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August 7, 2020

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical organizations across the globe are being forced to relook and redefine the operations especially for sales and marketing.  The current crisis has pushed the need for a makeover of the existing model of engaging with healthcare professionals (HCPs), patients, and the sales force.

Digital technologies can help pharma companies realign sales and marketing operations with the recent requirements and navigate challenges like inability of field sales teams to meet HCPs, limited patient consultations etc. These new digital driven sales and marketing approaches can help manage relationships with HCPs and patients in a better way, and also create enriched ecosystems geared for growth.

By leveraging latest digital solutions in the areas of Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), Digital Health etc., and related business services, pharma companies can:  

  • Offer AI-led Omni channel services

  • Implement digital companions or intelligent assistants for physicians, sales teams, and patients  

  • Build intelligent contact centers augmented with self-service tools 

  • Establish virtual clinics and sales professional offices

  • Provide remotely connected business solutions

  • Enable telehealth and remote patient connect 

Enhanced experience for all stakeholders

While certain factors like increasing burden of chronic diseases will remain unchanged in the post-COVID-19 phase, pharma companies will need to analyze the impact on different stakeholders to redefine the sales and marketing models. However, irrespective of the impact, digital technologies can play a critical role in enhancing experience for all stakeholders. 

1. HCPs

Virtual engagement tools for remote collaboration can be used to overcome barriers like limited in-person interactions with HCPs. Additionally, enhanced professional relationship management portals with request-catering features clubbed with AI-based interactive voice-enabled chatbots can prove to be of immense value. Anytime-anywhere Continuous Medical Education (CME) learning and training digital platforms can also be used.

Pushing compelling content through online and live events, congress, webinars, and medical conferences alongside remote platforms is the need of the hour to engage HCPs with the latest research or updates. 

Further, there is need to analyze the impact on HCP specialties during the outbreak. A few specialties are directly impacted, unlike others like orthopedists. Communication plans must be reassessed and redefined accordingly. 

2. Patients

Patients in need of medication and treatment for chronic care are the most affected in the current situation. To that end, there is need to leverage integrated disease management infrastructure, portals, apps, and self-service tools like chatbots providing information and education, alerts and reminders, diet plans, etc. On a larger scale, digital solutions can help engage and educate these patients proactively on virus attack and pandemic dos and don’ts. There is also need to help patients deploy digital health platforms that can support diagnostic services, tracking, and monitoring using connected wearables and devices. Furthermore, extending pharmacy delivery networks for prescription fulfillment and setting up digital co-pay systems for payers will help bridge the gap between pharma supply and demand. 

3. Marketing Teams

Amid the pandemic, timebound and planned go-to-market strategies and product launches need to be adjusted accordingly. Based on geographic data, assess product line extensions and new compositions, such as immune boosters, vitamins, minerals etc., for pandemic needs. Marketing spend on digital promotions will also need to be evaluated.

Anticipate and rework on pricing pressure of generics and biosimilar drugs for more affordability. There are high chances of country-specific relaxations and guidelines for faster product marketing to help patients battling COVID-19. To that end, arrange promotional and scientific information, samples etc., on time. Depending on product portfolio, strategize digital channels and spend for direct-to-consumer marketing and HCP engagement. Accordingly, plan to orchestrate remote and online product launches and increase focus on product information dissemination.  

Leverage digital platforms to manage global tenders, renewals, and related supply chains.   

4. Field Sales Force

Offering sales teams borderless territories through audio/video communication and e-detailing tools, AI-powered interactions, and request management capabilities will help them stay productive. In addition, sales productivity measurement KPIs must be reconsidered and new critical success factors added, to gauge customer connectivity through digital solutions and modules. Continuous field sales force trainings along with modules on facilitating them with virtual management and remote customer engagement, and related digital tools can be offered on priority.

Additionally, we can revisit existing field sales force strategies like HCP call management, campaign implementation, competitor intelligence collection, budgeting & forecasting, promotional material and sample management.


As evident from the current scenario, pharma marketing organizations need to explore robust digital infrastructures for the sales and marketing teams to revive interactions between organization, sales and marketing teams, HCPs, and patients. While doing so, they must also develop means for remote tracking of team productivity and efficiency. Staying relevant and continuing proactive communication with all stakeholders of the value chain tops the agenda for now. In due time, the renewed trust earned with internal and external customers will offer pharma organizations the necessary head-start in the post-COVID-19 times.

Raghunandan is a Consulting Partner with TCS Life Sciences Advisory. He is a business and IT consulting professional with over 20 years of experience in both global life sciences and IT industries. He has been responsible for business-aligned IT advisory, digital solutions, thought leadership, innovations, and consulting assignments in areas of life sciences sales, marketing, patient centricity, customer relationship management, multichannel marketing, managed care, HCP engagement, ethics and compliance, and more. A postgraduate in management, Raghunandan specializes in marketing with a special focus on biotechnology.


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