May 28, 2021

Top Customer Engagement Trends in pharma

Customer Engagement remains one of the most prevalent emerging trends. This blog breaks down the different aspects that can be identified throughout the idea of Patient Engagement, from online patient communities to thought leadership in the pharmaceutical industry.  

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the pharmaceutical industry was just beginning to move toward remote customer engagement. As patient visits shifted to digital in 2020, pharma was pushed to digital customer engagement at the same time. Because of the restrictions on representatives’ access to healthcare providers (HCPs), there was a 75% decrease in promotional activity worldwide, and up to a 500% increase in engagement via remote channels. Post-pandemic, when HCPs expect to be busy with a backlog of patients returning to in-office visits, providers may prefer to continue engaging remotely with pharmaceutical reps via email or videoconference. 

In the coming years, pharmaceutical customer engagement will be more remote, digital, and informed.

  • HCP engagement preferences and behavior are trending toward virtual, pushing the traditional pharmaceutical sales force to be reduced or restructured in favor of remote channels.
  • Relationships won’t go away, but reps will need to shift their focus from relationship management to more scientific engagement to ensure that detailing adds value to the HCP.
  • Remote detailing is here to stay, as in-person detailing remains at an all-time low.
  • Depending on the therapeutic area, telehealth visits will increase anywhere from 50% to 200% from pre-COVID-19 numbers, with both patients and HCPs appreciating their value.

To stay competitive in this new reality, pharmaceutical companies will have to adopt new models of customer engagement across their entire organization. To maintain excellence in engagement, those companies will need to be more agile than ever before. They will need to quickly understand different channels, types of engagements and customers, and shift investments based on the new information they’re receiving. The integration of this information with execution is at the core of omnichannel engagement. Many pharma companies already recognize the need to enhance their remote interaction capabilities and use multiple channels to deliver content and services to customers while measuring impact. 

IQVIA has identified three additional areas for pharma companies to consider that can increase or accelerate impact:

  • Execute an orchestrated HCP engagement strategy enabled by Next Best guidance
  • Target and accelerate practice changes with local thought leaders
  • Strengthen patient engagement through patient communities

By harnessing the power of all three areas, life science companies will not only be able to solve the short-term challenges of their particular brands, but successfully develop excellence in customer engagement by delivering what HCPs are looking for and what patients need.

Next Best: Intelligent planning at the point of execution

Pharmaceutical reps not only need to master the interpersonal aspect of customer engagement — knowing how to speak, when to listen, when to follow up, and how to build a relationship — they also need to master the logistics surrounding who to speak to, when and where to speak, what relevant information needs to be shared, when to schedule follow-ups, and how to track reactions and adjust their planning. This is where Next Best comes into play.

IQVIA Next Best uses smart technology to combine both engagement and analytics to deliver valuable insights to the field team. These insights and recommendations are the main output of merging the art of conversation with the science of conversing into a “Next Best” guided engagement. This supports reps in maximizing their efforts as well as coordinating with other team members and non-personal channels. As a result, the customer can feel that their interactions across channels are more relevant and timely to their interests and needs. With this positive personalized engagement, the likelihood of prescription increases substantially.

Next Best works by processing large amounts of data about the customer and delivering simple, actionable recommendations for the rep. It suggests who you should see, when to see them, and what you should bring to the table — essentially taking the guesswork out of identifying the right resource, right time, and right channel. Next Best is a capability that enhances your customer engagement strategy, leading to faster channel adoption (up to 4x uptake in email), more agile campaigns (2-3 months to see major shifts in customers visited), and potentially an increase in revenue (typically you can expect 4-7% uplifts, but IQVIA has estimated that optimization could lead up to close to 20% uplifts even in post-launch brands).

Local thought leadership: Influence that transforms the medical practice

Medical experts and thought leaders exist at all levels in the market and play different roles in product adoption, from initial awareness to enthusiastic advocacy. Well-known global thought leaders are often engaged by pharmaceuticals to author major trials and speak on their behalf at events. In many ways, they’re a cost of entry as they tend to be sought by many competing brands, and they often temper their advocacy or promote all brands with undistinguished enthusiasm. IQVIA has observed that the thought leaders who have the greatest impact on HCP treatment preferences exert their influence on a more local level. They’re nominated by their colleagues, and as prescribers seek out the experience and skill of peers, they can more easily access and consult with them on cases. Local thought leaders can often change behavior more than those who are further removed. In some cases, thought leader interventions can increase adoption of new brands by 25% and improve HCP compliance with evidence-based practice by 11%.1

Now, IQVIA is using network science to help pharmaceutical companies identify and target thought leaders, from recognized subject-matter experts to local clinical influencers. By layering different data points, such as their scientific backgrounds, social and digital leadership, clinical network insight, and prescription or claims data, life sciences companies can understand medical experts based not just on their knowledge, but also based on their influence on prescription patterns. Applying network science to peer-identified thought leaders and engaging them through an orchestrated effort can increase the value of top HCPs 1.7- 3.4 times.2

Patient Communities: Impact beyond providing drugs

Patient engagement has been a topic of conversation in pharma for a long time, and COVID-19 has accelerated the need for virtual patient support. Since the pandemic began, one in five patients have switched therapies, one in three have asked to be treated remotely, and two in five have used new apps to support their treatment.

The market is primed for more patient engagement, but to be successful, it must offer value to both the patients and the life science companies that sponsor such programs. The value you should offer to patients is clear: with a patient engagement platform, patients need increased access to the information and support from other patients that they feel can help them understand and manage their journey. They gain resources and advice about treatment that they can trust, and a join a community of individuals with similar experiences with whom they can connect.

But these platforms have a unique benefit for life science companies, too: they get to listen and learn. Direct, anonymized access to patient conversations helps pharma companies gain a better understanding of their patients from an emotional, not just clinical, perspective. They learn about the reasons different patients are better suited for certain treatments, why they adhere to them (or don’t), and the perceptions they have about brands.

Pharma companies can also engage with and educate patients, potentially resulting in major improvements in how they manage, talk about, and adhere to their treatment. In a published set of studies in oncology for example, 72% of patients showed improvement in drug adherence when they were engaged in a patient community, and 80% of patients felt better prepared for medical consultations.3 Patients have more power today than ever before to influence their treatment journey. Engaging with them is crucial to understand their needs and influence the success of their treatment.

Life science companies that are able to efficiently link capabilities across a continuum of unique healthcare data and analytics, technology solutions, and scientific expertise, and then orchestrate execution among functions, will remain competitive in the dynamic world of customer engagement. And most importantly, do more and better to serve their patients.

To see how Talking Medicines are staying at the forefront of Patient engagement visit and see how we are utilising AI and machine learning to improve patient engagement efforts for pharma.  


Cochrane review (

Cochrane review (