Pharma Focus Asia


Arnold Leung, Founder & CEO, Appnovation

The pandemic has prompted pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers to rethink the way their businesses operate, including how the use of technologies and digital solutions can improve the customer experience. This article explores the top trends in 2022 to help devise the best digital strategies for pharmaceutical brands to stay competitive.

It’s been nearly two years since the outbreak of COVID-19 began and we’re still in the midst of enormous disruptions to the world’s economies, businesses, education, and people’s lives. The pharmaceutical industry has been particularly disrupted. Previously, pharma companies suffered from a bad reputation. But following the emergence of the pandemic, they were thrown into the spotlight, suddenly having an important voice on the health of the world. Leaders in the pharma space were on the front cover of every newspaper and magazine not because of scandal, but because of the lifesaving treatments they created. Media were hungry for their opinions on the best way to secure the health of the population amidst the global pandemic.

Patients used to be unaware of who manufactured the drugs that they take. Now, they are able to refer to pharmaceutical brands by name. This gives them a new and unique opportunity to engage directly with the patients whose lives they impact, something pharma brands have been challenged with previously.

How pharmaceutical brands do this is the basis for the following 2022 Trends in Pharma Marketing. Thanks to their important role in securing our health amidst the pandemic, digitisation strategies are no longer nice to haves for pharma companies, but must haves.

In 2022, pharma brands must take the lead in understanding their customers better, including their current needs and future expectations of healthcare services, in order to create a meaningful and beneficial health journey for their patients.

Here are three biggest digital pharma trends for 2022.

TREND 1: Patient-centricity

In the past, a seamless digital experience was considered the benchmark, but now it has become table stakes. With increasing digital disruption across a variety of industries, companies are revamping their existing businesses and operating models in order to stay competitive amidst the digital revolution. However, the ability to pivot with speed and accuracy to changing market dynamics without compromising experience isn’t just a function of technology alone. It requires every individual in the organisation to embrace agile practices and be inclined to test and learn.

Pharma industries are no different. Pharmaceutical companies need to take note when marketing their drugs – patients today require a more diversified approach to addressing their health problems. Mobile technologies, social media, the cloud, wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just some of the realities that are disrupting healthcare today – and is the key to enabling a patient-centric approach.

What’s more? Investment in technologies to leverage the power of big data is now a prerequisite. That is indeed the only way to collect and appropriately utilise valuable insights from the vast and unmanageable pools of data currently out there in the health IT ecosystem.

In fact, some healthcare systems are already integrating datasets across the consumer or patient journey — from arrival at a hospital to check-ups, hospitalisation, treatment and hospital discharge — in order to enhance holistic care and management, not only reducing the need for long hospital stays but also to support early diagnosis and alternative treatments. However, this needs to be paired with a framework for managing data, and the privacy and security implications that come with it.

Yet, for those who are unwilling to take the first step and make the shift, they will eventually lose customers, profit and market share.

TREND 2: Personalisation in healthcare solutions

It is undeniable that the convergence of digital technologies is helping us lead longer, healthier and more empowered lifestyles. In Asia, in particular, the increasing awareness around health and wellness is giving rise to a diligent, discerning type of consumer class – one that is demanding more participatory, personalised and innovative approaches to healthcare.

Apart from this, it is evidenced that the pandemic has accelerated the need for healthcare to be delivered anytime, anywhere and ‘digital first’. The region has also seen strong growth in innovative technologies such as telemedicine, digital therapeutics and remote monitoring over the past few years. For instance, Ping An Good Doctor, a Chinese healthcare services platform, and MyDoc, a telemedicine platform headquartered in Singapore, have more than doubled their active users since 2020; China has repurposed an artificial intelligence model that was used to detect cancer to help isolate and diagnose potential COVID-19 patients in under 10 seconds.

In reality, the entire healthcare ecosystem was already ripe for change. Even before the pandemic, the market was beginning to expect more from healthcare providers. Patients want to be more involved in decision-making, demanding transparency and personalisation – something they’ve grown accustomed to in industries like retail.

Unarguably, there has never been a more important time to focus on health. Consumers in Asia are increasingly embracing the use of sensors, wearables, smart devices that continuously track everything from vital signs, sleep patterns, caloric intake and activity levels to provide a rich, real-time behavioural personal profile. Healthcare providers and organisations that are able to seize the opportunities to recognise, engage and reward consumers throughout their journeys will be able to drive improved outcomes and larger benefits from strengthened relationships.

On the other hand, with a rapidly ageing population and rising lifestylerelated chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension1, Asia-Pacific will represent more than 40 per cent of the growth in global healthcare spending over the next decade. Meanwhile, consumers are expecting more from healthcare players: more innovation, collaboration and solutions from healthcare providers for lowering costs and solving complex healthcare challenges.2 Research has found that 77 per cent of consumers have very clear expectations on personalised preventive care from primary healthcare providers. The shift towards personalisation is evident, along with concerns about access to care and rising costs, healthcare providers and pharma brands are left with no choice but to catch up as soon as possible.

