Following insights around the nature of transformation in the pharma and healthcare sector, this report will now explore how marketers can bring about change in their own organisations. The concept of strategic pillars is used. This refers to the strategic battlefields a business needs to win to be successful. Communications, content, data and culture are recommended for the pharma and healthcare sector. [67]

4.1. Communications

Our interviews for this report revealed three drivers of change in the way pharma and healthcare organisations communicate with their audience:

1. Cost savings – The need for cost savings is due, to a significant extent, to the decline of blockbuster medicines, as already described in the previous section (Section 3.5). This has driven a decline in rep-based selling; a trend accelerated by the increasing difficulties in reps gaining access to healthcare professionals in certain markets.

2. Payers – The increasing separation between the people who prescribe and those who pay (the payers) means that the needs of payers have to be factored into the communication mix.

3. Audience expectations – All parts of the pharma and healthcare audience have come to expect instant-response communications. Clearly these are all drivers towards digital communications, but they are also drivers towards specific aspects of communications, namely audience fragmentation and marketing automation.

4.1.1. Audience fragmentation

The ‘triple aim’ for healthcare is to:[68]

1. improve the individual experience of care;
2. improve the health of populations;
3. reduce the per capita costs of care for populations.

This ‘triple aim’ has attracted a high degree of consensus across healthcare organisations.[69]

Clearly, different audiences have different interests in these three aims. Patients have the keenest interest in their individual experience of healthcare and, under some circumstances (e.g. NHS care in the UK) are not even aware of the costs. Those responsible for making purchase decisions for healthcare (payers) have to balance the need to improve health with the cost of doing so. Healthcare professionals (prescribers) may be focused on patient experience, health efficacy, medical safety or treatment cost to different extents in different circumstances.

The priority for communications in the pharma and healthcare sectors is to get the right message, to the right person, in the right way, at the right time. In order to do so, it is necessary to:

1. Segment the audience, clustering together those with similar interests and intents.
2. Understand how different audience segments seek and are sensitive to different information at different moments.[70]
3. Monitor signals of interest and intent in our audience and use these as communication triggers.
4. Set up processes to respond rapidly to these communication triggers, sending the most relevant content in the right way to the right person.

There are patients, prescribers and payers to communicate with. They all differ in their interests and intents and they may have different needs in different circumstances. In a digital world, the days of developing a single detail aid to hand over to the sales team are long gone. The audience has fragmented, and we need ways to reach them through digital channels.

Patient segmentation

“If you are not thinking segments, you’re not thinking,” says Theodore Levitt, highlighting the importance of patient segmentation.[71]

A common way to explore how to segment and target patients is patient journey maps.

Figure 4: A journey map for breast cancer patients[72] (see other examples on Pinterest[73])


Source: Waitemata District Health Board 2010

Patient journey maps are typically used to:

1. Identify moments when patients seek, or are sensitive to, healthcare information.
2. Clarify the type of information needed at each moment and the purpose it needs to serve.
3. Seek signals that could be used to trigger communications at each moment.
4. Discover where, further along the patient journey, we might look for signs of impact and outcomes from those triggered communications.

Of the many factors that could be taken into account in segmenting a patient population, research has shown that one factor, patient activation, which is defined by the UK NHS as “people’s ability to manage their own health and wellbeing”[74], explains a lot more variation in health-related attitudes and behaviours than other demographic factors. Age, education, income and gender account for only 6% of the variation in patient activation.[75]

Between 25% and 40% of patients have low levels of activation, suggesting they feel overwhelmed with managing their health, have little confidence in their ability to improve their health, have become passive in managing their health or would rather not think about their health.[76] Even after controlling for income, education and access to care, patients with low activation are two to three times more likely to have unmet medical needs and to delay medical care compared with more highly activated patients.[77]

Highly activated patients are significantly more likely to attend regular immunisations, check-ups and screenings, to engage in healthy behaviours like eating a healthy diet and taking regular exercise.[78] Compared to the most activated patients, the least activated have healthcare costs approximately 8% higher within a single year, and 21% higher in the subsequent year.[79]

Patient activation

“It has been robustly demonstrated that levels of patient activation are related to most health behaviours, many clinical outcomes, healthcare costs and patient experiences.”

