Business Transformation in Healthcare post COVID-19: From Recovery to Discovery (Part 2)

Q2-1 What are some lessons the pharmaceutical industry has learned from the coronavirus crisis?

Khun Kevin: To sum up, for me, the lessons we have learnt include pulling together to work as a team, to be able to adapt at speed and then share and cooperate with others; these three strategies could help us solve the crisis. We have seen teamwork and cooperation at the national level and the sharing of information among various organizations with the aim of developing medicine and vaccines globally happening at an unprecedented way. Industry is cooperating with governments and organizations to plan for the production and the delivery of medicines and vaccines to people all over the world. These are valuable lessons we have learnt amid this crisis and will prove invaluable for healthcare in the future.

Khun Boyd: Though innovation has always been essential to the pharmaceutical industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us even more clearly the critical importance of innovation. Innovation of medicine – in this case, a vaccine to protect people from COVID-19 – is essential to the ability of our country and world to move forward. The development of an effective vaccine has become a global top priority. The pharmaceutical industry has significant existing knowledge of vaccine innovation, developed through many decades of experience, which we are able to share so that pharmaceutical companies all over the world can speed up their own development and invention processes. Additionally, we have shared technology and information that can bolster the production of innovative new treatments on a global scale. These rapid advancements are made possible by the systems and processes our industry already has in place to develop vaccines and new medicines rapidly and efficiently.

Dr. Armin: The important lessons from this crisis are about the value of innovation, the value of partnership, and the value of trust. As pharmaceutical companies, we aim to provide innovative medicines to patients. Providing solutions for unmet medical need is now more important than ever. It is encouraging to see the strong partnership across different stakeholders to tackle the COVID-19 situation – addressing the immediate consequences, but also collaborating globally to find a cure. All of this would not have been possible if we had lacked trust in one another. Also, locally I observe a close collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry and other healthcare stakeholders, in order to stand together in these challenging times. Our teams have embraced the new situation and are working together to address the current challenges through innovative, digital approaches. The old saying is true, Crisis is Opportunity. I am convinced that we will get out stronger from this situation based on the learnings that we have made together.

Q2-2: The pharmaceutical industry relies on direct sale strategies, in which direct contact has to be made with the customers by a medical representative who delivers the requisite information to medical personnel. In the midst of strict social distancing measures, how have pharmaceutical companies been adjusting?

Khun Kevin: We have adapted through innovation and accelerating our digital strategy to continue moving our businesses forward. As an industry, our business model is designed around developing innovation, developing innovative medicines and vaccines. Now we are looking at innovative ways of providing the information about those medicines and education about therapeutics advances to health care providers in innovative ways as many of our traditional methods have been challenged during the COVID crisis. During the period of COVID, many companies have arranged remote seminars, having well respected and knowledgeable speakers presenting remotely around the country has been well received and highly valued. In addition, we know many patient have been reluctant to go into hospitals and clinics or to leave their houses during the outbreak, therefor the advances we are seeing in telemedicine is something which we believe is starting to make a difference in patient healthcare and will continue to expand even after the crisis improves. In the future, many of these advances will play an important role in patient care and you will see many of these advances improving the healthcare system, some countries are seeing advances even in delivery systems such as drone technology for example. Out of a crisis you often find major advances. Our challenge is to ensure we capture these opportunities to help advance healthcare here in Thailand.

Dr. Armin: From my perspective, the core of what we want to contribute has not changed. As a pharmaceutical industry, we develop and provide innovative medicines that improve the lives of our patients. This is as true today as it has been before the COVID-19 crisis. What has changed is the “how”, that means how we collaborate with our customers. Before the crisis, we had allowed our medical teams to visit customers face-to-face and inform about our medications. During working from home, we had to redesign our approach and try out new ways of engaging our customers, for example using virtual meetings or other digital approaches. Both our customers and our teams have appreciated the agile and flexible ways of dealing with this situation, and we all have learned a lot from it that we will apply going forward.

Khun Boyd: Our strategy includes three key groups of stakeholders for whom we seek to provide value: patients, medical personnel, and hospitals.

For patients, access to treatment and access to medicine are paramount. I believe that the advancement of treatment through online system such as Telehealth would make it possible to continue effectively treating patients without in-person contact. One of the most important aspects of the pharmaceutical industry is the delivery of medical innovations to all patients in need. Regarding access to medicine, we still place utmost importance on the efficiency of delivery so that patients can receive the right treatment in due time, and we have been cooperating with the government sector to support the rapid and effective delivery of medicine to hospitals nationwide.

To maintain our interactions with medical personnel, we have focused on developing and utilizing innovative technologies in to convey knowledge as quickly and efficiently as possible. One important thing we have learned is to open our learning frame; we have learned from the best practices used in other industries and applied them to our own client interactions. I have been especially impressed by our rapid adjustment; after cities and businesses began to close down in March, it did not take long for our industry to adapt to new tools that would allow our employees to communicate through various digital channels to maintain contact with medical personnel.

With regard to hospitals, we have placed particular importance on our supply chain management system. Though we had to bear high costs related to increased risk at the height of the pandemic’s emergence, we have maintained our capability to deliver medicine and innovations to hospitals across the country.