In addition, studies reveal that the region is home to a burgeoning techsavvy, middle class that is wellnessoriented and outcome-driven whereas the Asian consumer is both demanding and driving a seismic shift on how healthcare is to be delivered and experienced. This will ultimately create opportunities for new entrants from other industries to democratise, decentralise and deliver health in new meaningful ways to consumers across the value chain.

Advances in medical science, data and technology combined with reduced cost of genomic sequencing technologies has also given rise to the delivery of personalised healthcare and precision medicine tailored to individual genetic, behavioural and environmental information. Singapore for example, is ranked as the highest performer in the region for personalised healthcare readiness, as ranked by Personalised Health Index, developed by Roche and Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies.

In a nutshell, the convergence of these prevailing trends has altogether created an environment for highly proactive, personalised and preventative healthcare solutions.

TREND 3: Changing relationships between healthcare providers and patients

Healthcare has traditionally conjured up the image of a ‘patient’ – passive and dependent on their physician for treatment of their disease. In the more recent years, this view has shifted dramatically to that of a ‘consumer’ — one that is proactive, independent, highly discerning of wait times, costs, quality and seeks to proactively manage their health. The rise of this highly informed, empowered consumer class has fundamentally altered the physician-patient relationship. Armed with data from a variety of sources, consumers are expecting more involvement, more choices and control over decision making and seek to be engaged as partners and collaborators in their health journey. The pandemic in addition, has heightened consumer awareness and accelerated their desire to take ownership in managing their health, lifestyle and wellness.

In addition, Asia-Pacific is home to 60 per cent of the world’s population and is the fastest-growing digital economy. It is poised to become the world’s largest consumer market in the coming decade. Also, studies foresee a major paradigm shift in the healthcare industry in the years to come.3 By 2025, APAC is expected to account for 60 per cent of the global middle class, up from 46 per cent in 2015. The increase in numbers and the fact that it is also the fastest-growing digital economy paints a clear picture of this consumer group. They will be savvier, know more, have more power and will demand both quality and value-for-money in general. From healthcare providers, they will expect easy access to information, seek consultations, diagnoses and treatments that prioritise their lifestyle,4 preferences and needs. For instance, consumers expect to increase their use of digital health services significantly in the next five years, such as telemedicine, selfdiagnosis app, online pharmacy, health/life insurance app, etc.

A study revealed that, thirty years from now,5 85 per cent of the two billion people who will be over the age of 60 will expect to be more involved and empowered in decisions that manage their health. However, most of the pharmaceutical industry is not yet prepared for how they’ll deliver value in a digitalfirst world driven by preventative care. Unfortunately, the traditional pharma marketing playbook isn’t in tune with today’s way of thinking. Without a forward-thinking strategy that’s designed to meet the needs of a new world of patient-centric and outcome-based personalised care, the road ahead could only get tougher.

While trusted clinician relationships will remain central to the ideal healthcare experience, engaging consumers and patients on their terms, and on channels and touchpoints of their choice as they go through their healthcare journey will become the critical differentiator in an increasingly competitive market. Organisations that holistically map their consumer’s end-to-end healthcare journeys as they connect the dots between their lifestyle, technology, wellness and quality of life to deliver tailored engagement and interactions will win the heart and minds of these consumers.6

With 50 per cent of physicians and consumers ready to adopt innovative technologies in the next 5 years, healthcare organisations and providers in Asia need to improve and innovate the ways in which they are delivering value to consumers of the future. These innovative technologies include personalisation, remote monitoring, telehealth, AI and predictive analytics that can offer opportunities to improve the relationship between consumer and healthcare provider, whereas the real value will be driven through seamless integration and orchestration of the end-to-end experience and solidified through trusted consumer-clinician relationships. Healthcare organisations that can deliver this, through smart technology utilisation will benefit not just from increased patient outcomes, loyalty and satisfaction, but also see increased efficiencies and improvements in operating models. In fact, healthcare organisations in Asia Pacific are already transforming themselves into scaling, innovation hubs and adopting Agile and Design Thinking methods to rapidly deliver solutions for evolving consumer needs and behaviours across the value chain.

Pharma companies on the other hand are recognising the opportunity to collaborate with consumers and their health providers as valuable partners in their personal health journeys, while adopting technology, user experience design and data analytics which are able to provide a solid foundation for building personalised long-term connections with patients and health providers.

The goal, undoubtedly, is to foster and enable patient education and preventative care. No matter which tactics are used, the pharmaceutical companies who come out on top will be the ones who find innovative and holistic ways to build trust and loyalty by providing meaningful value to customers through their personal health care experiences. And they’ll be miles ahead of their competition who lag in embracing accessible digital solutions.



--Issue 46--

Author Bio

Arnold Leung

Arnold is the founder and CEO of Appnovation, a global digital consultancy. Arnold started Appnovation in 2007 in Vancouver after his graduation from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. Since then, he has been leading the company’s strategic vision and business growth across 16 offices around the world, including US, Canada, Europe, Singapore and HK.

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