Judith Hibbard and Helen Gilburt (2014)[80]

For the pharma and healthcare sector, patient activation indicators can be used to target communications and to explain different levels of response and impact. Levels of patient activation can also be enhanced by interventions to build skills, motivation and confidence.[81]

Here are four patient archetypes that could be used to segment communications and hence drive patient engagement:[82]

1. Proactive and controlled – patients maintain a positive attitude, know they are doing all they can to manage their condition, know they need to adhere to their medication and feel the benefit of their efforts.

How to engage: These patients expect detailed information on proposed new treatments, such as mechanism of action or comparison of key product attributes, compared to current treatment.

2. Suffering but determined – patients do all they can to manage their condition but experience significant stress from their condition.

How to engage: These patients are driven by the hope of finding a better treatment and are highly focused on treatment efficacy. They are also receptive to peer-to-peer networks in the hope of finding techniques to make their condition more tolerable.

3. Passive and defeated – patients simply feel overwhelmed. May feel they have tried all they can or may just feel resigned to prolonged suffering.

How to engage: These patients are hardest to reach and require the strongest messaging to engage them. They may be activated by powerful stories of innovation; either breakthrough discoveries or realisations that existing treatment advice was mistaken.

4. Unburdened and independent – patients manage to remain minimally affected by their condition. Either content with existing treatment or avoiding treatment completely.

How to engage: These patients are often excluded completely from the marketing mix due to their resistance to marketing messaging.

Payer segmentation

Although there may be value in segmenting payers in a similar way to prescribers, this needs to be built upon a foundation of payer-centric communication. An interesting case comes from the launch of PCSK9 inhibitors for dramatically reducing LDL cholesterol (‘bad cholesterol’) a few years ago.[83]

Clinical trials had shown that Sanofi/Regeneron’s PCSK9 inhibitor, branded Praluent (alirocumab), resulted in 3.5 times the reduction of LDL cholesterol compared to the leading non-statin, Merck’s Zetia (ezetimibe). From a payer’s point of view, outcomes are the most important metric. LDL cholesterol is a strong health indicator, but it is not an outcome, such as coronary heart disease. When Praluent and Zetia were compared in terms of outcomes, Praluent’s benefit fell from 350% to only 30%. Clearly, it would be a mistake to promote Praluent to a ‘payer’ audience, using the data on reduction in LDL cholesterol because this isn’t what payers are most interested in.

In general terms, messaging to payers needs to focus on the most meaningful measures of value for them. Once this basic challenge of payer-centric communication has been met, there may be additional value to be derived from segmenting payers.

Here are payer segmentation examples from consultancy firm Valid Insight:[84]

1. Cost-effectiveness: Payer requires a methodology for comparing value for improved outcomes.
2. Comparative clinical effectiveness: Payer seeks to assess value and benefit by comparing the clinical evidence between similar products.
3. Budget optimisation: Payer has a limited budget and seeks the best way to allocate their limited resources.
4. Competitive rationalisation: Payer wants to achieve healthcare benefit and maximise profit.
5. Patient-led market: The patient heavily influences payer purchases.

Prescriber segmentation

There are many different ways to segment prescribers. In their adoption of new products, they may be pioneers, early adopters, early majority, late majority or laggards.[85] They may be visual, verbal, analytical or social in their learning styles.[86] Their prescribing decision may be driven mostly by drug safety, in treatment efficacy, in patient experience or in medication price.[87]

The most robust way to segment prescribers is to do so statistically, where there is sufficient data to do so. ImpactRx, for example, used cluster analysis to group prescribers into three distinct attitudinal segments:

  • Convenience Driven/Promotion Sensitive
  • Data & Safety-Focused/Price Sensitive and
  • Price Driven/Message Agnostic.

