ability to serve up sophisticated insights. LSOs are investing in AI and analytics to increase the effectiveness and relevance of these engagements with HCPs. A recent IDC survey found that over 60% of life sciences respondents already have AI algorithms in place or are planning to deploy them in 2021, with another 17% planning to deploy in subsequent years (see Figure 1).