Biopharma’s Remote-Health Imperative

Given the speed of the transition to remote health-and the $130 billion in value that could shift over the next three to five years-biopharma companies need to take action.

Implications for Biopharma Players

  • The increasing consumerization of care, combined with the use of sensor-enabled wearable devices and other digital tools, mean that patients can now manage some aspects of their own health care remotely.
  • Similarly, with the help of digital therapeutics and remote diagnostics and monitoring, biopharma companies can partner with physicians to improve care decisions-getting the right medication to the right patient at the right time, for example-and generate better outcomes.
  • Remote health care can also improve clinical trials. The pandemic has had a negative impact on trials globally; one survey showed that lockdowns have disrupted nearly two-thirds of oncology trials worldwide. By complementing traditional processes with virtual trials, biopharma companies can recruit a wider range of participants, capture more detailed data (including real-world evidence and proof of value), and potentially get products to the market faster.
  • Finally, remote health creates new opportunities to engage with providers. Even before COVID-19 hit, most physicians were scaling back face-to-face interactions with sales and marketing teams-sometimes owing to increased regulatory constraints.
    The pandemic further restricted that outreach, with only 2% of physician interactions with biopharma sales reps taking place in person, according to a recent BCG survey.
    But digital interactions are an increasingly viable way to reach physicians. Indeed, about 80% of physicians say they find digital engagement with biopharma companies to be satisfactory, and the most preferred channels are all digital-a marked change from the pre-COVID era.

Significant Shifts in Value

  • For example, they will accelerate the shift of their commercial teams and processes away from face-to-face interactions in favor of virtual engagement.
  • They will further strengthen their digital and analytics capabilities, linking together all interactions with physicians across all channels.
  • And they will reallocate a portion of their R&D budget to support virtual clinical trials. T
  • Some companies will be better able to engage with providers virtually, increasing the productivity of their sales and marketing initiatives and taking share from more slow-footed competitors.
  • Others will create value in new ways by making the investments needed to access real-time, real-world data about patients who use their products-for example, by partnering with tech-enabled remote-health providers such as Teladoc, Babylon, and Omada.
  • Winning companies will also adjust the products in their portfolio so they can be administered outside of traditional settings.
    They might develop technology (such as a smart infusion pump) or services (such as remote supervision of the administration of drugs) that enable patients to take their medications in lower-acuity settings.
    They will also develop digital tools-such as devices that can adjust the dosage of a drug depending on the patient’s response-to supplement traditional biopharma products, generating richer information and improving outcomes.
    And these companies will change their drug development processes to take advantage of virtual trials-by participating in patient recruitment, for example.

Five Priorities for Leadership Teams

  1. Accelerate the process of engaging with-and learning from-patients outside of traditional care facilities.
  2. Leverage analytics to build a learning engine that capitalizes on data-driven insights.
  3. Make products more compatible with remote health.
  4. Develop the tools to reimagine clinical trials in a remote-health world-not as a replacement for traditional evidence generation but as a complement to it.
  5. Be bold in reallocating marketing spending away from traditional, in-person sales channels in favor of digital channels, in line with physician preferences.
  6. Accelerate the process of engaging with-and learning from-patients outside of traditional care facilities.

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Joaquim Cardoso @ BCG

Senior Advisor for Health Care Strategy to BCG — Boston Consulting Group