Revolutionizing healthcare provider connections: The power of moments in biopharma engagement

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Revolutionizing healthcare provider connections: The power of moments in biopharma engagement

By Gregg Fisher and Debbie Dennison

In recent years, biopharma companies have been keenly focused on improving customer engagement as a means of bolstering competitive advantage, elevating customer access, engagement, and business impact.

While there is no shortage of customer engagement initiatives underway, we observe that most of these efforts fall short of being truly “customer-centric.” Instead, they tend to be driven by the promise of technology and narrowly focused on brand or business needs, rather than embracing an “outside-in approach” that puts the customer first. 

Reflecting on the industry’s interactions with healthcare professionals, Toon De Baere, senior director of digital customer engagement at AstraZeneca, observes, “I believe we struggle as an industry because we think inside out. Our focus is typically on disseminating product-centric messages. Instead, we need to understand the pivotal moments that matter to physicians to craft experiences that make those moments more meaningful and memorable.”

In this article, we look at how biopharma leaders can design distinctive experiences for customers leveraging insights from behavioral psychology. We draw inspiration from “The Power of Moments” by Chip and Dan Heath and look at how memorable and impactful moments are crafted leveraging principles of elevation, insight, pride, and connection.1 (This article will look at moments for healthcare providers, but a later article in the series will look at patients.)

Building bridges: amplifying HCP engagement through transformative learning

In “The Power of Moments,” the idea of “tripping over the truth” prescribes the transformative effect of encountering an undeniable and impactful truth, leading to a transformative shift in perspective.  The book’s three-part recipe – (1) clear insight (2) compressed in time and (3) discovered by the audience itself – provides a blueprint for helping audiences confront realities. For physicians, this type of discovery could lead to more informed treatment decisions and richer understanding of patient needs.

Noemi Pasquarelli, global medical science director for multiple sclerosis at Roche, encapsulates the benefits of “tripping over the truth.” She explains, “Education is individual for every healthcare professional, there are many different learning styles and levels. For example, when you are at a congress and you reveal new data for the first time, how you contextualize that data may impact perceptions around how it can be used in clinical practice. Rather than just presenting efficacy and safety data, we need to help physicians put the data into perspective and anchor it back to their own practice.”

Consider the following two strategies to design create moments that help HCPs “trip over the truth”.

1. Immerse HCPs in patient perspectives to drive shared decision making.

Moment Creation: Bring the physician closer to patients and enhance understanding of patient needs and treatment goals during or following a key congress where new data is presented. Help them have their own “aha moments” by creating a post-congress
session, or have these materials available at your booth.

Rationale: One of the barriers around shared decision making is the lack of patient perspective on the part of the physician. Thanks to social media accelerating information transfer, patients are now coming to their doctors more informed about new and pipeline treatments which may influence a doctor’s decision, but physicians often still lack a palpable connection to the patient experience. Understanding the patient perspective can help HCPs better understand patient preferences and communicate new information in a way that drives collaborative decision making.

Example: A great example of this approach was provided by Khurrum Ahmad, senior director, brand lead at Otsuka Pharmaceuticals. Earlier in his career, while working on a binge eating product, his team uncovered a gap in physician understanding of the vicious, compulsive thought process a patient goes through with binge eating. “ The aha moment for me was how do you get a physician to see the compulsive nature of patient thoughts, and truly appreciate how deep this trauma goes?” Khurrum explains. “Through virtual reality goggles, we enabled physicians to experience a day in the life of a patient. In a short one-and-a-half minute video, they could hear the thoughts of that patient, understand the triggers and patterns of thinking about food, overeating, and the resulting negative thoughts of shame and guilt.” Khurrum’s team utilized the VR goggles at different psychiatric congresses, enabling psychiatrists to “trip over the truth” in a minute and a half. “From the pre- and post-survey, we could see physicians connecting the dots, and that by understanding the burden of disease better, how they could have better conversations with patients.” As a consequence, a key barrier to prescribing treatment was addressed.

