August 24, 2015/Derek Choy/Decision Support

As we continue to review the common use cases faced by pharmaceutical companies regarding rep decision support, we move from the categories of Execution and Impact, which we covered in Part 4 of our series, to Agility and Coordination. Agility “The only constant in life is change.” It’s unlikely that the Greek philosopher Heraclitus had the pharma industry in mind in 500 B.C. when he coined this famous phrase, but he may as well have. Because as soon as a new strategy is rolled out in pharma, inevitably, key market conditions change, and the strategy is out of date. However, companies often don’t update details of the strategy until much later due to the operational complexity of adjustment and concern over disrupting the field force. As a result, companies are not nearly as responsive to market conditions as they would like to be. When territories are realigned, targets change, new products launch, or any other material change occurs, we’ve seen how a decision support engine can help guide reps through the resultant periods of uncertainty and confusion, thereby mitigating the usual negative impact of major change on sales team performance. By synthesizing the most up-to-date information, suggestions and insights can be used to coach reps toward best actions during these times of change and help them quickly return to peak performance. This guiding hand can also effectively help with more incremental changes in market conditions as suggestions and insights update in real-time based on external events. For example, if a non-writing HCP suddenly starts prescribing, the rep might receive a suggestion to make a visit to understand what’s behind the change, even if the HCP is not scheduled to be visited for another month. This has the dually positive effect of improving the rep’s ultimate performance and conveying a greater sense of customer service and responsiveness to the physician. Coordination In yesterday’s pharma market, a team at headquarters created a customer engagement strategy and relied upon the field force to execute it. But in today’s more complex market, the field force is either 1) only one of many channels of communication, both personal and non-personal, or 2) the coordinator of interactions across a wide array of personal and non-personal channels. And physicians have changed as well. They no longer wait to be contacted – they seek out information across channels whenever they feel like it. If, or more likely when, physicians experience uncoordinated communications (timing, message) across their various interactions, overall impact can suffer. Fortunately, a decision support engine can be configured to recommend specific timing and messages for reps to use, across whatever channels they control, based on any activity occurring via other channels, including physician self-service inquiries. Suggestions can help guide reps to act in-line with brand strategy and remind them to take specific and coordinated action. And when a company has asked reps to quarterback non-personal channel communications, the DSE can provide much needed guidance regarding how and when to use each channel with which message. In reality, just about every company will experience use cases in all four categories of Execution, Impact, Agility and Coordination. And all four are important. The two most pressing questions for you to answer are: 1) which use case is most relevant and pressing for your organization, and 2) where do you start? Only you can answer the first question, as brand- and company-specific priorities will drive the selection. But we’ll help with the second question next week in the final installment of our Decision Support Series when we review Implementation Best Practices!