It found that 71% of prescribers were driven by a relatively narrow set of messaging, while 29% of them (the Message Agnostics) were generally responsive to a wider range of factors.[88]

In many cases, prescriber segmentation will involve a prolonged process of analysis and testing.

Table 1: Prescriber segmentation process

Steps Process
Step 1: Define success, as clearly as possible. Where do the greatest sales opportunities lie?  Krishnamurthi and Bhatia found the likelihood that a physician would choose the last drug prescribed for a returning patient was greater than 90%.[89] This ‘prescription stickiness’ would mean that sales opportunities for a new drug lie mostly in persuading physicians to start new patients on this new drug for their first prescription.
Step 2: Define the audience characteristics most likely to deliver success. In the above example, the physicians with the highest proportion of new patients need to be identified. They may be younger and just getting established in their specialism.
Step 3: Track that target audience. Can they be identified within existing marketing and sales data (or available third-party data)? How many are existing customers? How many are subscribers to content? How many have been to an organisation’s events? How many web visits, content downloads, video views can be attributed to them? How many have been engaged on social media?
Step 4: Profile that target audience. Do any distinctive (or statistically significant) patterns emerge? Does the audience consistently look at efficacy first and safety second? Do they engage well with video? Do they respond to emails? Are they active on social media? Which search engine queries drove them to the organisation’s website?
Step 5: Build your communications plan. How should content be organised? What mix of presentation styles (text, graphic, video) and distribution formats (web page, email, white paper) are needed? How would a company ideally like to sequence content (e.g. search engine result > landing page on web site > video > follow on social media)?  Which signals can be used to send triggered communications?


4.1.2. Marketing automation


Defining marketing automation

“Marketing automation is a category of technology that allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows, so they can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster. Marketing automation [works by helping] marketers streamline their lead generation, segmentation, lead nurturing and lead scoring, customer lifecycle marketing, cross-sell and up-sell, customer retention, and marketing ROI measurement.”


Any move to communicating the right message, to the right person, in the right way, at the right time, brings enormous operational complexity with it, and may only be possible with marketing automation.

Figure 5: In a comparison of industries and sectors, the American Marketing Association identifies healthcare as a laggard in its adoption of marketing automation

Figure 5: In a comparison of industries and sectors, the American Marketing Association identifies healthcare as a laggard in its adoption of marketing automation

Source: American Marketing Association[91]

In its guide on ‘Laying the Foundation for Marketing Automation in your Healthcare Company’, the American Marketing Association includes the following advice:[92]

1. Start small. US-based hospital network Orlando Health found that by simply adding two event reminders, it increased attendance at a seminar for healthcare specialists by 14%.

2. Give it time. On average, only 8% of organisations see positive results in six months but this grows to 32% after a year.

3. Continuously improve and refine your data. Data quality determines the success of marketing automation.

4. Encourage staff using marketing automation to be more strategic in their communications and build automation steps to achieve these strategic goals.

One tool Econsultancy has developed internally and used with several consultancy clients to take a systematic approach to designing and deploying the right marketing mix (often, though not always using marketing automation) is the Marketing Mix Framework.

Figure 6: Econsultancy’s Marketing Mix Framework

Figure 6: Econsultancy’s Marketing Mix Framework

Source: Econsultancy

This graphical tool enables the thinking behind marketing tactics to be made explicit and then discussed and debated. It focuses particularly on how different channels can be combined to get the right message in the right format to the right audience with the right impact.

