What inspires you? – A real e-patient story

A recent conversation with @epatientdave on twitter reminded me of his talk from TEDx Maastricht last year.  This years event is in coming up in April,  read more about it here. Also if  you haven’t met/connected with Dave deBronkart I urge you to seek him out. He is incredibly charming,  generous with his time, opinions and a true leader of the e-patient movement. That movement centres on the transition from ‘parental’ model of healthcare to a more participatory model,  where the patient is allowed access to their data and to be an informed participant in the decision making process.

Before viewing this video I had been unaware of his backstory. All I had known previously was that he was twitter contact who appeared very knowledgable about the epatient movement.  When I first viewed the video from the TEDx  event I felt inspired by this incredibly moving and fascinating human story. The fact that Pharma, as an industry, has a possibility to play a part in helping to enable more patient stories like the one mentioned here.

My thought is that the biggest motivator for pharma employees to evolve and contribute to this industry ‘shift’ should not be the need to survive in an era when downsizing has become the norm, but the opportunity to be a part of something MUCH bigger.

My hope is that we can use the collective intelligence and creativity of pharma and to create genuinely innovative support services for patients to achieve better outcomes with and without the products that we provide.

So thats the objective, but how does that relate to pharma and our role to commercialise medications by getting the RIGHT treatments to the RIGHT patients.   Jeff Jarvis, the tech blogger/google commentator has also stated that neglecting your customers/end users is no longer a viable business strategy, especially in these times of real-time communication channels. Therefore ignoring and not investing in the services to go along with our products, as an industry we will be failing our ‘end users’ and it is simply not an option.

Perhaps I have a slightly utopian view but I sincerely believe that in this new environment any unethical practices will be found out and publicised, therefore there is only one option for the future and that is better products, robust ethics, informed and HCP and empowered patient ‘experts’ who will be given as much responsibility for their care as they wish to have.

The ethics behind this MUST be correct, the responsibility on all of us is huge, but this is an amazing chance to be part of something bigger.

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All opinions are my own and not those of my employer.


Pharma rep involvement in digital/multi-channel comms, where’s the imperative?

WSJ article May 10

Sensationalist or prophetic?

So what? Another article about the demise of the pharma rep, the soothsayers have been prophesying this since I began in the industry 12 years ago. (Click pic on left for full article)

So what’s different now? The current financial environment, patent expiry cliffs and other market access challenges are providing the optimal environment for pharma to do something different. That different ‘thing’ IS digital. Lets not kid ourselves that we are facing any greater change than many other industries in this digital revolution (newspaper and music industries anyone?). I think that most would say we have been affected much less. Pharma, in the UK and EU, has been behind the curve but it would appear that we are starting to catch up.

So lets look at the numbers and graphs opposite, I know that the figures are mainly US based however it is undeniable that the amount of headcount staff required by the pharma industry is declining. Before my field sales colleagues all read doom and gloom into this (or some others rejoice?) it is noted in the article that there is still very much a place for the highly skilled representative in this new model.

I had a conversation with a senior colleague (in an unnamed company) recently, who stated that they had looked at the rate of decline in representatives in their own company and at the current rate that they would have NO representatives some time before 2020. I’ve probably fallen into the ‘sensationalist’ trap here and I believe that this rate is artificially accelerated at this point and may not continue. But if you want your imperative as a pharma rep to ask your marketing and senior management colleagues about digital and multi-channel comms then THERE it is…..

However at this point I am going to depart from my usual plaintive cry to my field based colleagues to engage and point a slightly accusative finger at another group involved in the socialisation/’digitalization’ of pharma.

My recent holiday reading was a book on web/enterprise 2.0 (review to follow) and a large part was dedicated to the affect that these tools are having on organisations.

