MM+M Transform 2020

Using Conversational Ai To Transform

HCP and Patient Engagement Today

Panelists: 

  • John Baylor - Innovation & Strategy, Astellas Pharma US

  • Ben Massingham - Vice President, Head of Transformation and Innovation at Novartis Canada

  • Lexi Kaplin - Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, conversationHEALTH

 

Lexi:

Welcome everybody to the panel on using conversational AI to transform HCP and patient engagement today. Thank you so much to our panelists john Baylor innovation and strategy at Astellas Pharma and Ben massingham, Vice President head of transformation and innovation at Novartis Canada for joining me today, thanks. Digital Transformation was well underway before COVID-19. But societies we seem to have vaulted five years in terms of business and consumer digital needed adoption. In life sciences, we've also experienced significant decline of face to face interactions between health professionals and their sales reps and health professionals in the patients. And we're working hard to offset this and reengage all of our customer groups. A major shift towards digital technologies is happening in all areas of our lives from retail and banking to how we stay connected with family and friends. This represents a significant opportunity for Life Sciences companies to engage healthcare professionals and patients through conversational AI text and voice solutions, delivering product and medical information to customers efficiently. And without friction 24 seven, whether that be one brand franchise, or all products within a company, there are significant benefits of deploying a virtual assistant including driving engagement, activation, and and most importantly, healthcare outcomes. And today's panel discussion, we'll be looking at the importance of implementing digital solutions to transform healthcare, professional and patient engagement through multiple channels. We'll be starting with Ben. Ben, it's an interesting year in healthcare, professional engagement, customer reach and engagement has never been easy. But we've never had a time where we've had to pull props from the fields to for an extended period of time. How did you deal with that?

 

Ben:

Yes, it's been an interesting year is probably would be fair to say. So the first thing we had to do was get everybody hope. And that sounds easy to do. And there was a mad rush to get the necessary technology platforms in place to allow us to try and keep some semblance of business as normal. Actually, I remember the first day of this, we had a 400 person meeting globally, and they probably won't Thank you for letting you know. But our VPN service crashed. So, you know, it wasn't without teething problems, that they did an amazing job and fixed it really quickly. But I think it was illustrative of the of the initials were scrambled just to get the technology in place. That happened relatively quickly. And then I think what we realized quite, quite soon after that is that we'd underestimated the human element of this transformation that needed to happen. So just simply making everybody available on ms teams or whatever platform you choose to learn live, it's necessary, but embracing that new way of working, not working 12 hours a day, being empathetic towards the fact that all of us have probably become not only professionals, but cooks homeschooling, if you have kids, that our customers are going through that. And being able to sort of understand that was was was a big challenge for us in adapting our ways of working. And then it started to become clear that even when you get to have conversations, virtually, they're very different types of conversation, you know, people's attention is, is not necessarily always where it used to be. There's a lot going on in the world, I'm sure we've all noticed. So that the types of conversations and the skills to have an effective communication were very different. So we started having to train up to that, then we've finally put some marketing materials in place rep triggered emails and things like that. So we've embraced technology and an emotional change journey sort of hand in hand. But I'm not sure we dealt with it perfectly. But it's that sort of element of pragmatism. And and we're still going right, I think that would be my final thought on how we dealt with it is not quite yet.

It is certainly a time though, that stirs empathy with everybody being at home and sort of in the same scenario. But you know, beyond that, that initial working at home, I'm sure COVID has certainly accelerated this thinking towards digital and digital transformation and how it is related to your your new role within Novartis. He tell us a little bit more about that.

