From industry pubs to internal strategy discussions, it’s hard to remember a time when AI didn’t dominate the conversation. Whether the focus is on driving HCP engagement, predicting next-best actions or unlocking the full potential of data investments, the message to commercial teams is clear: AI is here to stay, and if you don’t already have it, you need it.     

But that’s where the clarity stops. 


Artificial Intelligence is a broad term, and life sciences is a complex industry. What technology, specifically, do commercial teams need? How should it be applied to the commercial process? Perhaps most importantly, how can you ensure people will trust it enough to use it? Adding AI would be a much simpler proposition if all data were housed in one place, HCP journeys were identical across therapeutic areas, and brand strategies for each product were the same. As you know, that’s not the case. 

Today, most tools that are “powered by AI” would be more accurately described as “powered by machine learning.” The system consumes data, creates algorithms based on that data, and then makes predictions based on what it’s learned, improving over time. It’s an incredibly powerful branch of technology, but if the goal of AI is to mimic or even enhance human-level intelligence, then machine learning—on its own—isn’t enough. An environment as specialized, dynamic, and complicated as life sciences requires contextual intelligence to bring the promises of AI to life.


What is Aktana’s Contextual Intelligence? It is our proprietary method of blending advanced technologies, like machine learning and explainable AI, with human intelligence to help life science companies create more meaningful partnerships with HCPs.

Contextual Intelligence deepens customer engagement by taking what it learns from every interaction with a given HCP and making it work from one situation to the next, even when the environment has changed. It enables commercial teams to deliver a much higher degree of personalization, going beyond basic triggers and predictive models to ensure communication across all channels is: 

  • Relevant: HCPs receive the greatest value from information that reflects the interests and preferences they’ve expressed across past interactions and addresses the most recent market events.
  • Aligned: Sales and marketing’s channel efforts must be coordinated and share the same context to build HCP trust and operational efficiency
  • Refined by learning: As campaign elements succeed or fail and market factors change, the Contextual Intelligence platform incorporates learnings to optimize field execution in real-time.  

By consistently delivering a curated customer experience that’s highly relevant, Contextual Intelligence gives commercial teams a distinct advantage in the fight for HCP time and attention. We’ll dive deeper into the key benefits of Contextual Intelligence in subsequent blogs, but for now, let’s focus on the components of Contextual Intelligence to understand how it differs from other AI solutions. 


In our 10 years of working with major global pharmas to develop and refine the Aktana engine, we realized that achieving that “human level” of intelligence—and delivering it in a way that humans wanted to interact with—requires a very precise blend of ingredients. The components themselves are important, but it’s the timing, proportion and strategy with which they are deployed that generate optimal results. 

Business Logic
Business rules determine how data is transformed, define go-to-market strategies and allow you to capture the behaviors of your top-performers. In theory, you could map out and codify the “expert approach” to every facet of your commercial process, but the time and overhead required to do so make it virtually impossible. When used in combination with machine learning, however, the effect is powerful.  

Machine Learning 
Machine learning is the branch of artificial intelligence that enables systems to learn and improve from each experience without additional programming. For example, instead of writing 1000 discrete rules to define your brand messaging strategy, we can use business logic to codify 50 guiding “best practices” and rely on machine learning algorithms to work out the ideal message sequence, timing and channel for a given HCP using the most up-to-date information available. 

Optimization enables teams to stay agile by modifying aspects of their commercial campaigns to work more efficiently, use fewer resources or produce better results. It also helps teams (and HCPs) avoid information overwhelm by prioritizing only those recommendations that are relevant within the constraints they are working with, and therefore, most likely to get HCPs to engage.

Explainable AI
Explainable AI (xAI) ensures suggestions “feel right” and facilitates adoption by showing the user the data and reasoning behind each recommendation. xAI also provides the critical visibility your team needs to set up the engine and offers clear direction about what’s working and what isn’t. The whole purpose of explainable AI is to create a strategic feedback loop that keeps getting better and better.

Two elements of human intelligence round out Aktana’s Contextual Intelligence approach: in-house team experience and Aktana expertise. The nuanced customer insights that your in-house team has gathered over the years are invaluable; they cannot be replicated by machine learning but they can enhance machine learning output. 

We’ve also incorporated our team’s expertise applying AI to the commercial model, including the best practices we’ve picked up over 250 global deployments, and the lessons we’ve learned along the way around launching and scaling AI and change management. To date, our engine features a library of 50 common use cases across 18 therapeutic areas (and counting). 


When all of these ingredients are purposefully deployed in the right combination, it’s finally possible for commercial teams to deliver the personalized brand experiences that today’s HCPs expect (and build more meaningful partnerships as a result). In the next part of our series, we’ll explore the importance of creating a relevant, personalized brand experience for HCPs and take a closer look at how Contextual Intelligence makes that possible.