November 18, 2021/Aktana/Artificial Intelligence, Blog

By Mike Weber

Healthcare providers (HCPs) have never been “easy” to reach. But today—between the deluge of communication in digital channels, the increasingly complex landscape of therapies and treatment protocols, and the expectation for highly personalized interactions in all aspects of consumer life—the bar for what merits HCP attention is higher than ever. If brands want to get through to physicians in a meaningful way, commercial teams must ensure everything from the message to timing and channel is clearly tailored to their needs and interests.  

A decade ago—prior to artificial intelligence becoming such a powerful tool for businesses looking to engage customers—life sciences organizations often had to rely upon monolithic, single-vendor solutions instead of a more specialized, best-of-breed ecosystem when integrating technology, AI, and data into a coordinated plan of engagement with customers. The benefits of specialized solutions were also more difficult to measure and realize. But now, with many technologies helping to ease the integration burden of data, strategy, AI, workflow, and analytics, organizations no longer have to place all of their eggs in one basket with a single vendor—nor should they.

By taking an ecosystem approach, life sciences organizations can enjoy solutions that are ready to perform as soon as they’re implemented with the flexibility to adapt in the future. Here are tips for designing an omnichannel AI ecosystem that maximizes the value of your investments while remaining nimble in the dynamic and competitive market.

1. Focus on core competencies: How do vendors position themselves within the larger ecosystem? 

Challenge technology partners to explain their sense of urgency for working well with others to generate value for customers.

It can help to break down your needs into six ecosystem categories, inside of which are a range of platforms, tools and technologies that may be in various stages of maturity at your organization.

  1. Internal & External Data
    Companies who compile or generate the critical inputs for commercial strategies, analytical models and more.
    Includes HCP Profiles, Markets, Social/Media, EHR/Claims/Rx, Research Publications, Insurance and Government, Socioeconomic and Behavioral, Lab/Diagnostic, ERP, Budgets, Personnel / Performance, Channel Engagement Metrics

  2. Data Integration & Curation
    Platforms or systems for managing and integrating data, applications and APIs from disparate sources, including both cloud-resident and on-premises endpoints, so data can be leveraged effectively by other tools and end-users.
    Includes Data Warehouses, ETL and Integration Systems, CRM, Traditional Insights/Analytics, CDP

  3. Strategy & Planning
    Methodologies and algorithms to rank and classify HCPs into segments for different go-to-market campaigns and programs, which are composed of tactics and rules for specific actions based on a triggering event or series of events. Includes HCP Segmentation, Content and Creative, Campaigns and Journey Design

  4. Omnichannel Intelligence & Optimization
    Algorithmic analysis, distillation and prioritization of all possible actions to determine the next best action within and across channels for both the user and the target customer.
    Includes Omnichannel Optimization, Next Best Action, Insights

  5. Omnichannel Execution & Channel Activation
    Technology that enables marketing, sales and medical affairs teams to engage with HCPs across multiple in-person and digital channels.
    Includes Marketing Automation, Sales and Medical user apps, 3rd-Party Publishers

  6. Systems Integration & Professional Services
    Services vendors that implement and integrate systems and technologies by deploying a team of IT consultants to provide professional services for a specified scope and rate.
    Includes Services Vendors and Consultants. 

There are key players in each of these categories, and while some may fit into several, each vendor typically has one standout core competency. As a result, the key to maximizing your success comes from ensuring that the best of each category integrates with the whole ecosystem. 

At Aktana, for instance, our primary focus is omnichannel intelligence and optimization. As a result, we’ve invested considerable time and attention integrating with the upstream data and strategy layers of the ecosystem as well as downstream execution channels. Even with modest upstream data, omnichannel AI can start to generate impactful Next Best Action recommendations and insights, growing smarter and more powerful as organizations layer in richer profiles and data sets. 

The downstream systems are an equally important consideration, as the best insights and suggestions have little impact if they’re not acted upon by marketing, field and medical teams. To make user adoption as frictionless as possible, we’ve prioritized seamless integration with omnichannel execution and channel activation platforms to reach users when and where they already work. 

For sales and medical teams, users need to be able to plan and execute their engagement plans with HCPs with well-curated and timely suggestions and insights about their accounts and KOLs—whether that’s on a desktop, via video conference, or in-person with a mobile device. For marketing users, this can mean ensuring suggestions and insights integrate into marketing automation, journey orchestration and campaign management systems.

2. Start with a smart foundation: How can the right combination of data, strategy and technology amplify impact?

There is often low-hanging fruit that generates impact while also laying a good foundation for expanding your ecosystem in the future. 

Some of that comes back to good CRM and data fundamentals: it is important to have clean, curated and structured data in your CRM system, good HCP account data, and up-to-date territory alignments between your field and medical teams. With these fundamentals in place, you can start leveraging the core competencies of each partner to ensure HCP interactions are relevant to their specialty, practice setting and any expressed preferences and interests. 

For example, you may have interesting data on HCP activities in research publications and social media that can finally be used in targeted field rep suggestions to test how well a new campaign strategy is performing. Or, you may be leveraging new marketing automation platforms for better digital communications, but you need a way to optimize and coordinate which messages are delivered by global marketing campaigns and which are better delivered via visit or rep detail.

Each of these capabilities alone can have value. But by integrating them together in an ecosystem, you can supercharge the value of these investments and better measure how each is performing relative to its cost.

3. Evaluate with the future in mind: Whose roadmaps will activate and accelerate your organizational vision?

While vendors may have areas of focus, the market will continue to evolve in new and unexpected ways that challenge those focus areas.

Therefore, it’s important to develop a vision that spans multiple years, and it’s equally important to have vendors and technologies that integrate in a way that enables you to measure the impact of each ecosystem component quickly. 

For example, you may have recently invested in analytics models to improve HCP segmentation, but it takes an ecosystem to verify whether the new models are working effectively, and where they can be improved. Or, you may have an agency developing interesting new content and campaigns for your brand, but with only modest ability to measure the short- and long-term results. By integrating those campaigns and content into an omnichannel ecosystem, you will be able to continuously measure, adapt and achieve your vision.

When looking to enhance or bring on a new vendor in any part of this ecosystem, make sure that you are asking for their latest roadmaps and aligning their innovation plans to your short-, medium- and long-term needs with an emphasis on continuous improvement and impact measurement.

In the spirit of the famous Bill Gates quote, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years,” it’s important to craft both a pragmatic vision and an ambitious one that can be used to drive progress and competition within your ecosystem of vendors.

Looking for more resources to navigate the industry shift to intelligent and personalized omnichannel engagement? Download our new Frequently Asked Questions about Omnichannel guide.