Yeah, I often joke with people, I probably wouldn't have taken this job without COVID. Because I think the reality is, and you've probably heard from this from anyone who's been involved in the pharma industry for a while, we've always known there's been a better way of doing it. Right that we do add value and the traditional channels certainly are highly effective. But there's always been this fear that if you stop to do something different, and everybody else keeps doing the same thing, that maybe you've got it wrong and that they will continue to win, right. So that safety blanket now or that fear blanket almost has gone in so much as that nobody's out there doing the same old thing. So it kind of liberates you To start thinking very differently about what it is that you want to do how you want to engage with the customers, and digital and virtual platforms are clearly the way to go. And I think about the way that we engage with other industries, a colleague of mine was tells a story, it's a good one. He was online shopping for a new cardigan, and he didn't know where he was a medium or large, I can tell you he's a medium because he's a little bit younger. But he was somehow confused by this. And then he was going to medium large, medium, large, medium, large, picking up the size things and then suddenly, out of nowhere, this chat box pops up with a real human being in it, and says, Can I help you seem to be struggling with with size? Turns out that this was a guy called Max, I think, and he was in the Netherlands. And it was a really powerful example. Because something somewhere was able to trigger this person in the Netherlands to talk to someone in Canada about a real time problem, resolve it and move on. And I think that's got to be the way that we're thinking about this, you know, digital platforms, yes, it's great that we can do this. But the data behind it your ability to understand the needs of the customer in real time, and put them in touch with the right person. It doesn't matter whether they're reps, whether they're in medical, hell, maybe they're even talking to me, right. But if you're able to solve that in real time, compared to the more traditional model, where a customer comes in and asks the rep a question, the rep, if they're allowed to answer it will answer it. But often we put those restrictions in place. They say, well, I'll get the MSL to come back. You know, when's the next time you're in Calgary? Well, he lives in wherever Montreal he'll be here in four weeks. By the time the MSL gets in, the MSL will the doctor will have forgotten what the question was, right. So it's just, I think that we're thinking about digital innovation, as a way to be able to understand in real time, the needs and questions that our customers have the help and support they need. And to then leverage the platforms to be able to deliver that in some in the right way, in the way that they want it. And I think it's going to be very beneficial to all of us.

 

Lexi: 

That's a fantastic analogy about retail. And I think, fundamentally, what we're seeing more and more is that people, whether it's a healthcare professional or a patient are moving more towards these expectations of how they can engage with companies, both in life sciences and externally. And I like the way that you described this freedom to innovate for transformation. With that liberty, what capabilities are you most excited and looking to deploy in this new environment?

 

Ben: 

So I think there's probably a pipe, I probably think about them in three different buckets, right? I think the role of the pharmaceutical industry needs to fundamentally change. We can't go through this anymore simply being the providers of great medication, we need to be part of a solution that's wider than that. So one of the ways that I'm excited is, and we talked about it, and then the previous question is sort of, you know, bringing our engagement with our customers and with our patients into the 21st century. So I think there's a whole bunch of stuff we can do that. The other way is, is taking a look at the whole system of care as a whole and asking ourselves, what more can we do. And I don't think we're going to reinvent ourselves as diagnostic companies. But if you can become the sort of the central hub in working with better partners to solve a mutual problem, then everybody wins. And I don't think historically, we've been particularly good at that, as an industry. And then the final piece is actually it's a people skill set. I was talking to a former friend and colleague, but you know, he's still a friend and my wife and former friend or colleague or friend the other day, and he, he and I were talking about how do you reallocate your resources in times like this. And what he challenged me to think about was, rather than thinking about doing 15 reps here, or 12 reps or anything, like they said, Look, you're trying to fit round holes into square pegs. Ask yourself the question, what are the jobs to be done? What do you need to do to get those jobs done from a technology of a skillset perspective? And then you start to come to a very different conclusion. Now, I believe there will always be a role for reps, don't get me wrong, I'm not going that far. But I think there are jobs to be done in the healthcare system by pharmaceutical companies that today, we don't necessarily line up against the right skills with the right people. So in terms of capabilities, I actually think that's going to allow us to leverage the power of the people we have in a much more targeted way if you stopped thinking about it in that in that sense, but maybe I can give you an example to help bring that to life. Right. So we're in the process of partnering with a company who has a platform to enable clinics and conditions to take their entire clinic online. And that is not something typically a pharmaceutical company would get involved with. But we felt it was very important both in a COVID world and in a post COVID world where the as you were mentioning the expectations around care and engagement are different, right? Why travelled for four hours to get to see a physician, when you can actually just pick up the phone and 10 minutes late to be going about your day. So we partnered with this company, and they'll be an announcement about this soon. But we're going to put that at the disposal of physicians. And we're not targeting very deliberately, anybody in particular, for innovate anymore, sorry, available for anybody who wants to use it. And I think historically, as an industry, maybe we've had preferential relationship with certain people. So therapy errs, were not so we believe that this is the type of role that the pharma industry needs to play in solving bigger healthcare problems. And to be honest, everybody will wait, we don't need don't need to be sorry about that patients will get better care, physicians will be able to be efficient and deliver good quality care from from a safe environment. And if patients are seeing doctors again, then clearly there's a benefit for the pharmaceutical industry as well. But that's not the primary reason for doing.

 

Lexi: 

Absolutely. And you bring up a really good point of this new normal. And people have been saying that a lot. But fundamentally, we're never going to be going back to that pre COVID. world. So how do you ensure that these changes you're making aren't just incremental, but rather a permanent disruption?

