Last year, one of our agency partners shared his thoughts about how he expected life science companies to engage when pandemic travel restrictions were lifted. “We may go back to something closer to a 50/50 mix of in-person and virtual advisory boards in the future, due to the undisputed importance of in-person relationship building,” said Ryan Daufenbach, executive vice president of Interactive Forums. “But once those relationships are established, KOLs have no qualms about synchronous or asynchronous virtual engagements.” In other words, 2022 will be all about a more holistic approach to insights management strategy.
While many people have welcomed the opportunity to reconnect face-to-face, others now simply prefer to be more selective about business travel and in-person work. As we look ahead to 2022 and a world where COVID-19 informs rather than dictates our choices, it’s clear that face-to-face interaction will be a part of a core strategy of virtual engagement – an approach based on lessons learned during the global health crisis.
The impact of increased agility
Clients who worked with us prior to the pandemic weren’t subject to some of the upheaval and interruptions experienced by many life science organizations in the early days of the pandemic. Web meetings went on as scheduled and over-time virtual advisory boards barely registered any impact at all. These factors alone are a convincing argument for relying on virtual interaction, but there are crucial benefits that endure far beyond memories of lockdown measures and travel restrictions.
With logistical hurdles out of the way – no changing flight schedules, time-limited hotel blocks, or last-minute KOL cancellations – pharmaceutical and medical device teams had advisory boards and steering committee meetings up and running in a week instead of months. Deadlines were met, not pushed.
With more control over timelines and turnaround, clients began to see the potential impact on team goals, corporate objectives, and ultimately on patient outcomes.
Put simply, the pandemic laid bare all the inefficiencies of standard operating procedures around in-person meetings planned and scheduled months in advance, at great expense – and in doing so, revealed what’s possible when the focus is on engagement rather than travel and logistics.
Reducing business risk with a virtual-first mindset
Life science companies place enormous value on KOL insight – enough that gathering incomplete information or not hearing from certain KOLs due to scheduling issues could be detrimental to a program’s speed or success.
Staking months of planning, significant budgets, and ultimately the success of a project on a one-day meeting that could be derailed by something as unpredictable as bad weather just isn’t good business practice.
Investing so much internal time to identify a single two-hour window for global KOLs to meet, potentially thousands of miles from their home and work, starts to seem pretty inefficient compared to giving those same people a week-long window to participate in a virtual meeting at their convenience. No travel, no schedule disruptions, no missed time with family or patients.
Post-crisis, a new kind of urgency
Last year, McKinsey reported that the high human and economic costs associated with the pandemic amount to an imperative to accelerate and scale medical innovations, and that healthcare leaders should provide the tools and capabilities to do so. As technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning transform the drug development process, teams in the medical affairs, clinical, and commercial spaces must also look for ways to increase speed and agility through better insights management.
Life science companies won’t revert to in-person events as a one-size-fits-all approach.
Across thousands of virtual sessions and hundreds of hours of web meetings last year, our own clients saw benefits like these:
- Session planning timelines reduced by 3-8 months
- Up to 4x more insights from over-time sessions vs. typical in-person meetings
- Higher levels of participation and deeper engagement overall
Now that organizations have experienced the benefits and efficiencies of customized virtual engagements, it makes sense to recalibrate the approach to face-to-face meetings. While the value of in-person connection can’t be diminished, it can be amplified by using asynchronous elements or live virtual options to support a more holistic insight-gathering strategy and obtain a more complete picture of disease communities, the patient experience, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.
To learn how pharmaceutical and medical device teams are getting started with insights management, download our white paper.