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How COVID-19 Affects Stakeholder Engagement & Value Communication

By Tom Hemy

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the development and commercialization of pharmaceuticals and medical devices even more challenging. For example, in the value communication and stakeholder engagement area, many field representatives found themselves refused entry to hospitals and surgeries and unable to meet in-person with payers, doctors, and other key stakeholders.

These meetings are vital to ensuring a product’s position on local formularies and securing patient access to life saving therapies. Thus, many reps have had to improvise in how they connect with stakeholders. To find out how field employees have been overcoming these obstacles, we surveyed professionals involved in life science value communication and stakeholder engagement.

The results showed that 44% of reps have primarily been using video calls or virtual meetings to meet with key stakeholders, rising to 72% when including those who have mainly used telephone meetings. Perhaps surprisingly, 64% of respondents also indicated that – when compared to regular face-to-face meetings – they had had a largely positive experience of using virtual meetings. Many found virtual methods to be more efficient and, sometimes, easier to schedule than in-person meetings.[i]

But what is needed to really make for a good virtual meeting?

We sat down with Eduardo Urbina, Director of Consulting at Certara, to find out. With vast experience in health economics and market access, he has been involved in numerous new drug and medical device launch projects. In his role, he works with clients to help them develop innovative value communication and stakeholder engagement tools. Here’s the highlights of our conversation:

Many survey respondents have been using virtual meetings to engage with key stakeholders. In your opinion, what’s needed for a good virtual meeting?

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has pushed a big portion of biotech companies, if not all, into remote working. So, this was always going to make life difficult for key account managers (KAMs)/reps that need to schedule meetings with payers and hospital managers.

But there are numerous ways that companies can help their field-based teams have successful, engaging meetings. This is especially important as some elements of face-to-face meetings simply can’t be replicated in a virtual environment. And so, having the necessary mobile tools and content to keep audiences engaged is vital to maintaining attention and having a good virtual meeting.

It’s been noted that virtual meetings can often last much longer than face-to-face meetings. Do you think this puts extra pressure on field teams to deliver clear evidence-based value messages? And why?

This puts extra pressure on field teams. Especially as some elements of a virtual meeting, such as technical reliability, are out of their control. And touching back on the previous question, it’s also easier for audiences to be distracted in a virtual meeting. What’s important is to have engaging mobile tools with good usability and clear take-away messages. Visualizations and interactivity can also go a long way to keeping audiences engaged and involved in the discussion.

Read our recently published report, The Effects of COVID-19 on Stakeholder Engagement & Value Communication: Preparing for the New Normal1 to learn the in-depth results of our industry survey and how to mitigate the current and future effects of COVID-19 on life sciences stakeholder engagement. Read the Full Report

[i] Certara. (2020). The Effects of COVID-19 on Stakeholder Engagement & Value Communication: Preparing for the New Normal. Princeton: Certara.

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