Key insights

  • Audience fragmentation is forcing pharma and healthcare companies to change how they manage their entire communications process. The distinctive needs of patients, payers and prescribers need to be addressed in communications.
  • Patient segmentation needs to take into account patient activation, a single factor that explains huge variation in health behaviours, clinical outcomes, healthcare costs and patient experience. Patient journey maps can be a useful way of understanding how best to segment and target patients.
  • The most important challenge in communications for payers is ensuring the content and messaging is payer centric (i.e. it clearly defines the benefits and value for money of the proposed treatment compared to other treatments, it takes into account differences in target patient profiles, clinical outcomes, safety, etc.)
  • There are many different ways to segment prescribers and, in a data-rich environment, it may be best to do so statistically using, for example, cluster analysis. Even with such techniques, successful prescriber segmentation may require lengthy periods of deployment and testing with routine revisions of segmentation models.
  • The pharma and healthcare sector is considered to be among the laggards in adopting marketing automation, despite the fact that the technology is mature and there are simple steps to getting started. Econsultancy’s marketing mix framework may be a useful tool to start pharma and healthcare teams thinking about marketing automation.

4.2. Content

Meeting the information needs of multiple different audience fragments will inevitably require content to be created, formatted and deployed in sophisticated ways. Our interviews for this report highlighted three trends in the management of content within the pharma and healthcare sector:

  • Changes in attitudes among different types of healthcare professionals
  • A move to in-source key content-related processes
  • New approaches to the regulatory approval of content

These trends are explored in more detail below.

4.2.1. Changes in attitudes among different types of healthcare professionals

First, Andrew Burton, Skills and Capability Lead – Product Strategy at Roche, points towards research by Across Health that suggests attitudes of different types of healthcare professionals towards pharma and healthcare companies are changing.

Figure 7: Four archetypes of healthcare professionals

Figure 7: Four archetypes of healthcare professionals

Source: Harbour 2018[93]

Figure 8: How the proportion of healthcare archetypes have changed

Figure 8: How the proportion of healthcare archetypes have changed

Source: Harbour 2018[94]

What is clear is that ‘independents’ and ‘knowledge-seekers’ have increased while ‘transactionals’ and ‘relationship-seekers’ have decreased. This suggests that healthcare professionals may be seeking a more arm’s length relationship with pharma and healthcare companies, in which they seek to be educated and informed rather than promoted and sold to. Burton suggests that pharma and healthcare companies are forming stronger partnerships with independent experts (e.g. researchers and consultants) and with the distribution channels through which they publish (e.g. research journals and professional events).

4.2.2. A move to in-source key content-related processes

This contrasts with the second content management trend, the move to in-source key content-related processes. Different interviewees mentioned different initiatives. One spoke of content factories being set up in key territories. Another mentioned an initiative to make content production agile, by employing multi-disciplinary teams to rapidly generate content and then refine it based on split-test results. Another talked of content curation and adaptation initiatives that set out to re-purpose existing content to meet different audience needs in different circumstances.

4.2.3. New approaches to the regulatory approval of content

The third content management trend that emerged during the interviews for this report was new approaches to the regulatory approval of content. All interviewees talked about the ‘need-for-speed’ in regulatory approval processes. Elliot Antrobus-Holder, Global Head of Digital Channels and Analytics at GSK, described how his company had spent considerable time and effort building workflow management solutions for content production with regulatory approval steps built in. He also talked about how GSK tried to manage regulatory approval of content without stifling the flexibility to use that content in different ways.

One of the biggest challenges is how we make content feel relevant, how we make it feel personalised,” he says. “To allow us to manage content in different ways for different circumstances, we produce content at a fragment level – a fragment is a paragraph of content. So, a page on our website will be made up of multiple fragments of content. These fragments of content will be produced independently of each other but signed off from a regulatory and medical perspective in every possible configuration that we might be able to use them.”

Combining insights from the interviews for this report with work Econsultancy has done with pharma and healthcare clients previously, the following six-step framework for streamlining regulatory approval of content is recommended:

1. Have clear information on what purpose is served by the regulatory approval of content, what risks are intended to be mitigated by regulatory approval and what process needs to be adhered to in order to mitigate those risks. This information is likely to be needed at a generic corporate level and at a more brand- or product-specific level.

