COVID-19 has really become part of our lives for the last half-year, and all industries have had to adapt to the new normal and come up with new solutions to the challenges that COVID-19 has brought about. In this ever-changing world, we can see new announcements coming out every day that impact us, and give us more information around the longevity that these changes are actually going to affect us. With this impact, there are so many different things that have had to change - sales strategies have had to change, face to face meetings are declining, and in most cases wiped out with confinement. Also, PR and communication plans need to be reassessed, realignment of activities and events, face to face is something which we have so relied on as part of our day to day strategy, but now digital is pushed to the forefront like never before.
In our webinar “What Impact Has COVID-19 Had on the Healthcare Industry?” on October 26th, we had experts from Bayer, Johnson & Johnson and Allergan discussing the impact COVID-19 has had on healthcare so far, and their expectations for the future of the industry.
What has changed over the last months?
The new coronavirus pandemic has unquestionably been a game-changer for most businesses, regardless of their dimension, across the most different industries all around the world. Bayer and Johnson & Johnson can confirm that, and both Dani Jimenez Herranz (Global Digital Lead at Bayer) and Guillermo Macarron (Solutions Business Manager at Johnson & Johnson) agree that communication was the most affected field by Covid-19.
As a global projects’ manager, Dani says that the biggest difference this situation has brought is on the way he connects with international teams and stakeholders across the globe and also “how we are really managing stakeholders expectation, how we are managing requests and dealing with uncertainty that we have ahead of us” Dani has also pointed flexibility as a critical factor when dealing with teams in different regions, that have different levels of technological and digital knowledge, in order to meet the objectives determined for each project.
J&J’s Solutions Business Manager also highlights how communication has changed, both internally and externally: “how we now connect with our customers and even how we connect with our community of patients, but also internally how we work together. That has all changed very, very rapidly.”
At Spark, Covid has also hit the business, including the way they were creating content for their community. John Campbell, Spark’s Sales Manager adds that “It [Covid] stopped us trying to create our own content and we kind of asked the community to share articles and stuff they're just really passionate about”, assuming that the pandemics had an influence on the mindset shift that occurred within the company.
Benefits and opportunities provided by the pandemic
One key outcome of this webinar was that there are certainly good things brought by Covid-19 not only to the business world but also to the individuals’ lives. In fact, the shift from face-to-face to the digital world has reduced – or in some cases even eliminated - commuting times and highly increased efficiency not only for businessmen but also for patients in certain regions of the globe. Particularly in emerging markets like the Middle East, millions of patients can now avoid long travels from rural areas to the big cities, in order to have a 15-minute appointment with a doctor – as Guillermo Macarron pointed out. This change was also noticed by Dani: “I feel that our meetings are [now] shorter and much more effective as well. I used to be back to back every day, I started at 9 am and finished at 6 pm. So we had to change this, be more efficient and this whole situation is helping us, providing the path to change on that”.
Also, John Campbell points out a direction for potential opportunities within the Healthcare and Pharma industries: “I think just providing a support structure as and when the customers needed, it was really good. I do think other pharma and healthcare companies would have opportunities with remote engagement in a similar kind of way.”
Macarron believes that Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) can also directly benefit from this virtual shift, “as they can interact more efficiently, monitor their patients in a better way, and have better visibility of how they are progressing, even if they don't see face to face.”
Mindset. The biggest challenge?
Changing individuals’ routines and mindset is usually one of the greatest barriers to progress and change – particularly when it comes to digital and technological evolution. Macarron really believes that this phenomenon is already occurring when comparing private versus public healthcare centres and hospitals. “We [Johnson & Johnson] have great access to private hospitals providing and implementing innovative digital solutions while on the other hand, the public sector has many regulations which limit such implementation and makes the adaptation lengthy and slow” - the J&J manager says.
However, the three panelists agreed that there are way more barriers to the virtual transformation.