Quote: ‘….enterprise 2.0 In the workplace, web 2.0 tools promise to revitalize organisations by harnessing collective intelligence. Social networks, blogs, wikis, mashups and RSS feeds can facilitate networked conversations, info-sharing and problem solving

Now when I started thinking about this blog post it occurred to me to mention the amazing openness that I received from the #HCSMEU and #socpharm tweeters when I ‘joined’ the community and conversation. It is that collaborative nature that in my opinion separates people that are attempting to harness the value of all things ‘social’. However what seems to be sadly lacking within many (most?) companies is the focus on the internal networks and perhaps in some companies not attempting to try and engage the different levels of the organisation, especially the ‘footsoldiers’.

Is it possible that you have ‘Pharma rep 2.0’ within your company who is already mapping out the digital savvy customers and learning from their day to day conversations with them?

The fact is, that these people will be actively looking for internal networks to support their own career aspirations. Engaging them should take very little effort, and maybe they could help you drive the change your company from the traditional vertical hierarchical organisation to the truly networked organisation that is the future.

Who knows, the next brilliant idea for your pharma company to get ‘clever with digital‘ could come from one of those field sales people. I’m pretty sure that you won’t find out unless you open the doors, in true enterprise 2.0 style, for them to get involved…..

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All opinions are my own and not those of my employer.

Pharma Rep V2 by Dan Baxter on Prezi

See on Scoop.itPharma Rep 2.0

Prezi from my #Pharma Rep v2 pres. at Irish Pharma Managers association meeting 11/10/12… # @btilly @CherylAnnBorne @julieodonn

See on prezi.com

My highlights from eye for pharma ‘e-marketing europe’ meeting, March 27-29th 2012

Just over a week ago I had the good fortune of being able to take up a speaking engagement at the eye for pharma europe meeting in the beautiful city of Barcelona. The culmination of time I have spent immersing myself in the digital marketing world for the last 2 years. The panel discussion I participated in was focused on the future of the representative in the context of digital marketing and the attempts of pharma to open other communication channels with our customers.

The 3 days were a fantastic learning experience, picking up information from other experienced e-marketeers and to see some of the things other pharma companies are currently building in the digital space. One thing that I found fascinating was how much (or little) different individuals/companies focused on the integration and co-ordination of their work with other channels that the companies are using. Especially with my focus on the sales function.

Please click below to see my storify from the twitter feed for the 3 days.

[View the story “My #e4p complete tweet highlights” on Storify]

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All opinions are my own and not those of my employer.

A lesson from the decline of motor city?

I watched with interest a week ago, as i’m sure many twitter users did, as the microblogging service very nearly imploded under the weight of billions of tweets during the superbowl (4,064/sec at the peak!). What amazed me was that most of the tweets I saw were about the content of the ad breaks rather than the game itself. The chrysler advert above appeared to be the crowd favourite from those that appeared.

On first viewing I really liked it, you have to admit it’s pretty bold and confident (and this comes from someone who has very little time for Eminem and a general love/hate relationship with american culture). Judging by the number of times it’s been viewed on you tube a few others liked it as well. However the more I considered it the more I think it’s a clear example of style over substance. Does it suggest to you that they are sure about their own particular values and strengths? The ad tells me nothing about the benefits of buying a Chrysler or that particular new model, it simply trots out some notion of long since departed ‘motor city’ engineering greatness.

These days you cant walk 5 yards without one business or another ramming their particular percieved strengths or ‘brand values’ down your throat whether its from a pithy one liner or a logo or indeed a TV advert (or a blog!). But it got me thinking, as pharma sales professionals do we really analyse what are our strengths are, those that will enable us to compete and survive in the current rapidly changing environment? Might it be a good thing to think about it? Especially in these times where the way people connect and share information is changing?

Now for those that don’t geekily follow these kind of things there was a particular conference in New York city a couple of weeks ago called epharma

There were a few #epharma tagged tweets that particularly caught my eye. During a keynote from Joe Shields from Pfizer I picked up on a general buzz from people there. One in particular stood out from @ePatientDave (Dave DeBronkart)

‘Pfizer’s Joe Shields talking good sense about marketing: instead of integration within silos, integration of whole cust experience #epharma’

So pharma needs to think about ‘integrating the customer experience’. To me that sounds like an incredibly non-specific statement. What does that actually mean? I get the feeling that most of my marketing and management colleagues aren’t 100% sure either…..yet.

