DigiPharm 2013: Sex, Drugs and Rolls Royces

This year’s DigiPharm in London had a different vibe to previous meetings.  People have stopped talking about digital as ‘the future’ (finally!) and are getting down to business, looking at the detail of how we should be executing in these channels, using these tools and the practical organisational changes we need to make.  Consequently it was an odd cocktail of change management, customer service and content optimisation.

The ‘Sex’ is about breeding. Brian Smith @DrBrianDSmith (of the Open University) opened the first day by holding up a mirror to the industry and pointing out that we need out-of-industry ideas in order to change.  ‘As an industry we are very good at having sex with our cousins’ he said, but to evolve, species need to acquire new genes and they do this ‘by promiscuity, not incest’. (Some tweets suggested immediate action on this, since from the regular loud and raucous laughter there was apparently a Comedy Convention going on in the room next door)

Brian was echoed later by Yannik di Mondo (Mylan) who told us to ‘quit your job – or at least, your office ‘ – and meet our customers. He decried the ‘we need an app’ mentality and insisted the channel is last – ‘only when you have a customer, a strategy and a plan should you choose channels’.

Ragnar Gaseby (Merck) provided the news that the pharma industry declined by 1% in 2012 – the first time ever, due to the pressures that have been with us for 10 years – declining access, price pressure, shifting decision-making power.

Tim Ringose’s diagnosis on the industry was loss of moral virtue, obesity and lack of fitness.  He reminded us that next year is the ‘digital tipping point’ when more than 50% of doctors will be digital natives, i.e have all their careers in the post-digital age.  Sady, as someone pointed out on Twitter, this is not the case for pharma executives.


Michel Baes (Janssen) can always be relied upon to bring a strategic vision with practical steps to achieve it, and he described his 7-step change management program, starting with a sense of urgency, then creating a vision and ambition, through customer insights to creating a coalition for change.

Michel also pointed out we have to get the basics right first before we will be ready for the mhealth revolution.  I agree.

The most fascinating presentations for me were those that made it clear that our industry is no longer just about ‘Drugs’.

The first was from Peter Villadsen of Leo Pharma who gave an inspiring account of that organisation’s QualityCare program.  ‘At Leo we have one customer – the patient’ he declared, and pointed out that only 1% of patients succeed on medicine alone – we need to provide healthcare solutions.  Hence QualityCare – an online service to help patients process information and take control of their lifestyle.

The service is ‘above brand’ and provides services to all patients with the skin conditions that Leo provides for.  They are very clear about the KPIs:-

Enrolment -> satisfaction -> adherence -> outcomes -> sales

…in that order.  Here we have a pharma company recognising what the software industry has known for years – that great service really drives sales, and that keeping existing customers is much more profitable than acquiring new ones.

Further, the QualityCare program provides superior insight with around 100 data points being collected in an ongoing manner, and enhances relationships because they co-create the solutions with the patients themselves.   Hats off to Leo for living their mission:

In a more traditional example of customer service Gizem Bickakci (BI) described the doctors ‘In-Club’ in Turkey, offering a range of services to HCPs to access information, professional development and connections with colleagues.  A nice initiative but KPIs were not clear.

Shona Davies @ShonaLDavies (MSD) blew us away again with Univadis, a successful service for doctors because ‘it is part of our corporate culture, the drive comes from the top’. (Back to Michel’s ‘Vision’). As usual the awe in the room was palpable as Shona described the 2.1 million signed-up HCPs, 70% of whom have agreed to receive promotional messages – a 1.5 million email permission list. Using this list costs about half that of 3rd party lists. Shona was clear about the KPIs.  They measure user retention, engagement level (light, deep, extensive), customer satisfaction and NPS (net promoter score).

It is not just about Drugs any more, folks.

The final big theme of the conference was optimising a ‘traditional’ channel – the sales rep – by providing outstanding content and services.  @MartynGlanville recommended letting reps play with their iPads for 6 months before giving them the content so that they know their way around and love the tool first. Stefan Wieman (Merz) reminded us that ‘digital’ selling is a different skill set and needs training.

Philippe Kirby pointed out that sales force automation is not the same thing as CRM and we should look at the customer’s preferred channels – citing a doctor who asked to receive emails but it wasn’t in the brand plan. Deni Baschiera of BMS gave a great example of providing email clinical reports and recognising the HCP drivers of trust, value and time – getting the content in the right format and place is key: ‘Content is King but Content Curation is Queen’.

Rene Neubach @newstream advocated making your reps ‘amazing storytellers’ – this is where the personal relationship really adds value.  He also pointed out that ‘interactivity’ is not the same thing as ‘animation’.

Sebastien Koelsch @SebKoelsch gave us a startling statistic – of 100 rep visits initiated, only 20 see the doctor and only 8 are remembered. (My first reaction to this was – what’s the ROI of THAT channel?)  Seb’s point was that you need an outstanding, individualised interaction with the doctor. This is where technology can really add value.  I liked his ‘shoe analogy’ (see picture) showing that technology allows us to cost-effectively deliver an individual product or experience.


In our rep-doctor interaction we can ask a question and show how the customer’s answers compare to the population – and bring that same answer back into the conversation later. If we do this well ‘the sales rep can be the best pull channel we will ever have’.

Several presenters used the transport analogy: Traditional detailing is like the bus – get on it and get taken where the driver wishes – whereas interactive detailing should be like a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce – the ultimate travelling experience to a destination of your choice.

So there you have it, Sex, (not just)Drugs, and Rolls Royces.



Congleton Town Councillor for the Women's Equality Party. CEO of Kanga Health Ltd - practical digital transformation of healthcare.

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Posted in Marketing, pharma
One comment on “DigiPharm 2013: Sex, Drugs and Rolls Royces
  1. […] the follow-on sessions of DigiPharm I suggest reading the wonderful write-up by Kay here: Sex, Drugs and Rolls-Royces, or the interpretation of the underlying messages coming out of the tweet-stream nicely pulled […]

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by Kay Wesley of Kanga Health Ltd

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