Growing Pharma’s Digital Footprint

For pharma companies, digital is not an island operating independently of business strategy; it’s embedded within it. Yet 60% of pharma companies admit their digital initiatives are only partly linked to their broader strategy. And many are still struggling to connect their digital strategy to their business at every level.

Many pharma companies align on strategy first and treat digital engagement as an aspect of execution, rather than as a central consideration in strategic planning. This sidelining of digital initiatives represents a significant barrier to connecting with patients throughout their treatment journey (and capturing key insights critical for drug development). For pharma to embrace digital platforms as part of their strategy, leaders must start with a deep understanding of how patients want to interact and then designing ways to engage that fit those preferences.

Vertical or horizontal digital integration
For pharma organizations embracing the use of digital platforms to connect programs to patients, growth is key to success and delivering an engaging experience to the end user. But growing presence in the digital space can happen through horizontal and vertical integrations. The role pharma should play depends on whether there is a significant disease burden combined with limited incentives for other healthcare stakeholders to create overlapping or competing services. In therapy areas like rare disease, cell and gene therapy, or neurologic conditions, pharma has an opportunity to own and drive patient-digital solutions. In other areas, pharma may serve as an enabler, catalyst, or collaborator in improving healthcare outcomes. 

In therapeutic-specific conditions where patients are engaging in e-commerce channels to access care, pharma can introduce therapeutic-specific digital tools that enable faster support or access to guidance. In complex chronic conditions, where clinical decision and comorbidity management protocols are critical, pharma can catalyze innovations by offering disease-specific solutions by incorporating digital biomarkers and behavioral health digital therapies.

Catch-up or be left behind
Pharma leaders need to create a culture that combines a digital-first mindset to change the status quo and transform activities across functional areas and value streams. Such digital innovation could bring transformative benefits, including realizing ambitious goals earlier, connectivity to engaging patients, and bringing drugs to market faster.

To do this effectively, pharma needs to shift to a patient-first focus to measure its engagement. Metrics like net promoter score (NPS) and life-time value (LTV) should take precedence over market share and return on investment (ROI). Organizationally, companies must create dedicated capabilities with the accountability and authority to create, productize, and deploy digital solutions across functions, therapy areas, and geographies. Putting patient intent at the forefront lends shape to all processes and activities.

Patient first for big growth
Before pharma can realize its vision of a patient-first, digital-first future, it must reconnect with the patient journey and build the capabilities needed to deliver solutions that truly improve patients’ lives. This begins by presenting an inspiring vision that brings to life patient digital in the context of the portfolio, modernizing capabilities like patient services, removing silos across patient initiatives, and building the digital core—critical steps in a company’s patient-first, digital-first transformation.

This change represents a return to pharma’s patient-driven roots. Healthcare professionals—from pharma to providers and practitioners—are often motivated by a purpose to improve healthcare journeys. In many cases, the desire aligns with individuals’ personal health histories, a passion to cure diseases, or a drive to provide the best care possible. By building a patient-first, digital-first organization—one that obsesses over each patient’s journey and methodically removes all physical and digital barriers to improve patient outcomes—pharma leaders can unleash innovation and growth with a renewed sense of soul and purpose.

Driving the digital landscape
Digitization is driving an increasingly fluid healthcare landscape. Successful pharma companies will have structures, processes, and mind-sets in place that make them agile and forward looking. In many areas, tomorrow’s winners will not be defined by the competitors that are strongest today but by those that are quickest to adapt. This includes pharma companies that can harness digital platforms to connect with patients and use that digital connectivity to grow presence, brand awareness, and engagement.

Market research suggests that there is an urgency among pharma executives to take risks, invest, and innovate faster to gain an edge over the competition, which can be achieved through digital innovation. Now is the time to ask if your digital capabilities are in launch readiness, and if your existing digital programs are as transformative as they could be?

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