2. Create and continually refine and update content approval standards, which state what specific criteria need to be met for approval. These standards should minimise the extent to which expert judgement is needed for content approval.

3. Create and continually refine and update content approval guidelines. These are likely to be discussion guides to content approval, giving examples of approved and disapproved content and explaining reasons for their approval or disapproval.

4. Ensure use of these content approval standards and guidelines by content creators and editors to guide them towards writing more regulation compliant content.

5. When content is submitted for regulatory approval, it should be possible to refer to similar content that has already been approved, to speed up the approval process.

6. When content is given regulatory approval, it should be made clear which elements of the content were critical to that approval and which were irrelevant. Where possible, it should be made clear what changes to the content are unlikely to raise regulatory issues.

Key insights

Three trends in the management of content within the pharma and healthcare sector were identified:

  • The attitudes of healthcare professionals to pharma and healthcare companies are changing, as evidenced by the drop in the proportion of the ‘relationship-seeker’ archetype and the equivalent rise in the ‘independent’ archetype. Healthcare professionals are seeking a more arm’s length relationship with pharma and healthcare companies in which they are educated and informed rather than promoted and sold to.
  • The move to in-source key content-related processes, including setting up of content factories in key territories, making content production agile (multi-disciplinary teams rapidly generating content and then refining it based on split-test results) and in-house content curation and adaptation initiatives that set out to re-purpose existing content to meet different audience needs in different circumstances.
  • New approaches to the regulatory approval of content, including building workflow management solutions for content production with regulatory approval steps built-in and breaking content approval down to a more modular level so content fragments are approved and can be combined in different ways to meet different audience needs.

A six-step framework is proposed for streamlining the regulatory approval of content.

4.3. Data

The interviews conducted for this report told a story of ‘data in transformation’ within pharma and healthcare. New data stores and data platforms were being built. New data sources were being integrated. New points of access were being created. New ways of deriving insights from data were being developed.

Roche has channel dashboards working well and being used to good effect. According to Burton, Roche’s new Commercial Excellence team is also making good progress in surfacing meaningful metrics to inform evidence-based decision-making.

There were also, however, large to-do-lists related to data. Econsultancy has identified four issues data and analytics managers need to tackle:

1. Data ingestion – According to interviewees, data is not always being captured and if an organisation does not have it, it cannot be used. Social media data is often challenging to capture effectively, as is data from field reps and from events. The key here is always to know what is missing, continuously review the cost of that missing data (missed opportunities for communications, lead qualification, sales etc.) and evaluate this cost against the investment needed to acquire the missing data.

2. Data integrity – the validation, reconciliation and aggregation of data is also presenting a challenge to organisations, especially when that data comes from different sources. Customer data in customer relationship management systems are particularly problematic here. Recognising repeat visits by a physician to your website is relatively straightforward if they always use the same device. Tracking sessions by the same individual using multiple devices is more challenging. When that individual starts using a new device, there is typically a lot of reconciliation of browsing history to be done by the time the device’s owner has been identified.

3. Data analysis – having consumed and reconciled all this data, what happens now? The first principle is only pay attention to the things that matter. This means ruthless management of key performance indicators (KPIs), objective measurements of some aspect of business performance that matters for business success. The second principle is to always try to enhance the analytics maturity of your organisation.

Figure 9: Gartner’s analytics maturity model

Figure 9: Gartner’s analytics maturity model

Source: Gartner (on ZDNet)[95]

Antrobus-Holder explains how GSK is trying to encourage more mature use of data by requiring everyone to be explicit about the hypothesis they sought to test with a piece of content, a campaign or a website split test. By predicting the data that would support or refute a hypothesis, the business was not only clearer about what data it would subsequently need to analyse (and hence ensure that data was being tracked), but also started to develop a predictive analytics mindset.