Tactics to consider helping providers “trip over the truth” in the period surrounding a congress include: 

  • Voice of the patient at booth: Integrate patient perspectives through video, patient-physician fireside chats, or immersive VR experiences, bringing to life specific challenges or unmet needs that may help to change perspectives.
  • Session post-congress: Delve into framing risks, benefits, patient goals and preferences from the patient’s perspective. Provide guidance on how to discuss the data with well-
    informed patients who may have already encountered the information through other sources.
  • Repurposed content post-congress: Extend the impact beyond the congress experience by repurposing content that can be shared with a broader physician community through medical science liaisons (MSLs), sales forces, and digital channels.

2. Amplify the voice of early treatment adopters.

Moment Creation: Drive behavior change for late adopters of new therapies by creating patient case studies featuring early adopters of new treatments. Clinicians who are first to adopt a new treatment, drug class or digital therapeutic contribute patient case studies that share their early experiences with the product with those who are “on the fence”.

Rationale: By strategically addressing resistance, skepticism, and misconceptions within a case study, brands can help clinicians “trip over the truth” and make informed, timely decisions about new treatments. Also, peer-to-peer learning speeds up the adoption process, getting new treatments to patients faster.

Example: Many of the clinical support tools today are primarily driven by guideline updates and lack peer-to-peer engagement. We supported a client in developing an interactive patient case tool where oncologists could follow a patient’s clinical journey and learn about how the patient was managed throughout their journey and the resulting outcomes.  It provided expert opinion on eligible treatment options and the rationale behind their choices. The tool was adopted by two international oncology societies for use in their own patient cases.

Tactical considerations

Technological capabilities have greatly improved in recent years, and the concept of strategically positioning a case study tool around early treatment adoption, especially with AI integration, has yet to be explored. This is an area of innovation whose time has come.

An early adopter case study tool could include educational information to aid in treatment decision making:

  • Videos from researchers or investigators involved in the clinical study.
  • Expected side effects and ways of addressing them.
  • Methods of patient stratification used in treatment decision-making.
  • Practical guidance on how clinicians can smoothly integrate the new treatment into their existing workflows.
  • Interactive surveys to benchmark the current practices of each clinician against their peers.
  • Ability for clinicians to comment or ask questions of the case study creator (discussion capabilities).
  • AI to generate and summarize case studies; and beyond these basic features, AI could be used to detect patterns in pathology images and assess treatment plans based on outcomes of investigations and patient history/comorbidities.


The promise of well-designed “moments” in biopharma customer engagement can inspire and guide biopharma leaders towards genuine customer-centric approaches. By embracing insights from behavioral psychology and understanding pivotal moments that matter to healthcare professionals, biopharma leaders can craft distinctive and memorable experiences that go beyond disseminating product-
centric messages.

To act on these insights, biopharma leaders should consider creating a “moments” playbook to provide concrete direction on how to integrate moments into brand strategy and tactical planning. Considerations for teams include:

  1. Excellence teams: Integrate behavioral psychology and moment design into  customer experience (CX) curricula training, baking this into the customer-
    centricity agenda internally. Utilize playbooks to train cross functional brand teams to adopt an outside-in approach that leverages the pillars of elevation, insight, pride, and connection.
  2. Cross-functional brand team: Enhance the importance of strategic brainstorming within the organization through tactical ideation sessions in collaboration with agencies and other partners, incorporating principles of moment design and behavioral psychology.
  3. Impact and intent measures: Look beyond engagement metrics to integrate customer centric measures such as intent and impact, to gauge whether designed moments are moving the needle.  Voice of customer tools such as surveys and social analytics (social listening) can be leveraged to measure impact. For intent, desired actions should be integrated into tools, content, and assets. Call requests with MSLs, webinar registrations, case study comments, and input could all apply in the examples given.

Keep your eyes out for our next article on the Power of Moments, which will focus on patient engagement.


  1. Heath, C. and Heath, D.  (January 1, 2017). “The Power of Moments.” Random House UK.

Gregg Fisher is managing partner and Debbie Dennison is lead strategy consultant at The Stem.