With current economic pressures and tightening market conditions for pharmaceutical companies, it is more important than ever to arm sales and marketing teams with Next Best Action (NBA) solutions to streamline their engagement with healthcare professionals (HCPs). But what does “best” really mean?

Today’s Trends: Data Evolution and the Demand for Personalized Engagement

We are at a technology crossroads where life sciences commercial teams can now utilize vast amounts of data to engage more meaningfully with their customers. At the same time, physicians are expecting personalized engagement from life sciences companies, similar to their everyday consumer experiences.

“Life sciences’ commercial function is undergoing a significant technological evolution, propelled by the need for virtual engagement support and real-time actionable insights to engage with customers in an optimized and personalized way. This necessitates seamless life sciences data management followed by cognitive analytics.” – Everest Group

In response to these trends, pharmaceutical companies are adopting technology that mirrors what is already ubiquitous in the consumer marketplace. “A lot of the big disruptive players use AI-powered clustering linked to customer data to create very personalized product (think Amazon) or content (like Netflix and Spotify) recommendations,” according to Dr. Andree Bates, host of The AI For Pharma Growth Podcast.

NBA Solutions on the Rise in Commercial Life Sciences

In order to deliver personalized engagement, pharma companies are prioritizing deploying NBA solutions. “I work with a lot of multinational clients, and NBA is the dominant initiative across every single client,” says Mark Miller, Managing Director, Life Science Advertising, Marketing & Commerce at Deloitte Consulting. “HCPs want more nuanced messaging. But accomplishing this requires that you align data, technology, analytics, strategy, and most importantly get sales and marketing to work together.”

NBA Challenges: Too Many Recommendations, Not Enough Context

Although NBA solutions are essential for personalizing engagement with HCPs, life sciences companies face challenges in optimizing deployment and practical use. One common issue is that NBA systems can generate too many recommendations. Users may feel paralyzed if insights aren’t prioritized based on individual needs, territories, past engagement, and other real-world factors.

Moverover, many of today’s NBA recommendations are not delivered in a user-friendly format for daily workflows. Instead, they arrive in mass batches, poorly timed, or sent without context. Consider this all-too-common scenario: a recommendation to email a physician comes two days after the sales rep has already met with that doctor in person.

Intelligence Activation: Getting the “Best” out of NBA

Simply capturing data and feeding it into NBA solutions isn’t enough; intelligence activation is necessary to make the data outputs meaningful and actionable.

NBA recommendations must be contextually logical to individual users to encourage action. Advanced intelligence technology can curate NBA recommendations—ranking them based on various criteria and providing additional context.

NBA models “can generate possibly 55 things for a sales rep to do in the next hour. But that sales rep can’t do 55 things in the next hour – not important things. Maybe they can do one, and maybe that one will take two hours,” explains Aktana CEO David Erhlich. “So there needs to be something that rationalizes, synthesizes and optimizes all of the different AI to say, here is the optimal next action amongst all the signals that have come in. And here’s how to orchestrate that across all of these different channels.”

This process requires an infrastructure component beyond models and data. It connects the output of models through data to actual actions, learns from those actions, and improves future recommendations.

What Intelligence Activation Entails: Integration, Optimization, Orchestration

What does that infrastructure component need to do in order to overcome the common limitations of NBA? In our experience, AI-driven solutions that effectively bridge the gap between strategy and execution exhibit critical capabilities in these areas: integration, optimization, and orchestration.

Seamless Integration: A robust AI platform should seamlessly integrate with various data sources, analytics, and marketing technology, allowing organizations to fully own and manage their strategic intellectual property. Additionally, the platform should be scalable and easy to use.

Flexible Optimization: A good AI solution should prioritize flexibility when optimizing recommendations, balancing impact with constraints to provide pragmatic, adaptable suggestions that consider real-world circumstances. The ideal system will prioritize high-impact actions and offer transparency behind its logic, enabling commercial teams to make informed decisions and strategize on the go.

Team Orchestration: Effective AI solutions should coordinate cross-channel actions transparently, enabling sales and marketing teams to see all touchpoints within their organization. This promotes behavioral change and fosters trust, ensuring every HCP outreach is purposeful and well-coordinated across teams. Moreover, it’s crucial for AI solutions to adapt to internal technical and organizational changes, as well as market conditions. Finally, a dynamic feedback loop should process real-time reactions to recommendations, guaranteeing the system continuously learns from new information and refines its actions accordingly.

Overcoming the Last-Mile Challenge in Next Best Action

Life sciences companies must overcome the last-mile challenge of turning strategy into action to thrive in today’s competitive environment. By pairing Next Best Action (NBA) strategies with a smart, scalable “infrastructure” that solves common challenges around integration, optimization, and orchestration, organizations are finally able to unlock the full potential of their NBA programs. With these capabilities in place, pharmaceutical companies can transform the way they engage with HCPs, driving richer relationships to inspire better patient care.