4. Data insights and insight application – obtaining insights from data and applying those insights is rarely straightforward. Missing data may need to be worked around. Data conflict may need to be resolved. Data overload may need to be avoided. This last issue was raised by Melanie Brown, Managing Partner at Actando (a provider of learning solutions and decision tools to the pharma and healthcare sector). She talked of data disempowerment – a loss of capability and confidence due to too much data and not knowing where to start.

A three-step process to overcome data disempowerment is as follows:[96]

  • Data literacy training – this can include hands-on workshop sessions on data processing tools (anything from web analytics platforms to MS Excel spreadsheets to ‘R’ software for statistical computing and data graphics), explainer sessions on how data is acquired and processed and simple worked examples of how data is transformed into insights. The aim in data literacy training is to turn data opacity into data transparency.
  • Storytelling with data – this is a process of identifying your goals and your audience (who do you want to tell a story to and why) and then finding the data and presenting it in a way that provides the revelation that lies at the heart of all good storytelling.
  • Community ownership of data stories – Data stories can make compelling communications but, if they are not acted upon, they are not delivering their full potential. These stories need to matter enough to someone for them to take action to solve the problem or exploit the opportunity revealed in the story. A community with committed ownership of their data stories soon becomes a community using data as a driver of change within the organisation.

Figure 10: Three step process to overcome data disempowerment

Figure 10: Three step process to overcome data disempowerment

Source: Adapted from Data Therapy by Econsultancy[97]

Fonny Schenck, CEO of Across Health (a provider of research and consultancy to pharma and life-science companies), raises a much more strategic concern about the management of data by the pharma and healthcare sector; ownership of data is increasingly being lost to the big tech companies such as Apple and Google which hold vast quantities of health data (collected by wearable devices such as the Apple Watch). While initiatives such as Roche’s acquisition of Flatiron Health[98] and GSK’s partnership with 23andMe[99] are steps towards addressing this issue, it may be too late to avoid tech companies moving into the healthcare sector in highly disruptive ways.[100]

Key insights

Four issues that data and analytics managers need to tackle in the pharma and healthcare sector are:

  • Data ingestion – making sure all the data needed is acquired. Data from social media, from field reps and from events are often missed.
  • Data integrity – making sure data from different sources is validated, reconciled and aggregated effectively. Reconciling the same customer accessing content on different devices is often a challenge here.
  • Data analysis – making sure you pay attention to the data that matters by ruthless use of KPIs. Also important is the development of the organisation’s analytics maturity towards predictive and prescriptive capabilities.
  • Data insights and insight application – making sure business value is derived from the data. A three-step process for overcoming data disempowerment is proposed.

4.4. Culture

Every interviewee for this report emphasised the importance of culture change in today’s pharma and healthcare organisations. To begin to understand culture change, its three component parts need to be appreciated:[101]

1. Cultural capital – these are the attitudes, values, aspirations and sense of self-efficacy that guide the behaviours we choose to perform.
2. Social zeitgeist – the changing social norms and values perceived in the community around us (from friends, family, neighbours and work colleagues to media, opinion leaders and government).
3. Normalisation – the process whereby attitudes and behaviours pass through into cultural capital.

Intriguingly, the interviewees for this report highlighted a multitude of different ways in which they were trying to bring about culture change:

1. Capability – Changing ways of working is only possible if there is the capability to work in different ways. Initiatives here focus on skills development, competency frameworks and incentivised self-improvement. Ronizia Moura, Customer Experience Lead, Europe at Roche, explained how new ways of working and new cross-functional team structures were transforming the capabilities needed by staff; so much so that job specifications for new recruits are including new soft skill requirements, such as networking and interpersonal skills and test and learn attitudes.

2. Community – Roche has launched a Digital Ambassadors Network, a group of experienced individuals with expertise in specific areas of digital ways of working. This network can be a point of contact for others seeking to learn or to overcome a problem and they can be change-evangelists and the communicators of success stories.

