Dinesh Chindarkar, Co-founder of MediaMedic Communications, kicks of series of articles in Express Pharma titled ‘The Digital Dose for Indian Pharma’. In this episode he discusses the ‘emerging media & digital technology’ and how it is affecting the pharma ecosystem in general. The series will cover topics ranging from technology to mobile health, i-pad detailing to patient behaviour, social media opportunities within pharma and the changing health eco-system and its implications on pharma marketing.
Technological advancement in the last decade has brought an exponential change in the way people are communicating and connecting with each other. This is mainly because of the ‘rise and rise’ in the digital and social media space. Further, bringing it an inch closer to people is the newer drivers of communication that has flooded the digital market and spoiled people for different choices. From the initial days of desktop computers to the more tech savvy tablets, people have surplus options to choose their hi-tech device.
Taking advantage of this, the FMCG industry has been quite effective in striking a cord with their consumers to successfully communicate with them, resulting in larger spends on emerging media including digital and social. But where does the Indian pharma industry stand as on date when it comes to online spends? The numbers are nowhere close when it comes to matching with the traditional marketing spends.
Today, the world has acknowledged the fact that healthcare is in the process of real time change. This thought has also triggered changes in Indian healthcare practitioners (HCP’s) outlook and attitude towards their practice. On the personal front, due to time restrictions, doctors are known to spend highly on online shopping and doing online banking transactions etc. Those who are on a high learning curve have also started to evolve over time, and adapting themselves well. Those who belong to the young breed of doctors are already high on digital knowledge and are largely using it in their day-to-day practice to get and share medical information. Especially with 50 per cent population below the age of 30 years, the new breed of doctors that are emerging are ‘native’ users, unlike their senior counterparts who have been ‘migrants’. The psychology and behaviour of the younger breed is completely different and will lead to an accelerated change within healthcare.
Patients on the other hand have also started to look forward to Internet and social media platforms for getting additional information on the drugs that have been prescribed to them. The rise of this e-patient is in turn forcing doctors to adapt to changes and be more careful in the transaction and relationship building with the patient. Health as a subject is highly ‘searched’ in India on various conditions. Increasing life-span is forcing people to discuss health topics openly unlike the traditional olden days. They are not just seeking information but sharing information as well. This is giving rise to discussions, opinions and in turn is creating a pool of online data for people to refer. Experiences of people shared online is shaping up opinions and is greatly influencing patients behaviour.
All this completely serves as a wakeup call for the pharma industry. The pharma industry, known for its traditional approach, though initially reluctant, has now started responding and adapting to these changes.
With over 120 million of the population actively using the Internet and 900 plus million mobile phone users, the pharma industry has a plethora of opportunities to explore. It has now started to sense the newer avenues to engage with its customers – the doctors and consumers – the patients.
This has led to an increase in the acceptance of mHealth or Mobile Health by Pharma professionals and has thrown up some wonderful opportunities for marketers.
Worldwide, mHealth has helped healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients alike to gain healthcare information, as well as real time monitoring of health status, and subsequently understanding the medical care that needs to be taken.
Moreover, a new health app is introduced almost every day in the digital world so much so that people have leaped into a pool of healthcare information. Keeping these benefits in mind, the future of digital healthcare looks very promising in India.
If the emerging tools and media are used strategically, the industry can very well leverage its integrated marketing efforts.
Doctor communication can be taken to a newer level by the pharma industry as digital can help leverage a plethora of opportunities in terms of interactivity.
Unfortunately the print visual communication has been ‘digitised’ on an i-pad or a tablet and has gone nowhere.
The pharma sector needs to adapt to a complete new and a fresh outlook on this. Also Multi-Channel Marketing (MCM) and Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) have caught up with the western world and will also change the way India pharma marketing operates.
Unfortunately, both the depth and the context of this have not been understood by pharma marketers completely.
CLM basically measures the results of marketing and communication initiatives by monitoring and tracking the response of the targeted groups. The evaluation of the results, such as interaction, surveys, perception towards a new drug, safety profile etc. helps to improve future marketing decisions. Proposed promotional campaigns can then continuously adapt to the customers’ wants and desires, creating a true relationship.
With doctors getting technologically savvy and patients increasingly searching for health information on the Internet, can the pharma industry leverage newer tools and media as a key differentiator?
Can it look beyond traditional methods of communication? Will pharma be able to stick its neck out and start interacting with patient communities? Will the mindset change from being a mere ‘drug manufacturer’ to partnering for ‘healthy outcomes’ ever happen?