How Can Technology Improve the Narrative for Pharma?

— Niamh Griffin, Senior Account Director, WE UK 

The pharmaceutical and healthcare industries in the UK and across the world are facing a multitude of challenges. They are being challenged on how they differentiate themselves in a growing and crowded marketplace, how they engage with their audiences and how they remain innovative and relevant.

Consumer expectations are shifting...

Today, consumers want to live their lives differently. They are seeking modern ways to ensure more accessibility, understanding and ownership of their own healthcare. And they are looking away from traditional healthcare sources for help.

There has been a surge of technology companies entering the healthcare space. In 2018, Amazon launched Amazon Comprehend Medical to analyse medical data and filed a patent for Alexa to pick up on a cold or a cough. Clinova released Caidr, an app designed to help users distinguish minor ailments from a more serious illness; both as a support tool for patients, and a way to alleviate pressure on the NHS. And there are countless start-ups seeking to revolutionise how patients engage with and receive care, such as WE UK client, Careology, an app-based platform that transforms how people affected by cancer diagnosis are supported.    

… However, the perceptions of the healthcare industry are not

This can create both a challenge and an opportunity for healthcare. The technology industry is challenging pharmaceutical companies to innovate, work with them and make further advances for patients and healthcare professionals alike. The WE 2018 Brands in Motion study found that 61% of B2B respondents in the UK feel that pharmaceutical industries are stuck in the stone age. As more technology brands continue to enter the healthcare space, this perception is only going to grow. 

Those working in the pharmaceutical industry will read this and want to shout from the rooftops about the advances made with artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data – but they won’t. Pharmaceutical companies are great at innovation and advances, but technology companies are better and freer at telling that story. The absence of creative storytelling to share purpose in a meaningful way has resulted in another negative perception of the pharmaceutical industry: 63% of Brands in Motion respondents in the UK believe that the pharmaceutical industry is doing more harm than good. 

Meeting expectations, changing perceptions and moving forward

The pharmaceutical industry has an advantage over the technology industry in the one area where technology companies are struggling at present – adherence to compliance.  

Pharmaceuticals is one of the most regulated industries in the world, adhering to complex codes and requirements to answer one simple question – is this appropriate, ethical and of benefit to patient outcomes? Technology companies have not had to answer this question yet, but with the issues that have been identified through the Cambridge Analytica issue, this may be set to change.

Pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to leverage on the compliance constraints that have, at times, restricted their engagement with consumers in the past and bring their expertise to the technology industry. Collaborations and partnerships are happening in the healthcare sector, allowing pharmaceutical companies to learn from the strategies and tactics that they implement to engage audiences, while contributing a compliant lens to ensure activities are ethical. That said, collaboration between industries as diverse as pharmaceutical and technology is no mean feat. Technology companies operate in high risk, fast moving environments, whereas pharmaceutical companies are conservative, in relatively slow-moving environments. An adaptive and collaborative partnership is where both industries will be able to learn from each other and deliver impactful and credible communications to a shared, engaged audience.

This collaboration will be where pharmaceutical companies can stand out amongst their peers, show real innovation and enhance their reputation and resonance among consumers through bringing ethical considerations to engagement with their key audiences – ultimately, challenging and changing the perception of consumers seen in the Brands in Motion data.

So, what next?

Pharmaceutical and technology firms are bravely taking on the challenge of partnership and truly trying to revolutionise what collaboration between the two industries can look like. It’s imperative that they can work together to share a meaningful and impactful narrative to communicate the real value they are providing to patients and healthcare professionals alike.

The global focus on the intersection between technology and healthcare is only going to amplify, and at WE UK, we are leveraging the upcoming WE 2019 Brands in Motion data to support our clients to adapt their core narrative to the evolving environment.