From a customer engagement point of view, even though Macarron states that the feedback is very positive and that patients are happy to be more engaged throughout the medical process, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what the future will look like in terms of the connection between companies, patients and HCPs.
Also, how fast can companies be completing the necessary digital transformation is something that is seen as a challenge for businesses in the Healthcare industry, as well as the privacy and online security of individuals and companies when working and communicating through the new digital solutions.
Do we still need face-to-face?
As several managing directors across different industries have claimed recently, the shift from presential to remote work has increased not only the efficiency but also the productivity of workers in general. This is the main point behind, perhaps, the most asked question across work-related meetings during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic: is face-to-face obsolete, or does it still add some value to companies’ performances worldwide?
John Campbell is reluctant to say that we don’t need face-to-face anymore and considers that the presential method is still important, “particularly for key account management”. However, Campbell believes that the main question should not be ‘Do we still need face-to-face?’ but ‘What needs to be delivered face-to-face?’: “I think a lot of the learnings don’t need to be face-to-face anymore. For instance, when we used to structure training or educational days, we'd have presentations in the morning, hands-on sort of practical skills, and then followed by more sort of kind of demonstrations. The morning bit and most of the afternoon bit doesn't need to be face-to-face [anymore], so can we shorten training days to online learning for most of the products and scientific education with a face-to-face approach in it but just shortening the time.”
A similar opinion has Guillermo Macarron, who claims that the key for the future will not be the replacement of face-to-face, but a ‘hybrid approach’ where the virtual and the face-to-face work coexist and complement each other. However, Johnson & Johnson’s manager is sure about one thing: digital and virtual work came to stay. The claim is supported by the positive feedback the company is getting from customers and hospitals, who “are satisfied with the increased levels of communication and patients also appreciate the fact that they are now more engaged during the process”, Macarron says.
Expert tips for building a strong community
In the last segment of the webinar, Spark-Allergan’s Sales Manager John Campbell shared some master tips with the audience on building and keeping an online community, particularly during these challenging times. Campbell believes that these tips can be applicable across a wide range of industries and businesses, it all comes down to four key points:
1. Content vs Cash
Invest in good content rather than buying followers and members for your community. Campbell admits that this was the main part of Spark’s strategy as they were not interested in increasing their followings without having these engaged and interested in the company’s promotional content. Instead, driving word of mouth to referrals by delivering good and relevant content should always come as a priority when building a solid online community.
2. People vs Technology
For Campbell, there is no point in investing in the best tech in the world, if the people driving that are not capable of doing so. Therefore, always prioritize the people managing tech because, without them, the tech investment is most likely to turn into a flop.
3. Engagement vs Revenue
“This piece is a bit more controversial”, Campbell starts by saying. “We work with having an equal opportunity so everyone within the community has an equal footing for an opportunity to contribute irrespective of the size of their business or influence within the market”, he adds. This way, Spark ensures that at the end of the day, the community is the one deciding what topics and what authors they want to see.
4. Progression vs Perfection
Coming from an “unrecognized, little project” gave Spark the opportunity to grow organically giving it a more authentic feel which is always appreciated by the members of the community. Also, that allowed the company to be under less pressure and more fearless of making a wrong move, as the team kept learning day-by-day and growing step-by-step. So, the main takeaway - don’t rush, and focus on progressing consistently rather than reaching perfection on your first try.
To wrap up, our great panelists agree that not everything looks dark and scary when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, there are plenty of opportunities for businesses across all industries to improve their performance, now that the digital transformation is more real than ever. Efficiency and productivity can be improved, working processes can be shortened and customers and patients can benefit from a more customized service, based on the new applicability of the existing digital solutions.
For this to happen, companies need to be able to adapt to these changes and the pace at which they will be capable of doing so remains uncertain across many industries. However, one thing is for sure. Everyone, from business owners to non-managerial employees, is learning from this new and unwanted situation. But in the end, the ones that are capable of better adapting to the so-famous ‘new normal’ will be the ones prospering in the future.