Customer experience (CX) has become the north star for forward-thinking life sciences organizations, not only as a revenue-generating tactic but also as an integral factor in health outcomes. “The reality is that without a good customer experience the patient isn’t going to get the treatment they need.” stressed Paul Simms, former Chairman of eyeforpharma during the NEXTPharma Innovation Week webinar.  

“If we are to achieve that patient outcome, science is important, but science alone does not deliver what we require.” – Paul Simms, former Chairman of eyeforpharma

When considering the possibility of offering next-gen customer experiences to healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients, many in the industry are still skeptical and consider it to be more of a distant reality. On the other hand, digital leaders and advocators in the space strongly believe that it can be achieved sooner rather than later. “The time is now. The digital adoption and digital transformation that all of us have been advocating for, reading in papers, and trying to sell in different shapes and forms for years, has come to pass in just a matter of a few weeks due to COVID,” said Elena Bonfiglioli, Regional Business Leader, Health and Life Sciences EMEA at Microsoft. Sanjay Virmani, CEO of Exeevo added, “I have no doubt that in the next five years, the experiences that we deliver to our customers in this industry will have fundamentally changed.” 

Early Advances in the Patient Experience Due to COVID 

“Think about the NHS which is now being powered by 1.3 million people using Microsoft Teams as a collaborative platform for care and coordination,” said Elena. This would not have been an accelerated launch before COVID, but because of the burning need for a secure communication platform, its launch was prioritized and supported by all members of the NHS.

“Think about 500 million interactions that are now supported using smart bots and conversational AI. What we see happening before our eyes is the digital front door of any interaction is possible.”

The Need for a Cross-Organizational and CX-Focused Vision

How can more digital transformation be made possible for both HCP and patient experiences (PXs) in life sciences at a rapid pace? Does it stop here at COVID or is COVID just an example of how major digital transformation efforts can happen swiftly when an organization is collaborating toward the same goal? “I remember very well, three years ago when our new mission for Ferring became visible for everyone, it created that sense of focus that is very true and it created that willingness to work towards the same goals,” added Haider Alleg, Global Head of Digital Excellence at Ferring. A clear mission statement can be a driver for the needed change and can serve as guidance. He added that “When you are all working towards the same goal, you can start advocating for technology, not just for beauty contest reasons in those nice business meetings, but to really be an answer to a business problem we are facing.” 

For life sciences organizations to achieve seamless customer journeys, they must start by making a culture change. “The only way that we would be able to deliver improved outcomes is by thinking of this as cross-organizational.” said Virmani. 

“All departments should be invested in improving CX and should view customer experiences and patient experiences as a fundamental strategy and not just something we do in sales and marketing.” – Virmani

 “The brand and what we stand for is a very important and a powerful north star,” added Bonfiglioli. “At Microsoft, we had a very clear mission defined for us during COVID right from the very beginning. Our CEO, Satya Nadella, sent out an email saying we want to take the position of digital-first responders. Having a clear mission gives organizations a digital posture that ensures the purpose is clear and that you are clear in what type of action you try to achieve, ultimately resulting in better experiences for customers, and more importantly, better health outcomes for patients.” said Elena.  

Looking for Interoperability in Technology

The truth is that the technology needed to offer HCPs and patients seamless customer journeys is already available. It has been tested and proven in many other industries that have set the standard of CX life sciences is working to achieve. “We can actually do the post-pandemic world with the tools and technology we already have. It’s just the lack of interoperability, the lack of joined-up thinking that is preventing that customer-centricity that we talk about” said Simms.

The skepticism pharma companies have when it comes to achieving next-gen CX, might stem from a history of discouraging investments. “In our estimate, the industry, even before COVID, spent around 10 billion dollars just on CRM.” said Virmani. He added “The return on that kind of investment is simply not there. If you look at any of the comparisons between our industry and others, we don’t see us ranking very high in customer or patient reported experiences. It’s because we haven’t taken this kind of an approach where things are truly interconnected.”

Instead of simply looking to add to their technology stack, pharma leaders should consider a customer experience management (CXM) approach in which different departments and data sources are interconnected and feed into a unified data model. “Once you start shifting the lens from my patch to an ecosystem of solutions that have to operate together, then I believe we start having new conditions for those digital front doors to work.” confirmed Bonfiglioli. “There is no other way. We need to come to terms with a shift from a plethora of beautiful point solutions to an integrated underlying platform.”

Shifting to Data-Driven Hybrid Models 

Life sciences CX transformation has to be fueled by data, and it all starts with a data-driven culture across the organization. “If you don’t have a data-driven culture, if nobody reads a report, or nobody reads google analytics…”, stressed Alleg “…then you know you’ll have something else to fix first before calling it a customer experience transformation.” 

“We are clear that these digital interactions, these experiences are going to be data-driven” confirmed Bonfiglioli, and to drive better CX, there has to be “a digital feedback loop that has data at the center. But if data is trapped between my solution, your solution, and this solution, and there is no underlying rail track that is interoperable, then we are never going to have next-generation experiences.” 

Extend and switch complexified systems to a digital ecosystem that betters customer experience (CX) for HCPs, pharmacists, health systems

Create an enterprise-wide digital ecosystem to connect the many interactions throughout the patient experience (PX)

The best approach for forward-thinking life sciences companies is to aim for a hybrid model, in which there is a seamless transition between digital and non-digital interactions for HCPs and patients. “The hybrid model is data-driven, is interoperable, and is really a shift from a point solution to a platform level where the platform has an integrated set of managed services and capabilities, where we can manage healthcare data in the cloud with the privacy and security standards that are very specific to a highly regulated industry,” added Bonfiglioli.

Accordingly, pharma companies should look at sunsetting their integration-heavy and fragmented CRM models and move to an industry-specific CXM platform that offers a unified data model at the core to allow for interoperability between departments. “I’m very happy that Exeevo is here today because I think they do have one of the strongest solutions here, precisely because of that integrated nature,” said Simms. Exeevo’s Omnipresence, the result of a strategic partnership between Microsoft and Indegene, is a life sciences-specific CXM platform that is built on top of the Microsoft ecosystem and provides a unified and intelligent system, compatible with solutions from the Azure marketplace for easy integrations. Such platforms can empower early adopters with a strong CX vision to get a head start on their competition and start offering seamless customer journeys sooner.

The importance of a CX-first approach for life sciences organizations is becoming more and more evident as the landscape is changing after the pandemic. “We are in the area of competition of experiences,” said Virmani. “If your experiences are not going to be superior, your products are not going to be used and others will do better.” Those who start with a cross-organizational vision of interoperability and adopt their technologies accordingly will win the CX race and reap the early benefits. 

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