3. Purpose and values – A lot has been written about driving culture change by uniting a workforce behind a new organisational purpose or set of values.[102] Interviewees for this report used the word ‘mindset’ frequently in relation to culture change within pharma and healthcare. Different interviewees talked of instilling a multichannel mindset, an evidence-based decision-making mindset, an agile mindset and a customer-centric mindset.

4. Diversity – One interviewee from a global pharma brand, who wished to remain anonymous, talked of multiple initiatives in progress to use increasing workplace diversity as a driver of change. Although these included gender and ethnic diversity that have been shown to contribute positively to business performance,[103] it also went further. The brand had introduced reverse mentoring, where younger employees mentor older and more senior staff,[104] and recruitment strategies to bring digitally experienced executives into the organisation from outside of the pharma and healthcare industry.

5. Innovation – The need to become more innovative was mentioned a lot during the interviews for this report. This highly discussed issue is covered in the next section.

4.4.1. Managing innovation

Looking back at the recent past of the pharma and healthcare sector, Schenck of Across Health described innovation in the sector’s customer facing activities as myopic. In the early days, digital innovation meant putting the rep’s detail aid on to a tablet computer, says Schenck. Then digital innovation progressed to push messaging (email follow-up to an event). This, he argues, is innovation at too modest a scale to cope with the magnitude of change being imposed on the sector.

To try to ensure innovation was not marginalised by more immediate commercial pressures, GSK put an innovation management framework in place. “About 50% of time is spent on ‘digital as usual’; for example: adding to the website, personalising communications and driving more value from existing machine language tools.”

“Approximately 40% of time is spent disrupting the existing business model (e.g. how would our distribution model survive without sales reps). Then 10% of time is spent on real disruptors; the innovations that are completely new to the business.”

This ‘innovation-time’ is safeguarded by a dedicated team, ensuring that 10% of organisation time, budget and resources are actually spent on innovation. This team also gathers and processes bids for innovation time and ensures that the beta versions of products and services that result are presented back to the business and commercialised. The latest success from this innovation-time is the connected inhaler currently being tested.[105]

4.4.2. The innovation process

Given the investment required to commercialise innovative ideas, it is clearly critical to make sure the right problem is being tackled. One well-established approach is called future state visioning[106] where senior leaders within an organisation envision a scenario up to five years in the future and then work out how to innovate to get themselves to that scenario.[107] These are usually utopian, though visioning of threatening or undesirable situations may also be valuable.

In an interview for this report, Executive Director at experience design agency Foolproof Leslie Fountain describes how the business worked with pharma clients using an approach similar to future state visioning.

One project explored how the pressures of work faced by general practitioners could be relieved by new ways of working. Foolproof began by deconstructing the jobs to be done by a general practitioner within a ten-minute patient consultation.[108] Then storytelling skills were used to construct a narrative of new ways of working.

This narrative was turned into a proof of concept using a video featuring a variety of simulated technology solutions;[109] single sign-on to access all the information needed for a consultation; connectivity to aggregate data from multiple sources, including the patient’s own data from wearable technologies; artificial intelligence to draw the doctor’s attention to the most meaningful data and insights and finally the machine-assisted production of advice from the doctor, personalised for the patient and delivered by digital messaging.

The narrative enabled senior stakeholders within the pharma client to confirm that this was indeed the future they wished to build towards.

The next step was then to work out, if this was where the business wanted to end up, what it should do next. This involved assembling a cross-functional team of specialists in marketing, product development, medicine and sales to work out what was stopping them implementing the envisioned solution right now and how they were going to tackle the breakdown of each of those identified barriers. Foolproof’s belief that technology is only ever 30% of an innovative workable solution and that the remaining 70% is to do with people justifies, in its view, the priority placed on experience design.

4.5. Innovative outcomes

A great many innovations are inevitably discovered in the course of writing a report such as this.  How, then, is it best to highlight a sample of innovations to inspire and inform marketers across the sector?  Two types of innovation have been selected on the basis that they are talked about frequently but rarely backed up with real-life examples of success.

