Embracing flexibility and agility throughout the organization is key to leveraging AI, technology, and data

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By Sese Abhulimen, Inizio Engage

In 2024, the industry must acknowledge the interconnected impact of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), growing AI and technology usage, and evolving smart data, as these factors create a ripple effect. How market access responds to these effects will impact sales and marketing. Effectively addressing these impacts lies at the heart of industry reform.

So, what does this mean going forward in 2024 and beyond? The industry’s evolving landscape, encompassing technological advancements and legislative shifts, demands adaptability and agility to manage. Although it may seem like we need to turn on a dime based on the urgency of many of these change elements, we must be responsive in prudent ways and test, adjust, and tweak as we go. The reality of doing a five-year strategic plan, where nothing is going to change in that period, is gone. Instead, we need to revisit the plan every three – six months to examine what is happening in the marketplace, and then flex where needed, tweaking the plan to be responsive to existing market conditions.

We are certainly on the cusp of another potential upheaval in the payer space due to all the pressures in Washington on the PBMs, as well as the implementation of new drug pricing provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The fact that we are in an election year and facing a possible party change in the White House also brings a level of uncertainty to “business as usual.” Those addressing market access within their organizations need to be more attuned to these factors. While making assumptions is mandatory, they should not be unquestioningly relied upon. It is crucial to rigorously test and validate all assumptions before implementation, acknowledging the significant financial implications and their cascading effects on commercial and other operations.

Simply resorting to high-volumes of sales/field representatives will not enable the kind of flexibility that organizations need in order react to market changes. To improve fixed costs in the face of price changes, many commercial organizations will need to scale back their internal headcount and use outsourced rep teams. Rethinking how to maximize rep teams also requires serious consideration. As medical science liaisons (MSLs) increasingly play a crucial role earlier in the product life cycle, the coordination and optimization of engagements among representatives across different silos, including medical, sales, and reimbursement, become more evident. As a result, we should see an increase in the use of cost-effective service channels to meet the needs of HCPs and their office staff with samples, literature, and insurance updates.

To bolster these changes and advancements in engagement, the pharmaceutical industry must wholeheartedly embrace the potential of utilizing AI. Organizations should transition from contemplating general AI use to adopting solutions that are validated, tested, and aligned with human interactions. Certainly, the industry can no longer afford business as usual in its outreach. Flexibility and agility are required to meet and effect change with AI and technology as the enablers.

Traditional research methodologies for marketing content will increasingly leverage AI-driven approaches, utilizing automated crawling to assess influencers like government pricing. Pharma marketers and commercial teams must adeptly navigate the web to effectively measure AI-driven results.

Marketers must understand various AI tools, even if they won’t directly use them. For responsible and effective AI utilization, commercial organizations should employ or contract a team of AI experts. These experts should be capable of asking pertinent questions or capturing market sentiments to manage information flow to marketing efficiently. This research will soon be augmented with the ability to evaluate anonymized claim information in real time, enabling better decisions by marketing. Sentiments, consumer messaging, and even brand positioning can be impacted, and when combined with true patient demographic and physician data, everything in the marketing picture begins to align, becoming a very integrated story.

Another critical role in marketing is that of digital content creators. They should understand the influences around effective, tailored engagement and quickly generate relevant content to impact sales or brand awareness across channels. AI will raise the level of efficiency and productivity of these content creators, but their human input is critical to the message being delivered. The pharma industry still faces the regulatory hurdle of what can and cannot be said, but in consideration of technological advancements, we will want to push the envelope. To that end, industry AI evangelists are currently trying to understand how technology is moving the needle so we can embrace new directions as they become available.

The omnichannel approach should become more sophisticated, going beyond channel-centric strategy and focus on leveraging data for optimizing outreach. It’s not just about gathering data within a company for better decision-making; combining industry-wide data offers even more insightful information to guide actions. Pharmaceutical companies collaborating with external providers gain advantages by accessing comprehensive analytics derived from aggregated industry-wide data to inform further strategic objectives.

As always, data is key. Viewing data through different lenses creates opportunities for efficiencies and cost effectiveness that flexible, agile organizations cannot afford to miss in this year of significant change. While AI may lack the nuanced insights of human experience, its rapid data processing capability generates actionable insights, enhancing overall productivity. The ability of AI to make data “smart” emphasizes its role in decision-making. Organizations must grasp this role, discern valuable insights, and effectively leverage AI and technology in their processes.

Sese Abhulimen is president, global decision optimization, Inizio Engage.