Digital transformation (DT), the concept of leveraging digital technologies to engage with constituents (e.g., customers, patients, employees, or partners) is vital in today’s world. The audience you’re targeting expects communication to be easy and information to be readily available at any time. If they can’t get what they want from you, they’ll go somewhere else.
I recently had the pleasure interviewing Bharat Tewarie, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at UCB, about the role DT plays at the global biopharmaceutical company.
Eugene Sefanov (ES): How is UCB today employing DT to discover and engage with patients, build brand and product awareness in the marketplace, or to empower its own employees be more successful in their job?
Bharat Tewarie (BT): At UCB, we believe that an investment in digital is an investment in our patients and we focus heavily in the areas of social listening and patient education. We utilize social listening platforms to derive insights that are then used to frame our patient programs to ensure we are delivering the greatest value to our patients. These platforms also enable us to identify patients with questions or concerns about our products so that we can, when appropriate, reach out to them proactively and address their issues – thereby also building a relationship and trust with those patients.
UCB is also committed to online community building for people living with severe chronic diseases. Social communities are an important resource for patients – they are a place where individuals who may feel otherwise isolated can connect with people who understand them, and where they can find valuable resources related to the diseases they may be living with.
For UCB, they provide a venue to directly engage with patients to better understand their needs and to provide valuable educational resources and tools.
UCB also cooperates with stakeholder platforms (e.g., PatientsLikeMe and MyHealthTeam), while managing therapeutic patient communities because we believe that a greater understanding of the disease and better education for patients are a priority. However, now that a strong foundation of awareness and education is in place, we are also looking at refocusing on branded activities moving forward.
Within UCB, there is a culture of collaboration and we have digital tools in place to enable colleagues to engage with each other virtually. We believe that empowering our colleagues to share and ideate will ultimately deliver value not only to our organization but to the customers we serve. Social media and digital are increasingly used internally to support the rollout of our patient value strategy, culture and behaviors. Internally, cross-functional collaboration is increasing via UCB Plaza, our intranet platform. Our company ‘Helpfulness & Generosity’ culture is demonstrated via the increase in colleagues who are sharing best practices through micro-blogging, requesting expertise outside their immediate spheres, and offering their knowledge to colleagues in other countries and departments working on similar projects. Patient value discussions are always at the heart of social conversations.
We also employ digital means to reach future colleagues. Online channels such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor are key to attracting and engaging potential talent. We have focused efforts on showcasing “UCB on the inside” to do just that.
ES: What is your biggest DT accomplishment to-date?
BT: We are proud of the investment we have made in growing patient communities on social channels. UCB’s EpilepsyAdvocateTM Facebook community is the largest epilepsy community on Facebook with more than 173,000 very engaged members. Having this two-way dialogue with patients is invaluable – it has enabled us to understand their individual journeys and to piece numerous individual stories into a broader picture of the patient experience of someone living with this disease. The ability to use real-time patient engagement to frame the programs we then deliver back to those patients is immeasurable.
In 2014, we also brought together a multi-disciplinary team for the purpose of reimagining how our internal U.S. contact centers were meeting the needs of our customers. We aligned our Customer Service, Drug Safety and Medical Information departments into a new customer experience center – UCBCaresTM. We enabled the newly launched UCBCaresTM team to reach out to patients proactively via social media to address individual patient inquiries. This opened another key door to two-way dialogue with our customers.
Outside the US, we have also created a digital hub for our other core stakeholders – healthcare professionals (HCP). We launched Neureca® – a destination for HCPs that provides neurology resources and educational webinars. It also enables us to understand better what kind of information HCPs are looking for so that we can create more content that meets their needs and have more meaningful conversations.
ES: What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your DT initiatives?
BT: Digital transformation is just that – transformation – and adapting all aspects of the way we work to meet the needs of so much change can be challenging. It requires a culture of innovation and a comfort with risk-taking, something that is not easy in a space as regulated as the pharmaceutical industry. Digital allows for greater agility but our internal structures and processes need to match that agility.
ES: What advice related to DT do you have for your colleagues in Pharma?
BT: To create the greatest value for our customers, it is critical to define where along the value chain we can create impact – R&D, HCPs, patients, etc. If we remain focused on an area and keep stakeholder insights top of mind, it will help prevent barriers to implementation. It’s also important to share key learnings and best practices across an organization. Create a culture that fosters a learning environment because collaboration leads to innovation, new ideas, and value to our patients.
If digital transformation is on your company’s radar, or you simply want to learn more about the revolution that’s taking place in life sciences, don’t hesitate to reach out. If you’re interested in sharing the DT initiatives happening at your organization, please email me directly.