Going Digital-First: Why Agility is Critical for Healthcare and Pharma
The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced healthcare and pharmaceutical companies to speed their digital transformation, but they’re still not moving fast enough, particularly when it comes to digital marketing.
According to a recent survey Crownpeak conducted with market research firm Vanson Bourne, almost 9 out of 10 healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations report that their organization needs to be faster when rolling out new digital campaigns and experiences.
In the short term, this lack of digital agility and speed costs these companies potential business, but moving forward, it may threaten their viability.
This stark prediction can be found in McKinsey & Company’s report “The Next Normal: The Recovery Will Be Digital”:
“Only 8 percent of companies we surveyed recently said their current business model would remain economically viable if their industry keeps digitizing at its current course and speed.”
So, how can pharma and healthcare organizations activate hyperdrive on digital engagement?
And is digital agility and speed in engagement really as important as these companies believe?
To answer these questions, it helps to consider recent changes in the pharma and healthcare sector.
There’s no going back to the pre-pandemic landscape
If there is one business story that has become a cliché during the COVID-19 pandemic, it surely is this one: the pandemic has forced all sectors to speed their digital transformation.
This acceleration is especially true in healthcare.
According to Gartner, “COVID-19 has forced healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) to leap five to 10 years into the digital future. CIOs are implementing dozens of digital solutions simultaneously. Many of the solutions, like telehealth or no-touch/no-wait patient flow, are transformative in nature. The aggregate amount of digital transformation is also transformative in nature. Other CIOs around the globe have successfully undertaken similar levels of transformation using a digital-first business and IT strategy.” 
In addition, pharmaceutical companies adopted digital engagement strategies for communicating to physicians about their drugs.
After the pandemic ends, healthcare is unlikely to revert back to business as usual.
In fact, in the face of continued long-term disruption and increased competitive pressure, companies are recognizing the benefits of embracing a digital-first approach.
Now, the race is on to get ahead of the pack and capitalize on the opportunities of being digitally nimble.
In another Gartner report titled “Healthcare and Life Science Top Actions for 2021: Consumer Engagement,” it is noted: “In the wake of COVID-19, healthcare and life science organizations face continued disruption to their business models and consumer engagement strategies. CIOs must invest in orchestrated, personalized consumer engagement to fuel business model evolution and close gaps in health equity.” 
Likewise, Pharmiweb.com recognizes that pharma organizations can’t go back to the old ways:
“It’s highly unlikely that pharmaceutical organisations will revert back to old methods when engaging with HCPs, but instead, offer Omni-Channel options that satisfy the needs of all, and maximise touchpoints for increased awareness and effect. A successful future, therefore, will require the industry to leverage the benefits of both online and offline contact.”
Given that the new way of marketing is here to stay, Gartner recommends in their report titled “It’s Time for Healthcare Delivery Organizations to Adopt a Digital-First Strategy”:
“HDO CIOs advancing healthcare and life science digital transformation and innovation should:
- Enable consumer engagement, activation, and the delivery of digital health and digital healthcare services by adopting ‘digital-first’ technology domains that act as complements to clinical care capabilities.
- Seize the opportunity that the COVID-19 pandemic has created by advocating for the deployment of enterprise-grade, digital-first technology domains within pandemic-driven digital initiatives such as telehealth, remote patient monitoring and patient safety.
- Prepare for a ‘new normal’ that includes the adoption of a digital-first business strategy that makes digital interactions the first, the preferred and the pervasive medium for engagement, health and healthcare delivery.” 
Rather than resisting these recommended changes, organizations should welcome them. In fact, for those pharma and healthcare sector players that can rapidly achieve digital agility in marketing, a digital-first strategy holds substantial promise.
The digital-first, omnichannel opportunity
In today’s climate, it’s not hard to understand why a digital-first, omnichannel approach to marketing is becoming companies’ go-to strategy. By pushing out the same message and content on every major digital touchpoint, organizations have a greater chance of interacting with patients and consumers in their preferred way, thereby reaching more consumers overall.
In fact, omnichannel campaigns engage patients and healthcare providers up to four times more than single-channel campaigns, and healthcare companies report a more than 40% improvement in conversions when using omnichannel marketing.
The need for speed
With online now the dominant channel, there is increased pressure to accelerate digital transformation so that organizations can quickly and easily deliver digital experiences. Gartner highlights in their report titled “It’s Time for Healthcare Delivery Organizations to Adopt a Digital-First Strategy”:
“COVID-19 and the response to it have also created an unprecedented alignment of business, clinical and IT perspectives on the need to accelerate digital transformation. The speed and effectiveness of transformation is now a top organizational objective for many HDOs.” 
Consistent with this finding, the Vanson Bourne survey revealed a strong consensus on the business value to be achieved by boosting digital agility. On average, healthcare and pharmaceutical respondents believe that, if they could make improvements in digital agility, they would see a 28% uplift in revenue.
Given the financial upside to digital transformation in marketing, why are so many healthcare and pharmaceutical companies struggling to implement it effectively?
Survey says: there are multiple barriers to digital dexterity in marketing
Our survey results suggested that multiple challenges undermine organizations’ efforts to quickly launch new digital experiences.
These barriers include —
- organizational processes,
- too much time and money spent on maintaining existing digital infrastructure,
- legacy technologies that are hard to use,
- over-reliance on (and overburdening of) IT teams, and
- slow implementation of digital experience management platforms.
In addition, pharmaceutical companies often have hundreds of websites, which are hard to centrally manage and make consistent using legacy approaches.
Book your seat: Digital Transformation in Pharma
To succeed in today’s competitive landscape, healthcare and pharma companies need to respond to the market quickly.
To learn about how you can help your company achieve rapid-response digital marketing, book your seat now for our upcoming webinar on “Digital Transformation in Pharma,” hosted in conjunction with healthcare marketing specialists Greater Than One, with guests from Grifols USA and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.
We’ll be taking a detailed dive into the full Vanson Bourne survey results for the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors, discussing the problems and disconnects that are hampering many organizations’ digital marketing, and the infrastructure required to achieve the digital agility needed to succeed in this new world of digital-first, omnichannel marketing.
 Gartner, “The Digital First Engagement Framework for Healthcare Delivery Organizations”. Mark Gilbert, Published 7 October 2020
 Gartner, “Healthcare and Life Science Top Actions for 2021: Consumer Engagement”, Kate McCarthy, Published 25 February 2021
 Gartner, “It’s Time for Healthcare Delivery Organizations to Adopt a Digital-First Strategy”, Mark Gilbert, Published 11 August 2020