Despite huge investments into CRM systems some pharma companies still struggle to get all of their staff to embrace and fully interact with them. Pf’s Iain Bate explores why, and what the future holds for technology in the industry.
There’s no doubt that technological developments have changed the way we live and work from year to year – maybe even from month to month in the 21st Century. But has the world of healthcare been travelling in the slow lane of the intergalactic highway?
The potential that technology offers to pharma, and the general world of healthcare, is enormous. But is the pharmaceutical industry, and its staff in particular, using it to maximise the returns of billion-dollar investments?
It would seem that technology is the ‘buzz word’ on the lips of a few of healthcare’s major players at present. The DH recently invited people to nominate their favourite health-related mobile phone ‘app’ – be it for keeping fit, to locate a hospital or chemist, or helping to manage an illness. Creative minds were also asked to design their own health app with a panel of DH judges deciding on their favourite from the most popular entries.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley says it’s the Government’s intention to give people better access to information using modern technology and the exercise is a “unique opportunity for the NHS and those who develop apps to not only showcase their work, but to bring to life new ideas and realise true innovation in healthcare”.
As part of the DH’s technology revolution, patients may also soon be offered online consultations with their GPs using programmes such as Skype. Clearly the Government is embracing the convenience technology offers to patients, but are other sectors in healthcare as interested? It would seem there is still some way to go.
In two minds
Pf ’s 2010/11 annual Company Perception, Motivation and Satisfaction Survey suggests that not all respondents are completely convinced by the power of technology in the workplace. Although the Survey – which relates to 2010 and the early part of this year – found that nearly 90% of respondents have access to a CRM system, only 43% find time to use it in the field and more than a fifth of people fail to accurately record post-call reports with important clients.
Questions have to be asked as to why, despite multimillion pound investment and training by pharma companies, there remains a percentage of staff that still ignore the power and potential of the technology at their finger tips.
Results from the Survey reveal there’s no difference in uptake by key account managers, primary and secondary care representatives, those in primary care roles only, firstline sales managers and secondline sales managers and the use of CRM technology between differing age groups – although surprisingly 10% of respondents in these positions with less than two years of experience said they did not have a CRM system, compared to just 5% more experienced colleagues.
The launch of the iPad in March 2010 promised to revolutionise the way sales representatives, and those in similar roles, use CRM systems in the field. However, nearly three-quarters (70%) of respondents from the Survey are still presently sent out with laptops containing their customer-relationship systems.
When quizzed on what they’d change about the hardware which houses their system, the majority of respondents said that their CRM was too awkward to carry, with poor running systems an issue and that batteries ran out too quickly. Apple claims its second-generation iPad now enjoys ten hours of use away from a plug socket in the field.
Yet the switch to the latest convenient tablet devices may not necessarily be about high levels of investment, it may be down to maximising value for money as Paul Shawah, Vice President, Multi Channel Strategy, Veeva Systems explains. “I would say the life cycle of devices within the industry is generally about three years, sometimes a little bit longer,” he said. “When a company invests in new technology they typically depreciate that over that period, so they don’t want to replace it in the field for that time to maximise their investment.
“However, with the introduction of game changing technology like the iPad, this has changed. We see a number of our pharmaceutical customers are justifying the business case to move to the iPad even before their tablets are fully depreciated. This speaks to the business benefit that pharma expects to achieve from the iPad and the related applications only available on that device.”
A convenient shield
Despite technology eliminating mundane process in the workplace and offering the potential to assist employees and improve their efficiency at work, it has historically been used as a shield to mask poor performance and abused as a means to waste company time – a recent online survey by AOL found that nearly half of Americans (44.7%) rank surfing the web as their primary activity during the two hours they ‘waste’ each day at work.
But it would seem that a high number of respondents do value the opportunities CRM offers. Almost two-thirds (64%) said they always enter correctly the amount of customer sales they make into their CRM. But 21% admitted they fail to always report face-to-face meetings with clients. More surprisingly, over a fifth of participants said they do not always record the number of products they had sold to clients.
The lack of honest accuracy is surprising considering the amount of time spent using CRM systems each day. A third said they spend between one and two hours a day on their system with a fifth spending three hours or more on their CRM. During their time using the management system, more than half (55%) said that call reporting was the most useful feature.
Although respondents were less impressed with the KAM abilities of their software with only 19% believing it to be the most useful facility. When questioned about what they would change given the chance, 45% said they wanted an improved database, over a quarter (28%) called for their system to be overall more useful, and 18% said they would prefer their CRM to be easier to use.
The next level
But what of the future of CRM systems? Will they be easier to use and have improved customer databases? David Round, General Manager, UK, Cegedim Relationship Management, says the regular interaction we now have with technology means we’ve all come to expect the latest developments.
“End users are significantly more ‘technology-savvy’ than their counterparts of even five years ago,” he explained. “If anything, the challenge for companies is to ensure that they provide their end users with the types of technology that they use as consumers. It’s also important to focus on the usability of your software to ensure maximum use. Technology companies – and pharma – must work together to develop a better understanding of the interaction, to ensure it meets users’ needs in the field.”
One main reason that users have become more ‘savvy’ is down to the use and interaction with social media. Whether at home or at work, websites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and most recently Google+ have driven an increased use of various forms of technology – especially on devices such as smartphones or tablet devices which reps are calling for in the field.
Pharma companies, both in the US and UK, have flirted with the idea of fully embracing the power social media harnesses, but at present are restricted by the PMCPA’s Code of Practice and by the FDA – who has again delayed the publication of its guidance.
The FDA says it is “difficult to provide a timeframe... due to the extensive work and review process, or ‘Good Guidance Practices’, which ensures that FDA’s stakeholders are provided well vetted guidances articulating FDA’s current thinking on a topic”.
Although the FDA may be unsure on how to direct healthcare companies, David Round believes the introduction, both professionally and personally, of social media has had an impact on staff and their expectations.
“For the modern professional person, much of their everyday life is conducted online – for example on shopping, utilities, insurance or booking a holiday – and many users then want the same level of capability from the tools they use in their job,” he added.
Dan Goldsmith, General Manager, Veeva Europe, agrees there has been a significant shift in the way we operate and interact due to our experiences online through tagged posts or hash-tagged searches. But although the 800 million users on Facebook – more than half which ‘log-on’ every day – and 175 million people on Twitter have no problem saying hello to friends, pharma finds it more difficult reaching out to people.
“Social media create a new avenue for healthcare dialogue and will only continue to pervade our lives,” said Dan. “Consequently, I believe that pharma faces two challenges. The first is to decide how to participate in the online dialogue with stakeholders and then to create those interactions through the channels we’re all familiar with, such as Facebook and Twitter.
“The second is to figure out how to leverage the model of social dialogue internally to support stronger collaboration and more focused communication among employees. Already, we see some companies taking advantage of the latest social business tools to connect employees with one another and to access and share information in real time.”
Clearly CRM solution providers understand the potential modern technology and social media platforms offer to companies. Whether pharma and its workforce get fully up to speed on the intergalactic highway sooner or later remains to be seen.