So its been suggested that its about putting customers at the centre of ALL the things that we have to offer as Pharma companies. We can assume that salespeople have a large part to play in delivering and shaping exactly how this will happen. But what skills do we have/need to develop when striving for a more customer centric model?

Communication – We weave often complex clinical information (hopefully based on customers needs!) into conversations with the people that we call upon. Is there any reason why we should not be using this skill to support our valued customers through the tech/social media minefield? As well as giving proper attention to support them with ALL the support tools our companies have to offer? (and I mean giving PROPER time to them not just a token gesture)

Partnership – Now I personally believe that this falls into the whole ‘customer service’ category. The aim of every action that we take is to build transparent, mutually beneficial partnerships with our customers and customer groups? From a salespersons point of view the more HIGH quality value added services that we have at our disposal to help build those partnerships the better. Is there a role for the pharma salesperson to become a facilitator to help in other aspects of the clinician/payors work? Those areas that perhaps we haven’t previously supported such as tech/social media developments in healthcare and new ways to help them support their patients?

I believe that it starts by taking an interest and trying to keep up with whats happening in the worlds of HCSM(EU) and SOCPHARM led by those pioneering individuals from healthcare/pharma and 3rd party organisations.

So I ask my sales colleagues, will a little knowledge of healthcare social media and pharma’s new comm channels go a long way? If we don’t then are we destined to become like the american car industry and ‘motor city’ trading on old glories (and relationships) and steadfastly refusing to move with the times?

If you are interested you can see the full #epharma transcript/s of tweets, click HERE

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All opinions are my own and not those of my employer.

Adapt or die…..

The first thing  I have to state is that I have nothing against pharma reps, for one main reason, I am one.

I’m sure that the title and first post of this blog appear a little dramatic.Well, thats kind of the point of these things isn’t it? I’ve seen the role of the pharmaceutical sales professional change rapidly since I began my first role in the industry 12 years ago. Many of the most successful people in the industry have adapted to these previous changes in the NHS and the regulatory environment. However, I firmly believe that there are too many individuals involved in pharma sales that are blindly relying on the old salesmans mantra that ‘people buy from people’ and using it as an excuse to ignore the quiet revolution in healthcare that is happening around us. Many of my colleagues appear to be blissfully unaware, or if they are aware then they are massively defensive and believe that many of the changes are simply a part of a bigger plan to replace them and save costs. I am hoping that this blog will uncover some other people, like me, at ‘ground level’ who want to embrace and move with the inevitable changes that the future will bring.  In short I want to start a movement…

The changes that i’m referring to are those around the use of social media/new media channels in Pharma marketing and healthcare. It has become a buzz topic, a thing that people drop into conversation to show just how they are keeping up with the developments in ‘web 2.0′  and ‘health 2.0’. These and other  stock phrases are used to describe the simple fact that the way people connect with each other as well and the way they search and share information is changing. As communication channels change then pharma representatives, whose job it is to communicate and influence, can expect this to have some pretty major knock on effects on what it is that we do. Now at this point I will fully and openly admit that I do not completely understand the potential implications for my role (another main reason for canvassing opinions of my potential readership!) that these changes will have. However there are a couple of things that I am 100% sure of and that is

– that change IS going to happen and the best way to survive and thrive is to be a part of it and work out how to work in a way that compliments the other channels that pharma is using to connect with customers.

– our only chance of being able to influence what happens with these developments is to push to get involved. As sales people we know our customers, their needs and the challenges they face with their patients, so in my opinion, its time to speak up.

I have been watching these developments happen over the last year or so and I have no idea of what is possible or exactly how things are going to develop from here. However, it amazes me that more of my pharma sales colleagues that are working on the ground are not participating in the developments. So what i’m asking you is what is it that we can do as a group to adapt OR whether the traditional medical representative is to be consigned to the pages of history?

All opinions are my own and not those of my employers.

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