 

Ben:

Yeah, I've been thinking a lot about that. Because I think part of it is, how do you shape a culture within your organization that accepts that there are people who want to go back to the old model, because they're uncomfortable with the new one. But the reality is, the world has moved on in ways that we probably don't even realize yet, right? So I don't really have a very good answer for you in so much as I think you just need to accept it and do that. But it also means that you, you have to start thinking bigger about the solutions that you bring the solutions we talked about a minute ago. And this idea of being part of the delivery of care is not a traditional mindset for pharmaceutical companies. So if you make that stick and you show value, I think that'll be part of the journey. But I do honestly believe that people who think it's going to go back to normal are kind of kidding themselves a little bit, I don't mean to sound like I'm judging them, I'm not I in some ways, I wish it would. But in other ways it works. So being able to set yourself up as nimble, accepting that everything you do won't be immediately correct, which is uncomfortable for us. That will help with that change that will help us know that whatever the new normal is, we can get some hypothesize about it, and some of it will be right and some of it will be wrong. But if you don't go into it with an attitude of we can course correct as needed, we can run it as an experiment, you know, have a hypothesis and test it and move on, then I don't really think that the change will stick. And if you don't dream big enough, it'll be incremental. And I actually believe I was thinking about this the other day. That's where the technology piece comes in. I don't really believe that any of the problems we're facing today can be solved without technology. If they could, we would have done it already. And I don't really know whether it's AI or not, I think we have a fascination with certain particular elements of technology, but we need a deep understanding of the problem merge on the soul for and match it to the right technology, then I think it's going to stick, I think it'll just become part of the way we do things. And that goes for when we have a vaccine, hopefully one day as much as it does for the reality of today.

Lexi:

Absolutely. And you brought up a really interesting point around the culture as well. Right at the beginning of your response. I'm curious what your thoughts are about how this will impact the interplay between sales and marketing teams going forward and how that'll change the digital world.

 

Ben:

Yeah, and the lines are already blurry, right? A highly effective commercial unit was sales and marketing. Even before I knew this, I guess now that the distance between the two is becoming more maybe they want more of a telemarketing so really quickly, and it just feels like it's one function. But in all seriousness, what we're actually talking about is evolving our sales mode to be an omni channel communication marketing model, right? When we start saying, I want to be able to communicate with the with an individual customer in an individual way that allows us to meet the needs we're really talking about is good old fashioned segmentation, but taken up several options. And sales forces will have to be much more nimble. There'll be not necessarily on the road, they'll be somewhere else. And there'll be elements of their role that historically marketing. I actually think almost a more dangerous or certainly more unpopular question is, what's the difference between commercial and medical? Right going to be in the future? Right? I think a lot of our customers are looking to us as an industry for answers that historically only medical have been able to provide and that's a regular contravene, there's a very clear difference for a reason. But the value that we're providing is blurry, right. So I think we need to be within the realms of appropriate compliance, lots more Open to providing the right value at the right time for the right channel. And as a result, I like to think that these differentiation distinctions functionally will become less meaningful or certain who's super specific and therefore, brought more broad across the organization in terms of who does what. I'm not sure I'm making sense, but I like the sound of my own voice.

 

Lexi:

I think that makes perfect sense. And you had a really interesting point about that balance between commercial and medical, certainly something we've seen with our pharmaceutical bots, when you give the opportunity for a healthcare professional or a patient to ask a question, to Novartis or to Astellas, whomever they might be interfacing with, they don't know, what's the sales team question versus a marketing question versus medical to that point. So this really isn't a world where we can just answer our customers 24/7.

 

Ben:

exactly that information you have. And this is not to devalue what people can do. But I actually believe a lot of what people we ask people to do is no value. And they could do a lot more with their time. That's high value. Right. So I think that's an interesting analogy. And I know you and I have talked in the past about, you know, what questions are posed that could be automated, and it's probably 50 60%. And, and there's real value then in freeing up 50 to 60%, of highly skilled, highly trained, and probably very well paid individuals time to be able to add that incremental value, and also 24, seven availability of the answers that we, we know, can be delivered fairly, fairly appropriately by lots of different channels. So I, I'm a big fan of the leveraging both together, and then I think you'll find yourselves or we will find ourselves in a really good position.

