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5 minute read

Making AI practical, embracing a fail-fast mindset, and a customer feedback gap: 5 takeaways from NEXT Pharma 2024

Earlier this month, some of our team travelled to Dubrovnik for the NEXT Pharma Summit 2024.

Here are 5 of our top takeaways and talking points from the event.

by Graphite Digital
30 May 24
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Events
  • News

The event brings together those working across the Pharma ecosystem — whether in Digital, Commercial, Medical Affairs, Tech or elsewhere — to ask the question, where to next for our industry?

Change management is essential for the success of digital transformation initiatives

Change management is crucial for making digital transformation initiatives a success. No matter how good the tech, idea or innovation, as much as 70% of the effort and investment should be centred on people processes and communication to bring all stakeholders on the journey with you.

When seeking to facilitate culture change and mindset shifts, there are a few things that need to be considered. Firstly, you need to understand the ‘why’ and have a clear idea of purpose, and then communicate this across your organisation. Then, you need to address obstacles — are there practical challenges that have been overlooked, or people who are particularly change-resistant who need to be identified and supported further? Finally, be open to receiving and incorporating feedback in order to refine and improve approaches.

Pharma is finally embracing the F word - it’s okay to fail

Pharma mindsets are evolving to embrace experimentation and failure, sharing stories internally so they can learn and improve.

Julian Pahud explained how his organisation, Lilly, has grown to accept and even encourage failure in their pursuit of innovation. By talking about failure in large and mainstream forums regularly, embedding news of failures in comms channels, and even rewarding failures that helped the organisation to learn and innovate through a new internal recognition scheme, they have successfully evolved their risk-averse culture. This doesn’t mean rewarding sloppiness, he noted, but acknowledging key moments of learning.

However, it’s also important to find the right balance between knowing when to change approach and move on, versus when to commit longer term and give new initiatives a chance. Sometimes, if you’re confident in your approach and have based decisions on evidence and data, you need to give new ideas enough time to take off — especially in large organisations such as pharma.

Teams are increasingly data driven, but more qualitative feedback is needed

It was great to see that data is being used more effectively to benchmark the success of customer engagement, with measurement frameworks shifting to focus on outcomes, rather than outputs. Measurement processes are evolving and data analysis capabilities are improving — often thanks to AI and machine learning.

But, the customer voice is still often missing from the equation. There is a need to seek more first-hand insight to provide holistic context for the data and understand whether patient or HCP needs are truly being met. Although metrics and analytics can provide valuable indicators about the success of omnichannel engagement approaches, they cannot provide full insights about a customer’s perspectives or pain points.

Seeking qualitative feedback will help pharma teams connect the dots and make even more sophisticated improvements to their omnichannel approaches, driving value for customers by making them feel heard.

The conversation around AI is moving from theoretical to practical

It was great to see real use cases of how AI is making a difference shared by Ferring, Teva, Novartis and others. In just 12 months, the conversation around AI use within health and pharma has moved on drastically, from theoretical conversations about how organisations ‘might’ be able to use AI in future, to many already embedding AI across functions, setting up dedicated working groups, or partnering with specialist providers.

Whilst regulatory guidelines around AI may be slow to evolve — particularly in Europe — organisations are often focusing on how they can utilise it internally to build efficiency and optimise their customer engagement approaches. Marco Andre, at Novartis, mentioned in his keynote speech that as much as 50% of AI potential for pharmaceutical organisations lies in its internal use cases.

A final thought on AI, is that data and AI are inextricably linked. Your AI impact will only be as good as your data and your analytics capabilities. Alyssa Fenoglio explained how Teva’s AI strategy could be summarised as “Data first, AI second, and people above all.”

Alignment between teams is essential for creating cohesive customer journeys

Overcoming silos and ensuring alignment across functions is crucial for creating less fragmented customer journeys.

The organisations that are taking a holistic approach to their customer experiences, with unified journeys and goals, are seeing the most success. For many, this means forging closer relationships and transparent communication between Medical and Commercial teams.

By fostering alignment, companies can ensure that every touchpoint with healthcare professionals and patients is consistent, informative, and supportive, thereby enhancing the overall customer experience and fostering greater trust in the brand.

To achieve this, structural change may be required, and has been implemented successfully by organisations such as Biogen, Roche and Novartis. For example, reducing hierarchy, addressing bureaucracy, decentralisation from global to affiliate or regional teams, and evolving the roles of sales teams and MSLs.

Thanks to the NEXT team for organising an insightful and thought-provoking event — we’ll see you back in Dubrovnik in 2025!

Learn more about the NEXT Pharma Summit here, and keep up to date on their upcoming events and initiatives.

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