Omnichannel-native: A mindset shift to deliver effective healthcare communication

by James Turnbull

Starting with omnichannel

In 2010, the very first-generation iPad was released. The concept of a touch-screen tablet as a device seemed odd back then – “Is it not just a really big iPhone?” was the common jibe – and the iPad’s significance in history was far from certain. But some clever person saw an opportunity to convert the bulky paper detail aids, packed into the bags of every pharma rep, into an animated and interactive presentation on the iPad.

I was working at a very small digital health agency, and the first electronic detail aid I developed was for an oral chemotherapy agent. It comprised of 30 laboriously hand-coded web pages with a tiny back-end database which logged the page loads and dwell times. The iPad struggled to handle all 30 pages, the database, and the minimal interactivity of the detail aid, but it was a marvel, and our client was sure the data generated would transform HCP engagement…

Fast forward 10 years, iPad detail aids were mostly hosted on Veeva’s platform, and could handle branching content, hundreds of pages, video and even AR. But that transformation to data and insight-led communications was still rare.

I was no longer writing the code, but was still delivering digital projects for pharma clients – and they were not just detail aids, but websites, forums, conference experiences, VR training platforms, AI models, etc. While many were successful, they all had the same issue of being disconnected. Disconnected from the target audience’s needs, disconnected from each other, and far too often disconnected from the actual data which would show if the tool had any ROI.

This was 2020, so everything has changed, especially HCPs’ expectations. Factors such as increased workload, enforced Zoom calls, and more digital literacy, have combined with a global shift to improve user experiences across retail, entertainment, and finance – even healthcare.

The solution to these changes was to leave behind the “multichannel” strategies of pre-pandemic pharma, and embrace omnichannel. The right content, in the right format, at the right time, will deliver a better user experience for the HCP and cut through the noise generated by pharma shifting to compete for share of voice in digital channels.

Mindset change

But back to my story. Our digital team was delivering the full range of digital tactics and some impressive innovation, but they were frustratingly disconnected. I saw how embracing omnichannel could deliver greater value from digital solutions, whilst also improving their outcomes to drive the wider success of pharma brands.

However, I quickly realised that omnichannel is not solely a digital challenge – it’s a mindset change. I had hoped the answer to these challenges was always “build a better website”, but of course, often a rep visit is still the right solution. Omnichannel also means making sure that rep visit is one piece of a larger, more interconnected story.

In the last few years, we’ve delivered many omnichannel projects: from overarching global strategies, to just improving one email series with a little omnichannel thinking. But the greatest barrier to success has remained a lack of connectivity, and the assumption that omnichannel just means “better digital”.

So to make the most of omnichannel strategies, and to deliver that right content, in the right format, at the right time, we need a new mindset embedded from the start. A mindset that isn’t limited by old silos of digital, or field team, or even events. A mindset that sees technology as a powerful tool to enable great outcomes, but not a solution in itself.

The omnichannel-native mindset

Digital-natives are those of us who grew up with digital technology where it was always part of everyday life and is considered the norm. We continuously look for and embrace innovative technology and an improved user experience. For Camino, an omnichannel approach is the norm. 

There are three essential principles to ensuring we’re applying the omnichannel-native approach, and these are that everything we do must be relevant, connected, and measurable. We don’t retrofit these onto projects at the end; we bake these into the tactic or campaign from the beginning – it’s a fundamental part of how we think.

Relevance is key to effective communication with HCPs. You need to ensure that every touchpoint, whether it’s an email, message, or phone call, is relevant and useful to the HCP. This requires data analytics and CRM tools to understand HCPs’ individual communication needs and preferences, but more importantly it means ensuring the content is developed to meet specific educational needs that will drive behaviour change and improved clinical practice. 

Connectivity is another essential principle of being omnichannel-native, and means ensuring that each piece of the HCP’s journey never stands alone. Each piece must have a lead in to entice the audience and a lead out to encourage them onto the next step. For example, a website is useless if no one can find it, so we might have rep-triggered emails which lead to the website for future detail on a key message. However, the website shouldn’t be a dead-end, and should offer next steps, such as organising a rep visit or attending a webinar. These connection points should be numerous, allowing the HCP to map their own journey between the channels and content, making it personalised.

And there’s that word; omnichannel is often defined as “personalised” – which can rightly scare off an already-busy team who don’t have the capacity to produce or sign-off, endless variations of all their tactics to meet individuals’ hyper-specific needs. However, this is a misunderstanding – where there is meaningful content that engages your audience, and connection points between your channels, each member of the audience shapes their own personalised journey that is unique to their interests and needs.

Netflix is often heralded as a master of omnichannel, but they’ve never made me my own personal episode of “Rhythm & Flow”. However, my journey to choosing that show, and not Bridgerton, was an omnichannel experience, with targeted ads, alerts and emails based on my previous shows. Same content, but a personalised experience. To create that experience, Netflix made good use of their vast amounts of data.

This takes us to the third and final principle of being omnichannel-native – which is measurability. You need to be able to measure the effectiveness of communication efforts across all channels, which means tracking and analysing data on HCPs’ communication preferences and behaviours, as well as monitoring key performance metrics such as response rates and engagement levels. By leveraging data analytics and measurement tools, you can continually improve communication strategies and ensure that you are meeting the needs and preferences of HCPs.

Omnichannel is the right content, in the right format, at the right time for your audience, and not just a digital challenge. Being omnichannel-native means we deliver on this user experience by always applying the core principles of relevance, connectivity and measurability – to large campaigns or one-off tactics. This approach will improve communication with HCPs, deliver greater ROI, and ultimately provide better health outcomes.