 

Lexi: 

Completely agree. Thank you so much, but I'm going to turn it over to john for the next little bit. JOHN Astellas is also embarked on a transformation journey to digital channels and digital engagement. The latter is easier said than done. Course, smartly, meaningfully and frequently engaging healthcare professionals and patients. What is the inflection point or catalyst for you? That changed this for you and Astellas?

 

John:

Yeah, thank you, Lexi. We like to think we were embarking upon this journey before COVID head as a digital health and innovation team, we're always thinking about more advanced ways to interact with both patients and providers, but obviously with with COVID, that that's pretty much the inflection point. And it was for the rest of the healthcare industry as well and specific to Astellas that the time where our reps could not go and see their customers. Right. That's that's an obvious point that we had to address. But beyond the reps not being able to see providers, we want to think about patients as well, you know, pandemic affects everybody under the sun. today. And at Astellas, our main goal is to improve patients lives and the experiences they have. So we had to take a step back and think, again, beyond providers and what can we do to ensure patients are still receiving the appropriate treatments. And luckily, or not Luckily, but I think we all agree here today that the digital health solutions that have been very much accelerated because of COVID are going to be here beyond the pandemic as well. And so I feel like we're all setting ourselves up for the future. And as Ben mentioned, whether you like it or not, that the changes here, so might as well kind of get up or adapt.

 

Lexi:

Absolutely. And you bring up a really good point of embarking on that journey even before COVID head because I think we're now starting to see a lot of these digital transformations happen a market that seemed to be almost of a convenience time. But that in fact, takes a bit of time to get in place and of course bring through medical, legal and regulatory. Along those lines. conversational AI can be deployed against both healthcare professionals patients, you bring up the need for both. And your last answer, how do you choose where to start? Or is it really a focus on both?

 

John:

I guess it's very situationally specific dependent upon the brand team and their unique needs. Personally, if I had my own pharmaceutical company, I definitely think it is for both, I think there is a ton of value to be added for both groups of stakeholders and the use use cases are are plentiful. But as a digital health team, we always make sure to meet with the brand teams and discover their unique problem that they're trying to solve for or their exact problem is kind of alluding to what Ben mentioned, we don't want to try and fix problems that don't even exist. So once we have that specific need, maybe it's the one granting wants to target patients and another one wants to target providers. Then the third one wants to target both but at the end of the day. As we move forward in the future unfold itself post COVID. I think conversational AI will be very applicable to both.
 

Lexi:

So we are indeed bringing a voice and humanity to our brands and companies. How do you manage that across brands in the US or across affiliates around the world really having that centralized? tone and, and persona across all ways that your customers might be engaging with you?

 

John: 

Yeah, that's a great question. And I want to emphasize conversation health, there are technological platforms are really enabling that empathetic and personal voice to reach certain customers, whether it be patients and providers, and I'm a big fan of it. And I can't imagine any brand team out there that isn't a fan of it, being able to provide that personal touch, in addition to the medical and professional expertise that is needed to trust the pharmaceutical companies. But that being said, to manage the consistent voice, or very unique voice, depending upon your audience, whether it be a brand audience or geographical audience, it needs to come from leadership, both executive as well as granting leadership. And again, either you are providing very consistent message, or you're providing very unique message, conversation, health or technological platforms have the ability to do so. And the same can be said for collaborating with our affiliates or offices around the globe, making sure we are strategically aligned with our initiatives and projects moving forward, especially in these days where everything is moving so rapidly, and it's accelerated. And one great example would be our team in Tokyo, our colleagues in Tokyo, where we're headquartered internationally, reach out to us as a digital health team inquiring about potential solutions regarding conversational AI or chatbots. And naturally, conversation help came up in the discussion and we let them know our thoughts. And I, you have been working with our team in Japan and I will be launching soon, it's very excited to hear. And that way, not only are we able to communicate with our affiliates in Japan, but then we can learn best practices from them as well, once the platform is launched, we can take those learnings back to the US and see how we could possibly expand the solution to our US brands as well, and a very efficient and productive manner.

 

Lexi:

Absolutely. And I love the concept of one voice across, you know, all of your customer touch points where the technology certainly allows you to optimize for different cultural needs globally. But certainly bringing back to that one, tell us that one customer interaction that you might have, no matter how they're engaging with you.

 

John: 

Exactly, yeah, it's something we take to heart and you know, that having the technology available in order to do so it has been great.

 

Lexi:

Absolutely. And so some of this change is actually quite fundamental, making brands and companies digital first, always on in this new environment. How do you ensure critical support and critical mass just to do that?

