In an age where healthcare interactions are increasingly becoming virtual, biopharma sales and marketing professionals must evolve new commercial models that meet the needs of their stakeholders – not to mention their companies’ ROI objectives.

That was among the takeaways from the opening keynote to MM+M Transform, delivered by Otsuka U.S. and global head of CNS marketing April Mitchell. During it, she detailed four adaptive models for consideration.

The first involves meeting customers where they are. Mitchell said it is incumbent on marketers to understand how physicians’ mindsets are changing, given the glut of financial challenges and practice uncertainties they currently face. She added that marketers need also concern themselves with relieving patients’ COVID-inspired anxieties by engaging them in their social-media comfort zones with messaging that encourages appropriate care.

Mitchell noted that, perhaps as a result, some doctors are rejecting new medications and new treatment options in favor of standard-of-care treatment. “Doctors are forced to say, ‘Do I go with what I know or am I willing to try new things?’” she observed. It’s up to industry to help “interrupt this thinking” so that physicians will continue to innovate.

As for patients, Mitchell said that many are currently afraid to go to the hospital, have any contact with their provider or continue medication regimens. To quell those fears, Mitchell suggested that pharma ask and answer a few questions: “How do we help them stay on medication [and] to engage with their physicians and practitioners? How do we become part of that conversation in a compliant manner? How do we talk to them in a way that we don’t lose them online, and we get them back into doctors’ offices and engaging again in self-care?”

This model similarly applies to hospitals, payers and integrated delivery networks, who want pharma companies to “help them offset their revenue declines or, said another way, reduce their costs,” said Mitchell.

The support could come in the form of backing for programs that promote improved quality metrics (like evidence generation and disease state information), value-based contracting or reimbursement simplification. While Mitchell allowed that many pharma companies “do probably provide these value-added services,” the question is how to do so without losing money.

The second engagement model noted by Mitchell is one that recognizes that, in virtual environments, the entire treatment team participates in patient visits. “So how do we engage all those team members when they’re part of one patient-physician interaction?,” Mitchell asked.

She answered the question by noting that the model must address such logistical challenges as follow-up visits, medicine deliveries, institutional access and caregivers being kept out of the doctor’s office. “All these things say to us: Where are our points of engagement within the treatment and patient journeys now that there’s all this disruption?” Mitchell noted.

To cope with the surge in telemedicine, the third engagement model must reconcile technology access gaps affecting doctors and patients alike, Mitchell said. She pointed to an explosion of telemedicine providers with many different business models, not to mention widely varying payer rules for visit reimbursements.

The primary challenge here for pharma, which is lagging in this space, is “figuring out how to engage the physicians and patients in these platforms so that our messages are received at the point where the two are intersecting,” Mitchell added.

The fourth and final model acknowledged by Mitchell focuses on content that stands out in a cluttered digital environment. Given the competition for the attention of HCPs and patients, all such content must be “short and concise” and “customized to the customer where they want to be,” Mitchell emphasized, noting that marketers must consistently ask themselves, “Do we have the right content to engage, regardless of what digital tactic we’re using?”