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Challenges With Remote Work in the Pharma Industry

​For years, the Japanese government has been promoting “work style reform” as a significant policy to encourage firms to implement flexible working patterns, but the uptake has been slow despite their expectations. However, the novel coronavirus outbreak has sped up the need for remote work, as more and more people in Japan opt to work from home amid bleak conditions worldwide. 

In the face of a declining working-age population in Japan, remote work can be a viable option to secure enough workers and enhance labor productivity.

But does this apply to sales jobs, too? ​

Challenges in the pharma industry

The spread of COVID-19 has also forced pharmaceutical companies to suspend their sales representatives (MRs) from visiting doctors or other healthcare professionals at hospitals and clinics conscious of the infection risk. It may have a significant impact on business since sales representatives are a major part of pharmaceutical marketing efforts. 

The industry may not have a choice but to enact stay-at-home policies, but some drug makers see this as a chance to accelerate the use of their digital sales tools to differentiate themselves from their competitors for more effective ways of detailing. 

Several digital programs have already been considered in the pharma industry. Multiple companies have been fostering digital marketing initiatives by offering their clients video content in which key opinion leaders in the industry explain the company’s product to deliver critical messages instead of MRs. Since doctors are more likely to be influenced by their peers, the video content can provide more opportunities to increase their brand’s awareness, as well as the number of healthcare practitioners who visit their website. 

Online roundtable discussions and meetings with industry influencers have also been promoted. Not only for the brand’s promotion or education of relevant diseases, but for discussion of the most talked issues such as conditions, prevention, and countermeasures against the new virus to generate the most attention among physicians. This value-driven content also allows companies to maintain relationships with doctors currently inaccessible due to the viral situation, as well as to grow the audience of their website significantly. Companies can also make the most of digital sales tools by tracking analysis in order to offer doctors more valuable information which meets their needs. 

Of course, it is important for drug makers to provide information surrounding their treatments and products to healthcare providers. At the same time, delivering the most essential information to the physicians through the most convenient manner can foster the company’s trust and position the brand as a thought leader. 

The coronavirus epidemic has also accelerated virtual or remote meetings with doctors and MRs for the replacement of face-to-face visits with applications such as Skype, Teams, or Zoom. There are still a number of sales reps who think traditional detailings create greater impact, but remote detailing can be more productive for both doctors and MRs, considering the cost-effectiveness, time-saving, and risk reduction. In fact, physicians prefer greater flexibility to attend the meetings that better align with their schedule irrespective of location. 

Furthermore, more pharma companies are adopting online tools for their internal meetings or trainings while the participants work remotely. Physical meetings may be permanently replaced by virtual meetings as one of the answers to the growing demand for the digitalization in the field of pharmaceutical activities. ​

Facilitating digital marketing

The yearlong trend toward digital sales tools in the healthcare industry has been fueled by access restrictions at hospitals and clinics. Also, many other industries want to accelerate the trend to digital marketing as an effective way to boost productivity for the future success of their businesses. 

Facing the necessity of remote work during the coronavirus outbreak, pharma companies can view these difficult times as a chance to facilitate digital marketing, while MRs can grow their skills by optimizing the use of digital detailing tools for future success. And in the end, the epidemic may permanently shift pharma sales to digital detailing that can transform the way brands communicate with their clients.

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