 

John:

If I had to use one word, it would be leadership. But I feel like that's kind of obvious. So let me expand upon that. Most certainly, having top down support is very useful. When it comes to I apologize, the dog is shaking his collar here. But it's very useful when it comes to communicating a company wide initiative, or maybe even a brand initiative, right, whether we're going to be more digital, or let's look into this digital health platform. And that's great just to show and raise awareness of the initiative. But when it comes to specific brands, or departments deploying a solution, we feel as a team, you need to connect to them and prove to them why or what the value would be added through this digital platform may be I think we can all agree that brain teams are driven by results, right, they can have great ideas, we can come to them with great ideas. But unless these ideas are able to be backed up with predicted results, or results that can be taken from other teams that may have used this platform previously or currently using this platform. That's what's needed to really drive adoption and really connect with the brand teams like this is what the improvement will be if you adopt this right here is how the value has been added. So in addition to having that top down, leadership message, being able to connect with the individual brand teams on their specific problems. And specifically, clearly and concisely telling them how this digital solution may solve for that problem is of enormous value. And I we personally think, very critical. You know, we, as a digital health team are here to support the brand teams, we need to meet them where they are, because their needs are always changing and always evolving. And so that's what, that's what we try and do.

 

Lexi:

Fantastic. Thank you so much for that. John. I have to open the last question to both of our panelists, Ben and John, with 2021 quickly approaching, what is a piece of advice that you would share with pharma companies, your colleagues that are looking to move to this digital age with conversational AI solutions?

 

Ben:

So I will take the liberty of probably giving to one specifically as it relates to your question, Lexi, I think there's an underestimation of how much time on work needs to go in before you even start thinking about implementation, right? These are incredibly valuable types of solutions. But as you enter into new spaces, regulatory, compliance technology, all of these types of people need to be coached them off away, and the more better the quality of the conversations and the more inclusive you are, the faster you actually get to execution. So I guess a long way of saying that is the short way of saying that is go faster, go slow to go fast at the beginning. And I think that that would help. The other one, and it's a big mantra that I'm trying to instill with my team is, don't fall in love with a solution for your problem. Like I think, historically, what I've seen a lot, and it's not just in the pharma industry is certainly not in any company, just in any company I've worked in, I was a consultant for a while, people kind of look at the technology, and it was super cool, it's fine reason to use it. And that almost dooms the technology to failure. There are so many different ways to solve a problem. It's only when you deeply understand what that problem is that you can pick the best one. And I think that would be something I would really encourage anyone to think about is until you really have got to the bottom on the root cause of the problem you're trying to solve for. Don't even start thinking about partnering with someone, because you will minimize your chances a partner with the right one. But once you've made your decision, go go big.

 

John:

Yeah, I'll go ahead and build off that. Thank you, Ben. And to your point of, you know, starting earlier involving the right stakeholders, I couldn't emphasize that enough. technology's amazing because it moves so quickly. But we need to realize there are other hurdles that we need to conquer. I guess along that way. And specifically with pharma companies, I think we all can relate to the legal and regulatory and compliance are hurdles that need to be overcome. So I know in our experience with Astellas, as soon as we start thinking by dm, we speak with the brand team and they're kind of on board with the idea. What are the next action steps? Okay, let's involve legal and kind of get their thoughts. And this is well before the contracting phase, just because getting legals questions however informal or small, they may be getting those answered, and getting them comfortable with this solution is of immense value. So then when the contracts do come to the table, they can hopefully be expedited and flow through pretty smoothly. And one other, I guess, piece of advice, but I wouldn't think of that way because I feel like we all kind of know this is that it's no longer it's still innovation, but it's it's it's unnecessary, you know, historically, we might think of innovations as a nice to have as icing on the cake. But now, as you know, as COVID head has shown us healthcare and it's beyond the forefront of innovation and technology, right and having a consumer products such as iPhones and our product, that's great, but there may be another COVID and it may be worse. So we need as healthcare as an industry and pharmaceuticals and treatments, be able to adapt very quickly and on a less serious tone, just being able to answer questions that healthcare stakeholders may have very quickly because it comes down to patients lives and it's it's no longer a nice to have. It's a necessity that I feel it's a mindset that we all should be adopting today.

 

Lexi:

Absolutely. And that's a great point to end on. 

 

John:

Ben, thank you both so much for your time today, and for joining us during the panel session. If anyone has questions for conversation health, please join us at our virtual booth. We love chatting about conversational AI and Believe bringing great ideas together is always the start of something exceptional.

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