1. Innovative use of digital channels:

a. Digital gaming – Young patients can often be difficult to reach, particularly if they need to be informed and educated sufficiently to play an active role in their own treatment, as they do with haemophilia. With this in mind, Pfizer’s Rare Disease group took the step[110] of adapting the highly popular Minecraft game to create Hemocraft.[111]

In their quest to defeat the Ender Dragon, players must, along the way, respond to the ongoing challenge of managing their character’s haemophilia by collecting materials to craft an infusion kit and use it to manage the haemophilia factors shown in the game’s Factor Bar.[112]

b. Video – It is difficult to beat video as a medium for conveying how a process or event was experienced by others. Oncology company Novocure has made use of this in its patient experience programme for Optune, a medical device for treating glioblastoma, a form of primary brain cancer.

Novocure has been using video in two different innovative ways. First, it has had patients make their own video diaries, from the moment they decided to begin treatment.[113] Second, it has used Facebook Live for an Open House event in which patients and caregivers share their experiences of treatment, facilitated by a member of the Optune team, who is also a qualified nurse.[114]

2. Innovative ways of working

a. Delivering on innovation – Dare to Try is a five-year-old programme at Pfizer, designed to be proactive and structured at the grassroots level, to foster innovation and deliver business value from innovation.

Although managed by a core Dare to Try team in Pfizer’s corporate strategy group, most of the innovation comes from the Dare to Try Champions spread across the organisation. These Champions are trained in the Dare to Try methodology (essentially design-based problem solving) and are given 5%-10% of their working time to evangelise the programme and foster ideas from front-line employees that could be developed, prototyped and evaluated using the Dare to Try methodology.

The Dare to Try programme is made up of a set tools, processes and behavioural expectations, all built around a common language and a single framework. “If you don’t have a common vernacular, if you don’t have a common culture, if you don’t have the same frame of reference… then you lose the scalability and the impact of having one mindset, and one social movement,” says Dan Seewald, Group Leader of Worldwide Innovation at Pfizer.[115]

b. Being truly patient-centric – What does it mean to be patient-centric? Novocure has a breadth and depth of patient-centric innovations that go a lot further than anything else discovered in the course of this research. These focus on Optune, the company’s medical device for treating glioblastoma.

Building strong partnerships with advocacy groups formed the foundation of Optune’s patient-centric approach. These advocacy groups and their events are promoted on the website.[116] A total of 16 patients and caregivers have been recruited into the Ambassadors programme, where they can become buddies to new or prospective patients, advise Optune about product development or give feedback on new marketing and information materials.

An annual event brings all the ambassadors together and is always attended by the COO, to provide updates in Optune’s plans for the forthcoming year. Every new Optune patient and caregiver receives in-person training on how best to use the device and the Optune call centre proactively contacts every patient periodically to answer any questions and resolve any issues with treatment management.

Interviewed for this report, Brooke Fair, Senior Director for Marketing at Novocure, explained how their Patient Forward philosophy begins at the job interview for new employees – if candidates do not show an active interest in the patient experience, they won’t be recruited.

Key insights

Five ways the pharma and healthcare sector is bringing about culture change have been identified:

  • Capability – developing capabilities to support working in different ways, by means of skills development, competency frameworks and incentivised self-improvement.
  • Community – building and supporting groups with common interests and expertise to be change-evangelists and the communicators of success stories.
  • Purpose and values – instilling a multi-channel mindset, an evidence-based-decision-making mindset, an agile mindset and a customer-centric mindset.
  • Diversity – using diversity as a driver of change, including reverse mentoring and recruiting digitally experienced executives from outside of the pharma and healthcare industry.
  • Innovation – using techniques like future state visioning to plan and navigate future innovations and ring-fencing 10% of time, resources and budget to develop innovative ideas.